Modern Sales Podcast

The Future of Field Sales with Badger Maps CEO Steve Benson

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Steve Benson, CEO of Badger Maps, discusses the future of field sales after the pandemic.

With so many people shifting from in-person to inside selling, the future of field sales is in question. In this episode, Steve Benson, CEO of BadgerMaps, gives a rundown of what he’s seeing with field sales, and how he sees it changing in the future. 

Steve Benson on LinkedIn
Steve’s company, Badger Maps


The Future of Field Sales with Badger Maps CEO Steve Benson:

Full Transcript

Steve Benson
qualification is more important now than ever. Because if there’s some reason that you’re not able to get a deal done there is there isn’t time to waste on sales cycles that aren’t going to be successful for whatever reason. And a lot of companies and prospects out there aren’t gonna be able to spend money right now. Or they’re, or they’re just going to need to go with the cheapest product on the market, you know, regardless of what they’d like to do. And so all those deals off the bat need to be qualified out and people are generally honest, they don’t like to disappoint. But, you know, if you ask the right questions, you know, people will qualify themselves

Liston Witherill
That’s Steve Benson, CEO and founder of badger maps, a mapping tool for Field Sales pros. As more and more work shifts from in person to add home or remote, the future of Field Sales is looking a little uncertain. Why do some buyers require sellers to show up to their offices in person? Do they just need to be coddled or worshipped? Or otherwise feel powerful by inconveniencing others? Or is there just something that can’t be duplicated remotely, that can only happen in person and in the field? And what percentage of field sellers have stopped selling in person? And how many are just doing business as usual? Those are the questions I wanted to know from Steve. And in this conversation, we’ll talk about the shifts in field selling, how to handle sales in a down economy, and the timeless sales skills that span in person field and inside and remote selling. Welcome to modern sales, a podcast to help agency owners and independent consultants with better clients by understanding how people buy. I’m your host, Liston. Witherill, founder of Serve Don’t Sell and I dig through academic research, interviewed people inside and outside of sales, and nerd out on the psychology, economics and neuroscience to figure out how people make decisions. And I am on a mission to make 100 million people, world class communicators so that buying expert services can feel just as good as a lazy Saturday movie night. If you’re listening on Spotify, hit that follow button so that you don’t miss an episode. And if you’re listening on iTunes, or Apple podcasts, please subscribe and leave an honest review. It helps me get the word out for the show, so that we can together flip selling on its head and make 100 million people world class ethical communicators. Thank you in advance for your help. Now to the show. How is Field Sales evolving? And is it going to be the same as it was before the pandemic? Or might it go away forever? That much more coming up in my conversation with Steve Benson? Right after the short break? Hey there, and welcome back to modern sales. I, of course, I’m your host, Liston Witherill. And today I have a special guest, Steve Benson from badger maps, who helps Field Sales Reps do their Field Sales jobs better welcome, Steve.

Steve Benson
Hey, thanks for having me on. I’m really glad to be here.

Liston Witherill
I’m happy to have you. And I don’t think we’ve ever talked about Field Sales. And so this is a topic I was really interested in. Because initially, when you reached out to me, you had pitched how to deal with Field Sales in a pandemic, and maybe more generally, how to deal with all of this stuff in a down economy in a recession. pandemic, however, you want to chalk up what’s happening here. But I’m curious, what do you see if the future of Field Sales given that in most places, I can’t be in person with someone? Yeah, I

