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Quotable Podcast Episode #71: “Social Selling Is Not the Answer — Combinations Are,” with Tony Hughes

Host: Kevin Micalizzi, Brigid Archibald
Social selling is not a cure-all; it’s one of the activities, along with phone and email, that reps need to practice in combination. When you’re convinced that you’re adding value, you’ll be more convincing and effective across every channel. Join Tony Hughes, international keynote speaker and author of Combo Prospecting, as he shows how to win consistently today.

Don’t just manage sales by results. Manage the activities that then create the results.”

Tony Hughes | international keynote speaker and author of Combo Prospecting

Episode Transcript

Kevin Micalizzi: Thank you for joining the Quotable Podcast. Today we’re going to be talking about building pipeline, what’s working, what’s not, and how things have changed over the years. We’ve got Tony Hughes in the studio: best-selling author, blogger, speaker on this topic. And he’s come all the way from Australia. Tony, welcome to the studio.

Tony Hughes: Thanks, Kevin, for inviting me.

Micalizzi: Awesome. Let’s jump into it. So Tony, I’m super-excited to have you here in the studio with us. For our listeners who aren’t familiar with you and your work, would you share a little bit about yourself?

Hughes: Yeah. Thanks, Kevin. Really good to be here. So I’ve been in professional selling and business for three-and-a-half decades. And five years ago, I left the corporate world and went out on my own on the back of a best-selling book I had published. And I do a lot of speaking and blogging on the topic of B2B selling.

Micalizzi: I’m super-excited to dive into this. Before we do: I’m Kevin Micalizzi, the executive producer of the Quotable Podcast. And I am joined by Brigid Archibald, who is a Director of Commercial Sales for Salesforce in Sydney, Australia. Welcome, Brigid.

Brigid Archibald: Thanks, Kevin. Great to be here.

Micalizzi: Tony, I think the biggest complaint I ever hear from sales reps, sales leaders, is there’s never enough pipeline. It seems to be a challenge for everybody, and we’ve seen a lot of different ways to potentially solve that over the years. What are you seeing in your research and in your travels?

Hughes: Yeah, I really see the same thing. Everywhere I go in the world, I’ll say to people: “What do you think your biggest challenge is?” And the common answer is: “Look, I know how to sell. The only problem I’ve got is I just don’t have enough pipeline.”

And I usually smile back and say, “Well, if you really knew how to sell, you would have enough pipeline,” because nobody these days can live on and make their number with SDR leads and marketing-qualified leads that come through to them. So in my view, the best a B2B sales rep can hope for is maybe 40–60% of their number will come from other sources.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Hughes: They have to be able to go and create pipeline themselves.

Micalizzi: So you had a great article on LinkedIn about “The Rise of the Silent Sales Floor” and how it’s killing sales.

We were sold social selling as kind of a cure-all. If you’re out there and you’re doing social, people are going to come to you. People are going to say: “Brigid, I want to buy from you.” And it’s just not happening, at least not in that way. But you do have to be out there. What do you see?

Hughes: Yeah. Look, there’s a lot of social-selling schlock, I call it, that’s out there. It’s being promoted, and it’s very much a false panacea. I went “all in” in social three years ago. I decided to get serious about my personal brand, and in the last three years I’ve managed to build towards a quarter of a million followers within LinkedIn.

Micalizzi: Excellent.

Hughes: I’ve become the most-read person in the world on the topic of B2B selling. There’s others with more followers but not more readership.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Hughes: And I do have leads come to me. I have more business than I can cope with. So it is possible that leads will come to us, but here’s the reality: The reason that B2B sellers need to embrace social is because three-quarters of buyers will research them before choosing to engage.

Micalizzi: Right. Right.

Hughes: And when they look at them online, do they see a quota-crushing, Porsche-driving salesperson, or do they see someone of genuine insight, value, and credibility?

