Over the last two decades Trish Bertuzzi has promoted inside sales as a community, profession, and engine for revenue growth. In the process, the company she founded – The Bridge Group – has worked with over 350 business-to-business technology clients to build, expand, and optimize their inside sales efforts. Through a combination of hard work and timing, Trish and her team’s research and ideas have been featured on Inc.com, in Forbes, by associations like SLMA and AA-ISP, and across more than 68 sites in the sales and marketing world.

Trish has known HG Insights CRO Mark Godley for years and is a big proponent of leveraging data – so we recently sat down with her to get her perspective on the evolution of sales over the past two decades.

Can you give us a bit of background on the genesis behind The Bridge Group?

Before I started The Bridge Group in 1998, I was the VP of Sales and an equity partner in an outsourcing company called Telesales, Inc. where we became the inside sales organization for different technology companies. What I found then was that the executives I worked with thought that inside sales was super easy – you hire some young hungry reps, they pound the phones, and revenue shoots out the other end. Then when it wasn’t that easy, they didn’t know what to do. So, I decided to start a consulting company to help people figure out how to be successful with this channel. I thought, if it works, great, and if it doesn’t, I’ll go get another job. That was it.

And it did work! It’s been two decades and The Bridge Group is stronger than ever – what were you doing differently back then that others weren’t? 

For some reason, and this was 20 years ago, executives thought “I really need to think through field sales, but inside sales, just let them pound the phones.” Obviously, if you’re going to generate either pipeline or revenue from this type of methodology, it is as strategic as anything else you do. That’s what I brought to the table. When we engaged with customers, we were comprehensive.  I would say “Look, let’s talk about your market. Let’s talk about your brand. Let’s talk about your buyer. Let’s talk about your message. Let’s talk about your process. Okay, now we can put together a strategy.”

Was it a hard sell to folks to introduce this more strategic concept? Was it difficult to get people to adapt or did they see the value intrinsically?

The smart ones saw the value immediately. If you’re smart, you always know where your weaknesses lie.

What’s changed the most over the past 20 years in terms of sales strategy?

I think the buyers have evolved more than the sellers. Buyers don’t necessarily want someone to sit in their office for an hour or someone to take them to lunch. Buyers want instant gratification just like sellers want. As buyers get younger, they’re more in tune with “can we communicate over text? How effective is email? Can we use social?” The decision makers in our target organizations are getting younger, as are our sellers. I think technology plays a huge part in the sales process nowadays. Sometimes too much, and sales organizations need to find the balance. I think we’ve stripped too much of the human element out of the sales process, when we’ve automated, bott-ed, artificial intelligenced, machine-learned so much that you literally have to say, “Are you a person? Am I talking to a person?” There’s automation for productivity’s sake but that can lead to a lack of empathy and a lack of human knowledge. I think when you get to that point it shoots salespeople in the foot.

You have a unique entrepreneurial style – what is one thing you recommend to budding entrepreneurs or anyone leading a sales organization? 

What I would say to anyone in business and especially owners or executives is if you don’t get on the phone every single day and talk to your prospective buyers, how do you really know what’s going on in the market or in your sales organization? If you’re just sitting in an office and looking at data, that’s what you’re doing. You’re looking at data. You need to interact with your market on a daily basis to really keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on.

When someone brings you an idea for a new business or for a new product to sell, how do you evaluate if it’s going to take off? 

That’s an interesting question. One of the questions I ask people is “Is your idea a vitamin or an aspirin?” Meaning, is it like a vitamin that is something that people can take or do and may be good for them but they could live without, or is it like an aspirin in that it eases an immediate pain right now? The aspirin products are much more likely to take off.

What are you most excited about sales in 2017?

I love this whole movement towards account-based strategies. The old way was just good outbound sales engagement, but the new way where the entire organization and all its resources are focused on a specific set of accounts that you’re committed to engaging with – I love it!

I love the focus of it – narrowing the prospect pool to some key accounts and then tapping every single person in the organization to be in sales – to help with engagement. I’ve seen Board of Directors, CEO, VP of Products, VP of Customer Success, CMO, CRO, AEs, SDRs – all working on furthering engagement. It’s also exciting to develop the account-based stories to tell this finite set of accounts. Really thinking through what can we share with them that gives them new insights, establishes credibility, and creates empathy between them and us?

Before we go – let’s talk about data – do you have specific recommendations to the businesses that you work with in terms of leveraging data?

Data is the number one lever you can pull for productivity. Nobody wants to spend money on data because they think that data is boring. But, it is without a doubt, the number one lever if you want more out of your team. I say to people, “Give up head count to buy great data.” That’s how strongly I feel about it

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