PODCAST 68: How to Go to Market with an Enterprise Solution w/ Ed Calnan

This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Ed Calnan, co-Founder and CEO of Seismic.

Ed has taken the business from $0 to $100 million. Today he’s discussing how to go to market with an enterprise solution. With a background in sales leadership that extends beyond 20 years, he knows a thing or two about growing a company.

If you missed episode 67, check it out here: PODCAST 67: How Data and Metrics Fuel Revenue and Company Growth w/ David Zwerin

What You’ll Learn

  • What Seismic does
  • How to structure a POC
  • How the buyer’s journey has changed
  • Pairing yourself with the right opportunities
  • The concept of return

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:09]
  2. About Seismic [02:20]
  3. Finding the Right Structure for your POC [09:04]
  4. What a Change in the Buyer’s Journey Means for the Modern Seller [19:45]
  5. Going Beyond the Product and the Problem [21:57]
  6. Sam’s Corner [43:24]

Show Introduction

Sam Jacobs: Hey, everybody. It’s Sam Jacobs. Welcome back to the Sales Hacker podcast. We’ve got an incredible show for you today. We’ve got Ed Calnan, the co-founder and President of Seismic, which is a company in the sales enablement space. Ed has taken that business from literally zero, as the co-founder, all the way past $100 million. He has a deep background in enterprise sales, and it’s an incredible conversation about how you go to market with a true enterprise solution.

Now, we before we jump in, we’ve got a new sponsor. So we want to thank our sponsors, as we always want to.

We’ve got Lucidchart Sales Solutions. Lucidchart is the leading account planning platform for modern sales orgs. With Lucidchart, you can visually map out key contacts and crucial account data to uncover critical insights that will allow you to close bigger deals faster.

Our second sponsor is Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform that enables sales reps to humanize their communications at scale, from automating the soul-sucking manual work that eats up selling time to providing action-oriented tips on what communications are working best. Outreach has your back.

About Seismic

Sam Jacobs: Today on the show, we’ve got Ed Calnan. Ed is the co-founder and President of Seismic, where he leads the company’s go-to-market efforts. Ed brings 20 years of sales leadership experience from ADP, Thomson Financial, S&P, and EMC, to Seismic. In 2016, he was named a top Boston startup founder over 40 by tech.co.

In your words, Mr. President and co-founder, what does Seismic do?

Ed Calnan: We help marketing and sales teams work better together to condense the sales cycle of B2B sales and help reps to deals faster and smarter.

Sam Jacobs: How do you do that, if I may ask?

Ed Calnan: There’s always been this age-old divide of the assets that marketing creates and the inability of sales to find them and apply them in the right selling situations, and our systems use machine learning and artificial intelligence to make that problem go away.

Instead of the sellers trying to find the content using our systems, the content finds the sellers at the right time in the sales cycle and makes it effortless to help tell a great story at the right time.

Finding the Right Structure for your POC

Sam Jacobs: What was the structure by which you got General Electric to take a chance on you as a little known vendor? Was it just your reputation as entrepreneurs having sold a business before? Was it a structure like a POC? How did you get General Electric to make that decision and give you that vote of confidence?

Ed Calnan: It was clearly the charming personality of the sales leader. No, I’m only kidding. Part of it was luck, and part of it was brute force. We targeted companies like GE and Fidelity and others that historically invest in young companies.

There’s a bunch of big firms out there that like to place bets on new technologies and help to shape them. And GE has always been very public about that.

We did a POC for them, had a contract quickly, and then GE’s one of those organizations that likes to share ideas.

I remember the CIO for the division I was working with, called me at home one Friday afternoon and said, “Okay, I have an honest question that I need your answer on.” And I said, “Sure, shoot.” And he said, “I’m about to go on stage with over 100 CIOs at GE worldwide, and I need you to tell me if I tell them about your idea, and they come to you to try to work with you, are you ready for that volume?” And I said, “Yes.”

Sam Jacobs: Trick question.

