By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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This week’s episode is entitled “You’re Killing Sales Deals Without Knowing It: George Will Help You Fix It” and our guest is George Bronten, Sales Effectiveness Pioneer at Membrain. He also has a new book, “Stop Killing Deals” How to avoid deadly assumptions and achieve sales excellence.
I ask George, how do I continue to sell with empathy? How do I create some sort of resonance and empathy with my prospects? I think there’s still value in that, but over the last week I’ve heard more sales leaders talk about not just selling with empathy, but creating a level of compassionate urgency.
We have an opportunity as sellers to create some clarity and direction to help [prospects and clients] know what next steps just to take to get out of it.
I also ask George, what he is hearing from the people figuring out how to continue to balance selling with empathy with still moving their pipeline forward? George has some great insights to share! Listen in now or read the transcript below:
You do want your business to grow. You want your clients to do well, so you can’t just stop. You have to really help them continue with their business, continue with their lives and help them.
Paul: Hey, welcome back everybody. It’s time again for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio today. We’re not outside, we’re inside surfing the waves here with some inside sales surfers that I have to note all have beards on today here. Everybody’s got a beard. It’s the COVID beard that’s going on here. Matt Heinz has got one. How are you sir?
Matt: I’m good. How are you Paul?
Paul: I’m hanging in there. I’m under 50 feet of concrete. I’m buried deep in the bunker here. I’ve got 14 cans of Lysol. I’m ready.
Matt: You know, this week I started a new habit. When the sun’s out in Seattle, it’s amazing, and the sun’s been out all week.
Paul: You mean all three days that the sun is out? All three days?
Matt: No, this is the greatest PR job of all time, that people think it rains all the time here and not. I mean it’s not hot, right? Like high sixties, so it’s not like it’s burning outside but it’s just gorgeous. And so I’ve been going on these three, four mile walks just around the neighborhood in the morning and I’ve got, I know we’re on video and people can’t see this. I’ve got a little call list. Got people’s names down with phone numbers throughout the day and the next morning I just, as I walk, I just call people and sometimes it’s just connecting with people but it’s a great way to start the day.
I want to thank everyone for joining us if you’re listening live, I know the live listeners of Sales Pipeline Radio on the funnel media radio network have increased now that we’re all working from home. So if you’re making us part of your work day, thank you for doing that. For those of you listening on the podcast, appreciate you continuing to do that. I miss my commute. I actually miss my office, George. I miss my commute because I listen to more podcasts as I was making the short drive from Kirkland into Redmond and back when I was not traveling.
And for those of you that are new to Sales Pipeline Radio, welcome, and you can find all of our past episodes as well as future episodes on salespipelineradio.com. Every week we’re featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today is absolutely no different. George, I’ve been hoping to get you on the program for forever. You are one of the best writers in B2B sales. I know I see your content all over the place. The new book, “Stop Killing Deals” just out now and available on Amazon. So thanks so much for joining us today.
George: Thank you for those kind words and thanks for having me on the show.
Matt: What time is it in Sweden right now? This must be… that looked like a coffee cup but I’m assuming that’s decaf tea.
George: Yeah, that’s just to stay awake. It’s not that late. It’s 8:30.
Matt: Okay, that’s not too bad. Well, I appreciate you staying up a little later and joining us here today. So first and foremost, how are you doing? How are you coping through this? The question I’ve been asking people, what’s something that you miss from the old normal, from a couple months ago, and what’s something that you don’t miss from the old normal, a couple months ago?
George: A good question. So I’m in my bunker as well. I’m in my basement, in my little man cave here, and that’s actually quite nice. Very relaxing. Nobody’s bothering me. So that’s a good thing. I can concentrate well. I miss the colleagues, of course, at the office, just having a ping pong game now and then with the sales guys. The old guys still beating their butts in ping pong is always fun.
I mean, the socializing and just meeting people in real life, of course, I get a lot of energy from person to person meetings. I miss that. But we’re coping well.