Steve Benson
mean, I think that’s definitely something that people are looking at right now. And if you listen to the pundits, you know, everyone would tell you, oh, we’re, we’re never going out into the, into the world. Again, we’re just gonna stay in our bedrooms for the rest of our lives. And especially if you listen to like, you know, the CEOs or, or, or PR teams of companies that enable working from home, they’re like, oh, we’re all working. No more offices ever again, by are working from home software. But I actually strongly disagree with that. I think that Field Sales will continue with our customer base, and all of our customers are in Field Sales. Obviously, at badger maps, we’re seeing about 80% of reps are still you know that we’re doing this before we’re doing Field Sales before 80% are still doing it. We can see them, you know, moving around in the world, in our software. And you know, a good chunk of businesses are essential businesses, but it’s just face to face interactions are crucial for so many types of sales. it shortens the sales cycle, it deepens relationships, I think it’s always going to be important and it’s just really hard to replicate. The experience that you have in person through zoom, which is, you know, these types of interactions are awkward, they’re clunky. The in person meeting gives you the ability to connect with your customers. is one on one and, you know, people thrive off social interactions. So I think the ability to read the room gauge for objections, understand how your customer truly feels, I don’t think that’s going away. And there are a lot of reasons these sales cycles extend if you’re only remote, so the I think that teams that have been forced inside will go outside again, and the ones that are outside will continue to go outside. And, and when they, when they do, if you were forced inside for a time, a period of time, when you do go back outside, a lot of deals will, will close because of the sales cycles will basically compress again, and you’ll kind of reap what you sow in a positive way, right? Ultimately, decision-makers like CEOs and CFOs and see whoever they want the sales rep to come and sit down with them, show them things explain things to them, they want it to be convenient for them. And they have a better experience face to face than with a phone call in general, I kind of liken it to dating in both dating and, and sales. You know, you may have an enhanced experience by using internet tools, but the internet is never going to replace in-person dating or in-person Field Sales.

Liston Witherill
Okay, so boy, did you say a lot right there. So first thing I take issue with is I think you’re creating a little bit of a straw man argument. I mean, maybe some people are saying, we’ll all work from home forever. That’s not typically what I hear what the way I see it is the pandemic and sort of being forced, not just the pandemic, but you know, the lockdown is forcing us to accelerate some of these changes that have been happening already. Right. So as people want more flexibility as they want to, you know, live wherever they want, as teams become more organized with online tools, maybe some percentage of the workforce will work from home and not return to the office. But I mean, I agree with you, I don’t think it’s a matter of everybody working from home forever. I don’t think that’s accurate. I do think though, you will see a permanent change in some percentage of the economy and in some percentage of the workforce. One thing you said there is that deals take longer in a remote setting. And first of all, I haven’t seen that data. I don’t know what you’re referring to. But it seems to me that that may or may not be because we’re selling remotely, it may just be due to the state of the economy.

Steve Benson
Yeah, I mean, it’s it’s hard to, to kind of tease out and split these variables. And I wasn’t trying to create a straw man, it’s more, I guess, I’m not saying for everyone I’m saying specifically for Field Sales, like will field salespeople be doing all their meetings over zoom and phone calls forever. And I don’t think that’s the case. And in the data that I would look to for that is 80% of the people that were using us to move around in the field and organize their time in the field and build their routes, etc, before the pandemic 80% of them are still doing it right now. And so I’m not saying that there aren’t tons of types of jobs, that we’ll be able to take advantage of these modern tools that enable you to work from home, that will enable you to, you know, not be face to face with your other co-workers that you’re collaborating with etc. I’m specifically speaking to field salespeople, like are speaking about field salespeople.

Liston Witherill
Okay, so 80%. So you’re saying 80% of your users are still using the product as they did before? COVID hit? Is that right?

Steve Benson
Yeah. And there was a downturn there in like March and April, but then it popped back.

Liston Witherill
Yeah. And you know, like I think about at my house tomorrow, we’re going to have a mold expert come in here and unfortunately, look in the basement to see if there’s mold. And boy, are my fingers crossed? I hope they don’t. But we’ve had other vendors come out to our house because by definition, it is a Field Sales role. They can’t give us a quote, they can’t make an impression. They can’t show us their knowledge without being here on site. Are you seeing maybe that bifurcation between Field Sales jobs that really rely on something that is not necessarily in person but on site and sort of required versus those that don’t require it as much but I’ve just always done Field Sales and now they’re starting to have to change.

