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SEO, Lead Generation and Sales Education w/ Gaetano DiNardi [Episode 729]

Gaetano DiNardi, Director of Demand Generation at Nextivajoins me on this episode and we’re going to touch on a lot of topics today, sales training, high turnover rate in sales, search engine optimization, and Hip hop.

Now, Gaetano, if you don’t know, has a side hustle as a hip hop artist. You can check out his videos on LinkedIn and other places. And I absolutely love this.

Look, I love sales but we have a tendency to take it too seriously and it focused too much on it. And throughout my career, my experience has been that the most successful people I’ve known are those who have also cultivated some deep expertise or deep experience in something else. Some other field completely, like music or writing, athletics, whatever. And research has borne this out as well.

David Epstein writes about this in his new bestselling book, Range. And he talks about how experts reciting research about experts in the fields typically have developed deep proficiency in some other pursuit. And it talks about Nobel Prize winners that are great artists or great musicians and so on.  But basically, it’s a lessons applies to everyone. So I think you’ll enjoy Gaetano’s story about his music career, as well some great insights about sales and driving leads.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: 00:00

It’s time to accelerate. Welcome to Episode 729 of Accelerate the Sales Podcast of record. I have another excellent episode lined up for you today. Joining me as my guest is Gaetano DiNardi who is the Director of Demand Generation at Nextiva. We’re going to touch on a lot of topics today including sales training, high turnover rate and sales, search engine optimization and hip hop. Gaetano has a side hustle as a hip hop artist and you can check out his videos on LinkedIn and other places. Throughout my career, my experience has been that most of the successful people I’ve known are those who have also cultivated some deep expertise or deep experience in some other field  like music or writing, athletics, whatever. And research has borne this out as well. David Epstein writes about this in his new best selling book Range, and he talks about how experts in the fields typically have developed deep proficiency and some other pursuit. He talks about Nobel Prize winners that are great artists or great musicians and so on. But basically, it’s a lesson that applies to everyone. So I think you’ll enjoy getting a story about his music career, as well as some great insights about sales. All right, let’s jump into it. Gaetano, welcome to the show.


Gaetano DiNardi 2:30 

Hey, Andy. Thanks for having me. It’s a great pleasure. I’ve been a fan and finally of yours for a while, and I’m really honored to be here with you today.


Andy Paul 2:39

Well, thank you. That’s an honor to have you on the show. So before we get started, you have s second career as a hip hop star and you dropped a music video a couple of weeks ago that you had done but professionally produced. So were you an aspiring artist or you’re still doing that and hoping to make that your primary gig?


Gaetano DiNardi 3:11

Yeah, it’s a really good question. So what many people don’t know is I actually got into music at a young age and I wouldn’t be in marketing if it weren’t for my music career. Long story short, I was in the industry pretty hardcore before I was in this tech marketing world and I was producing my own beats, making videos, writing songs, and I had some pretty good accolades under my belt. I got to work with some really big artists in the game. I got on some records that Joe Shaddai and many others that people would probably know. I was doing all that. And what I had realized also was that, this wasn’t the kind of lifestyle that I just wanted to be doing alone. I just didn’t want to be doing this rat race style life. I wanted something that was also going to challenge my brain because music comes so effortlessly to me. But the challenge with it is that there’s no path like to say from A to Z that shows you exactly what the steps are. So I started a music blog and I started just writing articles about companies that I didn’t think were doing ethical things. Out of nowhere, my blog was getting all this traffic and all these comments. I knew it was going to end traffic because it was getting comments from people that I had no idea who they were. One day I installed Google Analytics and I’m like, let me see how this shit works, man. I was realizing like, oh, my gosh, this is going to be 5,000 hits a month all through SEO. I stumbled backwards into it because I realized people were searching music company name scan or reviews and mine was coming up for that. And I basically realized that I had inadvertently taught myself SEO and I really liked the idea of building stuff and people finding it rather than me having to go outbound and promote it because use it. There’s no SEO like I can’t do best songwriter New York or best new Italian trap song or something like that. Like no one’s really going to find it both. So you can create things that your customers want, that your prospects want. And this was very appealing to me. I was really tired of doing all this outbound with my music stuff to try to promote it. But so long story short, I met this guy, Michael Kang, who is starting up an agency. He was one of the top guys and at the time still is. And I was the second person hired at his agency in New York. My test project for the job was to present the strategy behind my music like I like everything. From how much did it cost to make this project? How much did you spend on ads? What are your YouTube analytics stats looking like and how do you plan to go to market with this? What was your target audience for this? What were the results? Because I had put out a couple of my own albums that he had seen, and he was also an independent musician at the time, coming from a past life. So we had that in common. So he gave me a shot. My first big project was Major League Baseball. And I’ll tell you the truth, I didn’t really know what the hell I was doing. He threw me into the deep end. Then I just figure this shit out and that’s the way we learn. Today I’m running demand generation at Nextiva, but it wouldn’t have been possible if I didn’t get my start in music. And to answer your question, do I want to make that my main gig? I actually don’t want to be in the spotlight or on tour or like Justin Bieber or anything like that. What I really want to continue producing, being a studio rat, as they call it, behind the scenes kind of guy. And during my downtime, I want to be able to work with great artists and make great music. And it’s a passion of mine. And I talk very openly about it in the business world, nothing to hide. 


