By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
Late in 2015 we started producing a bi-weekly radio program called Sales Pipeline Radio, which runs live every other Thursday at 11:30 a.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. Next we had Mike Weinberg, incredible writer, speaker, author, followed by Conrad Bayer, CEO & Founder of Tellwise. Recent Guests: Jim Keenan; Joanne Black; Aaron Ross; Josiane Feigon, Meagen Eisenberg, and Trish Bertuzzi.
We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year. We’ll publish similar highlights here for upcoming episodes. You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.
Listen in or read our conversation below.
We’ll give you some great ideas and the WHY’s for this subject.
- Why we need to bring the science of quality from manufacturing process to sales and marketing processes?
- How they do it:
- daily habits
- view your problems as process, not people
Ashley is offering a bootcamp for 5 local small to medium businesses in SLC & OC. Each attendee will leave with a documented & optimized sales process to increase conversion rate & profit.
Matt: Thanks very much everybody for joining us by the way. We’re here every week at 11.30 pacific 2.30 eastern. If you’re joining us live, and we know many people do, thank you very much for doing so. If you’re joining us through the podcast, you can find it on Google Play and iTunes store. Thanks very much for doing that as well.
Today we are recording live from the American Airlines lounge. I’m in some kind of a broom closet recording the show but our microphone will travel. We every week here on Sales Pipeline Radio feature some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today, it’s no different. I am really really excited to feature Ashley Asue. She is the founder and CEO of Endurance Sales. She is a sales trainer. A sales consultant. Her background is just fascinating. We’re talking here today with the sales leader and a sales top leader who has an accounting background, who has a six sigma green belt and we’re going to be talking about how manufacturing best practices for continuing improvement can apply to sales as well.
Ashley thanks so much for joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio.
Ashley Asue: Thanks so much for having me.
Matt: Help me understand how all this happened. How does an accounting and French major go into manufacturing and end up as a sales consultant?
Ashley Asue: The story should be obvious right. A girl can have a dreams of having an accounting degree and a French degree, and naturally she ends up in operational efficiency and finance. I fell into it pretty much like most of us. The best opportunities are the ones when you’re open to it. It was a journey and people took a risk on me, and I’m very grateful for that.
Matt: Talk a little about how you spent a little bit of time as an accountant then you went in-house to manufacturing organizations where you were an analyst, you’re were not a manager, and then you spent quite a bit of time as a continuous improvement analyst. For a lot of people that listen to this show that are B2B sales, B2B marketing folks, they really have no idea what that actually means. Talk about what a continuous improvement analyst does in the manufacturing world.
Ashley Asue: Yes. Absolutely. I wasn’t a manager so I did best practice consulting finance process. Basically looking for areas that of risk that an auditor might be looking for. I was given an opportunity to move into supply chain and distribution and transportation. I ended up being more of a business analyst. Once I was under the operational end of a manufacturing industry, then really my job was to help the vision of the CEO come true. I did not have the proper skill set to do that. I resulted into learning and that’s what it means to sigmalize and got my green belt.
A continuous improvement or lean six sigma … it really has a branding problem. When you hear the word lean, you think, I’m already a lean. My boss doesn’t send money Monday through Friday. How could I possible be any more lean, but it really is actually about a culture of improving in vigor and accountability towards setting day-to-day scores and then making sure every day, maybe even every hour, you’re doing actions that you tie to data. That show that you’re really going to move towards that goal. If you don’t, that’s where you have a gap. It’s not treated as failure because failure is seen as a beginning in lean. You really use it to actually start or trigger the gap analysis process. That means you say, I have a gap, but really the most important part is understanding why did a gap exist and what can I do tomorrow so that I’m better tomorrow than I am today.
Matt: I think we’ve seen the idea of six sigma. When I think of six sigma, I think of GEE. I think a lot of manufacturing when I think of continuous improvement. I think about the concepts of Kaizen from Japan, where you see it’s been baked into the culture of especially manufacturing automotive businesses. Is there a reason why this concept hasn’t spread as widely beyond manufacturing? It seems to me that product development, software development, there’s a lot of other systems that could really benefit from that discipline.
