Selling in difficult times with Mike Goldenberg


Startup Sales is helping early stage B2B startups get to $1 million ARR then scale to $5 million.

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This weeks guest is Mike Goldenberg.

You can find Adam’s LinkedIn profile here.


[0:01] Hey, everybody, welcome back to another episode of start up sales.
Today we have Mike Goldenberg with us. And if you remember, Mike Goldenberg was actually our first guest that we had here on the show.
And so I'm really excited to have him back. And we're gonna be talking about a topic today that everybody needs is how to get sales in today's market with everything going on with the Corona virus.
Um, how do you have you work around the tough times And how do you still get sales? Because there are still people buying.
There are still there still is business happening. And so how do you get that business? And so we're gonna dive into that.
And if you have some specific cases or you need help, we've opened up office hours at start up sales.
So you could head over to our website called Startup sales dot io had startup sales dot io and select office hours there.
And you could schedule time where ah, where we could meet. And I could help you with any problems that you're having or get you in the right direction to help you out with your sales.
Let's get to today's episode with Mike Goldenberg.

[1:07] Startup sales is a podcast about what it's really like to get a business off the ground.
We talk with founders CEOs and sales V. P s. From the high tech market. You'll learn howto build and scale a sales team.
You'll also hear about the growth challenges and tough decisions from others who have had both successes and failures.
And now your host of the start up sales podcast Adam.

[1:31] Music.

[1:40] Hey, Mike. Thanks for joining us. Hey, Adam. Good to join you again. How you been?
Terrific. Ah, that's that's kind of backtrack. A little bits for everybody listening.
Mike was actually our first podcast guest about almost a year and 1/2 ago.
Yeah, it's Ah, it's amazing. It's been a year and 1/2 already, and so much has changed in that time period. I think for both of us, so definitely excited toe catch back up.
Can you? Ah, can you tell the audience a little bit of background around who you are and what your experiences?
Yeah. So, you know, I guess I consider myself a somewhat of a salty old sales. Doggett. This point, um, you know, I've been selling my feeling for most of my life, but over the last, you know, 10 plus years specifically in the SAS startup space.
Spent a lot of time at a company called Logmein.
You know, kind of worked my way up from the bottom, uh, until I, you know, worked up into a director level role,
but then wanted to get back to, you know, some earlier stage stuff and then worked for the last four years, uh, at a company called Mineral Tree, which is in the AP automation Business payments. A processing.
And then, over the last year or so, a year and 1/2 I've been at a sales and marketing company called Alice the Focuses on, you know, bringing personal back to business through gifting.

[3:04] Interesting. And who's your target market market there?
Yes, O. R I. C. P is really focused on larger enterprises, mostly also in the software technology space. Anyone who has large, valuable customers where relationships matter.
You know, that's really where we focus and with in particular marketers, a CZ well assails a kind of crosses the lines.

[3:32] Interesting. All right, so I want to take a different approach today and ah, kind of focus on on a different topic.
I think the first time you came on, we were speaking about you know what to look for in a sales higher and some things are in there.
But today given, ah, the Corona virus and lock down that everybody is in becoming in if they're not already it's It's affecting a lot of businesses And how we sell.
What have you seen while selling to these enterprises into the sales teams and marketing teams?
Yes. So what we've seen very quickly in terms of the changes in the market is really you're seeing in different industries and different company sizes.
You know, you can get a better sense of, like, kind of a little bit of the haves and have nots.
Right now, a lot of the larger enterprises were more well fortified with more resources,
are kind of doubling down, or especially in our case, because we have a lot of people who are we're gonna do events and have a lot of leads.
They were expecting to get out of there events, and now they don't have those events. And so they're looking for other ways to add personalization into their outreach s. So we're seeing a lot in terms of that.
So those budget street up from events can be good for some people because he still have goals. He still things you got to get to.

