Welcome to the Unstoppable CEO Podcast. I’m your host, Steve Gordon, and today I’ve got to tell you, I’m really excited. This is going to be a very powerful interview. We’re going to be talking about sales and how to grow your sales and how to use technology and artificial intelligence to improve your sales. I’m talking today with Adam Honig. He’s the founder and CEO of Spiro Technologies. They’re a CRM company that is really focused on breathing new life into sales technology to help sales people and business owners really achieve more and do it in a much easier way with technology, really supporting you. He’s been involved in startups and the tech industry for over 25 years and he’s just got a really neat approach to sales. Adam, welcome to the Unstoppable CEO. I’m excited to have a conversation today.
Yeah, good to talk to you Steve. Thanks for having me on.
Absolutely. Just to give everybody some context around your background, beyond the bio, what got you to this stage of your career?
Well, I’ve been in the startup scene for a while. I started a company with a bunch of guys when I was 25. I was the only person on the founding team that can actually speak in full English sentences, so I got to do sales, which is kind of how I got into sales initially. We wound up doing pretty well with that business, ended up taking it public and selling it. I started another business after that focus on sales, which is really my passion and we implemented a lot of different sales technologies for people. Starting for me, I built my second company up to a 150-person consultant company advising firms like Bose or Charles Schwab and Met Life on how to use CRM, customer relationship management technology to improve the way that they sell in the way that they can understand what’s going on in their sales process.
For me what really happened was working with all of these companies and helping them in sales, I really realized how much sales people in particular hated the technology solutions that we’re foisting on them basically. Because salespeople, and I’ve been a salesperson for a long time, we really like to be independent and we’d like to do our own thing. Then often when we put a bit of technology in place to guide them or to control them as they think about it, if it can often really backfire. A lot of the work that we did with dealing with these really messy situation. Long story short, I sold my last company and I said what I really want to focus on is building software for salespeople that can really help them move their prospects through the pipeline a lot easier without all this complication that software brings to it.
Technology Without the Complications – and Salespeople Love It
That’s kind of how we founded Spiro. You alluded to the origin story of our name. Spiro comes from the Latin words for RA. That means to breathe and so we feel like this area of technology needs to be, a wind needs to come in and breathe out all the terrible stuff that’s there and allow for new software to really flourish in its wake.
I’m sitting here kind of listening to you describe that and picturing because I’ve been in this roll outs where you’ve got some salespeople and you’re trying to get them to embrace a new technology. It’s sort of like trying to take a kid to the dentist.
Kicking and screaming and grabbing all the doors you carry them in. Because I think in a lot of ways salespeople think we’ll look, that’s getting in the way of me building the relationships that I need to build. It’s busy work and that’s not what I’m here for. I’m kind of interested as we get further into the conversation to learn more about what you guys are doing to change that, because I think that’s one of the biggest barriers to people actually using something like a CRM because it’s a lot of extra work. Although there’s great advantages to having your sales process organized, so I’m excited-
Really good salespeople are really in the moment. Like I’m talking to Steve, I’m focused on you. The last thing I’m thinking about is taking notes or all this other kind of acting crap that needs to happen. The best sales people are always the ones who are the worst at that kind of technology stuff. It’s just… it’s been a dilemma.
Oh yeah, absolutely. You’ve built multiple companies and you now started Spiro and I can almost guarantee unless you’re really unusual for the guests we’ve had on the show that, that hasn’t been a perfectly smooth, straight up to the mountain of success climb for you. There had to have been some times when things maybe weren’t going the way that you’d expected. How have you dealt with that over the years? What are some of the ways you’ve thought through getting past the challenges, staying focused and persistent?
Yeah, well it’s definitely a challenge and it’s a weekly challenge. Nothing ever goes according to plan. I mentioned that my first company, we had the good fortune to grow it big enough where we could take it public and become a publicly traded software company. We didn’t do as good a job growing it at that point and we lost two thirds of our market value and we ended up selling the company a year later for a fraction of what the IPO price was. That was very hard for me personally being one of the founders kind of being there all the time, every relative I ever had invested in the company. Every wedding and family gathering I went through after that, people were bothering me about it. It’s hard not to take that super personally. I think that for me was a moment where I really learned how to focus myself on what’s really important.
