Join us as Dr. Howard Dover joins Betsy to discuss the key ideas from his book “The Sales Innovation Paradox,” including why companies struggle to achieve efficiency gains from new sales technologies. We explore the innovation adoption cycles faced by customers, sales reps, and companies and how they create inertia hampering performance improvements.
Guest: Dr. Dover is a sales expert and thought leader with over 20 years of experience. He is the Director of the Center for Professional Sales and a Clinical Professor of Marketing at the Naveen Jindal School of Management at the University of Texas at Dallas. In this role, Dr. Dover pioneered the development of the university’s sales program, establishing corporate partnerships and designing curriculum focused on preparing students for careers in sales. As a sales coach, he has led student teams to achieve top rankings in national sales competitions, including the International Collegiate Sales Competition and the World CollegiateSales Open.
Dr. Dover is the author of the recent book “The Sales Innovation Paradox,” published in 2022, exploring how to harness technology to drive sales productivity. His book became an Amazon best seller within its first week of release.
Throughout his career, Dr. Dover has built expansive professional networks across academia and the business world in sales, marketing, customer relationship management, and data analytics. He is a sought-after speaker and consultant in sales training, recruiting, and enablement.
Dr. Dover has a Ph.D. and MBA in Management Science with a Marketing Specialization from the University of Texas at Dallas, as well as an MS in Economics from Brigham Young University. He serves on advisory boards for multiple sales technology companies.
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Betsy Peters: All right, well, welcome back to the Revtech revolution. And today I am thrilled to have Dr. Howard Dover, who is the director of the center for Professional Sales at UT Dallas’s Jindal School of Management. Welcome, Dr. Dover.
Dr. Howard Dover: Thank you. Thank you for having me.
Betsy Peters: We’re thrilled to have. So thanks for making the time. We always like to start out asking a question about your path, like how did you get here and how a professor of sales, how did that happen?
Dr. Howard Dover: I started out in sales because mom and dad, we’re just poor. So if I wanted to go camping, I wanted to go do anything. I had to go sell as a kid. And then I reached a point in my life where all of a sudden I owned my own sales company for a few years after college. And then I realized that I wanted to go get a PhD, which makes no sense to be a salesperson and get a PhD, right? And then I noticed that there’s a whole bunch of us that actually have done this. Probably the uniqueness to me is that at the end of my company and the beginning of my phd, I spent five years designing computer systems for the state of Oregon.
Betsy Peters: So, like our audience, you’re into the tech side and probably the data side. Is that fair to say?
Dr. Howard Dover: I am in the data side. I believe in the potential of technology to enhance our ability to get things done more efficiently and effectively.
Betsy Peters: Great. Tell me about the mission of the center for Professional Sales and what your personal mission is. How do those two align?
Dr. Howard Dover: Well, I think the center here, the primary objective is to connect students who are learning sales with companies who are wanting to hire young, diverse sales talent. Technically that means we teach classes, but whenever you’re going to do that, if you’re going to bring industry people in and you’re going to do some collaborative work and allows a little bit more than the normal college setting, a center gives us the capacity to make that happen. So we have our own staff that kind of help us run events and help us manage some relationships with different people industry so that I can still be an academic and yet have staff that helps me do some of that extra magic.
Betsy Peters: That’s great. What kind of technology do you expose them to when you’re teaching them what sales is like these days?
Dr. Howard Dover: We can’t do a full blown sales stack because I don’t have the support, but because I am the it support. That’s like my fifth job. I am the systems administrator for way too many products. But we have Salesforce in the house. We do use conversation intelligence from chorus. We use sales navigator. We’ve been playing this year. We’ve been playing with Navigator, which is, I’m sorry, navigator, but lavender. So Lavender has been fun. We’ve been playing with generative AI quite a bit. XiQ has been a fun one for a few years. Personality profiling and looking at that for both deal review, deal outreach and really seeding. How do you seed into an account?
ABM strategies and then XiQ, were talking offline that we kind of cut out the weekly goal, coachability because were trying to simplify and our results went right back where they were before we used it, which is horrible. And so we’ll be putting that back into place. We use a technology called Xavoyant, which just helps us manage coachability objectives and coach two plays and then measure the skill and activity level against the play on an individual basis. That’s recordable. So we eliminated that this year just for ease and found that the results dropped really quick.
Betsy Peters: Coaching is important. It is. So for not having a big tech stack, it sounds like you have a pretty big tech stack.
Dr. Howard Dover: We do. I think Zoom info is going to come online next year. We’ve already got the partnership with chorus, which is owned by Zoom Info. We’ve had that off and on. So obviously you need data, you need clean data. Good luck with everybody in finding clean data. But that’s the goal, right? Knowing that you have the right contact information so that your people can spend their time actually contacting versus trying to find the data.
Betsy Peters: Yes. And of course, activity data capture, and we’ll get into that because that’s the heart of this for us. So again, our listeners are rev ops, rather specialists, supporting the go to market staff, and would love it if you could describe the premise of your book, the sales innovation paradox, to those who haven’t heard it yet from that lens, from the Rev ops professional lens. What did they need to know about the book?
