Bringing Lower-Performing Salespeople To The Top 10% With Yamini Bhat [Episode 87]
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As a business owner, most of your attention likely goes to your top line. But why should you be considering your bottom line?
Your bottom line could hold the key to untapped growth potential in your company. In this bonus episode of CEO Sales Strategies, Doug C. Brown speaks with Yamini Bhat, the co-founder and CEO of Vymo, a sales-focused software company. They discuss how data tracking can help your business, how to mimic the playbooks of top salespeople, and how to turn your bottom 90% into your top 10%, and much more.
In this episode you will learn:
Episode’s guest – Yamini Bhat
Yamini Bhat is the Co-founder & CEO of Vymo, an intelligent sales engagement platform and one of the fastest-growing enterprise startups in the world. Vymo is funded by Emergence & Sequoia Capital and is deployed in leading financial institutions like Aflac, AXA, Berkshire Hathaway, and Generali and recognized by Gartner. Previously, Yamini was a McKinsey consultant and worked with Fortune 500 clients across banking, credit, and insurance. Yamini loves playing board games with her family, enjoys reading fantasy fiction, and learning about Renaissance art in her free time.
Visit her website: www.vymo.com
Bringing Lower-Performing Salespeople To The Top 10% With Yamini Bhat
I have a cool episode coming up. It’s near and dear to my heart. A lot of companies look at, “How do you take the top 10%?” Companies are focused on, “What is the top 10%?” Those are the people that we can systemically keep going after and try to put more top 10% in. We manage from that point forward. In theory, you can see that traditionally, it works. What if we flipped that model on its head? What if we said, “We got our top 10%. How do we take the bottom 90% and make them into the top 10%?” What if we could do that? What if we could increase the bottom 90% and drive it up so the productivity is equal to or surpasses the top 10%? What would happen to revenues?
The reason I brought this lady, Yamini Bhat, is she has a company that developed software that does this. It tracks all of the salespeople’s activities on an individual basis and provides data intelligence. We’re going to talk about how you bring the bottom up to the top because you already have the bottom. The problem is many companies are managing by top-line revenue or top-line numbers. They’re not looking at the optimization points within a sales team or what got the person who’s doing the top 5% versus what’s the top 5% versus 10%.
They’re not looking at the incremental. What are the different playbooks that they’re using? The person who’s at 50% versus the person at 5% is not looking at how they get that person to mimic those particular behaviors throughout. We’re going to talk about this because it’s important to not only raise revenue but raising profit because you’re already paying base salaries and these types of things out to your sales team. What if we can double their productivity and do it in a quick period of time? Without further ado, let’s go talk to Yamini now.
Yamini, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for being here.
I’m excited to be here.
You are in India.
I’m in Bangalore.
Your company is worldwide. You have offices in the United States, West Coast, East Coast and other places.
We are headquartered in the US. We have offices in about six different countries.
You have a cool backstory, which I’d like to get into. We’re going to do this by modeling the behaviors of the top 10% and instilling those in the bottom 90% of sales teams for growing and creating bottom-up growth. I find that unique because a lot of times, people focus on the top but they forget about the whole bottom of the process. You’ve reversed that whole scenario. You find bringing from the bottom up makes a lot of sales growth. How did this come about? This is interesting.
Before this, I used to work at McKinsey for about five years. Most of my work was on sales transformation. This was with large enterprises where, on average, more than 5,000 sellers were distributed across the country. Typically, we were relying on systems like the CRM to have some form of information on what sales activities were. We struggled because it’s very less used and you have less than 10% of salespeople logging into the CRM to update what they’ve done. Most sales leaders work on the back of playbooks that they expect the team to be compliant around how many calls, and what kind of customers engagement patterns with these customers, etc., to be able to drive the outcomes that they envision on either new customer acquisition or expansion within existing customers.
The challenge that we faced was that we didn’t know what was on the ground, and what compliance these playbooks look like. We would rely on experienced sellers telling us what their playbooks were which was very anecdotal because if I was to tell what I do with my day, I would assume I was doing a meeting every single day, but the average is not like that for me. This was not backed by data. The second challenge we faced was that any transformation had to be driven very top-down. If I have a 10,000 salespeople team, that’s a challenge because you’re only as strong as the weakest link. It takes an incredible amount of time.
If you look at salespeople, every salesperson is motivated by wanting to do more because it directly impacts how much they take home. That’s the reason they are salespeople. What they would value is continuous guidance on what can help them achieve more commissions. That doesn’t reach them in time and in a format that is useful for them. Salespeople would love to get help but not by being monitored and managed on activity.