[4:54] Certainly for the smaller companies who may not have as many resource is you're seeing them.
I kind of like, just re evaluate their entire spend right now they're kind of just pulling in the rain, saying like, Okay, what do we need? What we not need?
How did we set ourselves up? You know, to make sure that we're successful because I think the impact that it's having more than anything is the, um lack of like knowing when this thing is gonna end is just creating a lot of insecurity.
Saga was trying to fortify themselves as best as possible.

[5:26] So how are you? Ah, how are you? It's your company. How are you dealing with this?

[5:34] Yes. So first and foremost. And it's been good to see this on Lincoln from other sales leaders, right?
It's people really understanding that this is a unique and different situation that touches people on a more human level than I think, a lot of other things or other kind of slowdown in the economy. And so I think, first and foremost, you're trying to lead with empathy.
But really, it's It's almost like understanding that the landscape has changed.
And so any conversation you had going on, you know, three weeks ago, a month ago, it's almost a moot point in many cases because their whole world has likely changed in some shape or form.
S O. I think it's a lot of it is trying to re qualify and just understand how each person is in industries handling it because, as an obvious example, like the toasts of the world in the restaurant industry,
companies like that like it's having obviously,
outsize impact on those Versace, of course, like a zoom conference, who's, you know, doing gangbusters right now because they're well positioned for digital.
And that's the other thing is like you're seeing people who are well positioned for remote work. Forces are probably doing better.

[6:49] Interesting. So ah, try like a good tip would be trying to try to see how how your company in your product works for digitizing the solution and kind of focus. I focus along that.
Yeah, absolutely. And that's actually a big part of us, right? Like so we've done historically, is it's a gifting solution. It's very physical solution.

[7:13] That's a part of it. But it's actually a digital experiences.
Well, and so we've quickly shifted towards that whole digital use case away from the physical because, you know, ultimately, you can't send things in people's offices right now.
So we have to focus on that, you know, experience.
Um, but yeah, In general, everyone has to kind of look at I think you know now more than ever, one of the things you always hear people say about sales people that they hate the most is like they don't understand my business. How are they gonna help me out if they don't understand my business?
Now more than ever, you better understand their business because if you start going in there and you're trying to sell someone something and you know the entire world is crumbling around them, they're not gonna appreciate it too much, and vice versa.
If you find people who, if you're good at understanding the industries that are going to do better in this tough time, those are the people who are still gonna be open for business and looking to make improvements.
I was part of a chain on Facebook, I think one of the group where one of the founders was asking, Well, what I do like some some customers are coming and saying that they can't continue with us and they want and they,
cancel and they want their money back.

[8:30] And it will, obviously, depending on your the amount in stage.
But like it's a month, a month contract, given that last month back this is what I said. It's given that last month back because you'll have a client for life.
Like given that mount back and see how you could still help them and cause if you could keep helping them, you're gonna have a client that well, after this is all passes over, is gonna remember how you took care of them and how you were there for them and not just ah for the money.
Yeah, no, it's It's a great point. I mean, you know, again Now, more than ever, I think people are understanding and appreciating that impact that it has of, like treating people like a human being able golden rule, right?
You know, if you go out of your way to be better to them now. They're starting to squeeze that last dollar out of them.
You know, you are certainly much more likely to bring them back.
Absolutely. So let's say you're not in the digitizing space.
Aah! Had digitizing ah, in future proofing. Ah, people's infrastructure.

[9:40] What? What could you be doing? What what do you suggest that people do to kind of get through these more difficult times?
Because this is something that will come up again. Hopefully, not for a long time and not in this form. But there's always ups and downs in the market.
Yeah, you know, it's I mean, this is the sad truth of the situation.
Is a bad situation is going before it's people to get better, which you hate to hear that, but that is the reality, which is that when things were going good, right?
People are spending money a little bit willy nilly there, you know, not as tight on their process and structure and the kind of abilities, and they're not as tight on, you know, just their business, because things were going good and people don't see that downside.
But when you start to get to thing's tightening down.
It makes you look at things in a whole different light. And what do you really need? What do you not need?
S o I think for a lot of businesses, this is forcing them.
It's a forcing function to get better in terms of what they're doing, whether that's just zeroing in on there, you know, I c p better and just focusing on the people they know they can actually get in service were whether that's, you know, maybe.

