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The days of running your business off gut and intuition are gone. Sales leaders now must look for competitive advantages using data and science to sell more. In this episode, Michael Coscetta from Square talks about the need for a scientific approach to sales and what organizations can do right now to move in the right direction.

Links and Resources Mentioned in This Episode:

InsideSales.com
Mike Coscetta’s LinkedIn 
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In This Episode You’ll Learn:

– Why data is so important in sales
– How can automation help sales people sell more
– Why AI is the next big thing

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Gabe Larsen: Today we’re going to be talking about science and sales. To do that, we brought on Michael Coscetta, who’s currently the head of global sales at Square. Mike, thanks for joining. How the heck are you?
Mike Coscetta: I’m doing phenomenal. Appreciate the time being here and excited to talk.
Gabe Larsen: Definitely, man. This is going to be an interesting one. Science and sales, I think it’s an interesting topic. A lot of sales leaders think this is going to be something that can push them a little bit ahead of the competition. Excited to jump in but before we do, can you tell us a little about yourself and what you do over there at Square.
Mike Coscetta: Yeah, man. I run our global sales organization here. We’re a fast growing company. Sales team continues to grow, the business changes. We’re largely an SMB company but now we’re expanding quite a bit more into mid-market and enterprise. So, every day it’s something new when we launch a new country. That of course poses its own challenges. Square’s an amazing place to be, and excited to put sales to work in a company that’s pretty consumer driven, and design driven, very product specific. So, very different environment to be growing a sales team in.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, interesting. I’ve known you guys more in the SMB space. In fact, I just had someone the other day that asked me to do that through Square, go through the whole process for.
Mike Coscetta: Cash?
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, the payment through Square. It was a contractor to fix my air conditioner. I’m familiar with it. But it sounds like you guys are trying to move upstream. It’s always a big deal. But once you got the SMB it’s always easier to go one step further. One thing I like to ask before we jump in, outside of work, any hobbies, anything kind of crazy, any embarrassing moments, funny stories you want to throw out there to the audience?
Mike Coscetta: I could spend the entire podcast talking about embarrassing stories. But the easy one for me to always talk about is travel. I love to travel. To me, there’s no bigger passion outside of work life at least than the ability to travel, see the world, to experience new things. I think there’s such a tie in to sales because it’s just about people. And when you travel it’s about new experience, new environment, new technology, different expectations. It keeps me awake, it keeps me energized, it keeps me on my toes when I visit a new place. It’s something I’m going to continue to push my … I have a good friend has been to every country in the world. Maybe at some point I’ll tackle that but I’m at 56 for now. So, I have about 150 more to go.
Gabe Larsen: Wow. What’s your go to? If you had to go back to one, do you have a favorite or is it, once you hit 50, it’s like I can’t remember?
Mike Coscetta: No, the problem is I just keep going back to Italy for vacation. Work brings me to some other countries. But, Italy is like, wow, I’ll just go back to Italy. That’s keeping the number down. It would be about 75 if I didn’t go back to Italy every darn year.
Gabe Larsen: That is so true. For good reason, I’ve only been to Italy once. But we did spend seven days there. I lived two years in Germany. No offense to any Germans listening, but they just got nothing on Italy. It’s a fantastic place on a-
Mike Coscetta: No comment but I couldn’t agree more.
Gabe Larsen: That was totally not politically correct. We’re going to cut that, we’re going to cut that out of the actual episode. Anyways, let’s dive into this topic of sales and science. That’s obviously something it sounds like you’re passionate about, why? Can you just start there? What’s the context of you feeling like this is something that you want to bring more to the market of sales and science coming together?
Mike Coscetta: I think there’s two things there. One is, I’m a total nerd. When you think about embarrassing stories, is like I’m just a geek at heart. I love to learn, and I love to dig deep into science because to me, that’s where the innovation happens. People think technology or innovation is science is really where the innovation is happening today. It’s being applied to obviously, the world. Everyday people are discovering new things about people, about the brain, about behavior, assumptions that we had 20, 30 years ago found to be either completely untrue or slightly untrue.
So, there’s always something new there. When I think about what selling is, it’s an ability to connect with a human being. So much of the ability to sell and buy is actually driven by biochemical reactions and biochemical ideas. Again, I’ve always been a science nerd, I’ve always loved the ability to understand the most basic components and building blocks that drive the world that we live in. At the same time, I found out when I was 18 years old, I love to sell. I put myself through college selling Cutco knives. So, the ability to sell something I didn’t know I had. I was shy, nerdy kid. But hey, who knew you could sell hundreds of thousand dollars in kitchen stuff?
So, it’s like, hey, I’ve got this science thing, I’ve got this sales thing. Over time learning that they really pair very well with each other. And especially when it comes to sales and leadership and the ability to drive people to drive organizations. And then we could talk probably for days about data science, and sales and happy to dive in there as well. But that’s really the newest front that we’re experiencing.