For me today, you know, I’m a big believer in small steps lead to success and I’m a guy who really likes to get organized about what the process is that I’m going to take. You know, what am I going to do today, this week, this month that are going to lead to that. What I’ve made my peace with over time is that if I’m doing the right thing and I’m following the steps that I think are the right steps to do, then the right outcome is going to happen. Even if it’s not in the moment today that is happening. You know what I mean? Like I trust over time that will happen with the right effort. Does that make any sense?
That makes complete sense. I love that approach and I’m right there with you. I think it’s those small activities that you sort of turn into habits that ultimately accrue to the big wins. I see people all the time getting tied up in knots trying to swing for the fence and hit the home run and occasionally that will happen, but what I’ve always found is that if I’m doing all the small things like you talk about, then that means I’m getting up to bat and I’m taking what’s there and occasionally
I am going to hit one out of the park.
Right. The other thing that I believe in, and I know you had a recent guest who is talking about the power of positivity on the show, but I really do believe in visualization of the goal. It’s going to be both, if just start staring at the top of the mountain. It’s daunting and it’s hard to get there, so you need the small steps to kind of break down the path to do things. For me, I’m also very focused on the vision of what is it going to be like when I’m on top of that mountain. With my current company would Spiro, we have a company meeting once a week to talk about kind of how we’re doing and bring the whole team together.
We have a picture that we show which is a picture of the Prudential Tower, which is one larger building here in Boston with the Spiro flag flying on top of it. Because part of our goal as a company to be so successful that, that’s the height at which Spiro is going to be. That sort of visual metaphor or kind of idea that we’re trying to get to our vision, I feel it’s got to be the two things together to really make that happen. Otherwise you can just kind of get too caught up in the little
Absolutely. I love it you actually have a picture of it. I think so many people think out into the future, but they don’t get that crystal clear. They’ve got this vague vision and by having it very, very clear, you now know the lay of the land, you know the map.
Right and I think something like a flag or something like that for me works so much better than saying, “Oh, we’re going to do a $100,000,000 in revenue, or we’re going to have a million customers.” Those all sound very abstract to me. I really for the team to get the team organized around what the goal is, I really want them to like in their skin feel what it’s going to be like at that moment.
Yeah. I mean we can debate all day long whether money goals or customer count, all that sort of thing is the right way to set the goal. I always look at those things as the result, at the end of the day, that’s sort of the byproduct of the fact that you’ve done a whole lot of other things right. You’ve created some other reality that attracted the money that attracted the customers to. That’s why they came is because you painted this vision. I know that, that’s really what you guys are trying to do with sales and say, “Hey, there’s a different way to approach this.” To me when you can successfully do that, you’re almost creating a movement or a shift within the group of people that you’re trying to impact. I love the way you’re going about it. I think that’s just a fantastic approach.
Why People Really Buy Things
Cool. Thank you. It’s very emotional. This is one of the things I feel like I learned over the course of my career that when I first started out in sales and in business, I felt like people are rational beings, they looked at the benefits and blah. Then they made up their mind and actually people buy mostly on emotion, I believe. I think it’s the same way with the vision is that the vision needs to be connect with people at a more visceral level than just a number for me. I’m sure there are many paths to success, but this is just what I feel like resonates well.
Yeah, absolutely. Well, and the funny thing is with the money goals, your customers never really want to get behind your money goal. They know where the money is coming from.
Well that’s great. Well we’re going to take a quick break. We’re going to be right back with more from Adam and we’re going to begin looking at their new approach to sales and technology and I think there’s going to be a time here for all of you listening who ever have to sell something. That’s everybody that’s on the line right now. We’ll be right back with more from Adam.
Hey welcome back. This is Steve Gordon and I’m talking with Adam Honig of Spiro Technologies and Adam, when we left off we kind of alluded to this new approach that you have to sales and how you’re approaching kind of the sales technology industry from a new vantage point. Give us kind of the background of that. The 10,000 foot view so we can understand what you’re trying to accomplish.
Sure. I have a dream. My dream is all about software getting out of the way and really just working in the background. What I mean by that is salespeople need to know in order to move forward, they need to talk with people on the phone. They need to meet with them, they send them emails and proposals. In my view, the software should be taking the clues from all of that activity and just doing things to support the salesperson without them ever having to type a bunch of crap in basically. Our approach it was inspired by a movie called “Her” which showed how artificial intelligence future is helping this one guy through his life and sort of the, what we took away from that movie was that we could use AI technology to literally be like an assistant to a salesperson.
