PODCAST 154: Guided Selling with Neil Ringers


This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Neil Ringers, EVP of Revenue Grid.

Neil’s experience includes a long history of sales leadership, primarily in the Salesforce ecosystem, and is now running revenue for Revenue Grid. Revenue Grid is mainly focused on automation and integration, bringing your calendar and email into your CRM. They’ve built a new process of guided selling, which Neil discusses during the show.

If you missed episode 153, check it out here: Learning Drives Sales Effectiveness with Paul Fifield‬

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What You’ll Learn

  • How Revenue Grid enables smarter selling
  • Guided selling and engagement
  • Scaling sales during the pandemic
  • How to build a winning sales team

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:00]
  2. About Revenue Grid & Neil’s Journey [06:39]
  3. Scaling Up During The Pandemic [11:40]
  4. Developing A Winning Sales Team [16:24]
  5. The Value Of CRM Integration [22:24]
  6. Who Neil Finds Inspiration From [26:44]
  7. Sam’s Corner [29:37]

Show Introduction [00:00]

Sam Jacobs: I’d be remiss not to tell you about Unleash 2021 on May 11th – 13th. We’re focusing on how to win in the new sales era: new go-to-market strategies, deeper funnel insights and actionable takeaways for your entire organization from revenue leaders at high-growth startups and fortune 500 companies. Save your seat at Unleash.Outreach.io.

Today’s sponsor is Outreach, the number one sales engagement platform. Outreach revolutionizes customer engagement by moving away from solid conversations to a streamlined and customer-centric journey. Leveraging the next generation of artificial intelligence, the platform allows sales reps to deliver consistent, relevant, and responsible communication for each prospect every time, enabling personalization at scale previously unthinkable. Check out Outreach.io for more information.

And finally, we just turned SalesHacker.com into a community. Rather than just reading or listening, you can now ask questions and get amazing thoughtful answers from the world’s B2B sales professionals who’ve been there before, plus you can share your experience with others. Go to SalesHacker.com and create your profile today.

Now, without further ado, let’s listen to this interview with Neil Ringers.

About Revenue Grid & Neil’s Journey [06:39]

Sam Jacobs: So in your words, what is Revenue Grid?

Neil Ringers: Our product evolved out of integration to email and calendar, pulls data from those sources of truth, and puts it into Salesforce. That’s important because where we start is data, and data flows downstream Salesforce.

That source of truth is a great tool for achieving transparency in Salesforce. It provides the information that helps me succeed, translating down into my sales team as I’m coaching and mentoring them. When I know how many strategic appointments my team has had with the right people during the week, I can focus on that, predict what’s happening in Salesforce and in my forecast.

I would put a big red flag next to a forecast without activity for a deal that’s going to close in the next couple of weeks, and have a conversation with my rep about why they’re not connecting with the CEO/CFO, or not transmitting documents from a contractual perspective. All that’s lit up based on the integration that we have with the email server and calendar. We’ve also created guided selling and engagement.

When we talk about engagement, mass emails out to our prospects, building velocity is extremely important for the motion of our sales team. Additionally, we have this guided selling platform, allowing us to keep our sales reps within the guardrails of a sales cycle. We build pipeline and velocity through our sequences and sales engagement tool, as well as signals for our team, to make sure that we’re on track.

Sam Jacobs: Tell me about the size, history, whatever you feel comfortable sharing in terms of the evolution of the company.

Neil Ringers: We’ve been around for close to 15 years, doing email calendar integration for most of that time. We have relationships with the biggest CRM companies: Oracle CX, SAP CRM, Microsoft Dynamics and Salesforce (95% of our marketplace). Our expertise in email, calendar synchronization has led us to the guided selling and engagement space.

Sam Jacobs: Walk us through how you got into sales, and the journey, because you’ve worked at Oracle and Salesforce and you joined Revenue Grid last year. I’m curious about the transition and journey of big enterprise sales to joining a smaller organization.

Neil Ringers: I’ve been in sales my whole life, starting with a company called ADP. It was my foundation for success in selling and going to market. After ADP, I got into the CRM space through companies like Vantive (bought by PeopleSoft). I transitioned over to Siebel and that got acquired by Oracle.

I did a couple of startups from there, in the CRM ecosystem, then got into TOA, which was field service in the cloud. It was relatively new to that marketplace at the time. That got bought by Oracle, then I got into Oracle CX and transitioned into Salesforce.

