322: Developing a Sales Strategy, with Donny Dye

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Developing a Sales Strategy to implement with your sales team isn’t a one and done, it has to tweaked and edited as you grow.

We are excited to bring back Donny Dye, Founder of Quota NYC, to the Conquer Local Podcast. Donny updates on what he has been doing since we last spoke in Season 2, For the past year he has been the acting CRO for Eden Health developing and growing their sales team. Donny divulges the three things his tried and test method of developing a sales strategy: Strategy, Team, and Conversation. He says it’s a technique that is universal to all sales team.

Donny has over 15 years of Saas and enterprise sales experience by selling, leading, and guiding companies scale predictable revenue. If you are building a sales team or have broken a sales team, Quota NYC can help. Prior to founding Quota, he has spent the last 2 decades building, leading (and fixing) sales organizations. Most recently, he helped build a company that sold for 9 figures. My journey has made me an expert in enterprise, B2B, SaaS and channel sales across several verticals.



George: Welcome to another edition of the Conquer Local Podcast. It’s George Leith, your host, and we are bringing back one of our faves from almost a year ago. Donny Dye, the CEO of Quota NYC. Donny and I met years ago when he was working at Simplify. He has worked with a number of organizations, and he went to work as a CRO about a year ago in the healthcare space. Now that gig is wrapping up, and Donny has graciously agreed to come back on the show and tell us about some of the things that he has learned in building out that sales organization. Always entertaining and always insightful. Mr Donny Dye from Quota NYC coming up next on the Conquer Local Podcast.

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George: I’ve got a friend of mine on the podcast, it was one of our most listened to episodes a year ago and we thought, well, producer Colleen came up with this, maybe we should revisit and ask this young gentleman how his last year has been. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, without further ado, Donny Dye joining us on the phone from New York City. Hello, Donny.

Donny: Hey, George. How are you doing?

George: I’m doing really good. I’m doing really good. A year ago, you graciously came on as a guest and we had some long talks about quotas and how to move your sales team to the next level. You’ve been doing this for a long time. You got a lot of experience and you had told us at that time you were setting out on a new journey and we’re now a year later. I was wondering if we could get you to talk about that year and talk about the position that you were in. Let’s set it up with a little bit of background on you and then we can get into what you’ve been busy doing over the last 12 months.

Donny: Yeah, absolutely. I’m super happy to share that. About a year ago or a little over that, I founded a company called Quota NYC. What the mission there is, is that I build and fix sales. What does that mean? That means that in most organizations, if you’re a new organization looking to build revenue or if something just wrong or if sales are starting to slump, then we have a whole arsenal of tools that we use to make that better.

Donny: Now, the way that we typically do that is either by leading the sales effort for a short amount of time, so I can come in and do interim sales management, CRO, revenue projections, all that stuff, or just coaching key leaders. There’s a lot of great, great sales leaders out there that just have gaps in their skill sets, and I’m sure you’ve noticed George, it’s a little difficult to get a formal education in sales. A lot of times that’s just an on the job training. Having someone that comes alongside and build those things are super helpful. I’ll tell you, the last 12 months, man, I can’t believe it’s been a year since we talked last. It’s just been super fast and really to get into some of the things that I’ve seen, some of the things that have been interesting and hopefully helping the audience just in their journey as well.

George: Well, Donny, you and I met, god, it was five years ago, maybe even longer than that. I’ve always been impressed by your knowledge and the fact that you keep learning as well as you go. We’ve got sales team management. We’ve got just tips for helping managers, and I like the fact you’re talking about that gap. Everybody’s got them, so it’s a matter of figuring out what those gaps are and filling them in. Well, what was the thing that you learned that really jumps out at you as the most important thing in the last 12 months?


Strategy, Team, and Conversation

Donny: I think for me it’s really two things. One is that regardless of whatever type of business you have, whatever vertical you’re in, the basics of building a good sales structure are always the same. For that, I think, I want to just do a little mental exercise with you. I want you to think about a circle. On the outside of that circle, I want you to mentally write the word strategy. On the outside circle, I want you to be thinking of strategy.