Dr. Howard Dover: I think coming back to my experience with Oregon, with the state of Oregon, one of the projects I did, this project was a report that was done on site in Oregon. You’d go to a drug and alcohol facility and you’d do an audit, and the data from that audit would then be collated, brought together, and the site lead, I forget what the title of that person was, but the auditor would take three to five days to generate that report. So I came in, the project was to say, can you create a system that would allow us to have intelligence? Before we left the office, and this was back in the day of palm pilots. After watching it, we got to the point where if you entered the data differently, then we harnessed technology that a preliminary finding was available within five minutes.
So instead of the five days we had a preliminary report on site, the auditors sometimes needed to go in and talk to the director. In some of the cases, they needed to be able to actually maybe even work on shutting down the facility or taking over the facility because it was a residential facility, we’d actually have to do corrective action plans. So that’s the background for me, is to say we should be seeing those kind of efficiency gains in sales. To be honest with you, I just wasn’t seeing it. I was seeing the potential of it. I was hearing the potential of it, and I was even witnessing some of our partners getting some of those efficiency gains and importing a four x and a five x and a six x, but they weren’t sustaining it.
And I thought, wait a minute, what’s going on here? This doesn’t make any sense. As a technologist who’s automated processes, why aren’t we experiencing that in sales? And that made me say, oh, actually, we have a paradox going on in sales. We have all this technology which should be enhancing our capacity. And, Betsy, this is the weird thing. We took technology over the last six to ten years and we enhanced the capacity of our sdrs, or our outbound motion to do the job. And in the process, we increased the number of people doing the job by 13 x. 13 x 13 x. So to me, as an economist, I went, that doesn’t make any sense. If you’re getting more efficient, you don’t add more people. And yet our industry as a whole did exactly that.
We actually got better and made more people do the same job. And that was the paradox to me. I said, I need to understand what’s going on here. And that’s the book.
Betsy Peters: Yeah. And so can you break down the findings so that the audience understands? Everybody should buy your book, because it’s quite excellent, honestly. But, yeah, just the basic paradox itself, the problem you’ve just outlined. But you have. See, now I feel like I just froze again, too. Anyway, but you have a really interesting way of telling the story about the sales team, the effect on the clients or potential clients, and then the feedback loops. So I’d love it if you’d talk a little bit about that.
Dr. Howard Dover: Well, I think it depends if I’m a revenue ops person, there’s a lot going on here. In fact, I think the back of the book is almost where you start, and then you go to the front. The concepts of the inertia is really why we run into these kind of problems that we actually get to where we’re very efficient and very effective, and then we get a leadership change, and then we get a disadoption from everything that was working back to what maybe isn’t working. So that’s part of the challenge. But as we come to the front of the book, I started realizing that actually what we have is some cycles going on, and they’re really two cycles. But there are several actors. The technology adoption cycle is both really at three levels. We’re consumers, then we’re business people, and then we’re companies.
And each of us try to, we see an innovation in business, and then we try to adopt it. That adoption actually changes our behavior quite a bit. And so it changes us as customers, it changes us as salespeople, and then it slowly changes us as businesses. So it hits both the consumer, the business, and the individuals at the business. And so we actually have the consumer changing, we have the seller changing, but then we have an added dimension, which is what I call the sip cycle, which understanding the sip cycle is very important because I have a sales innovation that’s going on, which is I get new training, I get a new best practice. Everybody said I should social sell, right? That was a big trend line. Then at first it was challenger.
We should all be challengers, then we should social sell, and then now we should use video, right? So whatever the case may be, we get this new innovation in sales, and then everybody deems it a best practice, and then we adopt it. But the difference between the technology and adoption behavioral shift cycle and the sip cycle is the sales innovation is picked up by the salesperson, but the behavioral shift occurs by the customers, right? And so when you bring that all together in an overall cycle, what you have is you have the customer shifting multiple times. They’re shifting to their technology, they’re shifting to your use of a technology, and then they’re shifting to your sales innovation technology. The perfect example this, Betsy, is whoever teaches this, I love you, whoever you are.
Nobody’s ever responded, so I haven’t hit the right person who’s training this door to door. Salespeople are taught the following technique. When you knock on the door, you step like ten steps back beyond the threshold. There’s probably some psychological concept to this that don’t be closed. When I open the door, it cause fear, and I’ll shut the door. Also, if you’re way back there, I feel like I may actually not close the door. I may actually come beyond my threshold because I’m going to walk outside. It’s the polite thing to do, especially if you’re down here in Texas. Maybe it’s to shut the door. If you’re up in the northeast, I don’t. So it really doesn’t matter. That’s a best practice.
And I’ve seen know here in Texas, we had door to door people all the time because it’s warmer than the rest of the country. But I have a ring, and so I get to add my technology. And so when somebody knocks on my front door, I live in a Texas house, which means my office is nowhere close to that front door. And I get a little ping right here on my watch, and I get a ping right here on my iPhone or my watch, I go, hey, somebody’s at the front door. Oh, it’s a package. Well, I’ll go get a package. I don’t want the pirates to come, right. Somebody who backs ten steps away from my threshold. What do I know that you’re not.
Betsy Peters: Going to go get that door?
Dr. Howard Dover: They’re a salesperson, and I’m just fine sitting right where I’m at, and nothing’s going to change in my life, but they’re going to wait there and I’m going to go. Now, my wife hasn’t picked this up. She hasn’t been behaviorally changed yet. She opens the door and I’m like, why did you open the door? You had the moment where you knew exactly who these people are. See, she hasn’t been modified enough. I have. I know that best practice, and I know how to identify it. And when I identify it, I know exactly who you are, and I shift my behavior to protect my time. Yeah.
