We sat down with Amanda Blanton, Major Account Executive of Charter Communications, to discuss how a major Account Executive is staying productive in the right ways. Amanda also offers of some invaluable insight on how to get creative with prospecting.
Trey: [00:00:00] Hi, I’m Trey Gibson, founder and CEO at Spotto. Our core purpose is we’re transforming field sales to achieve more with the Corona virus coming in and basically wiping out the ability of field sales teams to interact face to face. This core purpose of ours has taken on a whole new meaning. So we’ve come together as a company and are focused on helping field sales teams adapt to this new reality.
[00:00:22] For the time being, I’ve given you resources to do what we’re calling virtual field sales. This is tactical and practical strategies for how you and your company can thrive through these times. Today I’m excited to talk to Amanda Blanton and our topic is going to be how a major account executive is staying productive in the right ways.
[00:00:43] Amanda, why don’t you take a couple seconds, introduce ourselves, maybe a little bit about your background and what
[00:00:48] Amanda: [00:00:48] you do. Um, so I am with charter communications and I focus on selling network and unified communication services to company with more than 400 people and more than 20 locations. I have also worked previously in our mid market space, and so that would be under 400 employees and less than 20 locations.
[00:01:10] So I have a lot of experience with different types of businesses and different sizes.
[00:01:15] Trey: [00:01:15] Okay. Nice. And so I know, um, you typically, before all this had spent time going out face to face prospecting with customers, meeting them. So how is that change? How much time did you use to spend doing that versus now.
[00:01:30] Amanda: [00:01:30] So previously I spent about 25 to 35% of my time, you know, going out, meeting people face to face. Literally every meeting I ran was face to face. And then, you know, 25 to 35% of prospecting face to face. So now, you know, we can’t really get in front of people other than video calls. So that has been the biggest shift to Remy is how, how can I stay in front of people and keep that face to face feeling.
[00:01:56] Without actually being married in person and shaking hands and meeting them. Um, so a lot of what I’ve done has really been focused on figuring out what challenges my customers are facing. And then. How, what I do can help them with that. So, you know, a lot of people are challenged with working from home and you know, maybe they don’t have the right communication tools or they’re not able to collaborate with their teams with it the way that they’re used to.
[00:02:29] Yeah. So finding a way to change and adjust to help them through the challenges that they’re facing has helped me tremendously. And part of that is changing the way that I reach out to them. So, you know, normally I’d just show up with some cookies or, uh, you know, a card or anything, just put a name to a face, cause people to lunch.
[00:02:50] And it’s not really something that we can do now. So a few things that I’ve done to adjust is. Just dropping a meeting on someone’s calendar and putting in the calendar notes. You know what? I want to talk to them about these things that I’m seeing in their industry. Changes that customers that are like them are making, and you know how?
[00:03:12] How can I help them? What can I do to help you remain productive and still make a profit in this world that we’re in today?
[00:03:24] Trey: [00:03:24] It’s so many. Did the people like are the businesses you are calling now saying, Hey, I have all these employees at home and their internet sucks at their house. Can you go help them? Like is, are they asking you for help on that regard?
[00:03:36] Amanda: [00:03:36] Yeah, yes. Um, and there, there are things that we can do. You know, the company that I work for has offered three home service for any students.
[00:03:47] So if they have employees with children, then you know, we should be able to help them get set up with free service for home. That’s something important that many people may not know. Um. Yeah, it is huge. And you know, we can’t necessarily offer them business grade internet, but we can help them get, you know, VPN set up, help them increase their body with at their office because they can utilize that, um, help them with the ability to have video conferences.
[00:04:14] Some people don’t have the software capabilities. We can help them implement solutions in that way. Um. And, you know, as far as even being able to take calls from home and still have the company’s caller ID show us. So there’s a lot of different tools that we can put in place that can help them, um,
[00:04:35] Trey: [00:04:35] that w how did you uncover these new challenges that the businesses are having?
[00:04:40] Was it just getting on the phone and Hey, what, what are you seeing now? Cause it sounds like. Like what, give me an example of the challenges you saw before versus now and how you navigated that
[00:04:51] Amanda: [00:04:51] shift. So the challenges before were mostly people being limited by their networks and they’re trying to grow their business.