Donny: Now the circle inside of that, I want you to write the word team, T-E-A-M. That’s the strategy and inside the strategy you have the team. Then in the third circle, if it’s inside the circle of team, I want you to have conversation. What I’ve learned in the last year is that these three things, having a good strategy, having a good team, and then having the right conversation, is just really difficult when you’re trying to scale sales or drive revenue or ramp revenues all of us are chasing after. I’ll walk you through just a real simple way to think about those three things. Does that make sense?

George: No, it makes a lot of sense. I have my diagrams drawn here, and I love it because I’m a visual learner. Let’s move to the next step. I’m waiting with bated breath.

Donny: Okay, so then when you think about the strategy, now there are mountains of books that have been written about sales strategy. You can listen to audible for the next 500 years on, I need to make the right sales strategy, but for everybody out there, just to make it super simple, I want you to think about one question with a sub question underneath it. That question is, whose problem are you trying to solve?

Donny: Every strategy should boil down if you’re in a sales or a revenue generating seat, should come down to whose problem you’re trying to solve. I’ll give you one quick example. If you look on my LinkedIn profile today, it’ll list me as the CRO of Eden Health. That is a company that is in the healthcare space, and they provide their services as an added on benefit, meaning companies will buy that benefit and give it to their employees for free.

Donny: Now, if you were to ask me on a conference setting or any other types of setting, what does Eden Health do? I would very simply say, “We help control healthcare costs by providing superior primary care. Now what that tells me is the problem I’m trying to solve is healthcare costs, and this leads into the second question. After you have, whose problem am I trying to solve? How do you solve it differently?

Donny: In this case, for Eden Health, they solve it differently by providing superior primary care. That’s the real question. If the first question is, whose problem are you trying to solve? The second question is, how do you solve it differently? What are you doing fundamentally different in the marketplace that is not being done today? That’s all you really need to know about strategy. If you can answer those two questions distinctly, then you probably have a pretty good idea of… at least the baseline of strategy.

Donny: Now the other set of strategy is who you’re telling that to. That’s the whole “who” side. If you know your problem but you don’t know who’s, who has that problem, you haven’t done your work with strategy. If you know who you’re calling on, but the problem you’re solving is muddled, that’s going to be a challenge as well. For example, for even at Quota NYC, I built and fixed sales, very simple, very succinct.

George: It makes a lot of sense. I like the fact that you boiled it down to be quite simple. I get it. I know exactly where you’re going with that.

Donny: Cool. Great. The team piece. Now, that we’re going in that second circle. This idea of the team. Is your team set up for success? Now it fascinates me, George, so many times that when people think about building the team of sales or the revenue generating team, whether you’re in a startup, whether in a one or two person organization, they don’t include themselves in that sales process. Founders lot of times will come to me and go, “Yeah, I want to hire a sales team so that we can start running sales.” One thing I’ve learned about teams is that you can never hire your way into a trend. Now, let me explain what that means.

Donny: One of the questions I get is, “when should I go from selling everything myself to hiring that first sales rep?” The answer I tend to get is when you’ve got so much business that you’re no longer able to handle the inflow of new opportunities. Meaning if you are so busy that you’re going, “I have to have somebody take over these sales and actually start getting this stuff out. If I don’t do that, I’m going to run out of bandwidth, and not be able to work on anything else.” Too many times people that are in these smaller organizations or these startups, they hire salespeople with the assumption that they’re going to create a trend.

Donny: The difference is that you should never hire a salesperson to create a trend. You always want to hire a salesperson to support a trend, meaning if it’s going in the right direction, you hire a good salesperson, they’re going to expand what’s already going on. If you hire a salesperson and you go, “I’m going to hire this person, and they’re going to do magic for me.” It will never happen.

Donny: I’ll give you a quick story. I was working with a company who had a smaller sales team. They were hiring additional reps, and every time they hired the rep, they were starting to hire reps and going, “Man, I just cannot find a good rep. They’re not performing. They’re not making quota.” I did an analysis against what was every rep that had ever been hired in that organization. By the way, this is a larger sale, larger ticket item. For year one reps, they were expecting to deliver, a new hire rep, to deliver a million dollars in revenue. I looked at every sales rep they had ever hired, including their top performers, those reps, even the ones that were the most successful in that organization, in their first year sold on average $188,000.

