By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

A few weeks ago we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which runs live every other Thursday at 1:00 p.m. Pacific.  It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve already featured some great guests and have a line up of awesome content and special guests into 2016. Our very first guest was Funnelholic author and Topo co-founder Craig Rosenberg.  We covered a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into the New Year.

I’m excited to share highlights from episode 02 and my conversation with Mike Weinberg.  We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com or subscribe via iTunes.

Listen to the conversation here:

Matt: Mike Weinberg is one of my sales heroes– writer, speaker, author extraordinaire, and I’m just really, really excited to feature Mike today.

I’ve got so many things I want to try to cover today, I’m only going to get to a few of them. But I want to start with just a quick overview. Give them a quick pitch of yourself, what you’ve been up, what are some of the topics you cover.  For people who aren’t familiar with you, let people know why you’re such a rock star.

Mike: You have an inflated view of me, which I appreciate. I was a top sales hunter at a bunch of organizations, and over the last seven years turned it into consulting, speaking, and writing. I have a couple best-selling books out: New Sales Simplified, which is really focused on how to help sales people and sales teams acquire new pieces of business and get back to some of the basics of prospecting and new business development. And then my latest book, which has only been out a few months:  Sales Management Simplified. I was compelled to write that book really because of all the things I’m seeing in the companies where I train, speak, and consult.

I’ve learned the hard way if you really want to transform sales results, coaching and training sales people is not going to get it done—you’ve got to deal with leadership and culture and all that stuff that affects sale performance, which I’m sure we’ll get into today. So I spend most of my time either consulting or coaching executives or sales teams, and I do a bunch of speaking where I’m doing a workshop or doing a talk on either sales and developing new business or sales management. I am unashamedly a proud sales person. I think sales is the most important job in any company, and I’m happy to talk sales with anyone who wants to talk.

Matt: That’s awesome. Thanks for the intro.. For those of you who want to learn a little bit more about Mike, read more of his material. Definitely check him out at newsalescoach.com. You can find him on Twitter @Mike_Weinberg. New Sales Simplified and Sales Management Simplified were both great reads. They were easy reads. They were fun reads. Your style is… I’ve heard you describe it as blunt. I’ve heard you describe it as unapologetic. I’ve heard you describe it occasionally as controversial, and I guess depending on who’s listening, maybe it is. But I just think—and I’m not trying to pander to the guest here. I just think it’s the truth, and I think you don’t put a lot of pretense and political correctness around it. And I think that’s one of the many reasons why it resonates so well.  Talk a little bit about where that approach came from and why and how it’s been so useful for you.

Mike: I appreciate your take. Some of it’s because I’m from New York. I’ve been in St. Louis for over twenty years, so that’s mellowed me, but there is a little bit of that New York “I’m gonna tell you the truth to your face” edge. I think, being totally honest with you, part of it is I’m not smart enough to be shrewd or politically savvy—I just tell you what I’m seeing. The other thing is, because I’m really a salesperson at heart, I am so frustrated with what I’m seeing in companies and how often the person over sales or some senior executive in the company (who’s the one calling someone like me in to help turn around their sales organization and increase performance) is so quick to point the finger at their sales team and so slow to look in the mirror at their own contribution to their sales problems and their sales shortfalls. So, you put all those things together, and I’ve just, I’ve had it. I think I’m old enough now, where I’m at the point where I’m just going to tell you what I see and let the chips fall where they may.

Matt: I think you’re right. It’s been fascinating for me. I haven’t been doing this nearly as long as you have, and I don’t say that to make you feel old. I just am learning from people like you, from Anthony, from Miles, and I want to talk about the group of six and your sales kickoff coming up in January as well in a little bit. I learn so much from reading you and reading folks that you’re associated with, and what keeps coming to mind for me is the fact that, to a certain extent, what’s old is new. We keep talking about things like social selling, and we keep trying to describe things as dead, and cold calling is dead. It just seems to me that there is so much fundamental in sales and marketing, if you master those fundamentals, if you do the basics that people did 20, 30, 50, 60 years ago, it’s the foundation for good selling and good marketing today.

Mike: Preach it, keep going, Matt.

