Beat the Bots: How Humanity Can Future-Proof Your Sales Career, with Anita Nielsen [Episode 829]

Anita Nielsen is the author of the book, “Beat the Bots: How Humanity Can Future-Proof Your Tech Sales Career.” In this episode we talk about how to use your essential human qualities to build a foundation for future sales success in an increasingly automated world. Plus, we dig into what it will take for sellers to remain relevant to their buyers and why they have nothing to fear from AI.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Anita. Welcome to the show.

Anita Nielsen: Andy. It’s good to be here.

Andy Paul: Well, that’s, that’s nice. Glad you’re here. We’re going to have a good time, I think today. So, um, where are you sort of sheltering in place these days,

Anita Nielsen: Yeah, I am in the South suburbs of Chicago, a town called Frankfurt.

Andy Paul: Frankfurt.

Anita Nielsen: Yes. South suburbs. It’s not that far, technically, but most people don’t know where it is, which I’m glad it’s the best kept secret. It’s the most quaint little town

Andy Paul: Yeah, I have to remember my folks live for a time, years and years and years ago before I was born in Park Forest.

Anita Nielsen: Yup. That’s actually not, I don’t think that’s that far.

Andy Paul: Yeah, my dad just take the train and work downtown every day.

Anita Nielsen: There you go. Yeah, we have a really good train system and I love it. We’ve got two stations here in Frankfurt, so it works out pretty well.

Andy Paul: Nice. Nice. Well, we’re going to talk about your book, Beat the Bots: How Humanity Can Future Proof Your Tech Sales Career. Not necessarily tech sales. I mean, it could be anybody’s sales career, right?

Anita Nielsen: It could, that’s a, that’s a good point. So I, uh, I had to make a decision for the title of the book and I I’ve got stories from technology cause I’ve sold technology, um, and supported sales in tech for about 20 some years. And so my stories are all related to that. So I thought, you know what, I’m going to call this tech just so people can, um, you know, people, tech people will know that these are their stories, right? Like cloud solutions and hardware, software, all of those things, but it does apply universally.

Andy Paul: What was the impetus to write the book?

Anita Nielsen: So the impetus for this book was, um, you know, so I worked very closely with salespeople. Uh, there was one, there was like the last straw that made me do it. I went on a customer call with one of my coaching clients. I’m an embedded coach and I have the privilege of being able to actually sit with my clients when they’re in a customer meeting, which is awesome.

We had this meeting and it went really well. I mean, it wasn’t. I asked like astronomically. Well, but it did pretty good. We got out of there. We said, let’s go debrief. And we went to a local bar. We had a couple drinks and after the drinks start flowing, um, the sales rep that I was speaking with. I’m going to call him Neil. He just started to talk about, you know, real life and how his commission checks were not what they used to be. And it was getting harder and harder to differentiate. There’s more customers buying, et cetera. So all these challenges that are happening for him in sales in a very real way. And his concern was, you know, I’m going to have to send my wife back to work. She hasn’t worked in years and she’s gonna have to go back if things don’t change. And my son is in a prestigious private school and I’m going to have to pull him out. And so I’m hearing this and I have a very sensitive empathy sensor and it starts to go haywire because at that moment it became very real for me that it also is changing so much and not even thinking about the robots yet, but just differentiating and having multiple buyers, making decisions and it’s impacting these human beings adore and that I support. So it was like, all right, you know what? Gotta do it. Let’s let’s just get this done. And let’s hopefully reach as many as we can.

Andy Paul: Well, so what did Neil stop doing that he was doing before?

Anita Nielsen: He hadn’t, he hadn’t stopped doing anything when he was following all have his principles, he was doing, you know, the right activity. I think it just came down to the fact that the place, that the space that he was selling and it wasn’t that differentiated anymore. And he was having a difficult time doing the things that he used to do from a personalized value standpoint.

I mean, it’s not a world where you can, you know, go play golf and um, you know, have steak dinners and that helps reinforce the relationship. It’s much more, it’s different than that. And there’s more people involved, I think is probably the biggest thing. So he was, he was still navigating how to work on that. And of course I was coaching him through that, but yeah, yeah. It just so much change. And I think the other big thing is when you go in as a sales professional today, or I can say back then when I was talking to Neil, your customer already knows so much about you and they’ve checked you out on LinkedIn, they know your company’s webpage. They know what people are saying about you on GlassDoor.