Steve Benson
The biggest bifurcation for us was actually whether or not the company’s business was going to be able to survive. So most of the companies that are we’re doing Field Sales who now are not they they just went away or got rid of their entire field sales team. So in you know, a fifth of American businesses are out of business, right and i don’t know I don’t know the exact stats today. But I that’s that’s one that I read relatively recently. And that and I think that maps well with the 20%. That dropped off, a lot of them transitioned for a time and then came back in June or so. We kind of saw it. Yeah, there was a period in like June and July and August, we’re like, up again, 4%. This week up again, 5%. This week, and so just week over week, it grew it kind of they, they went back out into the field again, but I think they were making do or revenue was just compromised for that period when they weren’t. And and it’s, it’s, you know, a business like the one you just mentioned, you know, that you just the mold guy can’t come out. They can’t do their job without being in person. And it’s an essential business, right, you got to get your mold cleaned. But also like, I mean, a lot of our customers are med device sales reps, pharmaceutical sales reps, you know, they sell tires, to tire stores, all these things are still essential. And the tire store is open, right? Like you can go the tire store and get new tires right now. And maybe it wasn’t open in, you know, April. So

Liston Witherill
well, and one thing that maybe a common denominator, at least in some of the ones that you just mentioned, the types of businesses you just mentioned, is that they’re relatively low tech in terms of like, latching on to the digital transformation. Like my guess is I’m generalizing. My guess is a tire shop is less likely to be acclimated to a life where I’m on zoom several times a day, like they really do expect you to come into their office, because all their customers do too.

Steve Benson
Right? And I think a lot of b2b, kind of with Main Street, America, or the world is like that, right? Like a doctor’s office is the same way, right? I mean, a ton of our customers sell things to doctors and or dentists. If it’s more convenient for them to have someone come in and explain something to them, or show them to show something to them, they they’re gonna do it that way, rather than do a zoom call, is my impression of them. And maybe, maybe culturally, that changes over time. But if it’s the type of situation where you were all, you know, you’re selling to a board, and now the board’s not meeting together, but they’re, you know, all meeting there. They’re just zooming into their board meetings, then obviously, you’re going to join the board meeting to make your sale. But so I think they’re, in general, I think that of the of the 20%. That stopped being in the field and stopped using our product. I’m not sure exactly the ratio between ones that went out of business and ones that were able to make a transition to something else. But I think that in that group, there are there are both of those outcomes.

Liston Witherill
So one thing that you’ve talked about is messaging and how messaging needs to change in a post COVID. World. Why does our messaging need to change into what?

Steve Benson
Well, I think there’s any down economy. And there’s two things going on right now, right? We have a health crisis. And we also have the economic impacts to a ton of businesses have that health crisis. And so in a down economy, I think, in general, you want to change your messaging from something along the lines of what what what you’ve seen for the last 10 years in a good economy, right, like a lot of people’s messaging is some form of will help you do better. And you need to change that messaging to will help you do more with less. And then you have to go about showing them in terms of actual dollars, how much exactly and how you’ll help them do more with less, could be less money, could be less manpower, could be less resources, making that shift will have a pretty pronounced change. On our side, for example, I sat down with both the sales team and the marketing team. And, and our messaging has historically been just that right. Like, you know, badger maps will help you sell 20% more with your Field Sales Team. And that was the top of our website, right. And now, the messaging coming out of the sales people’s mouths and out of the marketing people’s mouths is with badger maps, your outside sales team can generate the same revenue, even though your team is 20% smaller, or even though your resources are 20% smaller, depending on the situation. But there’s a huge difference between those two messages, even though it’s saying essentially the same thing. And one, one of those messages is gonna resonate way better with your customers in a down economy.

Liston Witherill
So yeah, you you sort of stole my thunder there. I was gonna ask you how have you implemented some of these changes into your business? Because maybe aside from messaging, I’m also wondering about maybe marketing tactics or how you approach sales, right? Is there any difference in the way you’re approaching sales to Badger maps now versus before the downturn?