Andy Paul 8:09

I think that besides just being fascinating, seeing somebody reach a high level with one of their passions, let’s understand the business. I think it’s just a great lesson for people in general that if you want to succeed in life you don’t be single threaded. Right. There’s increasing research coming out. A  recent book called Range by David Epstein talks about why generalists triumph in a specialized world and talks about how the people who have passions and interests generally come out on top. So a good lesson for people that are paying attention to that. One of the first things I want to talk about, because you worked at Sales Hacker for a while and you’re exposed to sales. A number of articles talk about the high rate of turnover in salespeople, sales managers, VPs. I think VPs average turnover is about once every 18 months. Sales reps, 12 to 14 months. What’s your take on that and maybe dive into that a little bit. What do you think is causing it?


Gaetano DiNardi 9:28 

Sure, I think a lot of times VPs of Sales and sales managers, they are up against incredible growth pressure. And if you’re in this VC SaaS world, you’re certainly going to feel that. It comes down to how the sales process is really plateauing or struggling in a way. The VP of Sales or the sales manager is going to have to come up with new ways to kind of break through some of those challenges that are happening. And the expectations are unreasonable. And there’s misalignment with sea level. It’s got all the things that are ripe for this to happen, even when it comes down to, I would say, alignment with the marketing team. That’s another huge thing. And it all depends on what stage the company is in, of course, and all of these other things. But I would say that some of the key things are unrealistic expectations from leadership, poor training on the front lines, that that seems to be one of the biggest problems right now. People just don’t know how to sell. I see that in my own company. So let’s start with the marketing support as well.


Andy Paul 10:45

So let’s dive into some of those, because I think that this whole idea of the unrealistic expectations and several of the things that you’re brought up with is sort of vicious cycles now. It’s become self-reinforcing. As you know, 18 months is way too short of a time, realistically, for a VP to have a significant lasting impact on a sales organization if you’re selling anything of any complexity. But that’s sort of the way the as you said, that’s what the expectations are and that just flows down. Maybe we do a horrible, crappy job of training our salespeople, company X, Y, Z, but it’s not worth spending anymore because they’re all going to leave in 12 months.


Gaetano DiNardi 11:37

It leaves them in an unfair catch. It depends on the complexity of the sales cycle and the model. Like my current company, we’re very heavy inbound marketing and sales. And most of the pressure, I’ll tell you, is on marketing to generate leads.If I’m not fulfilling my leads and my responsibilities to the sales team, people aren’t going to eat out there. And of course, there’s always inefficiencies. You know, when it comes to the inbound model, it’s really about plugging up leaky, leaky gaps and leaky buckets. And there’s always inefficiencies in the sales side that can be fixed. But ultimately, if it’s an inbound model, guess what? It’s mostly up to marketing.


