Sales Technology Evaluation for Executives

In this episode of The Faces of Business, our guest was Andrew Johnson. Andrew is the founder and CEO of Shelf Aware LLC.  Andrew Johnson is an entrepreneur and family business owner who is making his way through the business world, aiming to make a positive difference. He is fortunate to work with his talented family in their O Ring Sales & Service business. Damon and Andrew discussed Leveling the Playing Field in Small Business.  

In this The Faces of Business, Dan Cilley, Chief Executive Officer, Vendor Neutral, will be discussing sales technology evaluation for executives and how executives can successfully help their team evaluate sales technologies to get the right tech stack.

Dan has been helping companies sell more and make great sales technology choices for over 20 years. His real-world sales experience helps him lead the team at Vendor Neutral to continuously improve their technology knowledge and sales technology selection tools used for sales technology evaluation for executives in their client companies. There are virtually endless choices for sale technology and Vendor Neutral helps professionals navigate the choices to find the right tools for their business.

We discuss some of the key things executives want to understand about their company and the importance of sales technology evaluation for executives to their organizations.

Download our free business valuation guide here to understand more about business valuations and view our business valuation FAQs to answer the most common valuation questions.

About 4.5  minutes into the video Dan talks about the sheer number of resources that are available to businesses making it necessary to have good sales technology evaluation for executives. The marketing technology landscape has well over 8000 solutions.  Dan eplains that the sales tech landscape has about 900 sales technology solutions.  He added that once you add in CRM, and you add in marketing automation you’re in the 1200 to 1400 solutions range.

He then talks about how the sales tech landscape is growing almost as rapidly as the marketing tech landscape.   Dan added that the marketing tech landscape has been in play for almost 10 years and the sales tech has only been in play since 2016.   Dan said that in 2016, they were less than 100 solutions on the map and in two years there are expected to be nearly 3,0000 potential solutions.

The conversation ended with Damon thanking Dan for his time.

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technology, organization, sales, vendor, solution, people, crm, company, strategy, process, understand, stakeholders, staples, data, capabilities, align, stakeholder analysis, client, piece, customers


Damon Pistulka, Dan Cilley


Damon Pistulka  00:04

All right, everyone, welcome once again to the faces of business. I’m your host, Damon Pistulka. And with me today, I have Dan, silly Dan, great to have you here today.


Dan Cilley  00:17

Thank you for inviting me, Damon, really, it’s pleasure.


Damon Pistulka  00:20

It is, it’s gonna be a good time, man. Because if there is one thing that frustrates me, and it is sales technology. So Dan is the founder of vendor neutral. That’s a and I’ll let you explain about it. But they work with helping people find the right sales technology. We’re going to talk a bit about that.

Today, we’re going to talk about six sales technology evaluation for executives, because I know, this is something that it’s hard for executives, like how much do I need to know what should I know? What should I ask? Because there’s so many different things to talk about, and really just to be smart enough about the topic to be dangerous. Ask the right questions. So, Dan, let’s start out with a ton of talking about your background, and kind of sure how you got where you are today, because you’ve been in sales for a while now. And digital sales.


Dan Cilley  01:18

Yeah, 25 years, I definitely dating myself, I was one of the original employees of staples Corporation, was there really at almost the very beginning was a, you know, work with them, surrounding their contact center, development strategy, catalog, engagement strategy. Again, this is right at the infancy of the internet, you know, a lot of things are happening, a lot of things were digitally transforming back in that day. So I started there, I learned a lot staples taught me a lot were there for eight, nine years, actually, maybe even almost 10.

And then once I left staples, I started my own company called tele maximum. And actually one of my first customers was staples Corp, we, the I was able to have them as a client for quite a long time, we were doing a lot of their top customer survey work and things like that. And I was, you know, developing contact centers for organizations like Staples, mid market, enterprise, pharmaceutical, health care, you know, companies that were looking to engage with their prospects.

And then that day, it was all brick and mortar, it was very different than it is today. And that’s what it’s really what’s evolved over the last 25 years, especially in the last five to 10 years. And the reason why I started vendor neutral, back in 2018, it was, you know, because things have really digitally transformed, things have changed in a big way in a dramatic way. You know, the brick and mortar contact center is no longer, it’s really evolved to a virtual environment. And that virtual environment is driven by technology.

And that is why vendor neutral evolved from my previous organization to a maximum, which I actually shuttered in 2019, and fully dedicated my time and energy now to vendor neutral. We have an incredible team of technology, analysts, consultants, process improvement consultants, onboarding, adoption resources to ensure that companies can solve their biggest technology problems surrounding especially sales technology, and how to go to market how to how to actually increase your revenue, and retain customers and meet your clients where they are in their sales cycle in their own journey. So very excited to be here and to share some of this insight with you.


Damon Pistulka  04:03

Well, I think I think that, you know, now, one of the things with executives, across the board, you know, mid, mid sized companies, enterprise sized companies, is it, there’s so many different choices for them. And what are some of the, you know, some of the challenges that you see these people facing that that’s pretty common across the groups?