Ed Calnan: That’s right. And he said, “Are you really ready for that volume?” And I said, “Yes.” I said, “We are.” We ended up going into GE Capital and oil and gas, and healthcare, and a bunch of these other divisions. And did the same with other organizations.

I targeted relationships that I had in the past, of big companies that, like I said, aren’t afraid of growth companies with good ideas and cutting edge technology. And they’re out there.

There’s people that want to get behind companies like ours, because again, they can help shape and guide the roadmap. And when it works, it works great.

What a Change in the Buyer’s Journey Means for Modern Sales

Sam Jacobs: You’ve talked about how the buyer’s journey has changed, and sellers are at a disadvantage. Walk us through what the implications of that are, and what you mean when you say that the buyer’s journey has changed.

Ed Calnan: 20 years ago, salespeople were the keepers of the information. It was my job to show up and educate the leadership team on the coming trends in the technology market. And that’s how I added my value, and if I was smart and did my homework and built trust with you, you would give me money in exchange for that.

Nowadays, after the crash in ’08, global sourcing came together and got smarter about how they buy things. There’s no sales cycle that’s not competitive anymore, which is a change. It never used to be like that. If you built a relationship, you were guaranteed business, and that’s not the case anymore. You have to build a relationship and educate the buyers and build trust and win.

With all of the information available on the commercial internet, when you show up to a sales call, they know who you are, they know who your competitors are, they know who your customers are, they know who likes you, they know who hates you, they know what your price points are, they know pretty much everything. And if you don’t come to the meeting with a similar type of preparation, you’re just gonna lose a lot more than you win.

And so the buyers are smart, now. They demand sales teams to be almost as smart, and to really understand their problems, what their goals are and to make connections beyond features and functions.

It’s a fine line. You have to be sharp and you have to be prepared, and you have to use all the tools at your advantage in order to compete.

Go Beyond the Product and the Problem

Sam Jacobs: What do you think the role of an enterprise salesperson is, if it’s not to present information about the product? How should somebody be thinking of themselves as they approach a critical meeting with an enterprise buyer?

Ed Calnan: That’s the hardest part of being an enterprise salesperson in SaaS today–the distinction between talking about the product and talking about the problems.

At the end of the day, I always tell my team you really have to focus on three areas.

  1. Proving to the buyer that you understand their business problem.

Who told them to go investigate buying something and why did they do that? What business problem is the company suffering from?

  1. Proving that you solved it for another person like them.

You have to prove that this isn’t your first rodeo, and you understand how to do this stuff, and you’ve made other people successful.

  1. Justifying the cost.

If they give you money, what are they going to get in return? Really proving that your solution can make a difference, meaning it can save money or save time, or cut costs.

Great salespeople have always done that, it’s just harder now… It’s harder, and it’s easier.

It’s harder because they have a bunch of information on you, and it’s also easier because there’s a bunch of information available for you to go get, as long as you do your job. And as you know well, being in the industry for so long, most salespeople don’t. They don’t do a good job. They want to show up and do a demo and beg for an order. And that’s just not the right approach.

Sam’s Corner

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody, it’s Sam’s Corner. It’s always so impressive to talk to people like Ed Calnan, who have had such an incredible track record and keep diving back in to build these companies over and over again. And I think one of the things that makes Ed so great is that he’s a fan of both the science and the soft skills that are related to sales.

What We Learned

  • What Seismic does
  • How to structure a POC
  • How the buyer’s journey has changed
  • Pairing yourself with the right opportunities
  • The concept of return

Don’t miss episode 69

Once again, let’s thank our sponsors. Outreach, the leading sales engagement platform and Lucidchart Sales Solution, which is the leading account planning platform for modern sales orgs.

If you want to reach out to me with feedback, you can reach me on LinkedIn. If you haven’t rated the show, please give us five stars on the iTunes rating system so that we can remain in business and continue to bring you this show.

Thanks so much for listening, I’ll talk to you next time.

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