So you go in and it’s a different conversation than these folks are used to having. They usually go in and give their, um, you know, their pitch and their introduction. Now it’s like, you know what customer says, I already know that I’ve seen your website. Tell me what I don’t know. And I’ve actually heard a customer say that. So those types of changes, I think we’re really making a difference. Um, it’s not over, you can’t see it right away, but that’s, I think what was at play.

Andy Paul: Well, it’s sort of interesting. Yeah. Just listening to his, I’ll tell the story. Is that, um, yeah, I mean, it sounds like Neil just wasn’t paying attention. But it’s not like these things happen overnight. I mean, these and I might take issue with bits of the description cause I’m not a huge, huge believer that at least if you’re selling complex deals, that, um, they’re necessarily more stakeholders. I mean, it’s always been, yeah, there may be more quantity, but there’s always been a complex deal there’s always been a lot of stakeholders involved in decision. I’m just wondering, and this is maybe a broader question too, is, is, yeah are people just paying attention?

Anita Nielsen: No, I don’t think he, I don’t think he had an issue with paying attention. I think it is difficult for people to change, so he knew some of these changes were happening, but there’s a big difference between knowing that there’s change and facing it and figuring out how to adapt for it. So there was a period of time in there, I think, you know, he, he was still working on his skill set and how to do his research and how to have that powerful discovery conversation. So there was a lot of, I mean, there’s evolution happening real time at that moment. So it’s not, I mean, I, I hate to say that he was not paying attention because he absolutely was, he was actually one of the more diligent sales professionals that I’ve worked with. So it was more of a things are changing and I’m trying to keep up, but I don’t know what’s going to happen.

Andy Paul: Yeah, well, I mean, and I don’t get down in the weeds at this point cause you don’t cover some of this conversation, but it’s it’s um, you know, you made the point about. Like discovery. So in Neil’s perspective, what changed about discovery? Just the fact he had to do discovery with a broader segment of people.

Anita Nielsen: No, no, the discovery was typically with your champion first, right? So in these types of complex sales, you meet with that one person, then you get to the broader audience. The discovery itself hasn’t changed that much. I mean, there’s ways that you could improve it, but the questions do change, right?

Because when you are coming in to meet with a customer, that’s already done their research. They’re assuming that you’ve done your research on them as well. So you better come in there with some really, really intelligent questions based on what you’re seeing out there. For example, on social media or press releases, et cetera, which I know you’re going to say that that’s something we had to do in the past, but it is more, or it’s more powerful now, the way that you have to look at that, um, you know, then I think it has been in the past and yeah, maybe there’s a little bit of, you know, people are having a difficult time catching up, but they’re in the sales day to day. I mean, it’s hard for them to keep their thumb on the pulse of all the different things that are happening and how others perhaps are selling that is more powerful or that’s more convincing, et cetera.

Andy Paul: Okay. Well, let’s come back to that. Cause I think that’s, that’s worth exploring because I believe changes is gradually, even though we’ve seen continuous change, I think it’s still incremental. And, and yeah, I think the challenge for sellers like Neil, maybe a little different than what you described as is. But also part of what you described as is he wasn’t as relevant to them as he was before. And that’s, and that doesn’t, let’s say that doesn’t happen overnight. That’s something like, that’s why it said was he paying attention? Because I think this is, you know, there’s always these, these changes, right. That are sort of continuous change and I’ve experienced, you know, working with people who are just confounded by the changes. You know, my course of my career for decades and sales, I’ve seen it all. Um, I remember when it wasn’t too long before I started work at the fax machine was new. So, um, so I’ve seen people completely just completely confounded by changes in the way we sell changes and, you know, going from analog to digital and, and so on is-

Anita Nielsen: I think, I think what we’re saying, what I’m trying to say, and maybe in the context of what you’re saying is there’s a lag, right? So if you’re sitting here thinking I’m going to get irrelevant, salespeople were at that time because, you know, there’s all these studies about how bots are going to take jobs for salespeople, 50% of the jobs by 2020, et cetera.

So you know that you are. You have to become more relevant by the minute, but there’s a lag between when you make that determination and then you recognize where you need to go, but we know it’s a continuous evolution. So I don’t think that you’re ever at the point where you’re exactly where you need to be and that you’re the

Andy Paul: No. I agree. I agree. Absolutely.

Anita Nielsen: So, yeah. So I think there’s, I think there’s a lag and that’s probably where I caught him.