Matt: When I talk to marketers, what I usually follow up and one of my favorite marketing books of all time is a book called Scientific Advertising. It’s written by a man by the name of Claude Hopkins, written in 1923. And I could go on forever about the lessons he has in the book about copy writing, about being buyer-centric, about offer strategy, that I swear are just as relevant today as they were back in the Twenties when he wrote it. The guy is doing AB testing in the days before Google analytics and inbound. He’s literally going in and putting different versions of coupons into magazines and newspapers and asking people to clip them out and give them to someone at the store. The store mails them back to Chicago, and some poor intern is literally hand counting these things. It seems to me sometimes to be a copout when we say that the old things aren’t working and that something new is happening, and I wonder sometimes if it’s residue of the fact that sales inherently is just really, really hard. And B2B marketing is as well, so we’re constantly looking for something new that can make it easier, to make it so that there’s maybe not as much work to go into it. Then I don’t have to make as many calls, I don’t have to prospect every day. Do you see some of that in the market?

Mike: Yeah, and I like the way you put that. I hadn’t thought about the way you just articulated it, where you said sales is hard. What I was thinking as you were running through that list is that it’s not sexy to do the hard work. Everyone wants the magic bullet. We’re all lazy, we’re all going to take the quick fix. And I’m like you, next to you right on the same social selling influencers list. I’m a huge fan of social. But I’m not a huge fan of the people promoting social that are telling everyone, “Well, prospecting is dead, and what used to work doesn’t work.” I’m so tired of hearing today’s new “experts” telling everybody that everything has changed, nothing that used to work works. Your advertising story from the Twenties, how perfect is that? There are principles that are still true today, and if you look around at a lot of our clients, Matt, the same people that were winning big ten, fifteen years ago, the same skills, the same attributes in sales people, those people are still winning big. Yeah, a lot of them have adopted new techniques, and they incorporate new, wonderful things: social, content marketing, and others things to use as weapons in their arsenal (which they should use). But they haven’t abandoned the traditional things that have worked as well. I don’t know if it’s laziness, if it’s just not sexy to talk about blocking and tackling. We all want a better ROI, we all want to make more and work less, and so when you hear about these new, attractive things that promise you the hard way of doing it doesn’t work anymore, we fall victim. They’re handing out the Kool-Aid, and it tastes good and we’re drinking it. But unfortunately, after a while, the lack of results catches up and people start going, “Huh, maybe that magic bullet wasn’t so magical after all.”

Matt: Well, I think you’re right. And I think the fact that we’re constantly looking for that magic bullet is part of the problem. I’ve got a friend that says on a regular basis that there’s only one silver bullet, it is Coors Light: it is cold, it is refreshing, and on a hot summer’s day after working on the yard it’s fantastic. But if you’re looking for the one thing that is going to do what you need, you’re going to be looking your entire life. And some of the new ideas, they are sexy, they are refreshing, but I’ll tell you, when I work with both marketers as well as sales people and teams, one of the biggest challenges people have is the ability to be disciplined and consistent in their execution. They don’t stick with things the way they need to, they don’t prospect on a daily basis, they don’t stay in touch with their sphere of influence on a regular basis. That takes work, it takes activity, it takes focus and discipline.

Before we go to break, I do want to have you go back in the way-back machine (we all have interesting backgrounds that make us who we are). Give me just a couple minutes and tell me about your experience with SlimFast and learning from the founder of that organization.

Mike: That is in the way-back machine. We’re talking early nineties when I as a young man who got a crazy job opportunity to work as the assistant to the CEO and owner of SlimFast when it was growing like crazy. That’s too long a story to tell how I got in that position, but I got to fly around on the private jet with the guy who was the founder and chief salesperson. I got dragged on all kinds of sales calls to Walmart and Kmart (back in the day when Kmart was actually a retail powerhouse), and Walgreens and Target. And what I learned from this guy (his name was Danny), was that selling is not about pitching your product and making great presentations. It’s about building trusted relationships with customers and trying to help them win. We would regularly go on sales calls with our local salespeople, and after the sales call, Danny would look at the guy and say, “You did such a nice job presenting our product today, but you talked too much, and when you’re talking, you’re not learning.” That was 25 years ago I heard that, and I can still hear his voice. He just showed me selling is not about pitching, it’s not about pushing. It’s about learning, it’s about relationships, it’s about being a consultant. Those things are as true as ever today. The salesperson today who’s bringing value, who’s bringing insight, who’s making a friend, who’s a trusted advisor, it’s because they’re not coming off as a vendor or a pitch man or as someone who’s leading with their offering. They truly care about their customers’ success, so they work to find out as much as possible, and then they offer solutions. A lot of times, sometimes you don’t have the best solution for the customer, and if you really have integrity, you tell them that and you move on. I learned a lot from a really smart, old guy who is worth 2 billion dollars today, so he probably knew a little bit about what he was talking about.