Management has no way to manage a 5,000-people sales team in any other way. That was a disparity I noticed. People are willing to pay millions of dollars to be able to solve some of these problems. My strong belief was that technology is the right way to learn what the best sellers do, and translate those into the next best actions for every single person to mimic. Therefore, improve the average behavior.
I was in an organization with large sales teams. I was part of that sales team. We don’t want to be managed that way. It’s restrictive. I remember people or management coming in, “We’re going to bring in Oracle. We want you to put every little detail in this system and every little thing.” My brain went, “No, that isn’t happening because that’s going to slow me down.” This is how they wanted to manage from the managerial point, but they never looked at it from the sales point. Why do you think when organizations get larger like that, especially large organizations, is it forced that that’s all they can do?
I had this conversation with one of the business unit leaders of one of the top 10 banks in the world. He was one of the founding team members. He said, “Even when we were 100 sellers, we would do 30 times more than what our average out of today does. We would do it fairly easily, not with the kind of friction that we’re seeing now. Every year when we chose to grow by 100%, 50%, 20%, even at that scale even after becoming one of the top 10 banks in the world, we grow by 20% to 30% every year.” Even at that scale, when they set those targets, their typical method of building leverage is by hiring a 20% to 30% larger sales team.
With every percentage increase in the size of the sales team, productivity is going down by 5% points on average. It wasn’t scaling. His story on, “With 100 sellers, we were doing three times more per seller. With that, we’re doing 3% per seller of what we used to do before.” It’s such a sad story that you can’t scale by throwing people at the problem or at the opportunity. There’s a lot more that needs to happen. The difference is when you’re a 100 or even a 10-member seller team, it’s easy to know every seller’s behavior and what their choke point is, and be able to guide them on every conversation if need be on a daily basis.
Most probably the managers at that point are some of the best early managers. They have very strict control over who gets into those roles. That keeps getting diluted as you grow. Technology helps you mimic a good sales coach on a continuous basis. Technology also can observe your activity, learn from it and give you guidance without you having to spend one hour a day updating everything that you’ve done before reporting it to your boss. Dramatically decreasing productivity and increasing scale is a very core issues for any large enterprise. There’s a more top-down way to drive transformation at that scale.
I can see lawyers lining up when I’m going to ask this question. You take these initial CRM systems like they have the word sales in them or whatever. I’ve used these things. I found them extremely cumbersome and very non-productive, but they seem to be the large standard of what’s going on. You say something critical, which is data. We haven’t even told the audience here what you do yet, but the data will drive the story. In these large systems, I never found captured data, which is telling the real story.
I can remember when I was utilizing these larger systems, my sales team members just throw anything in there because they wanted to see these numbers or whatever. We just pop it in there. I remember I threw the President of the United States’ name in there one time to see if they’d pick it up and they never did, then I was putting people like Oprah Winfrey in there. I was the top sales guy in the company so I knew I could get away with this stuff, but no one ever looked at the details.
The most fastest-growing CRM is still built on an architecture that’s three decades old. It helped everyone move to the cloud. That’s fantastic and made databases and customer datasets available on a web log-in, which is fantastic. The same users have also moved way past the cloud and web. Everyone has a mobile. You spend 2 to 3 hours a day on your phone. It goes wherever you go. Most of your activity is probably happening on your phone, and then you’re expected to go log in somewhere on a web interface and fill out forms. Nobody lives in a form world anymore. You don’t need to fill out a form to order food or to move from point A to point B.
You don’t need to fill out a form to book a flight and get somewhere or even book an entire vacation. The form is extremely outdated and unfortunately, the most popular CRM still is very form-based. Smart salespeople can easily fill junk and get away with it on average. People who are non-performing can happily fill in data that can run you in circles. I can easily do five meetings a day. What about it? There’s nothing you can glean from that’ll help you move the needle. In spite of that, even if everyone diligently spent one hour a day filling up everything correctly, the CRM is still only reporting a summary of average activities per day. It’s not reporting what did a seller do to have a 95% renewal rate versus an RM who had only a 70% renewal rate?
Without answering that question, and feeding that back as a nudge to the seller who can improve, it’s useless. You’re now counting on a headquarters team to glean insights, create a playbook, and then mandate change top-down. Every seller would nod when I say, “If you get in touch with the customer 45 days before, you have not just a 90% renewal rate probability, but you probably can upsell by 20% to 30%.” Everyone would say, “That totally makes sense.”