Andy Paul: Well. Yeah. And that, this is, I think is a really critical point for salespeople is that, um, if you want a career in a longterm career over the course of your own careers is, um, I used the word paying attention, but that’s really what it boils down to is, is hearing so stuck in your own little bubble that these things are happening all around you.

And suddenly you wake up one day and find out, Oh, I’ve been left behind. And I think this is what happens to a lot of sales people. We’ll look at, we’ve got an 80, 20 distribution now. Suppose the top 20% doing 80% of the business while if you’re not one of the top people is yeah. Yeah. Are you feeling this imperative to, to become one or at least to become proficient at what you’re doing?

Anita Nielsen: yeah, he was competent. He was proficient, but he wasn’t at the point where he was unconsciously competent yet about what he was trying to do within the context of those complex sales. So yeah, I totally get what you’re saying. And it’s just, it is, it’s a situation where we have to adapt to change. And I think if nothing else, the situation that we’re in right now with this pandemic and all of these things that is made this.

At the forefront that you don’t get to, um, you know, just sit around and expect that you’re going to be able to have customer meetings face to face all the time, or that you’re going to be able to do the types of things that you did before. Maybe you hated zoom. Maybe you never turned on the camera, not an option so much anymore. So I think people are catching on.

Andy Paul: Well, yeah, and I think there’s a big difference between something like the pandemic that happens that, um, Yeah, happens out of the blue and changes life as we know it pretty quickly as opposed to yeah. This whole thing about AI and bots, replacing salespeople, you know, Forester is famous for their, as you quoted the report, 50% of B2B sales jobs gone by 2020, well it’s 2020, and actually B2B sales employment’s gone up.

Anita Nielsen: That’s right.

Andy Paul: So, so if. You know, to that point is, you know, this AI train is moving, but it’s a, what’s the movie where I think maybe an Austin Powers movie where, uh, you know, like the Zamboni machine or not the Zamboni, but, uh, yeah, a big roller mechanical rolling machine rolling. And it guys rolls him over and he sees it coming from, you know, 50 yards away and is paralyzed to the spot and can’t move. I mean, it’s sort of like that as you know, change is coming, but. Even though it feels rapid in may respects there’s time if you’re paying attention to direct on so on, but, but to the point of your, your book is, is, um, what does sellers really have to fear from AI? And what form do you think it’s going to take that, that forces them to change?

Anita Nielsen: Yeah. I don’t think necessarily that all sellers need to be afraid. I think the sellers that need to be afraid, or maybe the people that are doing more transactional sales. Right. Anything that can be replicated that doesn’t require, you know, human traits such as empathy or problem solving or critical thinking. Those types of things I think are ready for robots, AI, machine learning, all of those things to take over. But what isn’t is exactly what I just said, the things that require empathy, the things that require you to genuinely care about your customer to have, um, you know, the ability to have conversations with them that are focused on not just the business, but on them as human beings, those types of things. I think it’s, we’re not there yet where the technology is going to take over those things. And I’m thinking maybe not in our lifetimes, but we could be the surprise. So I fear for the salespeople that are doing transactional sales that have gotten really comfortable and complacent almost in that. And they’ve got their shtick, they go out, they talk about features and benefits, and then that’s how they think they’re going to close the sale. Well, you can get a machine or even a website to do that. You’re, you’re irrelevant pretty quickly. So I think that’s, that’s the way that I look at it from, you know, there’s a technology disrupting the industry. And honestly, I haven’t, none of the salespeople that I work with, which I don’t typically work with transactional sales professionals. They’re not, they’re not directly, I mean, they’re not sitting with this hand over their head every single day, but you know, when you see reports like that, cause for Neil, for example, I mean he reads things like that.

A lot of salespeople don’t and so he knew that that was something that was out there. So he was kind of afraid of that. So it’s one of those things. Yeah. Where, you know, some people are just walking through this oblivious, but some people get it and they’re trying to figure out how they make it work in the way that they sell today and how they’re going to sell tomorrow.

Andy Paul: So the key then for people who are in B2B sales, let’s say again, not transactional, working on more complex deals is, you know, title, book future-proof, um, and based on, on humanity, which I think is. Is the right track, but what should people be looking at today and saying, okay, what steps can I take today? And to sort of, you know, play with this, this theme of future proofing my sales career?