Andy Paul 12:30

Sales still need to execute. I’ve never seen a marketing organization who’s batting a thousand on highly qualified leads coming in. I mean, it’s still casting a fairly wide net. So sales still have to do their job even if marketing is doing an excellent job. We don’t quite in this utopian era where every lead coming in is a great lead and hopefully we’ll get there at some point. As I tell people, I think the ideal world for sales would be that sales doesn’t have to do outbound because inbound is so good. I mean, there are some combinations of proactive marketing and inbound, I think on a high fraction of the leads that actually turn into deals. So one is we talked about training. I’m just interested in your opinion. I don’t know the whole universe of companies out there, but I know from Fortune 500 companies I work with to assess startups and tech startups. No one does a good job. No one is really committed, in my estimation, to training and educating their sellers. What do you think is the key to changing that mindset with companies?


Gaetano DiNardi 16:10 

I’ll tell you, something has to change at some point. The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, even at my company. For example, we’re starting to make training a bigger initiative now because we’re realizing that the only way we’re going to be able to really break this next layer of plateauing is by selling better. I’m one of the few people in marketing that do this. I listen to sales calls every day. And I’m not doing it necessarily from an audit perspective where I have to call out the sales reps on everything that they’re doing poorly. But when I do come across something crazy, which I do sometimes like, this is going to be really funny. But I heard sales reps on a call say, “Hey, Mr. Prospect, our CEO is a billionaire. He has plenty of money so you don’t have to worry about us trying to just get your money. We’re much more than that.” When I hear things like that happening, it’s just very clear that this rep has not been trained in a very long time. They don’t have their talking points together, they don’t review their battle cards, they don’t know how to sell based on value, they don’t know how to communicate the current state to the future state. These are all very basic, fundamental things within sales that reps just are missing. And that comes down to obviously training and management. And then who’s training the managers is the other question. It’s like if these managers need training too, they’re not just the end all be all authority on sales. I get that they’re more experienced than maybe then the junior staffers or leaders that are on the front lines. But it’s got to be an executive push. They’ve got to wake up and smell the coffee and say, we’re struggling here. We’ve got to figure out a way to, one, clean up our sales enablement concept library and our ammunition that we’re giving the sales team out there on the field. That’s one part of it. The other part of it is kind of the tactical. Let’s listen to some calls and see where we’re dropping the ball. If you have a lot of money as a company, maybe you can deploy a tool and start doing sales analysis through your calls. That way, you could try to use technology as a way to bandaid some of this shit. But if you ain’t got the fundamentals right, a tool like outreach or sales lost is not even going to save you. I think it’s got to be driven from the executive level down and they’ve got to just make it a priority and make it happen.


Andy Paul 19:25

I think that the problem is that we look at this as an issue of training versus an issue of learning. It’s almost like the perspective of saying sales is something we do to a prospect versus something we do with them. That’s a fundamentally different way of looking at sales. If you think selling is always something you do to someone, then this is where we get the stereotypical bad image of sales. Sales is forcing themselves upon a prospect, whereas something we’re working on collaboratively to reach a certain outcome. If the seller has that perspective, that’s great. And I think the same thing is true with managers. When we look at training as something I do twice a year, I’m going to hire Andy to come and speak in our sales kickoff event as opposed to I’m going to set aside 15, 20 minutes every single day and we’re going to either read books collectively. I offer a service to the companies  like a sales team book club where the whole sales team, we read 10 books in the year and I lead online discussion groups and so on. But they’re all engaged at a certain amount of time per day and learning. Maybe it’s this week everybody will listen to this podcast featuring Gaetano. And we’re going to talk about it next Monday. And you have a week to listen to 30 minutes. So spend 10 minutes a day. Yeah, but we don’t emphasize learning. To me, that seems to be the fundamental mindset change that needs to take place because you’re sending the message we’re investing in you. We’re doing something worth we think is important to do every day as opposed to guarding the team together for three days, once a year. You tell me, why doesn’t the salesperson think that’s a different message they’re receiving from the company?


Gaetano DiNardi 21:18

It’s much more worthwhile to do something like the team reading some books and come together to discuss learnings and then put some of those potential learnings on paper and say, what can I actually try on my next call? What can I do? What can I try doing my next sales cycle?


Andy Paul 21:53

I was even thinking of a sales kickoff meeting. I’ll say, here’s the deal, I’ll do a sales kickoff, but you have to commit and do a minimum of four webinars that are reinforcement. So they pay me for it and I’ll present this. But then they never do the following webinars. Then that’s it for you. 


