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How Databricks' Danilo Capric runs effective discovery calls

December 11, 2023

Arjun Krisna

Welcome to our latest blog post, where we delve into the insights and experiences of Danilo Capric, a seasoned sales expert currently thriving as a Senior Account Executive at Databricks.

In this insightful Q&A session, Danilo shares his journey, strategies, and the wisdom he's accumulated over a decade in B2B tech sales. 

Also, don't forget to check out our previous blog, where we put together a list of 20 must-follow GTM experts for SDRs & AEs

Can you share a bit about yourself and your career journey so far?

Danilo Capric, currently a senior account executive at Databricks. I've been in B2B or tech sales for about a decade. I started my career with Gartner in 2014 with an SDR internship. At that time, we didn't have all the fancy tools and were focused on dialing to get as many meetings as possible.

I stayed with Gartner for five years, progressing through various AE and sales training roles. After that, I switched to SaaS with New Relic. A year later, Databricks contacted me on LinkedIn, and that's where I am today. That's a quick overview of my journey so far.

What routines helped you get promoted quickly at Databricks?

The most important routine is mastering the one-on-one with your manager. Many representatives arrive at these meetings unprepared, relying on the manager to direct the conversation. If your meetings are solely tactical, focusing on account walkthroughs, you're not fully utilizing these opportunities.

You should prepare in advance and set the agenda yourself. Assisting your manager in as many ways as possible can create a favorable impression, establish trust, and demonstrate your readiness for more responsibility. It's also crucial to communicate your career goals early and clearly.

When I started my new position, I expressed my goals in our first meeting. If managers are unaware of your aspirations, they can't assist in achieving them. Own the agenda, control the meetings, support your manager extensively, and frequently discuss your career objectives.

What skills helped you transition quickly in your role?

The skills weren't necessarily learned in this role, but rather throughout my career. The most effective skill at Databricks has been my approach to discovery. Initially, my role involved both hunting and farming, but my focus was on discovery. Unlike typical discovery questions, my approach is research-driven with a specific hypothesis. For example, I start calls with a hypothesis about the CEO's top ask and invite prospects to discuss its accuracy.

This method focuses the conversation on priorities and attaches significant goals to Databricks, facilitating new logo acquisition within months. Effective discovery has been crucial for my results and recognition for promotion.

Are there any specific no-nos on a discovery call?

Absolutely never start a discovery call by asking, 'What are your top challenges? What are you worried about?' If the answers to your questions are readily available online, avoid asking them. Such typical canned discovery questions are a definite no-no. Instead, lead with a hypothesis. Not knowing anything about the company is another major mistake.

Often, I see salespeople asking clients to explain their business, which should be avoided. It's essential to show up prepared, understanding the company's operations, who they sell to, the outcomes they provide, and how they make money. These basics are critical for a successful discovery call.

How do you create effective hypotheses for discovery calls?

On our B2B syndicate website, we provide a framework for developing hypotheses and detail the specific things to research for this purpose. It's crucial to be clear on the outcomes your product or service offers. Then, tailor your hypothesis to how it can help prospects achieve those outcomes. For instance, at Databricks, a key outcome we provide is uniting data in one place.

I often focused on prospects with recent merger and acquisition activity, as they likely needed to integrate new datasets. I would approach them with a hypothesis like, 'Post-acquisition, your team is tasked with uniting datasets for predictive analytics use cases.' Even if my hypothesis was incorrect, it often led to a conversation where they would clarify their actual initiatives.

What are your proven approaches for getting more discovery calls?

My most effective channel has been LinkedIn and other social media. On LinkedIn, instead of standard connection requests, I ask a simple, relevant question. For instance, regarding a Databricks event, I might ask a data scientist if they've heard about the event in August.

This approach doesn't immediately come off as a sales pitch and often leads to engagement. I also use voice notes on LinkedIn for a more personal touch, allowing prospects to hear my tone and voice, which builds trust more effectively than text.

Additionally, I utilize unconventional social media channels. A notable example is contacting the Chief Data Officer at Orange Theory via Twitter. I engaged him with a challenge related to his workouts, leading to a meeting.

This approach worked where traditional methods like cold calling or LinkedIn messages failed. Therefore, exploring various social media platforms, beyond the typical B2B sales channels, can be surprisingly effective as prospects often engage in these spaces outside of work.

Can you share best practices for writing cold emails?

Firstly, eliminate all pleasantries such as 'I hope this finds you well' or 'Hope you're having a good week.' These are not effective and can work against you. Secondly, be mindful of your preview text, which is the first thirty-five to fifty characters of your email visible in the inbox. This should be strategic and intriguing. For subject lines, keep them short and to the point.

The email body should lead with an observation or trigger event, be concise, ideally under a hundred words, and include a personalized postscript line. These practices help you stand out. The preview text should provoke curiosity, while a personalized PS adds a human touch and further personalization.

By following these guidelines - focusing on preview text, omitting pleasantries, highlighting a trigger observation, and including a personalized PS, while keeping the email concise - you'll perform better than the average sales representative.

If you could share one mega billboard sales tip, what would it be?

My mega billboard sales tip would be to ditch the discovery questions. They are a waste of time and an outdated practice. Instead of focusing on asking standard questions, demonstrate your credibility by leading with a well-researched hypothesis.

This approach enhances the conversation, allowing you to close deals faster by directly addressing the priorities at hand. Elevate your research game and use hypotheses to guide your sales discussions.

What motivated you to develop your personal brand, and what advice would you give?

Devin Reed was a significant influence in my personal branding journey. His course on LinkedIn personal branding, which I took about two years ago, motivated me to invest in and build my personal brand. Other influencers like Kyle Coleman and Josh Braun also inspired me.

For those looking to develop their personal brand, my advice is to start by simply posting. You don't need to sound like a genius; in fact, content that is funny or humorous, even poking fun at outdated sales tactics, often resonates well. Be authentic and don't fear corporate repercussions; in my experience, few colleagues engage deeply with such content. Remember, it's okay to have detractors as it indicates you stand for something unique.

It's essential to accept that you're not for everyone, nor is everyone for you. Regularly post about your successes and failures, as both are valuable learning points for others. Also, share your daily experiences – whether they are positive, negative, or neutral – to give a realistic view of your professional life. This approach is beneficial for those starting in personal branding but unsure of what to discuss.

What resources do you recommend for upcoming sellers?

I recommend the 'Thirty Minutes to President’s Club' podcast, which features outstanding sellers. Another important skill for salespeople is writing. Two LinkedIn professionals, Dina Kalpalovich and Charles Miller, focus on copywriting and how to write effectively to evoke emotion and drive action. Becoming an excellent writer can significantly enhance your sales communication, making people more inclined to take meetings.

Additionally, I advise experimenting beyond traditional best practices. Try new methods like sending personalized videos or packages.

If targeting a company with an app or a physical store, visit it, take a photo, and use that in your outreach. The key is to do something different from the norm to stand out and achieve better results. The goal is not to be average but to excel in the profession by adopting innovative approaches.

We hope you found this Q&A session with Danilo Capric as enlightening and inspiring as we did. 

Danilo's journey and advice are a testament to the dynamic and ever-evolving world of sales, highlighting the importance of adaptability, continuous learning, and personal branding.

Stay tuned for more insights and inspiration from industry leaders in our upcoming blog posts!

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