So we do need a strong personal brand. All sellers need to move away from their LinkedIn profile being an online CV to, instead, be a personal branding microsite. And I think they need to publish some content. Most people aren’t good writers — it’s a difficult thing to write well — but they can curate other people’s content that’s relevant to their market. And they should publish a few articles, and the main topic they should focus on is take the positive counter-position to common objections that they get. I can give you some examples of that.

Micalizzi: Yeah, I’d love it.  

Hughes: Yeah, because then you start to set the agenda around value and you start to predeal with objections. I’ve got a pretty controversial view: I think that objections are really for amateurs in selling. We should position in a way that we really avoid objections rather than be forced to try and deal with them.

Micalizzi: Right. Well, I think objections are just outstanding questions that the customer still has.

Hughes: Yeah. And if a salesperson seeks progression before the buyer is really ready, and they push back, that’s a thing that really damages trust. So we shouldn’t seek to progress something until we have proper understanding.

Micalizzi: Definitely. So Brigid, I’m going to turn the microphone back on you here. With your sales teams, what are you seeing in terms of pipelines and the challenges your folks are facing in keeping that constantly supplied?

Archibald: I think it’s exactly as Tony said. In fact, we work very closely with Tony, my team, to really constantly be developing pipeline. I liken it to waterskiing. I don’t know if you’ve been waterskiing, but the effort to get out of the water is the hard thing.

Micalizzi: Right.

Archibald: So if you do a little bit of pipeline every single day and a little bit of prospecting every single day, it’s a lot easier than having that dialing time on a particular day of the week.

Micalizzi: I love that.

Hughes: It’s so true. I didn’t know you were a water-skier. So am I. And it’s really interesting because there’s an incredible paradox today in selling, and that is, that it’s never been easier in the history of the world for sellers to be able to research organizations, identify the key people they need to have conversations with, and then even source those people’s direct-contact details.

There’s lots of tools that enable us to do that, so it’s never been easier to find people and get their details. And yet, it’s never been harder for people to succeed in B2B selling. There was a stat that I heard that said 28% of B2B sellers are failing.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: My personal experience is in large, enterprise, complex selling, it’s up as high as 70% inside organizations.

Micalizzi: Wow.

Hughes: So the failure rate is insane.

Micalizzi: Yeah.

Hughes: And the number one problem I see is people just are not executing the necessary level of combinations of the right activity to be successful. They’ve become super-passive.

Micalizzi: So let’s talk a little bit about activity because I know we recently had Joanne Black on talking about referral selling. We’ve talked about different aspects of it. What techniques or tactics are working for people now?

Hughes: Well, there’s some timeless truths in sales, and one of them is that the fastest path and the highest probability for a sale is through referrals and trigger events. And that’s one of the reasons why a platform like LinkedIn and your own CRM system is so important. And the most common trigger event is role changes in organizations.

Micalizzi: Yeah, which I’m going to ask you.

Hughes: Yeah.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Hughes: Yeah. And Joanne is a big fan of that. I love all that Joanne writes and says. So she’s very big on referrals. Most companies don’t have a formal referral program, and they should.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: But that’s really the first thing. So that’s one of the reasons social is important: really more for social listening or social monitoring for trigger events —

Micalizzi: Okay.

Hughes: — than narcissistic blasting and spamming about our own brand or products.    

Micalizzi: Right. So you’re saying we’ve got to get away from the rep sending their regular email saying, “Hey, I’m checking in with you”?

Hughes: Yeah. Well, we should absolutely not try and friend people. That’s one of the biggest mistakes I see. So here’s another irony, and that is that for us in selling, we have no chance of being successful, we have no chance of making the sale unless we can develop a relationship of trust with the buyer —

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: — because people do tend to buy, they create an emotional favorite with the one they feel they know, like, and trust. But the irony is that nobody that’s not a customer yet is lonely and bored and looking for a new friend.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: So calling people up and trying to friend them, I hear sellers do that all the time, or call them up: “Hey, John. It’s Tony from XYZ Company. How has your day been?” And the truth is the person is thinking: “Who are you? I don’t even know you.”

