Effective Sales People In a World Where Buyers Resist Being Sold
About Common Sense - About John & Ed
John McTigue recently retired from his role as co-owner of Kuno Creative, one of the preeminent B2B content marketing agencies in the country, and is now the Martech Whisperer. In his new role he's working with companies to navigate the convoluted world of the revenue growth tech stack. John can be reached at:
You've met Ed here on the site.
For many years John and Ed have enjoyed talking about thorny issues around B2B marketing & sales, and recently we've started to record those conversations/debates. We're calling it "Common Sense" based on our shared love of history, and the perspective we hope we bring.
You can follow our musings on Common Sense at:
John Barrows is sales trainer to the world's fastest growing companies & #1 Linkedin Sales Voice 2018. John can be reached at:
Buyers have changed - many sales people haven't. In the meantime the business of revenue growth is changing too.
Under the pressure of demanding investors, tech companies have changed a casual marketing and sales structure into a very carefully engineered, fully optimized and relentlessly executed revenue growth machine. This produces reliable forecasts and scalable growth. Further it creates requirements of management to adapt their org chart and resource allocation to build the model. And it's all predicated on sales people that can use today's tools, approaches like the Challenger Sale, yet still create the relationships that are core to sales yet tough to build virtually.
This episode includes:
- What's different about B2B sales today...and what's the same
- Why sales methodologies may not help much
- The enduring importance of relationships in sales
- Collaboration between marketing and sales
- The importance of new tools and specialized expertise
- Clarity about the roles of marketing, biz dev, AEs and success
Hope you enjoy this lively conversation with Sales Expert John Barrows as he challenges some of the ideas you may hold dear!
John McTigue: Welcome to Common Sense. I'm John.
Ed Marsh: And I'm Ed, and today we're joined by another John, John Barrows. I think if you're anywhere in the tech space, John Barrows doesn't need much introduction. You see him all over social media. He's cited widely and he'll tell us a little bit about his background and working with all kinds of the companies that you hear leading in the industries today. I'm sure he's gonna have some great insights for us here today. Interesting story, I first met John when he was a young sales rep. I think he had just started selling. He was selling managed IT services. He understood how to sell. I bought from him and I was thrilled to buy from him, and then since then, of course I've watched his career mostly remotely through social media just blossom. We had the good fortune to reconnect recently at a Drift event and kind of started talking again. So, thrilled to have you here with us today, John. Why don't you start by telling us a bit about your background and what you do?
John Barrows: Yeah, psyched to be here Ed and John. I really appreciate you guys having me on. Yeah, it's a long, strange journey it's been, but I kind of got into sale ... I grew up here in Boston, went down to Maryland, dragged my way through four years of college because I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, got my degree in marketing because there was no degree in sales. It still bothers me that it's the number one profession on the planet yet none of us are actually formally taught how to do it, but got into sales with DeWalt, right? Driving around giving away free tools to construction workers, which was fun, and then started selling at Xerox, and that's really where I got my formal sales education.
Talk about selling a commodity, right? I sold to the government too so I couldn't even negotiate on contract [crosstalk 00:02:04] so that's where I learned relationship selling and also how to take rejection. So I did that and then I started the company you reference which was Thrive Networks. A couple of buddies of mine from high school started an outsourced IT services from [inaudible 00:02:19] marketed and we managed infrastructure service workstations, backup security, and I was 25, I think, so I had no idea what I was doing, so I took every training there was. I took Sandler Miller, Hymen, Taz, Spin, all of the trainings that are out there looking for the answer.
Then I came across this company called Basho and it was this training that I loved because it was very, very tactical. It wasn't this huge theory about selling or this huge, long process I had to follow. It was like, "Hey, here's how to send an email. Send the email. Here's how to make a phone call. Make a phone call." So I was like, "Okay." So I used that and that's really what helped me connect with you, Ed, to really understand how to leverage not some fake sales process to kind of lead you down to get you to say yes and get a bunch of yeses and all of a sudden that's gonna happen, right? It was really how to empathize, how to ultimately give a shit, but also how to use different techniques and tactics to move the dial, right?
So I used that. We ended up being the fastest growing company in Massachusetts for a few years in a row and then sold off to Staples. Staples came and bought us. I spent about a year going through that integration and come to find out apparently I'm not a corporate guy. I don't have much of a filter and I really don't like playing politics so after a little while, Staples offered me another position, which is a really nice way of firing me, and Basho came knocking, said, "John, do you want to be a trainer?" I was like, "No, absolutely not," because I don't like trainers. Most sales trainers I had come across are either failed sales professionals or professional presenters, and if you've ever been through a training where you could tell the trainer has never actually done what they're telling you, right? Or if they did it, it was 20, 30 years ago, I was like, "No, I don't want to do that."