My career has evolved around CRM and the value of what that can bring to the table. My recent years at Salesforce were a great foundation for what I’m doing now: I really got to understand their go-to-market, motion, how they sell, their strategy and their culture, but I’m a startup guy. I got the itch again and looked for companies with the ability to scale.

Revenue Grid, as an app exchange partner, has a lot of credibility in the Salesforce world. It’s a great advantage and we have employees all over the globe, looking to scale even more.

Scaling Up During The Pandemic [11:40]

Sam Jacobs: What was it like, taking the reins of a company that’s looking to ignite its growth as a revenue leader in the middle of a pandemic?

Neil Ringers: Really challenging. We shut down the office, everyone opened up their laptops and now we’re inside computers all day. We haven’t been able to do the things that differentiate us from a relationship sales perspective.

From a technology perspective, our value is in lighting up the transparency of what our salespeople can do. We can see how many appointments that my team has had, how many emails they’ve sent out. The more meetings I have, the more revenue I have so it’s been helpful for sure.

We want to resume relationship selling but we’re making do, building technology that helps build transparency.

Sam Jacobs: Have you seen an increase in the possible deal size that you could close remotely, without having to get on a plane?

Neil Ringers: I don’t think the deal size really matters. Salesforce is in the same boat that I am. They’re not traveling or going to the office and they’re doing up to $100 million deals. Part of this is just making sure that we’re continuing to sell value, but it’s harder selling over Zoom or Teams because it’s transactional.

You get limited time with decision-makers, influencers, and the people who sign off on this. Just getting everybody on Zoom is a lot harder where in the past, we got on a plane and flew to a customer; in two days met 8-10 people, rounded up the consensus to make a decision in that timeframe, and took them out to dinner. Communication through email and chatter has changed everything.

The deal size hasn’t changed, but the overall motion of them has.

Developing A Winning Sales Team [16:24]

Sam Jacobs: You’re known for recruiting and motivating great teams. Talk a little bit about your team building philosophy: what kinds of folks you’re looking for; what’s worked for you and how you think about building a kick-ass world-class team, particularly given everything that’s going on in the world.

Neil Ringers: Interviewing people over Zoom is different than interviewing people face-to-face. The power of your network is now more important than ever before – knowing innovative people who can deal with a very technical sale in a very technical environment, is really important. Trying to find A-players isn’t as hard, you’ve got to make sure that they can succeed in your environment.

If I’m bringing someone new into the organization, I’ve gotta be able to sell them on the ultimate success of our company. I think we can do that very easily, but having a Rolodex of people that you’ve worked with within the past, that can sell successfully, is really important.

Sam Jacobs: I’m always interested in how incentives drive behavior. When you’re thinking about building an enterprise sales team, and comp plans, do you have any points of view on the right way to incentivize your reps – monthly, quarterly, annually – what’s the right structure to drive the outcomes that the business needs?

Neil Ringers: We’re all in a SaaS-based world, at least from a technology perspective, so I think from an incentive perspective, you need to keep it as easy as possible. Make the base incentives simple (6-8%), then when over quota, simply raise them 10-12%. Then you’ll see what the sales team looks to achieve.

Look to over-achieve on those numbers; too complicated isn’t good for anybody (operations, leadership, sales). My goal was to always keep it simple and then compensate the sales reps quickly. The quicker you pay your sales team, the better and happier they’ll be.

You want a happy team that feels appreciated and trusts that they’re getting paid as fast as they can.

Sam Jacobs: If there’s a $2million deal with a quarterly payment, do you suggest paying the sales team for the full value of the deal, even though the company won’t get paid until at least nine months from when the deal closes?

Neil Ringers: Yeah. I mean, that’s the goal, right? Not every company can do that. The more capital that you have, the more that you can float, but I think it’s really important to make sure that the sales team stays healthy and that they know the company is behind them from a compensation perspective.

Once sales teams stop getting paid, or it takes 5/6 months to get paid, then things start to break down and they lose trust in the organization. It’s a bad place to be. If the company has to float a quarter or two, I think it’s well worth it to keep your sales team healthy and motivated to close more business.

New business and renewal business is different, right? So renewals are going to be a little bit easier. That’s the farming aspect of sales. The hunting aspect of sales is the engine that keeps it all going.

Ultimately you’re going to pay your team differently on renewals than you do on new business.That’s why it’s so important to keep the new business engine going. That’s where the incentives come from, right?

If you can continue to pump out new business and renew 90, 95% of your install base, then you’re starting to cook, cook with gas.