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: “I’m not looking for another friend.” So today we need to live with value, and we need to build a relationship based on the value that we provide in conversations. And I often say to sellers: “As a mindset, we need to move away from thinking our buyer will derive value from us when they buy from me.”

We need to instead think: “I’m going to provide value in the conversation for the person well in advance of them ever becoming a customer.”

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: So what’s my perspective or insight? I know that Salesforce do a great job working with their sales reps. We might get Brigid to talk about this: about their needing to have a point of view when they go and engage with a customer.

Archibald: Absolutely. So one of the things that we do is really research the organization and really tell those stories that Salesforce is great at. But I think one of the things about referral selling is it’s not always a peer referral.

I had a CEO tell me the other day that he actually quite likes it when his staff refer.

Micalizzi: Interesting.

Archibald: So that’s one thing that we’ve started to do with my team is not just going with a peer referral but find someone in the business to refer you up.

Micalizzi: Right. So in part kind of looking for that on-the-ground advocate inside the company for you?

Archibald: That’s right.

Micalizzi: Or is it even further than that?

Archibald: That’s right. Just someone that you know that’s willing to put their neck on the line to really say that you can add value to that business.

Micalizzi: Right.

Archibald: The other thing that we’ve started to do is actually think about who the customers are of the customer we’re trying to sell to, and connect the customers to the organization, as well.

Hughes: Yeah, and I’ve seen Salesforce do that in key deals. It’s a very smart strategy — go and be the customer’s customer before you go and actually run outreach to them — because the thing the customer obsesses about is their own success in their markets. So rather than focusing on what we’re trying to sell to them, focus on what they’re trying to achieve with their own clients.

Micalizzi: Yeah. We’ve had a lot of conversations in Quotable around the whole use of design thinking and really bringing curiosity to that discovery process.

Hughes: Yeah. Yeah.

Micalizzi: It’s great to hear you guys made it all the way to Australia.

Archibald: That’s it.

Micalizzi: I love it. So I want to ask you, Brigid — you work closely with Tony: When that first started happening, what were just the major headaches and pain points you had that you really needed Tony’s help to address because I think a lot of our listeners —

It’s great to say, “You’ve got to have more pipeline. You’ve got to use some tactics,” but I’m curious: On the ground for you, what was it that was just keeping you up at night that you were able to address?

Archibald: It was the pipeline in general because we always want more pipe, but I think the thing that Tony really brought to us as a sales team was getting your narrative very succinct.

Hughes: Mm.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Archibald: And it takes a lot of effort to say something in very few words.

Micalizzi: Right.

Archibald: So I think that was probably the biggest learning for us was really to get your narrative sharp —

Micalizzi: Okay.

Archibald: — succinct, and something that an EA can remember.

Micalizzi: Okay. So we’re talking personal narrative, the mix of personal with the corporate?

Archibald: The narrative in terms of the reach-out to the customer — and Tony talks about this in his blog, as well — in terms of the way to communicate with the customer. But getting the narrative of the email, getting the narrative to the executive assistant that you’re calling very succinct.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: Yeah. And Kevin, just to explain that: The thing I find is the way we’re wired as human beings is to talk about ourselves.

So often what happens is we’ll call someone up and say: “This is who I am. This is who I work for. This is what we do, and this is how it all kind of works.” And the truth is nobody is interested in that until they first understand why any of that stuff would be important to them. So the thing I talk about is we need the right narrative in that we lead with why a conversation should matter to the other person through their lens rather than through ours.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: And so if we’ve got a narrative that works at a C-level. And the thing with C-level executives is there’s three things they really care about. They care about numbers, they care about metrics, and they care about percentages. And we need to not call up and sound like we’re just a cliché.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: But we need to talk about the outcomes that we know that matter to them based on their role in the organization. So for example, if we were talking to the person that runs call centers, we, in doing our research, would maybe know that they care about Net Promoter Score.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: So to say: “Hey, I’m from XYZ Company. But the reason I’m calling is we’re working with others in your industry and people in your role, and what we’re finding is they’re really concerned about this particular metric.

