Wayne Gretzky famously said, "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take." So why do so many salespeople skip over the part where they ask their clients for referrals?
In this episode of The Future of Sales, Kenny Traber, a Sales Executive at Salesloft, breaks down the notion that being transparent with clients will lose you deals. Instead, he's found that his personal policy of honesty and respecting buyers' timelines above his own has landed him the trust and admiration of clients, and with that, more deals long-term.
"You will be surprised how often people are excited about the solution you offer. They're excited about the progress and the value they've gained from your solution and they want to share that experience with others that they know."
The "No Bullshit" Takeaways
Find out the key reason why salespeople aren't getting referrals.
Learn why taking a client's timing into account and being transparent has led to Kenny's success.
Find out why Kenny gets referrals from prospects that didn't even buy from him.
Learn Kenny's go-to ways of engaging with and building a relationship with clients post-sale.
You can also find us on iTunes, Stitcher, SoundCloud and if you prefer watching, YouTube.
Sahil Mansuri: Hi there and welcome to another episode of the Future of Sales. Today, I’m joined by my dear friend and one of the Top Account Executives at SalesLoft, Kenny Traber. Kenny, welcome to the Future of Sales.
Kenny Traber: Hey, thank you. I’m very, very excited to be here.
Sahil: Good. I’m so excited to have you. All right, so let’s dive right in. Kenny, I would love if you can just introduce yourself quickly and give our audience a little bit of context into your role at SalesLoft and, you know, what you’re up to these days.
Kenny: Yeah, absolutely. So Kenny Traber; I started at SalesLoft almost three years ago which in this day age is like eons in technology. So, I’ve been here for quite some time. I started as an inbound SDR. I’ve had absolutely no actual sales experience and it really gave me a lot of insight into the role of sales development, but it also led me to learn more about sales in general. So, I did the inbound role and answered tickets that came to the website and connected with prospects there and then, transitioned to outbound SDR, and about 9 or 10 months ago transitioned into a closing role. So, I’m currently a sales executive at SalesLoft and work with accounts that are in the commercial range. So, a little bit larger than the smallest accounts out there, a little bit smaller than the biggest accounts out there, kind of right there in the middle.
Sahil: Awesome. And maybe you can tell us why it is that you chose a career in sales in the first place. I think a lot of people either accidentally fallen to sales or maybe are influenced by their parents or whatnot. What made you choose this profession?
Kenny: That’s a great a question. So, it’s not something that I necessarily always thought about. I wasn’t a kid growing up thinking, “Hey, I want to sell stuff.” But I was in college and happened to have a tight knit friend group and then, immediately after college I went into a recruiting role. When I was recruiting I read a book to Sale is Human. I’m sure a lot of people have heard of that. And realized that in recruiting and sales there’s a lot of commonalities, there’s a lot of situations that you come across in recruiting that translate to sales.
And then, for me, it was important to work at a great company and believe in our products that the company maybe sells and I found that at SalesLoft. So as I mentioned, I didn’t necessarily have any sales experience when I started at SalesLoft, but whenever I was in recruiting I realized that there was a great correlation between recruiting and sales, and ultimately found myself in internal sales position. And I’ve really enjoyed everything that I’ve done to learn and grow through other members of the team and progress my career to where it is today.
Sahil: Okay. So first of all, that’s a great background and a story that I think is not entirely unfamiliar to many of our viewers getting a chance to start somewhere and then, find your way into sales somehow and then, ending up really enjoying the job. You know, I was at Rainmaker, the SalesLoft conference in March. And one of the things that I noticed when I was there, I was talking to a bunch of the reps and they all had great things to say about you and the relationships that you built with your customers. Can you give us a view into what is your approach when dealing with prospects and in dealing buyers and how do you think about yourself as a representative of SalesLoft?
Kenny: Well, first of all, thank you. I’m glad that there are some great things said about me. I think for me, specifically, it just comes back to the core values of SalesLoft as a company and really living those core values and being able to put my team over myself. If there’s something that needs to happen, we’re all here for the greater good of the company. And being able to think about the bigger picture, there’s a new rep that needs some help with portraying the value of SalesLoft or they come across a certain objection, or if it’s something menial like some process that we have here internally, I just want to be helpful to them, and I think being team over self has really benefited some internal relationships. So, that’s kind of the internal side.
