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The Future of the Phone Call with Dan O’Connell {Hey Salespeople Podcast}

Does the phone call have a place in today’s digital world?

DialPad’s Chief Strategy Officer Dan O’Connell thinks it does, and its role will expand as technology advances. 

In this episode of the Hey Salespeople podcast, Dan reveals how phone calls and call recording can enhance your sales process. But first, he describes how to be more engaging in a sales pitch and the balance between being likable and being effective as a manager. Learn more about Dan’s path to senior management and the leadership advice he’s learned along the way. 

Listen to this episode for answers to questions like: 

  • What book does Dan say is critical for anyone in a hunting role to read?
  • Is it better to have a formal presentation or a conversation?
  • What’s a good structure for getting people certified on a pitch? (Pro tip: it’s not just the Salespeople that should get certified!)
  • How do you find the balance between trying to be likable and effective as a manager?
  • Why is the phone call is cool again?

Listen here, and keep reading for some of the highlights from this episode below.


Sales Pitch Certifications

Jeremey: You said that every one of your folks across the organization needs to be certified on a pitch. How do you actually certify them?

Dan: We literally set up monthly certifications and require people to go through them within every organization and track actual performance on these certifications. We expect people to get through them the first time through. Sometimes it takes people to go through it twice, but that’s an expectation.

Our marketing team was just off-site going through not just the company pitch, but also our product. You want everyone to have the same message when they talk to people. Folks go to different conferences or talk to a variety of individuals, and you want everyone to have the same story. It is really important that the story is consistent.

Then, you want people to also understand what they’re building. I think it’s really important for engineering teams, marketing teams, and recruiting teams to all understand the problems that you’re solving because that allows you to actually relate and a find better way to people.

Jeremey: I would assume that the certification is using a slide deck, presenting it, and then scoring against some sort of a rubric.

Dan: Exactly. We take the recordings of the certifications, we share those and give everybody a score. We reward the top performers on that as well. They’re scored not just on product knowledge, but also on authentic passion. Anytime you’re giving a presentation or engaging with people, you have to connect with people. I think that’s actually what matters almost most.

You have to sound excited about what you’re selling or what you’re doing. If not, then people read that. I think you can read it in musicians that go through motions, in athletes going through motions, and in people in their day-to-day jobs as well.  Be cognizant of how you show up if you’re giving a presentation. Put your game face on and try to be engaging and creative. Have an opinion, drive some value, and be entertaining because people are also looking for that to some extent.

Moving Up the Ladder

Jeremey: Let’s get back to your career wisdom. So you’re about 3.5-4 years in as an individual account executive, then you move into management. What was that like? What were some of the big challenges that you faced as you have made that move?

Dan: One of the biggest challenges was going from an individual contributor to management at the same company. I think one of the challenges was now being responsible for some of my peers. I was part of a sales organization and sales team and I was promoted to management and then had responsibility for my peers. People that I was previously grabbing beers with. Not to say that any of that changed, but there has to be a conversation around how now I’m responsible for your performance.

Initially, some of the challenges when people can get promoted into management are that they want to be the likable manager, as opposed to the effective manager. Those are definitely mistakes that I made along the way as I was managing my peers. These were friends for 4 years and I was now being tasked with their performance reviews and what’s going to impact their promotions and how much they got paid and stock options and things of that nature. That can be a lot for people to take on and realize!

You shouldn’t worry if people are going to like you. Ultimately, people are not going to respect you if you focus on just being the manager that people like. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you will drive respect or that you will be that effective. Not to say that you shouldn’t work to be amicable and get along with people and have fun. That’s an important part of great teams as well.

Jeremey: To be a successful manager, you have to be comfortable being in both those zones. So many managers have that vulnerability that you and I had, so you almost pull back on the constructive feedback that would actually help people learn and grow.

Dan: I think people are looking for a sense of belonging when they join a team. They want to know that they’re really cared for by their manager, that their manager cares about them as a person and as a professional.

Again, that means you can build that type of relationship and bring the walls down and start having real conversations, whether those are conversations around performance, or challenges or career progression. That’s going to bring everybody closer, that’s going to build a much stronger relationship.

I think it ultimately leads to better performance and a place where people are going to turn around and say, “I really liked working for that person. I got a lot of value out of it and I really respect them… and I like them too.”

The Future of Conversations

Jeremey: How is the phone call is actually working again… and I guess conversation intelligence in general? What are you thinking about the future of conversations?

Dan: People have these conversations and businesses every day, whether they’re over the phone or in person. I talked about it as voice being the last offline data set. We know how people interact on the web. We know what people say an email. It’s pushed to a CRM. Every day we have these conversations. And, as humans, we take bad notes, or we don’t take notes at all. We forget them.

It really became apparent that we need a technology that could help you understand a conversation and transcribe it. Take speech recognition and natural language processing or NLP. That’s just a fancy way of saying ‘how do we take text and start to understand what that text is saying or meaning?’ Using that, I can really start to understand this data set. If I can do that, then a business can start to make better decisions and be more efficient, whether that is selling more, reducing churn, or onboarding faster… whatever it might be.

That, to me, is really the future. The phone call is now a delivery agent of these technologies. You want to show up in as many conversations as possible and provide value on top of those conversations, whether that’s after the fact, meaning providing a recording and insights and analytics, or in real-time as a conversation is ongoing to say, “Jeremy just asked about pricing. Dan, here’s what you need to know about pricing.” Or “Jeremy just asked about this competitor, here’s what I need to know to talk more competitively against that competitor.”

I think there’s just massive opportunities when we get into conversations to both augment conversation and learn from it.

Jeremey: There was a stat I read recently that when objections are lobbed, the top performers will respond with a question 54% of the time. Whereas an average or bottom performer may only respond with the question, let’s say 30% of the time. So you can actually extract those super actionable insights out of that information.

Dan: It is going to change the way you think about onboarding teams or the way that you think about engaging with prospects to win them over. These are all things that we haven’t been able to quantify in the past, or it’s been very challenging to quantify in the past. Those are massive opportunities for businesses to take advantage of.

THERE’S A LOT MORE AFTER THIS! Listen to the full podcast for more on driving strategy.


If you have a passion for the art and the science of sales, are looking to further your career, or just want to hear some great, practical tips, ‘Hey Salespeople’ is the podcast for you. Subscribe so you can follow along as Jeremey interviews the brightest minds in modern sales to bring you immediately actionable advice. Listen and subscribe here.

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