I was recently interviewed on the 151st edition of The Predictable Revenue Podcast, by co-host Collin Stewart.
Throughout the podcast, Collin and I discuss how to update the traditional Hunter-Farmer sales model to better reflect the responsibilities of today’s sales professional. Highlights include:
- the problem with the Hunter-Farmer sales model ([3:18]),
- specializing sales roles ([20:11]),
- what does a good Trapper do that too many salespeople do not? ([22:32]),
- the makings of a great salesperson ([35:15]),
- my unique celebrations after closing a big deal ([42:55]),
- and cold call with Collin for Agile Stacks, Inc. ([48:46]).
You can listen to the podcast wherever you get your podcasts.
And you can stream it right here from Stitcher:
**** Begin Transcript ****
Following is the transcript of the 151st podcast of Predictable Revenue. The podcast is a conversation between Colin Stewart, as host, and Sean O’Shaughnessey, as the guest. Sean is the Chief Revenue Officer of Agile Stacks, Inc. and the author of “Eliminate Your Competition” which is available wherever books are sold.
The transcript has been slightly edited for readability but no substantial content was changed from the original recording.
Welcome to the Predictable Revenue podcast, where frontline sales leaders teach you how to build and scale an outbound sales team.
Welcome back to The Predictable Revenue podcast. I'm your host, Colin Stewart. Today I'm joined by Sean O'Shaughnessey. He's the CRO over at Agile Stacks, and author of the book “Eliminate Your Competition.”
Sean, welcome to the show.
Thank you very much for having me. Appreciate it.
Yeah, great having you on. I don't know if you can hear the difference. Or you can certainly see the difference. But because we are now in self-quarantine, and everybody in the office is working from home, I am dialing in from my bedroom. I am really hoping the kids on the other side of this wall, don't wake up and start screaming. If they do, they may come and join the podcast. Hopefully, that naptime lasts for another 45 minutes or an hour and a half would be great. But no promises. No guarantees.
Yeah, it's kind of amazing what we're having to go through as an economy right now.
I'm super grateful that we had set the company up to work remotely from day one. Even though we had offices, everybody uses laptops. There's no paper. I fought for us to never buy a printer so that people didn't get tied to paper. And our accounting team finally snuck one in, they just went out and bought it, which is something I would do and so I gotta respect that.
We're very fortunate that we've been able to transition from living in offices to being fully remote. I'm hoping everybody that is listening is doing the same, and they're safe and healthy and happy with the transition, even if it is temporary to be remote.
Talking about the episode today, Sean, you're not a big fan of the old Hunter-Farmer model. You actually wrote a book about the Trapper model, and the book is called "Eliminate Your Competition," but we're not going to go into the book here. I'm curious. What's your beef with the old Hunter and Farmer model?
So the traditional Hunter-Farmer model is just a bit too simplistic, and that's my big beef with it. It's just too simplistic in a relatively complicated world now. I'm going to be kind of forthright. I have always been involved in B2B sales. Selling products that are fairly complicated to sell. Long decision times with lots of people involved in the decision-making process. It's not unusual for me to go six months to two years to close some deals. So the Farmer model or the Hunter model is just too simplistic.
And I've seen salespeople that don't say that they're Farmers. That's kind of a negative connotation in sales. But they'll say that they're Hunters and I also see them just losing deals because of their Hunter mentality. I concluded there's got to be a better way. That's when I actually came up with this model. I break it down into four different categories. I contend that we still have Hunters and Farmers. But we also have salespeople called Gatherers, and we have Trappers.
So a lot of the things I talk about in my book, and when I explain this concept, I also fall back on the 1700s or 1800s generalization on being a Trapper. What does a Hunter look like? What does a Farmer look like? So I use those as my examples as I am talking about it. It's just too simplistic to say there are only Hunters and Farmers. There are bad things that Hunters do, and there are bad things that Farmers do. On the flip side, there are good things that they do.
So talk to me about the idea of a Trapper from how we evolve and how it's different from Hunter and Farmer. I'm thinking you're getting into some like, "Is this person using NLP to trap them into agreeing to sales?" Help me understand your thinking because I doubt it's that nefarious.
So let's use those examples from pioneer days because everybody's a little familiar with it. You've watched Daniel Boone or whatever on TV. Let's use those examples a bit. Let's start with something that everybody knows.
"What is a Farmer?" Farmers typically have their farm. They have their 40 acres or 80 acres, whatever. They have the land that they're working on. They are going to put a lot of work on that land. They're going to keep going to it over and over and over again. They're going to cultivate it. They're going to put good seed on it. Those are all good qualities. Let's be honest, those are all good qualities. However, you get a bad rainstorm, get a bad hailstorm, get a drought, and suddenly the Farmer is now starving.
