S5E7 Winning at SaaS with Stephen Tafaro

S5E7 –  Winning at SaaS with Stephen Tafaro
Winning at SaaS with Stephen Tafaro. Are you Looking at Winning at SaaS or building a SaaS company, especially enterprise level? In this episode of the Payback Time podcast, host Sean Tepper engages in a conversation with Steve Tafaro, a seasoned professional in the software industry whose career spans back to the 1970s. With experience ranging from IBM to serving as interim President at multiple successful SaaS companies, four of which were acquired, Steve offers invaluable insights into enterprise SaaS sales. This episode is essential listening for anyone looking to venture into the realm of SaaS, especially at the enterprise level.

Steve’s Insightful Background

Steve shares a fascinating personal tidbit, revealing his previous career as a high school football coach before transitioning into the business world. He delves into his early career at IBM in the ’70s, subsequent roles at Software Plus and Oracle, and later founding his own company. Steve’s experience as an interim president for multiple companies showcases his expertise in driving business growth and shareholder value.

Insight into Winning at SaaS Playbook

As an author of the upcoming book “Winning at SaaS,” Steve sheds light on his playbook, the Tafaro Growth Accelerator. This comprehensive guide covers new account sales, account management, customer centricity, and organizational alignment critical for success in the SaaS industry. The book serves as a valuable resource for CEOs and CROs aiming to grow their SaaS businesses effectively.

Key Strategies

Steve emphasizes the shift from traditional software sales to subscription-based SaaS models, highlighting the importance of aligning sales, account management, and marketing efforts for success. The discussion underscores the significance of understanding customer needs, providing value, and fostering a culture of customer centricity for long-term business sustainability.

Sales Methodology

The Tafaro Growth Accelerator is unveiled as a value-based selling system tailored for new account sales and account management. Steve elaborates on the strategic approach of enabling customers to buy by showcasing the value proposition of the software solutions to address their specific needs. The methodology focuses on building relationships, understanding customer value, and driving sales effectiveness.

The Complex Sales Dynamics

In the realm of complex software solutions, Steve explains the nuances of lengthy sales cycles, the importance of measuring and improving win rates, and eliminating roadblocks like indecision. The discussion underscores the need for a systematic approach to sales, with a strong emphasis on value-based selling and customer engagement strategies.

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The Effective Sales Phases

Steve outlines a structured process comprising five essential phases: qualification, verification, positioning, solution, and confirmation. Each phase is meticulously designed to enhance sales productivity, increase win rates, and reduce the time to closure. The systematic approach ensures a streamlined sales process and empowers sales teams to navigate complex sales environments effectively.

The Importance of Customer-Centric Approach

The podcast highlights the critical role of customer management, emphasizing the significance of strong account management in driving customer satisfaction and retention. Steve emphasizes the need for strategic account management, value assessments, and proactive engagement to unlock upselling and cross-selling opportunities within existing customer bases.

How to Balance Software and Service

A key takeaway from the discussion is the importance of striking a balance between offering exceptional software solutions and providing superior account management and customer service. Steve underscores the impact of customer relationships, confidence-building, and effective communication in fostering long-term customer loyalty and business success.

Key Lessons from Experience

Drawing from his extensive experience, Steve shares valuable insights on handling objections, demonstrating value, and maintaining firm yet customer-centric sales approaches. The emphasis on understanding customer needs, articulating value propositions, and addressing objections resonates with the core principles of effective sales strategies in the SaaS industry.

Personal Reflections

Steve offers a heartfelt reflection on balancing professional and personal life, emphasizing the importance of prioritizing family and relationships amidst career pursuits. His candid advice on maintaining a healthy work-life balance serves as a poignant reminder for entrepreneurs and professionals to cherish and nurture personal connections alongside professional achievements.