Gabe Larsen: What do you believe … Let me, I was going to go a different direction. But that last piece just sparked my interest. Where do you believe that is going, the data science piece of sales? Any trends or things you think leaders need to have on their radar as we enter that phase of AI and diving deeper into the data that we have previous?
Mike Coscetta: Totally. I think phase one is just being able to collect enough data and be able to collect the right data that you can use the computing power that we have today at our disposal to at least get better insights of your current organization and your current structure. Are we targeting the right people? Are we putting the right inputs? Do we have the right metrics and cadences to reach people, to convert people? That’s current state. When I think of V1, V2, it’s now, okay, what do we change in our current state as a result of what we’ve learned here?
Data can also point to the future, and give you a directionality as to what is changing or what is coming that maybe your brain hadn’t processed, but the computer’s brain can. I think, listen, V3 is how do you automate all that? And honestly, as sales leaders, how do we remove ourselves from the day to day and really think about automating a lot of the process today that can be machine driven, and then people do a much higher level function,. In sales, it’s much more strategic level.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, you know, it’s interesting, we did a research study, we just threw it out to 700 sales people and asked them how much of their time they consider that is actually spent selling versus not selling? It’s actually something that had been done before. We probably knocked it off. But it doesn’t matter. Anyways, we did it and it ended up at 35%. Them saying, this is the amount of time we believe we spent selling given a dragging week. Then they labeled a bunch of tasks that they felt like weren’t selling. In a lot of cases the qualitative feedback was that these are tasks that we feel like are maybe not value based selling.
Do you feel like there are clear areas that you believe … You mentioned that third phase that we should be open more to having automation, just get rid of that task so that sales people can focus on more value based tasks?
Mike Coscetta: Yeah, I think you start with the tasks that sales people don’t want to do, because it’s not the best use of their time. Whether it’s updating records in a CRM, whether it’s logging activities. Even the actual outreach can be and will be automated to the point where the person, the salesperson is not engaging until the other person on the other end is ready to engage. So, it’s really about precision of targeting and about efficiency of the top of the funnel first and foremost.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah. Start top of funnel. That’s where I think the marketing seems to often be a little bit ahead of sales. And it seems like they’ve dove into this a little more and maybe that’s why we’re seeing some of those trends. Why do you believe sales leader, there seems to be a little bit of an apprehension. AI is a buzzword, big data has been a buzzword for a while. Do you believe with … Sales has been a little slower to adopt than maybe marketing in some people’s opinion. Do you believe there’s a reason for that? What’s holding us back from diving into this more headfirst?
Mike Coscetta: Even if you think of the neuroscience aspect, people are typically motivated by a binary way. One through fear, one through desire. Sales people tend to have the fear much more salient in their mind. So, if my sales machine today is predictable, repeatable, profitable and scalable, well why would I ever change the damn thing? That’s just putting my job at risk. So, I do think there’s a reticence to changing anything. At the same time, there are new industries that are going to pop up, new verticals, where it gives you a chance to test a little bit.
Now, marketing tends to get that outreach tight budget that might not require the same type of ROI or quarterly or by quarterly metric to report on. So, it’s a little easier for them to dabble in some of these areas. But I think that’s changing. I think there’s more and more exposure out there to do these things.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah. Sometimes the budget it belongs in marketing doesn’t belong in sales. But sales people still need to see if they can’t find a way to do it. Some of the things … I’m switching gears here for just a little bit, but some of the ways that it seems like science is affecting sales is in the whole kind of thought process of buying and selling. I go big picture, but let me just double click on, here are these stats about 75%, 57%, 90% of people are down the buying decision, and they have so much more access to data. Whether it’s out there, internal or external. How does that change someone like your go to market strategy. Knowing that customers have a lot more data?
We’ve been talking a little about sales people using it but flipping to the customer, how do you change your go to market? What does that mean for this different kind of buyer world that we’re in?
Mike Coscetta: I think customers are not coming to be educated anymore about what the product is, how it does it, I think they already have that information. I think customers are now coming with a much more strategic level of needs of the sales team, which is, here is my business, you now explain to me how this product fits into my business, grows my business, cuts my costs, expands my opportunity. So, you also are removing some of the fear of the customer of making the switch. There’s not enough of that.
I also think customers want someone they could just trust because there’s so much information out there that then you get paralyzed by the info. And it’s a matter of, okay, which person do I trust to help me sort through this noise and this chaos of data? To help me understand what really is best for me, and also what’s not best for me?
Gabe Larsen: That is interesting. I’ve heard two sides of that coin. Some people with this constant that the customers know so much more about what’s going on. The glass is half empty. It’s like, crap, we’re screwed. Some people though, just like you said, I haven’t heard of it as often. But it’s like, because there’s so much data, that means they need me even more, because they’re confused. They’ve got so much and there isn’t in a lot of ways, I don’t know if consumers have been able to find ways to be able to cut through the crap and really get in in an organized manner.