That doesn't mean that a Farmer doesn't close deals. I know people that I would categorize as a Farmer, and they close deals. That's the downside of saying the Farmers are bad. Because they do close a significant amount of deals. But they also tend to have ups and down years where things aren't going well, their patch is not doing as well that year. That's the problem with a Farmer.
Now, for a Hunter. Hunter sees and shoots. That's really what the Hunter is doing, walking around the woods in the traditional Hunter mythology. He or she walks around the woods, and sees an animal or sees prey and shoots. That's wonderful! You saw something you were able to get, and you were able to win the deal. And you closed it. That's fantastic! Those are good traits.
However, just like with a Farmer, there are some bad things about that too. What if you don't see anything? What if you can't find prey to actually go after? So that's the problem with the Hunter. The Hunter always has to have a deal to trip over otherwise what’s he going to catch? That's a problem because if you can't find it, then you aren't going to be successful. So in mythology times or in pioneer days, you roam wide and far looking for game. We've heard about Native Americans back in the back in the day, and they would follow the bison herds across the plains. They would travel long distances. They'd have houses that were very portable so that they can follow animals around. That's what they had to do. And that worked really well, but it had lots of problems.
That's the problem with the model being simplistic and saying, "I'm just going to be a Hunter." I look at the good things about Farmers and suggest, let's turn them into Gatherers.
Let's think about what a Gatherer is. A Gatherer is somebody that looks for berries or roots or whatever. They went out, and they kept on gathering. They have to really know their area to do that.
I categorize Gatherers, in the sales model, as people that have good relationships with high-quality companies and work for a high-quality company. So they are in the account every day or every other day. Maybe three times a week. They are constantly trying to grow the business at that account. That's not a Hunter, you would think that'd be a great thing. But that's not a Hunter.
It's also a very important trait. There are whole companies that have set up their entire methodology to make Gatherers successful. They become trusted advisors, and being a trusted advisor is a great thing. A Hunter that runs around and is only trying to look for the next deal rarely turns into a trusted adviser. We all hear that trusted advisors are a good thing. We need our salespeople to be trusted advisors.
If you take all the good things for all of those personas, we turn that into a Trapper. Let's think about what a Trapper does. A Trapper does look for game. He's always moving around looking for prey. But he also understands the kind of prey to catch. He's not just shooting anything that moves, he's only trapping the prey that he can sell.
A Trapper also understands where to put the traps? How do I relate my traps to the customer? Of course, a lot of this came from the standard sales methodology of setting traps to win deals or not lose deals. So I developed that terminology because of that use case.
We have this very complicated and long sales process. You have to know exactly what you're doing in order to be successful. And you have to think ahead about your prey. And I'm not saying that customers are prey, but my prey is going to walk down this path to get to this waterhole, and I need to put a trap there to get that right. Or, in the case of beating my competition, my competitor is going to go down this path, so I've got to trip him up. I need to set a trap here so that my competition does not proceed farther.
I developed those methodologies when I started to think of how to make this model better since the Hunter and Farmer terms are just too simplistic. If we look at this traditional four-quadrant chart, which is similar to what you would see in any personality test. I'm a firm believer that nobody is actually a pure Hunter, a pure Farmer, a pure Gatherer, or a pure Trapper. If we look at it, they are different instances of different capabilities. The instances are actually growing from each other. A Farmer can easily become a Gatherer if that relationship is stronger and become a trusted adviser.
A Hunter can start to become a trusted adviser when they start thinking ahead and planning again. The Hunter becomes a Trapper. A Gatherer obviously can move over to become a Trapper as well.
The strongest salespeople, in my opinion, are Trappers that are in a Gatherer position. It's almost impossible to beat a Gatherer in an existing account.
Let me give you an example of that. I am a salesperson selling for a high-quality company, not a fly-by-night company, but a company with decades of experience with a lot of great products that are dominant in their industry. That person's job is to maximize the revenue coming from this large company, a Fortune 500, and probably a Fortune 50 company. We know these people, they might even be a vice president level salesperson assigned to one account. That person is totally entrenched. That salesperson is talking to the CEO and talking to the board. Potentially talking to various vice presidents in the organization. You want to compete with that person? Good luck! That's gonna be the hardest deal that you're ever going to do. You almost never can be a great Gatherer in a deal.
So we need to think larger than just Farmer and Hunter because too many people that are Farmers and Hunters constantly lose to Gatherers. Many salespeople avoid Gatherer accounts. Salespeople will say, "That account is sold on XYZ competitor. If it's not painted blue, or it's not painted purple or not painted red, then that company won't buy my product because of the sales team that's on that account." That's a significant benefit to that company with the Gatherer. We all need to get that good at selling to most of our customers.