[10:51] You know, making sure their staff is mawr student to the size and keeping, you know, better performing people.
You know what the higher rate versus just trying to add another rep to solve that growth problem.

[11:06] Yeah, I love that. I think the it's something that I've seen Maur and more as the last couple years have gone by is that founders weren't companies, not even just the founders. Also, sales leaders.
They weren't focused as much of a process.
And they were just, you know, get while the getting's good.
Ah, and enjoying the ride. And I think it's so important to build that foundation and have that process because, okay, you might be stewing successful now, but eventually if you don't have the right foundation, that the tower will crumble.
And so you have to go back and build that foundation. Put those processes in place.
Yeah, and anything, especially for early stage startups, right? You know, you want to talk about the game has changed.
You know, we were in a jar. Very easy financing, I would say.
Right. I mean, the it's amazing the amount of venture capital in private equity funds that have entered into the market over the last five years. 10 years on dhe.
I do believe you're gonna see that, you know, constrict over the next. You know who knows how long.
But all the more reason that investors will want to see proof of invisibility and be really clear on your process and structure to be sure that they know what they're going to get out of it when they put more money into it.
Not just that you have some sort of product market.

[12:27] Yeah, So would you say that having that, like, kind of pipeline visibility ah, is the most important thing to set up.
You know, it is something that has always been important, but now more than ever, especially the way things have changed, you know, even for us, it's like you take the whole pipeline and you say, Like we need to re qualify.
The entire thing right now is you just don't know what kind of impacts this will have, but within terms off the customers and how they're being impacted in their businesses are being impacted,
but also how your product interacts with them.
Super important, understand? And does it change based on the environment as an example? Like I said, you know, historically, we've done a lot where we're sending things to people's offices that doesn't exist right now. So different businesses were impacted by that obviously differently.

[13:19] Yeah, What would you say is the next important thing to be process or structure to be making sure to build into place.
So I think the biggest things are to understand.
So you wanna have obviously the forecasting decent place and really understand hyperlink things like that,
but equally so You want to make sure you understand, Like, how you're driving business, like, what are the actual things that will be predictive of where you're gonna land in terms of that performance.
And everyone has a different outreach strategies, whether it's out bound by whatever those metrics are being that much tighter in that process, making sure nothing's falling through the cracks,
of super important right now, because for a lot of people, I think those different means of demand generation are going to change.
The simple example right is, you know, a lot of people over the last 3 to 5 years have shifted to more than its again because there's so much digital. Everyone was overwhelmed.
Okay, let's go to shows and events so we can actually interact in person again.
Now that's fundamentally change. People need to figure out where you actually going to get that demand where those leads coming from in this changing environment, so being especially focus on that process is super important.
But it's not just the process. It's like what you're putting into the process. What are you going to do to make adjustments to the current stink?

[14:46] Absolutely. I just listened to Ah, the the speech that the CEO of Marriott gave onto all of his employees and one of the things that was really shocking.
I mean, there's a lot of things were shocking. It's terrific speech, if you haven't seen it, really recommend it.
But he said that they've stopped,
all ad budget for PPC and those kind of, ah ads and so like And I made me think, like that's also the same for probably the same for all hotels and a lot of airlines.
And a lot of all these other in tourism industries just completely cut off their ad budget.

[15:30] You have to expend. And like you said, go find other other avenues.
Yeah, I think the interesting kind of scary things, like how long can this last? Right?
How long is very good, actually not be advertising.
That's the thing that makes this so hard is there's just no clear end in sight.
But obviously for Marriotts, purposes like that can't continue.
And again, I think that goes back to your point is how you treat people in tough times is gonna come back, you know, both in good and bad you know, as things do clean rock, which you know, eventually they will.

[16:09] I think this is why a lot of, ah, companies like Adobe and other companies are offering. Their service is for free for two months or three months.
Yeah, but I think it's really smart because first of all, you get a lot of people to come in and start using your product.
Ah, and then you have their names and their e mails is a database.
But then, like you're also providing stuff like you're providing value, you're not just putting an ad out there and hoping that they'll buy.