“And some of the customers we’re working with have managed to move the needle to this degree. We’d love to get together and share some insights with you about what we’re seeing them do to actually create that kind of success.” Now you’re providing value for that person in the conversation. And you don’t want to go and betray trade secrets from one company to another.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: But if you can provide insight for them, they’ll want to have the conversation. Then you become the emotional favorite because you were the first to start to educate.

Micalizzi: Right. And there are always trends you could apply from one organization to another on stuff, really.

Hughes: Yeah. Yeah. And an interesting thing with pipeline is that not having enough pipeline is actually not the problem. It’s really the symptom of much deeper issues. The real problem is people don’t have the right narrative.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: They’re not executing the right level of activity. They don’t have the right strategies.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: So they’re really the key things. I was working with a U.S. company over in New York earlier this year, and they flew me over a day earlier from the two-day workshop I was going to do with the team just to sit on the sales floor and just get a sense of the culture.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: And I was horrified. I got in there about 8:00 in the morning. The first salesperson turned up at about 10 to 9 o’clock.

Micalizzi: Oh, wow.

Hughes: The last one straggled in at about 20 past 9:00. They were joking. The first thing they did was open their laptops and check email, get on Facebook, do social. Then they all headed off to the beautiful kitchen facility inside the building and had breakfast and coffee. Came back laughing, telling jokes. The first time anyone picked up the phone and made a call was nearly 11:00 in the morning.

Micalizzi: Wow.

Hughes: And the reality is people are neglecting the phone. The phone was the first social-selling tool.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: It’s really social and the phone. And it’s the combinations of things we need to do today, which is the subject of my next book, which really makes the difference. You need combinations of activity to break through because people are deadened to all of the outreach, especially the digital outreach, that people are being bombarded with.

Micalizzi: I just heard Jill Konrath speak again recently about —

Hughes: Yeah, she’s wonderful.

Micalizzi: Oh, I love Jill.

Hughes: Me, too.

Micalizzi: — speak about the distractions and really carving out the right time for the right activities. And it sounds like [the] right activities and the right time are kind of fundamental to a lot of what you’re talking about, as well: making sure that you’re not just active but you’re actually doing the right things.

Hughes: Yeah, it’s so true. So if we’re wanting to reach senior people, we need to get them before they disappear down the rabbit hole of their busy day at about 9:00 a.m..

So in my view, we need to be on the phone to people at about quarter to 8:00 in the morning and then back on the phone again after about 4:00 in the afternoon. So calling in the middle part of the day is really low yield.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: But what we need to do is we need the right combination. We need to phone. We need to leave a punchy, relevant voicemail. And then we need to instantly send them an email, and then even direct-message them or send them a text message. So that basic combination is what breaks through. I’ve even had CEOs say this to me. They’ll say: “Tony, you’re right. If someone just sends me an email, I tend to ignore it.”

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: “Even if I have good intentions of replying, it just gets lost. If they just leave me a voicemail, I’ll tend to ignore it. But if they phone and leave a voicemail and send an email and even send me a text message, I feel like I at least owe them a reply to the email.” So you dramatically increase the response rate on the email outreach if you have the right combinations when you go with a person.

Micalizzi: We’re finding that with the difference in communication styles across generations there are some folks who just don’t do the phone anymore. I called someone the other day, and his voice mailbox is not even set up.

Hughes: Wow.

Micalizzi: And you know, some days I kind of wish mine wasn’t, either. So I’m curious: When you’re starting to deal with folks who prefer alternative technologies to communicate over the phone, what are you recommending? You mentioned text message. To me, I’m always a little taken aback when somebody just randomly sends me a text message and I don’t know them yet —

Hughes: Yeah.

Micalizzi: — because, for me, that seems like a more personal form of communication. But I’m curious: What are you seeing? And what are you recommending?