That was a lot of Hunter-Gatherer-Farmer-Trapper. Let me see if I can kind of place this into how into the roles that I see in the world here.
If you just go back to that graph. It feels like the Farmer is really more of the account manager type individuals where they're more focused on servicing the account and dealing with upsells, dealing with contract extensions. Almost like a customer success role.
And then the Gatherer seems like it's two different archetypes. Like two different sides of the same archetype. Where there's like the light side and the dark side. And on the light side, it's the Gatherer that has all of the benefits of being a Farmer, but you're just ratcheting it up. You're being more proactive about getting into your accounts, whereas the Farmer seems slightly less proactive.
And that's the keyword on both sides. That is being proactive. Even on the Hunter-Trapper side, it is that proactivity capability. That ability to think ahead. To figure out what I have to do for my customer for the long term or even short term, but what am I going to have to do? And how am I going to position myself? As opposed to a Farmer, I'm just going to pick up things off the field. I'm just going to take deals as they come to me. That's great if you can. But if you can be a Gatherer, and actually going out there looking for stuff and making things happen, it becomes a little bit better.
Gotcha, gotcha, gotcha. If we look at the difference between Hunter and Trapper, when you were describing Hunter, it really sounded like you are sort of a lone wolf sales rep that's solely focused on closing the deal and not associated with any follow-through.
Not actually. It's more than the decision process of the deal itself. In a typical decision-making process, you're never going to make the pitch where the customer goes, "Oh, I gotta buy that." That just doesn't happen in my world. I'm sure it happens in other products that are out there. But it doesn't happen in the complicated products that I tend to sell, and we sell at Agile Stacks. We have to think ahead longer.
The customer may actually be trying to figure out how to solve a problem before they're ever willing to talk to a salesperson. And in reality, we see this in a wide variety of industries. Depending on the metric or study you believe, the decision-making process is 50%, 60%, or 70% done before the salesperson is contacted.
I think we can all agree that when I was a young man, and I'm not anymore, the decision-making cycle was when I showed up at the door, and that's also when I started the sales cycle. That was when you couldn't get information from the internet. Now the reality is, most decisions have already been figured out and decided upon before any salesperson gets involved. If you're a Hunter, you may be so late that all you're doing is reacting to what is going on as opposed to positioning yourself to be ahead of the process. So 'proactivity' is a big word.
Gotcha. And so in this model, is the Trapper, more of an account executive? Like an AE in a full-time closing role? Is that what you're suggesting?
Yes. My salespeople that I try to get to be Trappers are pure salespeople. They're account executives that have a territory. They have a bunch of accounts that they're going after. On the accounts that matter to them, I'm asking them questions like, "Are you positioning yourself so that when the prospect actually starts the process, are we going to be in a driving position and getting the deal?" As opposed to being Hunters.
I am probably compartmentalizing it a little bit too much, but a lot of times, Hunters are being driven. We've all heard this problem. You received an RFP, or RFP, or RFQ (whatever your RFx happens to be), and you didn't have anything to do with affecting how that was written. Just about everybody will tell you, "Don't respond to it." There are various philosophies on that, but my philosophy is you probably shouldn't respond to that. You're probably column fodder. That was a very popular term in another book that was written 25 years ago. The ability to influence that RFx, as opposed to reacting to the RFx, is a big deal. Hunters tend to react to the RFx. Trappers tend to influence the RFx. Gatherers tend to take the RFx off the market.
Gotcha. It seems like Gatherers are in the best position if they don't even have to do the RFx.
Yeah, Gatherer is a great position to get in. But remember you have two criteria for Gatherers: you have to work for a fantastic company, and you have to be calling on a company that loves your employer.
I mean, you have to work for a company that people buy without even knowing why they are buying from that company. There's not a lot of companies out there that are in that space and have that much influence in their marketplace. So you have to work for that kind of company. You have to work for a company that literally you can live in one account. Maybe you have five or six accounts, but that's it.
Yeah, I'm feeling like these are the big companies, like the SAPs, the Oracles. I hesitate to say Salesforce because I know they have some competition, but I know people that are reps over at Salesforce, and the sales culture there is crazy. They work super hard. So it's not like anybody sitting back and just relaxing and throwing their feet up.
And that's the other thing that I frequently say. There really is no bad thing about Farmers, Gatherers, or Hunters if you're going to work your ass off. If you work your ass off, you're probably doing enough of the good things of those other quadrants on this chart that you actually can be successful and get your deals.