Ashley Asue: Yes. Agreed. It’s really unfortunate that I’d actually seen it fairly common that even within a company. You can have an excellent continuous improvement program, like you said by GEE or Toyota or Johnson and Johnson, and they can do that within their manufacturing department, but they’re never able to break down the barriers to go beyond manufacturing. Even in the rest of the supply chain. It’s actually move past the supply chain and the start looking at sales and marketing. It almost seems like one of those sacred cows, that you can’t go into. I think that varied is the culture, especially in my experience, the kind of culture that stops that because you see what you do as an art and not a science or as it cannot be improved upon. Really, continuous improvement is trying to solve a problem you don’t believe you have.
Matt: Interesting. You spent a lot of time in-house doing this work. You started consulting a couple years ago of broader business teams. Talk a little bit about the path of going from in-house to then starting your own business. Obviously I happen to know from first-hand experience that can be both exciting and terrifying, but wat was that path for you? Why did you decide to leave the corporate world and go out on your own?
Ashley Asue: Exciting and terrifying pretty much sums it up. It’s definitely the most fun I’ve ever had but, I have a little bit of a sick idea inside, because I really love struggling. For me, it really was the obvious. Though curious, but obvious way for me to go. I had been labeled as a HIPO, high potential. I have these opportunities to grow and ultimately the path that was placed in front of me was to be a young executive. I had a couple of external couches, and they built a plan and did full assessment on me saying, here are your gaps, in your soft skills and in your technical skills. If you chip away these things, you’re going to go down this path. I really had to sit back and say, do I actually want that for myself?
For me, because I’m not a patient woman, I realized that if I stayed in corporate, I would go down that road like so many others and I’d be an executive within the next 10 years. Before I could jump ship, and I can do it within a year. Simply because I am not patient, I decided to jump ship.
Matt: You spent quite a little bit of time at Glasshouse consulting doing broader consulting and then earlier this year you started Endurance Sales. What made you now focus? What about the sales opportunity became so interesting you decided to put your focus there?
Ashley Asue: Yes. Great question. I think most type A, day-to-day problem solvers do, I said I’m going to start a business because there is this rational day-to-day niche in the market and it looks like it will be a profitable business. 1 plus 1 equals 2, therefore this is the graph of my life. I never stopped to ask myself, I’m I actually passionate about this? Do I have a vision that I can build on in this company that actually aligns with my personal vision and brand. I’m a little close, so it took me a couple of years to realize that, that’s what I should have done right from the very beginning. The irony is that I actually coached to that in my corporate world, so I should have known better. Obviously it was a lesson I really needed to learn.
I made peace with the fact that, I knew better and could pick myself up and say, I am quitting and I’m a failure, or I could just own up to the fact that we’re all growing and there was an opportunity for me to learn there. I decided to know I’m I passionate about then, and I agreed. When I thought about that, it really came down to really that world of lean and continuous improvement in sales manufacturing and bringing it out into sales and marketing.
Matt: Awesome. I want to get on that lean opportunity within sales and marketing, especially, in a couple of minutes here we have to go for a break here at Sales Pipeline Radio. What are some particular areas you’ve seen within the sales environment that you think are particularly right for applying a lean in a six sigma type mentality?
Ashley Asue: From the highest level possible, but we start at a high of 55 and in the macro view, everything that you need to do can be based on culture. Culture is largely progressive, which we all can agree on. If you know that your culture is your foundation, then that’s where you want to start. That culture for continuous improvement is really that root cause as to why 60% cost, or whatever the status of the day, means insisting a program’s failed in an organization, is because you have to have a culture of humility and grit, and by grit I mean that mental toughness because you’re going to be going through so many iterations and you have to actually be humble at the very first step because that will make you open to being better and to taking feedback that you need to have.
If you’re open to it, then the next step is actually doing the work and grinding it out. If you got that culture of humility and grit, from there you can get more tactical and then start to say, what can we do and what’s our vision? If you have that vision, and not just saying I want to grow and do better that last year. Actually a meaningful vision that ties to those values that your customer has identified as what they need you to deliver to them, then you can take the cascade down without breaking any data link into goals that are meaningful to everyone. It’s not just you want to grow revenue by 5% and therefore I need you to quote 20% more deals than you did last year, but it’s actually have this, what we call catch ball, and negotiations between the people at the highest level and the people at the “lowest level”, really people who are closest to the customer. They negotiate on what they should be doing every day.