So they said, "Don't worry, you have to use these techniques to sell so you can train so you can get paid." I was like, "All right." The whole practice what you preach, so I joined Basho, took on some bigger accounts, brought on some bigger ones and to make a very long story short, they screwed it all up and I took it over, so I've been off on my own now for about six years working with some really fast, fun growing companies like Salesforce, LinkedIn, Box, Dropbox, Google and training their sales teams on tactics and tips that'll help move the dial, so...
EM: As we jump into this conversation, let me point out, it's not just Millennials and tech companies that you have expertise with. I mean, you've built a partnership with Jack Welch. I don't know all the details of it, but you've got some very strong boomer industrial company understanding as well which I think is important to the audience as we go through this conversation today.
JB: Yeah, I got a chance, so I actually use this as a great example of ... I call it the ... It's called a technique, if you will, on closing and not just closing the deal but closing in general, is called the doorknob or the Columbo close, right? Which is after you lose a deal, you go back and say, "Hey, could you help me the real reason?" Right? So you learn from it and whatever, and I used that after I got fired from Staples. I used that to go back to the guy that fired me. The guy, like top of notch. Like Ron Sargent ran staples and then Jay Baitler ran a $12 billion part of their contract division. He's the guy who fired me. I then circled back to him to say, "Hey, what really happened here?" That was the best hour in business I've ever spent, by the way. That was my MBA. Him telling me what I should've done and how I could've done different and all that, that was my MBA right there.
Then, fast forward, I got an opportunity to work for Jack Welch and it was another small story on that one. I had helped a kid out a long time ago get a job and give him some advice and I believe wholeheartedly in what goes around, comes around. No joke, 15 year, 10 years later, this kid calls me up and says, "John, I've got an opportunity to work for Jack Welch run sales for his new online MBA program." I was like, "What?" [crosstalk 00:05:49] Right? I mean, he was my all time business idol so I put my business on hold and I went down to Florida and I worked with Jack and Susie Welch for three months getting their online MBA program off the ground and it was one of the coolest experiences I've ever had.
EM: Wow. So, some great stories there, both the perspective and experience but also how you integrate all these different pieces of sales and generational differences, et cetera. So, where I'd love for us to start the conversation is kind of with an understanding that many of the folks that listen to John and I probably learn selling around the time you were starting to sell. They've got a very clear idea of what the sales person does, what the responsibilities are, but that's changed. So, lay that out for us real quick, if you would. The way it used to be, the way it is now and what's changed about it.
JB: Yeah, I think a lot's changed. Look, the fundamentals of sales don't change, okay? The fundamentals do not change in my opinion and I firmly believe to this day blocking and tackling and doing the fundamentals right will get you head and shoulders above anybody else if you just do the fundamentals right, okay? Probably everybody's gonna hate me for bringing this up because whatever, but the New England Patriots. The reason that the Patriots are so effing good for so long is because they have a system and they literally ... their tagline is "do your job." Just do your job and do it well and if you do it consistently enough and you hit that gap when Brady checks down and does those things, you're gonna win more often than not, and that's the same thing with sales. However, a lot has changed.
The way that we communicate. Just the resources that we use to communicate with people, but the one that I would say is the most relevant to your audience here is the way we develop relationships. Historically the way that I was told and we were talking about this before we jumped on live here, I like being a Gen Xer in the sense that I feel like the connective tissue between the generations ... since that I remember what it was like when it was, "Hey, I'm gonna shake your hand, look you in the eye and we had a deal," right? And it was ... we would go out and we would play golf together and we would grab dinners. It was a relationship, right?
I realize that that's still relevant. It's just not as relevant anymore, right? But the other thing is the Millennials coming in with all the technology, I'm still at least somewhat connected. I'm on Snapchat, on Instagram, those type of things so I can relate to them, so I can kind of show the new kids some old school stuff and more experienced reps some new school stuff, and what I'm really noticing right now is I don't know if you guys ... or how relevant it is in your world but I really recommend The Challenger Sale. The book The Challenger Sale.
JM: Sure, so
JB: I think a lot of people have misconstrued The Challenger Sale in a lot of ways. It's, "Oh, you have to be a challenger and everything else sucks and relationship sales are over." I fundamentally disagree with that. I think people just misconstrued that, taking it away from the book. What I've took away from it and what I'm noticing is that it's not that the relationship sale has gone away. It's just that it's changed drastically. The way that we develop relationships these days is not about golf and steak dinners and anything like that anymore. It's about adding value, and if you can add value to me, and that comes in the form of saving me time, giving me new ideas to think about, challenging my mindset of where status quo is and showing me that if I don't change, that next year I'm probably not gonna be in this role. That's adding value.