[16:37] Yeah. I mean, it's, uh it's an interesting dynamic that's going on right now because everyone's trying to figure out How do you balance this message of, you know, still trying assemble people and help them and,
be creative without being opportunistic and seeming like you're trying to take advantage of the situation?
But yeah, I mean, I think it's in You seen. I've seen a lot of companies offering, like, a free month or two of things, which is basically a Freemium model in some ways.
But I think, you know, certainly products in particular where again they can help people that I really need help right now, I think, does uneven, bigger outside's benefit there for them,
in, You know, in rough times you got to be more creative, like if you know that your typical advertising things you're trying to do to get people are not gonna work, I'll be still engaged them.
And so you know, I certainly applaud them, and they're actually one of our best customers in.

[17:37] You know, they have a really appreciation for the personal experience and customer experience, and so I think it's very in line with their brand and again I think the brands that do care about people,
and find ways to show that will certainly be the ones reward in the long run.

[17:54] What? Ah, what new or innovative ways? Have you seen companies start to keep on top of mind?

[18:05] So it's interesting because a lot of people are trying to rightfully so. I think the best company is what they're doing is focusing on their brand and not their product.
And the brand is getting out there and just trying to be as helpful as you can in any way you can right now.
And I think that's I've seen it in so many different ways. I've seen it in, you know, people who have small breweries or small 11 Cheryl producer making in sanitizers.
Now you see companies like in Adobe offering products for free.
Um, you see it in a in a lot of different ways that people are trying to figure out, like, you know, different things, hand wash challenges, whatever it may be to bring light to kind of what's going on, because I just don't think right.
I think it's super hard right now, like picture product.
I mean, it's crazy when I get e mails and things like that, snail marketing messaging like nothing's going on.
I'm just sitting there thinking, like how how oblivious are like, Who is this?
I mean, this can't possibly be working for, um I guess it depends on what you're selling, and at the end of the day, business must go on.

[19:20] So you know, I do believe very much business muscle.
And I actually think the sales team has a huge part of that because this if we're calling people were interacting with people in world doom and gloom that they're not gonna be too enthusiastic G there.
It's almost on the samples, people not in a you know, some sort of way, like we don't appreciate what's going on, but your point to try and keep things going on because, you know, for people sitting wall, I wasn't gonna do anything.
It's certainly, you know, there's the obviously health impacts of what's going on, but also right. There's the huge economic impacts that are going on something.
It's almost, you know, our duty in some way to make sure that we're driving things on.
Not just, you know, everyone balling up and crying.

[20:12] If you're going to go down, you might as well go down fighting. If the economy is dropping and I'm going to go down fighting, I'm gonna keep trying and trying and trying.

[20:23] Good. I was just thinking, as you were saying, that something different Unique ways like companies could really start offering like online workshops like through zoom and stuff.
You know, invite your clients, invite your prospect lists and get some workshops together around like your industry and help people.
Oh, yeah, it's a good way to be top of mind.
Yeah, I mean, you know, I think everyone's looking at the zoom stock these days and sees how well they're performing.
And it's amazing how many different ways in which people are figuring out ways to you zoom everything from cycling classes to like you said,
things like Happy hours internally to providing different kind of webinars classes.
Howto work better from home. Whatever it may be, it's been great to see the creativity that people have had, you know, in this circumstance.
All right, so.

[21:19] You said earlier. A couple of times, um, that you're go, it's time to go back and re qualify. What's in your pocket? Pipeline?
You? What does that mean?

[21:31] So what that means is that every opportunity has fundamentally changed because their circumstances change.
So, you know, again, it may be the way they were Thinking of using your product may be different now, and it also may be that their customer base is situation's changed. I mean, there's just so many.
When you think about a qualified opportunity and what goes into it, there's a need. There's an urgency. There's a time frame around it, obviously keeping you're talking to.