Key Timecodes

  •  (00:43) – Show intro and background history
  • (04:56) – A bit about his book on building a SaaS business
  • (10:13) – Understanding his SaaS customer focused strategies
  • (11:36) – What are the mistakes when people try to sell software
  • (20:14) – What are his new projects
  • (30:31) – Deeper into his business tactics
  • (32:29) – A key takeaway from the guest
  • (40:12) – Guest contacts


[00:00:00.000] – Show Intro
Introducing Payback Time, the podcast for entrepreneurs looking to build and scale their startups, gain access to actionable tips, proven strategies, and valuable data that can help you avoid mistakes, skyrocket sales, and optimize profits. Your business breakthrough may just be an episode away.
[00:00:17.450] – Guest Intro
My next guest has been working in the software industry since the 1970s. He first started at IBM, then moved over to Oracle, and then served as an interim President at several SaaS companies, four of which were actually acquired. This episode is packed full of a ton of value focused on enterprise SaaS sales. If you’re looking to build a SaaS company, especially enterprise level, you do not want to miss this episode. Please welcome Steve Tafaro.
[00:00:44.320] – Sean
Steve, welcome to the show.
[00:00:45.690] – Steve
Thank you, Sean. Pleasure to be here.
[00:00:47.760] – Sean
Well, before we kick things off and talk about your background, can you tell us something about yourself that most people don’t know about?
[00:00:53.950] – Steve
It’s interesting. I was a head high school football coach for 10 years. When I first started after college. Okay. That was my first career was in teaching and coaching. So I coached a high school in a team in New Jersey. And we held a record for most points scored and least points scored against in one season until about 10 years ago. No kidding. I’m 81 years old, so I became the coach in the late ’70s. For your audience, some of your audience were probably born at that time, but I was coaching on the field then.
[00:01:31.430] – Sean
That is incredible. That record stood for a minute, you could say. Yeah.
[00:01:36.280] – Steve
353 points scored and 37 scored against. Whoa.
[00:01:41.140] – Sean
Okay. Well done.
[00:01:43.540] – Steve
So nobody knows about that.
[00:01:45.540] – Sean
Yeah. They didn’t have the Internet then. I appreciate that. That’s awesome. All right. Now, if you could take a few minutes and tell us a little bit about your background.
[00:01:54.870] – Steve
Well, in the first 10 years, we know. I left teaching after because I felt that I wanted to get into business. I was very fortunate to be hired by IBM in the early ’70s. Their General Systems division, which was the mid-size computers. I was It was unfortunate because they actually trained you for one year. Your first year was all training, and then you were allowed to go on to quota beyond that. I got tremendous training, had a nice career with IBM. And then I joined a software company in the mid in the ’70s that was started by former IBM executives. And this company was named Software Plus. And I led the sales and marketing side of the business. So I got into software pretty early. After that, I became the retail industry marketing director for Oracle from 1985 until almost 1990. In 1990, I started to Associates, my company. For 20 years, I was brought into 11 situations where I became the interim president or executive responsible for growing the business, both from the standpoint of top-side growth and shareholder value. Now, obviously, we only do these one at a time. Some lasted three years, some a year.
[00:03:24.340] – Steve
We sold four of those companies, by the way. But that gave me tremendous experience in terms of performance. The key thing is alignment because I was reporting to a board and we had to be totally in alignment as to what they expected of me, what I had to deliver. That took a few months to align just for your audience. People have their own expectations of what success is, and I think you got to get them on the same page. Then that was fairly intense. I I just started doing some advisory work, and I became a chair of… Are you familiar with a company called Vistage? They are the largest CEO organization, and the way they go to market is through folks like myself who chair a CEO board. I had 20 CEOs of smaller companies in New Jersey that were on my board, and we would meet monthly, and I would coach them and so forth using the Vistage program and so forth. Now I’m an author. My first book is going to be called Winning at SAS. It’ll be published in May. We’re building a website and going to market. I’m really not trying to sell books.
[00:04:46.460] – Steve
My goal is to try to get speaking engagements and high-level advisory work with folks in the SaaS world.
[00:04:56.360] – Sean
Very impressive background. Thank you for sharing. Walking through the timeline there. Our audience, we’ve got a lot of entrepreneurs, a lot of people who want to create or scale a SaaS business, so you’re in the right place. Let’s dive into your book, Winning at SaaS. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about it? We’ll unpack some of the key takeaways.
[00:05:15.570] – Steve
