Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 213: Q & A with Tim Riesterer @TRiesterer


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This week’s episode is entitled Your most important sales meetings just went virtual. How do you differentiate and still win. Join me as I talk with Tim Riestererwho is the Chief Strategy Officer at Corporate Visions

A lot of Tim’s talks really center on the idea of conversations. Conversations in marketing, conversations and sales.  I ask Tim to talk a little about the origin of that as a focus area, and why the concept of conversation is so important to effective sales and marketing.

“….oftentimes products sound the same, products look the same, product smell the same. And the real winner is the one who can tell the best story, the one who can articulate value.”

The definition of value, and what constitutes value, has a lot of opinions and it can be very abstract. Right? And so, as long as everybody starts to understand that value is what the customer determines it to be, and the primary driver of value is in the mind of the customer, is the contrast between what they’re doing today and what you’re asking them to do tomorrow. They can’t even perceive value if you just talk about your solution, it’s features and benefits. There is no value proposition in your solution, even if you try to link it to a customer problem.

The real perception of value is being able to understand their current situation, and the change they need to make, and what that impact will be.

Of course we had to also talk about the new book published earlier this year, The Expansion Sale. And it really focuses on not only keeping customers, but growing customers. I think this is a place where, thankfully, I’m seeing a lot more CMOs and organizations invest in not just winning the initial funnel, but really treating the end of the sales funnel as the middle of the revenue bow tie.

Tim shares what that means and some of the other ideas that were really important in this new book.

Listen in now or read the full transcript below:

Matt:  Well, thank you everyone for joining us in another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. So excited to have you with us as we power into the summer months and really get our feet under us for Q3, second half of the year. Not really the first half of the year we all expected was it? But we’re all still here. And if you’re listening to this, thank you so much for making Sales Pipeline Radio a part of your work from home, or work from wherever you are journey.

If you’re listening to us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network. Thank you very much for tuning in. If you’re listening to this on the podcast, thank you very much for subscribing and downloading all of our episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio. Over almost 250 episodes now, Paul, available past, present, and future, up at

Today we are featuring, every week feature some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today is absolutely no different, very, very excited. From the upper Midwest, where I’m sure it is cool, not humid and hot at all today, we’ve got from Corporate Visions, the author of the book, The Expansion Sale, Tim Riesterer.

Tim, thank you so much for joining us today. Give us a little weather report for the upper Midwest today. How we doing?

Tim:  We are hot and humid and stormy. So, I appreciate being here, Matt, and being able to kick off with a weather report. But we will take it given that, if we complain about hot weather given how often it’s cold here, you should just really slap us upside the head.

Matt:  I’m born and raised on the West coast, grew up in California, live outside of Seattle now. But I’ve got a lot of family in Illinois and Iowa, and clearly, the Midwest gets all seasons. You get your crazy winners and you certainly get crazy summer as well. Some of my favorite memories growing up were going out to grandma and grandpa’s house, they lived in Peoria, Illinois. And some of the thunder bangers coming through, especially at night, could be a little terrifying, but also for a kid growing up in California, where a lot of fun.

Paul:  I’m just going to jump in, I don’t usually join in the conversation. But I grew up in the upper Midwest. I was born in Minnesota, lived in Wisconsin, and spent much of my life in Michigan. And the key is, if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes, because it’ll change.

Matt:  My wife grew up in San Diego, and I remember the first time I took her out to Iowa. Beautiful morning, and then all of a sudden, the heavens opened and it just, the faucet turned on and she was like, “Oh man, it’s going to be a rainy day.” I said, “No it’s not. Just wait 20 minutes, it’ll be fine.” And it was. It was humid later, but it was nice.

Well, this is not a weather show. This is a sales and marketing show. And Tim, I’ve had a ton of respect for you for years. Just seeing you, numerous times on the events circuit, you’re speaking all over the place. And a lot of your talks really center on this idea of conversations. Conversations in marketing, conversations and sales. Talk a little about the origin of that for you as a focus area, and why the concept of conversation is so important to effective sales and marketing.

Tim:  Yeah. A couple of ways I could do this. If anybody listening is in a position just to write down a couple of numbers, if they have a pen or paper, just write down three numbers. The first one’s 103. The second one is 12. And then the third one is 88.

The 103, is 103 million hands of poker that they’ve measured online. And what they discovered in 12, 12% of the cases, did the best hand actually win the pot. That means 88, 88% of the time, it was the better betting, the better bluffing that won.