Donny: Out of the gate, they were expecting them to make five and a half times or roughly five and a half times what the average reps makes and setting it as a quota. Of course the sales rep was failing. Again, that middle piece understanding, and by the way too, in that team piece, also making sure that the tools that they have, the way that they’re able to identify marketplace, the way that they’re able to send emails, have conversations, is all aligned within that strategy that they’re being set.

George: We have the strategy, and we have the team. Now you have this concept of conversation. I’d love to dig into that a little bit.


Conversations and Selling Don’ts

Donny: Conversation is the one that took me the longest to nail down. At the heart of sales, what is the thing that consistently occurs? I kept coming back to the fact, “Well, every great sales starts with the conversation.” It doesn’t start with a PowerPoint. It doesn’t start with a sales pitch. It doesn’t start even with a SDR setting up a meeting. It starts with a conversation. The funny thing about the conversation when you’re engaged in sales is that if you take sales into your day to day life, it changes pretty drastically.

Donny: Let me ask you a question, George. If you’re going out to buy a house, does the realtor expect you to understand everything that needs to be done to buy that house?

George: No, I don’t think so.

Donny: No because that’s their job. They’re the ones saying, “Do you have a way to pay the mortgage? Do you have the inspector?” All these different pieces that you need to purchase a house or an apartment, in my case, they bring all this data. In fact, they are guiding the buyer through a process because that buyer is expected to purchase, not to navigate. Yet, the bulk of sales calls that I’m on, most the sales calls that I listen to, they are not guiding down a process. They are relying heavily on the buyer to guide that. They’re going, “What does the process look like from here? Why don’t I send you some information and you’ll get back to us after you’ve had a chance to review it.” I mean, they’re not driving that conversation. They’re sitting back and letting the buyer.

Donny: What’s funny about it is they did a study a few years ago where they asked buyers for B2B scenarios. Who has more control, the seller or the buyer? People actually buy in B2B settings. 75% of the buyers said that the seller had the majority of the control, meaning they believe that it was really the seller who was guiding them through the process and not them that were guiding themselves.

Donny: Now, the funny thing about it is they then asked a group of B2B sellers, so people that we’re selling to these buyers. Oddly enough, 75% of them said that the buyer had more control. What I find time and time again is the people that are selling are just giving away control when they don’t need to. They’re giving away control to the actual buyer. When you’re thinking about your strategy, when you’re thinking about this core piece, once you have the strategy, and whose problem you’re solving, what the team looks like, when you get to that conversation, that conversation piece, it should really be what is the path that I want to take people down again and again and again?

George: I think you’ve hit the nail on the head, and it’s the difference between an experienced seller and an inexperienced seller. In my travels, you want the prospect to be talking so that you can understand the need, but once you’ve identified that need, you’ve really got to move them down the path of where they’re going to be most successful and set those proper expectations. That’s what I’m hearing you’re saying.

Donny: Yeah, absolutely. I think a lot of times the more you guide it, and this also helps you as well too, just in the sense of knowing when a buyer is really not interested. Right? I mean, I’m sure there’s tons of people that listen to your podcast. They get to the end of the first call and the buyer says, “Yeah, that’s really interesting. Can I see the deck? Can I get a copy of this deck?” I’m like, I would love to see more and more people challenge at that point and say, “Yeah, listen, I’m a-” or they’ll say, “Yeah, I’m happy to send you a PowerPoint deck, but what I find is that if I send a PowerPoint deck or I sent the deck that I’ve actually just presented to you, then we never talk again or you get busy, I get busy and then this falls off the priority list.”

Donny: One thing that I found to be highly effective in this world is rather than sending someone a PowerPoint deck as the buyer is requesting, I would love to see more and more people say, “That’s great. I’m happy to send you the PowerPoint deck, but what I’d rather send you is something that we find to be more helpful when you’re trying to [grow],” and creating something that really reflects the conversation you’re wanting to have next rather than the conversation you just had. When a buyer takes control of a sales call, more often than not they live within the status quo, because they would rather keep everything the same even if you can solve their problem in a major way.

