192: How to use scripts to empower your sales team
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In today’s episode, Steli and Hiten talk about the importance of having scripts and templates in your sales process. While it may not be needed during the early days of a startup, documents and scripts are crucial in helping your salespeople communicate your value. Listen as Steli shares how he learned the value of scripts from his own experience in sales and crucial tips that will help you make the most of your own templates.
Time Stamped Show Notes:
- 00:05 – Today’s episode is about using scripts and templates in your sales process
- 00:50 – Steli talks about his early experience in sales
- 01:42 – Steli did sales training when he was just 19 years old and realized the trainees were struggling with their work
- 02:28 – Steli remembered a workshop he attended
- 03:06 – Another participant in the workshop used a workbook and Steli thought it was a bad presentation
- 04:20 – The participant told Steli that the workbook he used was for his employees so they can replicate what he does
- 05:22 – Steli had an “ah-ha moment” where he realized that his employees could not replicate what he was doing because what he was doing worked for his personality and not their own
- 06:15 – In the startup world, there is a resistance to documentation and scripts
- 07:15 – Hiten says the lesson is to help other people know what you know
- 08:31 – Sales ends up as an afterthought because the founders think they can do it themselves
- 09:25 – The way you think as a founder is very different and you should embrace that
- 10:07 – As a founder, you must accept that other people may think differently than you
- 11:02 – In documentation, what you are aiming for is the middle ground
- 11:17 – You should create a script that is flexible and for different circumstances
- 12:15 – Make it in a way that people can still use their own language and allow space for creativity
- 12:54 – Scripts should be updated and developed regularly
- 13:29 – Salespeople will have bad days and the script can help them still have good conversations that will convert and have value
- 14:40 – In sales, repeatability is critical
- 15:04 – It is crucial for startups to be able to repeat everything – revenue, marketing, sales, product development and even fundraising
- 15:32 – Whatever NEEDS to be repeated should be documented
- 16:00 – The Ultimate Sales Bundle has 20 different sales templates for free
- 16:40 – End of today’s episode
3 Key Points:
- While it might be boring, scripts and templates is a valuable resource that can function as a guide for salespeople.
- Make your scripts and documentation in a way that allows creativity and flexibility for those who use it.
- Repeatability is crucial to the growth of your business—especially in regards to the information that NEEDS to be communicated to future clients.
Steli: Hey everybody, this is Steli Efti.
Hiten: And this is Hiten Shah.
Steli: And in today’s episode of the Startup Chat, we wanted to talk about why you need to use scripts and templates in your sales process. But even in general, I think why too many startups try to avoid documentation in any form and want to embrace creativity and individuality and why that is counterproductive, especially as you scale, right. So let me set the scene here with a quick story that I learned really, really early on.
Hiten: Sounds good.
Steli: One of the main reasons why I’ve always struggled … For most of my career, I struggled being a good sales manager, right. When I started in sales, one of the things that I figured out fairly early on was that I was … I had some natural gifts when it came to selling but I also was fairly creative in the interaction with my prospects. And I thrived on that creativity that made the job fun for me and it made me be able to attract talent to want to come and work for me. So salespeople wanted to work for me because they saw how creative and how successful I was able to be in certain interactions with customers. So all that is great, right. That was fun, great, and it made me fairly successful in a very young age. I was like 19, 20, 19 years old, and having a 30-person sales team. Lots of these people much older than I. So, that’s all great and funky. But the thing that was curious was that I was doing these sales training with these people every single day and a lot of my salespeople, although they were pretty talented, they were struggling every single day in their sales calls, in their sales conversations, in their sales presentations, and I was spending so much time coaching them, so much time investing in them and honestly I was disheartened at a certain point. Why isn’t this going better? Why aren’t these people improving much much faster? Hiten, everyday I’d show up and I’d demonstrate to them how to be brilliant and they love it and they’re passionate, they’re excited, they’re motivated, they’re hardworking, and then they’re not generating the results I want them to. What’s happening here? And then I remember a crucial moment. I went to a little local sales workshop seminar for sales managers thing. They do these small groups, they do all these kinds of trainings. But in one of those small group settings, they basically had four managers and we all had to make sales presentations to each other and then tell each other how we teach them to our sales reps. So we’re going through the exercise and I do my crazy … I didn’t think about what I would say in that moment and I just out of the moment said something really creative and interesting and I was enjoying myself and people were laughing and I’m like, “Oh, I did a really good job with this presentation.” Then the next sales guy, an older sales guy, makes this presentation and he actually grabs into his bag and he brings out a super old, super used-up sales presentation. It was basically in really thick … I don’t even know how to say it in English but it was like, basically like a PowerPoint printed out on nice paper and then you know when you do that plastic on top of it not to scratch it or rip it apart? I don’t know how to call that. He had this super ugly sales presentation and he went through it to us as if it was his first day in selling and I know this guy was making millions and was very successful as a sales manager. He would just go through these different pages and give us a very standard presentation: nothing exciting, nothing fancy, nothing flashy, nothing really interesting. And I was like, “How is it possible that this guy that’s so much more successful and makes a ton of money, why is he using such a shitty presentation when I could just pull it out of my ass and do something completely fresh and new in the moment?” At the end of the presentation, I challenged him and I was like, “Dude, this was … It was a solid presentation but not that great. Do you really, honestly use this thing every day when you make presentation or when you coach your people?” And he was like, “Absolutely.” And he looked me in the eye and he said, “Steli, I don’t need this. I’ve been doing this presentation for years. I don’t need this fucking thing. But if I give presentations without it, how are my new reps going to learn what to do? They don’t have 10 years of experience, just pull it out of their ass. I want them to make the exact same presentation I make. In order for that to be realistic, I need to use a template that they can use. I need to use a formula they can replicate. That’s the only way I can scale to” … I think at that point he had like 80 sales reps. “If I do something without this, then they won’t be able to replicate my results.” That was a real wow moment, which actually made me turn around and ask him, “Hey, when I give my presentation, what did you think of it?” Because I thought I did amazing and he loved it because he was laughing and he was fairly engaged. He was like, “Oh, it was fun, but if that’s the way you teach your reps to do sales, they’re all gonna fail because it’s not something that everybody’s going to be able to pull off.” That was really an aha moment which made me realize, I do love individuality and I love creativity. I love to be authentic and have my own voice. I don’t enjoy giving the same presentation again and again and again and having a script or a template. But the reason all my reps were struggling was that they could not replicate what I was doing because I was doing something new everyday. And I was doing something that worked for my personality but most of my reps were not like me. So I was setting them up for failure although I thought I was having this super-creative team and I was coaching them so much and scripts are stupid and templates are stupid and all that. This is over 15 years ago when that moment happened, but it really had an impact on me and it really made me realize how bad of a sales manager I was. Coming to present time, one thing I see every single day is, especially in the startup world, people wanting to hire sales people, build a sales team, scale their sales process, take what they did and they want to replicate it and grow it and build upon it and they resist any kind of documentation, any kind of real process, and they hate scripts. Oh my god. Scripts are the devil’s work. Nobody should ever do a script because doing a script, what we all associate with it, is some person just reading off a piece of paper and being a robot and being totally stupid and mindless. But if you don’t have scripts and you don’t have any documentation and you don’t have process and you want to hire all these sales people and help them succeed, you’re going to struggle. So I wanted to talk about the value of documentation and scripts and having some of it and how to use that with you. I’m curious. I know that you’ve built some sales teams in your companies and you’ve been exposed to a lot of it. We’ve never talked about this. I’m not sure if your position is scripts are stupid and the devil’s work or really harmful or not. What your comments are on this, on this little story.
Hiten: I think it’s an awesome lesson. I think it’s something that … I’m excited that you got the lesson and I’m also excited that we get to share about it because it just points to the fact that when we talk and we give presentations or when we’re just doing work, it’s hard to think about having someone else do it. And how should someone else do it. And so to me it’s just super powerful and one of the key lessons in startups is whatever you’re doing today that you’re doing yourself if you’re a really small team, it’s likely that other people are going to have to do some of those same things. And if you’re not thinking about how can other people do it, then you’re not actually doing the right thing for your business and you’re just basically stuck on a method that only works for you. This is funny because … And you think founders … What ends up happening to a lot of founders is, “Oh, the age-old saying of if you want to get something done right, do it yourself.”
Hiten: That’s what gets in people’s heads because of this simple thing which is, “Well, other people can’t do what you do.” And if they cannot do what you do the way you do it, then you have to do it a different way if your goal is to have other people also do it and that’s required to scale your business and I think in sales, this is one of the number one problems. This might even be … We might have just discovered here why a lot of founders don’t like sales.
Hiten: Especially engineering-driven, product-driven, marketing-driven founders. Sales ends up being an afterthought because they think they can sell better than other people or they haven’t really put in the time to think of it as a repeatable thing. It’s so awesome that you got to learn this lesson yourself.