I know Farmers that make their number all the time. I know Hunters that make their number all the time. I know Gatherers that make their number all the time. And I know Trappers that make the number. So you can be one of them, or primarily one of them. But if you work your ass off, you can probably be successful too. It is just easier if you adopt Trapper tactics.
Gotcha. I'm curious how you see this. So one of the things that our company stands behind is the idea of specialization in sales roles. Sort of separating the sales roles. Pulling out the handling of inbound and outbound appointment setting. Having dedicated account execs. Having a dedicated account manager and customer success people. How does that fit into this model?
This is primarily for the account execs, the people that are selling and closing the deal. For SDRs or BDRs trying to get appointments (and I love that model as well), that model can actually relate to this a little bit. But typically they're going to be Hunters, or they're going to be Trappers. I mean, let's be perfectly honest, they're not just farming the account. They're not, because that's just not what that role does,
So unlikely or a model I got, yeah,
It's just unlikely. And in that role, they just can't do that. However, if you're just a person who picks up the phone and makes a phone call to a name, that you got off of some lead list, especially if it was a cold lead list like you went to discover.org, and you found a name. Good luck to you. Have fun with that. So that's extreme Hunter. You're not gonna have a lot of success doing that.
However, if you took that name and you really analyzed this title as to what makes sense. This is what this title needs. And you have some ideas on what to say to that title. This company is in this industry, and these things are affecting this industry right now. This title in that industry is affected this way. Now, you're starting to think a little bit more like a Trapper.
When a BDR does this, you're starting to plan ahead. Maybe you've done some research on that company. Maybe they bought other things like this. Perhaps they bought other competitors' products or maybe they bought complimentary products. You did a little bit more research, you've got ahead of it a little bit.
Once again, you were proactive before talking to the customer. You're proactive about understanding what the problems are, and what the company's needs and goals are. Maybe you just open up the annual report and read it, which, I really wish more salespeople would do.
Let's get into it. Let's see if I understand you. This quadrant really applies to people specifically focused on that account executive role. If we're thinking through the lens of specialized sales roles, we're probably looking at the Hunter-Trapper as the light and the shadow archetype. Help me understand what a good Trapper does? I think I get the model here, but what are some of the best practices? What are some of the things we can learn from good Trappers?
I'm gonna show you a different graph if you don't mind that I think it might be helpful.
So I talked about this already. I talk about decision timelines a lot. In a complicated sell, like what I do, you'll have this decision-making timeline. I don't call it a buying timeline, its a decision-making timeline. Because that's all really sales is: convincing somebody to make a decision that we want in the timeframe that we want them to make it.
Where are you going to engage with the customer in this decision-making timeline? There's a cost of sales issue with this. The later a salesperson engages with the prospect means I'm spending less money. As a Chief Revenue Officer, I worry about trying to figure out how to keep my costs under control. I'd love for you to say, "Yeah, I stole that deal. It closed in three weeks". That's fantastic! That doesn't mean you adjust the customer buying timeline to three weeks. The decision-making timeline started with somebody at the customer saying, "Hey, we're missing a goal. We're not achieving what we need to achieve."
There's a variety of processes the prospect has to go through to get to the point where they're actually issuing a purchase order. That is just a fact of life in a complicated sales process.
Where do you want to enter into that process? A Trapper wants to enter as early as possible but still trying to control his or her sales cost. If you have to call on 15 accounts, 30 accounts, or 50 accounts, or whatever is in your territory, you can do that efficiently if you are a Trapper.
A Trapper has to constantly communicate with customers to help them in that process. You want to actually drive them to make a decision. That first arrow is intentional. It's actually prior to the prospect saying, "We are missing a goal."
Part of being in sales is to actually convince the customer that they have a problem and are living with a problem, you just don't even realize it yet. That's part of being a good salesperson. So a Trapper wants to be as early in this process as possible. Trappers have to put together tools and techniques that don't take a lot of time because this could be a really, really long sales cycle. And the longer it is the longer your cost of sales.
Time drains mean fewer customers you can call on because you're spending all this time with a customer who takes a long time to buy. So there are lots of ways to do that: constant letters, constant newsletters. Creating a newsletter that you are sending from a salesperson, not the marketing department, from the salesperson sending it once a month. That's just really easy to do. It's easy to leverage stuff from your marketing department. And you're just giving them information. And that doesn't even have to be information about my company. It can be information about my industry, or about things that are happening in my environment or things happening in my community, or company events. Information about your city, the industry you're calling on, or whatever.
So all of those things add to that goal. I can now keep track of that customer and keep my name, my company, my brand in front of that customer for as long as possible without spending a lot of effort. And that's just stuff that a Trapper has to do in order to be effective at doing the job. This is hard, and it takes proactive thought and proactive planning in order to pull that off.