Dan Cilley  04:32

Well, the biggest challenge is just the sheer number of resources that are available. Those of you who know the marketing technology landscape, there is well over 8000 solutions on that landscape, unmanageable, it’s unmanageable, it’s truly out of control. And when we look at the sales tech landscape, there’s about 900 Truly sales technology solutions. focus strictly on sales tax, or sales strategy. And then, once you add in CRM, and you add in marketing automation, which a lot of that overlaps with sales, you’re in the 12 to 1400 range.

So as a sales tech landscape is growing almost as rapidly as the martech landscape, the MAR tech landscape has been in play for almost 10 years, the sales tech has only been in play since 2016. And back in 2016, they were less than 100 solutions on the landscape. So you can just imagine how much it’s grown in the next year, here’s the sophistic for you. So in the last five years, the amount of growth in the sales tech landscape will be compounded fivefold in the next two years. So you should expect to see anywhere between two and 3000 solutions potentially available within this space over the next two years, it’s going to be absolute man.


Damon Pistulka  06:06

That is pretty crazy, because it’s Wow, the amount the sheer number, like you said, so do you see I kind of going off a little bit of a tangent here. But do you see that there’s a lot of a lot of SUVs, and they all pretty much look the same? Or are there some really unique ones that you go, hey, there are some front runners that you really need to be looking at, based on this kind of company or that kind of company? What do you really see in that landscape as you see them all? So


Dan Cilley  06:36

yeah, there’s this, there’s probably about 2829 categories, through categories. And then there’s probably 50 to 75 subcategories within those categories.

We really try to stay focused at the higher category level, and then understand our client’s requirements, their needs, their objectives, before we start to drill down into the specific capabilities of individual solutions, in those subcategories, so it can become, it’s a difficult process, it’s difficult to manage for most organizations and for buyers. And we have vendor neutral, we developed what we call our sales technology ecosystem, or our framework, which is really proven to be incredibly successful. It’s been in the market now for about three years, primarily focused at the enterprise level.

And we’re now entering into relationships with a lot of mid market companies as well. But in both areas, you know, our framework starts off with what we call our stakeholder analysis or stakeholder audit. It’s probably, you know, a lot of people think of it as like an assessment, right, like a kind of a status quo. Where are we today? What do we need to do to improve? So what we, what vendor neutral does is our analyst team engages with each of the stakeholders in a mid market or enterprise level organization. And we help them by understanding what their goals are, their needs, their objectives.

You know, at the end of the day, what technology they’re using, if there’s potentially overlap within silos within the organization, they don’t even know about, because like you just said, there is overlap. There’s a lot of features in a lot of technology that does the exact same thing. That, you know, if you’ve, if you’re only using it for that feature, well, you don’t need to pay for all the rest of the capabilities that that technology offers. So during our stakeholder analysis, during that audit process, we quickly uncover overlap, we quickly uncover gaps that are in technology, but not only in their technology, but in their process in their workflow.

Because more often than not, people are, you know, shooting from the hip right there. They’re not really thinking about their processes. They’re not thinking about how technology could enable those processes, processes directly thinking that technology is going to solve all of their problems. But the reality is, if you don’t have the right processes, the right workflow, technologies does nothing technology on its own, on its own is absolutely worthless. So it’s very important that you have that framework, that foundational element to be successful. And that’s all starts with that stakeholder analysis. Super important.


Damon Pistulka  09:39

Well, and you talk about process, and I think that’s what so many people think technology is going to solve but as you said, with these technologies, they’re meant to be flexible on how you do business. So they really, it isn’t like drop in and this is the way it works. It’s usually drop in Then show us how you want to work. And then we can help you work that way. And so it still requires that underlying process of how you want to do your sales, what you want to learn, and who’s going to do what, and how they’re going to interface with your technology.

So what are some of the things that you see when you first come into these corporations? Do you, you know, like, you mentioned overlap, but do people overcomplicate processes, I mean, in this in as you’re helping them with this, this understanding? Do you help them refine that overall process? Is that part of what you’re doing? Because I would think that it’s probably been bolted on as these things start to change. You see, a lot of this was stuck here that was stuck here. This was stuck here. And now they can all be together and be a lot more efficient, or what are some of the things that you see?


Dan Cilley  10:56

Yeah, it really comes down to what we call an holistic technology strategy. It’s a strategy that fits together and supports all of the stakeholders in an organization. And it doesn’t just start with the stakeholders, it starts there, but it ends with the end user, right?

We, when we interview the stakeholders, we generally drill down within their hierarchy of their organization, and understand what is enabling their sales reps to be successful. And more often than not, you can learn almost everything you need to learn about your process from your top 20%, right, whether it’s the top 20% of your customers, or it’s the top 20% of your sales force, they know what works because they’re actively selling, they’re successful at selling your solution. So you have to really be open to listening and learning from those individuals and bringing them into your process, bringing them into your strategy development.

