While sales has undoubtedly changed in immeasurable ways over the years, what hasn’t changed are some core strategies that have stood the test of time. Joining Doug C. Brown is Adir Ben-Yehuda, the VP of Sales and a founding member of Walnut.io, the world’s leading sales demo experience platform. Tune in as as Doug and Adir discuss building a great sales team, timeless techniques to take your sales skills to the next level, selling to enterprise clients, surprising ways to use data to study your customer journey, and much more.
Adir Ben-Yehuda is the VP of Sales and a founding member of Walnut.io, the world’s leading sales demo experience platform. Adir has worked in sales for over 15 years and has been leading and advising GTM teams since 2013. Outside of scaling sales teams and creating demand for new products, Adir can be found preaching to sales teams globally to put the prospect at the center of the sales process.
Visit his website: www.walnut.io
I’m bringing you another amazing guest. His name is Adir Ben-Yehuda. He’s the founding member of a company called Walnut.io. They are no code platform that allows sales teams to instantaneously and create tailored-type interactive product demos and segmentation for the product demos, which is cool to improve their sales experience for themselves and for the clients and conversations that come down. Check out their website. We are going to talk a lot about selling and doing it the right way, especially the enterprise clients, because he took his company from zero to 250 enterprise clients in less than two years.
He had a GTM team of 30 people or so. It’s a great achievement. He does well in this process. He’s very clear and understands what sales are about. We’re going to talk a lot about how you sell now in 2022 and beyond versus different. How do you build a killer sales team and what do you look for? How do you add value to the whole process of the selling cycle and much more? We talked about the psychology behind why things work and don’t work in selling in general. You can use this and adapt this stuff to your company to help scale up your revenues and the profitability of your company. Without further ado, let’s go and talk to Adir.
Adir, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here.
Thank you for having me.
I appreciate you being here and taking time. For those of you who don’t know, Adir is a founding member of Walnut, which is no code platform on how sales teams can instantly tailor interactive product demos and improve sales experiences and conversions. Did I get that right?
You are an expert in building sales teams and sales companies. You’re a founding member of this company and I have a lot of people here who are looking for a great sales team ad, not just a sales team. Everybody looks for great sales members, but they don’t even know what they’re looking for or what they should be looking for. I think you have a concept around creating what would be deemed a killer sales team. How would you define that for people so that they understand what we’re going to be getting into?
There are a few things that we need to consider when going about selling a sales team. The first question you need to ask yourself is, do you know how to sell the product? Do you understand your reactions and interaction with a prospect, the back and forth? After going through a few of those sales cycles and a few back and forth with prospects, you understand what kind of character and what you would need from a seller. How would you want your sales team to be there? You want people that will be more on the challenging side of things. People that would be more sophisticated. That’s the first part that you need to look at.
The other part is once you get those kinds of people, start thinking about the topic or the challenge you are trying to resolve. Find people that have some passion for those kinds of things. Everyone is passionate about something. I’m deeply passionate about sales and go-to-market. I have friends who are working in technology for pets because they are deeply passionate about pets. Once you find those right people that are passionate about their topic, it’s also easier for them to talk about those challenges with their prospects during the sales cycle.
When you look at overall and the rest of the things, it’s to identify not only your challenges, your prospect and how your prospects would like to engage, but who your prospects are. Are you looking to sell to smaller deals or smaller ACVs to get the ball rolling there or do you want to sell to enterprise companies? Maybe you want to identify those people that know how to one-call close. They know how to push the prospect and it’s okay. Maybe one of those people that are more nurturers in their state of mind and started looking at things, “Let’s go in a few calls and get you those $50,000, $60,000, $100,000 or $200,000 deals.”
The three things I got out of it are that you, as the owner or the founder or the person starting the sales team, is the core. You’ve got to have that own self-belief and understanding of what you’re selling, which I also see some mistakes that people will sometimes go out and say, “I’m the CEO of the company. I founded the company. I no longer have to be the core of the company.” If we look at great companies for most of the life cycle, they are the core of the company. The recognized names like Steve Jobs, for example. He was the core of the company. No matter what, he was there. Jeff Bezos was there. I know a lot of the people, if we name things like the founder of Microsoft or Bill Gates, he was the core for a long period.