Gotcha. And so what you're saying is one area to differentiate between the two is, at what stage do you jump in and start doing the work?
If we look all the way at the end of the spectrum at the far right, it's “Place Order.” So, if you exist there, you're an order taker. If somebody calls you and says, I want six units of this, you're an order taker. I've been in that role. And there's nothing wrong with that role. It's just your influence over the deal is very minimal, because they've already decided. "Okay, I want X, I want six of X. Give me that, please."
Yeah. In those kinds of situations, you also start to question, as a management team, you start to question whether you really have to have a sales force? I mean, can you just automate all this and say, "If we're just taking an order? And why in the world would we pay a salesperson to do any work?" The closer you are to giving the order, the less value the salesperson really has because they're not influencing the deal.
These arrows are obviously evenly spaced across the timeline, so it's wherever it makes sense in your organization to join it. But with the understanding, that customer is going to go through a variety of efforts along the process. And every customer is going to be different depending on what you're selling. Some of those steps that I have up here might take a day, and they might take six months.
The reality is that they all start with realizing that they're missing a goal. They're not achieving what they want to achieve. Some people call that pain, but I actually say, you really want to get back to, “You're missing a goal.” Not that you have pain. But then it's, do we even care if we have pain. Is the pain a problem? Because just because you're not achieving what you want to achieve. That doesn't always mean anything in today's environment. In general, there are competing issues that you care about and want to spend money on. Or I as a company, we are going to spend money to solve that problem. We're just going to put up some problems, and we're going to live with the problem because it's not worth fixing it because we have other things we have to do.
This is really interesting. It made me think of something that one of my colleagues, Kenny, talks a lot about, which is sort of relevant. And I'm going to go on a tangent here, so follow if you can. I apologize for thinking out loud because it just sort of triggered something in my mind.
But if we're thinking about account qualification, this is, “Are we missing a goal that's coming upon us.” There's some friction in their life. I think even before here, if I apply Kenny's model, it starts with the responsibility of what are you responsible for? And does that align with what our company does? And the next step down is the goal or the KPI. Do you have a KPI or goal for this year or this quarter that aligns with something that one of our products or services could solve? And then it's a job to be done. So if you were coming in here at like, are we on track to hit that KPI or not. If there is then great, then is there a job to be done that we can solve? Fantastic? Is there any friction for them? You know, is there enough friction for them to do something externally? Yes or no.
And really what you're saying is you're getting your team to go in and look for these opportunities where it's the right individual at the right company. They exist in a situation where they have a goal. Still, there's this disparity between their goal and what their capabilities are. You're looking to get in before they realize there's a gap.
Yes. The primary book of all books for sales training is "Strategic Selling," which was written back in like 1984. So it's an old, old book. It's older than me in sales. It was the very first sales book that I actually read back when I was a young man.
Yeah. It's a great book. One of the things that they taught in that book and I don't remember what page, but I could check because the book is right behind me in the cabinet. But one of the things that they talked about is where do you want to be versus where are you? What is that gap? If that gap is small, that is there's a very little gap between what your goal of what you want to be like, and the reality of where you are, then you don't have a deal. If there's a big gap, then you might have a deal.
100%, and I love Miller-Heiman. That was certainly the first book I read. I think the "New Strategic Selling" was still only updated 20 years ago. So I've read both versions. They're very similar. But you're right. One of the phrases that stuck with me and helped me understand was you're looking for a delta between reality and expectations. If you can find that, you've got a deal.
If you find that, you've got a deal, that's what that very first statement is on this timeline. Are we missing a goal? Somebody in the organization realizes that there is a gap, and it always starts with one person. We may not find that one person. It's kind of like patient zero in the healthcare scare that we're going through right now. We may never find that person. But some person realizes that we are missing a goal and then it goes from there.
Then the, "Do you agree?" step is critical. The prospect has to go through this step, especially for complicated, expensive products like I tend to sell. That "Do you agree?" step takes a lot of work because it has to get enough people to agree that, "Yeah, we are missing our goal." It's not just one person's going to say that.
And then it's, "Do you care?" and then, "Do you really care?" Did the prospect get more money? Did the prospect get enough money to solve the problem? So yes, somebody cares, but does the executive that owns the budget? Does he really care about solving that problem?
This is where most people enter the sales process when we get to, "How do we fix it?" That's really when salespeople get excited. "How do we fix it" and "Come up with ideas on how we're going to fix it" and then "Evaluate those ideas." That's where salespeople like to be involved. But the customer started a long time before that.