Hughes: Well, the reality is none of us should ever really be making cold calls because the ability to warm a call up in social, find a warm path or a warm introduction, do some research, is all there today. But that’s why we’ve got to use combinations. There’s some people that only respond to text messages and just don’t respond to voicemail. There’s other people that don’t like voicemail and really prefer email. And because we don’t know, we just need to use all of those combinations. There will be something that actually breaks through. And we need to make it short and punchy.

And even if the text message says, “Hi, Kevin. Sent you an email. Looking forward to having a conversation,” that’s all it needs to say.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: It doesn’t need to be a sales pitch. But you want the person thinking: “Holy hell. If I don’t respond to this person, they’re just going to keep going. So I may as well call them back.” One of the posts I put up in LinkedIn last year got more than a million views, and people thought this quote was actually by me.

Micalizzi: Mm-hmm.

Hughes: I was actually quoting Jeb Blount, who’s a guy who I really respect.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: He’s written a great book called Fanatical Prospecting. But Jeb did a post where he said he left the same identical message for a CXO. So he was going CEO to the CXO of an organization. I think it was for 42 days in a row until the guy eventually phoned back and said: “Hey, Jeb. You’re not going to stop, are you? So here I am. What is it you want?” Now, here’s the reality: Jeb sold that guy a $2.5 million deal.

Micalizzi: Phenomenal.

Hughes: So he did a $2.5 million contract, which proves there was value in Jeb breaking through.

But I had people write to me and say: “You deserve to be locked up in jail,” “I’m going to pay some NFL linebackers to come and beat you up.” They regard it as harassment. But because Jeb had the right narrative and he was all about the customer and their risk that he saw in the decision that they were making, he was persistent. And the guy thought: “Well, Jeb is not going to stop. He’s earned the right for me to call the person back.”

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: If you’ve got an authentic narrative . . . One of the things I believe is that selling today has really started to lose its way.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Hughes: People are — they’re very frustrated by not being able to get through to people. They’ve got increasing quotas. Average deal sizes are small, getting smaller. There’s more and more people involved in getting a deal over the line. It’s just been more difficult, and that frustration is actually coming through. The truth is selling is about making a positive difference in the lives of their customers and their businesses —

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: — so helping them achieve a far better state of affairs.

And if you’re all about you helping your customer be successful, genuinely believe that you can do that, then you’ll be persistent. You won’t cringe doing it. You’ll think: “I want to help this person.”

Micalizzi: Right. It sounds like we’re back to the whole concept of: You’ve got to always be adding value —  

Hughes: Yes.

Micalizzi: — in this process, or you’re really not going to advance it or even get that connection that you need.

Hughes: Correct. Yeah. And it’s the Corporate Executive Board research from Challenger. It’s all of those things. But we just need to stop trying to lead with the relationship and instead lead with value that earns a relationship.

And we need to get back on the phone again, and we need to execute combinations of activity. Social on its own fail. Email on its own fail. Phone on its own fail.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: But the combinations all together, instantly together, is what actually creates the results. And to me, we should be shooting for 50 calls a day. Every person in B2B sales should be doing at least 50 calls a day. And time-block. As Jill Konrath says, we’ve got to time-block that activity when it’s going to give us the highest yield.

Micalizzi: Right. So you’re going to have that persistence. You’re going to hit multiple channels. But you always have to be scheduling those calls.

Hughes: Yeah. Yeah.

Micalizzi: That is great advice. So Brigid, I want to ask you … I know your team — I’m assuming — does a lot of sales, primarily [in] Australia, Asia. Are you seeing any kind of difference? Our audience is primarily U.S., and our guests primarily have been from the U.S. Are you seeing different behavior in terms of your prospects and your customers in terms of … You’re trying to reach out. Are they difficult to get by phone, or is it still easy, or is everything text?

Archibald: Yeah.

Micalizzi: How is it looking?

