Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 252: Q & A with Carla Johnson @CarlaJohnson
By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing
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This week’s show is called “A New Guide to Finding and Activating Innovation” and our guest is Carla Johnson, Global Keynote Speaker :: 10x Author :: Marketing & Innovation Strategist.
Join Carla and I as we dive in and discuss her new book Re:Think Innvoation, balancing continual ideas while operationalizing innovation, the relationship between innovation and fear, and how to create a culture of innovation on your team.
Listen in now to hear her great insights and/or read the full transcript below:
Matt: Well, welcome everybody, to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. My name is Matt Heinz. I’m excited that you are here. Thanks for watching, thanks for listening. It is Thursday, 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. We are here every week with new episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio, talking to some of the best and brightest minds in B2B. If you are watching us live, hi, it is the first episode of July and the second half. Carla, it’s the second half of the year. I don’t know what just happened, I blinked and it’s July already. It’s Q3 already, but we’re here.
Carla: I fell off a cliff for the first half of the year.
Matt: I do not know what happened. But it all of a sudden it’s warm and it’s beach weather, and I’m here for it. So thank you everyone if you are watching live. If you’re watching this live, this is your chance to be part of the show. We will bring up your questions and comments right on the screen. If you have a question for our guests today, feel free to ask that and we’ll throw that in as well. If you’re watching this on demand, thank you. If you’re listening to this through our podcast, thank you so much for downloading, for subscribing. We are getting close to 300 episodes of Sales Pipeline Radio. If you like what you hear today, you want to hear past episodes, they are currently available on demand at salespipelineradio.com. Very excited. We did this a couple of weeks ago, Carla, as a LinkedIn live session, but had to get you onto the pipeline radio show as well. Carla Johnson. Thank you so much for joining us today.
Carla: Thanks, Matt. It’s great to be here and great to see you again.
Matt: It is fun. I look forward to seeing you and others in person. Someone told me the other day, they said, “I’ve enjoyed getting the virtual cocktail kits to be able to make in zoom. But what I really want is someone to make me a dirty martini.” So, the fact that we can start to get out conferences and have…
Carla: Have somebody else do the work.
Matt: Yeah. Have someone else do the work, have an event sponsor pay for the drink, it’s going to be great. So Carla, we’ve known each other for a long time. You’ve been someone that I’ve followed your content, your insights have been phenomenal. I live vicariously through your international travel. I think you spent a year with, at least a year with your family in Spain, which looked amazing. And very excited about this new book. So new book, and we’ll put a link in the notes for this show today. RE:Think Innovation is now out from all the places that you buy books, including the Tattered Cover Book Store. So here’s what I love, on your website you have links to Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google. Yeah. Fine. Please talk about Tattered Cover Book Store and why that is so special to you.
Carla: That’s a… So Tattered Cover Book Store is an independent bookstore here in Denver, and I’m a huge supporter of bookstores, but especially independent bookstores. And I’ve been a customer of Tattered Cover Book Store for many years. We lived in Denver for over 20 years, and I have been a big fan and spent many hours browsing their aisles. So I always encourage people first to buy the books, buy books, but also whenever you can to support those independent retailers and when you’re perusing those aisles, this, let me get it on camera. This is the book you’re looking for and bright tangerine cover. But I know there’s a lot of independent bookstores out there in the country and their sales matter a lot too. So I wanted to give my hometown favorite, the Tattered Cover a big shout out.
Matt: Their sales matter. I love supporting local businesses and you go into a bookstore like that and if you are not sure what to read, ask someone a question, it is so much better than just doing keywords on Amazon or going into Google or even finding lists of what other people like. Every one of us has a unique set of likes, in fiction, non-fiction all of the above. Build a relationship with your local bookstore and it could be the best source of curated books for you. Just the experience and satisfaction of book reading, cannot recommend it highly enough. All right. So why this book next? And we’re going to get into a little bit of talking about innovation and sales. I’m excited for that, but just in general, talk a little bit about the impetus for this book and some of what people are going to get when they read it.
Carla: It is interesting, Matt, because I have talked along the way that this is a book that took me five years to write and who would have known five years ago, that this would be a time when we have to rethink pretty much everything, we do in business today and the ideas behind them. So I think that the timing for this book and rethinking innovation and our definition of it, what it looks like, especially outside of the traditional innovation labs, innovation groups and things like that is so important right now, because really what I found when I was doing research is that 90% of innovation for a company happens outside of a traditional product and service innovation group. So, if that is the case, we are looking at a lot of people like you and I, and in marketing and sales and other parts of the group who really are these idea people driving change and figuring out what customers need and wants and how to deliver it right now. I think that is what matters so much right now, as we look at that coming out of COVID. What does a post COVID world look like? And also, for our employees and our sales teams who are delivering on all of those promises that we make as marketers, how do we make it come true, and in ways that really do satisfy and actually delight customers?