If you can be an influencer in that process, then you can really start to control the ideas and the formal evaluation of ideas. And that's really what a Trapper is all about. The other three personas are very good, but a Trapper is saying, "How do I get so early in the process that I can now completely control the 'How do we fix it?', 'The ideas', and 'The formal evaluation.'" If I can control the early process, I can control that last step, which is who gets the order?
Yeah, there have been so many opportunities that I've worked that have just spun. You submit the bid, and it's essentially recycling. You know, like you said, you called it column fodder?
Column fodder. I guess that I'll make a call out to that book as well, and that is "Solution Selling" by Bosworth. Bosworth made a big thing about this whole idea of being column fodder. If you're not driving that decision, then you're just not relevant.
I took my first Solution Selling course, probably 20 years ago. At one time, I was actually certified in coaching Solution Selling. But my challenge was, how do we get salespeople to actually drive that decision to not be column fodder? I saw that gap: you need to move earlier in the process, but by going earlier, the cost of sales goes up. I'm the VP of Sales, I worry about that. Every salesperson is their own VP of Sales as well because they have to be self-motivated. So how does a salesperson take care of that gap without digging into a hole where they really can't even keep up with my accounts? Then the rep has to go to the boss and say, "I have too many accounts, but I'm still not making my quota." You don't want that conversation ever to happen.
Right on. Yeah, for sure. And it was Michael T. Bosworth. I had to look it up. But I thought it might have been Mike.
I want to get to talking to the story of those bottles behind you and ask how you reward yourself after closing a big deal. We had a conversation in our pre-interview. You had some interesting perspective on what a great salesperson does: your three legs.
So let me go to a different slide.
And if you're listening along, I'll include a link to the graphics that Sean's sharing here in the show notes. So definitely hit those up there, if you're curious.
Every salesperson sells three things. And I think this is really important. And it's a good way to think about it.
You sell your product. You sell your company. You sell yourself. The bad thing is, only one of those matters. And that is yourself.
You need to be a really good salesperson in my business. You sell your product. You have to know your product. You have to know all the features and benefits of your product. You have to be able to position that product in front of the prospect. All of this is a given.
Your company. You have to talk about how that company has good services. They're gonna stand behind the product. They have good R&D or whatever, whatever the case may be. So that's the company information. You're gonna be around tomorrow. That's the other company information.
Unfortunately, those two things: product and company are almost always ties in most sales contests.
Now you might be lucky, you might have a fantastic product. There is no other product on the planet that is as good as this product today, and it just sells itself. And that's great if you have that product. There was a point in my career, that for about a year and a half that I worked for a company that had that product. And literally, we were just selling it like it was nobody's business. That was a fantastic sales time. I blew away my number when I sold that product back when I was the direct salesperson.
But it doesn't happen typically. Typically, most products are plus or minus the same as all the other products in their space. There are two or three or five or ten products that are almost as good as the product that you sell. Now, every salesperson listening to your podcast right now just said, "But my product is better!" Okay, your product is better in this area or in that area or that other area. But it's probably worse in two areas. Essentially, it comes out to a tie. You have to almost assume that it's going to be a tie.
Same thing with the company. Chances are most people work for really good companies. They're reputable companies. They're trying to do the best by their customers and trying to help their customers as much as they possibly can. Some companies may have a bigger bank account, so they are more stable. But for the most part, the company becomes a tie as well.
But like I said earlier, if you work for a fantastic company, and you're a Gatherer, you're talking about your company all the time. We mentioned a couple of companies such as SAP and Oracle that kind of fit that. They are unique companies in their space. And some people say, "I don't like SAP," or "I don't like Oracle." So maybe those companies aren't always a plus. But for the most part, customers don't buy because of the company. They may buy because of the product, but they rarely buy because of the company. And if they do buy due to the company, you know that's a customer that's going to be hard to steal away.
So those are ties. This means the most important thing that you're selling is yourself. It is your ability to work with your prospects and actually grow your deal and be valuable to them.
I worked for a guy a long, long time ago that preached this. Once again, this is in the IT space. The only thing we can do to help them before they're a customer is to make them smarter. The only thing that matters to them is to make them smarter. Because if I make them smarter, they might get promoted. They might have more influence in their peer group. Which is good, because then maybe they'll buy my product. The only thing I can do for them personally is to make them smarter.
In my world, I have to make everybody around me smarter. I have to convince people that they should read an article, or white paper, or book.
Sometimes my salespeople send out articles and videos that aren't even made by our company. They're made by somebody else. It's a really cool idea. It's a really good technique. It's a really good success story. "Gee, Mr. Customer, I just thought you'd like to see this." I'm not trying to sell them at that point. All I'm trying to do is sell myself. I am trying to make them smarter, and we want to do stuff for them.