Steve Benson
Well, we sell software which is sold primarily inside, right, it’s primarily inside sales. We haven’t had to like in you know, even in the depths of things in April. It’s not like we had to shift our strategies all that much, and most inexpensive pieces of software, you know, most, most cloud software costs five bucks a month to 300 bucks a month per seed, right? We’re 50. So like, anything like that basically gets sold over the phone, because it’s just not worth sending people out into the field that doesn’t the economics don’t work. But in terms of, in what we’ve done, and what and I guess what I’d recommend to everything I’d return to every sales team qualification is more important now than ever, because if there’s some reason that you’re not able to get a deal done there is there isn’t time to waste on sales cycles that aren’t going to be successful, for whatever reason. And a lot of companies and prospects out there aren’t gonna be able to spend money right now. Or they’re, or they’re just going to need to go with the cheapest product on the market, you know, regardless of what they’d like to do. And so all those deals off the bat need to be qualified out. And people are generally honest, they don’t like to disappoint. But, you know, if you ask the right questions, you know, people will qualify themselves. The way I have coached my reps to do that in this economy is to basically ask, say, something along the lines, like so the people that I work with generally fall in one of two categories, category one, they’re leaning towards moving forward and making it making a change right now. And in category two, they’re leaning towards being worried about making changes and these crazy times, and, you know, they are they have something that’s keeping them from making a change in these times. Which, which category are you in? And, you know, I think the thing is that you have to qualify, it is within the group that’s leaning towards doing something with you, are they going to do something with you? And you’d qualify both of these things? Are they gonna do something? Are they gonna do it with you before you devote resources, quotes, sales cycles, proposals, technology, setup, whatever the thing is? Yeah, you know, I think qualification is key. And I guess other things I would encourage, I would say, it’s, it’s really important to get in front of decision makers now more than ever, because there’s a lot of reasons for deals to get hung up. So you have to make sure that you’re selling to the right people in the organization, you’ve pulled all the right stakeholders into the conversation. So I think you have to make sure you’re communicating the value of your product or service to those people, so that you’ll be able to get the deal over the line. More now, more than now more than ever before, I’d say.

Liston Witherill
So I recently had Dave Shea be from the rain group to come on and talk about their research on virtual selling. And you’re going to hear me repeat what I said to him, because I still think it’s true. And I’d love to get your reaction to it. I think everything you just mentioned, right? qualification, asking great questions, listening, demonstrating your value. All of these are timeless sales skills that need to be applied all the time, I don’t really see that there’s any difference here, maybe what you’re saying is the stakes are a little bit higher, and that the margin for error has been squeezed a little bit given, you know, just the economy’s a little bit tighter. But I don’t really see any difference in what you just said needs to happen now versus just good selling generally, in any market. What do you think about that?

Steve Benson
Yeah, no, I think you’re right, those are basic building blocks, sales skills. And I would say, they’re just the building block sales skills that you really have to make sure you’re nailing You know, they’re one of those are two of 15 things. And I would revisit training on those and revisit thinking about those in these times. Just because they are so important right now. And, you know, there’s other things too, right. Like I think, you know, coaching, in general, is just really important in these times and in a time of change, right that whenever the economy or your company’s in an adjustment phase, I think that you have to refocus on coaching and training your teams. And I think a sales manager should be spending 50% of their time coaching their team could be free call strategizing could be post call debriefing, joint calls, opportunities, specific coaching, whatever it is anything that makes your reps better, you know, and so those two things I think, are really important right now, even though they’re important all the time. negotiation is another one, right? Like, specifically, how do you like rethinking how to defend your margins and sell the value of your product or service is something that probably every company and sales team need to need to freshen up on? Right now? So yeah, but not to say what, to your point, I completely agree with you not to say that negotiation isn’t always important. It’s just buy something that you want to have top of mind and rethink for these times.

Liston Witherill
So general question about virtual selling because I’m curious about that. Again, this is top of mind and you had a version of this in in some of the prequels. All information you gave to me? Why is it harder to build relationships over the phone or zoom as compared to in person?

