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Michael launched his sales career in Pennsylvania and New Jersey as a closer for a door-to-door company. Transitioning to software, he joined GitLab as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) and quickly became an overachiever, ascending through various Account Executive (AE) roles, distinguishing himself as a top performer in each position.
Having experienced first-hand the challenges and inefficiencies faced by sales teams, Mike founded OpTonal with a mission to leverage AI to drive results across revenue teams. Backed by leading investors, including GitLab’s CEO, OpTonal had an impressive start.
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Transforming Sales Coaching with AI
Jeff Tomlin: Welcome to the Conquer Local Podcast! Our show features successful sales leaders, marketers, thought leaders and entrepreneurs who will inspire you with their success stories. Each episode is packed with practical strategies, as our guests share their secrets to achieving their dreams. Listen in to learn the highlights of their remarkable accomplishments and get tips to revamp, rework, and reimagine your business. Whether you’re a small business owner, marketer, or aspiring entrepreneur, the Conquer Local Podcast is your ultimate guide to dominating your local market. Tune in now to take your business to the next level!
I’m Jeff Tomlin and on this episode, we’re pleased to welcome Michael Miranda. Michael is the co-founder and CEO of OpTonal. He switched tracks early in his career from pre-med to sales, initially excelling in door-to-door sales, which is a very tough gig. He later moved into the software industry, thriving as a Sales Development Representative (SDR) at GitLab and progressing to high-performing Account Executive (AE) roles. Witnessing so many of the challenges of scaling a sales organization, he founded OpTonal, to leverage AI and boost revenue and sales efficiency. Supported by top investors, including GitLab’s CEO, OpTonal enjoys a successful start.
Get ready Conquerors for Michael Miranda coming up next on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local Podcast.
From Pre-Med to CEO, and how door-to-door Sales Shaped Journey
Jeff Tomlin: Michael Miranda coming to us from New York City. Welcome to the Conquer Local podcast.
Michael Miranda: Thanks so much for having me.
Jeff Tomlin: Hey, so first off, door-to-door sales, an extremely difficult job and very difficult to excel at. So you have to tell me a little bit about this journey all the way from pre-med to now co-founder, and CEO of OpTonal. What does that journey look like?
Michael Miranda: Yeah, it’s a great question. It’s a little bit of an interesting, non-traditional path I say, but yes, I was a pre-med student. For being pre-med, I didn’t actually time my application cycle too well. I was actually going for an MD/PhD program and during that year, my wife and I were also planning to get married and we didn’t have the money to afford the wedding. And I was talking about this with somebody and they mentioned, “Try getting a sales job. That’s the only way you’re going to make this type of money that you need as fast as you can.” And so I found this company, I was selling windows and doors and roofs, became a closer for this door-to-door company and hindsight is 20/20, but it was, now looking back, it’s a really valuable experience, but super challenging and just kind of got the bug. Just loved the correlation between effort and reward that sales gave and sort of the immediate reward and immediate gratification. And I just thought, “Why don’t I give this a spin, but in an industry I might know more about or have some more insight into with software”? And so from there, I tried to do what I could to position myself to get into a software company and I ended up doing that and doing really well in different roles there and the rest is history. But the door-to-door experience was extremely valuable. I think if you’re hiring cold callers or you need… I mean, it’s such a job that builds resiliency. I’m still in touch with people there. I think my manager there actually gave me the blueprint for what I think great sales leadership looks like, and so it’s just overall a kind of serendipitous experience.
Remote Sales, Efficient Information Extraction and Improving Sales Predictability
Jeff Tomlin: I couldn’t think of a better set of stomping grounds to hone your skills as a future entrepreneur than that type of line of work. So tell me a little bit about the inspiration for your company here.
Michael Miranda: Yeah, absolutely. So it was interesting. When I got to work in software sales, what started happening was I actually worked in an all-remote company, and this was pre-COVID. And so we were doing a lot of Zoom calling and once COVID happened, more companies were doing this Zoom calls and started implementing this recording software to kind of just organize the calls and make it really easy to search and find them. And it was amazing. I geek out on it. I’m like, “I want to go in and see how Jeff sells. I want to go see how my CRO sells,” et cetera, et cetera. But most managers and reps, you don’t really have time to go back and listen to these calls. It’s great that we have the info, but in order to get access, you have to spend hours listening or re-watching. There’s not a great way to get insights out of them, but all the information is there on deal risk, on skill assessment, gaps in paying, and all that sort of thing. And so I figured, hey, there should be a more efficient way of doing this, of extracting the information. And as a rep, it was big time suck and I know a lot of my colleagues just didn’t have the time to commit to it. And so I thought, hey, I had a couple of other ideas around OpTonal initially, but ultimately it was just like, “Hey, I think this could drive the most value,” especially in a market now where people are kind of totally focused on efficiency, went from grow at all costs to how can we be efficient and predictable.