So we generally, you know, be involved everybody in our stakeholder analysis. And that’s also part of a larger communication strategy, where people are now aware, right, they’re now aware of different resources or different processes in an organization, different possibilities. And what we try to do is we try to connect the dots, right, we try to connect the dots between marketing, sales operations, you know, so that it becomes a truly a revenue operations strategy, where everyone’s working together to meet the same goals and objectives.

And that’s generally where we see the biggest problems. It’s not tech bolting on tech isn’t the right solution. And a lot of people that we work with, you know, it can be at any level in an organization. You know, they listened to their peers, more than they listened to the experts, right? They, you know, they talked to their buddy who is using XYZ technology. And because they’re using it, and they’re finding success, well, it must work well, for us.

Well, isn’t the reality? Yeah. The reality is, is every company works differently. They have different ways of engaging. And another very important piece that they don’t consider is that if it’s not, if it’s not value based, or value focused, and it’s not aligning with your customers journey, and that’s, again, going back to that 20%, right, the same each of those customers, meeting them on that journey, and aligning to them using technology is the most effective way of seeing results with tech. If you’re, if tech is an afterthought, or a predecessor to another strategy, and it’s not incorporated holistically, you’re more likely than not to see the success that you’re looking for.


Damon Pistulka  13:41

Yeah. Wow. Because this is there’s so much because when you think of an enterprise level company, there’s so many different systems that can be like you said, duplicate functionality, even people duplications, hundreds of people duplication safe, and sometimes, and do you see that companies are actively making changes to the structure of their organization after they go through this?

Because I would think that if we uncover the fact that we’ve got, you know, three departments doing the same thing, let’s redeploy people to another ways to really, you know, match this align with this customer journey better and really provide more value throughout the process. Are you seeing them do those kinds of things to when they really get into this or?


Dan Cilley  14:37

No, we don’t tell companies who to hire and fire but we do read make recommendations on roles that they should include. A lot of larger companies, especially the enterprise space, they don’t have these roles in place. They don’t have a CTO or CIO or a chief information security officer. You know, they have sales leadership, you know, they have senior leadership And that’s where the decisions are generally made.

And you really have to start to incorporate these roles. Technology roles, whether it’s an innovation role, or there’s actually somebody that owns it. You know, it is, you know, it’s a different animal today than it was before, it generally, is outsourced as much more than it ever was in the past. And technology is really filling that gap, right. So third party technologies, not things that are built out internally, things that can be purchased off the shelf, but it’s important to understand the value it’s going to bring and how it’s going to fit, like you said earlier.

Because otherwise, it’s just going to sit on the shelf, right, it’s not going to be leveraged, it’s, it’s not going to be sticky. And that’s why our framework is so important is because once a stakeholder analysis is complete, and we understand that their processes that exist, match the technology they already have, or the technology that they considering, then we’re able to move to a, you know, filling the gap when it comes to technologies, kind of identifying where maybe a new piece of technology or a change in the technology strategy could really amplify their ability to really accelerate catapult them forward.

And that’s really at the end of the day. That’s what we’re always thinking about how do we move that needle? right for them? How can we move it in the biggest way. And once we’ve identified technology that can actually do that, we don’t just go out and acquire it, that we don’t encourage our, our clients to acquire it, what we encourage them to do is a proof of concept, POC or pilot.

And that can normally include, you know, it doesn’t have to be a large group, it can be a small group, but it really should represent all the different types of sellers, and managers and leadership within your organization to be part of it. So that you can truly understand the value that the technology brings and how it aligns to the capabilities you’re trying to address. And so we generally work with our clients to do the proof of concept to do the pilot so that we can identify abilities to scale.

I’ll give you a good example. We had a recent client in the past year, who wanted to really move that needle. And, you know, we looked at a lot of categories of solutions. But what we landed on was actually a data as a platform. Because when we did our stakeholder analysis, we found that there was a lot of gaps in their data, there was a lot of missing insights, a lot of missing visibility of who their prospects were at these clients at these companies. So we did a proof of concept. And we didn’t try to boil the ocean, we simply took that data resource, applied it to a couple of use cases, one being a existing client strategy, and one being a new business strategy.

So the existing client strategy, we focused on, you know, install base equipment, right. So we knew that this company has been in the market for 3040 years, they’ve installed equipment, globally, in 1000s, upon 1000s of locations. So they knew the technology, they knew what they installed, but they didn’t know who was using it today, they didn’t know who was managing it today, then I didn’t know the company who potentially even owned it today, because it was sold more often through a contractor through a third party that did the installation did the integration of the technology.

So once we identify that, you know, you have all these pieces of equipment, and now all we need to do is associate a contact and accompany to that piece of equipment, you just removed all the obstacles for that organization. So now they can reach out to the right contact and the right organization using that equipment today at that location, and quickly identify and qualify for an opportunity.

