This week’s episode of Performance Delivered features Chad Burmeister. Chad is the CEO of ScaleX.ai, and the author of AI for Sales: How Artificial Intelligence is Changing Sales.Today, Chad shares with us his experiences on the ground floor of sales. He served as an inside sales leader and disruptor at companies including Cisco-WebEx, ON24, ConnectAndSell, and RingCentral. In these roles, he learned exactly what it takes to become a great sales professional!
In his time in leadership, Chad saw just how much valuable time sales professionals were spending reaching out to prospects… which sparked Chad’s interest in artificial intelligence and the role it could serve in the sales world.
We chat with Chad about how the sales market has changed since the tech boom, as well as…
- The secret to streamlining the sales experience
- Pipelining leads
- The future of sales and its merger with AI
- The difference between EQ and IQ in sales
- And more
Mentioned in this episode:
Steffen Horst: Welcome to the Performance Delivered Insider Secrets for Digital Marketing Success Podcast, where we talk with marketing and agency executives and learn how they build successful businesses and their personal brand. I’m your host, Steffen Horst. Today, we’re going to talk about how to become a great sales professional.
Here to speak with me about the topic is Chad Burmeister who is the CEO and founder at Scale.X.ai, an AI for sales as a service to the founders and COOs of funded startups an unfair competitive advantage. Before starting ScaleX, Chad served as sales and inside sales leader at different companies, including Cisco WebEx, Ring Central, and ConnectandSell. Chad, welcome to Performance Delivered.
Chad: It’s great to be here. I think the intro reminds me of all of the fun adventures I’ve had in life.
Steffen: Before you decided to found your own company.
Chad: That’s right.
Steffen: That must have changed everything.
Chad: Well, it’s I did it once in 2004, 2006. And that’s when I realized I’d never been in leadership before. And so that’s why I went back to corporate America to learn how to manage and learn how to lead.
Steffen: Oh, that’s interesting. So let’s talk a little bit more about, you know, your career and how you ended up in sales. How did you get started in your career?
Chad’s Entrepreneurial Journey
Chad: Well, it’s funny. When I was a kid, 7, 10 years old, I was always competitive, whether it was playing ping pong with my brother, or a pinball game, I just love to win and hate to lose. So a lot of times people ask you, do you hate to lose or Do you love to win? I’m like, no, it’s both. I can’t, 50, 50. And so the competitive nature was always there. And I discovered sales when I bought a gross of suckers from the store with my mother. It wasn’t Costco, I think it was Sam’s Club way back when.
And so I bought a gross and I would sell them, you know, you’d pay maybe five to 10 cents each and the going rate was a quarter. And then I learned the law of scarcity that when you have the last two in the bucket, you could actually sell them for $1 each. So I think I learned very, very early that I wanted to be in sales. And then throughout college, you know, high school, college, I did a few internships. And it was always, sales was always going to be the end destination for me.
Steffen: Interesting. So what was your first position after coming out of college?
Chad: So my first job, I interviewed at Colorado State University for a job that was in Arizona. And so I didn’t actually meet the hiring manager. But I got interviewed, I went to New York City at a very young age. So I must have been just over 21. I fly to New York for a three-week intensive onboarding program and then moved from Colorado to Arizona. It was called Olston Staffing Services. And what I discovered is that staffing, especially in Arizona where I was, and especially at this company, was probably 70, to 80%, maybe even 90% women in sales and I was the minority as a male in sales.
And that first job was rough. I thought, you know, all my competitive upbringing and my ability to sell in college, you know, a couple of $500 programs here and there, would carry over into my first job. And what I found was that I had a really, really hard time looking somebody in the eyes sitting across from them across the table. It was such a weird situation, right? I didn’t know if I should look at him in the eyes.
Do I look at the table? Do I look away? And I really had a hard time listening to understand the buyer. And so as a result of that, I was actually fired from the first job that I had after eight or nine months. And at that point, I really had to look inside and question is sales for me? So it was quite a traumatic event. And yet, looking back, it was the spark that lit the fire that caused me to be the seller that I am today.
Steffen: Why do you think you had problems in kind of, you know, looking people in the eye, finding the right thing to say, pulling out the important words on what the, you know, your prospect told you?
Chad: Well, I think of, you know, the conscious competence and conscious incompetence and unconscious competence. Now that I’ve learned all of the ways that people learn and become masters at their craft, I was unconsciously incompetent early on. I sucked, and I didn’t know it. So I think it’s important to stare that down in the face and know that when you’re 21 years old, you know, the world doesn’t have super high expectations of you yet. And so you have to read the books, you have to go to the, you have to learn by doing through repetition.