And then, thinking about prospects, there’s one thing that I try to do with everyone that I talked to and I think that’s helped to build some good relationships across the sales process, and that’s just being transparent. A lot of times in sales from what I hear, there’s some tactics and maybe some instance to your messaging that can happen to try to get someone to sign an agreement or get someone to use a solution and maybe it’s not the best fit for them. And the transparency at the frontend of the sales process, throughout the sales process, towards the end, that’s something I truly believe in, and I think that buyers can see that. They can see that I’m being open and honest and transparent with them and it really cultivates a trust in their relationship that helps them more comfortable in their conversations with me.
Sahil: So I have the benefit and great pleasure of seeing what some of those customers actually have had to say about working with you. And one of the funniest testimonials that I have seen on Bravado came from the sales development manager at Resy who I think is one of your clients and she wrote -- and I’m just going to read this first and then, we’ll talk about it. And she wrote, “Kenny answered my questions very thoughtfully in an impressively timely manner. Funny story actually, when Connor and I were considering using Outreach instead of SalesLoft, we both are like, ‘No, what about Kenny?’” And I think that that -- so there’s a lot there, but first of all, you know, for most of our viewers, if you’re in the world of sales, I think that it’s very clear that there is the product side of the way that buyers make decisions, which is like does the product fit my needs and then, there’s a human side and the personal side in the relationship that you build.
Tell us that story, you know, how do you build a relationship with a buyer such that they’re willing to publicly write you a testimonial saying that the main reason or one of the main reasons they stuck with SalesLoft was simply because they couldn’t bear to break your heart and switch over to your competitor?
Kenny: Well, there’s a little bit more to that story, I mean, I’m glad that we had a good relationship. They ended being a bit of the product that helped to make the decision to --
Sahil: Of course.
Kenny: I like that story because I get to connect with these buyers and we make this personal relationship and it’s not so much -- if there’s a better solution for them, I would have told them that. And it’s coming back to that relationship built on trust. I was transparent from the very beginning, I let them know some things that they would need to know and evaluate different solutions, and ultimately they trusted me to give them the accurate information that I did. So, when they have the conversation and said, “No, what about Kenny,” it’s more so thinking about the trust that we’ve built and allowing them to rely on their gut instinct, and it’s not so much just our relationship but that definitely plays into helping solidify who it is that they deal with.
Sahil: So you mentioned the words “transparency” and “trust” a lot and I think that both of those words are not often used in the context of sales, right? I think that if those people would say that the expression trusted sales person is oxymoronic, right. And I think that while I think that’s unfair and not reflective of my experience in dealing with sales, it is a common perception among buyers that sales people are not trustworthy and sales people will do whatever it is in order to get a deal closed, and, you know. Do you -- how, I guess, first of all, you know, why do think that perception exist and secondly, how is it that you’ve managed to avoid being painted by that broad brush?
Kenny: Yeah, I think, first of all, that perception is very unfortunate, but it does exist. When you think about historically, you know, they use car salesmen or any type of big purchase that someone makes, you think about sales people, unfortunately, being kind of sleazy and like I mentioned using some tactics that aren’t necessarily the best experience for the buyer. And I had a recent purchase experience that helped open my eyes a little bit more about the importance of being transparent in the sales process. So, it was a number of months ago, I’m recently engaged.
Kenny: Thank you. And my wonderful fiancé, I’ve told her this story because it resonates with me, and when I went to go and actually purchased an engagement ring, I shopped around, you know, as you often do. I didn’t have any connection. You know, first, I didn’t have a referral. I didn’t have, you know, someone that sent me somewhere in particular. So, I shopped around probably four to five different places and I noticed that there are a lot of these tactics happening. A lot of people that weren’t absolutely transparent with me, they’re trying to educate me as a first time and only time buyer of an engagement ring.
But the person that I ended up buying one from, they were transparent from the minute I walked in the door and we have this foundation of trust in this relationship, for me, actually, making a purchase from him. And he would tell me things that were like, you know, this ring is more expensive or this diamond is going to be more expensive. And he was just very transparent about what I could do to get exactly what I was looking for and then, stay within my price range. So, learning a lot from the transparency that a seller showed to me as a buyer helped me to be more transparent in my conversations with potential buyers of SalesLoft.