Anita Nielsen: Yeah, I think simple skills like the discovery, for example, I think you have to get better at discovery. It’s no longer a time where you can just go in and do, you know, regular old open ended questions that you’re taught about in sales one-on-one. You have to be asking the big questions, the kinds of questions that give your customer the ability to show some emotion. Um, so, and I joke about this, but only halfheartedly questions, a shrink would be jealous of, right? You want to get in there and really give them the breadth to be able to speak about where they’re at. Not necessarily just in their role or with their company, but who they are as a person, because I believe that is the place where you can differentiate is in that interaction between the seller and the buyer, that human to human connection.

I don’t see how that gets commoditized, right, because it’s too unique individuals. And so I say for sales reps, that’s the kind of thing that they have to focus on is learning those things. And then the other side of that is the active listening and being really, really good at hearing what that customer is saying and listening for things that are going to help you then create value that’s differentiated for them. So it’s not that you have to, you know, redo the types of activities that you do. You just have to look at them a little bit differently. And, um, I think salespeople that ask questions like, can you help me understand as opposed to, you know, what is X? They’re the ones that are going to do better because they’ve enabled that customer to talk about, just find anything that they want to and where their mind goes is half of what you want to be paying attention to.

Andy Paul: Well, let’s dig into that. Because you’re bringing that up in the book in terms of those types of questions. So explain where that fits serve in your hierarchy of your three value types?

Anita Nielsen: Yeah, so I look at generalized value and generalized value is basically the value of whatever the product is. It’s inherent in that product. One of the examples it’s easy, I like to give as a toothbrush. All toothbrushes exist to clean teeth, right? There’s there’s no variation depending on company to company of what a toothbrush does necessarily next up, you have the company value. And so the one that I like to think about for those has, you know, you could have an electronic toothbrush for example, and multiple companies have it while all of a sudden Oral B comes out with one that is, um, you know, attached to your phone by Bluetooth and you’re able to see how long you’re spending, brushing your teeth. And that’s cool and that’s differentiated, but that differentiation night, because lo and behold, three months later, You know, the competition is going to be doing the same thing. They’re going to have that same type of product. So there’s some differentiation at that level, but it’s finite.

It doesn’t last very long. It’s just as long as other people figure out how to copy it. And then, um, You know, the next thing that you look at is personalized value. And this is where you’re bringing it down to that human to human level. Personalized value is the way that a sales professional understands the needs and challenges and ideas of that customer on a very human level.

When I say human level, it’s not just what are the needs and channels that they faced as that, um, as the, as the customer in that role, but as a human being, I mean, You want to be able to understand some of those motivations, because that’s where you’re going to be able to find opportunities to truly differentiate. Looking at what’s unique about them, combining it with what’s unique about you and really putting some thought into how you’re going to make a difference for them. And that’s the differentiated value it’s personalized value.

Andy Paul: Okay, so, well, I mean, let’s expand on that. So personalized value, where does that fit then into sort of the decision criteria the buyer has?

Anita Nielsen: Well, so the trick with the buyers, they’re not going to come in there and say that I want you to sell to me personally at a human to human level. I mean, I don’t think that’s even on the buyer’s radar necessarily and less they’re being slimy, sneaky, shady about it. In which case they’ll smell it a mile away.

But I think from a buyer standpoint, if you can, as a sales professional impact that buyer on a human level than that immediately makes them more apt to want to buy from you. And it also, it makes them trust you more, obviously it helps you to build that relationship much stronger. And what I found is when people do this and they use that personalized value, they end up with customers for life so that customer can go to XYZ company five years from now. And they’ll the first, one of the first calls we’ll make is to that sales professional. Because they knew that that person helped them be successful and had their back. I think that’s one of the things I really like to say to your customers know that you have their back and that you’re there to help them win at what they’re trying to win at. And so I think on the buyer’s radar, I don’t necessarily think that they’re thinking that way.

Andy Paul: Well, no, but I was saying is, is so in your mind is, so this is, you know, very experiential, the personalized value you’re talking about. So, you know, how’s that fit into when they’re making their decision about, gosh, whether we want to go with company A or company B, how are they factoring that experiential, uh, experience into their decision making?

Anita Nielsen: Yeah. And I think that that’s, I’m trying to, that’s what I’m trying to say. So it’s not necessarily that there there’s a, you know, like a, uh, or a rubric where they categorize, you know, personalized value. It is. And so if I’m a I’m CEO and I’m making a decision and there’s a company that I’ve worked with for years and years, and maybe the new team that I’m working with doesn’t necessarily love that company.