[00:05:00] And that’s really shifted down to how can we stay in business. So, so that’s, I guess, change. And I think for me, you know, I started off when everything, I was on vacation when everything started and I came back and I pick up the phone and you know, my calls. Yeah. I wasn’t in Italy.
[00:05:24] Um, so I, I pick up the phone and you know, I’m, I’m calling on all the customers that I was working with them. They’re like. I can’t believe that you’re picking up the phone and calling me right now. Like, I don’t even know how I’m paying my employees week. We don’t know what we’re doing. Uh, you know, we’re in a complete standstill and it’s, you know, it’s a scary time for them.
[00:05:43] And you know, my, my question, you know, immediately shifted from my perspective, how can I, it went from, how do I make money? How do I close this sale to. How can I genuinely help these people? You know, I am just as concerned about their business as they are. You know, it’s, it’s like community impacting things.
[00:06:05] So, you know, and then they call me, they’re like, I don’t even know. You know, if we’re going to be in business next month, you know, my first call is, why. You know what, what, what is coming in? You know, I know that we have all these challenges with everything that’s going on with the Corona virus, but what is it about the coronavirus that’s changing your business so significantly that you can’t keep the doors open?
[00:06:26] And how can I help you? You know, maybe it’s not a solution that I at charter offer, but maybe I know someone that does. So my perspective has gone from how do I close deals to how do. And it’s always been, how do I help? Right? Like as a sales person, my goal is to help you do better, but it’s the help is even more important now.
[00:06:47] It’s needed more now than ever. They’re not growing their business. They’re trying to stay in business. And so you have to think, how does what I do keep them in business? What changes can I help them make that. It means that they can keep all of their employees for another week. You know, how can I help them adapt and change?
[00:07:06] What are things that customers that I’m working with that are in the same industry have done and been successful at and made the changes? And how can I relay that back to the customers that I’m working with? And then how can I position myself in my service and solution that I sell. To help meet those unique challenges.
[00:07:27] Um, so I think that that is the biggest thing that I’ve changed is in noticed, is that companies aren’t in a growth. Model right now, they’re in a, how do I say, open model. And they’re a lot more conservative. So adjusting my messaging, giving them relevant information about what’s going on in their industry, what other people are doing, and you know, really becoming that trusted advisor to them makes a huge difference.
[00:07:57] Trey: [00:07:57] So how are you looking at it? I’m just curious from, as a salesperson, we have goals, we have metrics we need to hit, and I want to close. I have my pipeline. Here’s what I’m. Expected to close. Has that all gone out the window? Is it really just now? Hey, the sales will come if I do the right things. I’m just wondering how, how we should look at this as a sales person or a sales org is, Hey, the deals will come if we do the right things right now, or you have any thoughts on that?
[00:08:27] Amanda: [00:08:27] So me personally, I, I’m a, as long as I’m doing the right thing. In the right ways. Also his business. Um, we definitely have the KPIs and targets that we still have to meet and filling our funnel. You know, that’s, that’s something that’s not really going away. But, you know, luckily the company that I work for has made a lot of changes in the way that they do things that help us.
[00:08:53] So, you know, their offerings. Some types of temporary solutions and you know, they’re getting very creative. We’re coming out with new stuff every day for how we can help our customers. And so it really helps me as a sales rep have the mindset of, okay, all I have to do is help these people and my company has my back.
[00:09:14] Our goal is to keep them in business and how can we do that and help them? And that will translate to sales.
[00:09:22] Trey: [00:09:22] Yeah, that’s good. And so what, um, what are some of the other ways maybe your, your prospecting now you mentioned dropping appointments on calendars, which I love it. What else? What’s some of the other things that you’re trying out and how’s it been working.
[00:09:38] Amanda: [00:09:38] So, you know, I’ve always used LinkedIn. I’ve really leaned a lot heavier on that. Anytime I see someone post that they’re having challenges with everything that’s going on, you know, I definitely reach out not from a place of really trying to sell them something just from a place of trying to help. But you know, at the very worst I can learn about the challenges that they’re facing and relay that back to the customers that I work with.
[00:09:59] And so, so I’ve been very heavy with social media. Emailing, we have different marketing tools that we can use. Um, I can’t just stop in once hickeys but I don’t know if you know this tip treats. If you order them to deliver and they are still delivering right now, um, you can actually record a video message instead of.