Sahil: Do you worry that being transparent might cost you deals? And I ask that specifically because as a salesperson, you know, we are commissioned, we are compensated based on our ability to get customers to sign contracts. And, you know, the reality of that compensation structure means that there is always a question in the mind of the buyer, which is, “Is Kenny telling me this because it’s the right thing or is Kenny telling me this because it’s going to help him close the deal.” How do you build the level of rapport and the level of trust to where the customer sees you as being on their side as opposed to being against them?
Kenny: So I have to think that whenever we get on the first call, the first time I have a conversation with someone, I don’t want the immediate thought to be that we’re on the opposite sides of the table. I always want them to think that we’re in this together. I am very open with people and we’ll tell them, if I don’t think SalesLoft is the right fit for them, then I’ll be the first one to mention that. I mean, you know, as well as I do, there are a ton of tools and technologies coming in to the sale engagement space that are trying to compete with SalesLoft.
And if there’s something that, you know, if they can’t afford SalesLoft or they don’t have the budget for, specifically, what it is we do or we’re just, you know, too much for what somebody is looking for, I have those conversations and oftentimes that leaves to an opportunity a couple of months down the road. They might choose to evaluate other solutions and then, come back to us. And I don’t think it’s necessarily a lacking capabilities from some other solutions out there, but from what I’ve heard is that someone could not think of so many time for us to engage in a buying situation, I tell them that. They’ll go evaluate other solutions, and then, they end up coming back to have conversations with me because they trust me as a person. And it all comes back to the very first conversation and understanding that we’re in this together instead of on the opposite sides of the table.
Sahil: It sounds like you’re playing a little bit of a longer game than the average sales person plays, which is to say that it’s like the buy -- you know, still much of what I see especially on like LinkedIn and from a lot of sales trainers and a lot of this mantra of like, you know, if the customer is at the doorstep, you know, don’t lose them, and get them to sign as quickly as possible. And there’s all this concept of like hustling and grinding, whatnot in sales. But the way you’re describing sales feels a lot more like, “Hey, if it’s not the right fit now, then let me be the first to tell you that so that when you are ready for SalesLoft in the future you will know to come back to me because you built that foundation or trust.” I mean, talk a little bit about your psychology there because I think that’s really interesting and different than what most sales people do.
Kenny: Yeah, absolutely. Timing is everything, right. If somebody is not at the point where SalesLoft is a perfect thing for them at that time, I’m in a very fortunate situation where I work at a company that provides a solution to people that helps them engage with their buyers. And so, being able to see the value in SalesLoft is relatively simple, being able to drive in that value and help them to quantify, you know, what it’s costing their business to not have SalesLoft, that’s a different conversation. But I think because we have a solution that many people need to do their jobs day in, day out; it really comes down to timing.
If they are in a contract with another vendor, it’s difficult to buy out a contract or for them to double spend on a solution that has similar benefits to what SalesLoft does. But knowing that that timing is ultimately the most important thing, it gives back to kind of the tactics and tricks and things that traditionally sales people will do. I’m not the type of person that’s going to say, “Well, you know, we’re here at the 29th day of the month, if you can sign this week, it’s 50% off.” That’s not good for our business. That’s not my approach to what SalesLoft provides in terms of value.
So I’m not going come in undercut on price just because I want them to sign today. It’s more so for hearing out what the mutual timeline is. And although that might mean two, three-week delay, it might mean something as next month instead of this month. If it’s ultimately the better decision for the buyer and they’re going to not only join SalesLoft at the right time, be implemented in the correct way, but they’re not going to turn. And there’s actually a recent study that was done, it says 53% of customer loyalty is attributed back to the initial buying experience. But we’re not -- this isn’t a transactional sale, you know, you need SalesLoft, we’ll sell you SalesLoft; it’s helping the buyer understand what the benefit is going to be for their sales and environment, what the ROI is going to be.