We just alone, just alone that one, one use case generated over $90 million in new revenue for that organization in less than six months. Unbelievable results because they were spending months and months doing the research on LinkedIn and on Google trying to find these individuals, but didn’t realize that the value was already out there in a data platform. So we were able to integrate that data platform and see that result. Now on the new business development side same type of scenario. Small group of people Well, again, we’re testing this out, it’s a pilot.

So we were testing it out. And on the new business side, what they were, you know, they would go out with their manager in a car, and they would drive around, and they would knock on doors. But they quickly realized that, you know, we could use data in a filter format, would filter based on geography, based on the size of the organization they generally sell to? And we could identify prospects much quicker than driving around looking for oh, yeah, holding. It was just, you know, much more efficient for them. So both of those use cases, once the technology was acquired, turned into just absolutely incredible revenue generating opportunities for the company.


Damon Pistulka  20:48

Well, what you’re talking about there is exactly right, when you and this is this comes back to what you said, a few minutes ago. And as you’re talking about these technology roles that aren’t typically in companies anymore, or yet, do you think that this is what we’re gonna see, though, is that the companies that really are going to leverage our technology and move forward the way that they truly can are going to have to put people in technology roles, just because these things are changing so fast. And you know, what, what’s good today might be a, you know, an anchor tomorrow.


Dan Cilley  21:28

Yeah, we have to let our sellers sell, you know, we have to Yeah, no sellers are good at selling. Yeah, you know, I, I come into a lot of organizations, we come into a lot of organizations, and we see the sellers have their own stack of solutions, right. So the company is purchasing certain technologies, but the high performing sellers are using additional technologies to give them an edge right to and they’re paying for it themselves as well.

Or they’re expensing it one of the two, but at the end of the day that we generally see the highest performers have more tech or not less than their peers that company was paying for. So you know, we we’d like to see that actually, because it sets the stage for what success could potentially look like. Because if the sellers are effectively leveraging these tools, well, why can’t we scale that and that’s why that goes back to why it’s so important. That 20% Whether it’s your customers, or your top sellers, to put them into that process, that strategy development process, because they’re the ones who are really going to help you succeed.


Damon Pistulka  22:35

Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s a great tip, though, for executives, looking at this as interview your top 20% and see how they’re doing it. Interview your top 20% customers and see what their journey was like, and how, what, what was good, what was frustrating about it for them? That’s Those are great things


Dan Cilley  22:52

I learned 20 years ago, Damon, I learned 20 years ago, when I was with staples Corp, you know, we I lead this group called Top customer survey, right? And what they would do was they would, they would have our team reach out to the top 20% of their large customers and ask these questions, ask questions about their products or solutions, you know, what would make a difference. And we would take that data, and work with marketing work with the catalog development team, to make sure that those insights were incorporated.

And that’s actually one of the big reasons they were more successful. That’s why staples grew so quickly in the marketplace, was a listen to their top customers. And I took that knowledge. And once we started vendor neutral, I you know, it was one of our core requirements. One of our kind of our fundamental strategies that we leverage is, is just, you know, opening the lines of communication, and not assuming you know, everything because you don’t, I sure know, and I think at the end of the day, when we when we bring in a team, or we bring in value from all levels of the organization, you’re gonna have a much better strategy at the end of the day.


Damon Pistulka  24:11

Yeah, yeah. So how, how many times do you actually walk into someplace and do this assessment and go, Wow, this team really knows what, what they’ve got. And it’s, I mean, on a scale of one to 10, what’s the usual? Have they really got it going on? Or they need a lot of work? You know,


Dan Cilley  24:37

sadly, the companies that we work with generally are behind the eight ball. They’re not. They’re not as advanced as they need to be. Their competition is getting close to close for comfort. And they, they need to adapt, they need to digitally transform. They need to adapt to an environment to a strategy that is going to be more competitive, because their competition is absolutely going to take those steps, especially if they see weakness in the marketplace, from the larger players, because they’re going to be able to potentially leapfrog them, if they’re able to deliver more effectively and efficiently.

Our strategy, our frameworks, they don’t just focus on sales, they don’t just focus on technology, they focus on sales, they focus on technology, and they focus on the people and the process. Because you have to think about it holistically, you have to think about it as a much bigger picture strategy.

Because if you’re not, at the beginning of the process, you know, communicating effectively sharing these insights, you’re learning from there, from the stakeholders in your organization, understanding the workflow, understanding the process, improving that process, vary, it’s going to be very difficult to onboard a new solution, right, it’s going to be very difficult to see the adoption, and the results from any new technology, because they just most sales reps, most marketing professionals, you know, they feel that you’re just throwing something else at them something else,

they have to worry about something else they have to deal with, well, if you involve them in the process, whether it’s that top 20%, or really everybody in your organization, and have that level of communication, that consistent engagement surrounding the potential for these new technologies, you’re going to be able to, you’re going to, they’re going to want to be part of it, they’re going to want to be on board, they’re going to want to be part of that journey for your organization, and they’re going to support you.

And at the end of the day, their likelihood of adopting that solution and integrating it into their own workflow is much higher than it would have been, if you just throw another piece of tech at them, which is what most organizations do.