I think the easiest example I can give is ... He was just here [inaudible 00:09:30] ... I got a financial services guy, right? So I had a life insurance guy, and I'll be real quick on this. A life insurance guy. Every year when I was in my 20s ... He belonged to a golf course here in Massachusetts, okay? Every year he would call me up. "Hey John, you want to go hit the links and we could talk about what you're doing these days?" Back then I couldn't afford to be at that ... That was a gorgeous driving range the whole thing.
I couldn't afford to be there, so to me, that was value. That was fun. I couldn't get access to that, but what we would do is we'd spend the first half hour, 45, whatever, talking about how much money I was making and how much more life insurance I had to buy and all that other stuff and then we'd hack around for three and a half hours and then at the end he'd ask me for referrals and I'd tell him I didn't have any and we'd go from there. Every year was the same shit, right? Then finally I got married, kid, those type of things, and he calls me up one time and he goes, "Hey John, you want to hit the links?" I'm like, "Why, Mike?" He goes, "I don't know, man. Touch base, check in, see how things are going."
I go, "Mike, let me ask you something. Are you more important than my daughter?" The obvious answer to that one's no. So are you gonna add four hours of value to my life or can you get this done in a 30 minute call where I can tell you how much money I'm making, you can tell me how much more life insurance I need to buy and I can tell you I don't have any referrals for you. Can we just do that? Right? He was a little caught off, but then what happened was, interesting, he started adding value. So he only did life insurance, okay?
I had two portfolios. I had my life insurance portfolio and then my 401K and my investment portfolio. This guy on the investment side, all he would do, same thing. December 15th he would call me up. Woburn, Massachusetts. We'd sit at the Panera Bread there. He'd show me a bunch of charts that I didn't understand and it ultimately ended up with did we make money or lose money? If we made money, keep doing it. If we lost money, whatever. What was happening after I'd punched this kid Mike in the face with that, he started adding value. So, "Hey John ..." Even stuff that he couldn't even do, right? He'd be like, "Hey, here's a defined benefits plan. Here's something else," and I'd be like, "Oh, interesting," and I'd bring that to my financial advisor and he'd be like, "Oh yeah, we can do that."
So I gave my financial advisor one more chance two years ago and I said, "Look," and I went through the process and at the end of it I said, "Thank you so much. I just want to let you know I'm gonna be taking my money out of your account. I'm gonna be handing it over to my guy," because guess what? Mike then flipped over to a new company where he could not only do insurance but he could also do investment. So I took all my money, and by the way, just for everybody's clarification [inaudible 00:11:53], this guy that I took my money and gave it to the other guy, a friend of the family. My wife is good friends with this woman who's the partner of the main partner, and so we had a personal connection. We see each other. Our kids hang out, but I still, because of the value that this [inaudible 00:12:12] had provided, I took my money from there and I gave it over there.
JM: But another thing that you're doing there is you're learning how to buy, right? So that's another big change is that buyers are a lot smaller now. They use technology, they ask the right questions, they manipulate sales people, so that's ... Right? Isn't that another big change?
JB: That's a huge change. I mean, again, I'm gonna go back to Challenger Sale on this one. The stats say that by the time somebody comes to us, they are already 60 to 70% of the way through the process. Now we can argue what number's what, but whatever. Long story short, they're not starting from zero. When they go on your website and they say, "I'm kind of interested in what you have," for instance, it's not just because they were just farting on the internet and being like, "Oh, what's this? Well, let me talk to a sales rep." They didn't do that, you know what I mean? One thing I realized really ... actually this aligns directly with intent data, G2 Crowd, I was doing a training for them. I found out that G2 Crowd, they are the top 250 most trafficked websites on the internet. Think about that for a second.
A B2B review site for business to business sales software, that type, is the top 250 most trafficked website in the world.
JB: So people are doing so much more research on us before they engage and they're moving way further down the sales process. It's almost like they don't ... It's the consumerization of B2B selling. Everybody [crosstalk 00:13:43]-
EM: Just like the Challenger Sale says, what your life insurance guy was doing was going through this formulaic process of asking questions. Kind of the situational review. When suddenly it changed for you was when he started suggesting the questions you should be asking that you weren't thinking of, and that's the difference.
JB: And it's the ease of buying. I mean, we're all in this world where if I want something right now, I go on Amazon, I look at the reviews, I make my judgment, I push a button, a drone drops it off tomorrow morning. If I don't have to involve a sales rep in that equation, I'm pretty happy. The only time I want to involve, because most of the sales interactions are so bad, you know what I mean? They force us through their process. They drone through a piece of crap demo that I have no interest in. They ask me their bent questions, you know what I mean? Solution selling, that was the shift of solution selling and challenger sale, right? Solution selling used to be, "Let me ask you a whole bunch of questions and then [inaudible 00:14:42] a solution."