Steve Benson
Well, I think that your, your relationships are changing right now, I think and you know, everyone’s talking about empathy right now. And I think that’s a fairly obvious thing that everyone needs to rethink. And we all need to rethink how empathetic we are in our lives in these times, I think, in general, but, you know, the good news is we all have one more thing in common. And, you know, but But yeah, to your question, it’s a harder time for relationship building in general, I think, you know, in this new world, you may feel less trust, less customer loyalty, you may notice those sales cycles expanding and extending the way we talked about before. And, you know, I think that because of that lack of trust and lack of transparency, and how hard it is to sell, virtually, because you don’t have access to all the people, that would be a part of the decision, not maybe if you’re showing up in person, or maybe before COVID, it was easier to get everyone in the room and sit down and make eye contact with everyone build rapport with them understand, you know, what, where they were coming from, overcome their objections. And today, you can’t. And so I think that that is changing the relationship, that you can get around this from a tactical perspective, by doing a better job of leveraging your sponsor, refocusing on, you know, getting whoever really wants your product and service within the organization for a complex sales cycle, making sure that they’re your eyes and your ears inside of an organization. And you always needed this to be really successful in complex sales, right. But now, it’s more important than ever, especially with how tight purse strings have gotten, you know, with a lot of organizations, but your, you can go to a sponsor, you can go to your end, you can have them, try to uncover what the objections are out there. They have relationships with all the other decision-makers and influencers. So they can figure out, you know, what’s the CFO Think about this, and, and then you can be prepared to address them in the meeting. And you can even have them bring these things up in the meetings that you can get to kind of tee you up. And, you know, if you’re concerned, well, I know what the CFO is worried about it, but he’s not even gonna ask the question. So you can have, you can have your sponsor kind of tee things up for you. It’s, it’s a really important time to have pre-meeting calls with your sponsor, not to manipulate the room, but just to, you know, understand what you’re walking into and what the issues are, you know, because you can’t read people’s body language, you can’t you don’t have the natural chitchat. And so I think it’s really important to get your sponsor more involved to move a deal towards closure.

Liston Witherill
Yeah, so I’ll pick up on that last thing you said, I’ll kind of take a crack at contrasting the difference between in person versus virtual. For me, the biggest, the one way that I would summarize it, is we have less information virtually, right. So there’s way more higher, higher fidelity information when we’re in person. And I’ll Break That down in a second. But we also have to be much more structured and planned out, there’s less like serendipity or chance things that happen when we’re remote versus in person. So in terms of information, you’re right, I only get to see like right now, your cameras framed where I can’t see your hands, I can just see your head. And so yeah, there you are, there’s your hands. But if I could see your hands and the way your arms are moving, and the way your body is shifting, as we’re talking, that would tell me something more, which I may or may not get over video. So first thing I tell everybody listening to this is do require all of your meeting attendees to keep their video on. The other thing is like, I get to if I’m in person walk into the office and see what’s on the wall. How’s the office decorated? How does the secretary or whoever’s at the front desk appear in terms of mood? Like? Are they totally disconnected from their job? Do they have anything to say about the people that I’m about to meet with? Is there communal space in the office, there’s all kinds of things we can learn about the company that I think we take for granted when we’re forced into this virtual setting. So in any case, I’ve thought a lot about this and I’m always curious what informed people think.

Steve Benson
Yeah, I think that those are fantastic points. Absolutely. Fantastic. And, and some of them are hard to like, it’s hard to get. It’s it may be hard to get the CFO to turn his camera and you can’t tell him to right.

Liston Witherill
Why can’t you?

Steve Benson
Well, it depends on the kind of relationship you have. But like if you know some, some vendor that was trying to sell me something was like you turn your camera like get out of here, man No. Like I I’m not prepared for that right now. Like it’s got it kind of got a pretty much self up still, you know?

Liston Witherill
Yeah. Well, so I think humor is one of the ways that you deal with that. But the reason I ask why not is like there, there literally is nothing preventing you from saying You know, making a joke about how you know the last time I did a call with the person having their video off like they were off answering all their emails the worst, I’m sure you’ve had that happen to you and always kind of take it back relationally to their experience in any case, last thing I wanted to cover is cost management. So I think about this, as I told you coming into this, modern sales is the mix of both dedicated salespeople and business owners and leaders. And so cost management is on everybody’s mind right now. Right? And there’s this tension within sales and marketing, which is, it’s the source of our revenue, or at least our additional revenue. But it’s also expensive to do that. So how do you think about for your own company or your clients? How do you think about balancing? On the one hand, we have our source of additional revenue, new clients and growth, which is our sales and marketing, but on the other hand, it is expensive?