Damon Pistulka  26:53

Yes, yes. I will say yes, one more time, because this is something I think if anybody listens to this thing, this is one of the key takeaways is involve your people in the process, because, and lead them to understand how it’s going to help them be more effective. Because if you don’t, it’s like you said, it’s like, oh, it’s the new flavor of the day, we’re going to implement this thing, I’m gonna have to do these changes.

And, and oh, well, it’s not going to, you know, I don’t really know. But if they’re involved in that process, and are excited about the opportunities that it brings them to help that adoption will be there. Apps, great, great points there. So when you look at this, and when people are trying to look at solutions overall. Do you think that they’re overcomplicating? What they think they need compared to what they actually need? Or looking for something that’s got way more than they really need to be thinking about? Or do you think they just missing the mark? Because they don’t? Not matching up? Right?


Dan Cilley  28:00

Or? Well, I was? Well, I think quite


Damon Pistulka  28:03

well, because I think I think, you know, when you’re looking like and you say something, I’m gonna, I’m gonna put protection on my home. And next thing, you know, it’s a metal home, rather than I put a lock on the door, you know? Do you think that kind of thing happens? Or do you think that they just, instead of putting a lock on the door, they’re, you know, putting a dog in the front yard or something like that?


Dan Cilley  28:25

Well, I think about what most organizations we deal with, what where they really struggle is that they brought in a solution that they didn’t invest their time, then invest the energy into the development of the processes to support the solution ahead of time. So I see this every day with CRM, and ERP s everyday. I see a company that thinks that oh, I’ll just all I need to do is acquire a CRM by XYZ CRM make a huge investment. And more than likely, they’re not going to see the adoption, they’re not going to see the you know, the willingness to use it.

Because it’s like you said, it’s got a lot of bells and whistles got a lot of capabilities that may not be appropriate today. For that organization. They may need to start smaller, they need to start with simple technologies. Like data, like I mentioned earlier, that use case I mentioned earlier, you don’t need to boil the ocean, you don’t need to have the greatest solutions. But more often than not, we’re not going to, you know, throw the baby out with the bathwater, right? So we’re gonna come in, they have a CRM, they have an ERP.

Well, we’re going to start there, actually, we’re not going to start with a new piece of technology. We’re going to first of all make sure that their current piece of technology, their CRM, is you being used effectively. does it align to the stakeholders needs? Is it providing them the data they’re looking for? Is it providing them the insights they need to make smart business decisions? Well, because if it isn’t, if it’s only being used at 5% The adoption rate, well, you’re not getting any insights out of it, you’re just spending money. So, you know, that is where it’s at.

You know, so technology isn’t producing the data, that you need to make decisions, you need to progress. And you’re not going to see success from the technology is just going to sit and be on unused. And eventually your finance team is going to catch when that this, these are unused licenses, and there’s no ROI. And they’re going to come back at you and say, Why are you paying 1000s of dollars every year for this resource, and there’s no results. And they just, you know, it comes down to ego. And I think that what organizations need to do is overcome their ego, and focus in areas that are going to make the biggest impact on their results.

And that isn’t always going to start with a CRM, most of the sales technology today, I would say the vast majority is beyond CRM, it is a technology that is using a CRM or ERP as a source of truth. Right. So if you’ve got good data, you’ve got an understanding of your prospects or your customers, you don’t need a CRM, right, you just need to have that data stored effectively, somewhere, or ERP. And that you can leverage it within these tools, because all they need is accurate information to be effective as a tool.

Now, if you have a good CRM, and you have mentioned it effectively, and your contacts are current, your accounts are current, your you know, it’s standardized, you know, not every name has a lowercase letter for first names, or yeah, you have good data, well, then now, the sales technologies that’s available, it takes it beyond CRM, and allows you to effectively engage with your prospects, to manage them through a sales cycle, to nurture them to do all the things that you know that your sales professionals, if done effectively, are going to generate business.

So that’s what we want to do is enable the sales professionals to do their jobs easier, just to have an easier path, right. So if we’re able to improve the CRM, make sure that foundationally is effective. And then there’s a processes in place to support the user’s workflow, well, then they’re going to leverage that, then the data is going to be there for them to leverage and they’re going to be able to create sequences, they’re going to be able to work with marketing on content and materials, to effectively engage with the right prospect that they know is going to buy their solution by your solution.

And they’re going to effectively be able to sell more because of it. So at the end of the day, it’s a very much it’s about understanding where your strengths are and where your weaknesses are, and then filling in the gaps. It’s not about just buying off buying more tech and bolting it on. Yeah, that’s what most companies end up doing is they think that they need a bolt on another piece of tech.


Damon Pistulka  33:00

Well, it sounds to like from what you’re saying, there’s a lot of that, what you uncover is they need to do some reimplementation of current tools, because a they don’t have the base data, right? They’re not then you know, didn’t get stakeholders involved. So they really understand how it can help them. And then ultimately, it could be that the good data with a process, their current troubles are fine.