Matt: We’ll get there. I hear a lot of people describing this as the new normal and it’s not. This is a transition to whatever the new normal is going to be. The old normal will never come back for two reasons. One, there will be things that we took for granted that just don’t exist. There’ll probably be some safeguards and some other things just about society and being together that are different. But I think a lot of smart people are also going to look at what’s happening now as opportunities to make proactive shifts to a new normal.
And so the new normal is going to be… We’re going to use this time as a catalyst and think of this not necessarily as a limitation but as a gift to be able to sort of set some new habits to do some things in a different way. And when you, George, look at the way sales has been done and sort of maybe incrementally changed over the last couple of years, are there things in sales enablement, in sales operations in sales process that you think this period can help accelerate and catalyze towards a better new normal when we start getting back to work?
George: Yeah, I think what’s been happening in sales enablement or sales technology and sales execution over the last year, it hasn’t actually been that great. I’ve seen too much automation, too much bots, too much dehumanizing of the sales process. So I kind of dislike that progressions.
I hope these times will get people to reconsider that approach because I think right now, if we start spamming people or continue to spam people with automated emails, that will make you sound pretty tone deaf. So hopefully, now people will take a step back and think, “Okay, hey, let’s be more human again.” That’s what I hope happens.
Matt: Yeah. I read last week a book called “Rehumanize Your Business” by the founders of BombBomb, you know those guys, great video service. They brought up the topic that we spend so much time automating our messaging and creating these drip campaigns and I’m a huge fan of the sales engagement tools in general, but if you think about how long the written word has been around, let alone email letter alone literacy compared to the hundreds of thousands of years that we’ve been doing face to face interactions. There’s something to be said for getting back to basics.
I mean, being able to not just get together in person but also it’s not often, most of the time we’re recording these podcasts over Skype. It’s kind of nice to be able to see you because we’re doing this over Zoom today. So the face to face interactions, getting on the phone, I have found, personally, in the last 30 to 45 days, the telephone is my new best friend in terms of engaging with prospects, in terms of following up and rebuilding connection with people that I cared about. Someone described to me the other day, they said, “I hate the term tech stack.” Stack implies a wall. It implies something we need to climb and overcome. If you don’t win an award for having the most technology.
So if people are nodding their heads as they listen to this, okay, now what? Are there specific things you should be looking for in your stack, quote unquote, that might be actual impediments to sales productivity as opposed to helping your sales team sell more?
George: Well, I just find it… I like how they’ve made sales stack into something positive in the first place. Like if you have a good sales stack, you’re in front of the pack. I just find the reason we have all these tools is because the main tool we’re supposed to be using, the CRM, doesn’t help you do what you should be doing and isn’t very guiding.
So I think we’re trying to fix stuff with all these tools, but the main problem hasn’t been fixed. So yeah, I don’t know. I’ve written about that, I call it the point pollution problem and it was a slip of the tongue. I was talking about this and said, “Everybody’s buying these point solutions” but I said, “point pollutions” and that became an article that became quite popular. So I think it’s just crazy that we are asking sales people to use seven tools and jump around, click around. It’s not productive to have that many tools.
Matt: Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with George Brontén. He’s the CEO and founder of membrain.com. Prolific author. He’s a member of the Sales Enablement Society. Writes for a variety of publications including his own blog at membrane.com, killing deals, which we’ll get to in a minute. But I think your point about this point of diminishing returns with technology when we’ve given our sales team all of these different tools that individually as well as collectively are supposed to make them more productive, but now you have seven different tabs open, right? And without even realizing it, you think about the steps we’re asking reps to do to make the next call or understand who to call next.
I wonder how many companies have actually sit, it’s a little harder now I guess, but sit and watched their reps work and looked at how much time it takes to get to the next call. We’ve done a handful of work with companies around just sales process and sales marketing effectiveness and found that in some cases all those steps that we have told reps to do without measuring incrementally, it’ll be 20, 25 minutes to get everything logged and done and tracked and checked before you can get to the next call. That’s keeping people from selling.
George: Yeah, no, I agree. I think it’s become quite crazy but also I think people see it as a shortcut. We buy the tools so that we can automate stuff and kind of not really seeing the human beings that sit in front of those tools. I mean, I think we need to empower the people, not just buy technology that ought to do their job, basically. I mean, one of the big points in the book is that we need to develop people and not just throw technology at them.