Gaetano DiNardi 22:57

I remember when I was coming up hard in the marketing game, I took that extra hour a day to read blogs, to attend webinars on my own time. I’m self trained. I have a degree in marketing but I didn’t learn squat in school. 


Andy Paul 23:23

Some people think the answer these days is increasing the number of people with degrees in sales but their experience with marketing is none. Sure, you took the courses, but you have to come and learn everything from scratch again. I got to talk to a sales class at a university several months ago and less than a third of the people in the class were even intending to go into sales. Well, they’re getting a degree in it, but they don’t plan to do it. I mean, I got a degree in history but I’m not a historian, so I guess that’s fair.


Gaetano DiNardi 24:03

Learning is part of your regimen and you’ve got to prioritize it. And it really comes down to like are you in sales just trying to get a paycheck. That’s what I also see a lot happening nowadays. Like there’s people in sales that aren’t passionate about selling or their customers or their prospects. They’re there because they either need a foot in the door and to some organization and they want to go lateral into some other department. Sales is always considered like that first barrier to entry, or they’re just there temporarily, kind of just going through the motions, getting a paycheck. Maybe they have some other plans for their career in the future but they don’t really have a desire to make sales a real career.


Andy Paul 24:51

Or they think that they’re just long enough to find that next better sales job. And there was a great quote I read online recently on LinkedIn. Someone was talking about how it’s a problem with a salesperson. A lot of sellers these days change jobs so frequently that they don’t have 10 years worth of sales experience. I’m not against people changing jobs. I’m old enough to remember when people criticize me for only being in jobs for two and half, three years with start ups before moving to the next one to being criticized once. When I started my own company, I got called by a big company to come in and look at a general manager job for a new division. They were starting and the recruiter criticized me for being at my last job too long. But one year is too short. I mean, look, it doesn’t matter how transactional your your sale is, but if you have anything with any sort of degree of complexity, you know, 60, 90 day sales cycle, you don’t have enough turns at bat or in that time to say, yeah, I know what I’m doing here now and why you get hired at the next job is beyond me. But let’s just start with that is you gotta be realistic and say, maybe I’m better off staying an extra year or two and really mastering what I’m doing here, because then I can take that to my next company and the track record. So, yeah, now pay me even more. Right, because I’m working to deliver more.


Gaetano DiNardi 26:41

I would recommend mastering one facet of sales before trying to move on and tackle the next thing. That’s how it was for me and my marketing career. Like I wasn’t trying to learn social advertising, content marketing, analytics, coding. I wasn’t trying to do all these things at once. I was being very focused at mastering one aspect of marketing at a time. And I think sales should follow the same path as that. One action will tip, I’ll leave for your audience listening, if you’re in one of these junior roles in sales right now or even mid-level and you need something to look forward to in order to stay longer. One thing I’ve always thought about is what can I publicize about what I’m doing right now? What kind of case studies can I produce on myself? So personal development. Look for interesting things that you can do experiment wise, that you can document and share with the world, because it’s going to give you something to look forward to and it’s going to give you some personal personal accountability to challenge yourself and say, you know, I’ve got to put out this super kickass case study that the LinkedIn community is going to appreciate. So tie the brand building back to it because you won’t just be some soulless person, not a SaaS company trying to sell. You’ll be somebody that has some kind of project that is tied to their role and their personal brand that they can be proud of sharing with the world. And it’s going to make things a little bit more interesting.


Andy Paul 29:26

Well, I think that’s a lot of a lot of wisdom in that for people. And this is obvious in other topics, very controversial because people like a certain expert saying, look, salespeople should never be creating content that should just be selling. I want to know if they have a point of view about something or are they just some nameless drone somewhere. And somebody actually has a point of view. They have a personality and they bring that to the work. I think if you’re an individual contributor you need to be thinking about this idea about building your brand because it is a differentiator. You as a sales person are still the front line of differentiation, more so than your product and service, because most of our commodities. So what are you doing to make yourself different in the eyes of your buyers and law that will take place when you’re face to face like we are here over video or actually in person. Yeah, but you have to do something to make yourself stand out. 