To read their emails, to listen in on their phone calls, to be with them wherever they go. Take notes, understand what the follow ups should be, giving them feedback on how things are going, set appointments whatever needs to happen, just be there with the salesperson to make the sale happen in a system instead of kind of the way the sales software tends to work today, which requires the salesperson to become a data entry clerk for very little value. Our vision is sometimes we think about it a little bit like an Ironman suit for a salesperson. How do we equip them with special powers to help them be a better salesperson, get more business done for their company. Is that too abstract? Should I dive into a little bit more of a detail on that?
No, I think for anybody that’s ever used a CRM, they get it. I get asked all the time because of the business we’re in about recommending a CRM tool or a sales tool for people to kind of keep track of things. I’ve always said the best one to use is the one you will use because you can get them with all these bells and whistles. What I found most of the time is that they’re so complicated and there’s so much work to do to keep the system up that nobody ever really follows through. Nobody wants to do it. If you’re going to go down that route, what’s the point? I see exactly where you’re heading.
I think it’s brilliant because if you can take that load off of the salesperson and enable them to go create the relationship that they need to create, you’ve now really increased your sales productivity where you should have. Which is the ultimate point, right?
People who use traditional CRM sales, people who use CRM spend up to 40% of their day doing admin work essentially. Typing in contacts, creating status updates, making call reports. That’s not add value to the sales process. My help to sales manager have a sense for what’s going on or leadership understand how the forecast is going, but it’s not going to make the wheels of commerce turn. That’s not going to happen. Our vision is to have a CRM that literally does not need to be used. It just happened.
The Robotic Sales Assistant
The great thing about the world today is with the advances in technology that is totally possible and that’s, we built a lot of that into the product today and every month we’re rolling out more and more features and what it’s really doing is for companies that have never used CRM before and there’s a lot of them. When I asked them why they’ve never used CRM, they say, “Well, I just don’t believe my field team is going to use it.” Our answer is, “Well, what if there was one that they didn’t have?”
I love it. I just love where you’re heading with it and I love to kind of dive into some of the sales practices that you talk about. I know you do a tremendous amount of education for people who are trying to sell on your website and you talk about the fact that there are eight reasons why no one is buying from you. Can you kind of walk us through what some of the challenges are, why people aren’t buying? What are the behaviors that salespeople have maybe that are leading to that?
Yeah, sure. Let me just take it just at a slightly higher level and then we’ll jump into that.
My view on sales is first of all that there’s nothing magic or special about it. There’s a lot of technical entrepreneurs that I’ve worked with who are very scared about selling and they shouldn’t be in the very practical science and I feel like the very basic things are often the things that are tripping people up. Are you targeting the right person? If you’re like Spiro, our product works really well in a B2B environment. It’s not as well suited for a company that’s selling to consumers. If we’re calling on the wrong company, that’s a major red flag and we could waste a lot of time showing for the wrong people. It’s these core things that I feel like when people are getting tripped up in sales that they’re missing.
Are you selling to the right person? Did they really indicate to you that they’ve got a problem that needs to be solved or opportunity that you can really address and you really listened well enough to make sure that you’ve got that connection? Or are you just kind of in your own head with your own product to being stuck on that? Are you talking to somebody who’s capable of making a decision? If you talk to the salespeople, these are three of the eight things that we know you asked me about. These are all very, very fundamental questions, but it can be hard for people when they’re in the moment of selling to keep them in mind. A lot of the work that we’ve published is different tips and techniques to kind of stay in the moment while selling and make sure that you’re really focused on the fundamentals.
I know there’s a lot of great work that’s being done in sales about different selling methodologies and approaches and philosophies and stuff like that. My view is, 90% of sales are made or lost based upon these very, very basic principles. Let’s just be great at those before we go do anything else. Does that make sense?
Yeah, I think that’s key. We run into it all the time. In our business, we work with companies on the marketing side, same problems. Who are you trying to reach? Do they have a problem that you can solve and do they know they have a problem? Getting it down to that basic thing is really critical. The big mistake we see made all the time and I’d imagine that you do as well as that oftentimes a business will create something or they’ll have a service or the product and they just know that everybody that fits a certain description needs it.
But the problem is nobody that fits that description either is aware that they need it or cares about it enough to spend money on it or wants it. To me, that’s part of what you’re saying is you got to be in front of somebody who actually has expressed that they’ve got a problem. If they’re not aware of it, you’re going to have a really hard time. You’re going to waste a lot of time trying to sort of go and convert someone rather than, speaking with someone who, who knows that they have a problem so much easier that way.