And then, once that they join SalesLoft, they’re going to be a retained customer that are going to turn because they had a great initial buying experience and I didn’t pressure them into buying. Now, all I’d have to say, I am trying to be an educator, I am trying to help them, I want to make buying as simple as possible. So, if I need to educate them on the advantages and purchasing now rather than six months from now, I absolutely will do that. And that like comes off as more sincere rather than being pressuring in the sale.
Sahil: And I’ll tell you that I think your customers would agree that that’s the approach that you take. You know, I’ve got another testimonial that the sales manager at Lever left you, which again I thought just kind of spoke volumes about your approach to sales which was -- and I’ll read it again, it says, “Kenny was amazing. My team went through an immense amount of change and he was always available if I have last minute questions during the evaluation. He was extremely thoughtful about providing the appropriate solution for my team and proactively invited his colleagues to meetings to help answer implementation questions. I love working with Kenny.”
You know, I think that there are a lot of sales people that would love to have a testimonial like that from one of their customers and I think that the fact that, you know, you despite being relatively new to a closing role, the fact that you built these deep relationships in such a short period of time, I think really speaks volumes about your approach to sales. And on that note, I want to just pivot to a second point that, you know, one of the ways that you and I actually met was a video that you made. You know, do you want to tell our viewers about the video and then, we’ll talk a little bit about it.
Kenny: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s really relevant that you mentioned the testimonial for Lever because to answer your question, one of the ways that I’m leveraging Bravado is by signing someone up with SalesLoft and then, I’ll ask them just very potently, “Hey, I would love to get your feedback, what did I do well, are there some things that I can improve on, what was your experience like as a buyer?” So sometimes I’ll send that and might not get the testimonial the first time. But fortunately, I have a tool, I have a solution in SalesLoft that will allow me to create a cadence so that I can follow up with them one, two, three or four times.
So what I’ve done is I’ve created a cadence called Bravado and the first touch is very simple, it’s an email saying, thank you for signing up with SalesLoft, I welcome them, they’re going to implementation, and it’s a very simple call to action, it’s who else in your network can benefit from an evaluation of SalesLoft. So being able to leverage Bravado not just for the testimonial but to get referrals and being able to leverage SalesLoft to help me remain accountable in that cadence, basically, I’m getting as many referrals as possible.
I actually -- I’m glad that you mentioned Lever because just yesterday, one of the people that I worked with in the sales process mentioned that she had someone that I should be connecting with. But then, at the same time she not only provided a referral but a recommendation. So she referred me with someone that’s currently selecting between two different partners, SalesLoft being one of them. And so, she’s doing more than just referring business to SalesLoft to potential business but also helping people in this decision making process by providing her experience now that they’ve been customers for six months.
Sahil: Wow. So, first of all, that’s an awesome story. I mean, there’s no better feeling as a sales person than when your customers do the selling for you. And that’s one of the goals in Bravado is, you know, creating a place that allows your customers to do the selling for you and speak on your behalf. Let’s talk about referrals a little bit though because I think, you know, we mentioned that I think that most sales people know that referrals are a good thing and that you should get them. Most sales people also don’t get referrals, right. I think both of these things are true. And that seems weird because sales people are notorious for being -- if there’s one thing that we’re good at, it’s being persistent on the things that we think are important. So how -- it’s a two-part question, part one is why don’t most sales people get referrals and part two is how have you gotten referrals and what is it that you have found in the process of adding referrals to your sales arsenal?
Kenny: Yeah, absolutely. I’m going to try to keep this short because this a topic that I love to talk about. So, the first question is how did they get referrals or why aren’t people not getting referrals?
Sahil: That’s right.
Kenny: It’s very simple, you have to ask. Wayne Gretzky is famously quoted saying, “You missed 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Well, unfortunately, there are a lot of sales reps out there that are just not taking the shot. They think I got someone to sign a contract and now they’re a customer, it’s on to the next one. And unfortunately, I think there’s a gap where they forget to leverage those resources in the connections that they’ve already made. I mean, when someone signs onboard with SalesLoft, we’ve gone through the entire sales process, I know that person, we’ve built that foundation of trust. So, it almost seems natural to ask them who else they know that should benefit from an evaluation of SalesLoft. So, I think the first one is that people have to ask. And remind me the second part of that question.