Betsy Peters: Interesting. Yeah. It occurs to me that the people who are going to see this happen because the turnover cycle is not as rapid with rev ops as it is with sales. It’s going to be the people who have the architecture, understand what the innovations are. The enablement is the diffusion of the training and watching the salespeople deploy it, watching the data start to come through and then watching the conversion rates and then see the conversion rates start to change. Those are the people who are going to actually validate your cycles because it’s being shown in the data all the time.
Dr. Howard Dover: Yeah. And I think in the book, I don’t get to go a lot of detail in this, but my visit to Microsoft in Dublin was just mind blowing. The amount of data that they were using, the adjustments they were making, the constant updates to both the technology, the enablement, the go to market strategy. It was really quite impressive, but it was all data driven and anybody in the organization could affect change. If I was an individual contributor and I noticed a certain motion, I could bring it up to my manager, who would bring it into the rev ops group, who would then say, okay, is this just a one off or is this actually systemic? And then they would literally start changing the motion. They would sometimes update the technology based off inefficient motions. Why do I have to open three screens? We’re Microsoft.
Why can’t I make that one screen? Why do I have to click five buttons? It should be one click, or it’s. How come I don’t get this intelligence? And how come I didn’t know this? I communicated to the client. But yet you should have told me that they called yesterday. Just whatever the case may be, they were able to bring it back. And then they constantly updated their strategies, their systems. Their go to market impact they made was phenomenal.
Betsy Peters: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. Can you give us a little bit of a case study on what the magnitude of making that? First of all, the democratization sounds amazing in terms of who can make change based on data. That’s kind of a holy grail. But then also it sounds like there’s a lot of speed that’s going on as well.
Dr. Howard Dover: So all I can do is there’s two pieces of information in the public domain which I can freely quote and not get in trouble. So the first one is there was a presentation at the AISP summit, and the reference is in the book for the exact time. But the VP of sales for Microsoft was doing a presentation in Chicago and outlining the Dublin experience. She claimed an eight x and ten x. So eight x was on the deal, I believe it was the pipeline. And then the ten x was actually in revenue generated. So we had pipeline at eight x and revenue generated at ten x from a to b testing in an 18 month period.
So by the time I got to Dublin, I tried to confirm that and all I can tell you is the guy said, are you referring to the old deck or the new deck? And I said, are you telling me it’s been done again? And he said, I can’t answer that question. But if you go to UTD’s website, to our sales leadership summit page, we actually interviewed, kind of the brainchild of a lot of this strategic thinking. Jen Seeger, who’s now the chief of staff of global sales for all of the world except for enterprise. But back then, she was over demand gen for the world. And she came to UT Dallas and she was on the stage and I interviewed her.
She confirmed that they had another six x within the previous six to eight months with another technology rollout that once again was taking the feedback and constantly trying to say, how do we get more efficient at this motion and all the motions? It’s not a motion. It’s all the motion.
Betsy Peters: Sure. Exactly.
Dr. Howard Dover: And so that interview is available out in the public domain. So those are the two pieces of information that people can go look at and get a little bit more detail and even some information about how it went down. But what I found interesting is every time I called and talked to them, they were having double digit increases in a KPI within the Perevius 30 days.
Betsy Peters: Wow.
Dr. Howard Dover: Every time.
Betsy Peters: Well, we’ll put the links in the show notes because I think that’s important for people to look at. You said you went over to Dublin.
Dr. Howard Dover: I did.
Betsy Peters: What did you experience as you were walking around and interviewing people? Was it palpable? Did you get a sense of the urgency and the focus?
Dr. Howard Dover: I think that was the cool part, is I didn’t get. For a sales group, I actually found them to be strategically well balanced. No, I didn’t sense an urgency because the technology was handling the urgency. There was urgency. They had digitized urgency.
Betsy Peters: Okay, interesting.
Dr. Howard Dover: So really what they did is they said, if in a given moment, the technology has the fastest response time and can accurately do so, you got to remember that Microsoft has had Chat GPT for a while. It’s not 3.5 and 4.0. They had it in the early stages. So they were deploying variations on machine learning way back several years ago. And so when I saw some of these things, the current copilot that’s being launched now was in operation in Dublin. In its early stages. It was doing the work, but it was assisted. Right? So, for example, when I interviewed a couple of the salespeople, he said, I have never worked at a place that does more to help me accomplish my objective than this location and this company. I said, give me an example of that.
And they said, well, for example, I went on a break, and I was on a break, and then I had a meeting. So I was gone from my computer for about an hour. I came back and she goes, I have what’s called a recommender system, and it rejiggered the top 100 priorities for me to do. When I got back to my desk, for example, I had called a client and gave them some information, and I was going to move down to. I had other clients to call. Well, I came back and apparently in my voicemail, there’s a request to go ahead and initiate the order. And there’s been five hits on my website from the same company. And it already had the contract written up.
And all I had to do was press send because it had all the context already set up because it knew exactly where I was at. And she goes, so I did that right away and my customer immediately locked that deal up. But if I didn’t have that augmented capacity, I would have gone to item number 25. But it rejiggered as I was gone. It constantly updated and said, here is the most productive thing you human can do right now is close this. And it wasn’t that the AI was getting the work done, the AI was augmenting. Where should you spend your time while you’re in the office and doing only things a human can do?