[22:02] But those needs may have changed. That time for me may have changed on.
Certainly their urgency to do anything may have changed just depending on their circumstance.
So for each one of those, you know, we're just trying to get back in touch with them to make sure that we understand how they're looking at the scenario right now.
Okay? And how do you approach that? I mean, do you just come up and say, Hey, guys, I've got a few more questions for you, Or do you come up and say Guys, given the circumstances, we need to.
I want to start from the beginning of this and and see See, this is still the right fit for what you need.
Yeah, you know, I think it obviously depends where in the process you are, because if you're further down the road, it's less about, I think, having to re qualify, that there's value there.
I think more so than anything, it's just an honest conversation. Say, listen, we understand circumstances in the world have changed right now, you know, we're trying to understand how this is impacting, you know, we're working on and budgets or whatever. You know.
Now the tough part of it, the really tough part about it right now because usually, you know, it's easy enough to have those conversations.
The tough part is that they don't necessarily know the answer to that question yet.
So you know very quickly, though, we've seen people kind of bucket ing themselves into either.

[23:24] Again, we're selling into sales and marketing. So we've got the people are saying, Hey, we're still charging ahead.
We've, you know, freedom budget. We're gonna you know, try and allocate it to something else.
You got the people who are saying, Hey, we just need we don't expect, like a major change what?
We need to just do a quick re evaluation where everything we're doing before we do any spending and then you have other people whose no business or industry is being impacted,
significantly, They're just saying, like were in it like I complete freeze right now on again.
A lot of people in the restaurant industries in particular are being impacted by this. But as you see things going to even more significant shutdowns, I think even Maur of these industries will be impacted that are not essential.

[24:11] I think it's a very good optimistic. It's very optimistic what you said.
Not your optimistic. I like it. It's a good sign.
That means like majority. It sounds like depending on I guess the industry, like you said, but are okay, this is gonna be small. This is we're moving at, maybe with a slight delay, but we're moving ahead.
Yeah, I think everyone has to take that approach in some ways, right?
I mean, you can't just throw your business into the wind.
You got a, um, again, I just think it makes everyone be a little smarter, you know, tired about what they're doing.
I think it also makes it so that you have to be that much more focused on providing, you know, some sort of measurable return on what you're doing for some, which is, you know, I guess an old thing in sales, right to show the r o y.
But, you know, I think now more than ever, that visibility to it's important because as things tighten up, you will see people start toe, look that much closer.
What do we actually need? What can we actually shows all term versus things we just kind of feel good about our like or nice to haves.

[25:22] I think that's interesting. Uh, while you were saying that it kind of made something pop up in my head is the shitty sells.
People whose be blunt, the sales people that you know have just been lucky cause the market was going up, you know, things were easy to sell.
Um, they're going to start having problems, and they're not gonna be a bit of produce.
How can I? How can a founder know if what they have is just unskilled sales person, or if it's religious, they're not able to sell in? Ah, like as a company that into this market?
Yeah. I mean, you're you're absolutely right. In the past, the rising tide has raised all ships even, you know, some of the lesser ships probably.
You know, how did people determine if people are not good at selling where if it's just a matter of a tough market,
I think it's the same way you always do it, which is that you're evaluating the reps both obviously, on their performance. I mean, that's the obvious, easy way to do it.
But you have to get in there more into the into the calls, into the details, to understand, like what the conversations they're having.
There's so many things that could impact someone there, right?
If they had, for instance, either a certain territory, that's, you know, been harder hit or an industry that's harder hit, you know, you've got a factor. Those things in.

[26:50] You know, one of the things that I'm kind of big on right now is just this idea, right?
That exactly what you said the, uh the shit of your sales reps, if you will.
Who? I don't think we'll survive as well. Through this are the ones who are, you know often just more self serving and trying to like, you know, get a quick deal through because I just think that now, more than ever, you're gonna have to earn people's trust, and you're gonna have to Really,
people are gonna be that much more careful and calm wishes when they're buying So the people we're trying to get a quick hit. It's just not gonna work as well.