So, I learned very early. My next job, I met a guy named Skip Miller. And Skip has been a lifelong friend. He’s written five, six books all on selling. And he taught me revenue equals frequency times competency. And so you can focus early in your career on the F, right? So I always joke with my new hires, hey, when you’re early in your sales career, get the F up. Get the frequency up. So, over time, competency comes as a carry-on by focusing first on just at bats. So that’s where I started and it’s paid off over the years.
Steffen: So is that the area where you kind of increase the activity, you increase the frequency to talk to more people, to reach out to more people in order to start seeing results?
Chad: Yeah, so I would always be the rep who would win on frequency. Because if I didn’t have the competency yet, then how could I leverage technology or processes to do more than anybody else on the team? So by the time I got to, I went from Airborne Express for about a year and a half, I became the number one salesperson in the company in the year and a half that I was there. I was recruited by FedEx, I earned five or six promotions to where finally, I actually flew to China before we had lanes in China when I was at FedEx.
So I was in the cockpit of an airplane, which was kind of neat and interesting. And, you know, and I learned, in my FedEx days, I learned much more about the competency of selling. In fact, the person that I worked for, Phillipp Ragetts, pulled me aside one day and said, Chad, man, you don’t have to do eight and 10 sales calls a day anymore.
That was Airborne. He’s like, our goals are four or five a day. What I want you to focus on is the competency so that when you’re in those sales calls, you make them more effective. So I was able to combine frequency times competency and then over the 25-year career that I’ve had in sales, I focus on both always. And so it makes the revenue equation go up when you can do both.
Steffen: You know, I hear a lot of people saying with either quality or quantity. From what you just said, it sounds like you kind of mastered to find out the right balance between the two of them.
Chad: Yeah, there’s a book that at WebEx was mandatory reading for all the managers. It’s called Vital Factors. And the subtext was focus on the vital few, ignore the trivial many. And I always had a problem with that. I was like, Well, wait a minute, focus on the vital many, ignore the trivial few. I flipped it because there are a lot of metrics and KPIs that when done right, it could be like flying an airplane rather than driving a car.
And so sure, there are a few metrics that matter. Is the pipeline there and is as a result, is the bookings there? But I’ve always looked upstream and said, Okay, how many calls are going out? What’s my dial to connect? What’s my conversion from conversation to meeting? You know, just in the dialing part of it could be 50 different factors that you look at. How many references do you get? An email, open rates, reply rates, click-throughs meetings booked and social connection rate. There’s so many different altimeters that are on the aircraft, that I think of it like that. You know, you have to look at a lot and not just a few.
Steffen: I mean, I would assume that sales back in the 90s was completely different to today. What has changed? How did sales professionals have to adjust to back in the 90s coming to nowadays?
What Has Changed in Sales Since the 90s?
Chad: Yeah. When I went to WebEx in 2005, that’s really the time where I think a lot of the world changed because at WebEx we introduced video to web meetings for anyone. So, you know, you think of, today you think of Zoom video for all the meetings that are being done around the world. And so, I think what changed is that technology became part of the process. So, you know, one guy, Jerry Goldman, 26 quarters in a row at WebEx, he always made his quota. 26 in a row. And there’s not a whole lot of companies where you can say, yeah, our top reps make their quota every single quarter, quarter in and quarter out.
The way he did it is that he built an email list And he continued to add to it and he would just continue to stay in touch with the people through email. What’s happened since 2005 to 2007 is that now there’s LinkedIn, there’s Instagram, there’s Facebook, there’s Twitter, there’s voicemails, there’s a dozen different channels and paths to the end customer. And so it’s gotten so noisy since 2000, let’s say 15 or so.
And how do you differentiate yourself from other sellers? And it’s starting to come down to personal brand and trust. And how do I build trust? And this is where, to me, marketing and sales are now finally swimming, you know, paddling in the same boat because the marketer can actually help the salesperson build a personal brand. And it’s not just about company brand anymore, it’s about the person and making sure that that person builds trust in the marketplace.
Steffen: Yeah. You talked about the person at WebEx that met the quota for 26 consecutive months because, you know, he stayed in touch with people. From your perspective, what is the approach or what should be the approach for a sales professional to stay in touch? What kind of information would you suggest salespeople should share with their contact list in order to keep them warm and not see them, you know, cooling down?
Chad: It’s a good ask. And I think, to date, there hasn’t really been a platform that addresses that ask. And we’re now in talks with a few different advisors that we’re planning to work with. We’re looking at the different technologies and tools in addition to our own. We’ve assembled data, a dialing platform, digital outreach through email, social and paid ads.