Matt: Yeah, absolutely. No, I think that that’s a really smart point, that the technology does not replace the selling and the technology needed to be not your strategy, but the implementer of your strategy to understand your audience and who you’re selling to and why and what value you can provide to them. The technology is not going to answer that.
We have to take a quick break to pay some bills. We’ll be right back with more, with George Brontén. We’re going to be talking more about the book, “Stop Killing Sales”. I can’t imagine Paul, anyone would want to kill sales, so to have to tell them to stop killing sales tells me there’s things people are doing that they don’t know that they’re doing or don’t know that’s having the impact.
We’re going to talk more about that when we get back from the break. We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.
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Paul: And that seems to be the topic today. How are we going to do it? How are we going to stop sales from evaporating? How are we going to stop killing the sales that’s coming in here. You guys are going to tell us how I got my pen on. I’m ready to take notes.
Matt: Well, on a particularly prescient conversation, as the landscape shifted a little bit, I think for a couple or three weeks at the beginning of this crisis, this thing shut down, I think there was an awful lot of people that were thinking of, how do I continue to sell, but how do I sell with empathy? How do I create some sort of resonance and empathy with my prospects? And I think that there’s still value in that, but over the last week I’ve heard more sales leaders talk about not just selling with empathy, but creating a level of compassionate urgency.
But the prospects that still have work to do for the prospects that still need to get things done, that still need to buy and need to achieve outcomes. We have an opportunity as sellers to create some clarity and direction to help them know what next steps just to take to get out of it.
I think the first time I heard someone say that, I heard a couple people gasp on the phone, “That seems like that might be a little tone deaf. We can’t drive urgency right now.” He’s like, “Well, we need to get ourselves out of this, so we’re not going to get ourselves out of this by hunkering down. We have to make some smart steps.” And if you’ve built trust and rapport with your customer, it seems that there’s an opportunity to do that.
George, I’d love to get your take on this in terms of what you’re seeing. You spend a ton of time talking to sales leaders, working with sales trainers. I mean just working, spending every day working in the industry. What are you hearing from the people that are figuring out how to continue to balance selling with empathy with still moving their pipeline forward?
George: Yeah, and I think you need to be very in the know of who your clients are. I mean, if you’re talking to clients in an industry that is very affected, of course it’ll be very difficult to get to closes right now. The thing is it’s always, I think been more important than the sales profession has maybe understood because in order to understand someone’s situation, how to help them to come to a better place by helping them do something and buy something from you that helps them get there, you have to first empathize. You have to understand, you have to get under their skin and really understand what’s going on.
So yeah, I think that’s more important now than ever and I think there’s so much uncertainty going on right now. People don’t know what’s happening, what will happen. So getting back to some kind of a normal, I mean, you do want your business to grow. You want your clients to do well, so you can’t just stop. You have to really help them continue with their business, continue with their lives and help them. Unless they’re in a situation that you can’t really help. Many of you have to pause that, but yeah, I think empathy has always been important and is more important now than ever.
I don’t know if that was a response to your question, but…
Paul: No, did man freeze the sun here? You said something that is, I think worth repeating, at least it struck me. Empathy hasn’t been a priority among most sales people. The thought that came to me was what somebody told me years ago, we talked about empathy. They said, “I don’t care about my customer. I just care if they buy. That’s the only reason I care about them is are they going to buy from me or not here?”
And I think that that real, we all say we care, we all want to be consultative sales people. We all want to assist. We all want to get that attaboy afterwards, but we also want to make our numbers so is this a mindset that it’s time to change? We’ve talked about it, is it time to really do it now, to care.
George: I think the top performers have always cared. I guess caring and empathy can be on different levels. I mean, you don’t have to become a psychologist as a salesperson. That’s probably not the right level of empathy, but in a business environment you need to care about the outcomes that they need to get to and how you can help them get there.