After a period, the core can exit once the sales team and the whole process are up and running. In the beginning, I agree. You got to have the core. The second thing I got out of that was you got to be passionate about what you’re doing. Passion is one of those things that are transferable. If we’re in sales and somebody is being mundane, “Buy my product,” it’s not going to transfer that reason to buy from one to the other. Tony Robbins has preached this his whole life. You got to live with passion. The third thing I got was, who is your prospect? What you’re saying is, who’s the ideal buyer? Who’s the ideal prospect for you and hone in on that person and put your energy and efforts into that type of target? Did I get those three right?
You’re 100% right.
If anybody is sitting here going, “Does this work?” I will tell you, readers, that Adir is the guy who took Walnut from 0 to 250 enterprise clients in less than two years.
It was 250, but who’s counting?
Those three concepts get you in that mode of moving forward. Obviously, it’s worked for you to get 250 enterprise clients in a couple of years. Somebody is thinking, “I want to start doing this. I don’t have any salespeople.” You grew this thing from zero up. What’s the first play? Where should they look? What should they be thinking about besides those three points?
Once you get those three points, you need to start understanding. You talk about not just the sellers themselves but the whole motion. One of the things that we started doing was the first person I brought into the team was someone I used to work with in the past. I’m like, “I need to get you in this.” He’s like, “I’m not sure about Walnut. Is this thing going to work?” I’m like, “Yeah. No one wants to work here now, but don’t worry. It’s going to work.”
I brought him in and I had like this really good chemistry with him. Not everyone is fortunate enough to know people that they have worked with in the past and can trust. If you can have someone that you trust and you know his motions. You understand exactly how he’s going to be motivated. That’s the first thing. The other part is even before I would go and I think about a whole sales team, that’s the second hire that I added to Walnut. We hired an SDR. Someone who could take the discovery call and this motion. A discovery call, not in the traditional way, but have the initial call, understanding what the prospect needs and give you more time to ramp up and get more building.
It all drives to one place. In the beginning, you need and a lot of people are thinking, “I have the product. Now, I can go ahead and sell it,” but you need to get a lot of data. You need to get a lot of information about the process and get a lot of data points. You’ve got to connect it and get everything in one place in a coherent way, steps and coherent conversation. How do I get a prospect team? What do they care about? What’s their main motivation? Do I put in a trial phase in the middle? Once you have this second or third hire for them, as an SDR, you can get a lot of information on top of the funnel and make sure the sales cycle will be relevant and the same.
I don’t know if the people reading caught that, so I’m going to come back to this. I’ve been fortunate or unfortunate to build a lot of sales teams, depending on how you look at it but hiring an SDR basically to go out for prospects, to get data, feedback and set things up in motion ahead of time before you even have a product or service delivery at that, that’s brilliant. Those of you reading, lean in because this is a cool concept.
I’ve done this a couple of times, but you reminded me that it should be done every single time when you’re starting something up. If you don’t know enough about your market, not you Adir, but the people reading. Folks, if you don’t know enough about your market, the smartest thing in the world is to understand what your market wants, who buys, how they’ll buy and what language patterns they want to hear.
What do they want to buy first and second? An SDR, a Sales Development Representative, can get that information for you at very economical rates compared to making mistakes where you dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into marketing or whatever it might be and then you find out, “This doesn’t work.” Am I hearing this correctly?
That’s 100% correct and that’s exactly the focus point that you need to go with. It’s very easy to make those mistakes when it comes down to marketing. It’s a large scale, but when you put the spotlight on the sales process and you get a person in there, you can move also and you can change a lot of things as you go. That’s one of the things that helped us a lot.