But clients don't always know what they need. They don't know what the options are out there. They don't know how to look at this, right? That's why I like the mentality of Challenger which is ... You don't say this, but effectively it's, "Look, you make this decision once a year. I help people make this every day. Let me share with you where people make the right decisions and wrong decisions," right? That's [crosstalk 00:15:02] mentality around Challenger Sale and I think that's the challenge ... Thankfully for me, and I don't know why, maybe it's just because I grew up here in Boston or whatever, but even back when I was selling to you, Ed, when it was that first engagement, I was always of the mindset of, if I didn't think you were looking at this the right way, I didn't have a problem with being like, "Ed, I appreciate that, but there's like ... I have four other customers that did just what you did right there and failed miserably on it and instead, they did ... Now they're doing this and this is why they're successful, so ..." Right?
EM: Right. And that's [crosstalk 00:15:34] ...
JB: [crosstalk 00:15:34]
JM: I think boomers are even more hip to bad selling than maybe Millennials are because we've lived through it for so long and we're sick and tired of advertising and bad selling and everything else, so boomers are probably harder to sell to now.
JB: They are, because they know all the tricks. They know all the crap, you know what I mean? The challenge that I find right now is that boomers and Gen Xers, we're in this weird transition phase, I think, where when we grew up, the three of us grew up in sales, it was really a numbers game. It was make a bunch of cold calls, knock on as many doors as possible, give your pitch, and the other thing is we control the message. You couldn't google it, for instance, you know what I mean? Now all that's gone away, and so the idea of controlling that message has left. Now I think our job is to get people to think. To realize that if you're okay with where you are right now, I'm worried for you, because there's gonna be an app that comes out tomorrow that fundamentally shifts the way that we think or replaces a job.
Going back to your point, John, it's like we're harder to sell to but we're also ... There's a lot more information out there about us. If you'd actually take the right approach and you're a human and you don't use these sneaky bullshit tactics that we were taught, you actually have a better chance of connecting because going back to ... we're in this transition, we still remember that that's a numbers game, right? Even though everybody right now fully understands that quality is the answer, account based marketing, all that stuff, tailor your message, personalize [inaudible 00:17:18] scale and all that other stuff, but the problem is, is that stuff is very hard to coach to. It's very hard to coach towards quality.
What's easy to coach and manage to is numbers. So, even though we fundamentally understand right now that quality is the answer, Gen Xers and above still manage based on quantity. So it's where are your 50 dials? Make your 100 dials. How many demos did you set up? And that type of thing. So I think that the problem is, is that the technology, and we're looking at technical solutions to address those, and what's happening is these reps, we're having them use technology to address the quantity issue and we're really, right now, all we're doing is teaching the machines how to do our jobs.
JM: They're just robots, yeah. That's too bad.
JB: And very soon, artificial intelligence that is coming on board here is gonna be able to wrap that technology into an empathetic message that'll resonate more than a sales rep every would and there's gonna be a reckoning coming up here where a lot of the ... kind of in the tech [sass 00:18:18] world, it's like SERs and BDRs, sales business development reps and business development reps, the ones who are making cold calls and that type of thing, that currently is the feeder system for sales of now they're gonna become full. I actually think that whole group of people is gonna just move under marketing and operations and it's just gonna become salaried positions to do this and look at analytics. The question I have now is where does the full cycle sales rep come from?
EM: Yeah, I think ... So you're talking about whether you're hiring for skills or attitude and how you're hiring the sales reps, but that's a really interesting point that you bring up about the SDRs and the BDRs. I think part of what John and I talk about in terms of industrial companies and the lessons they can learn from tech companies goes back to this model. I don't know if Aaron Ross is the guy that started it but this predictable revenue thing with SDRs and BDRs managing inbound leads and doing outbound prospecting and then inside sales and AEs and channel sales managers, it's a machine that tech companies built because the investors beat the crap out of them and they've got to be able to show the revenue.
Many industrial companies just hide behind the fact that they can't grow a manufacturing business at 300%, so they say, "Well, we just want 3% or 5% or 7% or whatever it is," instead of recognizing that get more of the right leads. Then you stop working on those deals where you're cutting price. You stop working on those deals with the nightmare clients or customers that you don't want to sell to, et cetera, et cetera. How have you seen companies that kind of have a traditional small marketing department and some field sales transition to this machine, this revenue growth machine?
JB: So it's funny because I kind of ... At thrive, back to our days together, I recognize this problem purely related to scale, right? Because what was happening was I was a player coach. I was the VP of sales. 25, again, note out there, that's why titles are a joke, but I'd be hustling and I'd hire some full cycle sales rep, right? I'd hire six or seven of them and say, "Okay, good. Here's your territory. By the way, I don't have time to coach you," so my coaching and my management style was kep up. If you can keep up, you're gonna learn a shit load but I don't have time to sit here and babysit you. I hired and fired six of them, failed miserably all of them because certain people have different skills of the various parts of the sales process. So what I did after firing the sixth sales rep, I took a step back and said, "This is insanity. I can't keep doing this," right? Because even though I wasn't spending a lot of time with them, it was still time.