[00:10:20] A note. So it’s something that I’ve used occasionally in the past that I’ve leaned a lot heavier on it now. Um, who doesn’t want a cookie, right? And then if someone sends me a cookie with a video message on the thing. What’s the, what is going on? What is a video about? Who could be doing this? And so you at least know that your message is getting out there.
[00:10:44] Um, and you know, being received. But it’s really just, you know, you have to, you have to get really creative if you know that you’re calling your cell phone and it’s. And you have an iPhone, maybe try face-timing instead, who doesn’t answer a face time call from a random number time.
[00:11:03] Yeah. So, um, and then you get your face to face time. It’s no different than knocking on their door. It’s a little weird at first, but it’s actually not gone that terribly for me.
[00:11:18] Trey: [00:11:18] I see all these different posts on LinkedIn. Don’t call me, don’t sell anything. But for me personally, I’m like, Hey, if you have a good idea, I want to hear about it. I’m either trying to cut costs or increase revenue or become more productive, you know, all these things, so I’m fine being sold, but like, what’s, what’s kind of the message are you getting?
[00:11:37] Is it, leave me the hell alone or is it,
[00:11:39] Amanda: [00:11:39] Hey, what. I would say that you’re the ideal prospect for any sales person. Uh, I think it’s really, it’s really 50, 15. You, you have the reactions with people and, you know, buying is an emotional thing in the first place. I don’t know if you’re familiar with Jeb. Wow.
[00:11:58] But he has a book about, um, emotional IQ for selling. And I, you know, I’ve read it, I’m a huge fan of his work. And when you think about. The emotions that go into the normal buying process and you compound that with everything that’s going on right now. The biggest emotion that you’re going to be hit with is fear.
[00:12:19] And you know, it may come back to you, his anger. Why the heck are you calling me? What are you thinking. You know, I can’t, I can’t believe you’d have the audacity to reach out to me at a time like this. Um, so you really want to take that fear, and when you, you know, when you get those types of objections on the phone, turn it into.
[00:12:39] The hell, right? Like, how can I alleviate some of these fears for you? What are you afraid of? You know, I know you said, why are you calling me? Well, really, I just want to know how I can help you. You know, what are you experiencing right now? Um, you know, and if they, if they say it’s a terrible time and you know, they have, they have no interest in talking to you.
[00:12:57] You just put them in your cadence and you follow up. Any, send them relevant information and say, Hey, is this something that you’re experiencing? I had this, this, and this customer that had that challenge. You know, let’s talk about if your company’s facing that, how we can help you. Um, and you know, things that we put into place.
[00:13:14] So it’s, it’s really 50, 50.
[00:13:17] Trey: [00:13:17] So what’s your, you mentioned LinkedIn navigator. What are some of the other tools that you’re using now, maybe more of or new ones that, that might be helpful for others?
[00:13:30] Amanda: [00:13:30] Um, so definitely WebEx or zoom. Yeah. It’s not something that I use very often in the past. I’m sure, you know, inside sales, that’s something they’re a lot more familiar with.
[00:13:43] Uh, being an outside sales, I would prefer to just go meet someone face to face and sit down. Um, so I think that, that, that would be some of the biggest things. And then also just for me. It’s been really trying to stay sharp on my own sales skills. You know, I’ve used this time to read a lot of different books.
[00:14:03] I follow a lot of blogs and you know, make sure that I’m learning from what other sales people are doing as well. Um, and it’s also so important, you know, if you’re, if you’re an outside salesperson, you typically have a pretty strict schedule for what you do every day. And if you’re not getting outside, it can be easy to kind of let that schedule fall to the wayside.
[00:14:26] So it’s really important to make sure you schedule out your day, give yourself time to prospect, you know, give that, give you that time to research the industries that you’re calling on. You know, I would spend at least an hour each day just trying to learn, maybe before I start making my calls, um, what’s going on in those industries today so that my calls are relevant.
[00:14:45] Trey: [00:14:45] Yeah. Did you just call from your cell phone or do you have like some fancy dialer
[00:14:51] Amanda: [00:14:51] I just call for my
[00:14:54] Trey: [00:14:54] FaceTime and FaceTime from your cell phone.
[00:14:57] Amanda: [00:14:57] Just say pencil.