And I parlay that, pun intended, to this idea of selling. That oftentimes products sound the same, products look the same, product smell the same. And the real winner is the one who can tell the best story, the one who can articulate value. And our research has shown that, even sales leaders agree, they’re like, you know what separates my high performers from low performers? It’s not the products they sell, because they all sell the same products. It’s not the process they follow, because we’ve put one common process in place. It’s not the tools or technology, because they’re all using the same CRM. It’s the ability or inability to articulate value. So literally, salespeople with their lips moving, is the differentiation in a highly undifferentiated world.

Matt:  And I think that’s an important thing to talk about, because when we talk about getting and keeping engagement and trust with our client, it’s not because we’re sharing facts, it’s because we’re sharing stories. And it’s not just sharing stories, it’s making the customer part of that story. So, It’s a real two way street.

Whenever I share that kind of an idea, people kind of nod their heads, yeah, that’s obvious. But if you look at how a lot of people do sell, and a lot of sales conversations, even a lot of marketing materials, it’s not that obvious in what we see implemented in the field.

Tim:  Yeah. The definition of value, and what constitutes value, has a lot of opinions and it can be very abstract. Right? And so, as long as everybody starts to understand that value is what the customer determines it to be, and that the primary driver of value in the mind of the customer, is the contrast between what they’re doing today and what you’re asking them to do tomorrow. They can’t even perceive value if you just talk about your solution, it’s features and benefits. There is no value proposition in your solution, even if you try to link it to a customer problem. The real perception of value is being able to understand their current situation, and the change they need to make, and what that impact will be.

Matt:  Now, you’ve written a number of books and a lot of them have to do with this idea of the conversations you’re having. And one of my favorite books of yours is actually one that’s almost 10 years old now, the Conversations That When the Complex Sale. And I think it’s so important to understand the multi threaded, integrated elements required to engage these larger organizations with multiple decision makers.

I want to talk a little bit about the new book that was published earlier this year, The Expansion Sale. And it really focuses on not only keeping customers, but growing customers. And I think this is a place where, thankfully, I’m seeing a lot more CMOs and organizations invest in not just winning the initial funnel, but really treating the end of the sales funnel as the middle of the revenue bow tie.

Talk a little bit about what that means for you and some of the ideas that were really important in this new book.

Tim:  Yeah. I love the idea of the revenue bow tie or the second funnel, recognizing that most of your business comes from existing customers.

Well, what we’ve done in the past, is research to figure out how to convince someone who’s not doing business with you, to do business with you. And it requires a lot of effort to overcome their current status quo bias. But we started asking the question, and we were being asked the question, “Well, what if you are the status quo bias, should you be as disruptive? Should you be as provocative? Should you be as challenging?”

And it turned out, as we do our research, we partner with academic institutions and leaders in the areas of social psychology and behavioral economics as applied to sales, and we’ve run these programs in these simulations in these field trials, we started to discover that the psychology of an existing customer is 180 degrees different from the psychology of a prospect who’s doing business with someone else.

Now, it sounds obvious in retrospect, but most companies were taking similar approaches, saying, here’s a new product launch, let’s put out a message and let’s send it to prospects and send it to customers. And the reality is that, the retention and expansion conversations with existing customers, lived in a different psychology than the acquisition, new logo, business development conversation. And that’s what our science told us, and that really is what’s in the book. And specifically, we examine the moment of renewal, we call that, “why stay?” We looked at the moment of price increase, “why pay?” We looked at upsells, we call, “why evolve?” In other words, “why evolve with us and do more?” And we even looked at apologies because service problems are something that causes people to worry about the relationships. And we call that, “why forgive?”

So, from the customer’s perspective, these are four questions they ask themselves. And if you listen to them, “Why stay? Why pay more? Why evolve? Why forgive?”, they’re completely different than the questions we’ve always heard that customers ask, “Why change? Why you? Why now?” And that’s because they are, they’re psychologically 180 degrees different.

Matt:  So, if this is a different psychology, if this is a different approach, does this require a different team? Can we look to some of the same revenue teams, especially on the marketing side, to do this? Or do the best companies really create separate discipline, and a separate group, to manage this effort?

