Panel | Team Optimization in a Down Economy

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In this DEMOFEST 2023 panel discussion titled “Team Optimization in a Down Economy,” the panelists discuss various strategies for optimizing teams in a slowing economy. The panelists emphasize the need to collaborate with other teams in an organization and prove the value of pre-sales during this time to maintain the team and prevent unnecessary cuts. They discuss the impact of a down economy on sales organizations and the personal impact on sales colleagues, suggesting that managers should adapt or change their view of the world, including potentially redeploying salespeople to other areas where the company needs help. They also stress the importance of measuring the impact of SE activities, brainstorming to discover the sweet spot for new revenue, and prioritizing teamwork and collaboration in coming up with creative solutions to generate revenue during economic downturns. Finally, the panelists discuss ways to optimize teams in a down economy, such as qualifying opportunities, focusing on top companies, bringing the rest of the organization along, and encouraging intentional communication.

  • 00:00:00 The moderator introduces the panelists and provides information about the event. They encourage attendees to participate and engage with the session using various tools available on the console. One of the panelists, Malcolm Murphy, talks about the importance of increasing the visibility and value that pre-sales brings to the organization during times of economic hardship. He emphasizes the significance of leaders being more visible to their team and the organization as a whole, and making sure the work the team does is recognized.
  • 00:05:00 The panel discusses the importance of collaborating with other teams in an organization during a down economy. While sales may be asking for a lot of support during limited opportunities, it’s crucial to ensure that the team isn’t working on opportunities that lead to dead ends, as it can negatively impact team morale. The panel emphasizes the need to prove the value of pre-sales during this time and maintain the team to prevent unnecessary cuts. Suggestions on retooling and improving collaboration within the organization are presented as ways to work better together. The importance of being a partner with the sales team to showcase the pre-sales team’s value is also highlighted.
  • 00:10:00 The panelists discuss how the current macroeconomic climate provides an opportunity for teams to recalibrate and reorient around their company goals and objectives. They suggest that the sales engineering Solutions Consulting function should help companies execute against their newly branded goals and prioritize their work according to their top most win accounts. The panelists further agree that the pre-sales team can be the glue that holds everything together during tough times and can have a significant impact on engaging customers in new ways. They recommend collaborating with sales leaders to determine where to deploy SE resources in the most effective manner possible, such as by laying down additional qualification criteria or establishing thresholds on the account’s complexity.
  • 00:15:00 The panel discusses the impact of a down economy on sales organizations and the personal impact on sales colleagues. They note that fewer leads of lower quality and higher customer requirements are common during these times, which puts sales personnel under a lot of pressure. The speakers suggest that managers should adapt or change their view of the world, including potentially redeploying salespeople to areas where the company needs help, such as customer support, marketing, implementation, or post-sales. By doing so, they can gain new experiences and insights that will ultimately help them succeed when the economy improves. They also emphasize that these challenging economic times will pass, and they share a tactical response from a previous company where some of the sales engineers went into professional services consultancy in exchange for fee-paying work.
  • 00:20:00 The panel discusses how organizations can adapt to a down economy and how SE leaders can keep their teams focused during these tough times. The panelists agree that it’s important to add skills and capacity to the team while understanding how the technology works. They also stress the importance of measuring the impact of SE activities and not just focusing on ratios. Instead, they suggest being deliberate about where the team spends their time and how they can measure the impact of that time spent. They also note that automation can help make the team more efficient. Finally, they discuss how SE leaders can handle political pressure from their leadership colleagues when their team members are temporarily farmed out to other areas of the organization.
  • 00:25:00 The panel discusses the possibility of reassigning pre-sales teams to other departments during times of economic downturn instead of laying them off. While most agree that pre-sales teams should be a protected class, it could be a chance for team members to engage in different roles and learn new skills, similar to Southwest Airlines’ model. Additionally, the panel discusses how modern technology can impact sales metrics in new and innovative ways for pre-sales teams to contribute to generating new revenue. The panel emphasizes that pre-sales teams are a sales function and should be focused on generating new revenue rather than protecting existing revenue.
  • 00:30:00 The speakers discuss the importance of brainstorming to discover the sweet spot for new revenue. They suggest that marketing and sales teams sit down with pre-sales to determine what is different about the customers, market makeup, and economy, and use this information to generate new revenue. They also emphasize the value of win-loss analysis reviews and expanding the customer base by focusing on new revenue from existing customers as well as net new names. The speakers prioritize teamwork and collaboration in coming up with creative solutions to generate revenue during economic downturns.
  • 00:35:00 The panel discusses the potential for companies to expand inside existing accounts and underexploited areas for growth, such as exploring net new, expanding existing, and keeping what you have. They also touch on using AI to increase the return on SE team effort and how to use win-loss data to understand why the company is winning and losing. The panel encourages organizations to answer the question of why they are winning to truly understand what great looks like and to determine the input needed to determine how many SEs are required based on value add across the business.
  • 00:40:00 The panel discusses the importance of analyzing why a company is winning or losing and how AI can assist with this. They explain that while data can provide an overview of a pipeline and identify ideal sales motions, there is still work to be done in understanding the underlying factors, such as selling to an ideal customer profile. One solution suggested is conducting win loss reviews a couple of weeks after the sales engagement and asking good questions to genuinely interested customers. The panel also contemplates whether AI could assist in creating better-performing sales engineering teams by getting involved in the win-loss process.
  • 00:45:00 The panelists discuss the use of AI in sales optimization and highlight the benefits of utilizing AI tools in preparing for discovery calls, responding to emails, and answering RFPs. They recognize that while AI can be useful in surface content responses and collating data, it cannot replace the human relationship aspect that sales engineers bring to the pursuit strategy. They also discuss the value of using tools for grammar and style to improve the quality of written communication. Overall, they stress the importance of finding companies that are incorporating AI effectively rather than trying to implement these technologies on their own.
  • 00:50:00 The panel discusses strategies for managing employee motivation in a down economy. One suggestion is to have SEs pull out key learnings from previous trainings and share them with the team, which not only helps motivate them but also improves communication and collaboration. Another important point is to prioritize and focus on sharpening skills during slowdowns, while also creating a supportive and communicative environment where team members can express their feelings and brainstorm solutions together. Ultimately, the panel stresses the importance of teamwork and leaders’ responsibility to support and motivate their teams during tough times.
  • 00:55:00 The panelists discuss ways to optimize teams in a down economy. They suggest that teams should focus on qualifying opportunities rather than chasing after every opportunity, have a list of companies to focus on, and encourage teams to work together with other departments. The panelists also emphasize the importance of making connections between team members, being intentional about communication, and bringing the rest of the organization along by setting up QBRs and orienting around important company objectives. 