I’m still gonna fight for that company and I’m CEO so I’m probably going to win. That’s the kind of thing that you, you keep on doing in your career and it comes back to you. So the buyer doesn’t necessarily have some checklist that says, Oh, they delivered personalized value. That’s not in there. It’s about them recognizing that human being and in that process. And that experience, understanding that this person is doing a really good job of understanding me and anticipating the things that I’m going to need. And, um, helping me come up with creative ways to solve my problems. That is a type of mindset that sale that the buyer has. But again, that’s not something that they’re advertising it’s it is personal.

Andy Paul: Oh, I know that, but I think that there’s actually been research done into this as in terms of, in the buyer’s mind, what percentage of their decisions based on the experience of buying versus the product feature sets and the implementation and all those other sort of tangible deliveries. Yeah. How important is the intangible versus the tangible.

Anita Nielsen: I think, I think that the intangible is the most important because I believe that people buy on their emotions and they rationalize it, you know, later once they’ve made that decision. And sometimes it’s a decision is very conscious. Sometimes it’s subconscious, but they’re making a decision in that moment and that experience.

So I, I guess I’m not, I’m not sure what your question is, but I think that’s, that’s the difference. This isn’t something that can be categorized.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Um, well, and so that’s, it brings up another interesting point, which is, and we look at this idea of the importance of the human to human touch in sales, which I’m an absolute believer in is, is. And we talked about this idea of the importance of emotion in making decision is I wonder how much, and I don’t know the answer to this, but just sort of the question popped into my mind is, is when we have larger groups of stakeholders involved in a decision is doesn’t that tend then to mitigate the impact of emotion on the decision.

Anita Nielsen: Yeah, that’s a great question. And I think to some degree it does, I don’t think it eliminates it, but I do think that it puts some limits on it. And so in that situation, what you’re doing is you’re, you’re, in some ways you’re letting that relationship that you have with that one. Customer and on that group, that’s going to make the decision there.

You’re almost getting to the point with them where they’re are you? Right. So they’re advocating for you on their internal team. Um, and simultaneously you should be trying to have some rapport and communication and creating some sort of a connection with the others on the team. If you have access to them on that buying committee or what have you.

So it’s, it’s one of those things where there’s typically that one solid, personalized relationship and that can help facilitate that purchasing decision so that, you know, I think I read, I can’t remember which book it was, but they called it like the bully with the juice. Right. There’s always that person, um, you know, that’s in there and then it’s really kind of driving the decisions and no one really knows what’s happening with that. So it’s mobilizing your buyer, the person that you’re making that connection with, to go in there and sell for you essentially and help you be the one that gets selected. And I mean, I’ve seen that time and again,

Andy Paul: Yeah, well, absolutely. And, um, I mean, sort of refer to that in the book when your, um, story of the cherry candies and Jan, is that, you know, the value of keeping it personal is that these intangibles differences don’t have to be significant in order to work in your favor.

Anita Nielsen: Right. It’s thoughtfulness. And I think it’s hard and here’s a problem. This is mushy stuff, right? This is not something that you can put a metric to. And I think that’s why sometimes people struggle with it. I mean, sales leaders have a difficult time really understanding how these things work, but at a very human level, the persons, the people that are connecting, it’s very powerful. I mean, I think it’s the most powerful thing, but, um, it’s, it’s that thoughtfulness, that’s just genuine concern and commitment to their success, the customer success. I think that you can’t put a number or a metric on that, but I think it’s the most powerful thing

Andy Paul: Well it’s interesting because you know, there are some number of sales, author sales experts, um, who are saying just the opposite these days, that this whole idea of our relationship is overblown, but you don’t need to be likable in order to win business. In fact, that may be working against you. I’m just interested on your take on that.

Anita Nielsen: How’s it going to say I’m probably, um, either subconsciously or deliberately not reading that kind of thing. I don’t, I think that for me, you know, if you, you’re not likable, how are you going to get to more detailed conversations that are going to give you insight, cite that you need to differentiate? I don’t see how that works. And I’ll tell ya. I mean, Again, with this pandemic. I mean, it’s pervasive in what we’re talking, what we’re doing today. You know, people are emotionally drained in this and your buyers are part of that group. So if you go in and you’re kind of a bully or you’re just, you don’t have any concern about what their plight is or who they are, where they’re at, and you are oblivious to that emotion. And you’re not likable when you’re probably gonna have a tough time to sell in regular times. But right now, no one has the capacity to deal with someone who comes in there is very, um, you know, self-serving and clearly there to sell you.