Matt: Interesting. This is fascinating stuff. We’re going to take a quick break here. We’re going to pay some bills. We’ll be back talking more with Ashley Asue, she’s the CEO of Endurance Sales. We’ll talk a little bit more about the cultural changes required to transform to a sales and marketing work together and the sometimes complicated nature of that and how six sigma and lean could help with that as well. We’re be right back after a couple of minutes. Sales Pipeline Radio.
Paul: Alright, back to Matt. The king of six sigma.
Matt: The king of … it’s not a royalty based system there. It’s martial arts, where you get belts.
Paul: You get belts. Yes. Okay.
Matt: This is fascinating stuff. Thank you very much again for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio. We’re speaking today with a former French major who went into a mechanic career and ended up doing six sigma work and now is a lean consultant for sales organizations. It’s just fascinating stuff. As we continue here with Ashley, curious, how do you see this working and applying to companies that are really trying to better align sales and marketing teams together. We’re talking before the break a lot about the cultural changes required and people’s willingness to lean in and do something different so, we’re not asking marketers to embrace a revenue number not just lead or a activity number form. That’s different and getting those sales and marketing teams to work together in an efficient way, well that’s different too. Where’ve you seen examples of that working and what are some lean strategies that could be applied to make that work better?
Ashley Asue: Yes. I actually heard it at the dream course. You and I met at dream course. I heard it quite a bit because different perspective among certain sales individuals and the sales velocity. Where the job a sales person is to educate. The opposite’s reflected from someone who has a culture of humility and grit with data. My job is not to educate, it’s to listen. If you’re coming from a stance of humility, you’re leading with humility. You understand that a person who is actually the expert of a problem is the customer. For me, I say that my customers are going to be sales and marketing people because they’re closest to the problem, and my job is to listen, to how they feel or frame that problem.
I might know the actual root cause because I’m a lean person, but if I don’t use their language I don’t empathize with the way they feel it manifested in their every day life, then we’ll never be able to bridge the gap between us. That’s the journey or they’re not in my journey right now, how do I change from the way we’ve always traditionally done lean, and I’ll tell you every Japanese term in my expectational view in my language and then you are my tool, and then you change your culture, and then you change your habit, and I essentially run you through this change curve every day for years. Instead, if I want to get it faster, I will meet you half way and learn what are your gaps and then listen to you, and meet on the same page on how we’re going to close them together.
Matt: Even inside of organizations you can have sales and marketing working together. Sales the customers, marketing the customer, who’s working for who. I think that there can often be some of these power struggles among sales and marketing to figure out actually like who is actually in charge, who’s getting credit. I think that some of those obstacles get in the way of those teams working well together. Where have you seen companies digging on that well? This is different than that external perspective of whether the customer is actually the expert and spending time listening. How do you turn that inward to help organizations get better at managing just their own operations and efficiency internally?
Ashley Asue: Yes. I would say I’ve had more experience in watching the struggle in deciding who the customer is, than actually seeing it “done well”. It used to drive me crazy because I would have an interview running Kaizen and Kaizen is Japanese for good change. You think of it like a boot camp. You’re beginning the event and then I would have a sense like, who’d be watching me to give me real time feedback to make sure that I was bettering my sensei skills for the sensei in training. I used to look at him because it would drive me crazy. I’d be so uncomfortable watching everyone struggle trying to define who the customer is, but the struggle is actually part of the process. At some point, you have to understand who the customer really is and who’s paying the bills until the customer is.
However, if you back off that kind of macro view, you do have to live up with to an internal customer. That could be your boss, it could be your team, or it could be a different department. Ultimately, you should see yourself as one mini company. I think it curves it off a little bit. Right now we’ve got departments, and departments have this data hoarding and territorial mind frame, and so we put up with that one well. In lean we say, anyone whose working towards a common goal is now naturally aligned in a mini company. If you have the freedom to reach that goal, however, you want to experiment. Everything you do, helps each other get towards the one goal.
Matt: What kind of organization is acquired to lean in on this, because I like everything you’re saying, it makes a ton of sense. I know a lot of VP of sales that might consider it old school. Cowboys that might look at this, and say that this is a lot of woo woo and I don’t know how this might actually help me get my number. I think as your saying, and I’m completely biased as well. The way that we work together and the relationships we have and our willingness to lean in on the opportunities for improvement is really important, so having that perspective is critical to improvement. Have you seen companies resist this because they don’t think it’s as hard charging or I’m I backing up a weird tree there?