Matt: There’s a number of things, and we are not going to have time today to get into it. If you haven’t read the book yet, get a copy of your five step framework for connecting the dots on innovation and helping people create ideas, capture ideas, and bring those to reality is phenomenal. Can you talk a little bit about, I think a lot of people when they think about innovation ideas, capturing ideas, being creative. Brainstorming is important, but how do you land the plane? I think there is a lot of times people say, “Innovation is great, but not if you can’t do something with it.”
How do you recommend people balance continual ideas with actually operationalizing that innovation?
Absolutely. I think one of the misconceptions about innovation is that it has to be incredibly complex. And that’s the first thing I want people to rethink, is that it doesn’t have to be this big behemoth that’s time-consuming, expensive, complicated, and all of these things that makes people really want to keep it at a distance. It can be something very simple that as long as you have practiced the process of coming up with an idea that is great and being able to understand it, you can put into play very quickly. That is the idea of this process is to say, you do not have to totally disrupt your world to be an innovator. You can start out with something as simple as observing the world around you. In the book, I talk about examples of people who have hobbies or look at other industries and different things that just interest them, different brands, different topics, different things, and how they are able to use the perpetual innovation process to observe it, distil what actually makes it work.
So you are not trying to copy and paste something that another brand has done. Take those aspects and relate that into your own brand, your own work, and then start to generate the ideas and then pitch them so people say yes. Whether that is a salesperson pitching a new process or a new concept or a new whatever to a customer, or you are just trying to get a new idea within your own company, how you approach something. I think that is the biggest thing is that if we just become more observant of what interests us in how things work in the world around us, it is not that you have to add innovation as another thing that you have to do in a world that is already busy and full of things. It’s something that you naturally start to bring out in how you’re already thinking.
Many people say, “The ideas are the easy part. It’s the execution that’s the hard part.” And I beg to differ because I think the reason execution is hard is because those ideas aren’t good to start with in the first place. And, it’s hard to implement crap and there’s a lot of really crappy ideas out there.
Matt: “It’s hard to implement crap.” That is your tweetable moment so far from this episode of Sales Pipeline Radio, with my guest, Carla Johnson, author of the new book, RE:Think Innovation, definitely check it out. carlajohnson.co. Learn more about Carla, more about the book. Find the link to Tattered Cover Book Store, make sure you buy the book there. We were talking before we got started about innovation in sales. This is a sales pipeline radio show. And I think we, I mean… How many times have you heard the phrase, “The buyer has changed,” or, “The buying process has changed.”? I think it is true. We’ve heard a lot, but it’s true, but sales hasn’t changed as much as we’d like to think that it has. And you brought up some new insights from Gartner that I think really bring that to bear.
Carla: Yeah. There’s research that came out from Gartner. I think it was about a month ago, I was talking to Brent Adamson and saw his presentation, he talked about the research, and it is something like, “There’s a 43% gap between how customers say they want to buy and how brands are allowing them to buy.” Now, there’s always that company, that head of sales, that product or whatever that seems to justify, “Well, my customers do have to talk to me. They do need to go through this process. They do need to fill in the blank with any excuse you can come up with.” I think sometimes the more complex the product, especially in B2B, the more those chief sales officers are saying, “These buyers cannot buy without me in the process.” But the research that Gartner is showing is that customers may not currently be able to buy without actually interacting with the salesperson, but they want the ability to buy without interacting with the salesperson.
Now, chief sales officers out there, you can justify all you want about why these customers need to talk to you first. However, you are forcing them into a buying process that they do not want to be a part of. And you can do that for as long as you want. However, there will be someone who comes along and provides them that sales experience that allows them to buy without talking to a sales person. And then, you know what, you’re going to go, “Wow, how did that happen? That’s disruptive. That’s innovation. How did we not see that coming?” This is your opportunity to look down the road and know what is going to happen because either you can deliver that experience as a sales profession or somebody else will.
Brent talks about the bigger the gap between what a customer wants and the experience, especially sales experience that a brand is delivering, the bigger the opportunity for another provider to come in and disrupt what that looks like. And that’s called innovation. And lots of times we say industries just completely got the rug pulled out from under them. Well, here’s the chance to take a good look at that rug.
Matt: I have a professional crush on Brent Adamson going back to Challenger Sale, got to spend a fair amount of time with him at CEB and just super smart guy, just a super awesome guy.
Carla: Yeah, he is, he is.
Carla: My fellow Nebraskan, he and I are both from Nebraska, so we have a lot of bonding over that.