I think there’s a, there’s a big difference. And I don’t, I don’t think that being unlikable is going to help you, but more than that, I think that customers are at a point where they can sense your intent as human beings. I think that most people can sense if someone is there to sell them or if someone’s there to help them.

And it’s a, it’s a fundamental difference,

Andy Paul: Yeah, why don’t I agree? Cause I don’t think. Customers are ever under any illusion that you’re there to get an order, but to your points. Yeah. How you go about it. I think it’s interesting where I like to look at as is, is there’s a difference between we, we train sellers to be. Persuaders where there only need to be influencers.

Anita Nielsen: Yep. That’s

Andy Paul: I think this is a huge difference than you sport of refer to a little bit in the book or impliy, yeah. Persuasion there’s much. I had a guest on the show, not that long ago, written a book about this idea of how do you change people’s minds and said that research finds that you know people have a natural, I call it a cognitive bias against persuasion.

You know. They resist it when they feel it. Um, this whole idea, I guess the old expression, you know, people don’t mind buying, but they hate being sold. Yeah. Interesting. Where you sit, how you see that playing out, because I think this is one of the, sort of the, as you look at the role of automation going forward is that it is going to be persuasive, but not influential. Meaning, persuasion has sort of a implication of coercion behind it to some degree and, and, uh, influence doesn’t necessarily influence. If you look at the definition of the dictionary is really about having an effect upon somebody.

Anita Nielsen: Yup. Yup. Yup. I agree. I think what’s tough is, um, you know, if I, if I about being able to, you know, just kind of sell somebody, I feel like if you’re looking at persuasion in that context someday, there’s going to be an algorithm that can mimic what these principles of persuasion, Armenians, tons of studies done on that.

So maybe a computer or a robot figures out. Okay. Have I, have I done the scarcity conversation. Have I done, you know, X, Y, Z, social proof, whatever that looks like. I won’t see influence. I don’t see turning into an algorithm because it’s so gradual and it is so personal, how you influence a human being is a function of, of what motivates them matters to them. And until robots have the ability to understand that deeply and have empathy, I don’t, I don’t see how that technology takes that away.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I think the key thing is is that this, this influence that’s helping, as we talk about it is really contextual and unique. Yeah. Everybody, I mean, there’s 7 billion people in the world. There’s 7 billion different customers. Um, so being able to synthesize what you’re getting from all these data points you’re getting from, from the stakeholders in the decision and synthesize it into something that’s coherent, that’s differentiated. That’s very hard. I think for machines do that for quite some time.

Anita Nielsen: Yeah, I agree. And, and that’s, that’s kind of what I want to emphasize to sales professionals is sure. I mean, you know, have an idea of where, where robots and machine learning, all those things are going and if, and how it’s gonna impact you, but don’t be, don’t let it be something that makes you afraid or overwhelmed you so that you lose sight of what you do, because what you do when you’re a good salesperson is you are differentiating because you are focusing.

On that customer’s need right. A good sales person. You just said they’re there to help. Um, I like to look at it as you know, in presales, for example. A salesperson until that deal is signed, that sales person is the biggest advocate okay. For that customer success. And the minute that deal is signed.

And in fact, yeah, if that salesperson continues to care about that customer, there’s a point in time where that customer becomes an advocate for that salesperson, because it’s a very human interaction. Like you you’ve influenced me them to a point where they recognize that you’re there for them now, they feel like they’re going to be there for you and how they can do that. So I think there’s just so much of the human nature at play in sales

Andy Paul: Well, yeah, I think the, the, the critical thing is, is, and Geoffrey Colvin wrote about this in his book, Humans are Underrated. Is. Yeah. What are those intangible human qualities that. We’ll differentiate you going forward, we’ll put you in a position to better help the customer. And how do you, how do you amplify those?

Right, because empathy is first and foremost. One is, and he talks about that in his book is a quote from an executive, I think at Oracle saying that, you know, empathy will be the key, the key sales skill of the 21st century, which is interesting because I, I have a concern that. That may be true and I’m not concerned that it may be true. I think it may be very well be true. The concern is that most people don’t understand what it is.

Anita Nielsen: That’s right

Andy Paul: And how toto use it.