Betsy Peters: Yeah, it’s great to hear because, of course, we’ve all been sold on next best action in sales with the tech stacks that we have and all of that. And I find, anyway, that both senior management and even Rev ops are getting very jaded about that. And so it’s fascinating to hear that it’s actually coming to fruition in a place that, of course, wrote the book on it, so shouldn’t say wrote the book.
Dr. Howard Dover: The challenge can always be in the early stages. If we don’t have competency or we don’t have the right tools, we actually get junk and we get bad stuff, and so we get bad reputations. Right. And this is coming back to the second half of the book. I talk about this inertia problem. If I’m a leader, that I had some technology deployed and it really went poorly, I’m probably going to not be a fan of doing the next technology role.
Betsy Peters: Right.
Dr. Howard Dover: I don’t trust. My trust has been shattered, so my inertia is around experience bias, that I don’t trust these kind of things. I’d rather make sure I hire more salespeople and get it done the way I know how to do it and it’s reasonable. Makes sense why we carry. Either we carry, this is amazing, and I’ll go get it done, or, oh, wow. I’ve only seen bad things happen when we rely on technology.
Betsy Peters: Yes.
Dr. Howard Dover: It’s almost like I’m hitting a chord there.
Betsy Peters: I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s had that experience. Boy, there’s so many places to go here. Tell me about. So in the appendix of the book, like you said, rev ops should start from the back and go forward. You have a great section about what’s possible with the tech stack, but that was published in 2022 and as we all know, the world has completely changed since then. And we just talked about case studies. There anything else that you’ve noticed or you want to mention that’s possible now that wasn’t possible when you wrote the book?
Dr. Howard Dover: Well, I think the fundamentals are still always going to be there, right? Data cleanliness is always the challenge, right. If we don’t have the right data on people in the database, we’re wasting a lot of time. Our efforts are dead efforts. And so the first thing we have to focus on, I don’t think that’s ever going to change. Do we know who is actually working in our target accounts, our key accounts? And has that changed? And anytime we’re deploying the intelligence to keep us as up to date as possible with any shifting around, I think is one of the early and essential investments. And then it really does come down to how do I use technology to make my efforts relevant and precise. And I think that’s a principle that isn’t ever going away.
Now, what technology we use that will change, but precision and relevancy, I think are the currencies of today and moving forward. And like I said, I just don’t see that going away now. What we have available to us to have relevancy and precision is going to keep on coming. And I think a lot of the generative AI is. I think there’s a lot of bad deployment currently. That’s why Google’s coming out and saying, hey, no more, we’re not going to deliver your garbage. I would anticipate one of two things are going to happen. Either people are going to sue them or they’re going to charge for that. Right? If you’ll pay us, we’ll deliver your garbage, but we’re not going to deliver it for free anymore.
So I think the technologies I was talking about was more around the motion of precision, cleanliness and speed to market. And if I’m in a space where market dominance matters, anytime I can use technology to increase the speed to market, I’m going to be able to dominate the market that will listen to that particular area of my cadence. If I’m a picker upper of my phone, if I’m a social animal, if I’m an emailer, whatever the case may be, to be able to dominate those areas quickly and get pure market share before anybody else. I just don’t think that’s going away. The tools we use will. I don’t know that lavender is fascinating to me. I think the large language models, I think being able to spew fast amounts of email seems to have gone exactly the way I would anticipate that.
It was bad before, it’s worse now, and AI just exacerbated that. But I think whenever we’re using a machine learning process that’s saying, hey, you sent half a million emails in the last 48 hours. What actually did customers respond to? I think that becomes interestingly actionable in the hands of the right people. I think it’s a huge tool. Once again, I know about lavender. I’m sure there’s other people in the space. I don’t know why you wouldn’t use it. We’ve been using it here and it’s fascinating. Response rates from a year ago. When we ran it in spring of this year, we had a 19% response rate. The previous year was, I’m sorry, it was 22. The previous year it was 19. It isn’t statistically significant. We don’t have enough. It’s muddy data. But it’s interesting.
I think the more interesting story to me is the upper bound. So students who used it exclusively. So these are the high tech precision teams. The highest precision team in the previous year, in 2022, hit a 36 response rate. Highest team with Lavender and Chat GPT assisted. NXIQ assisted ran a 47% response rate.
Betsy Peters: Wow.
Dr. Howard Dover: But that’s precision, right?
Betsy Peters: Yeah.
Dr. Howard Dover: About speed. I’m not talking about volume, I’m saying, okay, if I can use. So I’ll kind of walk through the motion there, just so people understand what the difference was between the year before and the last year. No Chat GPT, no Lavender. But we did have XIQ. The challenge with XIQ and personality profiles, crystal nose would be another product that people know about, or IBM, Watson, something around personalities. So if I give a human a personality profile, I require the human to have to think through. Okay, now, how do I adapt? Right, which we’re going to get all types of fun responses there because we’re dealing with salespeople with varying personalities as well.
Now, if I take that same coachability coming out of XIQ, which is actually telling me how to write an email to this particular personality, because it does that, and I feed that as a prompt structure over into OpenAI to Chat GPT and say, hey, here’s the coaching coming from XiQ and then here’s the data here’s the swot analysis coming from XiQ. Now craft me an email to this particular individual. Given what I’ve given you now let me run it through lavender for openability and response. Now all of a sudden I have a completely different, and by the way, for this to all happen instantaneously is probably, I bet it’s already available now, if it isn’t already, but it will be soon.