Matt: Oh, wow. I did not know that. That’s cool. So, you brought up something that I wanted to dig into a little further, the relationship between innovation and fear, right. Because I think innovation is change. Innovation requires a little bit sometimes of a leap of faith. And so even if something isn’t working the way you want to, sometimes people will stay doing things that aren’t optimal because it is comfortable because the alternative is scary. The alternative isn’t as well known or isn’t as proven. And so I think this relates to this innovation and sales challenge like, “Hey, listen, I know how to have an SDR team follow up on leads. I know how to give my SDR team a script and then hand things off to an AE and do my ratios and my spreadsheets and do my predictable revenue. I know how to do that because that’s what we’ve always done.” The alternative is scary. Talk a little bit about how fear plays into innovation or keeping people from being innovative and how do you break through that?
Carla: I think that big gap in fear is because it is a lot that has to do with storytelling because there is this, I guess, cliff between what the future’s going to look like and what it looks like right now. And people do not know how to tell that story between, even salespeople. I think this is what gets salespeople caught in a commodity conversation that trips them up as in, they are always competing on price, because they are not able to tell a bigger story or a story that helps people understand mentally how to bridge where they are right now with a potential future and what that future looks like, that future potential. With the process that I put together in the book, one of the things that I really focused on is how do you tell the story of an idea. How do you tell the story of change and where the inspiration for that idea came and where it can lead people. Because I’ve found it’s that middle ground, kind of a hammock, between the inspiration and the vision that really trips people up and drives that fear about trying something new.
So if you start out looking at what inspires you and you go through the process of really distilling what is it about that experience, that brand, that whatever it is, and relating that into your work and understanding how that sparked a new idea that you generated. Your pitch is really just the process of telling that exact story. And the more you can connect the dots very clearly between what inspired you to try something new as an idea, and how it relates to the work that you do, the more that you have scraped away risk, which makes people’s fear start to come into check and be more manageable. I think that is one of the big issues that people have that they do not realize in trying to try something new, is that they are not mentally connecting the dots through a story about the idea that helps people have context and understanding and see that it is probably not nearly as risky as the first pass or perception of it actually is.
Matt: Just a couple more minutes here on Sales Pipeline Radio with our guests, Carla Johnson, the author of RE:Think Innovation. And I want to talk about, or have you talk about how to create a culture of innovation on your team. I think it’s one thing to talk about how you individually can do it. And I think, if you have been around the block a few times and say, “Okay, I’ve got the political capital here” or whatever to say, “I’m going to do this.” But just because someone is new to the organization, and they are early in their career does not mean they do not have the ability to be creative. They might be better because they do not have the baggage of the rest of us do. They haven’t seen all the things and this is the way we sell and whatnot. How do you create a successful operational culture of innovation that allows people to be creative, to innovate, but also helps get more of those ideas into motion?
Carla: I think the biggest thing you have to look at is purpose of the organization. There is the, I know you have seen it, Matt, there is all sorts of research out there that shows that brands that are driven by purpose first, they have bigger sales, they have more consistent revenue. They have more loyal customers. They have more innovative employees, they have more engaged employees. And I think that’s the biggest thing, is we may be in sales, but what are we ultimately selling toward? It’s not just about what we sell, but it’s about how we make a difference in the lives of our customers. I think that’s the biggest one, because once you have that specific north star that everybody points toward, there’s less friction in an organization. Now notice, I did not say there is no friction, but there is less friction because everybody is at least pointing in the same direction.
Once you have that into play, then you are able to start figuring out some of these problems from everybody is here working toward the same outcome internally. Then you have… I was talking to somebody in finance the other day at a company and they were saying, “I now understand how I can stay out of the way of marketing and sales and not be a barrier to the exact things that they are supposed to do as a department and now start to become an enabler and that was built on understanding the purpose of the organization.” And that right there, when you can start to become an enabler of marketing and sales and bringing revenue in the door and keeping it, that is a huge, huge first step in developing that culture of innovation.
Matt: I love it. Well, carlajohnson.co, go there and learn more about Carla, get some, she has got a ton of great content, great snippets up there. Also tatteredcover.com. You’ll find a link directly to the book on her website, but also a tatteredcover.com. Free shipping, if you order more than $75 in books, and I encourage you to support local business and appreciate you doing the same. Carla, thanks so much for doing this. I know we did it a couple of weeks ago right when the book came out, but excited to get on the radio show as well.
Carla: Oh, I am delighted Matt. I’m a huge fan of your work too. And I always learn something new when we talk. So thanks for having me.
Matt: Thank you. Thanks everyone for watching. Thank you for listening. We’ll be here next week. 11:30 Pacific 2:30 Eastern. My name is Matt Heinz, thanks for watching and listening to Sales Pipeline Radio.