Donny: The other thing that this also brings up an interesting point that I think you may like as well, George, is you never want to be in the incremental sales business, meaning it is a much harder sale to sell better versus new. If you can say, I’m going to save you 10% off of this item or you’re going to move 5% faster. What we find again and again is that those are the hardest sales on the planet to make. It’s much better to go out and offer something new that they haven’t done before. That’s really where it comes down to that strategy piece of how do you solve it differently.

Donny: If you really nail your differentiator, then you’re going to be able to drive a whole lot more revenue just simply because people are going to… I think last time we talked about he who elevates indoctrinates. People that elevate the understanding in indoctrinating that person. If you’re able to indoctrinate them with a differentiator that no one else in the marketplace has, you’re going to be able to convert much higher than what you’re doing today. It’s a stronger position as you’re trying to build and scale against that as well.

George: 12 months in this role with that health startup. What’s one challenge that you overcame in the last 12 months, Donny?


How to Overcome Challenges – Creating Changes That Make Sense

Donny: Sure. One of the biggest things that I think that we discovered. Well, it really comes down to just who you’re calling on. In any organization you have to have the ability to have the right parameter but also have the flexibility to create changes that make sense. One of the challenges that we had was, we were having a lot of conversations initially, but we weren’t moving the calls forward, meaning one of the sales reps, I think, put it best. He goes, “It’s not that we’re hearing ‘no’ a lot, it’s just that we’re not even being considered.”

Donny: What we found was that the problem because if you think about it with the strategy rate, whose problem you’re trying to solve? A lot of the problems that we focused on was just how complex healthcare was. The reality is the buyers that we were talking to, they didn’t really care about that, and it definitely didn’t make the two or three top priorities they were trying to solve. What that meant was is that we had the right answer and the right market, but because we were telling the wrong details, we were losing the bulk of the business. What we did in that case is rather than talk about how complex healthcare is and how impossible it is to navigate it, we started talking about costing and the financial impact of having a higher productive employee versus just the fact that… By the way, I don’t think any and here in the States, especially, no one was going to argue with the fact that healthcare is complicated.

Donny: This idea of here’s some real numbers that we’re actually able to save you, as adding this is a benefit to your team, all of a sudden moved us up that priority list. What I’ve learned that was super interesting with overcoming that challenge is the fact that you can absolutely. The more you understand your buyer, the more you understand what their problems are, and more importantly, not even their problems, what their priorities are, what are the two or three things that they’re being judged by, they’re going to have on their list? They’re going, “You know what? If I get sick tomorrow, I’m going to finish it by Friday. I’m going to spend the weekend working on it.” If you understand what are the two or three things they’re trying to solve there, then that allows you to really cultivate a message that really resonates.

Donny: Now, in some cases, if your buyers two or three priorities just aren’t on your list, aren’t anything that you can solve, there’s a good chance that you’re calling on the wrong buyer. Then all of a sudden you have to go, maybe the market I’m running after just isn’t right, but what great information to know.


Creating the Right Culture in Sales Teams

George: Well, so you don’t spend a bunch of cycles calling on the wrong customer. I think some reps are afraid of that, but it’s very vital that you find out that you’re fishing in the right Lake.

Donny: Oh yeah. I’m in the process of creating a blog post that’s, if your reps are inflating their pipeline, it’s probably your fault. It really comes down to culture. You think about it. I worked with a company this past year that I was talking to the founder and he goes, “First thing I do is I look at the sales, and if the sales aren’t there, then I look at the pipeline, and if the pipeline is not there, I look at their activity.” I looked at him, I said, “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard because you can look at the sales. That’s, that’s fine, but the second you tell a sales rep, ‘If you don’t have the sales, I’m going to look at your pipeline,’ every sales rep that has half a brain is going to pack their pipeline and you’re not going to be able to run projections. You’re not going to be able to understand how much revenue is there.”