Jeff Tomlin: Yeah. So that’s one of the things that you guys focus on. Number one is onboarding. Another thing is predictability in sales, which is so, so important to build predictable systems and being able to… I remember one of our early advisors here at Vendasta said, “As you guys mature the company, you have to be able to predict the future and tell us what’s going to happen,” and definitely a big job for the people that are managing the sales floors. So talk a little bit about what you guys do and how you focus on those areas.
Michael Miranda: Yeah, exactly. And it’s interesting, too, because going from individual contributor to founder, I didn’t have… I mean, I still had a very loose level of really the importance of forecasting and being predictable. You ask a typical rep about forecasting, they might be like, “Oh yeah, that’s an annoying pipeline review. My manager doesn’t trust what I’m saying.” There’s a bigger why there. So I think the broader picture, I think organizations can potentially do a better job educating on the why, but really what we do is we try to look at a lot of the information around a deal comes in these conversations on a call. It’s not typically coming in over email, you’re usually having a conversation. We talk through the buying process and decision process. But what happens is we don’t typically take notes really well while we’re talking. We can’t typically multitask super well, and so what happens is we get off these calls and then we have to go back and we have to clean up our notes to put them into the CRM in Salesforce or something like that. What ends up happening is it just takes too much time. So I put the bare minimum and then you end up getting managers pinging you to be like, “Hey, what’s the status here? Can we update the CRM because we’re missing some information?” So it ends up impacting the whole chain. And so with OpTonal, we use AI to essentially pull any of that information you need for your CRM directly from the calls. So you can say, “Hey, we need med pick, we need next steps,” or whatever your sales methodology is. Maybe as a rep, I even need a follow-up email to be generated. Well, great, you give that to OpTonal, you import your calls over and the AI will pull that for you and then you can import it to the CRM directly in a single click. So the goal is just to try to make that information extraction a lot more efficient.
Sales Tools, Integration, and Value for Busy Reps
Jeff Tomlin: I’ve seen a lot of growth in this area. There’s leaders in it like Gong, but when I look at it, number one, it’s not a crowded space. There’s lots of room in the space, and number two, they’re not giving the stuff away for free. So that tells me there’s a lot of room for disruption and innovation in this space.
Michael Miranda: Yeah, I agree, a hundred percent agree with you on that one. And I think there’s a huge opportunity with not only the way technology is advancing in the way of AI, but also realizing that a lot of these sales tools end up becoming shelfware, and in an environment where you have some extra discretionary spend and whoever can go buy whatever tool, that’s okay, that gets looked over, but now it’s almost like now you’re seeing a market where you have to be delivering real value. And one of the key things we see with customers is engagement with reps. If reps aren’t going to use it, they’re not going to even consider purchasing it. And so it looks like to me it’s basically the space is moving really fast, and I think ultimately it’s going to go into an all-in-one platform, but it goes back from all-in-one to best of breed and I think we’re still in that best of breed space. And so I think there’s an opportunity to do certain parts of the cycle really, really, really well, master that and then move on. I think eventually it’ll be an all-in-one thing for sales tools, but I don’t think we’re there yet.
Jeff Tomlin: Really important for any type of sales and marketing tool to be able to integrate so that practitioners can stack their technologies. And so you guys are fairly new into this. Are you guys working hard on integrations right now or how are you thinking about integrations?
Michael Miranda: Yeah, it’s a great question and that’s something we’re heavily focused on. So we have integrations with Salesforce and HubSpot, working on some for some additional CRMs as well, integrated with Gong and Google Meet, working on an integration with Chorus and with Clary. And it’s exactly like what you mentioned. It’s just not only the stacking, but it’s hey, don’t disrupt my ecosystem because traditionally, a lot of these tools take a lot of time to set up. There’s a buying cycle, it’s a whole thing. And so my goal was how can we make it as seamless as possible. So to have these integrations set up in one click, now we’re kind of just launched like a Slack integration. So you don’t even have to leave your current ecosystem. You’re already in Slack, your calls will finish. Let the analysis get delivered to you, you can update the CRM there. We’re trying to make it really simple. We’re not trying to pull people away from their current ecosystem.
Jeff Tomlin: I think that that’s an interesting way to look at things and I think it’s really smart, too, because salespeople, they look at a lot of tools as overhead. They don’t want to have to do more things than they’re already doing. They want to be on the phone, they want to be selling. That’s where they make the money, whether it’s face-to-face, depending on whatever the model is. And so it’s important that you don’t take away their time. And so the challenge is becoming a value add without putting a lot on the rep to have to do things to get value from the tool at the end of the day.