I think that kind of empathy, and putting some more in times where people are suffering or have people that are suffering, then yeah, I guess you can get a bit more personal than you might’ve been otherwise, but it’s striking that balance. But caring has always been a top trait for top sales people, I think.
Paul: And yet I’ve been through sales training years ago when I was much younger. Empathy was never on the list of things. It was all about how to close, how to qualify, how to get the deal done, the tricks of the trade. Empathy was never brought up, at least in my day, but I’m going back to the mad man era almost here.
George: There are lots of things that are not being taught in those traditional sales trainings and that’s some of the stuff that I cover in the book. That we sort of assume that selling should be done in a particular way and sales people are born and basically should know this already. So if we just hire the right people, it’s all going to be-
Paul: That’s it and how do I hire? If I hire them because you did good at this other job, so therefore I’m going to get the top performer from that job and instantly he’s going to perform well for me. And then the other thing that comes up, this is a difficult one, somebody was talking about it on one of our other shows. Matt talked about this, is this time to really walk the talk to make your culture what you want it to be or do we drop the culture and say I don’t care. I just need that aggressive hard hitting salesman right now here because nobody else is selling.
So we said we didn’t want that kind of personality in our company. That’s not what we’re about but hey, we’re not hitting the numbers so let’s change gears and change our style. Is that a bad reaction?
George: Yeah, I think this is the problem we have in the society in general, like short term versus long term, what game are we playing? And there’s a lot of short sightedness out there that just go make this the number for this quarter. But if that means that we won’t make the customer happy, I don’t care just as long as we make the numbers.
So we have to think more long term than that. And that problem is huge because it’s tied to the system. At least if you’re a public company, it’s in the system. You have to report the every quarter. So I think there’s a systematic problem in there that’s problematic.
Paul: Well you only have to look at my beard to know I’m an old guy here and I sometimes make grimacing faces when people come into the studio and talk all about the importance of culture. We care about our people, we care about our customers. Yeah, until the numbers stop. And then, how many of the companies that cared about their people laid off 40% or 60% of the sales staff last week. How many of them are suddenly going to get real aggressive as they get desperate? All those good things are only put to the test in tough times.
George: I think we got Matt.
Paul: Did we get Matt back in? Is Matt back in the conversation here?
Matt: I’m back in just for the last minute. How about that?
Paul: We weren’t sure we were going to let you in. We were having a good conversation here. We’re talking deep stuff here. Deep in the bunker.
Matt: I want to come visit. Sounds good and I think one of the themes that I heard you talk about a little bit, George, I think what I heard you guys talk about before I joined back in is that good selling is good sell, right? I mean selling with integrity, selling with empathy, selling with your customer in mind, understanding their issues and how you can help them move forward. That’s always been good selling. I think it stands out even more now and it points out to us all the really crappy selling strategies and tactics and approaches that unfortunately we’re still seeing a little bit as well.
George: Yeah, well a lot.
Paul: A lot of it. All right.
Well, we’re down to a little bit of time here, so what final thoughts do you want to pass along here, Matt and your guest?
Matt: Well George, I mean we’re, I know we had some technical difficulties working from home. It’s a fun and interesting time, but where can people learn more about the new book and get a copy for themselves?
George: The link to the new book is pretty cool. It’s stop.killing.deals.
George: And if you want to connect with me, I’m on LinkedIn. George Brontén, just find me there and hook up with me.
Matt: Awesome. Well George, I appreciate you joining us today. I appreciate you hanging in with a little technical difficulties, but good conversation, good content, and seriously folks, get a copy of the book. It’s fantastic. Look for George online, his blog on membrane.com. His writing is fantastic. Just a great guy to follow and learn from.
We have an ongoing amazing lineup. We’ve got guests lined up into June at this point. Just a fantastic lineup of folks that are going to join us next few weeks on Sales Pipeline Radio.
So I’m going to go check on my internet and in the meantime, on behalf of my great producer Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.
Sales Pipeline Radio is sponsored and produced by Heinz Marketing on the Funnel Radio Channel. I interview the best and brightest minds in sales and Marketing. If you would like to be a guest on Sales Pipeline Radio send an email to Sheena.