Right. It’s a big issue and of course the big challenge that we face a lot too is how do you even connect with that person. How do you actually engage with them to make sure that you can test that? We talk a lot on our blog and we’ve written a lot about persistence and how important persistence is in sales. In all the different methods that you can use to engage with buyers. I know there’s a lot of social selling, commentary and email techniques and, but I have to say we’re big believers in a photo. If it’s a technology that I don’t believe has reached its peak yet.
We believe in it so much. We’ve actually built it in to the product that we offer, and it was Spiro the product actually recommends calls to people in the timing of calls and prompts salespeople gently that, “Oh, hey, you haven’t spoken with Steve Gordon in a while, this would be a great time to reach out.” We tried to take the approach of this very, very practical advice that we give people and really folded into the product as well.
Now, one of the things that I hear a lot from salespeople and from business owners is that when they’re making that call, they’re not quite sure what to say. They get frustrated because they’re going to voicemail 95% of the time. As you’ve built this out, are you doing things to either educate them or built into the product that would help someone know, “Okay, well, here are maybe some things to reconnect on?”
Absolutely. One of the things in Spiro and our website by the way,[spiro.ai]( https://spiro.ai). One of the things that Spiro help with that is it, it notices the calls that you’re making and the emails that you’re sending and it literally reads and understands them. It makes recommendations of let’s say an email template that maybe you should send based upon if you’ve been reaching out to somebody a whole bunch of times, you’re getting voicemail, try this particular email templates to see if it will get a reaction. If a prospect has gone cold, maybe you had some good conversations with them, but now they’re suddenly not getting back to you. We’ve got another approach for that.
We’ve got an email template that we call email buried which just killed in terms of getting provoking a response, good or bad. Because what you need in sales, if somebody say, “Hey, I’m not interested in anymore.” That’s just important to you getting back to you with a positive response. There’s a lot of things that we built into the product to do that in terms of timing recommending early calls, maybe you’re calling people in the afternoon and that’s not a good time for them to be picking up. There’s a lot of data science that’s gone behind what we call the recommendations. That Spiro pushes that people.
Well there, you’re taking a lot the thinking out of it, which is allowing, I would imagine allowing the sales people to focus on the relationship that they really need to create to support commerce.
Absolutely. I mean we want them to be all ears and focused and when they do engage with somebody. To really understand what’s going on with the prospect that maybe we can help them with. I mean that seemed sales. That’s what we’re trying to do. If you’re all busy thinking about the next email, the other guy that you need to reach out to or something like that, it can be hard to be in the moment and be effective.
You talked about persistence as kind of being a secret weapon, we’re big believers in that around here. As you look at all the data that you’ve got, I know there was data out years and years ago about the number of contacts that it takes to make a sale. How most salespeople give up after one or two. As you’re looking at now more current data, has anything changed there or is there a threshold where you begin to see people, they’re finding success after they’ve persisted through to a certain point?
Is the Sales Call Going Extinct?
Surely. I think that the old statistics was that it was certainly outreaches to really become noticed by a prospect. What we’re seeing now is that the trend in sales, and I have my own philosophy about this, people just don’t answer the phone anymore. I mean straight up some people just never answer their phone. I feel like the amount of people trying to reach out and connect with them is increased. I believe that this thing that’s called local presence dialing has really hurt everybody in sales. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the local presence is when you get a phone call from basically your own phone number just to try to trick you into answering, thinking if your neighbor or something like that. I think there’s been a lot of tactics that people have used over the years in an inauthentic way that have stopped people from being willing to engage.
Now what we’re seeing is 13, 14 attempts, you are much more common before success than the eight that it was even four or five years ago. We’re encouraging our clients to put some social into the mix whether it’s Twitter or LinkedIn or Facebook in appropriate way to be missing SMS into the conversation once you’ve made contact with the prospect. Let’s say we had a great first call in typical thing that happens is, “Hey, I’m just …. you’re never going to answer my phone call again for whatever reason.” Have a quick SMS saying, “Hey, I don’t want to bother you should I continue following up with you? Just let me know if I should stop.” Simple as that. Maybe they’re going to say, “Oh, I’m really sorry I’ve been busy.” Maybe they’re going to say, “Your right, this isn’t the fit.”
