Chad Sanderson, Managing Partner at ValueSelling Associates, Inc., joins me on this episode.
Andy Paul 0:00
It’s time to accelerate. Hey friends, this is Andy. Welcome to Episode 737. That’s 737 of Accelerate, Sales Podcast of record. I have another excellent episode lined up for you today. Joining me this week is my guest, Chad Sanderson. Chad’s managing partner at ValueSelling Associates. And today we’re talking about creating value-based sales relationships. We’re gonna kick off by getting into what Chad calls the sales singularity, which he defines as the optimized use of sales, tech tools, and human relationships in order to create an effective sales process. We’ll talk about why this technology needs to amplify the human element of sales and not replace it, which, for longtime listeners, you know, that’s one of my favorite topics to talk about. Also, we’ll dive into creating conversational frameworks for your reps. Most sellers have not been trained and how to hold a conversation. That’s what we’re gonna talk about why focus mindset, critical thinking skills, business acumen, and interestingly, respect are all critical elements in effective conversation, that whole thing about respect is really important and not given enough attention. Alright, let’s jump into it. Chad, welcome to the show.
Chad Sanderson 3:08
Thank you for having me. Pleasure to be here.
Andy Paul 4:07
So somewhere I read you’d written something about that poor levels jump right into it, what you labeled the sales singularity. So what is the sales singularity?
Chad Sanderson 4:24
That’s a great question. If you’re in sales enablement, or if you’re selling as a profession, we get as many new technologies or silver bullets people proclaim are out there as just about any field, right? But sales is ripe for hey, here’s a new way to do something or here’s a new piece of technology. And the singularity, from my perspective is that as more technology continues to come out, you get new CRMs, you get new outreach tools, you get new cadence based tools, all of these things. It actually has created a gap between how to have a real conversation with a real human being. And so the singularity is bringing it all together and reinstalling it on a solid foundation of what it means to be human, to have a conversation, and work to uncover someone else’s perspective which they think is valuable. And that single point, having everything else targeted towards that, gives you a singular way to interact that I think is much more impactful and valuable than just playing with the latest and greatest new tools.
Andy Paul 5:31
So singularity talks about the melding of humans and machines, and we’re talking about those. That’s not perfection as some people might assume it’s actually less desirable. Right?
Chad Sanderson 5:47
Yeah, the technology that we have right now I think has a tendency to get in the way. Because we’re so focused on the technology side of the equation, we forget about how to have the technology amplify the human element to meld correctly in an optimal way. People have a tendency to hide behind the tech.
Andy Paul 6:07
So give an example of the technology people are hiding behind.
Chad Sanderson 6:11
So think about automated templates and we all get them, right have these automated template emails that you know, show up in your inbox. They don’t know who you are. It doesn’t show that you’ve spent any time trying to understand that individual that you’re reaching out to, it doesn’t show that you’ve done any type of understanding of their organization or their role or the challenges that they’re having. It is a “I’m gonna spray and pray” kind of approach that is amplified by technology, and it has interesting effects on the buyers. The human reaction to that is, hey, you didn’t do any homework. You didn’t show me that you know me. You didn’t spend any time putting any critical thought into this. You just created a template and shot it out here so it devalues the relationship right out of the gate. Whereas if you take the time with the automation software to do your research, customize your emails. That shows that it’s more about the human being than just about getting a meeting.
Andy Paul 7:20
So there’s a whole school of thought out there that says that doesn’t matter. Right? Because there are companies that are doing just as you said, carpet bombing prospects, either broadly, or even on a count basis, and saying, as long as I get a certain number of responses to that, it really doesn’t pay for me to go back and really personalize this. On the other hand, there are also companies that say, we should be doing this. So where’s the balance?
Chad Sanderson 7:59
Once the balance is that melding of making it personal enough and we don’t want to go crazy with personalization, we still want to use the automation. And again, we’re not talking about one or two sentences, but something that shows you at least understand something about it rather than the carpet bomb. Now, the reason it’s so important, from my perspective, is that everybody that’s probably watching this or listening to this right now, the vast majority have Amazon Prime. And if you would ask them why they have Amazon Prime, some will tell you it’s free shipping. But everybody at the end of the day, has in their hands something that gives them what they want. Now, the proliferation of these types of experiences on the B2C side is all about customer experience. And so on that side, I spent 10 years in that industry designing those applications so that they reduced friction, that they got us closer to brand loyalty and got people what they wanted faster. The net result over 10 years is that now even in the B2B buying space, whether they can articulate it or not, buyers want a frictionless experience. They want something that’s about them. And if we’re just templating emails out, then statistically, you may be able to get a certain level of numbers. But that introduces friction at the very first touch you have in that sales process. Whereas if you just put a line or two in the front, you’re starting with that human to human connection, reducing that friction, getting them closer to that seamless, frictionless sales experience.