Dan Cilley  33:30

Now we do see that not as often as we’d like, but we see enough to know that someone in the organization, whether it’s that top performing sales rep, or a top performing manager knows that what good data what good resources can actually lead to. And so in their small, siloed ecosystem, they’re in small world that they manage, they’re seeing success, that’s not being translated across the organization, it’s not being shared with their peers. And that’s where that consistent holistic level of interconnectivity communication comes in.

And it’s so important that you know, you’re not right from the get go, right. As soon as you start thinking about technology, you start to engage with all of your stakeholders, start to bring him into this process, start to engage with their staff, bring them into this process, ask for their feedback. And then at the end of the day, you’re going to see that the technology that is really needed may already be there be used individually, or you’ll be quickly identified, because now you understand the specific capabilities you need to address.


Damon Pistulka  34:44

Yeah. Wow. And it’s it’s interesting that you say a lot of this is beyond CRM. So what do you mean by beyond CRM? What are some of the technologies that we see that are beyond CRM?


Dan Cilley  34:55

Well, I’m not calling out any specifics. I call out some categories. So engagement technologies. Anything that, you know? For example, you think about sequencing, right? So an email outreach sequencing, where calls, could be emails, it could be texts could be a many different engagement. Opportunity. Yeah. So that sequencing is based on the value of the data, right? So the value of what you have in CRM, so you don’t need see the CRM to do that effectively. You just need good data to do that. So that’s why it’s beyond CRM.

And that’s why you know, you’re not you look at the CRM companies, the big companies today, call out a couple Salesforce or HubSpot or sugar or some of these larger CRM organizations, you know, they’re not going to go out of business, because they’re, you know, their legacy technology, they’re going to adapt. Right, they’re gonna adjust. So that’s why you’re seeing companies like Salesforce and HubSpot, do so many acquisitions around other technologies, especially these engagement technologies to bolster their capabilities.

They’re bringing in tools like sales enablement, content management resources, you know, you think about sales enablement, you know, it’s what are people consuming? Right, you know, you have good content, your marketing teams work diligently to develop it, you’re distributing it, what are they engaging with? What are people actually reading? What are people downloading, if you can understand that, and you take that information, you’re going to be far more effective than you are?

Just, you know, guessing. Yeah. So more often than not, you know, it comes down to the fact that, you know, these, these organizations aren’t taking the best part of what they already have. So they already have great marketing resources, but they’re not evaluating the value of those resources. So if they’re able to see the value from the consumption, both on the user level and on the prospect level or the customer level, then they’re going to be much better positioned to develop more materials, more content is specifically going to align to those requirements.


Damon Pistulka  37:20

Yeah, yeah. So when you help corporations do this? Do you technically are typically not technically, do you typically see that you go through this process? You typically see that they are overspending or underspending on their sales? Technology? Sec?


Dan Cilley  37:43

That’s a great question. So I’ll give you a story. And this is a probably a really good example for it. So we have a large peripheral technology customers, the client, their multibillion dollar corporation, global, they brought us in three years ago, to do an audit to do a technology audit. We identified well over a million dollars in annual licensing that they were spending on well over 200 solutions across our organization.

So the vast majority overlapped. There was so much confusion around who was using what who was seeing results from what technologies, what we were able to do was consolidate that knowledge and understand what did what, what was the most effective based on the technology we’re currently using. And we were able to reduce that well over a million dollars spin to just over $200,000 annually. So almost a million dollars in savings alone, just from that audit process, and evaluating where they had overlapping and existing technology that could be already solved by what they have today.


Damon Pistulka  39:13

And do you think they’re just getting caught in the change? And you look at, okay, this solution when we bought it, it didn’t have that, that piece of feature? And now it does, and we didn’t keep up with the software? Or is it that they probably made the wrong decision out of the box,


Dan Cilley  39:32

probably made the wrong decision. They listened to their peers. Everybody’s, you know, I’m using XY and Z, you should use it. Well, that’s not usually the right decision. It is very, it’s a very thoughtful process. There’s, you know, it takes time the larger the organization, the more time it takes. The larger the breadth of stakeholders are in an organization, the more effort you need to put into it. stating their needs, their requirements, the technology they’re using, the results they’re seeing from that technology. And then once you have that analysis, now you have that foundation,

you know, where the gaps are, you know, where the opportunities are for new technology because it’s clearly not defined by an existing piece of technology, but you also understand where their processes are, or workflow may be lacking, to support a new piece of technology, or to enable the technology they already have. So that’s a very important piece here is that many organizations, you know, they bring in this resources, but you know, they’re just basing it on others feedback, or, you know, they go on LinkedIn, and they say, Hey, tell me what you’re using for engagement technology, or for call recording?

And they’ll tell you, Oh, I’m using XYZ, because so and so used, and they saw all these results? Well, that’s great. You know, I don’t I don’t discredit that type of peer to peer feedback. But I think you still need to do that internal analysis, you still need to understand, you know, what’s going to move the needle for your own organization first?