Steve Benson
Yeah. This is a challenge a lot of businesses are facing right now. And there’s no easy answer, right? I mean, businesses are just under pressure to reduce costs. And the CEO may show up at the VP of sales, the VP and marketing’s door and say, Hey, you gotta reduce costs by 20%. Like tomorrow. And you know, that I think the first thing you can do is, is is point out that the sales people or these marketing activities are the the engine of revenue for the organization, right? Because revenue is important, and sales should be in marketing should be some of the last places to make a cut. That’s obviously not the way it often plays out. But if your hand is forced, obviously, you want to look for, you know, if you if you do have to reduce costs, because there just isn’t the money, which is a, you know, there’s a, especially in smaller companies right now, there is a capital crunch, right, there was the governmental relief that came out six months ago, or seven months ago. And probably that’s dried up by now. So if for a lot of businesses, there have been a lot of layoffs. I mean, I think it was, you know, unemployment really high right now. And these are kind of domino effect problems, right. So I think if you do have to make cuts, you want to first look to low performers, you would let go anyway, you want to look at new reps who aren’t scaled up, or maybe they aren’t scaling up the way you’d like them to. But you want to be careful, you want to cut things carefully from the bottom up. And, you know, there’s definitely no one way to do this, that works amazingly, right. There’s not and there’s different, the business school philosophy would have, you know, make one big cut, because if you do a lot of small cuts, then you destroy the culture of the company or destroy the, you know, people can’t focus because they’re worried they’re next. You know, that’s kind of the classic wisdom, you know, do one big cut, don’t do five little cuts. I think that classic wisdom does have to be rethought a little bit in a time like this, because everyone does understand what’s going on. And I have seen a lot of companies overreact and fire too many people, and especially on the sales and marketing side. And that really undercuts the ability of the business to grow out of these situations. So you know, it sales and marketing, look at each person each activity and think about, okay, well, how much are we going to make in the next 12 months because of this activity in revenue? Okay, how much is this person, this activity cost in dollars, and make sure you’re not cut, you know, firing someone who’s going to bring in $400,000 and cost you 150, just because he has to be very careful with overdoing things in these times. What another thing that I would look to another strategy that that may be better is to look to look to reduce people’s salaries across the board, instead of laying off a bunch of people. I think it’s if you had a company of 100 people, it might be better to lower everyone’s salaries by 20%, then fire 20 of them. If when you kind of hold up the lens of Is this making me more money to have this? Or is this a necessary piece of my of the company with salespeople, I might tweak that a little bit because their bonuses and bases are so important that I would try to concentrate any lowering of salary on the base side as opposed to the bonus side because you don’t want to mess up the kind of the incentive system systems.

Steve Benson
So that’s something to think about too.

Liston Witherill
Yeah, one thing I was going to suggest as kind of a way to approach the question because I think I agree with you there’s no like recipe for the right way to approach this is to maybe divide your sales and marketing initiatives into things that would have short term and longer term payoff. So if you have a marketing team that’s doing brand awareness level activities, it’s not realistic to say they’re going to produce X dollars in revenue. knew in the next six months, right? Like that was never the goal anyways. So I don’t know that that’s necessarily the best rubric. But if you have someone buying ads for your company, and it’s not producing anything, and that’s by definition, a short term play, that might be something that you might cut, right, so I think aligning what your results and outputs are with the desired timeframe and time horizon is kind of a critical thing, as well. All right, sir. So we’ve covered a lot of ground here. For all of those people who are interested in learning more about you, or badger maps, which of course is linked in the show notes. What should they do? Well,

Steve Benson
if it’s someone in Field Sales and they’re interested in badger the best place to learn about it is for sure the website badgermapping.com. If they’d like to learn more about me or get in touch with me, LinkedIn is the best place just to type in LinkedIn, Steve Benson Badger Maps or Google or whatever, you’ll find me pretty quickly. I my podcast is outside sales talk. It’s a podcast for outside salespeople if you’re interested in hearing more of my thoughts and opinions about the world, but those are probably the best way is to get in touch.

Liston Witherill
Fantastic, oh, and last thing I’ll say is one thing we need to add to the business school. School of cutting jobs is definitely don’t be like Adam Newman of we work where you announced 20% reduction in staff, and then immediately follow that with a tequila party and paid talent to perform a concert. That’s a bad idea. So let’s just leave it. Alright, Steve, thank you so much for your time today. I appreciate it.

Steve Benson
Thanks for having me. This has been fantastic.

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And check out the SDS method if you want to improve your sales process.

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