Sahil: So the second part of that question was how you’ve managed to kind of buck that trend. But I actually have a follow up on what you just said. So, you said salespeople have to ask. Why don’t salespeople ask? What do you think is the thing that prevents a lot of sales people from actually asking because that seems like a pretty easy solution, right, all you need to do is ask.
Kenny: Right. That’s a good question. I think it relates to -- it comes down to a couple of different things, fear might be one of them. Fear in thinking I’ve already, you know, ask you for enough, I’ve asked you sign this agreement and then, maybe thinking that it’s not their right almost to continue to get more out of this relationship. But you would be surprised, for anybody out there listening and you fall in this bucket of maybe being scared to ask for a referral, you will be surprised how often people are excited about the solution that you offer. They’re excited about the progress and the steps and the value they’ve gained from your solution. They want to share that experience with others that they know.
So I think there could be a little bit of fear in thinking that it’s outside of the norm, but I’ve got to say, I mean, just go for it. There are examples where I didn’t get the business and I still ask for a referral. So I have this cadence of asking for referrals. There’s someone that, unfortunately, you don’t win every deal, so I built a good relationship with a gentleman named Sean Southworth and they ended up not purchasing SalesLoft when we went through the cycle and he went into my referral cadence. So a couple of months later, I called him and asked, “Even though you’re not a SalesLoft customer who else could benefit from an evaluation of SalesLoft?” He happened to give me a name, I called that person and have an opportunity and fast forward a little bit, Sean actually now works as account executive here at SalesLoft.
Sahil: Wow. Isn’t that a crazy story, right? And again, I think it’s a reflection of the long game, right, which is to say that, you know, a couple of things there. You know, you talk about the fact that you would surprise how many people are willing to give you referral. I’m not surprised at all. And the reason I’m not surprised is because every time I like something, all I do is I want to talk about it with other people, you know. It’s like if I get a new putter and I’m really excited about it, I want to tell all of my golf buddies about my putter. And if I get a new iPhone, I just recently got the iPhone X and you know, I couldn’t stop -- people asking me about it, and I would rant and rave about how awesome the face ID feature was and whatnot.
I mean, we, as human beings take pride in associating ourselves with brands that we like and the brands we like are the brands we buy. And so, if somebody is willing to make a purchase of SalesLoft or make a purchase of your solution and then, you know, for you not to ask them for a referral seems crazy to me, right, because they’ve already taken the enormous leap of faith of saying, “I think this is the right solution for my company,” it doesn’t take that much more for them to say, “Hey, I think it’s the right solution for my company. My friend Joe over here who works at so and so company is in the same position as me or maybe she wouldn’t mind doing evaluation of the product as well.”
And I think that that is very natural human tendency that we have socially. But when we are put into this construct of like I’m a sales person, you’re a buyer and like we’re on the opposite sides of the table and like I got you to sign this deal, like that whole mentally is totally fucked up, right. Like, I didn’t get you to sign this contract, right, we worked together and found the solution that you’re just as stoked about as I am and now, we’re going to work together in perpetuity.
And back to something that you said earlier, which was like, you know, the ring purchase that you made. You know, buying a ring and buying a piece of software are completely different in the sense that you buy the ring, you take it out of the store, you put it on your fiancé’s finger and then that’s -- and then, the only thing that exists is kind of the ring, right. But in software, when you buy something, you’re signing something that has -- often has monthly payments, often has some sort of renewal component to it, often has some sort of an account manager associated with it and it’s something that you log in to and use on a regular basis.
And so, you’re really -- the signing of the contract is really day one of the relationship, right. It’s not the 90-day sales cycle that’s like, “Oh, now, like, we’re done.” That’s day one. And to that point I want to say, you know, one of the other testimonials that you received which I really loved, which was from the sales development manager at First and she wrote about you, she said, “Kenny is responsive, attentive and genuinely customer centric sales person who helps buyers feel comfortable about giving their business. Kenny makes it a no brainer. One year later, I appreciate that Kenny still checks in on us. I would trust anyone to receive excellent support through him.” I mean, I think that that’s, you know, that’s why I’m so excited to have you on the Future of Sales, I’m so excited to have you part of the Bravado community, you know, it’s the fact that you don’t see the relationship is ending the day that the contract is signed, but you seemed to see it as like the beginning of the relationship, you know.