For a wealth manager handling a portfolio of 500 customers, they’re not going to remember when T minus 45 days is for the 500 customers. It’s impractical. How are you helping them? That becomes the core of what any intelligent sales engagement platform should do. That is a completely different mandate from a CRM’s mandate, which is to give an easy way to pull and push in data.
If I understand it correctly, you have a company. It’s called Vymo. It is an intelligent sales engagement platform. That means it looks at each individual salesperson as an individual, tabulates data on that salesperson, and cross-compares this to the top 10% of what they’re doing versus the bottom 90%. That gives that intelligence so that the companies can coach and train on that.
Not only do we give that intelligence to headquarters or the sales effectiveness teams because it is a long cycle for them to convert those two playbooks and drive top-down transformation. We convert this intelligence into notches. If I go with the previous example of, “Everyone agrees that you need to get in touch with the customer T minus 45 to 60 days before renewal,” we will translate that into, “You’re three hours on your calendar. Here are seven calls you could make.” A couple of those recommendations are for customers who are coming up for renewal in the next 45, 50 or 60 days.
We made it extremely easy because I know you’re on Outlook. I can see what your calendar looks like. It’s integrated. You connected Outlook to Vymo. You’ve connected your email, communication, Zoom calls, etc., to Vymo. I understand that here are seventeen customers that you’ve not been in touch with within the last three months. Here are seven of them who have very high potential. These are other engagements that we’ve seen, all potentially coming up for renewal, that you should prioritize. These are seventeen signals you would have completely missed or not prioritized, if not for this nudge. You complete it now. You’re not pulling into a room and I’m telling you how to analyze your customer portfolio and how to plan your day.
We’re doing it in real-time and telling you, “You have three hours. Let’s make the best of it.” There is a 90% probability this will happen. That means a 90% probability you make $1,000 more in a week. We can translate exactly what it means for you and how to have that conversation with the customer, including microlearning modules that you can go through before placing that call, etc. It’s meant to make our sellers successful. There are insights that go to the head office, but by the time they read the insights, we’ve already moved the needle.
I love this and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, we’re speaking with Yamini Bhat and her company is called Vymo. It’s at www.GetVymo.com. Check out that process. Here’s the reason why I love what you’re saying. I made my living for a long time as a consultant and doing sales optimization. I would have to manually go in and measure everything that you’re talking about. I would go in and find things like 62% of their leads got stuck in stage one, and the company would never know because they look at the top line.
They look at, “We’re making money but if we moved them from stage 1 to 2, 38% of them closed every single time,” and those types of things. What I understand is we give the salesperson that intelligence so they can proactively get this done before management goes, “What the heck? We brought Doug in there and he’s telling us that 62% of the time, you all are going from point 1 to point 2?” That’s brilliant.
The interesting thing is if you solve that problem at of stage one, you’re getting stuck and, “Here’s how you can move the needle.” Now you’re going from 60% to 90% from stage 1 to stage 2, and then you’re stuck at stage 2 for a different reason because it’s taking you 3 days after the stage 2 conversation to send a quotation out. That is a very different choke point. How do you embed quotations into the same journey we send, and then you move the needle on that? The choke point now moves to stage three.
Once you get through all the stages, the choke point might be sellers who are able to ramp up and not able to ramp up despite nudges where you need an intervention. Is it a skill or a real issue? When you solve that, you might need to unlock potential from your compensation and incentive plans. In sales, the choke point always moves. Depending on the systems, that can help you manually capture data, analyze, and then try to push insights top down, which takes you quarters and years. No one is able to drive that successfully. Productivity is only gone down with increasing scale.
It’s having a technology that can do this in real-time and make sure that it’s nudging a seller on what they can do next. Even a seller who’s in the top ten on your team is getting nudged on something they could do differently. Whereas the seller who was in the bottom ten is getting nudged on something very fundamental, but still getting nudged. Everyone is getting better continuously. One of our clients counted this and talked about how we do a million in just a day. There is no human intervention or change management method that can do that.
It’s humanly impossible to do a million nudges a day. I’ve managed teams as large as 166 salespeople. It isn’t a huge team but it’s still large enough that you can know personalities here and there, but you lose it because there are many things going on at one time. I love what you’re saying because people might be going, “When are we going to talk about how to get the 90% of the 10%?” Folks, it’s called data. You’re tracking data on a regular basis to promote accountability, and you’re giving assistance in the form of nudges, in this case. Now your managers can coach because that’s what they’re supposed to do. It grows their team’s revenue and coach.