[00:14:58] Trey: [00:14:58] Nobody’s ever random. FaceTime. Yeah, that’s a new one. I’m not going to say that on a public forum, but if someone did FaceTime me, I’d probably pick it up a rant cause
[00:15:08] Amanda: [00:15:08] I don’t care
[00:15:10] Trey: [00:15:10] if your numbers out of my phone, I don’t pick it up.
[00:15:13] But based on you know that that might do it. I like, I like your creativity on that. That’s good.
[00:15:18] Amanda: [00:15:18] It really does work. I learned to do that back into my time at T mobile. It was a lot easier then because you know, everyone’s on a cell phone. That’s their cell phone number. Um, but I always give a shot. My first hall is always a face time call, and if it doesn’t work or go through, then I’ll make a regular call.
[00:15:34] What about,
[00:15:35] Trey: [00:15:35] what’s your opinion on texting cold, like cold texting or a prospect that you haven’t talked to, you’re trying to get in touch with? How do you feel about texting them?
[00:15:46] Amanda: [00:15:46] Mmm. I’ve done it in the past. It’s not always well received. So it definitely wouldn’t be the first way that I would reach out.
[00:15:59] I would, you know, make that maybe touch six or seven in my list, but I think with the way that things are going now. Why not?
[00:16:10] Trey: [00:16:10] Yeah. Yeah, that that brings up another good point is what does your like sequence or cadence or whatever you want to call it look like, cause it phone than LinkedIn and email than texts or do you have one that you typically like to follow now?
[00:16:23] Now in our new reality.
[00:16:26] Amanda: [00:16:26] Um, yeah, it’s, it’s a little different. So we have, as marketing companies, so my first step is always sending out the marketing materials that we have, because I know it’s not going to actually make it to them until they’ve heard from me a couple of times. So I make my list, I send out my marketing stuff, and then I go through and do.
[00:16:46] An email, say, I’m going to be calling you at this day in this time. Then I make my call at that day, in that time, and if I don’t hear back from them often in other email, another email, sorry, I missed you. Or nowadays I just send a calendar invite. Hey, sorry. He missed my call. Really important that we talk.
[00:17:05] I’m going to go ahead and schedule some time with you. Let me know if that doesn’t work. Um. I’ve had every single person that I send a calendar invite to get on the call with me. I’ve not had anyone skip it. Yeah, I don’t know. Um, it’s really. I don’t, I don’t know why it’s working so well. I think they’re like, Ooh, who is crazy enough to do this right now?
[00:17:25] I have to hear what you have to say. I don’t know. Um, so I’ll, I’ll send out the invite and you know, I don’t really get past that because everyone takes my call and if they did not get on the invite, I would still be sending out another email. I would follow up with another call, and then I do. Either history or a handwritten note and sent it to them.
[00:17:49] Trey: [00:17:49] Do you do any LinkedIn messaging at all or is that not been effective?
[00:17:52] Amanda: [00:17:52] I do. I do LinkedIn messaging. I don’t use it, and the same way that a lot of sales people do, I feel like most people will just jump in and ask for the meeting minus more. To get my name out there, get in your head and give you some relevant information, and then I reach out on email or phone and they’re like, Oh, I made an appointment.
[00:18:14] She sent me stuff on LinkedIn. Yeah, I know who that is. So it’s a little bit different. Um, my, my personality, I just, I guess. When people reach out to me on LinkedIn, I don’t love it. So maybe that’s why I’m not a huge use, like a meeting with me now. I think I do have people reach out to me on linked me stuff, and I think that’s because I’ve done a good job of putting relevant information out there so that that’s more the way that I use LinkedIn.
[00:18:42] Trey: [00:18:42] that calendar invite, are you sending it as like a zoom link or is it just
[00:18:46] Amanda: [00:18:46] a call. Yeah. Yeah. I send it, we use web X, but yeah,
[00:18:51] Trey: [00:18:51] we’ve got to get over to zoom. Zoom is the way to go. I just bought some stock into my, just, I’m thinking they’re going to explode, so,
[00:18:59] Amanda: [00:18:59] well I do. I, I’ll tell you, I use boom for all my doctor’s visits and I was doing that before this, but it’s even better now, so I don’t have to go to a doctor’s office.
[00:19:08] Um, but you know, I, I don’t hate Zam is just not who the company is, is.
[00:19:13] Trey: [00:19:13] So you’ve got an interesting question for you. So it sounds like you’re getting really good support from your company and that’s awesome. That’s really needed in a time like this. What would your advice be to sales leaders out there?