It wouldn’t take much to get these things to API, call each other, and then generate what I should be doing at the end. In fact, once again, copilot for Microsoft probably is doing 90% of what I just described. So that’s not about volume, that’s about precision. I make sure I identify the right person. But I’m really trying to say before I outreach to you, I really want to understand what the issues are. Now, are you ready for the mind blow? Are you ready for this? Because this is kind of weird because we get back to the human problem, Ted, so here’s anecdotal story that kept me up all summer. This young man came to me and said, hey, do you know what Transamerica commercial division is? And I said, well, I know what Transamerica does and I know what a commercial division is.
So I assume it’s insurance to companies versus individuals. He said, oh, okay. Doesn’t really know, doesn’t understand. He said, but did you know the director of the commercial division for the United States actually is based in Dallas? I said, well, no, I didn’t know that. He said, well, he said, I ran it through, right? So I ran it through the sequences and I said, what are the top four things he would be worried about? Chat GPT gave me that. And then I put it through lavender. And guess what? He responded with an email and said, you seem very impressive, like you know a lot about my industry. I’d like to meet with you next week. I’m available on Wednesday. And I said, wow, congratulations. That’s awesome.
Betsy Peters: The dog caught the.
Dr. Howard Dover: So then what’s funny know, he never came back to me and tell me how it went. So three weeks later I said, hey, how did that call with Trans America go? Did it happen? He said, yeah, it happened. I said, how’d it go? It didn’t go well, right? And I said, well, what happened? He said, well, he hung up after five minutes. And I said, why is that? He said, well, he said I wasting his time. See, you know what happened, Betsy the human showed up.
Betsy Peters: Yeah.
Dr. Howard Dover: See, now up till that point, he was augmented.
Betsy Peters: Yeah.
Dr. Howard Dover: And then he showed up. Little old. Not his fault, right?
Betsy Peters: Yeah.
Dr. Howard Dover: This is our next challenge is so we deploy all this technology, and this is going to be the next variation of the paradox. Right? Is that at the end of the day, what’s that behavioral shift going to be? That customer is going to go, wow, that Betsy, she’s really smart. She’s amazing. She’s got so many dimensionalities. She’s knowing things that only my consultant knows. Wow, I can’t wait to talk to her. And then you show up with just whatever you got, Betsy. No, by be, that’s going to be a real challenge for us in the future. In fact, the future is now.
Betsy Peters: No, I mean, this has already happened to me where there’s been an absolutely picture perfect pitch, and I had to write back and say, so you say this. Tell me more about why. And it’s radio silence because it’s very clear that it was programmed and that the person who actually sent it doesn’t know how. So, yes, it’s already a filter that I’m putting on is I’ll respond once there, but I’m not going to ask for the meeting unless I’m absolutely sure that it’s not going to be a waste of the time.
Dr. Howard Dover: So one of the projects we’re focusing on this fall, very sandboxy, very, just kind of risky beta testing, is, can we increase the business acumen of students at an accelerated rate using Chat GPT, using other tools? I won’t go into great detail. We’re using a questionnaire by David Brock at partners in excellence that he’s developed, and we’re having our students do a series of interviews. We don’t have the full results on this project yet. They’re just being wrapped up this semester. And so I’m intrigued with what my students are now talking about. So just some of the things they’re picking up and some of the things they’re not picking up. I think what I’m not hearing is more interesting than what I’m hearing. For example, I’m hearing a lot about leadership. So they’re talking about all the different things. Oh, this is about leadership?
This is about leadership. Well, half of the interview questions are about industry data and role and company. And so they’re not indicating any takeaways around kind of the depth of industry, which was kind of one of the things were trying to develop. Now, there’s a couple of things we realized in the deployment of this process that we’re going to fix in the spring, and we’re going to do it differently and try to get a different result. But we aren’t done yet and we still got a week into this project. So some students are still doing. One of the students just reported a couple of hours ago, she said, this has been the most impactful experience in my college career. I have developed networking because I asked the right questions.
But it was by her fifth and 7th and eigth interview that she started learning how to do the follow up and how to do right. Because now I know a little bit about what you’re saying. I actually have the ability to hang with you.
Betsy Peters: Sure, that makes sense.
Dr. Howard Dover: We’ll do some measuring next semester to see business acumen components. But this one were just trying to say, okay, will the students be able to pull it off? So there’s lots of questions. Can we maybe go about sales training differently? Maybe we don’t need to be worrying about persuasion as much as we do intelligence. I don’t know. I’m sure lots of people argue right into the screen as I said that. But there’s a lot of questions about what should enablement and what should we be architecting with the human, because the AI is going to do a lot of stuff that we currently make humans do. So what do we have to do to get a human ready to. I like the Iron man analogy.
I’ve been using it for probably almost a decade, that all the way back 810 years ago, we did have Iron man suits then. We really have Iron man suits with Jarvis now. And so how do we prepare the person to fly that suit? We don’t need as many of them.
Betsy Peters: Yeah. And how do you prepare a young person? Yeah.
Dr. Howard Dover: Interesting. And then will an old person even get in the suit?
Betsy Peters: Right.
Dr. Howard Dover: Old dog, new trick problem.