Kenny: Yeah, absolutely, I would agree with that. And I’ve kept in touch with a lot of the people that I’ve sold to. And Heather, the testimonial that you just read, she’s in a great situation where SalesLoft helped her not only be more productive in her day-to-day. She was a team lead of the SDR team. But being able to manage that relationship, I was able to find out that six months after buying SalesLoft she got a promotion. So, she wrote me an email and she said that SalesLoft is what helped gain her that promotion.
Kenny: And it’s those types of stories to help me to not just believe in the product that we sell but more importantly encouraging these relationships. So whether it’s inviting them to Rainmaker conference or sharing a new feature that we’ve released or a new case study, helping them to leverage our technology to be more successful even months after the purchase and being able to generate these long-term relationships. I’m also using Bravado to get referrals from these people, but I genuinely care about their success and I think that the nature of my relationship with them comes because I’m so passionate about what we do here at SalesLoft and how it’s helping other people, and it’s a no brainer to just keep in touch with those who are using it successfully and earning promotions even because of our technology.
Sahil: That’s amazing. I mean there’s, you know, I can’t even imagine how happy that email must have made you, you know.
Kenny: I forwarded to our CEO the first thing.
Sahil: Amazing, right. And I know Kyle Porter well enough to know that I’m sure he was over the moon about it as well. And I think that SalesLoft’s entire culture, I mean, have just been so impressed with the team there because you guys are truly customer obsessed and customer first in your approach. And I think that that sort of culture resonates really strongly with your customers, with buyers in the market, even with those who are using a competitive technology. You know, I don’t know of anyone who has a lot of bad things to say about SalesLoft and I think that that’s a really great reflection of both the culture of the company and of the people in the approach that you’ve taken eventually, so congratulations on that. And obviously, reflective of, you know, of big funding announcement that took place yesterday and, you know, raising $50 million from, you know, top tier VCs and I think that it’s really exciting and really inspiring to see what you’ve done over in Atlanta.
Kenny: Thank you. Yeah, we’re very excited about the funding, but the reason is because it means future product innovation and delivering a better experience for our customers. So, when we think about the funding that we just took on, I was not involved in those conversations that lead to that, but I do think that the most important thing about this funding is the experience that we’re going to give to our customers. So, when we think about how we’re going to use this money and what we’re going to do and what it means for the future of SalesLoft as a product but this category as a whole, it really just means that our customers are going to be the ones that benefit from this.
Sahil: It’s amazing. And again, even in a moment in which most companies and most people would take great personal pride, I think that it is really inspiring to see how humble the entire team has been about your great accomplishment. But I get the benefit of saying I think you are rock stars, so that’s pretty cool. Okay, so I want to end with just one last thing, which is Kenny of, you know, if somebody wants to get in touch with you or has any further questions about either how you’re using Bravado or, you know, about the way that you build relationships with your customers or getting more referrals or whatnot, what’s the best way for them to get a hold of you?
Kenny: I am available on LinkedIn, via email, we exchange emails; my signature has my direct phone number in it, any way that you want to get in touch with me. First name, Kenny; last name Traber, T-R-A-B-E-R, LinkedIn. Email is firstname.lastname@example.org. So, any and every way that someone wants to get in touch. I absolutely love the Bravado product and I’m very excited about leveraging it today. I love the experience with it and look forward to continuing to leverage that to get more referrals in the future.
Sahil: Awesome. Well, thank you very much for the kind words and for what it is worth, you know, we are so honored to have amazing sales people like you as part of the community and congratulations on building such a fantastic reputation for yourself in such a short period of time. If, you know, having been through about 10 years of doing sales now at this point in my career, I can say that, you know, as long as you never forget just how important it is every day that you focus on making your customers successful and you focus on those relationships with your clients, you will always have great success in sales. And I think that your approach is extremely humble, extremely thoughtful, and I think I’ve learned a lot from listening to you talk about it today. Thanks so much for joining us on the Future of Salesmen. Have a great rest of your week.
Kenny: Awesome. Thanks so much.
Sahil: Cheers, Kenny. Bye.