Damon Pistulka  41:10

Yeah, I remember writing some things down here. Because I always like to summarize, because this has been such an interesting conversation and talking about, you know, sales technology selection for executives, it’s just like, man, we are just pummeled as executives is what should we do? What technology?

Are we missing out on technology and stuff, but you hit? I think a few key things here that I want to talk about. And just reiterate is, know your sales process. The process is overall. So if I’m an executive, one of the first things I may want to do is say, get my leadership team together and say, Hey, do we all understand this process? And do we all agree on this? Is that exactly,


Dan Cilley  41:58

it? See you nailed it? Yeah, that’s what we have to facilitate. More often than not, most organizations work in silos, especially the bigger the organization. Yeah. You know, they could have, you know, stakeholders that are, you know, they could have five selling business divisions, right. One could be service, one could be maintenance, one could be turnkey operations. And they all are led by different leaders. And they, if you’re not bringing them together, and they’re not thinking about their processes, holistically, they’re not benefiting from each other.

They’re running. Like I said, they’re, they’re in their own silo, they’re seeing their own results. So if the business leader in service, is seeing an opportunity for a replacement, or a turnkey new technology, well, then that should be patched over to the turnkey operations. And you should see a benefit from that from working together as a team.

So that’s the other piece as well, as, you know, the overall compensation, the motivation, incentives, there’s, and there’s just a boatload of technology out there, surrounding those capabilities, as well, you know, ensuring that, you know, you’re, you’re encouraging knowledge sharing, you know, that you’re, you’re giving the risk, giving those tools to the stakeholders so that they can leverage knowledge that may even be located on the other side of the world.

Because those people have had that experience that you need. So you need to take that knowledge and bring it into your organization. And if you’re not taking advantage of technology to simplify that, you’re actually you’re hindering yourself, because you’re still you’re maintaining the siloed approach, which is limiting companies that not only focus on holistic technology strategy, but holistic sales strategy, are the ones that are seeing the greatest results. And that’s where we’re, you know, that’s what vendor us was very different than most of the consulting firms out there.

That foresters are gardeners, Mackenzie’s the Accenture’s, you know, we are, we’re heavily integrated with our clients. You know, we do the audit, we do the stakeholder analysis, we understand their processes, we understand what technologies are going to fill the gaps, and we embed resources on site or virtually, to ensure that that technology onboarding that adoption, whether it’s existing technology that’s not effectively being used, or new technology, we ensure that we that we’re scaling on success, where we’re not basing it on what the vendors telling us should success should look like.

We’re basing it on that organization, and what their success should look like. So it’s very important that I guess goes back to that, you know, that holistic working as a team to address you needs and to identify the technology that’s going to close the gap in every area of your organization. You could spend hours talking about this, you go down a rabbit hole very, very quickly. But it really does come back to that holistic technology strategy.


Damon Pistulka  45:15

Yeah, yeah. And you started it out with something that’s not the technology. And this is what I wanted to make sure we talked about, do you understand across your organization, the, the process?

Do we all agree on this process? And is that holistically working well, for everyone? And then I think you, you would move into the next level of it, whatever technology decision we are going to make? Does it address this the pieces of our sales process, and do each of the vertical people that are going to use this agree, and understand how it will help them or not? Because as the executives were starting to make the right decision, and if we’re just listened to a committee that hasn’t done that kind of work? You’re gonna make a misinformed decision?


Dan Cilley  46:07

Yeah, we use some, what we call a rank and rated requirements document. Okay. So the way that works, is very simply, you know, when we meet with the stakeholders, we write down what’s important to them, you know, what requirements that they need, in the technology? What’s their end result? What’s good look like, at the end of the day, right? Yeah, what’s good luck, right? Right. And take that information.

And we take and we align it to capabilities that they’re looking for within the organization, and we list them out, we take that same capabilities list. And once we’ve identified a category of solutions, we then share those capabilities with each of the vendors in that category. We don’t share the client, we don’t tell them who the client is, we may tell them it’s a large company, we may tell them the type of industry they’re in, just so that the vendor, you know, better understands the use case. But no, what we want them to understand is, is that they’re going to see, I just lost my train of thought, I’m sorry, what was I just saying?


Damon Pistulka  47:18

We’re talking about the, the ranked ratings across your organization and getting it out to the technology suppliers


Dan Cilley  47:27

Exactly. So that once we have that ranking rating document completed internally, and we share it with that vendor in the categories, they’re going to come back to us and say this is where we have strengths. This is where we have weaknesses. And then we’re able to take that data, bring it back to the stakeholders within an organization and able to align those ranked and rated requirements to their goals and objectives. Because what’s going to happen, and this is why vendor neutral is so unique, is we’re not aligned to one vendor, there is not one vendor that we aligned to, we aligned to the entire landscape.