Well, it’s just that. It’s a playbook. I had developed a selling system called the Tafarel Growth Accelerator throughout my work through my company, and it was refined throughout the years. And so winning at SaaS is a playbook that incorporates the Tafarel Growth Accelerator for new account sales, for account management, but talks a lot about Customer centricity, the key to alignment, how you have to be organized to get the most value out of a subscription-based business versus a traditional business, what that really means and how you do that. Anybody reading the book or any CEO or CRO who is responsible to grow a SaaS business can benefit from this book instantly because it’s a playbook. We have the whole sales process laid out, account management process laid out. If they use it as a reference or as something more, they’ll get tremendous value out of it.
[00:06:27.780] – Sean
Right on. Well, I don’t want to give away the whole recipe because I want people to go and get the book when it’s live. But if you can, let’s dive into some of those plays within the playbook.
[00:06:36.860] – Steve
I think the first play is to remember and to be… Saas is… Well, let me start this. In the old days, when I started, software was sold. It was like a product. It was sold. People paid for it up front. They amortized it over five or six years, and the vendor had to provide maintenance. That’s it. So the vendor got their money up front. The relationship with the customer was barely casual. They had to maintain the system. But that same company had to sell new customers every month. That’s how they were able to grow. With cloud-based SaaS companies, their solutions are delivered in the form of renewable annual subscriptions, as we know. And so regardless of the total contract value of a transaction, revenue is recognized month to a month. So if I sell something for over a three-year period and the contract value is $72,000, I’m recognizing $2,000 a month. Now, what does that mean? It means that the contract value is a bookings number, which is forward-looking, and revenue is recognized as it occurs. So typically, SaaS businesses require more upfront capital than traditional software product companies. They are forced to underwrite the delay in payment while they build and operate the network.
[00:08:05.560] – Steve
So they have a longer path to profitability. Now, that’s the negative, but from the positive standpoint, the booking’s number is a tremendous representation of future value. And from an investor standpoint, if you are booking deals and they see an increase there that’s very predictable. So revenue is predictable because of the bookings. Our growth is organic because it could come from cross-selling and upselling within the customer base, which is critical. And these business are inherently scalable. So they end up, if you’re done right, the revenue is like a flywheel, and it continues and continues, but it has to be done right. So what does that mean? It means that you have to have three aspects. I’m We’re talking about selling now and revenue generation. You’re new account selling, your account management organization, the organization that takes care of your current customers, and marketing have to be totally integrated. I can go into that later. It is critical to have a separate account management team dealing with current customers. Now, I will say, Sean, that I’m talking about software that I would call would be complex solutions, software that would require three or four buyers to weigh in on.
[00:09:39.510] – Steve
Everybody has to agree. So we’re talking about large systems, not software that somebody can look at and review the pluses and minuses, buy it, implement it right away and use it. This is not that. I’m talking about complex solutions here when I say this. So a customer The view of the customer has to be we have a customer for life, and that’s the difference. And you have to run your business with that culture in mind because customer centricity is critical.
[00:10:13.140] – Sean
Right on. I do see a lot of SaaS founders or maybe in-experienced SaaS founders, they don’t place the customer first, and they’re really focusing on themselves, creating a product, something they want. But what I found being successful at building and scaling SaaS, you really have, SaaS, I should say, you really have to listen to the customer and filter it through what can you deliver to them, what they’re looking for, and at the same time provides value to other customers at the same time. Absolutely. Yeah.
[00:10:44.470] – Steve
Yeah. And that’s the key. So the Trial Growth Accelerator is a sales system that is based on value-based selling and is used both for new account selling and account management. I can get into that more, but it’s a system that has been tested over time and proved to be extremely, if followed, reliable.
[00:11:10.930] – Sean
[00:11:11.600] – Steve
[00:11:12.150] – Sean
Your experience, what I would say, because it’s complex, it’s more at that probably enterprise level, working with bigger businesses. They have bigger budgets. Contracts are probably hundreds of thousands of dollars on up to, could be millions of dollars.
[00:11:24.500] – Steve