Andy Paul 9:45
I think some people would make the argument that just by introducing humans into the equation, you’re creating friction.
Chad Sanderson 9:50
Yes, but people buy from people. I’m talking B2B complex sales, right? So in a B2B complex sale, people are still buying from people but it’s based on trust and an understanding. It’s understanding what are the emotional motivators for someone? What is their perception of value? What are the problems as they see them; not what we’re telling them they are. And in order to do that, you have to ask a question instead of just coming in with statements. Statements create conflict, questions uncover solutions. And so even in that email example, if the personalization is just a question that’s targeted and understanding them, then you’re better off instead of, I have this cool new thing you’re really gonna love. Because you started out talking about you when what we want is to be understanding their perspective. But if I was sending you an email versus other podcast hosts, I would just simply put something in it that shows that I’ve watched one of your episodes or that I’m familiar with what’s going on. The rest of it would be just the standard stuff, right? If you increase the focus so that the human salesperson’s focus and mindset so that they are focused on doing research, it takes 15 minutes, no more to do research on an industry and a role to get something that will allow you to personalize it at scale. And that’s where I’m talking about the melding of it. You still want to use the tools, but you don’t have carpet bombing templates. So I’m not talking about individual personalization necessarily all the time, but more role based.
Andy Paul 11:55
Well, let’s dig into that, though. You’ve talked already about the buying experience. I’m a huge believer that the buying experience is important. But the way it seems like we’ve really set up the specialized roles and sales, is we’ve talked of a relationship people buy from people. What is that first outreach, especially if it’s somebody who is just trying to set up a meeting to pass it on to somebody else? What’s that really accomplishing in your mind in terms of building the relationship.
Chad Sanderson 12:44
It’s about can you build or establish trust and credibility? Can you develop a rapport because we want to be respectful.
Andy Paul 12:54
That’s not an SDRs job, but their job is not to build rapport. Their job is to let’s get a meeting and let’s pass it over to the AE.
Chad Sanderson 13:01
But also they would want to qualify at some points. You don’t want to pass a whole bunch of stuff that’s going to waste an AE’s time. Okay, we’re qualifying and you’re eligible for the next call is all we’re doing. And we want to know if they have problems that we can solve? It’s all we want to identify from an SDR standpoint and we want to do it with respect. We want to do it with credibility and which comes from the confidence in the way that you engage with someone. Do you understand how they view the world. We want to make sure they at least have the credibility or capture the curiosity and attention, that they are really gonna be calling us. You should be calling the chairman of the board first. Why? Because you want the ability to get once if you get in, they’re gonna refer you down, which is perfect. That’s what you want. I’m not the guy to talk to this person. Great. I’d be happy to talk to that individual. As long as I’ve talked to them and others, I can come back to you with any questions and insights we might uncover. They don’t know I have now I have a return ticket. I have access back to the top to power as my sales process progresses.
Andy Paul 14:30
I don’t know if that completely is my experience in large enterprise sales. And actually, I’ve written about this, if you’re doing role based prospecting you actually want to start because you will start the role where a person’s actually gonna make the decision, not the approver.
Chad Sanderson 14:47
We’ve seen that there was a Google report I just read not too long ago about power shifting into the organization or something like that. Well, I always recommend going high.
Andy Paul 14:58
That’s when the whole premise behind challenger, is that you get flat organizations distributing stakeholders both geographically diverse and role based diversity. That’s sort of the whole premise, you got more fingers in the pie at lower levels, right.
Chad Sanderson 15:18
Depending on what you’re selling. A manager in organizations that we target would be more of an influencer or maybe a coach, but they’re not going to be somebody that is going to sway the decision one way or another. Unless it’s a small enough organization perhaps. But what we don’t want is a single threaded deal. I don’t want a single thread deal, I want multiple points of contact. So if I’m going after say a CMO and my goal is ultimately VP of Digital Transformation or Director of Digital or something like that I want to talk to as many of them as possible to get enough of an understanding of is there enough value for us to continue the conversation and go down this path. Each individual will have a different perspective of what value to them and to the organization will mean.
Andy Paul 16:08
So let’s put this in the context of a relationship. So a relationship that affects the purchase decision. So trust doesn’t really get built in that first call. Where’s where trust come into the equation?
