On this week’s episode we are speaking with Dave Shaby, the Chief Operating Officer at RAIN Group. The global sales training and performance improvement company was founded in 2002 and has become a Top 20 Sales Training Company. To date, they have helped hundreds of thousands of salespeople, managers, and professionals in more than 75 countries. Dave is also a co-author of the best selling book, Virtual Selling, and is an acclaimed adjunct faculty member at both Babson College and Brandeis University where he teaches digital marketing courses for MBA students and the International Business School.

Dave has been researching the new virtual sales reality for his book and working with both buyers and sellers in order to take full advantage of emerging virtual sales technology and best practices. He gives us a deep explanation of where virtual sales is headed and what successful virtual sellers are doing. Our discussion topics include:

  • Where the virtual buyer/seller relationship breaks down
  • How to make a virtual meeting more impactful by doing the advance work
  • Simple ways to build rapport even when you are remote
  • The importance of practice video calls with colleagues
  • And so much more

Virtual sales is not new, but having everyone needing to go fully virtual so quickly last year, and without all of the proper technology in place, made it a daunting proposition for a lot of sellers and buyers. Dave is reframing the new virtual reality for us. If others aren’t going to be as proficient at utilizing new virtual sales tech, take the opportunity to be amazing at it.

Listen now and start today!

Mentioned in this episode:


Voiceover: You’re listening to the Conversational Selling podcast with Nancy Calabrese.

Nancy Calabrese: Hello everyone, it’s Nancy Calabrese. And it is time for Conversational Selling, the podcast where sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today. And it always starts with the human conversation. Today we’re speaking with Dave Shaby, the chief operating officer of RAIN Group. Founded in 2002, RAIN Group is a global sales training and performance improvement company that has helped hundreds of 1000s of salespeople, managers and professionals in more than 75 countries. 

As a top 20 sales training company, they are committed to leading their industry in the best intellectual property, best education system and best results. Dave is the author of the best selling book Virtual Selling, How to Build Relationships, Differentiate and Win Sales Remotely. Dave is also an acclaimed, acclaimed adjunct faculty member at both Babson College and Brandeis University, where he develops and delivers digital marketing courses for MBA students, and the International Business School. So virtual is the V word of the year. And I think it’s kind of the way of the world nowadays. I personally believe it’s here for the long term. I am so excited to speak with you, Dave, welcome to the show. 

Dave Shaby: Thank you Nancy, thanks so much for that very nice introduction. It makes me sound more accomplished than I perhaps am. But I’m really happy to be here and happy to talk about what’s on your mind. And what’s on your listeners’ mind.

Nancy: Yeah, so I want to tap into, you know, your book a little bit. But really, why do you think virtual is a scary word for many people in sales and in business these days?

Dave: Yeah, I think is the idea of it is not new. So sellers have been working remotely for a long time using technology. And in many cases, that was exclusive to a number of sellers. I think the idea that everybody was forced into both on the buying side and the selling side, being virtual right away without mastery of the tools, let alone really being able to think critically about the medium, and how to use it best. 

And to take advantage of things that are available to us sort of feels like you know, everyone got forced into a really steep learning curve on both sides of the equation, and it’s uncomfortable. So we’ve been, we’ve been trying to be helpful and to reframe this a little bit and give people some perspective on how they can take advantage, develop new skills, and blend those skills with things that they’ve already mastered and selling in general.

Nancy: Yeah, you know, and I speak with a lot of sales leaders and professionals that, as I’m sure you have, have really had a difficult time transitioning to virtual and they can’t wait to get back out in the field. For me personally, and from our organization, we’ve been virtual forever. And it you know, it baffles me why people have such a hard time adjusting to the concept that hey, now you just have to do it over the phone or over zoom. Do you have any insight on that?

Dave: Yeah, I don’t know that I know the exact answer for everybody. I think the general thought processes, many sales people get energy from social engagement. And, in fact, it’s their superpower, right? They’re really good in person really good in a room, they have a magnetic personality. Rapport building is a strength. And so to have to reinvent that, and in an environment where it’s not easy to feel to a certain degree, like you’ve lost your powers, and you don’t necessarily have a way of getting that back. And so the discomfort, some of it is just mastering the technology for sure. But some of it is I’ve lost the thing that I’m best at and I don’t know how to get it back. And that’s probably the prevailing feeling that we hear.