So we’ve got a platform, but we’re looking to build the answer to that question through a software technology. So I think in today’s world, you know, the rep looks at their account list and they say, oh, shoot. Just this morning, I met with my team and we’ve got probably 15 October expirations. So from the beginning of the month, we’ve been going through on a weekly basis and we say, Kristen, Shannon, what about this account?
What about this one? And we’re strategizing on deals that expire this month. What would happen if 90 days prior, a voicemail would have gone out from Kristen on an automated basis? Hey, it Kristen. You know, really looking forward to getting some time on your calendar. I noticed that you’re, and then you’ve mailmerge in the voicemail. So I noticed that you’re using ScaleX social mailmerge and, you know, you’ve gotten 12 meetings over the last three months.
Again, you could mailmerge voice and video in today’s world. And so, you know, we’d like to schedule some time with myself and Chad, our CEO. So I think where it’s, where the industry is headed is that they’ll be a platform that has SMS built-in, email, voicemail, Vidyard videos, and a lot of the answers to that question will be programmed in an automated way, which then puts the stress of the conversation on the rep.
So in the past, where I needed a rep who was good at managing the backend of the CRM and updating the data and, you know, going through and doing all that work, I think the skill set requirement of the rep will be much more EQ based rather than IQ based or competitive based. And it’s how do they get in alignment with the customer and truly help them solve their business problems versus trying to sell them something that maybe they don’t need?
Steffen: Yeah, yeah. A few minutes ago, you talked about now there are so many different places where you can find information. LinkedIn, there are business data sources, etc. Has the market become too complex? Is there too much noise to help people to focus on and get work better done?
Chad: So, it can become noisy, no doubt about it. And so I think if you’re a sales leader or a CEO, it’s your duty to lay the groundwork for the sales and marketing team, certainly the sales team, on the types of things they should be focused on. So if you don’t, because there’s so many possible things that you could focus on, and we as humans tend to go to the lowest common denominator, the easiest thing possible. So if, you know, when I had a team at Ringcentral have over 100 people, I found that a lot of folks were leaning on email very heavily. And I said, Well, wait a minute, we have a marketing department who writes the email.
That’s cool. If you’re personalizing it, let me see your level of personalization. And they go, Yeah, cool. Check this out. Look, I put in Steffen comma. And I was like, No, no, the automation did that. Show me the sentence that you did that personalizes it to Steffen. And they go, Oh, no, I was confused. Sorry. I thought you wanted to use your emails that you put into the cadencing technology. I was like, well, no, see where it’s the bold capitals, and it says insert personalization here?
They go. Yeah, I just went ahead and deleted that because I thought your email was amazing that you wrote, Chad. And I was like, hold the line. And I go, what are you doing the rest of the day if you’re doing this in a mail blast, rather than personalizing? And they’re like, well, you told me that I need to make dials. And we’re using a system to do 125 dials an hour. And you told me I need to do that for one hour a day. Perfect. Okay, let’s log into that system. Let me look at it.
And they’re like, Oh, yeah, for the last, yesterday, I was actually out half the day, so I didn’t make any calls. Okay, let’s look for the whole month. And then like, wait, you only logged into the dialer one time for one hour for 125 dials? Yeah. You know, so it was like, look over here. I’m not doing my emails personalized. And look over there. I’m not doing my calls. And I was so frustrated by this. That’s why I invented ScaleX.ai because I said, you know, what, if you can’t spend the time to do 70 to 75% of the work that could be automated then I might as well just automate it.
Steffen: Sure. So as you mentioned, ScaleX, tell our listeners a little bit about ScaleX. What does your software do? How does it help in the sales process?
Data, Digital, Dials
Chad: So it’s three D’s is what we call it. Data, digital and dials. So most companies tend to skimp on data. And you shouldn’t because if you put bad gas in the tank, then you’re going to get pings in the engine and the engine could go bad. So we fill the tank with pure premium data, right? So Zoom info is the leader sales intel is a close second.
They both provide mobile numbers, they both provide LinkedIn connections, so they’ll give you the URL of the person, they both track to see if the person still works there. So don’t make it your SDR and BDR problem to do the data polls and to make sure it’s clean because that’s a costly endeavor. When you can have one data person across the team, it’s far more cost-effective than to try to make everybody a data provider. So it starts with data.
The second piece is a virtual assistant for email. So we believe that that’s such a low yielding channel, when even if you do it with the best messaging ever, right? We’ve had partners that you could invest $15,000 on amazing messaging. The difference between sending that same message through LinkedIn versus email is about 10x. So you might get a one to 3% reply rate, or even a half percent on email, and if you move it over to a different channel, which is LinkedIn outreach, you might get a 10 to 12% reply rate.