So, they’re trying to do that with their own brain. That does resolve to a, man I could use a guide here to really help me think through that process. I do think that can be glass half empty, glass half full? Where do you believe leaders should start in this process? So many things are changing. We just hit a couple of them. Sales are changing and data is now playing a role, and customer is changing. Do you feel like there’s a place that you’d say, “Hey, look, if you’re really starting to take a dive into this scientific sales process, where do you start?”
Mike Coscetta: I think there are two things. One is on the data science side, is you have to be educated. Because this is one of the leading indicators of where the world is going. Sales has so much access to data, has so many data points, so many checkpoints, that there’s an ability to optimize there at very granular levels that you don’t get to see in other places. Without even the awareness of what’s possible, it’s very difficult to actually take that first step.
I’ve seen some very educated people recently speak about machine learning and deep learning. These people couldn’t have been more wrong about what they were even explaining. They just really weren’t right, it wasn’t right. So, there’s a major education gap, I believe. There’s also a presumption that you have to be a PhD to know how to use data science and to know how to use big data. That’s actually not true whatsoever. It’s a matter of at least knowing what’s there, knowing your business, then saying, how do I get better at knowing patterns, and how do I get better at recognizing trends before they become patterns? And knowing if that’s a good trend, how do we doubled down there with investment. If it’s a bad trend, how do I break it down and recoil it so it doesn’t become this long standing pattern or, again, a situation you then have to remediate yourself out of.
I really believe number one is education. Number two, I think is just ensuring that if you’re running an organization, if you’re part of an organization that you’re tracking the right data. To me, there’s a couple of heuristics you can use to get there, is what is the end state in one year, two years, three years of what you would want to be able to look back and say, if you’re building a sales team, you want to be able to say what we did in year one made sense. So, I could do it again in year two and grow and increase the pressure on it. But if you’re not collecting the right piece of information, it’s very hard to do that.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, it’s interesting. We did ask a survey. We just asked leaders, what’s hindering you from adopting AI? And actually the largest … It was a lot of different things that came out of the woodworks. But actually 14%, I think the largest percentage was just like, we don’t know enough about it, your education concept. There’s a lot of people talking about and it’s become a buzzword, but maybe that is something that is hindering us. We actually just don’t know enough about it.
Do you feel like there is … A lot of times when it comes to this, and I think this is now part of the buying decision more than it ever has been. And that is, before I buy a product, I reach out to a friend or I go to someone I trust and get their opinion, do you feel like there is a place that you would maybe recommend people go to learn about this? Or is there a company, it could be Square for all I know, that is a good example of somebody who is winning with AI? Because I have gotten feedback from leaders that say, “It’s too much talk not enough results yet.” Is there a place where you would recommend people can go learn or they can maybe see some examples of where it is winning?
Mike Coscetta: Yeah, I would say, so, first it starts at the top. In our company, Square is a great place as Jack Dorsey is a brilliant guy, and he’s obsessed with big data and AI and thinks that these are things that will change the world. And for us a lot of its by force, because we deal with millions of customers and their businesses and millions of users in the Square cash app. So, we needed a way of sorting through the data to provide risk features and to protect our customers, and protected the businesses. For us, it’s happening, you’re not going to see a lot of it as a user. And that’s good. We wanted obfuscated outside of what you see because it’s there to protect you. It’s there to also make things more efficient.
It happens a lot with something as simple as call routing. If I call Delta Airlines, they know my number, they know who I am, I get routed to the right people at the right time who probably know that I have a flight coming up. So, this is happening even at the very practical and very everyday spaces. But I would say the big gap people tend to see is they think they need to build a robot or an automated machine to outsource their entire company, it’s not the goal. The goal is just to take little steps. How do you become a little more efficient?
Listen, on the sales side, one of the easiest ways to do it is look at outreach cycles. What is the optimum number of emails and phone calls or text messages or ads that someone needs to see and or receive to convert and speak to a decision maker? It’s very hard to track that properly using a spreadsheet. It’s really easy with a data query to be able to run and figure out the true levers that are driving response, the separation of cadence that drives the response. Some companies are doing this, and one of our partner, SalesLoft does this very well. They speak very much about bullshit. We probably want to cut that, don’t we?
Gabe Larsen: Actually, I prefer to … Well, we’ll see. I’ll let Brian maybe call on that.
Mike Coscetta: Maybe we need to edit that. Sorry [crosstalk 00:16:53]
Gabe Larsen: There are good vendors who are doing that.