Matt: Before we get into too many more questions, I want to make sure we give time to talk about the Sales Kickoff event. Can you give a brief introduction to the group of six and then talk a little bit about the kickoff event you guys have coming up in January?

Mike: Yeah, thanks for the opportunity. It’s really a fun group. It came together almost, I don’t want to say by accident, but a bunch of us were talking to each other almost in a mastermind setting because our businesses are all a little different and we all have a different angle or specialty in sales. We started sharing ideas in everything that has to do with our business, from how you deal with contracts with big companies to what we’re seeing with clients and how you’re promoting… It’s a really fun group. The guy who’s a really unique outlier is John Spence, who’s a leadership guru, and one of the top hundred thought leaders in the world. You’ve got our mutual friend, Anthony Iannarino, who I think has one of the most powerful sales blogs on the planet and is one of the sharpest sales minds there is. He’s one of the guys I go to for sales advice. In fact, I’ve even brought him in to some of my clients because they needed a brain his size. Jeb Blount, who is a prospecting expert and sales talent expert. Mark Hunter is a world class speaker for large companies, and his book is phenomenal, it’s called High Profit Selling. It’s all about keeping margin and selling value. And then Miles Austin, who is a web tools guru and just a good veteran of sales management. He’s seen a lot and actually led some sales team turn arounds. So the six of us started doing some events together. We’re going to do a virtual sales kickoff on January 20th. The idea is that a lot of companies can’t afford to bring in a handful of speakers or even one high-end speaker, so we thought why don’t we create something virtual to allow them to have the benefit of a January sales kickoff to spool up their team, energize them, bring a variety of tips and practical ideas that they can run with and implement right away. It’ll probably be a couple hours for the whole event. We haven’t figured out exactly which format we’re going to go with yet because we’re getting some feedback. I think there’ll be some short talks, and then we’re going to do some interactive panel discussions. Sometimes it’s more fun when we dialogue with each other than when we just present. It will be powerful. It will be free.

Matt: You guys have done such a great job. I’ve attended some of your virtual events in the past, and it’s so fun to listen to all six of you. You’ve all got such great messages, but you also deliver it in such a compelling way. I think there are a lot of lessons to be had around that for sales people. I was talking to Joanne Black, who is also a great sales mind, focusing a lot on referral strategy. This morning we were talking about the art of conversation and how important conversation is as part of the sales process and the fact that it isn’t something focused on, or taught, or practiced among sales people. We give people their messages and we say, “Here’s your scripting,” or, “Here’s the talking points we want you to use.” And we may role play it in front of people during the sales kickoff, but I can’t imagine an athlete that would, on the off season, go right into a game. I can’t imagine a musician or an actor who would go onstage without having practiced with his team, and yet we send our reps with bullet points out onto the phone to have conversations without any practice whatsoever. What do you think about the soft side of sales, so to speak? Or maybe this isn’t the soft side, maybe this is much more important than that? And how important and what does it mean to have good conversations as part of sales?