When we think about that decision-making timeline, when you're really, really early, that's what you're doing. Primarily, you're selling yourself because you're not ready to sell your company, and you're not ready to sell your product.
If we think about all those things, I will win an order. And I've had customers actually say this, "Your product was not the best product on the market for doing what we wanted to do. The company tied, but your product was not the best. But we're going to buy from you because we're confident that you're going to make us successful." That's a great way to win a deal. Because then you can overcome a lot of deficiencies in your product and deficiencies in your company.
If you are a fantastic salesperson, and you're really trying to put the other person first, you will be successful.
Zig Ziglar is the king of sales motivation. He had a variety of sayings and I'm sure you've seen a lot of them. One of them was "Stop selling and start helping." Essentially, I'm going to help you. If I keep helping you and I keep making you better, then over the long term you're probably going to give me an order. I'm going to be in a position where I'm going to influence that sale. I'm going to influence those ideas and how you evaluate those ideas so that you can get the deal.
I think it's really important for salespeople to understand that "yourself" is the most important thing that you sell. And you need to put that front and forward in the sales process.
100%! I can remember numerous sales, especially when I was in the diesel generator space and whether it was selling or renting. I had a number of customers that called me because they called me all the time. They didn't know how to size up or spec out a generator. And they didn't want to learn how to do the math, which is fair enough. It was straightforward, but it took an investment of time to figure out how to answer all the right questions, and they could call me in in two minutes. I would do that, whether it's mine or not. And all of a sudden, I had 15 to 20 guys that called me every week that said, "Hey, I'm doing this. There's no project here yet, but thanks for helping me, and when you do figure it out, we'll give you a call."
Once I had built that network of those 15 to 20 people, it was a total game-changer. All of a sudden, it wasn't a competition about price, price, price, price. It was, "Oh, it's just Colin. You got a new guy, and you're renting a genie? Okay. Phone Colin?"
I'm not sure when this podcast will come out, probably a couple weeks from the time we're recording it. But it's going to be an uncertain time. We are now re-entering very uncertain times, and people are going to struggle. A great salesperson can call up the 15 people that he has that great relationship with, and not all 15 are going to be in a position to return a favor. But some of those 15 people will say, "Yeah, I'm going to do something, and I'll accelerate it just for you. I'm going to take care of you in this time of troubling times." You're going to get that deal because you sold yourself. That is when the great salespeople really rise to the top.
Speaking of deals Sean, talk to me about your unique way of celebrating when you close a big deal.
I'm a big believer in rewards and goals. I love to say, "When I do something good, I need to have a reward." Or, "When a salesperson does X for me, I need to have the reward."
Everybody's different. Everybody has a different way of doing it. I'll suggest to some people that you should reward yourself when you close a deal that is 5% of your annual quota. Whatever that means for you. But maybe your deals are bigger, and every deal is 10%. You close 10 deals a year to make your quota, and every deal is 10% or 15%. So you need to adjust that number. At a certain point, you have to say, "I need a reward because I just did good." Paychecks are great, but rewards are important.
You can't really trust your boss for this. I'm a big believer in 'Don't Count On Your Boss' and 'Don't Count On Marketing' to get your job done. You personally have to be responsible for your own success.
One of my habits is when I close a deal that's 5% of my annual quota then I get one of the bottles you talked about. I love tequila. I'm a big tequila drinker. And this tequila is called Clase Azul. I'm not trying to sell it. But if you like tequila, it's a great tequila to try. It is a sipping tequila. Each bottle is hand-painted. It's not a glass bottle. It's a porcelain bottle. There are some ridges that they paint in there. If you look at the bottom, all of these little decorations are all different all the way across. If I show you another bottle of the same kind, you'll see that they're slightly different. So each one is hand-painted, even though the bottle is exactly the same.
This bottle is not cheap. This is 750 millimeters or three-quarters of a liter bottle of tequila. I've been to a restaurant in New York City and asked them, "Gee, I see you have Clase Azul on the shelf, how much is a shot of that on the rocks?" They said $75. So it's not a cheap drink. So it's not a drink that you're going to drink every day. If it is your daily drink, then you're really blowing it out of the water, and congratulations to you. It's my treat. It's the thing that I do as a treat.
When I close the deal, and it's 5%. I do this, I buy this. And I know other people that do other things. Maybe they'll say, "When I close a deal, that's 5% or 10% of my quota. I'm gonna take my wife or my spouse out to dinner at this one restaurant, and we never go to that restaurant unless we close that deal."