Gaetano DiNardi 31:03 

I’m sure most of your audience is sellers, but I can give you a really good take on the buyer’s perspective. You know, I get if you put demand generation in your title on LinkedIn, it’s like there’s blood out there and the sharks, the vultures are there swooping down, looking to get you. And I get pitched a lot and then I probably get fifty to one hundred pitches a month in that range, which is a lot. But buyers like me, what I will do when a salesperson hits me up, if the outreach is decent, like first of all, if it’s automated in any way, I will automatically delete it. Most of the time no one’s out there looking for your solution. It’s not a need. If it’s a solid if it’s a halfway decent piece of outreach that is personalized, it’s not automated and it’s something I kind of need and it’s somewhere on my priority list, I’ll at least give their LinkedIn profile a look, like you said. And if that LinkedIn profile has no personality, they’re not sharing content, they’re not contributing to threads. They don’t, they don’t have a picture that’s automatic like that, which is just crazy. I think all companies should require reps before they get out there on the field to have like a LinkedIn profile makeover. Like it’s not hard. That should be part of the requirement. You shouldn’t have a profile that is just that just state your past roles and no picture with no descriptions under the roles like you should, you should have at least all star level as LinkedIn tries to convey completeness on your profile because it does make a difference. Buyers like me really want to check for credibility and see if we can trust you and if you’re legit. So we’re going to look at your profile and any little thing that stands out is weird or this person doesn’t seem legit if they have too many buzzwords in their headline like Lead Generation Expert. And another thing I really hate is like if I see in the description, just like a bunch of bullet points, like go to market strategy accomplishments and like it’s just like all these like robotic things, but it doesn’t actually have a story. 


Andy Paul 34:23

I think sort of summing up some of this is we are so rich and entertaining, but authenticity is really important. I firmly believe and my experience has shown me is that we as individuals, we are the difference makers inside totally. And it doesn’t matter how great a tool you’re selling. I mean, there are some occasions where you get lucky or working for some unicorn where the product is flying off the shelves. The rest of the time working for something we actually have to sell. And so we have to go out and it’s about you. Well, I think this is another reason why I’m so focused on this idea of learning versus training is that training is really an attempt to take square pegs and fit them into round holes and to make everybody somewhat the same. I want to be the McDonald’s of sales. I want the buyer experience to be identical with all my salespeople. And the fact is, this is not going to happen because sellers are human, they’re individuals. So the thing is to be the best version of yourself, develop your own skills, your own capabilities, your own personality, your own strengths and weaknesses. And unfortunately, it really makes the sales managers really nervous because they’re driving everything by the metrics. And if they’re drawn by the metrics, I need you to act this way to get this done. Don’t act on your own. And the key to success in sales is being the best version of yourself. I listen to some of this guy’s calls from the earlier part of the month compared to the end. If you can have this level of focus and intensity at the beginning of the month compared to the end, you would smash it every single time. Why is it at the end of the month you’re calling people who are not ready to purchase or they said that they need more time. You follow up with them and then they say, you know, I just I just don’t think I’m ready to make a decision right now. I think I might even go with a competitor. I think I’m good right now. Thank you very much. And this guy is able to fight through that and close it right when they clearly said, no, I’m not interested and I think I’m going to go somewhere else, he is able to do it.


Andy Paul 46:00

So when he was in college, when did he write his term papers? If he wrote his term papers the night before they were due, then you got to answer your question. Why? It’s always the last week or a month is just the last minute. Can’t he can’t get motivated until the stakes are really high. You know, I have to admit, I was the same way myself in college and would do things the last minute. And then I probably did some of that in sales as well. Maybe it’s a coaching opportunity. Well, Gaetano this has been fun.


Gaetano DiNardi 47:14

I always love talking to you. It’s a two way conversation. I always pick up little gems and nuggets for me. So it’s been a pleasure.


Andy Paul 48:15 

Ok, friends, that was Accelerate for the week, first of all, I want to thank you for joining me and also I thank my guest, Gaetano DiNardi. Join me again next week as my guest, Chris Spurvey. Chris is the author of It’s Time to Sell: Cultivating the Sales Mind-set as well, CEO of Chris Spurvey Consulting. Chris and I will talk about personal growth and sales, how to effectively build relationships, how to experiment, to develop a sales style that works for you and the steps you need to take to become the very best version of you. So be sure to join us then. Thanks again for joining me. Until next week, I’m your host, Andy Paul. Good selling, everyone.