Chad Sanderson 16:25
It comes up over time. I’ve seen trust get built in a 15 minute SDR call, actually with a client that just last week called into a CFO all because of the questions that he asked. The CFO actually said, you’re the first person who’s actually called in here and actually knows my business. And trust earned some respect. Maybe it’s not 100% complete trust but we’re on the path. Now, if that’s handed to hand it off correctly, to an AE, they can build on that. Then you start to build that trust early rather than hey I just ran into you and we don’t know each other from Bob. So let’s talk and get a little bit closer to that ability to focus on the other individual. To build trust, credibility, and rapport. You can do it with just a couple of questions.
Andy Paul 17:31
One of the disconnects is that they have to form their own relationship with the person. And that’s really the decisive relationship. So that’s not to describe SDRs but I mean, we’re not asking them to do that. We’re asking them to facilitate something. So what are you seeing in terms of where ease is missing in building relationships? When rates drop, is there a performance dropping?
Chad Sanderson 18:05
Yeah, these sort of data points don’t paint a pretty picture. I think it goes back to that continuing on the relationship. So if we continue to use this example, let’s say I call into a VP of Digital Transformation, I’ve asked some supporting questions, role based that says I understand you. I’ve got enough of that trust to set a meeting with an AE. Now the handoff, from the SDR to the AE should be like, “Hey, here’s the role based information that we use. This is the prospect. This is what they’ve told us so far.” What I see a lot of times happen is that he doesn’t trust the information that the SDR has uncovered, even if it’s two or three little bullet points. And we’ll make that individual that VP of Digital Transformation repeat themselves. That right there breaks trust, it breaks credibility. And then he’s already at a deficit, but if they can work in unison then they’re much more effective. 9 times out of 10, he just has a tendency to go, “Hey, cool, I’ve got a meeting. Here’s this cool thing we’ve got, you should buy it,” rather than taking the time to ask the questions.
Andy Paul 19:18
So the break of the trust chain is between the SDRs and the AEs.
Chad Sanderson 19:21
There’s a break in the trust chain there. AE’s have a tendency to think SDRs don’t want to be subservient. But let’s just say not on the same level, right? So I think that’s a BS perspective, because SDR prospecting is one of the hardest gigs in sales.
Andy Paul 19:44
How many professional SDRs have you met, meaning, it’s a career in itself, not a stepping stone to something else.
Chad Sanderson 19:52
It is a stepping stone, but I still think SDRs can execute it at a professional level.
Andy Paul 20:02
We create that bifurcation by saying, this is purely an entry level role. There are lots of underemployed sales professionals in the 40s and 50s who make great SDRs. And they’d be happy to do that job by all accounts. You know, the late boomers and early Gen X’s are better relationship people.
Chad Sanderson 20:30
Statistically, I’ve actually seen the most successful SDRs are ones who have either come out of school and gone into Field Sales and not been able to not be able to hit the quota consistently. They come back in and go into an SDR role because they at least understand what’s happening beyond them. Right in that process, or those who are the Gen X’s or who are older that don’t have a problem with the grind and focus element is so critical in being a successful SDR.
Andy Paul 20:59
On the other hand, if you brought in more people who have more experience in business and life, and they have these opening conversations, they could then more successfully call higher in an organization and add value to that initial conversation. You wouldn’t need to make 50 calls a day. Stress impress wouldn’t necessarily be there. I don’t think a lot of trust gets built in that first SDR call. I think what happens is you activate some interest in what you’re talking about. I wouldn’t call that trust. I’d say it’s interesting enough to take the next step but trust you know, it doesn’t mean we’re on a purchase path at all. But perhaps we could change that. But if we looked at increasing the career function, why can’t that be a career job for somebody that does a great job at it. To your point earlier though, they just weren’t a fit in the field or they weren’t a fit with something other than before.
Chad Sanderson 22:18
I think we should be looking at that role differently because there are a lot of people that don’t want to travel and get on planes. They have families. There are other personal reasons why an SDR role where they can go into an office, be part of a team, can provide critical value to the organization because typically, revenue starts there. I mean, we will be okay everybody wants to say AE’s prospects but very few AE’s are consistently prospecting right? The ones that are very successful do it; they make it look easy?
Andy Paul 22:51
I think if it’s part of their role, then let’s go do it. I think it’s time and you’re seeing some companies already rethink the function and make it more team based or actually upgrade the profile through hiring those SDR roles because they are such a critical element of that team. They do need to have substantive discussions as you give an example up front, when they get that first call which is what a large fraction of those calls are.