You need to save these things as being special. Never go to that specific restaurant or never buy this bottle without that deal. People may give them to me as gifts, but I will never buy it myself until I get a 5% of my quota deal closed. It's just the way it is.
I did have to change that when I became a VP of Sales because now I don't close deals myself. I have other ways of rewarding myself, but that was definitely how I did when I was a direct salesperson. Only for 5% deals - if it is a 4% deal, I don't get it. I need to close a 5% deal or better.
The same thing is true for going out for dinner at a special restaurant with your spouse or buying a new suit or a new purse or a new piece of jewelry or whatever. You don't do that activity unless you close that deal, and you made that happen.
I'm a firm believer in setting that goal for yourself. Reward yourself. You have to be happy about it. It's not your annual quota where you'll get to go to club. That's all good, but that's counting on your company to give that to you. You need to personally reward yourself that you are successful.
This idea is kind of like some programs for losing weight. When you lose that first five pounds or the first ten pounds, then go eat a pizza. It's the same kind of basic thing. Reward yourself for hard work. Be Successful. Save the bottle and put it up on your shelf. Remind yourself of all those successes. That shelf up with some of my bottles that I've won due to 5% deals. I've actually got another whole closet full of these by the bar at my house. These bottles are much more important to me than the other acrylic boards that I have been given by employers. Or the plaques that are on my walls or now stuffed into boxes or thrown in the trash.
You can't drink a plaque. I definitely like the idea of booze.
Sean, I really appreciate you coming on the show. Thank you so much. One last thing that we always like to do is give you a chance to promote yourself. So we're going to move to the Cold Call Me section. Set it up for me: Who am I and what are you calling about?
My company is Agile Stacks, and we sell to customers that have Kubernetes. Some of your listeners may not know what Kubernetes is, and that's perfectly fine.
It's an STD.
No, it's not. It's a tool that originally came from Google for making applications run better on a cloud.
It actually manages containers.
I'm going to set you up for my perfect customer to make this easy on myself. My perfect customer is somebody who has tried Kubernetes, and they've done one or two implementations, but now they can't seem to figure out how to do the fifth one or the third one. It is a vice president of development or application development. They've done it a little bit, but now they have to figure out how to do it for ten groups instead of the first or second group. So that's my perfect customer to set myself up.
Perfect. I'll do my best to throw up some relevant objections, but I'm reaching here.
Ring ring. Hey, this is Colin.
Hey Colin. How are you doing?
Good. How are you doing?
Very, very good.
I found your name, and I see you're the Vice President of Application Development at your company. I hope you have a few minutes to talk to me now. Is that okay?
I'm just about to head into a meeting.
Perfect. I won't take much of your time. I understand from reading about your website and reading a couple presentations that you've done, that you've done a couple of implementations of Kubernetes. Do I have that right, or did I miss out on that?
Okay, how's it going? Did you do your first one or two? Did those work out pretty well for you?
Yeah, the teams are really happy. They've got two or three going right now.
Good. How are you doing on your fifth one or your tenth one? Did your tenth team go live on it?
No idea. It's a mess.
Yeah. I talk to a lot of Vice Presidents of Application Development. What I hear repeatedly is that the first or two worked really well, because we put a lot of resources on it, and we put our best and smartest people on it. Or we created a Tiger Team to do that first one. And now we're doing our fifth one, and we're just hit the brick wall. Anything like that sound familiar?
My company is Agile Stacks. We help you manage all of the difficulties around Kubernetes. Kubernetes requires many, many applications around it to actually work. And that's usually the challenge of getting Kubernetes to be successful. That's usually why that third team, that fourth team, that tenth team that's going to go live on Kubernetes is starting to struggle.
What I'd like to do is show you how we manage that Kubernetes ecosystem. How we make it easier for your team to use it. We make it easier to reproduce all the best practices that you learned on your first or second iteration and really make your processes go faster.
Do you have 45 minutes for me to do a demo to show you how to make Kubernetes work well? You don't have to do it now. I know you're going to a meeting right now, but I'd love to set up a time to have a demo.
Yeah, sounds great.
Okay, you are the easiest customer that I've talked to in weeks.
I was trying to think of objections. I know Docker a little bit. I think it's different. Docker is the container, and Kubernetes is organizing the containers.
Anyway, thank you so much for coming on the show. This was super awesome. If people want to get in touch with you, what's the best way?
The best way to do it? I should have put a slide on this. I apologize, but the best way to get a hold of me is Sean@agilestacks.com. I'll put that on the slides when I give you my slides.
Beautiful. All right, thanks so much.
Thank you very much, Colin, I look forward to talking to you again about sales.
For sure. I will see you all next week.
Originally transcribed by https://otter.ai and then edited for readability
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