So once we are able to showcase the capabilities that one solution has over another that really aligns with our company’s needs and objectives, were then very quickly in shortlist of vendors. So you may have, for example, sales enablement, content management, this is solid 15 to 20 solutions in that category. And these are very robust solutions, doesn’t mean you need every one of those capabilities, there may be one solution that has a set of capabilities that really does align to your needs and objectives.

So we want to find that list that shorten that list of vendors so that when we actually move to an acquisition strategy with a client, we’re simply looking at one or two vendors at the most, because they so closely aligned to those requirements that the company had. And then we do demos. And we don’t let the vendors demo anything beyond those ranked and rated requirements. Because that’s the company doesn’t care about those anything else that that vendor can potentially deliver. They care about how those capabilities are going to impact their organization.

So if we’re able to then demo those, so that those capabilities and then the client sees that value, then there’s an opportunity for acquisition, because now we can scale and product and more often than not, that’s when the pilot comes into play. But I talked earlier, the POC, you know, because now if you have one or two vendors, well, even if one vendor, you want to make the right decision, yeah, do that pilot, you need to do that. And it doesn’t need to be your whole company. It’s just a small group of people that represent the different levels of capabilities within your organization and the different stakeholders and see what those results produce.

And then when you analyze those results, more often than not, you’re going to that one vendor is going to stand out, because they’re going to produce the greatest return on your. Yeah, that’s where you’re gonna speak. That’s why and that’s why we’re working with vendor neutral. It actually simplifies that acquisition process, because now you’re not, you know, you’re not just dealing with sales reps selling, and some sales reps can sell better than others, you’re actually looking at the real capabilities that that solution actually delivers. And that’s where you make your final decision based on. Yeah. Well,


Damon Pistulka  50:34

this is awesome. I mean, we’re at time here. And it’s great, Dan, that he’s, I’m just floored here, because the stuff that you covered was awesome. I mean, I just go through sales process, the importance of knowing that before we even start looking at technology, understanding, like you said, and then doing that ranked and rated, review with each one of the stakeholders, and make sure you know what’s important each one and then make sure you understand how that fits with the technology that you’ve got there.

And that good data, because that I think is every company is is guilty of not having the best data they could, and the importance of it is going to kill you or not kill you, it’s going to hamper you, if you get even with the right technology solution if you have good data. So make sure that’s right. And I love your idea. And not that. And I don’t mean, not an idea. But the proof of concept is, even when you think you’ve made the right decision, don’t go all in, test it with a small group to refine it, because these are decisions that are too big to go on. Anything other than proof in your organization, with a good sample group.


Dan Cilley  51:57

Yep. And more often than not, the vendors appreciate those proof of concepts, most pilots because they’re willing to tweak and adapt their solution to match your specific workflow, your specific go to market strategy, because they want you to quote they want to close with you, they want to, they want you to acquire their solution.

So you know, just acquiring it off the shelf, you don’t get that luxury, you don’t get that ability for them to develop their product in a unique way to support you and your organization. In a proof of concept, they get to see your organization actually engaging with the technology, its use case how effective or ineffective it is. And they can actually adjust the tech to be much more effective and aligned to your specific needs than they ever could have just buying it off the shelf.


Damon Pistulka  52:44

That’s a great point. And it really is because you get that extra opportunity once you’ve used a little bit to go, if you just change this, this would help us an awful lot. And you can get those things done while you’re doing that proof of concept. Well, Dan, it’s been awesome having you at Dan silly today with vendor neutral. We’re talking about sales technology, making it easier for executives to make good sense of sales technology choices, you’ve given us some wonderful things that we can use here. Now, Dan, you got a there is an event coming up next week on the 19th. Can you talk about that a little bit while we’re here to jump off?


Dan Cilley  53:21

Yep, we’ve, I’ve invited you, Damon. So hopefully, I’m looking forward to having you participate as one of our panelists. But on May 19, at 2pm Eastern Time, we have a excellent new live webinar. And all of our webinars are live. So you can go on our website under our Learning Center, you can access all of our on demand live webinars that have pre recorded or you can join us live when they actually happen. And next May 9 On next Thursday, May 19.

We’re going to have a webinar, I think it’s called the important steps manufacturers should take when creating a digital transformation strategy for their sales organization. And I think that just really speaks to what we talked about today. Right?

Is it’s about, you know, one of the processes is you need to follow what are the best practices that you should consider when building or acquiring sales technology and building out that capability within your organization. Number one, we just talked we talked about at the beginning of the call, good communication, having the top 20% of your customers as well as the top 20% of your sales performers involved in the strategy process. You know, and so many of us will save for the webinar, a tremendous discussion for everybody


Damon Pistulka  54:38

really on the 19th to Eastern time, we’re going to be talking about digital transformation. So, Dan, silly, thanks so much for being here today. Thanks, everyone for being here. We had Emily and Marie and they’re commenting. I know we have a bunch of other listeners too. Thanks so much for being here. Everyone. We love that you’re less than give us some feedback and all those kinds of things and everyone listening We will be back again here in a couple days with another interesting guests on the faces of business Thanks so much everyone thank you

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