Chad Sanderson 23:36
We’ve seen the greatest success in organizations where you equip the SDRs first. It’s a combination of cultural confidence building approach because most SDRs know exactly how they’re viewed in the organization. So they instantly have this self defeating view of themselves inside the organization. So whatever we do, we have to kind of build confidence in them. And that then translates into the way that they can interact with a prospect to trip the curiosity circuit rather than if trust doesn’t start there. But the curiosity circuit says, you know what, you have a perspective that is interesting enough, that I’m willing to spend 15 minutes with you, or 30 minutes with you. And, you know, I’m impressed that you actually put it in from my perspective, like you showed you, you were thinking of the world through my eyes, instead of just trying to get the meeting. Those two things start to set a stage that I think builds a much greater relationship, if it is continually nurtured through the sales process, rather than the customer experiencing that friction.
Andy Paul 24:44
So let’s spend a few minutes talking about what are the specific aspects that you see, what I call human sales skills, that we should be investing more in training our people to be good at.
Chad Sanderson 25:00
Yeah, that’s a great question. So for me, there needs to be a framework, they need some kind of tool set that they can use as the foundation. A conversational framework, a lot of SDRs have never been trained how to actually have a conversation, first and foremost. So if we’re training them how to have a business level conversation, they need to have some kind of consistent business acumen. I was talking to a lawyer the other day, and he’s like, yeah, they didn’t teach us in law school, how to be human, how to have a conversation. And I hear that a lot from the AEs “I get trained in what sales is and what our products do, but I never had the training on how to have a conversation” so that I think becomes a critical component.
Andy Paul 25:50
So it’s like I’m let’s dive into that. I’ve written about this extensively. You know, one of the first things we have to do is help people learn how to be human. And in your mind, what does that encompass?
Chad Sanderson 26:04
So it’s a mindset thing, I want to focus on the task at hand rather than attempt to, you know, be inundated with emails and Snapchat and Slack messages and all this stuff. And people think they’re multitasking. Well, the debate is over the human brain can’t multitask. So first and foremost, let’s focus on the task at hand. And if we can get that focus, then we can start to critically think about the world through somebody else’s eyes, if you’ve got the right framework, it takes 15 minutes of research to give you the context, and then apply some critical thinking. So focus, mindset, critical thinking skills, all wrapped around how to effectively do research. And then tied off with a bow with the business level acumen, those things become extremely important. The tech and all of those things are easy enough to train people on if they have the contextual awareness on how they’re going to be used from a human element. And I think those are the things that we’re seeing the most, where you know, you have SDRs all over the place. They’re supposed to be prospecting, but their calendars got like eight hours of internal meetings. And so, time management and the focus mindset, those are the places that we always start. The rest of it then falls into place.
Andy Paul 27:13
You brought something earlier, which I think is important, which is respect. So I think it’s more fundamental than the things you chat about, because I think you got to start at a real human level. And the first one is, I think salespeople in general do tend not to approach people with an open mind saying, look, I may have my built in biases, maybe I don’t like someone who’s overweight or I don’t like somebody and this and this. And they really have to learn to filter through those biases and say, “Look, I’ve got a human being in front of me, and I have respect for them as a person.” So how do you teach respect, right? This idea of this is another person, we just have to have respect for them. Because if we don’t, well, it’s gonna shine through in a heartbeat.
Chad Sanderson 28:16
I’d go back one step further, I think it’s harder to have respect for someone else, unless you have respect for yourself. I think you have to have respect for yourself first.
Andy Paul 28:29
I guess it gets back to what we’re talking about before. If you are an entry level salesperson thrown into this environment, which you know, not too entirely different than it’s always been. I was out making 30/40/50 cold calls a day physically on the field when I first got started. But the gun wasn’t over our head quite as much, right? We didn’t have the same activity metrics necessarily that SDRs are faced with. Although we started doing a ton of activity, we created this environment that, to your point precisely, doesn’t really lend itself to people creating self respect and confidence in their own abilities.
Chad Sanderson 29:11
So any client that we engage with when we’re, especially working with SDRs, there’s a lot of conversation and an analysis of what the current cultural environment that these people are in. And from there, how do we then help the organization if it needs to soften that up, create a more positive culture, one that is celebrating the successes, rather than just focusing on metrics? We also want to celebrate the right behaviors. So how do we create that comes from how managers coach and how the rest of the organization respects the counter. So the easy way for SDRs to start and managers of SDRs is to use time blocking on their calendar and helping the SDRs with anybody who wants to write over that time block, “Hey, this person is important, this function, this job that they’re doing is critical. This time block is not negotiable, they have to be able to do this so you can’t have that time.” And kind of having those conversations over time will build the respect internally if the results continue to follow the way they should. First you have to start with respecting yourself. That comes from managing your time; it comes from doing things at a professional level even if it is an entry level job. What does good look like?