Tim:  We’ve seen all of it. So, the first thing we say is, you need to be situational. So, I don’t think you need a separate team, because everybody might go into a territory and say, “This morning, I’ve got a product that’s got 8% market share. I’ve got to go be a disruptor and defeat status quo bias. But this afternoon, I’ve got to convince somebody to take my upgrade and accept the price increase that comes along with it. And I got to be a reinforcer and expander.”

So, in any given day, it’s not practical for me to say, “Every company now needs to divide and assign salespeople appropriately relative to these two different things.” I would say, “You have to be situational and understand the skill and the story you must tell to acquire, and the difference in the skill and the story you need to retain an upsell.”

But I’m seeing all kinds of things. I’m working with a company right now that has a customer success group in charge of renewals. They have the sales group in charge of acquisition. And then they have client managers in charge of upsells. And so there’s three groups with numbers, the resell-upsell number, the retention number, and the acquisition number, and it’s three different teams.

So, the good news is we have something to say to each team, but we are dealing with three different teams. It’s not practical for every company. So, it’s about being situational if you can’t divide your teams.

Matt:  One of the things I love about the content you guys produce across all formats, your presentations, the content you guys have up on the corporate vision’s website, as well as the books, is they’re deeply based in research. And so, this isn’t just opinion, this is fact from the market.

The Expansion Sale is what we’ve been talking about the last few minutes. This book was published in February. COVID-19 was a bit of a spark in our eyes at that point. Have you noticed anything that has changed in the last few months about the dynamics and the psychology that goes into this, or is that been platform and channel agnostic?

Tim:  It’s interesting. So, the book came out in February, The Expansion Sale. And we contended in the book that 70 to 80% of your revenue, for mature companies, your revenue and your growth in this coming year will be from existing customers. After COVID, the pivot was, well, that was 70, 80%, now it’s a hundred percent, because acquisition is really slowed to a trickle.

So, the book looks very fortuitous in its timing. In fact, somebody recently when they were interviewing me, said, “It almost looks prophetic. Do you have any stock tips?” And I offered that, “Honestly, if my life is any indication, wine dot com might be a good choice for you.”

But anyway, suffice it to say, we have seen a shift where now everybody is pivoting, recognizing that if they are going to survive this current time, retention has to get the kind of attention it deserves, as opposed to just trusting it will happen, and every extra basis point makes a difference. And it’s all about upsells and trying to find some incremental value from your existing customers.

And so, the timing couldn’t have been better for the book and has really resulted in a lot of attention for the concepts and the application of those across the entire business, not just customer success or others.

Matt:  Love it. Well, we got to take a quick break, pay some bills. We’ll be back with more with our guests today. We’re going to talk more about this double funnel. We’re going to get some stock tips. We’re going to talk about how things are changing in the second half of the year. Lots more. We’ll be back, Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Paul:  All right. Back to Matt and his guests. And I’m still anxious to hear more about how your most important sales meeting just went virtual and we can still differentiate and win. I don’t know, it’s a different world. I don’t know if I can virtually compete.

Matt:  And I’d love to get Tim’s opinion on this, because I think we’ve lost channels that we were used to before. We’ve lost some of the tactics that I think we were most comfortable with. I had a conversation this morning with someone around the idea of field marketing. They’re like, “Well, I’m looking forward to when we can start doing field marketing again.” I’m like, “Well, field marketing never left, field marketing never went away. Live events went away, but that was a tactic, not a strategy.”

So then, when we think about like those sales meetings, when we think about being able to get our teams together for kickoffs, getting together with your prospect, the format of getting together in person and see each other in person is gone, how much of the opportunity is gone with it, and can we replace that in more of a virtual setting?

Tim:  Well, interesting, the trends were already showing that much of selling was moving inside. So, our data shows that 44% of B2B company’s sales teams were now inside sales, so they weren’t having this face to face. And then when we asked outside field reps, “What percentage of your time a deal cycle, in terms of your conversations, are remote or virtual versus face to face?” And they said it was about 50-50 split.

So, in my math, it says that about a 70% of all sales calls were already remote. And so now we’re taking a look at this last 30%. So, what’s going on there? Because that’s the part that frightened sellers. Because they protected that last 30% for those most important meetings, those most critical must-win meetings, the finals presentation, the one where you got the whole team together to pitch the consensus, or the one you did some real important planning and co-visioning, and now those are gone. And those are the ones that demanded the most interaction, the most rapport, the most reading of the room.