Mike Coscetta: Hey, even you guys … Anyway, it’s funny. We should come back to that point though. We can leave them out of it but-
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, let me just pause. Brian’s giving me the pause. I’d love to just have you say, look, there are a lot of vendors out there who are being able to optimize around cadence type things in that area. Because I do think it’s kind of that low hanging fruit conversation. So, I’m going to pause and then maybe just jump in there.
Mike Coscetta: Sure.
Gabe Larsen: Give us five seconds and then go.
Mike Coscetta: There are a lot of partners out there who can really help optimize that top of the funnel, what are the proper separations of cadence? What are the proper messages to send? Being able to analyze the responses as well to indicate is this person becoming more positive, less positive? Are they increasing their ability to listen to it? Are they increase their desire to listen to you?
I believe also when you think about what a CRM is, eventually I think you’ll see CRM is being evolved out of existence as well. Because to your earlier stat, if 35% of a sales person’s job is selling, then a lot of the rest of the work is really being spent as a bookkeeper, and as a time keeper, and as a database entry person, that’s all that they’re paid for. So, learning how to really optimize out of that, I think, is crucial as well.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, it was funny, actually, in that survey, I should know the number off top my head, but a large portion of people’s time was spent in CRM and lot of feedback right now saying we’re giving that tool a lot, but we’re not getting much back. So, I think you’re going to have to see changes definitely coming in that. I won’t name names, but I know everybody’s thinking about how we can move to next version on that.
Mike Coscetta: Right.
Gabe Larsen: Last question before we wrap here, thinking about this concept, and this is a little bit more probably in the science fiction arena, but a lot of people seem to be … I don’t actually think even in our own survey data, I don’t think people are actually that nervous about having a robot boss or being replaced in sales. Do you see that coming? We’ve been mostly talking about eliminating some of the mundane tasks. We’ve been mostly talking about enabling sales versus eliminating, which I think that’s phase one. Do you see a future? And again, probably a little more of a joke question than real. But do you see a future where there is, where the sales rep is gone, or whether we literally have robot bosses? Or is that kind of we’re still five, 10 years away from that, even talking about it. So, let’s not go there.
Mike Coscetta: I think we’re a lot farther away than that. But I think what you’ll start to see is you already have automated forecasting models that tell you are you on track, are you not on track? Are you closer to your targets, are you further? So, there are these things that are guiding sales people to be more precise in their targeting and to be more precise in how they plan out their days and their weeks to keep them on track.
I also think there’s a human side that we’re probably generations away from we’re moving, which is the concept of motivation and sensitization and habituation, and all the things that drive sales people to do a job, that a lot of people really don’t feel like they would ever be cut out for; handling rejection, overcoming obstacles, finding a way to hit a number no matter what the external factors are. Those are very specific parasympathetic nervous system responses that you generally need another human. Its been proven that systems and robots and technology don’t actually connect enough with your brain to create that biochemical response to either increase or decrease activity, with very few exceptions.
that’s one of the biggest challenges of leadership today, which is how do you keep the human side of motivation, but pair it with the robotic side of automation and systematization of a job?
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, I think that is the first frontier. It’s just how do we work smarter with technology? Because, again, I think in a lot of cases, using my CRM example, we’ve given more to systems we maybe haven’t gotten a lot back in the B2B world. In B2C, we’re starting to see more of that. Even if it’s just to go to tools like the microwave, et cetera, we’ve gotten more back from that. But it’s funny in the B2B world, a lot of our again, survey research has said these tools we give, we give, we give, we don’t get get get. And I think that’s one of the reasons we’re seeing a lot of low adoption rates on different tool sets in the B2B space. So, can we bring those together? Hopefully, we can get that crossed first, and then we can talk about maybe robot bosses after that.
Mike Coscetta: Sure.
Gabe Larsen: Well, Mike, I appreciate the time. Real interesting. It sounds like you’re right in the middle of trying to figure this all out, and probably executing a lot of it yourself. Summary statements or as you think about leaders diving into this, any kind of last or parting words?
Mike Coscetta: Listen, I think we said before, get educated on the idea. It’s all out there, there’s a big future ahead of us to be able to figure out how data will make all of our jobs easier and more productive at the same time. If anyone’s ever interested in learning more about Square, you can go right to our website, squareup.com, plenty of opportunities for people to see our product in action, and to see our sales organization in action. But focus on what’s important for your business, and what’s important for your sales team, and how your team can grow. And data can really make it much easier to get there faster, and to start thinking out of the box as to how do you do this in an automated fashion versus just manually throwing people or hours at the problem.
Gabe Larsen: Yeah, which is I think where most people go. Well, Mike, again, I really appreciate the time. I think a great episode all about data science, how you can use that more to sell. So, for the audience, again, thanks, Mike for joining and-
Mike Coscetta: Thank you.
Gabe Larsen: Success is just one play away. Want more sales secrets? Go to salessecrets.io to receive copies of our latest research and best practice content to help you crush your