Nancy: Yeah. Well, I definitely want to congratulate you on your book. It’s great. It’s a best seller. And you know, what research did you uncover when you wrote it?

Dave: Yeah, well, thanks for that. And I should mention that there are co authors Mike Schultz, myself and Andy Springer. So the three of us undertook this project as as things turned in the middle of last year. And we always start any of our works, any of our major works, whether it’s training or publishing, with research and the RAIN Group center for sales research, we tend to focus on the buyer side as a, as a premier part of what we do. Because there’s lots of sales research that asks sellers, how they feel about their own skills and kind of self evaluation research. 

But ours started with, with buyers, and what we tried to figure out is, from a buyer perspective, as well as sellers, we asked both and we we interviewed over 500. So we cut across different industries, in different geographies and so forth. buyers and sellers, their answers didn’t match. So that was one of the things that we noticed in the research. So things that sellers felt like they were doing okay with and virtual. We’re not necessarily agreeing. So for example, I’m developing an ROI case, had the biggest gap in terms of both important to buyers to understand ROI, not necessarily seeing the value coming from the sellers. 

But sellers didn’t actually agree with that. And as sellers, we know that it really doesn’t matter what we think it matters what the buyer thinks at the end of the day. So there was a pretty big gap there. And other things around relationships in general, developing rapport, asking great questions, having those conversations that you talked about, you know, our research warrant for that out as being extremely important to buyers, and also underwhelming in terms of how it was feeling. 

And then lastly, the impact that sellers have, when it comes to presenting visuals, being able to use graphics. Knowing the technology and having the facility to do a good job running a meeting. Collaborating and doing more advanced work is not possible, if you don’t know how to use the medium well. And so buyers, you know, at least through our research are fairly underwhelmed with what sellers are coming with. So that’s what inspired us to write the book in the way that we did. Much more research, but those are some of the highlights. 

Nancy: You know, you gotta use when you stated that, that there was a learning curve, I guess as it relates to the technology, right, really having to take a deeper dive into maybe advanced methodology to better communicate what your offer is. I frankly didn’t even think of that. So I can understand why it’s been a challenge more clearly now. We spoke a few minutes before our conversation, and we talked about how sales are won, and lost based on conversations sellers have with buyers. Now that said, let’s talk about the importance of asking open ended questions. Is there a strategy you recommend? And and is it different doing it virtually? 

Dave: Yeah, I think there’s some differences. Let me start with the second question. So differences virtually in terms of how to do discovery work and how to ask questions. There’s some differences in that, in that medium in a virtual medium, you have the ability to do some Q&A in advance. So you don’t have to spend your entire first discussion going through gathering data, for example, which can kind of drag the meeting down. And so there’s a lot of ways that you can reach out to the buyer in advance to say, hey, one of the things that I wanted to talk about was x. And if you have anything you would like to share in advance, or someone in the organization that I can email, maybe I can collect some of that data, and I can throw it up on the screen. 

And then we can categorically talk about it. And it’s like you’re creating a whiteboarding session, by getting out in front of some of the questions that are going to be more more significant when it comes to the specifics. Things are more around. How do you think things would change if you were able to affect x or y or z, right? Those how to, again, pre planning that in a virtual medium, those open ended questions and thinking categorically about how I can lay out a whiteboarding session just to get the questions out there and say, hey, I did some research on you guys. 

And these are some of the categories that I think are important. I would like to get some commentary about a, b, and c. First of all, did I get those right? Did I do good research? Can you help me out here? Right. So you use the medium as as kind of a visual guide to making the questions and the actual act of of discussion more interesting. And it’s not to say you can’t whiteboard in a live session, by the way, but it’s in a virtual it can get really, really dragged down if you’re doing a Q&A without any other enhancement.