Betsy Peters: Tell me a little bit about your students. Are they interested in revenue operations? Like do they start to get fascinated with the technology or are they more interested in making the sale and the kind of psychology components of sales?
Dr. Howard Dover: Well, I think given that we’re so heavy in the tech and so we’re a quant based school here at UT Dallas, we’re known, probably most people don’t know we’re in the top four in research productivity in the world in business school.
Betsy Peters: Wow, I didn’t know that. That’s great.
Dr. Howard Dover: So we’re very quantitatively focused as a school and a department in marketing. And so we lean into that. We have a lot of quant focus, a lot of analytics focus. So yeah, I would say several of our students go into enablement when I talk about enablement, I’m really talking about ops. Sometimes enablement is called ops. It’s mislabeled. So we’ve had several people that have been actually kind of rev opsy in leadership roles because they come out equipped with how to harness the technology for efficiency gains, both the augmentation of the human and the automation of the functions. We talk about efficiency and effect and this augmentation and automation to our students. And I tell my students during your interview process, you should be asking that company, talk to me about these efforts.
I don’t care where you’re at today, I want to hear where you’re going to be tomorrow.
Betsy Peters: Yeah.
Dr. Howard Dover: I think they have interest. I think definitely those that go on for our master’s program for sure have that interest.
Betsy Peters: Yeah. It seems, again like you can learn a lot from being in the ops role, and then maybe that’s the progression, is you see the data, you see how it works, you learn from the best, and then you go out on your own. Who knows?
Dr. Howard Dover: Well, I would think that one of our challenges that we really face today, and I’m talking to somebody, so I’m going to say, honestly, so that nobody kills me on this. In your group and your people, I’m going to say I’m very ignorant in the revenue ops space in comparison to you folks. So then I would go on to say where I think we struggle and why the paradox exists is because the technology has leapfrogged our ability to deploy it well and execute with it. And that’s because we don’t have enough people trained in how to do the backside operations, and we don’t have enough people in the sales enablement. And when I mean sales enablement, I mean strategic enablement. I don’t mean training, I mean go to market architecture, building enablement.
People who are working hand in hand with data from Ops, not just I’m here to train or I’m here to create collateral. So when we got strategic enablement, working with revenue operations and developing go to market architecture, I don’t think we have enough people who use that language and have skill. And I think when we do, we’ll see a different world, we’ll see a different profession.
Betsy Peters: Yeah. And I think you and I met at a panel at Dreamforce, and were talking about adding experimentation on top of that structure, right? So having the experimentation, people come in and doing sprints to test and learn fast. And when you get that piece on top, that’s when everything really starts to cook, is the cycle time will speed up and you’ll learn faster.
Dr. Howard Dover: Yeah. I love that sprint concept. My goodness, what a great idea, right? Find the place. You’re trying to make a difference. And experimentation constantly. A b testing. Don’t assume what worked yesterday will work tomorrow. Test.
Betsy Peters: Yeah. And the trick that we haven’t figured out yet, and I would love it if the audience could give us feedback on this, is. It’s very different than an engineering sprint. Right. Because as you’re building the Legos, you see the Lego assembled, and you have the emotional impact of, I reached the summit, I got the goal completed, and I move on with sales and marketing. A lot of times, the feedback you get is negative at the end of a sprint. And in terms of deflation, emotionally, it’s hard to get back up and do the next sprint and the next test. So it requires a certain organizational structure. And as everyone says, you should be free to fail.
Dr. Howard Dover: Yes.
Betsy Peters: Just don’t want to fail in the same way every time. But that’s hard when it’s revenue. It’s really hard when it’s revenue.
Dr. Howard Dover: I think that really comes back to leadership. At the end of the day, I really think it starts at the top. Why can Microsoft do what they’ve done? It’s because Satya is there. Right at the top. There’s a willingness to say, I’m democratizing the strategy of my company. When I did that Dublin interview, it was very interesting. Another one that was interesting was an MBA team where they democratized the decision making as well. And during that interview, the person said, well, we used to have activities, and we used to drive by activities, and then we said, we’re not going to measure your activities anymore. In fact, what we’re going to do is we’re going to give you $1,500 worth of inventory, open inventory. You can do anything you want with that without asking for permission, and you just generate revenue.
So to give you a point in that, so you have somebody who’s a high value target, who’s coming to your stadium, and they’re sitting in the mid tier seats, and you’ve got something down on the floor that didn’t sell, or you got some suite tickets that nobody came to the suite and you didn’t sell them. And game day, both those are gone. I mean, it’s an inventory thing. They’re thrown away the second the game starts. So because you have somebody in the building, you go ahead and say, hey, Betsy, you’re here with a client today. You’re in the middle of the seats. I don’t embarrass you. And I say, how would you feel about going to the floor tonight? We’ve got a couple of seats right there on the floor. Would you like to take your client to the floor? Okay.
Are you going to say, no, don’t talk to me. I’m with my client right now. You’re like, yes, or would you like to go up to a suite? We have a little bit of opening up in the suite. You’re entertaining a client tonight. Would you like to go up there? Now, let’s say you’re with your son, and your son’s a young guy, and you’re having a mom child moment or a dad child moment, and they come up to me and say, so great to have you here. Who’s your favorite player? To? Not you, but to your says, you know, I’m in Dallas. I’m horrible. I’m not up to date on the current, so I may get killed.