Michael Miranda: It’s so true and it’s challenging because often you don’t have the time. There’s a lot of great tools that if you go into their UI and you explore it and use it, it could be really valuable. But oftentimes you just don’t even have the time to do that. You’re managing different deals and now, account executives that have traditionally just fielded inbound or you’re just fielding kind of warm leads or current accounts, now you’re being asked to go out and get new accounts or do some new pipeline generation, do some cold calling. So you’re exercising these muscles that maybe have never been exercised or haven’t been exercised in a long time. So the time is so precious that it’s like anything additional is almost like decision fatigue or overhead, even if it is an amazing tool. And so that’s some of the insights we’ve seen as well, where we see reps that are like, “Hey, this value is amazing, but I don’t really like having to go into your UI.” And that feedback led us to being like, “Oh, well, we’ll just deliver the results you need in Slack.” And that’s been really positive. So I totally agree. I think that’s a really great point.
Value Propositions Tailored to Rev Ops and Efficiency
Jeff Tomlin: Right on. So as you get into the value propositions and you’re explaining the tool to sales teams and specifically to sales leaders in an organization right now, how are you delivering that value proposition? What are the key benefits to organizations that are working with you right now?
Michael Miranda: Yeah, so it’s interesting. We have been learning that depending on who I’m speaking with, it’s going to be a little bit different. So actually the majority of the folks I speak with initially or end up speaking with that are driving this are in the rev ops space. I think that role is going to increasingly play an important piece and I think it’s just growing in sort of responsibility. And so when I speak with rev ops, there’s a lot of conversations where their board is typically seeing, “Hey, AI is here. I think it can help us. What are you doing to help us drive efficiency with AI?” And what happens is when we talk to rev ops, that’s the main story is, “Hey, we know that you really have very limited insights to drive if you have nothing in your CRM.” CRM hygiene is the big piece for them. So our thought is updating the CRM use case is kind of our land I would say, where it benefits everybody across the board. The rep is like, “I don’t want to go into the CRM and clean up my notes and transfer things. If I can just update it with one click, great.” Sales managers, “Hey, if I don’t have to ping you to update this, awesome.” Rev ops, “Hey, if we can have some of this data and we have CRM hygiene, we can get some insights and make some better decisions on this, awesome.” But as people learn more, once we get engaged and start talking to sales manager, it’s like, “Hey, if you’re only reviewing one or two calls a week from your reps,” by the way, that’s huge accomplishment, because if you have five reps, that’s already a lot of calls and a lot of time, but it’s like, “Hey, why don’t you give us your coaching criteria, put your scorecard criteria or your coaching criteria into OpTonal, and then you don’t have to look at one or two calls per rep. You could look at every single call every week, and the AI will organize the feedback for you so you can coach effectively.” And that’s what they want to do. They want to level up their team, and that’s kind of what we help with. And then with reps, it’s something as simple as like, “Hey, I can get a follow-up email drafted for you, and you don’t have to go into the CRM to update anything.” And that seems to be kind of the driver.
Jeff Tomlin: Those are two huge use cases. So scaling coaching is a big challenge for organizations and how do we manage more heads and be able to level up the whole team? And then on the Rev ops side, I mean, I see that use case is probably even more important right now given today’s economic climate because while Rev ops is becoming more and more important for organizations, people are cutting back costs right now and peeling back teams. And where they’re not cutting the costs necessarily is on their quota carrying reps and their code-committing developers. And so the areas that tend to get clipped and they look for efficiency is areas that aren’t directly revenue generating, like the reps. So it seems like that must be really resonating right now.
Michael Miranda: Yeah, very much so. And also, it’s fascinating because you even have situations where if you have the visibility and the predictability, then you kind of have confidence on who you need and what you need. If you have no visibility, then you’re like, “Do we actually need all these people? Do we need?” So when you have the predictability, it also helps preserve jobs that you may prematurely let go of because you just don’t have the insight into. And so for us, it’s really resonating just around the efficiency piece. And it’s funny because initially, onboarding was a big use case, and then hiring is paused in a lot of organizations, and then it becomes efficiency and it kind of works in both ways. But I think it’s been an incredibly powerful message, and I think people get it. We can show them it works out of the box. That’s another fun thing they like is, “How long is this going to take to implement?” Like, “Oh, it works out of the box.” We set you up in 20 minutes and then we have another 20, 30-minute call with your reps to just show them how it works. And that’s it. It’s pretty simple. So for them, it’s like, “Oh, that’s efficient.”