So I said, "All right, let's break down the sales process into three sections, the three main sections." Opening, processing, closing. Okay, you've got to find the business, you've got to meet with the client, you've got to close the business. I just looked at self-reflecting and I said, "Okay, what is my favorite part? What am I the best at out of all three of those?" I was great at ... and I am at the relationship side of the house, at the meeting with the client, developing rapport, that type of stuff.
Now, could I close? Absolutely. But was it my favorite part of the sale? No. Could I prospect? Obviously. But was it my favorite part? Absolutely not. So at the time, it was me and we ... going back to your point, we had no money. I mean, we were self-funded. No budget. And my CEO at the time, Nate, he was like just a hard ass closer. If you needed a deal closed, you brought him in. He played the asshole role and it was like, "Okay, thank you," right.
So we had the two pillars of the three. Then we looked at the third and said, "All right, we need to find somebody to manage the lead flow so I could then focus most of my time on going meetings and doing what I could do best." So then we said, "Instead of hiring another sales rep or even just an inside sales rep, what I hired was a director of business development." This was Jim [Lippey 00:22:11] that came in and what we did and this is for everybody out there, this is an easy way to implement this with no money. You find somebody who manages the lead flow and then you identify the channels of lead flow that you can get, okay? Now, for us, Obviously cold calling was one of them, so therefore inside sales.
We measured out our equation as far as how many meetings ... The number one thing that I needed to figure out of your sales equation was how many meetings did I have to get on a monthly basis to be able to hit our revenue mark, right? Because we averaged ... Our average deal size was $3,500 a month. That's how much you had to spend with us, and we had a 50% close ratio. So if I could put a proposal in front of you, 50% of the time it closed, which was bananas, and if I met with you, 50% of the time it turned into a proposal. So our equation was I needed 30 meetings a month to drive 15 proposals to drive seven-ish pieces of closed business to help us reach that target, right?
Okay, 30 meetings. How are we gonna find 30 meetings? Director of business development. What channels? Inside sales. I knew from my efforts, just purely numbers based, that any inside sales rep, if they made $400 a week, they would get seven meetings a month or eight meetings a month, so that was eight out of the 30. Now what other channels? Now we had events. Networking events and that type of thing. If I went to five networking events on a monthly basis, I would probably get 10 meetings out of those five events. Done. SEO, website. How much ... If we spent X amount of dollars, how much could we [inaudible 00:23:43]? Okay, there.
Then partnerships, like specific partnerships. So then we identified how many leads or meetings we could get from each one of those channels and it was five channels. My director of business development, what he would do is he would spend literally a day on each one of those channels a week, five days a week, optimizing each one of those. So he would spend a whole day working with partners and that would be the partner day where he'd be meetings with partners, sharing leads and those type of things. A whole day on events as far as, "Okay, what events are we gonna go to? Who's gonna go to what? What's our strategy around those?" A whole day managing the inside sales team about how many cold calls are we gonna make and then what's our messaging look like?
So what happened there was we turned this engine on and he started optimizing each one of those channels. Actually I'll take it back. Inside sales actually wasn't one of the channels at the start because I didn't want to hire another sales rep, so we identified that we needed inside sales as another channel. That then became the flow of scale because what would happen is we'd plug one of those inside sales reps into the equation. We'd have them make cold calls, set up meetings, do the qualification process, set me up on meetings and I would bring my CEO in and then eventually as those reps graduated through that program, like for a year, we'd put them in there, cut their teeth for a year. They'd learn the pitch, they'd learn objections, they'd learn all that stuff and then they would move over into a more meeting role and they would get kind of the tier two and tier three meetings. Not like the cherry ones.
I would still get the cherry ones, but then I moved over into the closing role and my CEO kind of moved out of the equation unless absolutely necessary [crosstalk 00:25:14] this engine on where all of a sudden we just started bring two or three inside sales reps. They would move over. They would fill that. I would move over. I would become the closer. Then the reps would become closers, and that's what got us to be one of the fastest growing companies in Massachusetts.
JM: That makes so much sense, John. I wonder how we got so far off track, you know? By substituting inbound marketing for all that front end. What's your opinion of inbound marketing and where we need to go now?
JB: Everybody's looking for the silver bullet. That's why, because inbound marketing promised us, like, "Oh ..." And this actually goes back to a blog post I wrote a little while ago called The Founder's Dilemma, and this is why that specifically happens, specifically on companies that are growing. The founder's dilemma ... It's usually associated with an engineer or a non-sales founder, okay? Where they come up with an awesome product, they come up with an awesome solution and so what they do is they go out there and they talk to their friends, family and fools, right? Their circle, and they present their solution and because, and I have always said this and you guys know this, that sales is the transfer of enthusiasm, right? It is. And so because they're presenting what they are super passionate about to a friendly crowd, they get great feedback. They might even get a few people to buy some stuff from them, right? So all of a sudden they're like, "Holy shit, this is easy. Let's just grab some sales reps, cram them into this equation and let it go," right?