The Value Of CRM Integration [22:24]

Sam Jacobs: Now that there’s more constant integration, you can watch the activity of your reps and you can figure out what they’re doing. There’s still a lot of judgment in the forecasting component of deciding whether or not: to commit deals; if there’s an opportunity. Do you think we’re going to get to a point where the CRM itself will signal whether something is an opportunity or not, to help provide that level of AI machine learning judgment on a broader part of the sales process? Because even clicking ‘create opportunity’ might be a huge human judgment decision in the same way that logging the notes was, four years ago.

Neil Ringers: Yeah, slowly but surely machines will take over different actions that we do during the day. It’s inevitable when it comes to CRM; AI definitely plays a role and is evolving through different tools. Our AI-based tool that predicts revenue and forecasting – that algorithm is continuously growing and learning.

The only way the algorithm works is by feeding it with data. The more data (actions), the better the AI and predictions will be. AI is becoming more reliable. If you’re paying for a SaaS-based system for a year, you’re only going to get value for the last 3-4 months of that first year.

When it comes to the overall value of CRM and what the next place is, it’s actionable CRM. So you’re taking a system and making it actionable, teaching it to make changes for you, and advise you on decisions in the sales cycle. I might get an email that tells me my deal will close this month, or that it hasn’t had the right kind of activity for it to close.

I might push that deal out another month or two so my manager doesn’t need to get involved. That wasn’t me analyzing the opportunity on my own; that was the system, the AI, making those recommendations for me to action. It’s exactly what we’re in when it comes to guided selling and coaching.

I think CRM is as good as the data that’s in it. When I was at Salesforce, the two biggest issues were data quality and adoption, so now if you’re creating AI to help with the adoption, making the data in the system more actionable, the system becomes a better tool for you.

Who Neil Finds Inspiration From [26:44]

Sam Jacobs: When you think about people that have inspired you, who comes to mind, that you think we should know about?

Neil Ringers: Bruce Grainger, who’s now at Francisco Partners. Bruce was a great mentor and leader to me. I can pick up the phone and ask him questions around operational tools and strategies.

I’ve got a couple of ex-managers from Oracle that have been great mentors for me, just talking about talent, hiring, building teams, being successful, and the mechanics of that.

When I’m in business, I’m a team player; with that, you need good coaches and mentors, and you’ve got to be able to motivate people.

Sam Jacobs: Neil, if folks are listening, inspired, and want to reach out, what’s the best way to communicate?

Neil Ringers: I’m on my email, which is neil.ringers@revenuegrid.com, or call me on my cell (678) 517-8979. I look forward to anyone reaching out and having a conversation. If I can help in any way, I’m happy to do it.

Sam’s Corner [29:37]

Sam Jacobs: Hey, folks. Sam’s corner. I really enjoyed that. Neil Ringers has been leading and working in enterprise sales for a long time. You can see that evolution of his career: going to a startup, have it acquired by a big, big player, to go to another startup, have it be acquired? I imagine that Revenue Grid might be on a similar trajectory, given all the things they work on.

What we talked about is really the nature, and future of, CRM tools. You see it with Revenue Grid: what started as a simple integration tool, to bring your email and calendar into your CRM database, is now helping construct relationships and make recommendations. Historically, you’d manually have to enter notes every time you emailed or called a customer. Most people don’t want to because, well, it’s a pain.

Now that the data is there through an automated integration, you can just go about your business and do your thing. Having that next step available now, though, to look at patterns and see what the best people do, we can bring everyone else onto that winning behavioral path as well, to create more opportunities and close more deals. The same goes for assessing deal validity and value, removing that guesswork and replacing it with data-informed decision-processing.

I think Neil’s got the bull by the horns, and I think they’re going to do great things at Revenue Grid. So that’s what I have to say about that. Now, here’s some of the last things I must say, if you’re not a part of the Sales Hacker community yet, you’re missing out. Any sales professional can join as a member to ask questions, get immediate answers and share experiences with like-minded B2B sales professionals. Jump in and start a discussion with more than 10 000 sales professionals at SalesHacker.com.

Don’t miss episode #155 next time

I hope you enjoyed the show. Before we go, let’s thank our sponsor, Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform.

If you want to reach out to me with feedback, you can find me on LinkedIn. If you haven’t rated the show, please give us five stars on the iTunes rating system so that we can remain in business and continue to bring you this show.

As always, thanks so much for listening, I’ll talk to you next time.

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