[27:22] So the people who can build relationships better those are the ones you want to focus on.
Now, if you want to talk about a kind of more specific things that you look for, especially in this time, you want to look and if you have, like a tool to help you with us and obviously helps by, like a gong our course or something like that.
But to see the conversations in terms of, you know, what is that ratio of questions that people are asking?

[27:47] How well are they listening? And kind of that balance of the call talking versus listening And how patient are they? You know, someone's explaining something.
Are they jumping the gun and things like that? Obviously, you're again. You're always gonna look at the numbers up creation close one deals, conversion rates, things like that.
But now you're trying to find out, like, who were the people who are going to be able to build relationships because I think now more than ever, that's gonna absolutely and so for everybody that's listening to start recording your calls.
If you're not already know, absolutely, it's amazingly helpful.
You know, it's like you're always trying to figure out what is it?
What makes the difference between a good sales rep in a not get sales rep, right?
I mean, there's the obvious things, But a lot of times, you know, from my experience on, you know my opinion, it's, you know, who are the people that can, you know, have that back and forth.
I mean, it's almost it's like the better they can play tennis with someone, and it's just the back and forth.
You know those air easy ways to see it versus when. For instance, You see, there's kind of, like just monologues, one person speaking for a long time and then another person for sugar. And then they're talking long minutes.
You can start to see the patterns of where the better conversations, what they look just in terms of what the back and forth looks like. Not even the words themselves.

[29:10] Absolutely. Yeah, because, I mean, each sales person has their own ah, tendencies in their own.
Like, um, I don't know how personality that they bring to the table. So there's no one size fits all. But the patterns that you like you were mentioning is very important because it has to be. That relationship has to be back and forth.
Yeah, you know, it's interesting. I know for a lot of sales organizations, they tried to teach, like this very scripted type of, You know, here's exactly how you walk someone through an entire call and, you know, don't get me wrong.
We obviously give a lot of guidance on how they should handle different calls and the progression and the things they should be looking for.
But it's funny because people will take their different approaches, do it and twisted different ways, and some last question is a little more front, and some will earn a little more trust and ask more deeper questions at the end.
And what's interesting to see is like kind of over the bigger picture of longer spectrum.
You know, you do see those trends of the people who ask more questions tend to do better?
Not necessarily. I'm sure. The rest is it Statistics in terms of like when it's better to ask questions that I call.
But you don't have to follow a formula in my mind to as long as you're getting the right information. And that's where the beauty and the art of it is, how you get those things over. How did you get those questions and how do you get that back and forth going?
It doesn't, you know, have to be this script to get there.

[30:38] I think this is the biggest takeaway from our conversation so far today.
All right, mark it down is I'm in and it's so basic.
But even in hard times, this past, the good questions, you know, like,
if you ask the questions, you might not like the answer, But at least you're getting the answer, And then, you know, instead of working your way through the sales process and then I'm still not buying, Yeah.
I mean, it's I'm no genius to say that reps who talked too much and don't you know, listen enough typically, don't do well. And, you know, whether you call it curiosity, your active listening.
I continue to think that's if not the most important one of the absolute most important skills as a sales rep.
Well, Mike, I really appreciate you coming on with us again today.
Ah, has been a blast in it. So so cool to make a full circle and have you on that beginning like the first episode. And now again. Ah, almost two years. A year and 1/2 2 years later.
So thanks for coming on. Absolutely. How about pleasure?

[31:42] Great. How could people reach out to you if they want toe, you know, ask you questions or find out more.
Yeah, very much. Always open to helping in any way I can.
Anyone who wants my advice, whether that's a good idea to take it or not, is up to you. But I'm always happy to help.
You can reach me at mike at Alice dot com.
Uh, that's a l Y c e and yeah, you can reach me there. I did whatever I could do to help. I'm here for you.

[32:12] Terrific, Mike, Thanks so much. All right.

[32:17] Thanks for listening to start up sales with Adam's Springer.
Subscribe to the podcast. So you never miss an episode. Contact Adam about speaking engagements or consulting service is at Adam at Star.

[32:29] Music.

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