So what happens is with limited training, with lack of passion for the product, with a lack of understanding of the market, those sales reps inevitably fail. So what happens is founders then say, "Sales, like it's this necessary evil. I hate it. How else can I do this? Well, I've heard all this fantastic stuff about content marketing and inbound lead generation and that type of stuff, so let's do that." Then they find some company or some tool or some solution, they dump a bunch of money into it, they blast the market with a bunch of spam crap and the inbound leads trickle in but the problem with inbound leads is they're almost always non-power. They're not decision makers. They're individual contributors.
So then it becomes this bottom up approach to selling which is, in my opinion, brutal, unless you actually have a product that is designed specifically to get four, five, six, 10, 15 people using it, and then Dropbox or something like that. Okay, but for the most part eventually you're gonna have to go top down and then they flood the market with that and they think it's the silver bullet. They think it's the answer, and they get caught up in the metrics of, "Oh, look at all these MQLs, these marketing qualified leads that we have, and look at how many times somebody was on our website," and this leads back to the intent data. Like that's not intent data. Somebody poking around on your fing website and looking at white papers.
JB: I would venture to guess that a minimum of 80% of the people that are on your website are looking for one very specific thing so that they can do a project or homework or learn something and want literally nothing to do with your service, right? So it's this thing where we get enamored and I also think we're in this world of just instant gratification, so all those little clicks and numbers and that type of thing make us feel really good about, "Oh, look at our marketing program, look at what we're doing," but then we lose track of, "Are these really qualified? What's the conversion rate of an MQL versus an SQL and are those good companies for us to be attracted right now?" So, I mean, I like where we're going with account based, but nobody's figured that out yet, you know what I mean? At least not really well enough to put a stamp that says, "This is exactly how you should do it." A lot of people talk a good game on that but very few people in my experience have implemented ABM very well.
EM: So what do you do with a sales rep if you want them to be part of an ABM program? The interesting thing is, as sales ... In fact, LinkedIn research recently had an article that talked about how Millennial sales people are outperforming in terms of attainment of sales quota, outperforming Gen X and boomers, and LinkedIn research attributed it to two factors. Number one was the fact that they were using technology as you described early on. Number two, because they're willing to collaborate with their marketing colleagues in a way that the older generations didn't. So that really comes as ABM topic. I know it's one that John speaks about frequently, and I'd love to hear how you think you could plug a sales rep into ABM and make him effective.
JB: Yeah, so this is where I think my opinion of where things are going, okay? I'm gonna use the acronyms again, SBR, BDR and then AE, right? So SBR, BDR is the ones that make the cold calls. AE, those are the ones that close the business and usually what happens right now is you have one BDR that supports three or four AEs, and whatever, they set up meetings and that type of thing and then marketing is kind of over here doing their thing and hopefully [inaudible 00:30:08] okay. I think we're gonna move into more of a pod structure where you have the SD, you have the BDR, you have two or three AEs but then, and this is my solution to it, and I really hope this happens, is you get a lower level marketing first year, second year marketing person that actually sit on that team with the BDR and with the AEs, okay? They are connected with marketing obviously. The big marketing team, but their main role is to work with this team in territory.
What they're gonna do is first of all they're gonna look at the numbers, right? Because sales reps will never look at the numbers. They're never gonna analyze the split test and do that stuff. As much as we want them to and as much as the tools help people do this, sales reps just ... Their brains don't function that way. So they're just gonna do their activities. So, somebody needs to look at the data for that team specifically. Whoa are the ICPs in that region? Who are the personas in that region? What are the events? Who's the competition? What are the conversion ratios based on certain messaging, that type of stuff, and then extract that and look at it and gain inferences out of it and then go to big marketing team and say, "Hey, my team specifically in my territory, this is what we need. We need some air cover here. We need this type of messaging and we need to throw these type of events" and be the connective tissue there, right?
So it's this pod approach where there's a defined set of customers that are tiered out. Marketing markets into them as marketing and this is another thing out there for people to make sure that they're doing. I've wrote a post on this called Let Marketing Market, Let Sales Sell, please. Stop sending marketing emails out with my name on it, right? Because if you get a bunch of emails from John Barrows when it's obviously not John Barrows, you know what I mean? Everybody knows what a marketing template email looks like, so if you get 10 of those and then one day I decide to take a step back and do some homework and actually write you a well thought out, very tasteful email, I'm probably already going into the spam filter. So let it come from the CMO and put me on that list, okay? I want to be on the marketing list, so I know when my territory's getting hit with a certain message.