Archibald: I think it’s exactly as Tony said: It’s every way until there’s a right way. And it’s reaching them in the way that they want to be spoken to. I have customers that only want to text. I have customers that respond to email. But as Tony said, until you meet them, you don’t know what that’s like.

Micalizzi: Right.

Archibald: I think one of the things that I’m seeing with my account executives as they come through is that they don’t like to be on the phone as much. And I was reflecting upon this.  

When I was growing up, I used to grab the phone with the longest cord and go and sit in my bedroom and talk to my girlfriends for hours. When I look at how my guys interact and the girls interact in my team, because they’re obviously a little bit younger than I am, they actually just like to get on WhatsApp.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Archibald: Or they like to text.

Micalizzi: Yep.

Archibald: And I wonder whether that’s actually part of the reason that they don’t pick up the phone as much: because it’s not what they do when they go home at night.

Micalizzi: Yeah. No. My son is older, and absolutely he’s all about texting. It’s rare he’ll get on a phone call.

Hughes: Yeah, but the root cause of people not wanting to get on the phone in sales — all of that is true, but the root cause is they treat it like it’s covered in spiders because they’re still fearful of rejection. We’re all the same: We all worry about “If I call this person, are they going to be annoyed that I’m interrupting their day? Are they going to reject me?” And it’s just human nature. But if we just lock in with the discipline of getting it done, it’s — I regard Arnold Schwarzenegger — Nannygate notwithstanding — as one of the most disciplined people that ever lived.

But he got to where he got in life because it didn’t matter how he felt — he just did what he needed to do when it needed to be done, and that was what drove his success. And that’s what salespeople need to do. They need to reverse-engineer their own success. They need to think: “Well, I’ve got this quota I’ve got to hit. But I don’t want to just scrape in at 100%. I want to do 150, 200. So what’s my average deal size? How many deals would that take? What coverage do I need?” I would say you need at least 3–5 times coverage of whatever your actual number is.

And then you go: “How many combinations of outreach, how many calls is it going to take for me to be able to achieve that?” And then let’s break that down to how many selling days I’ve got in the month or the quarter. And you get the number. Some look at the number and they’re scared, but to me it’s empowering if you think: “I need to do 37 phone calls a day — ”         

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: “ — if I’m going to break through and build the pipeline I need to do.” The big problem I see with people’s erratic performance — they’ll have a great quarter, and then they’ll crash and burn for a quarter or two, then they’ll have another big quarter — it’s because there’s this big lag between input activities and the results.

And they don’t have consistent input activities. It’s one of the common mistakes of sales management — they try and manage by results instead of managing the activities that feed into the objectives we’ve got in sales that then create the results. Jason Jordan’s book Cracking the Sales Management Code is a really good one on that. But consistent activity is really the cure of pipeline problems if you’ve got the right narrative and if you’ve got the right combinations of activity and a really good strategy of how you’re going to break through.

Micalizzi: Right. You can’t water-ski if you’re not being consistent — right? — at all.  

Archibald: That’s it.

Micalizzi: Well, you can, but it’s a very rough process. Believe me, I’m not very good at it, so I would be in that category. We’ve talked about the reps and how they need to be hitting that target number of calls. They need to put it on their calendar, do it at the right time. And they need to be persistent, need to work with multiple channels depending on — or actually, not even “depending on” — work on multiple channels until you figure out which one works.

From the manager/leader perspective, what should they be doing to enable this and to … There’s not a lot of formal sales training out there. And even if I’m not personally a fan of being on the phone, I have to do it — and I have to do it well. What do you recommend managers and leaders be doing to really develop that mindset and make sure their teams are doing it the right way?

Hughes: Yeah. So I’ve seen Brigid do this as a sales manager. She’s a really great leader. So the first thing is every leader needs to do what they expect their team to do.  

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: I was actually the keynote speaker at a social-selling conference 10 days ago. And I got up on stage. A CEO that I know, as CEO of the company, he had more than 40 sales reps and six people in marketing reporting to him.

Micalizzi: Mm-hmm.