Ashley Asue: No, you’re absolutely right. When I started, I already knew who I give up my personal profile with because I had so much experience in trying to help people who openly revealing their interest in what I’m buying because they do think, this is to write harshly because you’re trying to empathize and you’re talking a lot about the psychological change group and I’m not a therapist. I don’t know what this is. Or there’s the other side of where they didn’t like how data focused we were, because there is so much vigor. You might have a lot of woo woo but that is because change is hard and you can’t push it on someone. You have to actually inspire and build a core from the bottom up. That’s the only way you can actually change.
If you want to ignore the fact that people actually are afraid of change, then you’ll never get past that emotional boundary, and you’re going to continue to see it in your caky eyes, your key performance indicator, or your data if you’re never going to hit your target. You have to have that combination of that emotional and rational tactics to accomplish it.
Matt: Where should people look if they’re interested in learning more about six sigma leaning in general, maybe not necessarily specifically to your part of sales. A lot of people will talk about it but they don’t know about it and it seems mysterious and also quite complex. Are there any resources that you would recommend people check out and better understand the basic concepts behind green and six sigma?
Ashley Asue: Yes. I actually have a parting gift of when I left my corporate life. One of the gifts that everyone got was the power tablet. If you’re not comfortable using six sigma or you think it doesn’t apply, essentially the process, is a habit cycle. We all have habits. If you read the power tablet, I think it will start to break it down and you can better understand that we’re really just talking about triggers, activities and awards. And if you want to change rid of those triggers, activities and award, there’s a very specific and standardized way that we have to do the document.
Matt: I know that you’re based in Salt Lake City. I know that you are doing some boot camps for businesses. To talk about the boot camps for the people who are interested and around, how can they get involved?
Ashley Asue: Yes. It’s all about experimentation and AB testing. If anyone is a fan of learning lean or a lean startup, Ash Myers did this. Were he ran boot camp as a way to build his alpha manually and to essentially get data points on what wasn’t working that well. I think relative to that, I have a first boot camp that I’m offering. It’s only limited to 10 individual people here in the Salt Lake City area. It will be a live boot camp if you’re here on the local, then that’s for you. We’re going to go through that. We’re going to have line of designers so there’ll definitely be a conversation. The deliverables will be that we’ll be able to actually get you an ideal customer profile and the process of finding that, as well as mapping out your thought process and then we’re going to optimize that for you as well.
Matt: If you want to learn more, if people aren’t in Salt Lake City but want to learn more about and your perspective and more about applying waiting strategies to the sales process. Where can they learn more about you?
Ashley Asue: Right now they can find me on LinkedIn and they can send me an email.
Matt: We’ll make sure that we’ve got those links in the notes to the podcast that we’ll publish here very soon. Last question for you Ashley that we ask all of our guests, if there was a mount Rushmore of say, I know that your career has spent a variety of different areas and focus areas, but in your sales education, if you can think of the people that have influenced you the most, they may be people that you have worked for or worked with, they could be people that you’ve read and have been experts that you have read from a file. If you could pick 2 or 3 people that would be on your Mount Rushmore of sales, who would that be?
Ashley Asue: That’s a very interesting question. This might be a weird answer but you’re talking to a girl who has a French degree and now she’s in sales, so I’d have to say that because I’m someone who practices humility, most of the people that I look up to or try to practice to be more like them, they would never agree to be on a mount Rushmore because they would see it as teasing.
Matt: There you go. That might be the best answer we’ve ever had to that question. Fantastic. I really want to thank you Ashley for joining us today with a fascinating conversation. If you want to learn more definitely check her out online. We’ll put links in the podcast notes. Speaking of podcast notes, if you like this episode and you want to hear it again, you want to share with some of your colleagues, definitely check out salespipelineradio.com. Every episode of this broadcast, past, present, future salespipelineradio.com. We’ll have a recording up there in a couple days. We will also have a summary of this conversation with Ashley at our website at heinzmarketing.com. Join us next week and every week Thursdays at 11.30 pacific, 2.30 eastern and we’ve got some great guests coming up to finish off here and some surprises coming up for 2018. From my great producer Paul, this is Matt Heinz thanks for joining us on Sales Pipeline Radio.