Andy Paul 30:36
Well, I think that’s the important thing you just said. There is an element of self esteem in this without going back to participation, trophies and so on is shattered. I think that the key to people feeling self respect is to feel valued. And this gets back to again, what we were talking about earlier, is making the seem not as just a waste stop, that will be certainly free for ambitious and have goals. I mean, I didn’t want to be in my entry level sales job any longer than I needed to be and was fortunate to perform at a level I got promoted quickly. But by the same token people that didn’t do it as quickly, still felt valued. That seems like that’s one thing we have to spend more time on, because certainly we under invest in these people. We have an unrealistic expectation for how quickly they will onboard and up, get up to speed. It’s hard to get into that.
Chad Sanderson 31:47
When we work with clients, we’re always looking for the executive sponsor, but we spend most of the time honestly with the managers. How are the managers coaching? How are they incentivizing? Oh, well, we have spiffs, but great, but we all know that money is not always the best motivator. How are you recognized? How are you celebrated? How do we help them do that?
Andy Paul 32:11
I’m not a fan of spiffs at all. I’ve challenged multiple executives to show me that a spiff actually works. Never seen any evidence that it does, either for the individual or for the company itself. You asked several VPs in multiple conversations. So what’s the ROI on a spiff? Let’s have a spiff close deal on Friday instead of Monday. Okay, well, you just gave away 10 margin points to close a bunch of deals on Friday. You’re gonna get on Monday.
Chad Sanderson 32:47
So one of the things that we’ll do from the management side is, we’ll help them come up with some of those incentives and back to how do we make them feel valuable? Recognition is a huge one. Here are the metrics that we need for the quarter, let’s say here’s they are meeting set dials, handoffs, here’s what they are. Whoever is the top performer and hits these behavioral points, we want to see you go through these channels to do it. You’re going to get a personal LinkedIn recommendation from the VP in Q1, then you get to go in a pool, and each year, at the end of the year, who did the best throughout the year overachieved on quota, then you can get a LinkedIn referral from the CEO. Those alone have been more motivating than, hey, here’s a $10, Amazon gift card or whatever it is. Those types of recognition points, because now in order to make that program work, well, the VP has to agree to do it and the CEO has to agree to do it. So now the SDRs are getting the view from the top that helps them feel like their roles are more valuable. They know what the recognition is going to be. So we’re incenting behavior, rather than paying them off to do stuff.
Andy Paul 34:05
But let me ask it from a different perspective. I think that the answer to making people feel valued is to invest in their development. And I think this is a big disconnect when we see such high attrition rates with SDRs and AE’s and VPs of sales and so on. I mean, it’s all being compressed into very short time frames these days. On average, I think, the way you make people feel valued and want to stay is to say look, we want to invest in you in the long run. So, here’s a continuous learning program you can be part of. We have great success with the company’s internal book clubs for sales teams where they’re all engaged and learning virtually every day, then they start feeling like, oh, okay, now they really care about me.
Chad Sanderson 35:16
And with every client that we’ve worked with, that’s usually one of the first things we hear from the SDRs or even the AEs. We’re in the middle of a global rollout with a large financial company, SaaS company, and the first thing that we tell them is, this is an investment in you. They are over the top appreciative. To have an executive come in and open up the training sessions and then spend the time, money, and the energy to invest in them to get them to uplevel their game. Then you start to see that sense of value increase and you start to see them more willing to invest themselves. And then it’s just a matter of building out a plan and a communication protocol that keeps that message going as the training and continual investment happens.
Andy Paul 36:09
Gotcha. All right, very cool. Well, unfortunately, we’re out of time. Chad, thank you very much. It’s been a pleasure. Okay, friends, that was Accelerate for the week. First of all, as always, thank you for joining me taking the time to join us on the show. Make sure you join me again next week as my guest will be Ian Altman. Ian is co author of the book, Same Side Selling: How Integrity and Collaboration Drive Extraordinary Results for Sellers and Buyers. He just released an updated and second edition of that book, we talked about that and much more. So you definitely wanna check that out. So thanks again for joining me until next week. I’m your host, Andy Paul. Good selling everyone.