[00:19:27] Like how could a sales leader best support someone like yourself as an outside sales rep? That’s, you know, they’re, they’re learning a whole new, having to figure new things out, new ways to provide value. All of this stuff. What would your advice be to other sales leaders out there, how they could best support their
[00:19:43] Amanda: [00:19:43] team?
[00:19:46] I would say you can never have too much information as a sales rep. So if I were a sales leader, I would be making sure that I was having, you know, daily calls or huddles with my team. I would really want to keep that team environment in place. It’s very. Easy to fall to the wayside when you’re not seeing everyone every day.
[00:20:04] So, you know, maybe starting off, we all have coffee together in morning for 15 minutes. Share some of our best practices, definitely on a video call. So you still have that team environment because that’s so important in a time like this. Uh, you really lean on each other. And so it gives my team time to share what’s working, what’s not working, what challenges they’re facing.
[00:20:25] And then it also gives me time to figure out what do I need to go back and research that can help my sales people be more successful. Right. So I think that would be the biggest thing is don’t just ask them why they’re not meeting their KPIs, sits there and go through with them, jump on their calls with them.
[00:20:46] You know, really be involved in their process because they are going through something they’ve never gone through before. And so are our businesses that we’re calling on. And it’s, it’s a huge change and challenge for everyone. But as long as you really support your team and make sure that they have everything that they need to be successful, then you’re doing everything that you can.
[00:21:09] Trey: [00:21:09] So I’m going to do some quick fire questions. It’s just a few questions I’m asking everybody and just, you know, right off the top of your head, give me your, your response. So what, what’s your mindset like going through this?
[00:21:23] Amanda: [00:21:23] Mmm, know really. It’s pretty positive still. I miss being out of the house and being in front of people, but I’m so blessed to still be able to work and still be able to help people.
[00:21:41] And my mindset is really, Oh, you know, we’re going to get through this together, so how can I help you?
[00:21:48] Trey: [00:21:48] Yeah. Good. And are you doing anything in particular to keep a good mindset during all this? It sounds like you’re doing some reading and. Training and stuff, but anything else that you do that’s been effective?
[00:22:01] Amanda: [00:22:01] Exercise. It’s so important. You can’t just sit around all day. You have to get out of the house, take a walk, get outside. I mean, you can’t really do a lot, but walk around, but just sitting around all day. First of all, no one will fit into their panel, and this is done if they’re not exercising. But I think that that is one of the biggest things that helps me keep a positive mindset.
[00:22:23] Healthy, healthy body, healthy mind.
[00:22:25] Trey: [00:22:25] Yeah, I agree. We’re done. We’re starting a M at spotty way home workout challenge today. So for the whole month of April, we’re, we’re all doing, we have a Slack channel or working out then posting it on there and. Um, it’s going to be fun. I’m doing the same workout every day for a month to see if I can get get better.
[00:22:44] So, um, okay. What permanent changes do you see happening in the business world after this is over?
[00:22:56] Amanda: [00:22:56] really, I see a lot more companies adopting a more flexible mindset when it comes to working from home. Yeah. I think they’ll find, I know for me personally, the drive time that I had in my office alone is two to three extra hours of productivity that I have a day that I didn’t have before. Including, you know, including driving to meetings.
[00:23:18] You know, I’m able to do a lot more. I still think that there’s value in being face to face. Um, but. I think once people get settled into the new normal, they’re going to find an increase in productivity rather than a decrease as long as they’re set up to be successful.
[00:23:37] Trey: [00:23:37] That’s good. Any, any final message to the field sales reps or managers out there?
[00:23:46] Amanda: [00:23:46] Mmm. Just try to stay positive. That’s the best thing that you can do. At the end of the day, we’re all in this together. Every company has sales people. They’re still trying to sell stuff. So if someone’s mean to you, just know that they got a sales guy out there doing the same thing that you’re doing and you know they don’t want someone being mean to their salespeople.
[00:24:06] It’s not you. It’s fear. And if you can figure out a way to help them overcome that, then that’s the best thing that you can do.
[00:24:13] Trey: [00:24:13] Awesome. Amanda, thank you so much for your time today. It was super valuable. I enjoyed it and, uh, good luck out there and stay safe for us. Absolutely.