So, that’s what we’re seeing, is people are coming to us saying, “Listen, I was doing a lot of stuff remote ready, and it’s been a remote world.” But the part I went into sales for, in Jerry Maguire where they talk about, this is where I did my best work, here in the living room. Salespeople are like, this is where I did my best work, this is where all my razzle-dazzle came to play, is in these moments in front of the customer. And all of a sudden, I’m reduced to something the size of a postage stamp in the corner of a screen.

And so, that’s what we’ve been working with companies to understand is, how do you make that moment different, unique, memorable, fabulous? Because, everybody’s a postage stamp.

And so, that’s been the real dialogue we’ve been having and trying to understand how your presentation itself must change, and how you, the presenter, must change. Because changes are required for both. The presentation, because now it’s the hero, not the backdrop. And you have to work harder to create interaction and engagement. So, those are the big ones that people are really scratching their heads around. And 90% of sellers tell us, “I know I have to change.” And 75% say, “I’m doing the same thing as I was when I was face to face.” So, they’re stuck.

Matt:  Yeah. Well look, you can show up and throw up just as poorly in a Zoom call as you can sitting in someone’s office. And I actually think that there are elements of an interactive experience that not only can be better than live, but actually couldn’t be replaced live.

I was talking to someone the other day about past events. And let’s say you’ve got a breakout session. You can track whether someone went to a breakout session live, and maybe you scan them as they walk in the door. But as soon as they walk in the door, you lose complete track of what they cared about. And you can’t see whether they were taking notes or checking their email. You can’t see which parts of the presentation in that breakout they cared about, which parts they might not have cared about. You have very little ability to drive a conversation and engagement between people in that room, to create a community and additional questions and answers from a peer to peer format.

So in a one-to-one setting, in a one to many setting, and we’re already seeing this, obviously, this year, is the innovation people are following, to not only create engagement with their audience, but also to, go back to original points, to create and encourage conversations are significant.

Tim:  Well, let me just give you just one really simple example. You’re on a Zoom call, and you’ve got six or seven people from your client or prospect side on the call, and you’ve got an important question to ask them. In the room, if you were face to face, everybody would defer to the person… You all know the one you’re deferring to, the one that everybody looks at, the senior person in the room, waiting for them to talk or just the big talker in general. And you never get the real answer from the whole team, but you know you need consensus. You know, you need people to agree on something. The polling function, I’m not talking about chat, just the polling function, because it’s anonymous.

Imagine asking the question, and then getting everybody there to anonymously respond, and then pull that up on the screen for everybody to see, you as a seller now and have a temperature check you couldn’t get in the room, because the quiet people wouldn’t talk, and the loud people would, and you would have no idea how close you are to consensus, and now you do. You can see the disparate answers and you can begin to facilitate the consensus building process, and nobody’s being called out for it, and now you can start to have a conversation.

So, that’s just one really small example of how I think you could actually accelerate something that’s important, but really hard, in face to face meeting.

Matt:  Yeah. I agree. And I think that as we potentially have a foreseeable future scenario of continuing to work remotely and to present remotely. I think we’re going to be forced into that, but I think also… Ass you mentioned before, there were bad habits that we are not allowed to follow anymore. There were things that were just part of our status quo that we’re now not allowed to engage in for a period of time.

Look, there’s pain and harm happening to companies as well as individuals and people dying, and we want to take that seriously, but I think the silver lining is, that as opposed to engaging in incremental change on how we’re operating, we’re now in many cases, seeing some exponential change happening and there’s going to be a lot of lasting lessons that make us better and stronger from this moving forward.

What are some examples of some of those that you think, for the second half of this year and into 2021, are going to be lasting and most impactful?

Tim:  Yeah. So 70% of sellers tell us they don’t think this environment can be as effective. So, the first lesson is, get over it, because attitude is everything in sales. You can’t go in with that attitude. It isn’t going to change anytime soon. CFOs are not going to say, you know what I want to start doing? Is writing more travel and expense checks for sellers. It’s just not going to happen.

So, you have to get over it, and you now have to say, “How can I master those? How can I master that remote selling environment?” I think the second thing is that you need to understand how to be situational, is recognize that the most important thing about the person you’re talking to, isn’t necessarily even their persona, it’s the situation they’re in, and being able to adapt your message and your conversation to their situation, understand their situation. Are they doing something one way with someone else? And can you address or situationally address your story to that situation? And then later flex it, when you’re now working with an existing customer, who’s using something of yours and you’re trying to move them to the next move.