JB: [crosstalk 00:32:20] This is the key for everybody to pay attention to and I stole this from Gary Vaynerchuk but he said a long time ago, "Everybody talks about content is king." He said, "Fine, if content is king then context is God." That to me is marketing versus sales. Marketing is content, sales is context. If we as sales professionals is not putting any context around our content, we're no different than marketing and I have no idea why we're getting paid to do what we do. So now, ABM ... Say there's an event going on in my territory, right? Okay, marketing, blast it out there to all my target accounts. Put me on the list. I'm gonna take my top 25 accounts and my top 25 sales executives. I'm gonna take that email. I'm gonna forward it to them. Not everybody.
I don't have the time to do that to my thousand accounts but to the top 25 or the top 50, "Hey, Ed, I'm not sure if you just got that email from our marketing department but we're throwing a kick ass event here. The reason I think you should come to this specifically is based on either what I know about you or some research that I did on you or those type of things."
Another example, webinar. You sign up for a webinar. I'm gonna send you an email, "Hey Ed, not sure if you saw the webinar we have coming up here but the reason I think you should go to this is blah." Now webinar happens, you don't show up, I then take that email and send it back to you and say, "Hey Ed, I saw you signed up for the webinar. I noticed you missed it. Based on what I know about you, if you actually start listening to this webinar around minute 15 and go from minute 15 to 25, there's some really, really good stuff in there that I think you could apply to what you're doing right now. Thought you might get some value out of that. See you later."
EM: So is the sales person doing the work? It's going back to the Patriots, do your job. Instead of just relying on numbers and blasting stuff out, it's thinking about it. It's sending the right message at the right time. It's what I think I've talked to John about. The analogy I use is people talk about hunters and farmers. I say it's not good enough to be ... You can't just be a shooter, you have to be a real hunter. You have to understand everything that's going on.
JM: John, going back to your pod, you probably won't be surprised to hear that that's 30 years old. I actually got my first job doing that. I was working as a product marketer with a couple of AEs and an SDR selling software to Schlumberger and other big oil services companies. It worked great. There wasn't really a marketing department. There wasn't really a sales department. We just had teams and we're very successful just working together like that, traveling around, knocking on doors, making presentations, and any questions they had, the expert in the room which was supposedly me could answer.
JB: Everybody looks at sales as an individual sport. It's not. It's a team sport in every way. If you want to be successful, it's a team sport in every way, shape or form. I mean, there's some banana statistic out there. I don't know if you guys follow the Gong Blog, but Gong.io is hands down one of my favorite blogs because it's data driven stuff, and one of the stats that they throw out there which was bananas, it said that after the initial qual call, like the initial qual call has to be a one on one thing, right? Because otherwise it gets confusing with all these people, but after that, if you bring anybody into the sales process after that, so if I brought my solutions architect, my manager, whatever it is, at third, fourth, fifth meeting, it doesn't matter, it increases your likelihood of closing that deal by 257%.
JM: If you can get them to bring people, too, that's even better, right?
EM: Bring all 6.8 so you know who you're selling to.
JM: Send your whole team.
EM: We're getting short on time, John, and I know you're running off to the airport. You're flying off to the West Coast to run a sales launch for the year or something. John, why don't you ... You must have a list of burning questions, so why don't you hit John with one of your last questions and we'll wrap up.
JM: Well, I wonder what people should aspire to be if they pursue a sales career these days. Where's a good place to start with that?
JB: So, what do they aspire to or where should they start?
JM: Well, maybe people don't aspire to it, they just find their way into it. I don't know, but if I'm in college right now, which is becoming less and less frequent, other than coding, if I'm better at sales, what should I be doing? john barrows: There's about 70 universities ... First of all, I think sales is, and I'm actually writing a book on this but not the typical book. People have been asking me for a long time, "John, when are you gonna write a book?" I'm like first of all I don't read all that much, so I'd be a little bit of a hypocrite and second of all, what am I gonna write that hasn't already been written? But I've decided I am gonna write a book. It's gonna be a children's book and it's called I Want to be in Sales When I Grow Up.
JB: Because nobody answers that question in sales. When you ask a kid, they don't even understand what it means, so I'm doing a book based on my daughter selling Girl Scout cookies and showing that sales is a profession and if you treat it the right way and you start studying early, you might not have to go to college, right? Because it's the lowest barrier of entry. You've just got to be good at your ... And if you treat it as a science, not an art, and that's the reason I think so many people have avoided educating, like a formal education on sales, because I think historically it's been the mentality of, "Oh, you've just got to have it. Oh, that's a born sales rep." Yeah, that's a born sales rep, because you know why? We're all born sales reps.
JM: Yeah, you have to-
JB: [crosstalk 00:37:50]
JM: Sell when you're a little kid to your parents.