Well, sometimes the contract could be 150,000, 50,000 a year. In that range, I’ve seen one of my best clients, a company called DealCloud, tremendous growth in the financial services market. They have smaller clients and larger clients. Their contracts can range from 50 to several hundred thousand dollars a year.
[00:11:55.960] – Sean
Right on. Since sales is such a critical part of your process that you teach, can you share with us some of the mistakes that a lot of people make when trying to sell software?
[00:12:08.120] – Steve
Now, again, all this will be complex software, okay? When I say that Because a typical software sale for a complex solution could last from 4-6 months. The sales cycle can be that long, which is interesting. And so what you want to try to do is you want to be able to measure and increase your win rate. You have to be able to measure that. You have to compress the sales cycle time. I try to do it shorter. You have to eliminate no decisions. The biggest killer is working with somebody for two months and they’re saying, Well, we don’t have the money, we’re not ready. You have to eliminate no decisions right up front. You have to really measure and improve the key criteria affecting sales performance, which means you have to have a system in a process. So what the Tafaro Growth Accelerator is, it’s based on a concept that sales and marketing are two sides of the same coin, because today, in today’s market, Customers typically don’t involve… A salesperson isn’t involved until maybe a 60% of the buying cycle is completed. So prospects are They’re reading about you. They’re learning about you. Marketing in the internet is, I think, a buying medium, not a selling medium, to be honest with you, because people are looking at it, they’re making decisions.
[00:13:41.250] – Steve
And when they narrow it down to two or three Companies, they’ll engage with a salesperson. That’s important to understand because they are engaging with your company prior to the sales team coming in. That’s why marketing and sales have to be totally aligned. You have to be a thought leader. People have to perceive you as having something special, as leading the market, as being able to solve their problems. So it’s very important to do that. So when the salesperson enters the fray, the last thing a prospect wants to hear is about your software. I mean, this is what we do. They want to understand, how do you add value to my business? We looked at you. We like what you see. Eighty-six % of technology sales are done by virtue of a referral or proof that you’ve done something in a like market. So they know who you are. They know probably a lot more about you than some of your sales people might know, historically and so forth. But they want to know how they can add value. That is the key. So the sales, which we try to do is not sell. What we try to do is Enable the customer to buy.
[00:15:03.140] – Steve
And the way we do that, I’ll explain the way we do that if you want to hear that, but that’s a differentiator. You want me to continue on?
[00:15:11.020] – Sean
I love it. This is gold. Keep going.
[00:15:13.820] – Steve
So how do you do that? See, what happens in a complex sale is you have a buying team. It could be four or five people. It could be a lot of users, technical folks, an executive, obviously, administration, finance gets involved. They all have to say yes. Typically, when you start out, when marketing engages with somebody, it’s one or two people who are interested, usually a buyer, and they will begin to engage you at that time. So your first engagement might be a buyer. So let’s say that the buyer we’re selling to a private equity firm, and the buyer is head of deal origination, something like that. So what we do is we develop for, depending upon the company, if they’re selling to a vertical market or a horizontal the final market, we help them develop something called the power index. The power index consists of everything they can get from your software organized by operational group or vertical group. Based on what I just said, if it’s a private equity firm, you’re selling to an investment bank, you might do a deal origination, deal management, sourcing, fundraising. They could all be individual aspects, but each one has a list of capabilities the system can provide.
[00:16:44.060] – Steve
And the reason we do that is because interest can come from various parts of your organization, and it could be passed down. Typically, you’re meeting with somebody and they say, Well, we know what we want. Okay. But they don’t necessarily know the periphery of what they can have. So our sales process starts this way. Sean, hi. Thank you for your interest. We have a two-step sales process. First step is we have to find out how I can add value to your business. I’d like to introduce you, show you an overview of our software just to get the look and feel. Once we do that, if you’re interested, we have something called the power index, which I can show you, which will identify the areas where we may be able to add value to Once we identify those areas, we’ll show you how our solution will do that, and we’ll ask you one question. If you had the capabilities, what would it mean to your business? And we’ll put a value on that. That’s how we start. Very simple. And are you willing to go forward? And so if you are, we’ll show you the power index for your particular area and ask you, where are you underpowered?