In that way, you can build up a list, if you will. You can build up the list of potential buyers so that when you’re ready to go or release. Now, this can work on new products. You can be an existing company and you’re thinking, “I may want to roll out a new product or a new service idea.” It’s the same thing. You might have a built-in base, but the reality is you can go out to the new market and it’s highly recommended that because you have an existing relationship with a new base does not mean that they’re going to buy the same way a cold audience is going to buy.
If I haven’t said this more than three times, this is a brilliant idea. Write it down. Please use it in your future going forward because this will save you a lot of headaches. Adir, you can try an SDR for several months. If it didn’t work out, you could let the SDR and say, “This is a trial period. It is what we’re going to do.” Some of them will be agreeable to that. I’ve had them do that for me, but generally, they want to stay on forever. It is something that you can do a test on upfront and I see you looking up at the sky a little bit.
It’s because I think it’s one thing, but if you’re fortunate and you’re lucky enough that the company is growing, one of the things that happened to us in Walnut is those SDRs came in at ground level and they are sellers now. If you think about building your sales team, imagine those people and we have people that started a few years ago. They are account executives right now. They’re selling every quarter on the higher end of the six figures right now. They learn the method bottom up. That’s exactly part of the thing. The right people, those people who are successful in this role, can also help you then build a future of your sales team as you scale.
It’s because some of these people will ascend up to the top. The cool thing is you’re minimizing your risk. You’re maximizing the potential upside in the whole process, but I can tell you over and over that most people never would think of this idea. This is a brilliant idea. Thank you for sharing that. Let’s say people don’t have relationships. They are on their own. They didn’t have a previous company. They couldn’t pull somebody they knew. You still have other relationships out there. You can go to friends, business associates or whatever and a lot of times, they have recommendations. I have found that you’re looking for this perfect fit. You describe it to them and then they’ll give you the referral to that particular fit.
I think that helped us a lot, also. You get a lot of things during that motion. You can find the right fit for this, but you can also start talking with people about what you want to sell and how you want to sell it. Also, get an idea about how it’s going to be positioned to the prospect, to the people who are not you, to people who are not leaving the problem on the day-to-day. Your callings. That’s another point that helped us a lot and helped a lot of organizations.
We’re speaking with Mr. Adir Ben-Yehuda from Walnut.io. Check out the software. It’s pretty cool. I’m going to get into the software in a moment. I was hoping we could transition a little bit into something I think you know a ton about, which is sales skills that you believe are more important in this selling market than ever in the past. What are they?
I think there are a few things. I started with this around the killer sales team. People right now, when they talk with individuals, want to make sure that those individuals are worthy of their conversation because they have an opportunity. You all or some of you have seen the numbers around this. Most buyers don’t want to engage with people. They don’t want to engage with sellers. They see it as a burden.
One of the key skills that sellers need to understand right now, they’re not paper pushers. If you went into sales just because you said, “That’s my default job. I’ll just go on sales.” I couldn’t do anything else. It’s going to be very hard for you to be successful. You need to be passionate about your field. You need to learn it and you need to provide an added value to your prospect. Otherwise, it’s going to be very hard for you to push and move forward.
The other part and I don’t want to use the cliché of listening. You need to listen. Listening is one thing and asking the right questions that are not about your sales cycle. A lot of people would come to me. A lot of my sellers are like, “I asked a lot of questions.” “Yes, you ask, is this a good timeline? What’s your budget?” Those are questions that matter to you. They’re not a core part or a core need of your prospect. Ask the right questions like, “How is it going to impact your business?”
Have you looked at different solutions, not competitors necessarily, but different opportunities to resolve this pain point? If you ask those questions that are key for your prospect, it’s going to be very helpful for you in the sales cycle. It’s a key thing. The last part, I would say, is that you can’t just buy someone a steak dinner and have a sale. It’s a challenge right now.
It’s probably going to be challenged from now on. The other part is to be genuine about the people you’re talking with. Ask him them a little bit more personal questions and trying to build something that is more than, “You’re my fifth Zoom call of the day. Let’s get it over with.” People see it and I think that’s one of the things that I’m trying to put in my seller’s head. It’s like, “Don’t let the prospect feel this is the fifth Zoom call of the day.”