Nancy: Interesting, I find, by selling virtually, I have the opportunity, you know, in a first time conversation is typically a phone conversation. So I have the opportunity to have a lot of cheat sheets up, they don’t see it. But that helps me stay on track versus, you know, face to face, a lot of it is got to be ingrained in your head. But I would think in to your comment about doing research and advance are asking questions, you could still do that prior to a face to face, couldn’t you?

Dave: Oh, you absolutely could. But I think the difference too, is that in a face to face meeting, if you pulled out your discovery cheat sheet, when I started writing down and asking questions, it would be a flat, right, that would not be the right look, and you know, your seller would not be impressed with the fact that you had a sheet. If you did the same thing in a virtual meeting, and you had a pre planned whiteboard, or even a discovery planner, and you put it up on the screen, you certainly would look different, it would enhance the meaning versus detract from it. 

So that’s one small difference. But you’re right, you can do all that advanced work. I think what you’re your end game, and doing the advanced work with a virtual meeting is to make sure that the questions that you’re doing live are the most valuable, most open ended most revealing questions versus, Hey, can we spend 10 minutes talking about some data, which again, can be very exciting for some folks, but not every meeting is going to be enhanced by that that part of the conversation. So not that different than a live meeting for sure. But I do think that it is particularly helpful for virtual.

Nancy: You know, I know your that your company is proud to commit to the best intellectual property, best education system and best results. How do you go about developing this for your customers?

Dave: Yeah, it’s a big question, How much time do you have? So, I think the main thing is, we start with the result in mind. And so when we talk to our potential clients, and then eventually our clients, that’s always what we’re driving for is how are we going to collaborate to create something that will help you gain a particular result. And let’s talk about the results that you might be able to envision gaining in the first place. We really talk clearly about that measurement and what’s possible and really sort of opening doors with that. But when it comes to developing the IP, and the programming around that, we’ve got a group that starts with research, we talk to some of the best minds in business, we get their feelings around the things that are working and not working. 

And we’re constantly evolving the IP so that the things that we’re bringing to sellers are not just the right knowledge, but also the best way to practice it, and put it into into implementation. So a lot of our work that we do live with our clients is done in, in a setting that enables them to exercise, practice and work it out in preparation for those real conversations they’re going to have.

Nancy: Is there a story you’d like to share with the listeners that you think they would find interesting?

Dave: Yeah, you know, I think a lot about rapport building and the kinds of things that are possible in a virtual setting that are not possible, perhaps in a live setting. And I know many sellers have been virtual for a while, but I don’t know I have a particular thing about where people are, and what what that means and things about their their area, and the things you can see in their background, just learning about people. And this is really tactical stuff, but it’s meaningful to me. 

And so it’s just been an interesting year, even internally, we have offices all over the world. So I have this great opportunity to talk to people around the globe at any time of the day with a different background, a different setting a different situation. And I can tell you, they’ve just led to the most amazing conversations, I get to see the, you know, the Harbor in Sydney sometimes I’ve had people on the phone who’ve been able to show me, you know, the lake that they’re sitting on, or even just a story about a picture in the background. 

So my story is just more about how cool it’s been to use virtual in a way to kind of get to know people in ways that perhaps I wouldn’t have, because I’m taking care to notice. And, you know, I think that’s a selling skill as well. And hopefully people are good at that because rapport matters.

Nancy: Oh my god. Yeah. And how about dogs in the room or a cat walking on the screen. We’ve all seen that right? It’s humanized us, really, you know, as people, we’re bringing more of our people side into the business world because of the circumstances, wouldn’t you agree?

Dave: Oh, for sure. I think it’s a good thing. Right? Sometimes people are a little I see that they’re a little bit timid about, oh, you know, it’s not perfect. And of course, we want people to have professional backgrounds and lighting and setups and all of that. We talked about that in the book endlessly. But you know, the idea that something happens, and you’re human, and there’s a noise or whatever, and you sort of deal with it, we’re all trying to, to, you know, make this medium work for us. I think it’s good. I think we’ve learned a little bit about each other. And it’s, it’s helpful.

Nancy: Yeah, I personally love it. What would you like to spotlight?