About the Presenters

Zach Lawryk

VP, Solutions Engineering Slack

Malcolm Murphy

Sales Engineering Director Mimecast

Malcolm’s first Sales Engineering management role came despite him explicitly stating in the interview that he didn’t want to be a manager!  However, he realised that the universe was telling him something, so decided to embrace it.  Since then, he has run sales engineering teams large and small for Fortune 500 companies, pre IPO startups, and some in between (both private and public).  In every case, it has been his mission to both increase the contribution that sales engineering makes to the company, and to positively affect the careers of his team members.

Natasja Box

Founder & Principal The DemoScene

Art Fromm

Owner/Founder Team Sales Development

Art is founder and owner of Team Sales Development Inc, specializing in Consultative Sales Transformation for B2B companies. In addition to offerings from his own portfolio, and working with Global partners, Art delivers workshops for John Care, is a Great Demo! Certified Partner working with Peter Cohan, and partners with Steve Bistritz delivering the Sales Opportunity Snapshot® (SOS) methodology, from which Art created “SOS for D365” – the first sales methodology App for Dynamics 365 for Sales.

Art began in Engineering and quickly moved into the software space running internal applications for three companies. This led to various Sales Engineering, Account Manager, and Sales Management positions with leading enterprise software companies where he routinely surpassed revenue and performance targets. Art moved into a Sales Enablement role in 2000, formed his own company in 2004, and from 2005-2008 drove US-based business for a Global Learning Provider, eventually continuing with his own company, Team Sales Development Inc, focused on helping SE’s and AM’s increase revenue, win-rate, and customer satisfaction – SEAMless Sales®.

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