George: Yeah. It’s definitely going to impact your forecasting for sure.

Donny: Yeah, and that’s exactly what I walked into. I walked into a $2 million overreach on this company. I came back and I said, “All right, the first thing I have to tell you is you need to lower expectations with your board. If you don’t do that, you’re going to miss it completely because by the way, I’ve just had conversations with both of your sales managers, and they both said they’re afraid to take things out of the pipeline.”

George: It definitely is something that we’ve seen over and over and over again happening inside organizations, and does this come back to what you were discussing earlier around that conversation where the sales manager needs to be looking for these bogeys and having a conversation with the rep so they can make sure that it is a true pipeline that they’re inspecting?

Donny: Oh yeah, no, absolutely. That’s the thing. There’s so many times. There’s a lot that goes into the science, by the way, George. For example, one thing that drives me a little bit nuts is when a sales manager expects a pipeline or a CRM, like a Salesforce or HubSpot or either there’s always new coming out or even the Google sheet that you’re managing off of, they expect it to be up to date all the time. They go, “Oh, I looked in Salesforce and this opportunity’s not right.”

Donny: “Well, tell me when you’re going to look at it, and I’ll fix it.” Rather than having them, it has to be perfect all the time. I think the sales manager needs to say, “On Thursday morning, on Monday morning, I’m going to pull the pipeline. You can have everything wrong that you want in it, but come Monday morning it better be accurate because that’s when I’m going to look at.” Just that little change builds a five letter word in your sales reps that’ll help you, and that’s called trust.

Donny: Continuing to build this trust out and that’s the thing you have to have this ability to say, the way I say it is like this, “Guys, I can handle two out of three types of news. I can handle good news. Who can’t handle good news? I love good news. I can handle bad news because it’s better to know than not. The only kind of news that I can’t handle is inaccurate news.” Most sales managers are enabling inaccurate news because they have this myth that if they show the CEO or the board a big old pipeline then that makes them look good.

Donny: I don’t know about you, but we’ve never been able to pay our bills with a pipeline. It’s all about actual sales and clarity is your friend. If you have a thin pipeline, it’s good to know you have a thin pipeline than to miss your budget and to be looking at it going, “I don’t know what happened.”

Donny: The most sales leaders and even just one and two person owners are afraid to do that. They’re so afraid to let go of that deal because they’re emotionally invested. The more you teach your sales reps, “Listen, don’t get emotionally invested into this. Find the deals that really work and run them through the process, through the conversation. If they exit the conversation, that’s fine. I can’t go back in time and save the time I spent, but I can definitely pull myself from wasted product.”

George: Donny, I wanted to ask you because you’ve been doing this for a while. One thing that I’ve been investigating here recently and that is, you get senior salesperson really good at handling objections, understand the solution or the product set or the industry really well, and they’re meeting with their sales team. They’re like, “Well, I can do it. Why can’t you do it?” It’s not fair to make that comparison because what you’re trying to do as a sales leader, and this is my opinion, I want you to correct me if you think I’m wrong, but what I need to do is come up with a repeatable model for that group of folks, not somebody who’s been doing it for 30 years. That’s where you’re going to build out a scalable sales organization.

Donny : Oh yeah, I hear this all the time, and it’s usually not a sales rep. It’s usually the founder or the CEO who’s been picking those. Two things happen there. One, and I think it’s true of a senior seller or a sales manager or anybody that’s been in the seat, especially in a startup or somebody who’s been there multiple years. They have had the ability to have complexity added piece by piece. Think of it with me. When you start your own business or when you moved to that organization, when you started with that organization, and 9 times out of 10 it is not as complex as it is today. Meaning you started with the company, then they added this cool feature. Then you showed up, and you learned about one feature.

Donny: Then they all of a sudden updated the UI. Then you go and you get to see the cool new UI. Then they start talking about this new market they’re going to go into. You get to be educated. All that happens over the course of 12 months or 24 months or 8, 5 years, whatever. Then you hire a rep 5 years later, and they have to look back over all that history. They’re not in the same place as someone who sees it and has been there for a long time.