[00:17:55.550] – Steve
It’s a simple thing. Tell me where you’re underpowered. And they’ll say, Well, we’re doing this well, we’re doing that well, but we’re not doing this, or I didn’t know you guys did this. Your software can do that. And we have the conversation. We develop two or three areas of needs that they have. And the second meeting is where we show them how our system addresses it, and we ask them the question of what it means. Then we ask them a few other questions. We say, I assume you’re actively looking and that you have allocation of dollars or budget put away. Is that true? I I’ll say that if we show you value and you agree it’s valuable, would you introduce me to the other members of the buying team? By the way, besides yourself, who are they? And I expect a feedback. So if I show you something of value, I expect you to tell me answer some of these questions. So that’s part of our process. It’s called the verification stage, and it has a set of questions and procedures that we go through. To first find out, A, whether we can add value, B, how much that value will be, and to validate or verify that you’re an active buyer and we have access or can have access to the other buyers.
[00:19:10.830] – Steve
That is important. But the power index is a way to identify needs. And once that happens, then the buyer becomes… Then the person you’re working with becomes a buyer. You’re not really selling, you’re showing them how you can address the issues they That is critical. And that has to be done with each member of the buying team over time and even on the account side. Once you close something in order to upsell, you have to continue to do that within the existing account.
[00:19:45.670] – Sean
To pause there for a second, and I’d like to do this from time to time to speak directly to the audience. The last five minutes were gold because we just talked about, or what Steve just outlined was critical for meetings. One, and two, walking them through what value do. Are they looking for? What can you provide? Validate. Validate their buyer. And I love that you’re asking for, Can I be introduced to other members of the buying team? Now, knowing that the sales cycle for complex projects more than an enterprise level can take months, let’s use that 4-6 month range you talked about earlier, where do we go from here? We’ve got the two meetings done. What are we spending our time on next?
[00:20:28.940] – Steve
All right. This This is important. Let me just give you the overview first of the metrics that you asked for. So what our sales process does is we have five phases. First phase is qualification. That usually comes from a pre salesperson where we qualify somebody. Then verification is the step that I just mentioned. Then once we’re into verification, those questions are answered. We go to position where we’re positioning our business with yours and we’re dealing with other buyers. I may have to get our financial people involved and so forth. Then we go to solution or actually giving you our proposals and so forth. Then we go to confirm. There’s five phases, and this is important. Each phase has a series of steps that have to be executed by everybody. And so sales to us, we’re not dealing with individuals. If somebody tells me in a coaching meeting, I’m in the solution phase or the positioning phase, I know then that they have to have completed verification. We have to have answers to these questions that are in verification, and I assume that’s done. It’s not, I sent them back to get it. So there’s a process.
[00:21:47.320] – Steve
Now, people have an art of how to get that information and how to ask questions and so forth, but the process is the process. We measure everything. We start out with a company saying that at the end of qualification, you’ll have a 10% chance of winning. At the end of verify, a 25% chance, 50% after position, 75% after solution, and 90% when you confirm. Nice. Then we also measure the time to execute each phase. We work with the customer to do that right up front. We validate these win win rate percentages and we say, Okay, is it fair to say verification is 30 days? Can we use that as the guide? Or we work with them to do it. If you take two weeks for qualification, a month for verification, month and a half for a position, you go there, you get to a four or five week process. We measure that and we try to improve that by increasing the win rate and reducing the time in each phase and still get to an end result. We have something called a sales productivity index. I can tell you, if you tell me what your remaining quota is, you’re at eight months left in the year, this is what I’ve sold.
[00:23:13.130] – Steve