Betsy Peters: You keep rolling with Dallas.
Dr. Howard Dover: It used to be know, and I go get a Dirk jersey and I get it signed, and I come back. And by the way, I asked you also what your favorite food is. I bring you back that jersey and the food and say, so glad you were here today. And I just walk away. I just walk away. Betsy, do I really have to sell?
Betsy Peters: Right, right.
Dr. Howard Dover: And then I call you next week. You know what happens? You look at that and you go, in this case, it would be Dallas Mavericks. You get a call from the Dallas Mavericks and you go, I kind of owe them answer of that call. Yeah, right. I’m going to say hi. And you go, oh, it’s you, the one that brought me the jersey or brought me down, up to the suite, down to the floor. Thank you so much. I’m glad I could help you out. By the way, are there moments where you probably could use that kind of exposure? I’d like to help you figure out a better package so that when you’re entertaining a client, I can take better care of you. Would you like to come to? Right.
And then, by the way, highest profit, not grossing, highest profit franchise in the NBA per seat, with a third of the number of salespeople of all other NBA teams.
Betsy Peters: Wow, interesting.
Dr. Howard Dover: Moving the decision making right that testing little sprints all over the place, giving the people freedom to try and do something innovative. Trust your people that they’re on the floor and they can see it. Now, some people go, oh, my gosh, he just said chaos. Well, you can’t have chaos, but sometimes you can.
Betsy Peters: Is there any other case study that you teach that would be helpful to the Rev ops audience that we haven’t talked about. You’ve been phenomenal with lots of really good stories here. But is there anything that stands out?
Dr. Howard Dover: Well, I think one of the things that stands out to me pretty consistently, I’m going to say that this person is a lightning rod. I think there’s a lot of technology deployment that works so good that people just don’t believe it should work and so they kill it. And one of them would be, I think that those people over at connect and sell are interesting people. I think Chris Beal is an electrifying figure, but I think there’s something to be said for why would you make your people do calls when nobody answers the phone? Why wouldn’t you use something like that? And when I’ve talked to Chris Beal about this, he’s told me story after story of the huge increase in performance that companies have achieved by deploying. That’s a simple concept, right? We know it takes 21 dials.
We called Chris earlier in the semester, so it was 21 dials to get a human to respond. Why would you not use an assisted dial technology and cut the number of people dialing by maybe a fourth or a fifth? And the reason being is because I don’t like to have a smaller sales.org.
Betsy Peters: Yeah, that’s fascinating. We had an experiment with Connect and sell and the sprints were able to do because that connection rate was so much better with connect and sell. We learned so much in six months. It was amazing.
Dr. Howard Dover: I think the challenge that I would say is really going back and looking at these breakout performances and then really asking the question, why is that scalable? And I think that’s the biggest question that if I were in Rev ops, I would be careful about always scaling. I think that’s one of the things that lots of people, there’s a company out there that I heard this, that this was their mantra. It was nail it, then scale it. And I think what a lot of people have been doing for years because of the innovation paradox and the behavioral shift, is that they’ve been nailing it, scaling it, and failing it, because by the time you scale it doesn’t work.
Betsy Peters: Right. Exactly.
Dr. Howard Dover: Ask the fundamental questions. It’s inadequate to say, hey, I went back and used the data analysis and this really rocked. But we have to ask the important question is, will it still do so if I do it again? And that’s a reasonable question and we’ve got to be careful that we don’t roll out things that by the time we hit the rollout, it just isn’t going to work because the market’s changed.
Betsy Peters: Yeah, that’s a great insight or a great question for Rev ops.
Dr. Howard Dover: So I think moving forward, Betsy, I think one of my goals, if your people have, if you have a phenomenal exponential performance story, I would love to hear from you, because now what I’d like to move forward is the people who are breaking, cracking out of the innovation paradox and really harnessing the technology for exponential performance. And I formed an institute around that because I’m a third party, right? I can come in when connect and sell tells me a story. I’m like, you’re selling something, right? When somebody else tells us a story, we know they’re selling something. So the purpose of my institute is to go out there and be a third party person who goes in and asks questions. Like with Microsoft. When I heard that, I said, I want to go to your facilities.
I want to explore exactly what you said you did, and I want to verify it as a third party to say, did it legitimately happen? What caused it to happen? Would it have happened anyway because the product was just that good? Or was it what you did? I think we need more of this. I think we need, there’s no question, validate exponential performance, because all of us who are in this space, in the rev ops, in the operational space, in the sales technology space, fundamentally, we should be experiencing exponential performance gains. But the issue is that most of our leaders don’t believe it’s possible, so they won’t do it.
Betsy Peters: Well, would love to get your contact information for our audience to reach out to you if they’re interested.
Dr. Howard Dover: In the best place to get my inbox. As hoarded as everybody else’s.
Betsy Peters: Great. All right, last question. If you could wave your magic wand and change anything about sales or sales technology today, what would it be?
Dr. Howard Dover: It would be that we only hire professionals, that we only create, we only keep, we only retain, and we only train professionals.
Betsy Peters: And when you say professionals, what do you mean?