That’s a manager’s job. Many managers don’t get it because they’re not trained to do that. This accountability, what I found is when they bring me into companies, I start even looking at this data, and all of a sudden, sales go up anyways because they know I’m looking at the data. Salespeople by nature, especially those who aren’t in the top 10%. You said something earlier, which was, “Salespeople are motivated to make more money because that’s why they get into sales.” I agree with that. I’d love your feedback on this.
There is a saturation point where people go, “I’m making enough at this point, and they kick back.” Once they learn how to do that, they kick back on hours like, “How do I make this kind of money in half the time?” The company is not seeking that most of the time. They’re thinking, “I’m paying this person a large base salary. I’m paying for this. Let’s make it more productive.” Have you found that to be the case? I have throughout my life salespeople that do that. Have you found that as well?
We’ve seen that. In fact, we’ve seen not everyone, but within the top 5%. We interviewed some of these power performers to understand why that was the case because they will hit 120%, and then they would not do any deals in the last 5 or 10 days of the month. If you had to go straight line, you would have thought they would have hit 140% by the end of it. Some of it we’ve been able to unlock by having uncapped incentives on success. Some of that has been unlocked, but then some of it is just personnel.
What it gives you anyway is if these folks are able to do it in 15 days or in half the number of hours spent of what an average seller is expected to probably do in 30 days, there are a lot of insights there on how their playbooks run that the others need to mimic. Probably, there is one person of your sellers amongst the top performers who are kicking back and saying, “I don’t want to do more hours. I’m happy where I am. I want to make the same money in fewer hours.” These are the ones who are designing the smartest playbooks for themselves. If you can get another 20% of your team to mimic that by blind muscle memory that just can develop, you have a very different sales outcome from your team.
You said something that I don’t think people caught so I’m going to come back on it, playbooks. Companies will develop a playbook. What I understand you say is at different levels of performance, individuals have their own version of their own playbook within the company’s playbook. The reality on this is if you’re treating your whole team the same way with ubiquitous management across the board, you’re leaving so much money on the table. Yamini, that’s the message I’ve been hearing you say throughout this whole conversation. Your top 10% or 5% are going to use maybe even a slightly different playbook than your next 50% down. If we can take that 50% down and get them to mimic that top 5% behavior, sales will automatically magically go up.
We’ve seen that happen. We’ve seen lead conversions go from 0.4% where marketing campaigns were on the verge of being shut down to 7% or 8% overnight or within weeks or a month at most. The system has picked these up and made sure that the choke points are systematically eliminated. We’ve seen cross-sell ratios go up similarly. We’ve seen partner-driven sales go up by 15% to 20% within 3 to 4-month periods. Bottom-up transmission is powerful. It is coming from QDAB which has AI. It feels way less intrusive than a manager pushing you to report your activity. There’s a trust that we have.
Our end users, on average, with some of our top largest customers, we have 90% daily active users compared to CRMs, which have 10% log-in every day. The daily usage of Slack is about 40% to 50%. It’s two times that on Vymo. End users on Vymo spend about 58 minutes a day, and an average daily user on Instagram spends 30 minutes a day. These 58 minutes are not continuous. They come to Vymo 8 to 12 times a day and spend 4 to 6 minutes each time. They come there to look at recommendations, do those activities, have that meeting, have a conversation with the customer, come back, log that and then look at what else we are suggesting on the basis of that, and so on and so forth.
Since the day we started the company, daily active users and seller behavior on Vymo as an app is something that we have tracked. This is a metric we are extremely proud of because we are able to hold these up across 8 different countries and 4 or 5 different international languages, including Japan and the US, which are different culturally, and across 300,000 users and sellers. I believe salespeople are some of the smartest, even in terms of gaining any process and system within an organization. Having that kind of loyalty from salespeople is a huge matter of pride for us.
From a guy who’s done this most of his life, it’s a huge accomplishment because of the engagement level of salespeople. Salespeople don’t yell at me, especially, on social media. I always say salespeople have the memory capacity of a kitten because most of us do. To be able to call that attention throughout the day is a monumental accomplishment especially done on technology. The worst thing that sales managers can do is call out salespeople and sales meetings on the data that they should be doing one-on-one, firstly. If the system is already doing it, and then they can have an intelligent conversation about how to improve it, it’s a win-win all the way around. How do people find out more about the company, product, service or whatever because I imagine people go, “This is pretty cool. Let me figure out the next steps.”