Hughes: As the CEO, he did 150 dials a week himself.

Micalizzi: Phenomenal.

Hughes: He gave himself a sales quota bigger than any of his reps because his rationale was: “Well, I, as the CEO, should be able to get into higher-ranked people inside organizations and do bigger deals.”

Micalizzi: Yeah.

Hughes: “So I’ll give myself a bigger quota.” But three days a week, he would do 50 dials. Now, not dials on their own. He also would outreach in LinkedIn.

Micalizzi: Mm-hmm.

Hughes: He would also send an email. He didn’t text at the time, but he’s starting to do that now, as well. But he recognized: “I, as the CEO, need to lead.” And he worked harder at having the right narrative himself. He made his narrative all about the customers, not about them as a company. The thing I’m seeing Brigid do in her own business, too, is actually setting up times where the team call together.

So I think people being on a common floor, hearing each other fail,

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: So just get those group times where people can do that as an activity.

Micalizzi: Yeah, rejection is so hard when you’re in — you feel isolated in that process. Brigid, from your perspective, what are you finding that you’ve introduced with your team that is working really well or things you’ve introduced that you’ve decided, “Eh, it’s not really taking me in the direction I want”?

Archibald: I think one of the key things is to celebrate the success. And it’s not just the deal; it’s the great new way of working that is helping you crack the code and get in to see customers.

So I think making the time, taking the time to celebrate the small wins and the new prospects is one key thing that we’ve implemented. And I also believe in absolutely not asking my account executives to do anything that I wouldn’t do myself.

Micalizzi: Right.

Archibald: And the great thing about Salesforce is what we sell actually is transformational for businesses.

Micalizzi: Right.

Archibald: So if you’re focused on the value that you’re going to bring that customer, not what you’re going to sell —

Micalizzi: Right.

Archibald: — it actually doesn’t make the call that hard.

Micalizzi: You’re really bringing that belief in.

Archibald: Absolutely, yeah.

Micalizzi: You have to believe in what you’re doing to do it successfully.

Hughes: Yeah. Kevin, you’ve [virtually] touched on something. Selling is, first and foremost, the transference of belief.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: So unless you’re a true believer —

Micalizzi: I wish I could take credit for it. It’s just because I talk to so many great minds in sales.

Hughes: Yeah. But unless you’re a true believer, how can you go and be an effective evangelist for your own company?

Micalizzi: Absolutely.

Hughes: Yeah. Yeah.

Micalizzi: Absolutely. So in terms of celebrating and even rewarding those activities, those minor victories leading up to the sale, I think a lot of folks immediately go to, “Well, it’s compensation,” or, “Well, we give you tickets to a ball game.”

It’s something along those lines. And from experience and from conversations I’ve had, I know monetary compensation is not always the best way to motivate. And actually, in most cases it’s not. What are you finding is working for your teams in terms of how you celebrate those small victories and really keep that momentum going?

Archibald: I think the key thing is it has to be personal for them.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Archibald: So what we do is we have a certain number of appointments that we need to have in our diaries for next week.

Micalizzi: Mm-hmm.

Archibald: And I ask the guys at the beginning of the week: “What are you going to do when you have those 10 appointments in your diary? How are you going to celebrate?”

Micalizzi: Right.

Archibald: So for some, it might be that they leave early.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Archibald: For others, it might be they go to a yoga class.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Archibald: But just asking them to think about: “What am I going to do? And how am I going to celebrate?”

Micalizzi: Excellent. You’re also getting a deeper understanding of your folks, as well, the more you do that. I love that. How about you, Tony? What have you found works over the years?

Hughes: Well, to me, a really good sales manager wants to help their salespeople take the stress out of what they do. Selling is a very demanding profession. And I believe that stress comes not from workload and not even from, maybe, poor results.

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: Stress comes from not feeling in control. So if you, as a leader, can just be really clear with people to say: “We know what the input metrics are that create the success for everybody in this team.” And so long as you’re executing competently, if you’ve got the right narrative, if you’re doing your research — because there’s three key things that buyers expect from us today.