Dave: I mean, I think it sort of dovetails off of what I was just saying, which is, you know, we’ve talked to a lot of people who see virtual selling as a challenge and selling in general as a challenge. But virtual selling is being another layer of that. And I think the reframing of it, and the ability to think about ways that you could be advantaged if you master this, and where you’re going to take your, your practice as a sales professional, and just see it as being opportunistic. 

So if others aren’t going to be great at whiteboarding sessions and collaboration and use in doing demos online in ways that have never been thought of before, you know, take full advantage of that don’t stop at good enough. And master the medium. Become amazing at it. And I think, you know, that’s the, that’s the point we’re trying to make with the book is that this is not to try to get back to live selling levels, this is taking something new and advancing it. So I try to help people think about it.

Nancy: Well, I like the thinking part of it, for sure. You know, I always ask my people on the program, bring up something that almost nobody agrees with you on. Share that concept and explain why.

Dave: Yeah, I know, I it’s hard to say whether nobody or a few people agree. But the idea that feedback is a gift. And what I mean by that is in the context of what we’re trying to accomplish as sellers and virtual sellers. You know, I think if you were to say to sellers, get on, get on a zoom call, or whatever medium you use whatever platform you use, and do three minutes with a colleague, and just beat each other up a little bit, and give each other real good feedback around how that looks and feels and sounds, you know, it’s hard for people to do that. 

And you have to be super honest about it and provide that value for each other. And I think, you know, understanding that the doing that is really helpful in it. That’s not just a virtual selling thing, obviously. But you know, if you have a co worker or someone you’re managing, and they don’t look quite right or sound quite right, or they’re not doing it the way that it should be done. Let’s not apologize for the fact that we’re going to give them that feedback. It’s worth it.

Nancy: I agree. And you know, I go back to everybody’s responsible for their own success. And hopefully they surround themselves with leaders or in colleagues that will help them attain that and improve on it. Right. So I agree, I think feedback is important. Certainly, it’s how you deliver it. You know, that oftentimes could be tricky. But yeah, I’m a big believer on that, too. You know, we’re kind of coming to the end of our program. And I’d like you to share one takeaway, one point that you really want the listeners to leave with?

Dave: Yeah, I think the main thing here is that what matters is what the buyers think. So we’re here for our clients, and buyer is going to have a certain impression and certain point of view, and we can we can do better for the buyer. You know, the everyone’s had this imposition, and things have changed. And now as things start to return back to normal, or normal ish, or different, or whatever it is, this is here to stay. This opportunity is here. 

And our buyers need us to be our best. And so on behalf of them, let’s listen to what they need. And, you know, to the extent that they’re not having great experiences, because we’re having technical problems, or we haven’t mastered certain things, we can get beyond that. But talking about collaboration and really high level work using virtual tools, I think is exciting for the buyer. I mean, to me, that’s the reason to show up.

Nancy: Yeah, it’s all about them. Not about us, folks. So I need to know how my audience can reach you and all the good stuff in RAIN group.

Dave: LinkedIn is great for reaching me, Dave Shaby on LinkedIn, there’s, there’s really only one of me at RAIN group. So you can find me easily on LinkedIn. And our website is, if you just Google RAIN group, we were easy to find. And we have tons of stuff that you can pull off the website, start to read, get to know us a little bit and then connect with us if you’d like to learn more. So those are the easy ways to get in touch.

Nancy: Yeah, people, let’s go get in touch. So I want to thank you all for listening and have a fantastic sales day to everyone. Please be sure to reach out to Dave. He’s a wealth of knowledge. Check out RAIN group. They’ve got some wonderful free resources that can help you in your sales as soon as you get off of this podcast, so have a great day and again, Dave, thanks for being on the show.

Dave: My pleasure.

Voiceover: The Conversational Selling Podcast is sponsored by One of a Kind Sales. If you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough leads or your sales team complains that they just don’t have enough time to prospect, we can help. To work with Nancy and her team one on one to help you manage your sales team, install her proven outbound sales process and create more bottom line results, email her now at Nancy@oneofakindsales.com. To learn more about Nancy and her outbound sales secrets, grab your free copy of her book, The Inside Sales Solution at oneofakindsales.com/book.