Donny: The first thing you have to do, and again this comes back to what I said earlier, George, about the idea of you need to see what the trends are telling. A good manager is incredibly candid and has a long memory. When you look at that rep, you go, “Okay, my top performer, what was his or her first year like? Not what is their year like now? Then you build out.

Donny: The second thing you do. You have a long memory and you set the expectation because again, they’re going to continue to execute the trend that you’re seeing if they’re successful. Your goal is not to make them create the trend of a million dollars their first year. Your goal is to ensure that they’re a successful rep, and a successful rep, maybe $20,000 their first year and maybe $200,000 in the first year. By the way, if that’s the trend you’re seeing, and you’re not comfortable with that trend, you don’t need a sales rep. You need to work on your business and figure out a way to execute higher dollar amounts with the team you have today because if you bring in a sales rep into that organization, they’re going to fail.

Donny: The first thing you do is you get real clear on what you can and can’t do with a new hire, regardless, and it has to be based on history and actual data. The second thing that you have to do is create a formalized documented plan on how to raise the product knowledge, the industry knowledge, and understand what type of seller you really want to hire. Does that make sense?

George: No, absolutely it does. There’s some definite wisdom over the past 12 months, and you’re a smart guy to begin with, Donny. It’s been a great year for you. It seems that you’ve really got this thing dialed in with the work that you’ve been doing in the past 12 months. What is next for Donny Dye in 2020?



Donny: I am wrapping up my gig here. I intentionally took a deeper dive gig. This has been a full time CRO position through about half of 2019, and I’ll be done at the end of January. Then from there, it’ll be working on and relaunching Quota NYC in a little bit of a different way. As I said earlier, just going out there, focusing on building and fixing sales teams. I really love doing this model of helping people go from point A to point B and then just disappearing.

Donny: A lot of people will use me whenever there’s a major event coming up, so maybe sales have gone flat and we can’t afford that for a budget year, or maybe they’re trying to do around a funding or maybe they’re trying to get acquired or maybe they’re acquiring another business. That’s all the different stuff I’m looking at. I’m very excited just about the prospect of just working with a whole bunch of other different companies and solving a whole bunch of different problems. Hopefully a year from now we’ll have another conversation, and we’ll have new content to talk about from there as well.

George: No, I’d like that, Donny. It’s always a pleasure having you on the show, and we wish you all the best in the next 12 months. If people are looking to talk to Donny, you can reach out to him on the Conquer Local community. Thanks, Donny, for joining us. It’s always a pleasure having you on the show.

Donny: Thanks.

George: Really interested in that diagram where we have strategy, team, and the conversation. Donny bringing up another point, a ‘no’ is not a bad thing. You’re actually looking to disqualify the leads that are not ready to move through your funnel as much as you’re trying to qualify them. Some great insights there on what type of seller you need for your organization. Is your team set up for success? That’s something that I would like you to ask yourself as we move forward and remembering some of the things that Donny shared around how to have that successful sales team. Then, when should I hire another rep? Whether you’d be the founder of an organization and you’re starting to make that first sales hire, or you’re a sales manager looking to add to your team. It’s really interesting the feedback that Donny gives based on his experience on when the right time to hire a rep is. Hiring a rep and expecting miracles to happen and revenue to just explode may not be the way that we’re seeing things happen. It’s an interesting feedback that he’s giving us.

George: What we’re talking about when you look to either qualify or disqualify the lead, you want to challenge them and some of the challenges that Donny identified, who are we calling on in our initial conversations? Why aren’t we being considered? Really digging into that talk track to see, and that’s the communication portion of his diagram there, figuring out why we’re not being considered. Maybe we have to make a bit of a pivot as to what the value proposition might be. Some great insights from Mr. Donny Dye. Always an insightful person. I’ve met him a number of years ago, and I always learn something when I listened to him. We thank him very much for being on the podcast this week, and we’re looking for your feedback in the Conquer Local community on Slack. You can get all the details by visiting us at conquerlocal.com. Look forward to seeing you again here. My name is George Leith. I will see you when I see you.

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