He doesn’t care. He needs this attention and that’s something we’re trying to build. I always think about it from a place of like, “We’re trying to build a brand.” Walnut. He’s trying to build a brand and every engagement with this brand, it’s not just on the website. It’s not just on LinkedIn. Every engagement when you talk with the representative of the company is important. If you, as a seller, don’t have the energy to do this, it’s going to be very hard for you to push forward deals and to deal with crises in a deal or with a competitive deal for that matter.
I’ll start with the brand side of it. Jay Conrad Levinson, who wrote a book series called Guerrilla Marketing said to me years ago. “A brand is everything that touches your senses of the prospect.” I never thought that. I thought it was a great way of defining it. Being genuine and building rapport is so important, especially now because, let’s face it. With the internet, they don’t need to anymore to show up at their office. Most of these people, until they need you to show up.
When he was saying that, I wrote down the word doctor. I can imagine. You’re not feeling well. You go into a doctor’s office. The doctor is like, “You’re my sixth appointment. I am so tired. Let’s get this over with.” You’re coming into the office and you’re hurting. You need some help. There are too many people in sales, you’re right. They look at it that way, especially when they start getting more successful than they ever imagined before they start getting that arrogance line, if you will, through the process like, “I’m better and I don’t need it.” I act like I’m on day one.
If you look at the best musicians in the world, for example, they show up every single time playing that song like it’s the first time they’ve ever played, like Aerosmith ever played Dream On. How many times did they probably play it? It’s because they know that connection that you’re talking about with the audience, so I think it’s impactful that you’re bringing that up. When you were saying in the beginning, “Sales is a profession,” basically. It is something that I treat seriously and not my second or third choice.
I wrote down, Adir. I said, “What if somebody approached a marriage like that?” “I’m not into this, but let’s get married anyways. We’ll see how this works out. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll go back to my first or second choice.” I don’t think it would work out well, nor will it with the prospect. Added value is something I’d like to go a little deeper with you on. The third thing was asking the right question. You’re right. Too many people are too focused on their own agenda and when they’re focused on their own agenda, they’re asking sales questions that are trying to close the sale before they even know if there’s an opportunity or a problem to solve.
Folks lean in. That is a rapport break and that rapport break is going to lead to a lack of sales. I’ve measured this. I know this release, the rapport breaks and this is what happens. With so many people and products and services offerings out there that are similar to other people, you’ve got competitors. Unless you’re in a completely blue ocean, don’t play that game. A deer is spot-on on that target. Let’s go to added value a little bit because I don’t think a lot of people understand what even value is to do someone. In your estimation and definition in dealing with your clientele, what would be some added value that people may be able to say, “That makes sense for me to look at too.”
Maybe before I answer this specifically, let’s talk about the journey. The journey of a prospect who wants to buy a solution is usually because he has a pain he wants to resolve or re-identify opportunities, but it’s mostly around pain. Those individuals are researching those prospects and they are looking at different kinds of materials, Google and/or YouTube and asking friends. They then come to you because they understand that, “I’ve identified. I’ve solidified a few potential solutions and I want to talk about my pain. I want to talk about resolution,” and that’s where the added value comes in.
You need to be an advocate or an advisor and help them understand if you can help them resolve the pain. For Walnut, in that matter, we have a lot of sales leaders that are coming to us and trying to resolve two things. They are trying to have their organization more efficient. They want to make sure that they can demo and present the product in different steps of the sales cycle.
That’s one aspect. The other aspect is they’re trying to be bringing a better sales experience to their prospect. It’s exactly what we’re talking about. They’re trying to equip their sellers to show the product early on or to show parts of the product to have a better sales experience and a more prospect-focused experience.
That’s what they were talking with us about. We started having those questions not about, “That’s cool. I can give this to you. No problem. It’s going to be $100,000. Let’s sign this. Do you have a budget for this quarter?” That’s not a conversation we’re having. That’s another conversation. It could be done on a website with a nice landing page and a credit card. We’re starting to talk about how we’re starting to identify where they see the main challenges in their funnel.