Steli: You know, I think that you just said something that really clicked in my head which was that, probably by definition a founder is somebody that does things in a way that most other people won’t. Right? So by definition, we will have certain skills or certain tendencies or certain ways of approaching things that most people that we’re going to hire once we’ve had success and the company needs to grow, they will not think that way. They will not have these tendencies or capabilities because they are not the founders of this business. So I think it’s that … And it’s not about better or smarter necessarily. There’s a lot of employees that are a lot more … Most of the people who work in my company are smarter than I am. It’s not that. It’s that the way you think is very different and if you don’t embrace it and understand that, you’re going to be a horrible manager, which is what most founders are, honestly. For most of my life, I’ve been a horrible manager and I’ve just every day tried to be a little less horrible at this. But most founders are not amazing managers because they teach people the way that they would do things or the way they think or the way that they would learn and they then think, “Well, why is nobody capable of doing this? I showed them how. I demonstrated to them how I would approach this. Yeah, I didn’t tell them XYZ but why can’t they fill in the blanks? I mean it’s obvious.” No, it’s not, and most people will be very different in their thinking from you and you need to really internalize that first as a founder before you’re really able to be a leader and become a good manager. Most founders don’t and the result is that they come up with a conclusion of, “People suck, it’s hard to find good people. Most people aren’t able to do it. I’d rather do it myself. I’ll do it in much less time than teaching others how to do it.” All that kind of stuff. All that means you don’t know how to hire and onboard and manage people, right. And you’re probably doing it wrong. In the early days I don’t think it matters. In the early days, in the founding team, you want a handful of people that are very entrepreneurial, but once you’re beyond that phase, you need to set up things that are allowing people to get onboarded and to succeed in the job. And you need to document things, right. And you need to also understand … Here’s one thing that I really truly remember when it comes to documentation, especially in sales, is that what you’re aiming for is a middle ground where you’re not so rigid that everybody’s a robot, right. So when we write sales scripts for instance … There’s two great examples for documents that I think every sales team should have: a sales script for whatever it is. If it’s a demo you’re giving, if it’s a cold call you do, if it’s a qualifying conversation you have, whatever it is. If you have a sales conversation you have over and over and over again, you should have a script for that. And the reason to have that is that you want to be mindful and design the conversation in a way that works, just like you would design an app or a sign-up funnel on a landing page from ad creative to landing page to what happens in the thank-you form to what happens in the next step of the funnel. You want to be really mindful of the user experience. Same thing is true for a call. If I call you, I want to be mindful of that conversation. It has a beginning, a middle and an end and it needs to make sense and it needs to be valuable to you and it needs to be optimized to convert in the best possible way. So I think that it’s important to create that script. And in the early days when people don’t have the knowledge base to deviate from it, you give them something they can hold onto and that they can perform at a certain level that will convert. Eventually, what you really want to do is you want to do it in a way where people can use their language, they can customize the script a little bit, and at times where they feel really creative, at times where they are at their best, if they can come up with something better in the moment, if they have a brilliant insight on how to pitch this product better or how to change something, they can do it and perform better and then bring it back to the team and back to the original script and improve it, right. Scripts are not set in stone. They’re not like some holy document that can’t be changed or edited. In most sales teams, I tell them create a really rough version one of a script today in 30 minutes, and then it needs to be a living breathing document. Every two weeks, every week, sit down with your sales team and go, “Does this thing work? Is there something here that’s stupid? Is there something anybody has tried consistently that works better than this that we can update this with?” And you collaboratively work on the sales conversation like you would do on a product and you constantly would iterate and improve it depending on what happens in the market and what kind of things you’re learning. So you’re allowing the salesperson to be creative and deviate away from it when they feel they have an insight or an idea. But every salesperson also … It’s like a performance sport, every salesperson will have really bad days where you don’t feel creative, you’re not passionate, you don’t have great ideas, and what happens if you don’t have a script, something, some basic outline on how the conversation needs to go that you can hold onto, if you don’t have that, on your great days you might be much better than the average that the sales script gives you, but on your bad days you’re going to have horrible conversations that are completely without any direction and that will not convert and will be destroying value. So having something that gives everybody a standard average benchmark of performance and then still allow the team to perform better that that and raise the benchmark and improve it and change it is the way to think about using documentation and scripts in a sales process. And not as like a, “Oh, now I have a” … Every salesperson just sitting there reading off a piece of paper, which is obviously horrible, right. It is not what this is intended to do. That’s just one example. Another example that we might get into but I really want to hear your thoughts on that before I jump into that.
Hiten: Yeah. I couldn’t agree more. I think you gave a really balanced perspective on it. When it comes to sales, again, this repeatability is so critical. So if you can’t figure out a way to get that done and keep yourself happy, then it just won’t work. Again, my biggest takeaway on this is what you were saying earlier. It’s not just about sales or anything like that, although sales is a place where you can actually do this and your success or failure in scaling sales has everything to do with the repeatability of the process. But in most parts of a startup, you start by no repeatable process and as fast as you can get into repeatability: repeatability of revenue, repeatability of marketing, repeatability of sales, repeatability of creating the right product and all those kind of things, even repeatability of being able to fundraise every single year once you start if that’s your path. That’s what causes you to succeed. That’s what gets you to grow. It’s one of the most boring things because who wants to repeat the same thing over and over again?
Steli: Yeah. All right, so I think that in sales there’s these things that … Whatever your reps have to do consistently, whatever they have to do multiple times a day, is something you should think about documenting. So sales script, objection management, all that stuff. One thing that I’ve done recently and we’ve just launched this, is actually we looked at all the resources and templates and scripts that we had put together and we created a little free bundle for people to get you kickstarted on this. So there’s over 20 templates, documents, scripts, that you can just use to get started with this. It’s called the Ultimate Sales Bundle, and you can find a free copy of that. It’s over 20 different resources and templates at resources.close.io/salesbundle. Resources.close.io/salesbundle if you want to get 20 sales templates from me, the templates we use in our company. To get an example, to get a taste of what we’re taking about and get kickstart to it. I don’t want to just talk about the problem but I want to offer people a kickstart to the solution. That’s where people can get that and I think with that being said, we’re ready to wrap up this episode. We’ll hear you guys very soon.
Hiten: Later. Get the bundle.