Definitely, www.GetVymo.com. There are a lot of materials there. You can write to us at Hello@GetVymo.com and we can schedule a demo. There is a bunch of case studies and customer testimonials on our website that can be useful resources to at least understand how we do this.
I have one last question because I know I’ve kept you a little longer than we said we would and I appreciate you doing that. Kept uncapped. When you said commissions or uncapped compensation, a lot of business owners are afraid to do that. I have found that uncapping compensation plans is more motivating than capping plans. What is your expertise on this?
Depending on the product you’re selling, as long as you’re not adding incrementally new risk like you’re not taking on bad debt or bad insurance customers, etc., as long as you’re selling within the risk profile that you are comfortable with, gross margins overall do get better at scale. As long as your incentive plans are smartly aligned to a percentage share of the gross margin, a salesperson wants to make more by putting in the effort within that timeframe.
If they don’t get any rational benefit for doing more than 120%, they would rather park it to the next month when the same sale can be closed and help them get to the 120%. We’ve seen this behavior very often amongst the top performers, performers to whom sales come easy. It’s possible to unlock their potential by designing incentives. In fact, Vymo has a module where incentives can be designed and linked to activities and behaviors, and help in nudging sellers at the right time.
We have seen two things, which we did not think we would see. We saw this happening over the last few years. One is uncapped incentive design schemes. The second we’ve seen in large sales teams, we’ve seen CXOs take a call not to set top-down targets, but to get sellers to input bottom-up targets that they wish to take on. Right after communicating uncapped incentives, they’ve asked their sellers to take bottom-up targets within a certain minimum range. We’ve seen the bottom-up targets add up to way more than what top-down would have added up to. These two combined together have been very powerful in helping many of our customers unlock something like 20% to 40% growth within certain lines of businesses within the year.
Yamini, thank you much for being on the show. I appreciate it. I know everybody gets their heads spinning right now. That’s awesome. I’d love to have you back on another episode if you want to down the line. I appreciate you getting on here because I know you weren’t feeling well. Thanks for bringing you’re A-game while you weren’t.
I had a great time. Thank you so much. It was a pleasure talking to you. I would love to come back anytime.
If you want to keep raising the bar, you look at the data. Why do you do that? It’s because the data tells a story. Data is one thing, but how do you put the data into play? You’ve got to do it proactively. When you’re measuring data and if you take her systems, the design of the system does it. It measures that data and provides intelligence and accountability for the process. This is why you hire consultants.
You bring them in to spot things that aren’t working or are working and make them better. Therefore, you get everybody doing that activity. Magically, your numbers go up. Things smooth out many times. Operations get smoother. This is a win in all cases, but you got to have the data. Without the data, you’re making subjective observations and decisions. It’s going to work this way. Let’s try that. What if the data said, “Don’t go down that path because every time we do, we lose the deal 99% of the time, and that 1% that we close, we’re not making money on that. Worse yet, we do this 78% of the time, and the 22%, we’re not making any money on.”
If you have the data, you can look clearly at this and make objective decisions. I cannot tell you how many times but I can tell you it’s hundreds of times that I’ve looked at data points within a company where things like the top 10% of their clientele are producing 90% of the revenue, and they’re chasing targets that aren’t mimicking the top 10%. When we refocus on that, all of a sudden, their numbers go up dramatically. Why? We had the data. If we could do this on an individual salesperson level and we can manage and coach on those levels, and we have something proactively doing that to help us, what a win-win.
If you love this subject matter, please let me know. If you have a subject matter that you’re an expert on or you know somebody who’s an expert, please let me know. Send an email to YouMatter@CEOSalesStrategies.com and we’ll respond to you. Maybe it’s you or someone else. If it makes sense for the show, we’ll have you on. If you want to increase yourself or somebody, your company, people within your company, or people you know at the top 1% of earners in selling, I’m your guy. We’re going to be rolling out a 1% University soon. If you’d like to have more knowledge or information on that or if you’d like to know how to get involved in that, reach out to me please at Doug@CEOSalesStrategies.com.
Until next time, go out and sell something. Sell a lot of it profitably. Play win-win and coach your people to play win-win. Make somebody’s day happy by solving a problem or giving them a new opportunity by selling through what you do. They win and you win. If you liked this episode, please give it a five-star review and tell your friends about the show. The more people tune in to this, the more people we can help. I get lots of letters and people telling me how this episode helped them get past this or this helped them do that or this increase their percentage of earnings by X. We’d love to know those things. Keep them coming. Thank you for that. Go out and sell something as always. Make it today. Until next time.
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