Where is the first point that they want to tackle? Why do they think that’s the first point and try to give them different benchmarks from the industry, from our clients and data points that we’ve learned to understand what life will be before using something like Walnut and after? Also, how it’s going to impact their KPI. We’re going through this process in order to make sure that they are validated. We are helping them understand the solution even if they end up not buying Walnut. They understand what they need to do and how they want to resolve things at the end of the day.
That makes a lot of sense. Validation from their perspective is the key. For those of you who are sales professionals, what you think doesn’t matter. In most cases, to the buyer. What you can bring for the added value that they can validate as added value matters to the buyer. I love what you said. It’s a win-win and helpful. It’s being helpful and at the end of the day, these people either have some type of challenge or pain point that they’re looking to resolve or they’re looking to regain some new opportunity or something of that nature.
As long as you and the sales channel can be helpful, the product and service will resolve themselves at that point. It all comes down to people doing business with people and that’s what I’m hearing loud and clear. We’re speaking with Adir Ben-Yehuda from Walnut.io. Let’s transition because I think Walnut is a cool product. Why don’t you tell people what it does and why it makes sense for salespeople and organizations?
Basically, we have a technology that can help sales organizations and SaaS products at the end of the day to capture and replicate their entire demo environment or even their production environment. The idea behind it is once you have these tools that you can replicate your entire product, you can start to slice, dice it and show different parts of your product. Also, customize and personalize with no code in different parts of the sales cycle to different segments.
Imagine the ability or opportunity to show a prospect a demo that is curated to a specific pain point, but based on these data points, based on these needs, specific use cases and builds everything through this in a couple of minutes with no code. When we start working with organizations, we have companies that are working with us like Dell, Adobe, NetApp or VMware and smaller organizations. They essentially equip their sellers with this robust tool. They build everything in advance and sellers can churn out personalized bespoke product demonstrations in each part of the funnel.
I don’t know the answer to this, so I’m going to ask and put myself up in the vulnerability part position. Could I create a separate demo for the engineering staff and I could create a separate demo for the CEO of the company?
I can segment my demonstrations.
Segment your demonstration and also think about it in a few dimensions. I can segment this from that perspective, but I can also segment it from the sales cycle. You have a sales funnel for each one of those steps. The notion of the demo being after three meetings and then you have a ceremony over the demo is no longer relevant, in our opinion. You need to lead with your product. That’s exactly what I also mentioned about sales strength.
You need to lead with value. You need to talk with the prospect. “You came to me with a pain point. Here’s a resolution. Now, let me give you more value out of this, but you don’t need to start having a conversation. Before I show you a resolution to my pain point in my own product, let’s have three conversations that will bring zero value for you, but all the value for me because I’m doing discovery. I’m doing all those kinds of things.” It’s just plain rude and that’s not how buyers want to buy from you.
That’s why I asked about segmentation because a lot of times in a multi-complex sale, engineering versus human resources versus CEO versus sales leader are all going to have a little different desire in the solution of the opportunity that’s being presented in your product or service. If you can segment that demonstration to their needs of that process, you’re now basically taking a team selling approach through technology that’s segmenting each individual demo to what’s in it for them. That’s huge. Congratulations and thank you for the selling world, anyways. If somebody wants to know more about Walnut or yourself or to get ahold of you, what would you recommend?
The first thing and that’s the first and foremost, is to go to Walnut.io. You can see it on our website. I’m biased, but I would follow our LinkedIn page. We post a lot of great, valuable and also fun content. You can follow me on LinkedIn. I’m happy to connect.
Is your LinkedIn address your first and last name?
Yes. It’s Adir Ben-Yehuda.
I love when I go in and work with sales teams and people. I say, “No matter how successful you are, let’s get your next hundred clients within X,” depending on the company. It could be twenty clients if they’re selling very large applications. I know you’ve got practical advice for people on how to get your first 100 clients, go beyond and scale that process. If you’ve got some up-and-coming salespeople, you’ve got some people starting out new or even some seasoned vets and it’s like, “Restart your clock. Here’s some advice on how to get your first 100 clients,” and you have a couple of minutes to tell them. What would be some of the things you would tell them?