This is what I have remained. The value of the average deal. Now, this is what I have remained, the value of the average deal, now this is contract value. This is bookings, and I can look at your performance relative to win rates in time to closure. I’ll tell you exactly what you need in your pipeline at the beginning of every month to make your number and how many times that pipeline will turn. And we do that with everybody, every salesperson and every account manager, although it’s a different… The five phases for account managers have different steps, but it’s measurable and repeatable. So what we try to do is to coach our clients to execute well. And this is the key, and I’ll shut up in a minute. And There’s two things critical to that. Number one, when we’re presenting the to Farrow Growth Accelerator or the process, they have to have a voice. We present the process and then we tell them, Okay, let’s look at the first step, and we talk to them about it and we say, What’s reasonable here. So they have equity in the development of that. We don’t just say, This is it, you have to do it.
[00:24:21.840] – Steve
We want them to have equity. The second thing is we have to remember that we’re changing behavior. And this is critical in selling because Because once somebody attends a meeting and hears something and writes it down, they go back and they’ll do exactly what they’ve done before. What we want to do is have people change. And it’s been my experience that in a new account sales environment, you have to have coaching. We have coaching sessions with every salesperson every two weeks for the first six sessions for the first three months. That’s where we really allow them to change Change. What happened here? How come we didn’t answer? What issues did you have when we were trying to do this? We coach them through it so that at the end of that three-month period, most of these folks are using the system well. They have different styles, but we’re able to measure it and evaluate performance very well. That’s basically how we do it. It’s all based on value. We know what the objections are and how we We train them on handling objections and how do you speak to an executive and how do you gain commitment and all that stuff.
[00:25:37.670] – Steve
But that’s what we do.
[00:25:39.220] – Sean
I assume a lot of that is all highlighted in your book?
[00:25:42.450] – Steve
It’s laid out every phase, every step, every question that you ask, both from a new account sales team and for account managers. Now, account manager is a little different because, and this is why you can’t do both. You can’t have a new account sales person being an account manager. Not in a complex environment. Because the account manager has to be two things. He has to be able to sell or involve the client, but he also has to be strategic and form relationships and you figure out, where are my opportunities now to upsell and cross-sell? Who are those folks that I need to meet? How do I get to meet them? In a complex environment, when you are selling something that has to be configured and installed, that’s when they get tested. And we work on this very hard. The first time we sell something, everybody’s celebrating, and then it goes into configuration, installation, the customer has issues. I didn’t expect this. This is not working. You said this. And that’s when the account manager is tested, and that’s when we have to be good. We have to be able… They have to be viewed by the customer as a facilitator, as someone that is on the customer side that can get your resources from the organization to help that client.
[00:27:10.110] – Steve
We do that once, we do it well, then that person is respected, he or she is valued, and they have the ability then to… They’ve earned the right to move on into the organization to upsell and cross-sell. A good SaaS organization after three or four years should be able to say, If I don’t Don’t sell another new account. I can be profitable based on the revenue of my customer base. That is critical. And the culture of the business has got to be, we have a perpetual customer. We have a customer for life. That’s why the customers have to view marketing as, Hey, these guys know what they’re doing. This is a company worth staying with. I’m not going to be looking for anything else. They are really moving forward. Ai now is something that is critical, so people have to put AI capabilities into the system and so forth. If you are perceived as a market leader and you have good account management capabilities, then you’ll be successful, and it becomes a flywheel and highly profitable. I mean, the profit… I’ll just say this one more thing, and I’ll shut up again. Maybe I’m talking too much, but This is great.
[00:28:31.600] – Steve
You think about it. If I sell a million dollars of total contract bookings, and I pay my Salesforce a million dollars to sell it, And then I have money for the network and everything. That’s not a very good business. No. Okay, but year two, I’ve already paid that. There’s no $100,000. The customers that I have that they’ve sold now, there’s no direct sales cost. There’s an account management cost. There’s a network cost. And so margins go up tremendously in year two and three. Typically, contracts are three years. But then when you renew a contract and you do any upselling or cross selling, the The margins on that stuff are unbelievable because the customer, especially if you get the customer to be self-sufficient, and maybe you have a program where you’re training some of their folks to be product experts, so to speak, and you’re in sending them to do that, you have a business that is literally very predictable, very scalable. Investors love it. Investors love it.
[00:29:42.140] – Sean