Value Proposition, Market Challenges, Efficiency, Resilience and Sales Skills
Jeff Tomlin: Right on. So as you get into the value proposition and you’re explaining the tool to sales teams and specifically to sales leaders in an organization right now, how are you delivering that value proposition? What are the key benefits to organizations that are working with you right now?
Michael Miranda: Yeah, that’s a really great question. So it’s fascinating because we’re starting now to get more interest from bigger organizations. And you know how that is, there’s the vendor onboarding stuff, it’s a lot more complex and it’s a lot just to get people using, trying out the product, getting them in there. With smaller organizations, I just had this conversation with someone a couple of weeks ago that really just kind of blew my mind where they’re so interested because the way that they see OpTonal is they spent some money for training, and sales methodology. They’re trying to get predictable, not a huge investment, but enough to just get everyone speaking the same language. And what they see OpTonal as is kind of an easy button to measure adoption and get that mature sales process in place. And so it’s like we don’t need to invest a whole lot more money to measure this or to have some complex reporting on it. We can kind of use OpTonal to do that. So they’re like, “Hey, we can use this as a way to implement this and make us a lot more mature of a sales organization very quickly.” And then for the bigger orgs, it seems like the focus is really, “Hey, we know we have this information sitting here. We know we’re not looking at it efficiently. We know we can be a lot more buttoned up in our approach.” And that seems to be more of the piece that’s resonating for them.
Jeff Tomlin: Amazing. If you had a few key takeaways for the audience, how would you enumerate those?
Michael Miranda: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think the first thing I would say is… there’s a couple things. I think because we talked to some career, we talked a lot products, we talked a lot about the current market state. I think one of the biggest takeaways right now is it’s a really challenging market. It’s a really challenging market to sell. And I think one of the big things is for us, is just having a ton of conversations to understand what is the piece that people are focused on and how can we deliver value in those areas. And I think it’s helpful to just have those conversations, reach out to someone you may not know that is in a persona you’re selling to, right? Because it’s a really tough environment. And I think because it’s a challenging environment, people are starting to potentially look for other jobs and listen, do whatever is best, but I think an early mentor of mine gave me some great advice, which was if you’re going to leave somewhere, make sure you’re running towards something and not running away from everything. The grass is not always greener on the other side. And I think the second takeaway I would say is efficiency and predictability are incredibly important. And as a rep, understanding this sooner than later is going to prepare you so well for management or leadership or entrepreneurship, whatever it is that you want to pursue. And then the third thing, keep working on the sales skills, the hard stuff. If you’re in a door-to-door environment or you’re going into these difficult conversations, if you’re cold calling, you’re facing rejection, this is all building incredible resilience that’s useful everywhere. Everything is selling. And so just remember that you’re building an incredibly valuable skillset that’s valuable in any marketplace, in any environment, any type of situation. And so just encouraging to stick with it and keep building skills. And yeah, I think those are probably my takeaways.
Getting in Touch with Michael Miranda
Jeff Tomlin: I love it. I love it. Michael Miranda. The company is called OpTonal, coming to us from New York City. Hey, thank you so much for taking some of your very valuable time in your day to sit down and chat with us on the Conquer Local podcast. I bid you a fond farewell and hope you come back and give us an update on how you guys are doing in the not-too-distant future. If people wanted to get ahold of you, how do they reach out?
Michael Miranda: Yeah, so they could reach out on LinkedIn, it’s Z. Michael Miranda, or they can go to optonal.com if they want to see a demo and see how it works. You can sign up for a demo, we’ll walk you through it. But yes, thank you so much for having me on. This was an absolute pleasure and I would love to come back and have some great positive updates.
Jeff Tomlin: Great. Look forward to doing it all over again in the future. Thank you so much.
Michael Miranda: Thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Jeff Tomlin: What an interesting conversation with Michael! The sales tool market is challenging, and to succeed, it’s crucial to focus on delivering value to customers and understanding what they are focused and their very specific use cases. By finding ways to provide efficiency and predictability in the sales process can make a significant difference.
Emphasizing the importance of continuously improving sales skills, building resilience, and staying adaptable is vital for success, regardless of the market or environment. The learning and experiences gained in sales can be valuable assets for personal growth and career advancement, even for very different leadership or management roles.
If you’ve enjoyed Michael Miranda’s episode discussing Transforming Sales Coaching with AI
revisit some of our older episodes from the archives, check out Episode 613: Building Relationships with Handwritten Notes with Rick Elmore or Episode 550 and 551: a 2 part episode on The Future of Artificial Intelligence with Paul Zikopoulos
Until next time, I’m Jeff Tomlin. Get out there and be awesome!