The main thing I would tell them is don’t think in boxes of a company for that matter. I talked with a lot of early sales leaders. They’re starting a company and telling me things about unit economics and how we should do things based on what the board needs and all those great things. It doesn’t matter. Everything is allowed at that point to get your first 100 clients. Think about things that are impacting your unit economics in a negative way. Although it’s not things that are right or a smart thing to do at the moment, you’ll get your first 100 clients and then you’ll be able to scale this up.
When you sign with Walnut for a year, you can opt out within three months. We did a lot of deals that are, “Pay us $20,000. It will be unlimited for the first year or $30,000. It would be unlimited.” The board sat in front of us and like, “This is not great.” We said, “We don’t care. We’ll get our first 50 or 60 clients.” Once we have this core base, I can start having reference calls. Reference calls are so valuable because then you can say, “Don’t listen to me. Listen to James from company X. He bought the product from us. We can hook you up with a conversation.”
They then talked with each other. If you go ahead and try to resolve the problem by acquiring your early clients by the rules of economics and basic things like this, it’s going to be way harder for you. Also, they’re not relevant because you might not have a company in a year. If you think about those kinds of things, you wouldn’t be able to acquire all those clients.
With those reference clients, are you setting that up ahead of time? If you say, “We’re bringing you on at this special opportunity and part of our deal is if you wouldn’t mind taking some reference calls down the line.” Are you setting that up front?
One hundred percent. It’s part of the contract as well and we’re looking for those people. We’re making sure they’re happy very early on. We’re putting a lot of focus and effort into them and they will help you build the rest of your client base.
It’s no different than what we used to do in school growing up. If you want to go with the prettiest girl out there, you get her friends and make them happy. They’ll rave about you and she’ll want to go out with you. That’s the game I know my friends play. Adir, thanks for being on here. I appreciate it. Folks, check out Walnut.io, check out Adir on LinkedIn. Any parting last words from you, Adir?
It was a pleasure being here and please, when you go in and you approach a sale, think about your prospects first and foremost. It’s not about your sale. It will help you a lot.
Thanks again for being here.
That was pretty awesome, wasn’t it? I love the idea of using SDRs for the first prospect, especially when you’re out releasing a new product or a service. What does that mean? You can take these SDRs, Sales Development Representatives. You can have them calling out to get data and feedback, understanding your market before you go out and build a sales team around that. Firstly, you want to validate the idea or constantly validate your ideas. That is a very key component in sales because sales, times and technology change.
Pandemics come out. We all know that in the past few years. It changes the sales landscape. Validation of an idea is really important. It was cool to hear about what you would do to go get your first a hundred clients. Also, using reference type of accounts and building it into the agreement. You do upfront agreements with these people. Some understanding of what’s most important now selling them in the past. It’s important to take a look and say, “Are you selling like 1985?” Because if you are, things have changed.
There are a lot of people who would still like to go play golf, but most people aren’t out playing golf and closing deals anymore. Now, there are still people who would do that, but there are a lot of things that are coming ahead of actually playing golf and that is how you position your brand, your marketing and everything as a salesperson or as a sales channel or a company in general.
As always, if you like the subject matter and you want to hear more subject matters on the different subject matter, please let me know what you would like to hear. Send me an email at Doug@CEOSalesStrategies.com or if you want to hit the whole team, send the email to YouMatter@CEOSalesStrategies.com. Let us know what you want to hear. We’ll source the talent. We’ll bring it to you. You can hear what you want to hear.
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If you’re looking for sales teams and sales support on that, I can help you. You can hit me up on LinkedIn @DougBrown123 and we will go from there. As always, go out and sell something. Sell a lot of it, but sell it profitably. Make some money, make people happy, help people, help yourself and it’s all about improving our quality of lives. Until the next time, I’m signing off for now. To your success.
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