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[00:30:49.600] – Sean
But if you flip that equation, you got an okay software, but great account management, great customer, then you’ve got yourself a business. So I tell people, place emphasis on building your software software are making it great, but you really still have the human element. How are you treating the customer? Are you creating confidence with them? Because if they start complaining, you start waffling and showing signs of weakness, They’re going to be… They’re going to get in that mode where it’s time to shop for another vendor. But if you maintain control and confidence, even if your software isn’t exactly where you want it, you’re still good.
[00:31:25.080] – Steve
Yeah. And best thing to do is this power index is so critical because not only is it good to get an entree into an account, but once you’re there, we typically train our account managers to go to a senior level executive and say, Listen, I would like to meet with your permission, the heads of these organizations in your company will do a value assessment. I will come back and work with them, and I’ll show you exactly the value that we can provide to these phases in your organization that I and your manager, in this case, agree on. So it’s a total value assessment. We’ll do that for nothing, and you’ll have that blueprint for you. People love that because they don’t have to pay for it and they’re saying, great, I want to see what it means. You have to really be hands-on and knowledgeable on the account management side.
[00:32:28.990] – Sean
Yeah, love All right. Before we transition to the rapid fire round, is there one other e-take away you can give to our audience?
[00:32:38.940] – Steve
That’s an interesting question. Probably. I’m just trying to think.
[00:32:42.960] – Sean
I’m assuming you have more than one.
[00:32:45.330] – Steve
Well, I think alignment is key. You have to be totally aligned, again, marketing, account management, and so forth. And the culture of customer centricity has to be there. That has to filter through the organization. I think you also cannot let accounts take advantage of you. You have to be firm. And there’s a balance there. They respect you for being firm, provided you can deliver and you’re an advocate for them. Those things are key. So good leadership, excellent management, demanding perfection as far as you can go in execution, getting folks involved, making them feel part of the system. They have to do that, especially when we get four generations at work these days and they’re all different. Those things, I think, are key. I don’t know. There may be another silver bullet, but I can’t think of one right now.
[00:33:50.290] – Sean
Yeah, you just gave a few really good key takeaways to drill into one of those, which is being firm with a customer. If If you’re always bending over backwards and rolling over the customer, that still doesn’t get confidence. But if you know you’re good at your job and you provide value, like, Hey, here’s the line. This is what we can provide. And if you want something more that’s out of scope, okay, we know who we’re dealing with now.
[00:34:16.740] – Steve
You come back to value because young people are afraid of handling objections. They can text very well, but they don’t know how to to listen to somebody that’s critical and turn it around. And it all is based on value. So somebody says, well, your seat price per seat is too high. We’re going to put 50 more people on. You’re $20,000 a year higher than your competition. We said, Okay, well, what is that per month? Let’s divide that by 20. So are you telling me that for a cup of coffee, the equivalent of a cup of coffee, that the value that we’re providing you is not worth that? Is that what you’re saying to me? You break it down into terms. You have to teach these people to break it down into conversational terms that clients can understand. 24 grand or 20 grand is 20 grand. But if you have a, what does that mean on a per person basis? And how does that… That’s why value is critical. Before we talk about price, let’s talk about value. So that’s all tidbits that you have to teach and so forth. But I think that it’s all part of the game, really.
[00:35:43.020] – Sean
Yeah, I love it. I’m really looking forward to your book. We’re going to have you promote that at the end, but let’s go ahead. Let’s dive into the rapid fire round. This is the part of episode where we get to find out who Steve really is. If you can, try to answer each question in about 15 seconds or less. Yes. You ready?
[00:36:01.120] – Steve
[00:36:01.810] – Sean
All right. What is your favorite podcast?
[00:36:04.040] – Steve
I just started, so I can’t answer that.
[00:36:07.370] – Sean
Do you listen to any for fun?
[00:36:09.780] – Steve
I don’t. I haven’t yet.
[00:36:13.090] – Sean
Okay. Let’s go to the next one because it is somewhat related. What is a recent book you read and would recommend?
[00:36:19.200] – Steve
Believe it or not, I’ve read, again, Strategic Selling and Conceptual Selling by Miller Hyman. This book was produced in 1989, but I just read the new versions of both of those books because I think they are still current today.
[00:36:35.870] – Sean
Good recommendation. All right, this is a fun one. I’m a movie nerd. I got to ask you the question, what is your favorite movie?