They expect us to truly know them. So we need to do our research. In their view, they’ve got lots of information online. So doing any form of outreach and talking to somebody with that, showing you’ve done your research and know them [is a problem].

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: The other thing is they expect us to personalize — so again, their role and their industry. We need to have relevant case studies or stories that we’re talking about. And then we need to be able to do those things absolutely at scale for them —

Micalizzi: Right.

Hughes: — which Salesforce has got the tools that obviously enable us to do that.

But if we say to people, “These are the input metrics. Here’s how you can go and execute. You’ve got the right narrative. We’ll give you the right research tools. You can meet expectations of buyers,” that’s going to take the stress out of what you’re doing. And to me, the gamification that we do in sales around people’s activities and results — we need to focus more strongly on those input activities and recognize and reward people. And when I say “reward,” just recognize them. I don’t think we need to bribe people or pay them anything or give them prizes.

The reward is their own success and being able to look them[self] in the mirror at the end of the day and know they’re doing what it takes to be successful.

Micalizzi: Yeah. I know internally here at Salesforce a lot of people call that the rigor. You’ve got to have the app rigor. You’ve got to have the activity rigor. And it’s got to become part of your culture. And I would add a fourth to what you were just saying, and that is getting to know the customer’s customer and kind of bringing them into the process as much as you can —

Hughes: Yeah, definitely.

Micalizzi: As it came up. Tony, I want to ask you our lightning-round question: If you could take all of the knowledge and experience you have today, go back to the beginning of your career, and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?

Hughes: If I could go back and give my younger self advice, it would be to not try so hard and not be as hard on myself.

Micalizzi: Okay.

Hughes: In the beginning of sales, I really didn’t understand that it really is all about the buyer. It’s not about me.

Micalizzi: Mm-hmm.

Hughes: It’s really all about them. And if you’ve got great intent, then you can work really hard, confidently knowing that you are going to be successful because you’re going to help enough people that will actually make that happen.

Micalizzi: Excellent. That’s good advice. Brigid, I’m going to turn the question on you, since you’ve joined us in the studio. If you could take all of your knowledge and experience that you have today, go back to the beginning of your career and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you tell yourself?

Archibald: If I was to go back and start selling all over again, I think I would be more focused on the customer’s business — exactly what we talked about earlier: the customer’s customer — as opposed to trying to learn everything about the product that I was selling.

Micalizzi: Right. Okay.

Archibald: So I think it is about the buyer. It is about the buyer’s business, and it is about the buyer’s customer’s business. So I think at the beginning I probably was too focused on what the tangible thing was I was selling.

Micalizzi: Right, what are you bringing in as opposed to what you need to be solving or discovering.

Archibald: That’s correct.

Micalizzi: That’s awesome. Love that advice. And I think that’s a challenge a lot of the sales folks I talk to still have. You spend so much time learning your product, your features, and how to overcome those objections.

And you kind of lose sight of the fact that you’re not even asking them questions anymore. You’re not making them the center of the story. Back to what Tony said — you’re telling your story and you’re broadcasting your story as opposed to really making it a collaborative process.

Hughes: Yeah, so true.

Micalizzi: I love it. Thank you so much for coming in to the studio, Tony.

Hughes: Thank you. And if people want to get my new book, it’s being published by the American Management Association, AMACOM. It’s being released in January.

Micalizzi: Excellent.

Hughes: It’s Combo Prospecting. And it talks about how you can get the right narrative and then break through and build lots of good-quality pipe.

Micalizzi: Excellent. Excellent plug. And, Brigid, thank you so much for coming in to join.

Archibald: Thank you. And thank you, Tony.

Hughes: Thank you.

Micalizzi: I don’t know, I think you guys are the first guests to travel the longest distance to come join the podcast. This is great.

Hughes: Thanks, Kevin. Really enjoyed it.

Micalizzi: Awesome.

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President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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