Anita Nielsen: That’s right. And when they, when they think they’re quote unquote trained or they’ve developed the practice, it comes off as scripted. I think that’s a big challenge that we face and there’s this ongoing argument forever. That is empathy. Something that you can teach. And so for me, taking a step back the way I look at it, When I wrote this book, I did not want to be someone who created a methodology or put together all these detailed steps or had, you know, different documents for XYZ.

I wanted it to be a book that spoke to salespeople and help them think about it, how they had to approach sales. And that thought process is. You know, serving that customer. And I think that’s, that’s the most important thing, because if you are serving your customer, then you you’re safe. I mean, if you’re serving them in a way that’s unique to them and unique to who you are and what you stand for and creating that personalized value robots, can’t get to that right now.

Andy Paul: Well, yeah, well, I think this is, this is a critical thing that you bring up, which is that increasingly we operate in a sales environment that is dictated by process and technology and, and, uh, cause people feel more comfortable in that environment. Right. Tell me the steps. Yeah. I don’t want to have to think about it.

Just tell me the steps. And so I think we have to sort of come up with this mix of prescription and, and mindfulness for people to really think yeah how in this environment, cause there’s gonna be, I think, as we see AI and machine learning come in. We’re seeing initially now it’s on more, more taking more repetitive tasks off the table for sellers to try to give them more time in front of customers.

Not sure that will necessarily work, but I’m assuming it does to some degree.

Anita Nielsen: Exactly.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Is, is yeah. Things in their minds. And this is where I think we’re all the role of sales managers come in. And I think that we’ve seen a failure on this part is to say, How do we really prepare you going forward? And one of the things you need to work on as an individual contributor to get ready to operate in this changing environment.

Anita Nielsen: Yeah. Yeah. And how do I, and for the gaps that I find, first of all, let me care enough to learn what those gaps are. And once I find them, what am I going to do to help address them so that these people do have a chance and they are able to evolve the empathy. One, I think that’s the best single best example that we have for this type of conversations that, you know, you can’t fake empathy.

Um, or sincerity for that matter. And it’s not something that’s innate in a lot of people. Yeah. That’s where I was going. It’s not innate most people, but if you give them a script or if you give them a methodology or a series of steps that can help them, um, be empathetic, that’s not going to work very well.

Um, because it’s not coming from a place that’s genuine. I do believe that people can. Become more empathetic by just training themselves to think that way. But I don’t think that that’s something that you can give them on a piece of paper artificially. You have to help them think why empathy is so great.

Important. For example, if you, you go in and do a discovery, people can do a discovery and gather a lot of information, but somebody who’s highly empathetic can get the baseline information. They need to make the sale. But they’ll also hear concern about, you know, if that person’s worried about their job, Are they concerned that, um, you know, there’s going to be a merger.

That’s going to displace them. Those types of things sense with empathy. You can’t sense that with it, script of questions and discovery. And so that’s one of the things that’s so important in discovery with these high impact questions is it’s not that it teaches you empathy, but it reminds you that you have to ask the questions that allow you to feel that emotion and sense where that customer is that you have to be able to look at life and where they’re sitting.

And it’s amazing to me how hard that is for some people.

Andy Paul: Well, but again, I think that gets to the challenge of sort of framing what, what empathy really is. I mean, this whole dialogue that exists in terms of difference between, you know, compassionate, empathy and cognitive empathy and so on. And I tend to come down more on the side of cognitive empathy, which is, yeah.

We give our sellers personas of what you know of our target customers, and this is what they’re feeling. And I think that. Yeah. People want to go in and say, yeah, I feel how you feel. Right. And as opposed to saying, I understand why you feel the way you do, which is you’re alluding to it to some degree in your book.

And I think that’s, that is an important distinction is, is it’s okay to feel the emotion, but you’re really, if you want to be effective for them, if you want to help them, you need to understand why they feel the way they do.

Anita Nielsen: The motivator, right? So what does that situation or that context that’s making them react the way that they do and, and the emotion that they have. So a lot of times, um, you know, customers are just afraid because if you think about it, when you’re making these large technology purchases, purchases, excuse me, it’s a, it’s a huge investment for that company.

And a lot of careers are made and broken on, you know, large technology purchases that failed. And so the amount of just the amount of fear. That, that individual who’s accountable for the overall buying process feels is huge. And so to go in there and not recognize that is foolish because you have to be able to account for that fear.

And how are you gonna address that fear? But what, when it becomes more powerful is when you’re having a conversation with that customer and you understand. The degree of that fear, because you are able to be empathetic with them and try to sense where, where their head is at, in terms of how much is this fear, is it debilitating?