You need to have that level of situational awareness so that you are more relevant to the customer and they see themselves in the story. And that’s going to just be more and more required because you have to hold their attention in a way that, when you were in the room, they could pretend to pay attention and they’d have to keep their eyes open and look at you, but when they’re virtual, they can do so many more things. So you’ve got to find a way to empathetically understand the situation they’re in and connect yourself to that situation.

And I would think officially, longterm, people are going to have to get more comfortable with being dynamic in a virtual environment. What do I mean by that? The things that you did well in a room, flip charting, white boarding, creating dynamic rapport back and forth and capturing that, if sellers are not figuring out how to dynamically engage in a virtual environment where you can share and then capture what’s going on back and forth in a way that everyone can see it and comment on it, you were going to lose all kinds of opportunity to one, build the rapport and engagement required. Two, advance the conversation to the next step. And three, distinguish yourself.

Only three point, give or take 3.5, 3.7% of sellers tell us they use any form of whiteboard or annotation or some dynamic engagement tool. 87% of sellers tell us they use PowerPoint. I’m telling you, the way you’re going to win, is you’re going to have to figure out a way to be more engaging, more interactive, and distinguish yourself that way in order to advance the deal.

So, hopefully that made sense. One, just get over it. Virtual’s forever. Two, be situationally relevant because empathy to the situation they’re in is more important than just knowing their title and persona. And then three, being able to be dynamic and interactive in a way that differentiates you from every other super fatiguing virtual call they’re having.

Matt:  Now, Paul, I know you have a question here. We just got a couple more minutes here. Definitely want to remind folks, Tim’s just spitting out knowledge and stats-

Paul:  He is.

Matt:  … and research, it’s nuts. But if you want to dig more into this, highly encouraged you to go to, click on the resource library tab. Tim and his team are doing some amazing work, not just the books, but the research, a ton of online events, a great content library, just tons of great research-based insights that that can make you and your team more successful.

Paul, go ahead.

Paul:  Real quickly. I just want to know his opinion. I see why buyers want to get back. I mean, sellers want to get back into the room, I want to sell you something, I want return to face to face to face. Do you think buyers are going to be eager once they’ve learned how to buy remotely? It seems like they’re more productive, they can have more meetings, and they can compress these things into little zoom calls rather than all day, let’s turn it into lunch and everything else here. You think buyers are going to want to go back to this same face to face world?

Tim:  I don’t. And I’ve been talking to analysts in Forster’s coming out in August, sorry, Forester, to say, all selling is inside selling. It’s going to be because companies realize their sellers can be more productive this way, and the companies you’re calling on are going to realize they can be more productive themselves. And I think, let’s just assume we can healthily get into those companies, because I’m seeing research that says companies and people are not going to feel comfortable getting into those close quarters anywhere from six months to three years.

And so, what I’m seeing and hearing then is that, think of the policies going on in these companies just to get their own people back to work and make that safe. They’re not going to want to bring people from the outside who do not understand what their traffic patterns are and all the other steps that they’ve taken. So, there’s just nothing about this that says it’s going to not be virtual for a long, long time, if not forever.

Matt:  Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s great advice and it gives you a reference. I’ve seen this trend as well, with inside sales, is not only do sellers see it as more efficient, buyers prefer it. It doesn’t change the value exchange, it’s still means you have to have a good value proposition, have a reason for people to engage. And, I think, a two-way conversation is going to continue to differentiate the winners and losers in sales and marketing moving forward.

Well, unfortunately we are out of time. I knew we were going to do this. I got a whole list of other questions I was hoping to get to, but.

Tim, thank you so much for joining us today. Very much encouraged people, check out the new book, check out in their resource section, check out the new book The Expansion Sale, there’s some amazing stuff Tim and his team are doing.

We’ll be back next week, 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. Another great episode. Thanks for joining us today on behalf of my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thank you so much for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Matt Heinz
Prolific author and nationally recognized, award-winning blogger, Matt Heinz is President and Founder of Heinz Marketing with 20 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations and industries. He is a dynamic speaker, memorable not only for his keen insight and humor, but his actionable and motivating takeaways.Matt’s career focuses on consistently delivering measurable results with greater sales, revenue growth, product success and customer loyalty.


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