It’s an easier way for the prospect to tell you that you’re not the right person to help them because it’s not quite as personal. Of course with our philosophy, we built that into our product so you can easily send these messages, can capture them and stuff. That’s kind of our point of view on that. I think the trend line is clear, Steve. I think it’s only going to get harder over time to reach prospects. I think we need to be prepared for that.
The Right Way to Be Persistent – and the Payoff You Can Expect
Well, it sounds like bad news, but I think there actually as good news within it. If you make the decision to be persistent through that, you’re going to find a lot of success because as you get further into those number of contacts, there’s not a whole lot of competition.
It’s true. I think the other side of that coin is also that personal relationships matter more than ever. In sales, what we’re seeing and we’re advising and we’re writing blogs and publishing tips about all of this stuff, is to really be how do you build your own personal referral engine? Because maybe Joe is never going to answer the phone if you call him but he’s a good friend. That’s much more likely that you’ll get ahold of him than anything else. How do you become more networking oriented and do the steps to build these relationships and not … I feel like a lot of people just kind of fall in the tactic of, “Okay, well I’m going to send a thousand emails today that I’m going to send 10,000 emails today.” I just don’t feel like that’s going make it happen because it’s just not authentic enough. In sales, if your goal is to really help somebody, which it should be, then you need to be authentic with that approach though.
Yeah, we couldn’t agree more. We’re seeing that in marketing as well that, there’s been such a focus on how can I go to the masses because the Internet has allowed that in ways that weren’t possible before. It used to be, I can remember doing this when you still had to put a stamp on the envelope and it costs money and you had to actually print things and there was a real cost to trying to generate a lead and that forced you to be very thoughtful and very specific about who you were going to invest that money in. The Internet has allowed us to really ramp up, I think both on the marketing and the sales side to ramp up the volume of people that we’re reaching out to because we can just do it in mass and there’s no marginal cost like you said, if I’m going to send 10 emails or a thousand emails.
There’s very little marginal cost because somebody built some tool or script that’s going to allow me to blast those out there. The problem with that is that you’re not actually doing the heavy lifting, which is understanding who that other human is that’s going to buy. I think to me this is the thing that’s ringing big alarm bells and it sounds like you guys are seeing it too, is that as we move to a fully global economy where your competitors aren’t just down the street there around the world, the single biggest differentiator you have is the relationship that you’ve created. Because that’s the hardest thing to displace.
It’s not how many more things can I send out, how many more people can I just send a generic thing too? But how can I go small and deep and actually show somebody that I care. I love that you guys are enabling that. I’m really interested to see more and I hope everybody that’s listening will take the opportunity to go and check out Spiro and see what you guys are doing.
I just want give you a little bit of my thought on this because for me, so you want to build that authentic one to one relationship as a salesperson. One of the things that we do in Spiro is when we say, “Hey, just give Gordon a call.” When we push that information to the salesperson, we provide them with the context of it. We provide them the social information, we provide them with past history so that they can immediately kind of get into that moment before they make the call. Instead of just having a big call list, it’s like a lot of context right there for them. I think that definitely helps.
Absolutely. Adam, we could probably go on forever because this is a topic I’m passionate about and I know you are too, but for people who are listening, where can they go and find out more and kind of tap into the education you guys are doing and learn more about the software that you’ve developed.
Sure. Our website is [spiro.ai](https://spiro.ai/) and we put up a page at [spiro.ai/unstoppableceo](https://spiro.ai/unstoppableceo). We’ll put up some resources there. We have a great, if you’re looking for a sales techniques to help revitalize your sales process, we have an eBook that we call the 44 best sales tips ever that kind of took our seven or 800 blog posts and pulled out the best nuggets from old limits into one eBook. You can certainly learn about our software there or sign up for our weekly blog updates, where we republish all kinds of device I’m selling. Actually that’s probably the best way to get ahold of us and I just want to be clear, it’s [spiro.ai/unstoppableceo](https://spiro.ai/unstoppableceo). That should be easy for everybody in the audience to remember.
Absolutely. We’ll be sure to link that up in the show notes. If you’re driving and to this not to worry, it will be in the show notes either on your phone where you’re listening or on our site as well, so you can get over there. Adam, thanks so much. This has been a lot of fun. I’ve learned a lot and I just appreciate the direction you guys are heading in with CRM. Thanks for being on today, it’s been great.
Yeah. It’s been great talking with you, too.