JB: You have to sell your ideas. You have to sell your ... It's all about sales. It's just not whether it's a profession or not. It's a mindset, so I think shift the mindset first of all away from Glengarry Glen Ross, Boiler Room, Wolf of Wall Street [crosstalk 00:38:04]. Worst sales movies I've ever seen. My first assignment for a kid who's looking to get into sales, go watch my two favorite sales movies which is Pursuit of Happiness, which is one of my favorites of all time and then my favorite of all time, which is Tommy Boy. So go watch those two movies because they're what sales should be, and then start educating yourself. There's so many free resources out there about how to do sales right, you know what I mean?
Just google, go on YouTube and start to get a sense of what's out there, right? Then identify, and I always tell people this, you should get into sales early because regardless of where you go in your career, it's gonna benefit you. If you spend a year or two getting your ass kicked behind some phones and learning how to give the pitch and get through to people and short attention spans, that's just gonna do nothing but benefit you for the rest of your career. You want to start a business? Guess what. You're the chief sales officer. If you want to go get another job in another department, you're gonna have to sell yourself to get that job.
If you have an idea inside a company and you want it to go to another ... You have to sell that, so get into it but go find something that you can believe in. Go find a company. Go find a product that you love and you can represent, right? Because I said earlier, sales is the transfer of enthusiasm. If you don't believe in what you're selling, you're just a jackass sales rep, but if you believe in what you're selling, this is the ... I always say this is greatest profession in the world when done right. It's the worst when done wrong, right? So if you get into it and you realize, "I'm gonna take my lumps here for a couple years. It's not gonna be easy but if I can get through that, it's gonna put me in such a better position," then you go find a company that you can believe in.
You get in, you ideally find a company that will invest in you from a training standpoint and then you start to learn what it's like to sell and then call your shots. Then go into marketing. Then go into operations. Then go do whatever you want to do and to answer the other part of your question which is what should they aspire to, and this'll kind of connect with the Gen Y and the Gen Xers, or I'm sorry, the Gen Y and the Millennials out there is the best analogy I can make these days is it's not about the slick ass sales rep like it used to be, right? I hated it back then. I hated it more even now.
Right now the best analogy I can give anybody is Iron Man, is the person, right? Tony Stark. Okay, but without the suit and all the other stuff, Tony's a person and get his ass kicked by all these, right? So now you have to have the person plus the technology, so learn the tools and the technologies and those type of things, and then the AI, Jarvis. So if you, as a person, can start to leverage the right technologies to do the stuff that a person doesn't need to do and then use the insights from artificial intelligence to give you intelligence about that client and then you're the last mile effectively, you know what I mean? You're the one that makes the connection to the human, because until robots start buying from robots, people are still gonna start to buy from people and you need to make that human connection with some empathy and by using the insights that are out there, right?
That's why Millennials are more successful, because they know where to gather the information to be able to understand how to communicate with you best, and then the tools, they know how to leverage those tools. Now, they might not be the best at relationships but we all know that half the battle is getting the tough conversation going, and then I can bring in the expert. Then I can bring in the solutions architect. Then I can bring in all these other people. As a sales rep, you need to be a quarterback. You don't have to be the industry expert anymore. You need to be the quarterback in knowing what questions to ask and what resources to pull together to give the best solution to the client and the best experience.
EM: All right, so you've massively teased people now for the last 30 minutes sharing these ideas, so before we wrap up, real quick, tell them where to find you, how to connect with you, where to learn more. If they say, "Geez, I gotta have this. How do I get this guy into my company?" Whatever.
JB: No, I appreciate that. I give most of my stuff away for free so if you go to Jbarrows.com you'll find my blog, you'll find my resource library, so there's a ton of stuff on there. I also have my stuff online where you can actually purchase [inaudible 00:42:00] exact training that Salesforce gets for either filling the funnel or driving a close, and then obviously [inaudible 00:42:06] the social channels. You can find my handles on LinkedIn ... I'm sorry, on Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram, it's JohnMBarrows, all one word. On LinkedIn, it's John Barrows. I'm the one with the goofy Patriots hat and jacket and on Facebook it's my Make It Happen group on Facebook and same thing with the podcast [inaudible 00:42:26].
EM: If they follow you, they can take a tour of the inside of every airport around the country it seems like these days.
JB: Yes. Yes you can.
JM: Thanks for joining us, John. It's been great meeting you.
JB: Likewise, John. I appreciate it, and Ed, thanks for having me on here. I appreciate it.
EM: Absolutely. It's been terrific. So if you enjoyed this, if you like some of these ideas, you can grab this podcast on Apple Podcasts and if you want to dig deeper, look for the book that John McTigue and I have written at CommonSenseRevenueGrowth.com. Thanks very much for joining us today.
JM: Thanks guys [crosstalk 00:42:58] ...
JB: Bye everybody, have a good one.