Within the next six to 12 months, might take a little bit longer than that, we believe that most sellers will have a virtual assistant that can send their emails and the smart emails like ScaleX can actually automate the response. If someone asks a question, that’s an email, we can automate the top 10 or 12 questions that come up day in and day out. Who are your competitors? How much do you cost, etc?
Steffen: Yeah, so it’s like a chatbot, basically.
Chad: Yeah. Like a chatbot moved over to email and social.
Steffen: Interesting, interesting. So you just mentioned LinkedIn outreach, and that’s actually something I want to talk to you about. So I guess everyone out there gets a lot of emails these days from companies that say, Hey, you know what, we can optimize your LinkedIn outreach. And you get the same messages on LinkedIn.
And I start to get the feeling that LinkedIn has become already overcrowded. The opportunity there might already have hit the peak, so to speak. What’s your view on it? Do you still think that LinkedIn is still a great place to find prospects or does it require further fine-tuning than many companies do these days to still be successful on that platform?
Chad: I think you can use the tool wrong, it would be like, if you bought a chainsaw and you brought it into your house and said, I’m going to brush my teeth with this. That’s probably a pretty good example that I’ve never used it before. It would turn into a mess if you tried to do that. I think that’s what people tend to do with automation. They come in and they say, I might crank this up to 250 a day I’m going to connect and then once Steffen connects with me, I’m going to say, hey, when do you want to buy my stuff?
And that’s exactly the wrong answer. When we coach companies on how to create a connection request, it needs to be heartfelt, it needs to, you know, it’s a combination of zeros and ones. So whether you’re copying and pasting or whether you’re typing it fresh or using automation, if you use automation properly and you put the care and feeding into the setup of it, Nick Kabuto, for example, he partners with us on the marketing side of the house. He uses our technology and he sends a clapping symbol, an emoji in the very first line and he says, I’m not a fan with, by the way, the I and m are not capitalized.
There’s no apostrophe. I’m not a fan of those automation tools and technologies and I’m more interested in personally getting to know you. And I think based on reading your profile, we’d get along nicely. You know, would you mind connecting here, and then we can take this offline and have a conversation.
And so he started at 30 or 40 a day, he had to move it back down to 15 because he was getting so many responses. Once the customer responds, or the prospect responds, then he uses the LinkedIn video capability. Hey, it’s Nick, I’m sitting out at the fire pit. You know, I really look forward to meeting you. Sorry that I missed you. Here’s the link to my calendly. Go ahead and, you know, hook me up. Let’s meet. So it’s all in how you use the tech. 80 to 90% of people are using it incorrectly.
Steffen: Yeah. So, let’s talk, let’s go back to sales professionals because I want to kind of get a little bit more out for the salespeople that might be listening and how they can improve their sales approach. First question there is, how do you think people can become great sales professionals?
Becoming a Great Sales Professional
Chad: There’s actually a test that I’d highly recommend that you take. And there’s probably three or four. The first one is Objective Management Group. Typically hiring companies have a relationship with OMG. And then you fill it out and then the hiring manager gets to see your results. And you will never see it. There’s a way to go and find the free link. We’ll have to put it in the show notes or something. But you can go in and you can answer the 100 to 120 questions and get access to your OMG. And that’s typically what me as the hiring manager would look at. And it’s going to look across things like are you rejection proof?
What’s your relationship-building capability? Do you have what’s called the money gap? This tool will tell you beyond a reasonable doubt, red, yellow, green on all these different areas. And so when I’m early in my career, if I would have known, here’s your strengths and weaknesses, you ought to invest the next 25 years of your selling in this area because you’re really strong in these other eight. But go focus on those two.
These types of tools are amazing. Another one is called Wealth Dynamics. So that one, I think you can pay 50 or 100 bucks and go get their assessment. And then there’s another one that I’m using recently called Codebreaker Technology, and they give you your bank code. And it tells you how you are as a buyer. So between all these different personality things, I think it’s important to understand if I’m going into the sales career, you know, a lot of times people will tell you, hey, Steffen, you’re a natural seller. You ought to just go into this.
And they may or may not know what’s under the hood. So these types of AI-powered assessments, I think are a really, really good place to start. Take it with a grain of salt, right? If you’re early in your career, maybe you can go against the grain and you can learn how to be a good seller. I’ve certainly learned over 25 years, how to be a good seller. But I also know that this is where I’m meant to be. My skill sets and personality traits tell me that this is exactly the role that I’m supposed to be at.