Mike: I think you’re bringing up two different really important topics there: One is practice, and two is being conversational in selling. And they’re both critical. I was with a client on the West coast yesterday, and we were talking about sales meetings and the role of practice and role playing: When does it work and when doesn’t it work? Because role playing can be really awkward in front of a sales team. We were working through, and I was quoting Jim Harbaugh, who is a football coach and a controversial guy. Everywhere he’s gone he’s turned it around, from San Diego, to the 49ers, and now look what he’s done with the University of Michigan. When he was interviewed at his opening press conference when he got hired at Michigan, someone said, “Coach, how are you going to turn this around?” and he said, “We’re going to start winning at our first team meeting, at our first practice.” And man, Matt, that struck me, because you look at sales people. We don’t practice, and we don’t have good team meetings where people leave energized and aligned and better equipped to do their jobs. We need to practice. You said it! No athlete would go out and do their job without having practiced doing it in the actual environment where they’re battling. I read an article recently about Jordan Spieth and all the success he has. Do you know that guy has a simulator in his house where he goes and he plays the golf courses on his simulator in his basement he’s going to be playing tournaments in so he’s so mentally prepared when he gets there. He’s already seen the course and played the shots. What would happen if a sales guys visualized sales calls that way? And actually planned out what it was going to look like in the environment and the room, and the people, and the personalities, and what if you have this kind of situation? Practice is huge. But the other item you bring up might even be more big. And I love the way you framed it. You said the sales conversations. Because what do most sales people do? Like you said, we equip someone with talking points or maybe a script and some collateral and then we go out and we pitch, and we think that presenting is the same thing as selling. I would argue, presenting is a small part of selling. I think you do a whole lot more selling by how you build rapport and by how you set the stage and agenda for the sales meeting, and you learn a lot more, and I think you can actually communicate your expertise better by asking great, insightful, probing questions than you do pitching. The very best sales people are conversational. They weave their story in conversationally. They share their case studies conversationally. They probe. They find pain, they find opportunity. And converse back and talk through potential ways their company can help the prospect. I don’t see a lot of masterful conversation. I see a lot of pitching. I see a lot of demos. I see a lot of slides, but not a lot of dialogue.

Matt: Yeah, I agree. I think it’s an art and a science that is not prioritized. It is not taught. It’s one thing to teach people. It’s one thing to put people through the training or read a book. But it’s the reinforcement in practice. I think those things very much go together. I think about early in my career, I knew I needed to start going to networking events and meeting other people if I wanted to do what I’m doing now. And honestly early, I hated it. I’m an introvert. I didn’t like going out doing the cocktail party thing and doing the networking event thing, and I honestly just put myself in that situation many, many times. It’s only through practice that you get better at those things.

What I’ve heard you mention a few different times now is that both listening and learning are key fundamentals that allow you to be better at selling when you do open your mouth and start to talk.

What are a couple themes smart sales people and teams look at as we start to turn the page on the calendar?

Mike: I’ll start with sales leaders: Back to basics, taking control of the calendar, getting away from the CRM and out of the meetings that they shouldn’t be sitting in, and getting back to meeting one-on-one with your people. One-on-one so you’re holding people accountable, and you’re coaching. One-on-one is a lost art, where you’re actually coaching, mentoring and holding someone accountable all at the same time. I’m going to continue to push that in 2016. On the sales side, I’m going to continue to talk about prospecting, but I’m adding a little twist as we go forward. It’s something I started last month at the event we did in D.C., and you’ll hear me talk more about it in the virtual kickoff: I think so many sales people get perceived as nothing more than a vendor or a pitchman or a supplier as opposed to the value creator or consultative seller or trusted advisor they want to be. And that’s because of the way they approach prospects. It’s the story, it’s the words they use, it’s their tone, it’s the structure of their meetings. I’m going to spend a lot of time talking about how we can change the way prospects perceive us and get them to put their defense shields down and invite us in for dialogue. I really think we could get a lot of sales lift. A lot of sales people get commoditized because the whole system wants to commoditize them, but frankly, a lot of these behaviors and attitudes asks, or almost begs the customer to lump you in with everybody else and just buy based on price because we follow the rules, we don’t set our sales process, and we don’t set ourselves apart in the way we sell.

Matt: If you want to learn more about Mike Weinberg, go to newsalescoach.com. You can find him on Twitter @mike_weinberg. Check out his new book as well, Sales Management Simplified.
Coming up:  Read my Q & A with Conrad Bayer, CEO & Co-Founder of Tellwise on 01/04/16.

And listen live on 01/07/16 for my Q & A with Jim Keenan (transcription and recording posted here on 01/18/16).