Should I just leave? Because they’re just not going to make a decision on this, or, you know, these are the types of things that are making them scared to your point, right? What’s what’s making that happen. And then how do I address those things that are making them scared?

Andy Paul: Oh, and you compound that with the fact that I believe that most sellers though, some grow out of this obviously is also operate from a position of fear. So when you have fear confronting fear, it can make for

Anita Nielsen: Wow. Gosh.

Andy Paul: a lack of progress.

Anita Nielsen: Yeah, yeah. Fear. And the other one that I really, um, dislike and I feel sad when people have that, is this sense of desperation. I think when you’ve got a sales professional who maybe isn’t making the numbers to the degree that they are expected to, then they start to make really bad choices when they’re in the deal, right?

Like they may, they may ignore the fact that this is not a customer who’s going to make a decision or it’s not the decision maker. For example, I think. Well, that can, that can impact your own ability to be empathetic, right? Because if you’re so much in your head and you’re undergoing something, that’s going to probably overshadow your ability to recognize what that customer is going through.

If it’s something that’s super powerful like that, if I’m a sales person and I’m worried that this deal is going to make or break my career at this company, I’m going to behave very differently than a sales person. Who’s got this long kind of this long view of how. To work with customers. And so I think there’s a little bit of that at play too.

We can teach them all day. We can teach sales professionals, you know, these thought processes and what they should be considering. But when they’re in that moment, who they are, what they’re going through is a huge factor in how that conversation goes.

Andy Paul: Yeah, well, there’s this interesting conundrum that exists on one hand, you have the employers decrying the idea of salespeople turnover so quickly,

Anita Nielsen: Yeah.

Andy Paul: but on the other hand, Yeah, salespeople are turning over so quickly because of the environment.

Anita Nielsen: that’s right.

Andy Paul: So, you know, that is sort of the push me pull you that that really needs to be resolved. And it’s getting worse. I mean, if we’re having, uh, sellers, as in some cases, I think in certain tech segments, our average tenure is 16 months, 16, 18 months. You can make the argument that they haven’t learned anything.

Anita Nielsen: Yeah, it’s true. And that’s why a lot of the learning that you have to do, it does have to be kind of on yourself because a lot of companies don’t provide that learning. And, you know, it’s interesting if I look at these sales professionals and they do have a short tenure, and the question for that leadership team becomes, what was it about this environment that makes us turn these sales professionals so quickly. And this is where I think that the whole field of sales enablement has a huge opportunity. Um, and so, you know, I talk about, I’m just shifting gears a little bit, but when I look at sales enablement, um, I look at sales enablement leaders and sales enablement team members as sales professionals that are selling to the sales organization and the company, essentially that sales organization is the customer of sales enablement.

And so sales enablement, people have to start focusing more on how do I make this environment something that is positive for these sales professionals. And by the way, you’re not going to get that in some data or in some book, you’re going to get that by listening to these salespeople and figuring out what it is that is blocking them from being so successful that they don’t want to leave.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I mean, I, gosh, yeah, that could be a whole another podcast just on that. Um, yeah, because who’s responsible for culture and I think that’s, I don’t think that sales enablement, I think it’s leadership. Um, sales enablement can certainly, you know, reinforce it and play a role in that,

Anita Nielsen: And you can guide it. I think they can guide it as well. If they know the sales team well enough, they can be the advocate for that sales team and that culture that needs to grow.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. Um, but yeah, I’m the catalyst that got some more conversation with what sales and should be and so on. We’ll talk about it again, but, um, well, good. Well, we are sort of just out of time. So how, um, how can people learn more about you.

Anita Nielsen: So most of the work I do online is on LinkedIn. So you can just find me on LinkedIn. I Anita Nielsen author and I’ll pop right up. I do some, I tweet sometimes, but I’m not as that as keen on it as I, as I could be. Yeah. But if you reached out to me on LinkedIn, I’m happy to connect. I always love to learn from sales professionals and sales leaders. I like to stay close to what people are going through so that I can try to help them the best I can.

Andy Paul: Perfect. And your books just available everywhere.

Anita Nielsen: Amazon. Yeah. Amazon is probably the quickest way to get it. My website is LDKadvisory.com and that has a ton of information about the book. It’s got like an audio sample, so you can check out some more information there.

Andy Paul: Perfect. Alright, well, Anita, thank you very much for joining us.

Anita Nielsen: Thank you. Thanks for having me.