Dr. Howard Dover: I mean people with integrity that are using precision instead of shotgun approaches, people who don’t do collateral damage, that they really think about their brand, they think about the profession. We have too many people out there that are really causing a lot of collateral damage. In the book, I refer to the dust Bowl. I think we’re in dust bowl conditions where the harvest, it’s almost impossible to do the job because the earth is so fallow, because the behavioral shift has been so strong. That our customers, the natural reaction to the customer is like mine, right? You ring my doorbell, I don’t even want to talk to you. You may be selling me the most important thing, the most valuable thing. My default is I don’t really want to talk to people.
And the reason I don’t want to talk to people is because I usually don’t get to talk to a professional. I would talk to every person that contacted me. If they knew how they brought value to me. We would all do it. We’d all change. But the problem is that a vast majority. My prediction is 85% to 90% of sales organizations out there contacting. Not. I’m not saying your people. I’m saying the people that your people are competing against for attention, which are your customers, they’re getting accosted 80% to 90% by people who are not doing it in a professional way. Not precision, not relevant. And so that is the dust bowl condition your people are operating under.
And if I could change one thing, it would be, we get people to treat this like a profession, and we get the people who are doing it wrong out of the profession.
Betsy Peters: How does a leader operate against that?
Dr. Howard Dover: Oh, that’s the end of the book. That’s tricky. That is really tricky. And here’s why it’s tricky, because I thought this was it. So the book was done before the pandemic. My thought was, this is just a leadership problem, right? We just need better leaders to choose the right thing, to just hire professionals. I have a good friend of mine who’s here on campus with me, Nanda Kumar. He’s a Chicago trained economist who does game theory research. And I sat down with him and, hey, you know, I think this is what’s going on. I said, you’re wrong. And I was like, he said, you need to go talk to more sales leaders. And I’m like, do you not know that? No, I don’t. He said, you’re wrong. And I was so mad. Then the pandemic hit.
I had the book all figured out, and the end of the book was basically, hey, leadership, bucket up and quit being stupid. Now, you have the last three chapters, which is. It’s actually pretty darn hard to maintain, to grow, to build, retain, and grow a professional, because 85% of the people you’re going to hire actually don’t know how to do that, and they’ll infect your and bring it back to the mean. So even once you get it, the ability to keep it is almost impossible without impeccable leadership. And by the way, if you’re an impeccable leader, you’re in demand, so you leave what you created, someone else, you have an 85% chance the person who comes in behind you doesn’t even know what you did.
Betsy Peters: Yeah.
Dr. Howard Dover: And so they undo it all. They just go undo it all because they do what they know. So this is the end of the book. So I think when you’re asking that question, Betsy, I think we have to go up higher than the sales leader. I think we have to go up to the CFO. I think we have to go up to the CRO. I think we have to go to the CEO, the COO, and say, you really want to have this? You’ve got to be so much smarter on how you hire your CRO, how you hire the CSO, that you think about the continuity of everything you’ve invested in or decide you’re going to invest in a leader that can build this kind of a business. And if you do, you’re going to lose a lot of your people because they can’t listen.
If you’re going to do a world class, it’s very hard for people in traditional to stay in the boat because they’re going to go against you. I was asked to audit a fortune ten company because we had leapfrogged them, and they said, hey, we want you to come and tell us everything that you’re doing differently at Utd than what we’re doing at our company and our training. And one of the first things I recognized was the managers weren’t doing every part of the training. And I was like, well, that’s not cool. It really doesn’t matter if you’re doing world class training. And they were trying, but the managers are like, yeah, well, when they get out of training, I tell them how it’s really done. So I went right to the leader, and I said, hey, so I have a question.
How much money do you invest on getting the managers in line with the vision? He said, oh, we really don’t do that. I said, well, I think you better start, because they’re actually undoing. And it was systemic. Does that make sense?
Betsy Peters: Oh, yeah, for sure.
Dr. Howard Dover: Very systemic. They were promoting people from the field who had not. This culture was amazing. It was a subculture in an academy. And so, of course, they brought people from the outside, from the academy, into this elite opportunity for leadership development. The average person coming into the academy was only stopping there to get it on their resume, to then move into the other leadership structure. So it was like a feather in my hat. So I was only planning on being there for a year anyway. So they actually were just destroying the whole thing. And I said, well, once I figured that out, there was a lot of other issues that were. But you have a systemic problem. You’re bringing in people, trying to promote them up, but you’re actually importing classic sales machine into a modern concept, which is actually destroying all the work.
All the investment just goes out the door.
Betsy Peters: Yeah, I’ve seen that in data driven, like making a shift to a data driven approach in sales, where you have classic salespeople who run on intuition. And the old Rolodex guys, they go through training, it sounds great, and then they go right back to their old stuff. And if you’re not constantly trying to norm for the new culture you’re creating, forget about it.
Dr. Howard Dover: Well, Betsy, it’s interesting. I’m going to poke at your Rolodex for a moment.
Betsy Peters: Okay.
Dr. Howard Dover: Our new modern challenge is we have a decade and a half full of people who hacked. I hacked this. I hacked that. I hacked this. Yeah, the new problem isn’t the Rolodex people, it’s the hack people. Yeah, because they’re going to go, oh, yeah, I hacked this. I hacked that. And you’re like, no, it’s data driven that well, but I hacked this. And they’re actually not diving deep enough to understand the moment they’re in. Actually needs skill, not a hack.
Betsy Peters: Fascinating. Well, I could go on for hours here, and I’m glad no one showed up for office hours. We got all your office hours today. We really appreciate your time, Dr. Dover, thank you so much for being a part of the Revtech revolution.