Steffen: What mistakes do you see of sales professionals make when they engage with prospects or when they’re in the face of closing a deal?
Chad: Hmm, the deal’s usually lost in discovery, right? When you’re doing the discovery call, it’s the time where you’re setting landmines, you’re figuring out the reasons. I love my friend Keenan’s book Gap Selling. It’s the best articulation built for the year 2020 of how to sell for impact because most reps say, oh, what are you looking for in a solution? And they say, Well, I need it to screen share. Oh, let me show you how great of a screen share this is blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And they just spend the next 59 minutes on a 60-minute call showing the screen share and 50 other features of the product.
Someone like Keenan would say, hold on, let’s slow the roll and say, Okay, what are you looking for in a solution? And really peel back the onion. And then what’s the impact? If you solve the problem or the impact if you don’t solve the problem, if you can get to the point where you can be a much better assessor of the impact of solving the problem, man, the rest of it becomes just simple. It’s just like, as Skip Miller would say, you get to the end and you just say, Yes, we can do that. And they’re like, Oh, that’s awesome. Perfect. Where do I send the check? No closing required.
Steffen: That makes a lot of sense. Yeah. You know, I think we all, at some point, went down that road that instead of identifying what are the pain points, for example, or what are you going to eliminate with your solution if the prospect buys, you just start pushing information onto your prospect without really knowing if that’s of interest to that person, right?
Chad: Yeah, yeah. And we all do it.
Steffen: Yeah, I know. Absolutely. It sometimes depends on your form, you know, for specific days. And afterwards, you like, damn it. No, that was wrong. Like, I didn’t want to do that. But, you know, an important thing I think is for anything is to learn from those mistakes.
Chad: Well, what I think Interesting, Steffen with AI, there’s a tool out there right now that nobody’s heard of. Probably nobody on your podcast has ever heard of it. It’s called Balto Software. BALTO. And what they do is plug into your Zoom meeting, so it’s a little sidecar over on the right. It’s like a Chrome extension. It listens to the conversation, converts it to text and if it hears certain phrases, like, oh, we’re using WebEx and you’re trying to sell Zoom video, it just pops up a little text and it says, oh, you’re asking a WebEx question.
Why don’t you turn it around and ask them these three questions, right? And so it’s AI-powered training wheels for a discovery call, a demo call, a closing call, and that’s what I think is exciting. If I go back 25 years of my career and I had training wheels inside of a meeting, oh, man, reps are going to get really good really quick, and the customer is going to be more happy because, as long as they hire someone to program the AI effectively,
Steffen: Chad, before we finish today’s podcast, I have one last question for you. Where do you see sales heading in the next five to 10 years?
Where Chad Sees Sales Going in the Near Future
Chad: I think sales is here to stay, and it’ll be manned, or woman’d by people. I think the EQ is going to become more important than the IQ, meaning the ability to connect and human to human way because the technology is getting so good at lining you up to the sales conversation and the business conversation, that when you get there, you’d better be well-rehearsed and well trained because if rep A converts 70% of the first meetings to a second meeting and rep B converts 5%, then that’s where the gaps is going to be.
The AI is going to move its way up from the bottom where emails will be sent more effectively, social connections, all of the AI power puts more stress on the human. And so I think for the buyer, life becomes great, right? They get now to work with sellers who actually take time to empathize, listen, understand the business pain.
Tools like Gong and Chorus and Execvision have been out there for three to five years and I think people are only scratching the surface on what’s possible when it comes to leveraging those technologies to coach inside the conversation. And they need to flip it. There’s a guy named Dan McDaid, his new company’s called Prospect Experience and he’s very focused on what the prospect is going through as the buyer, as opposed to me is the seller.
Steffen: Interesting. Well, Chad, thank you for joining me on the Performance Delivered Podcast and sharing your knowledge on how to become a great sales professional, if people want to find out more about you and your company, how can they get in touch?
Chad: They can email me directly. It’s Chad at ScaleX SCALEX.ai. And I’m happy to put them in touch with whoever on my team would be appropriate. We do partnerships, as well as direct relationships, you could be an entrepreneur, solopreneur all the way up to a Fortune 1000 company and AI for sales is really custom fit for anyone and everyone and it can help you grow your sales massively.
Steffen: Perfect. Well, thanks everyone for listening. If you’d like to Performance Delivered Podcast, please subscribe to us and leave us a review on iTunes or your favorite podcast application. If you want to find out more about Symphonic Digital, you can visit us at symphonicdigital.com or follow us on Twitter at Symphonic HQ. Thanks again and see you next time.