[00:36:42.700] – Steve
My favorite movie is My Cousin, Vinnie.
[00:36:45.970] – Sean
A New Jersey guy.
[00:36:48.240] – Steve
A New Jersey guy. I just saw Boys in the Boat, and that was pretty good. But My Cousin, Vinnie, I must have watched that 15 times. That’s huge. That’s great.
[00:36:59.910] – Sean
Thanks for the heads up there in Boys in the Boat. I just read the book, and I’m looking forward to the movie, so why do you like it?
[00:37:06.490] – Steve
[00:37:07.230] – Sean
All right. These get a little more serious, but not too serious. Next one is, what is the worst advice you’ve ever received?
[00:37:14.040] – Steve
Trust me. I think the worst advice I ever received is when I was teaching and coaching and people were saying to me, Why do you want to leave this? You’re going to get tenure. You’re good at it. Why take the risk of leaving? And I suggest you don’t do that. And if I didn’t move forward for reasons going back now a long time, I just wouldn’t have accomplished some of the things that I did that I’m proud of, and I feel that I have a full life. So I think you need purpose, and I think people need to be challenged.
[00:37:54.920] – Sean
I see those 10 years of coaching being so critical in your training, probably probably with coaching your employees, your peers, talking to people, that communication style. So I think that was fundamental training you needed to move into the software sales world. Right. All right. We’re going to flip that equation. What is the best advice you ever received?
[00:38:18.650] – Steve
Well, professionally, the best advice I’ve received is make sure you have alignment with the folks that are measuring you because when you’re on the hot seat, you have to be aligned. You You have to understand how people are evaluating you, especially now for your new executives who have private equity dollars and so forth. You have to totally be aligned there. It requires a few months, I I think of work to get that alignment. But alignment is very key. And again, that’s on the business side.
[00:38:52.200] – Sean
Agree. All right, last question. Here’s the time machine question. If you could go back in time to give your younger self advice, what age would he visit? And what would you say?
[00:39:01.540] – Steve
What age? What was the first part of that?
[00:39:03.760] – Sean
Yeah. If you could go back in time to give your younger self advice, what age would you visit? Okay. What would you say? Some people go back to high school, sometimes college.
[00:39:14.720] – Steve
Yeah. No, I think I would go back to the time that… My wife just passed away a year ago, and we married for 57 years. And the best advice I got, and what I would tell myself is as you embark on this journey, you have to balance your professional life with your home life. And one of them is more precious than the other, and that’s the home. And that’s the home and the kids. And don’t compromise. I mean, you can always… Good people can perform regardless of what they’re doing. They’re going to perform. But you only get a family once. And I have a couple of great kids, and And it worked out well. But I think that’s important for people who are just starting out and raising a family and are married. With all the pressures today, it’s hard. But they got to come first.
[00:40:10.800] – Sean
Profound advice. Thank you for that. All right. And then where can the audience reach you? And just to confirm here is jump into your LinkedIn. Your book will be available in May. Is that correct?
[00:40:20.270] – Steve
Yeah. Right now we’re doing cover design. It should be available in May. My website is waiting for the cover of the book before we open the website, but it’s stevetoferrell. Com. You won’t get in now, but you should be able to get in by… We’ve already got blogs that we’re posting and everything else at the beginning of April, and then the book will come out. And again, for your audience. What I would be very interested in is speaking wherever it makes sense and very high-level advisory work with CEOs and CROs in the SaaS world. So my purpose of writing the book is to give me purpose after my wife’s passing, to be honest with you, and to give back.
[00:41:10.040] – Sean
Well, you certainly provide a lot of great value for us today. Thank you for sharing us. So tips from the book. I am very interested because our business is flirting with the enterprise world a little bit, and I want to make sure I’m selling correctly. So you got yourself a customer there. But I really appreciate you taking of time, and I’ll definitely have to be in touch with you.
[00:41:32.230] – Steve
Thank you, Sean. It was a pleasure being on your podcast. I wish your audience the best. And thank you very much for inviting me.
[00:41:39.210] – Sean
All right. We’ll see you.
[00:41:40.660] – Steve
Take care.
[00:41:41.770] – Sean
Hey, I’d like to say thanks for checking out this podcast. I know there’s a lot of other podcasts you could be listening to, so thanks for spending some time with me. And if you have a moment, could you please head over to Apple Podcasts and leave a five-star review? The more reviews we get, the higher this podcast will rank. All right, stay tuned for the next episode. We’ll see you.