How to Use Deal Reviews to Close More Orders w/ Cian McLoughlin [Episode 323]

Among the many topics that Cian and I discuss are the value of detailed Win/Loss Reviews, the surprising things that influence customers in their decisions to buy or not, and why ‘tier two’ salespeople are not your best choice for account management and customer success roles.

Joining me on this episode of Accelerate! is Cian McLoughlin. Cian is Founder and CEO of Trinity Perspectives, a sales consultancy based in Sydney, Australia, and author of the new bestselling book, The Rebirth of the Salesman.

Key Takeaways

  • The reasons we actually win a deal are often very, very different from the reasons we think we won the deal. Too often were influenced by our own impressions and biases instead of the facts.
  • Why inaccurate assumptions about why the customer bought negatively impact your win rates.
  • The smallest of items, things salespeople usually overlook, often have the strongest influence on the customer. If you’ve done a decent job, the customer is happy to tell you what you did right.
  • Your response to a prospect’s tender (RFP) is something that can earn you high esteem, or a very low rating, depending on how specific and responsive your proposal is.
  • Why the most critical sales behavior for a salesperson is to be responsive.
  • How to perform an effective deal review (win or lose.)
  • Why your most important sales call is the first call you make after customers sign the deal.
  • How a hybrid sales role allows you to have your best people make net new sales, manage accounts, and create long-term relationships, providing continuity to customers.
  • How sales needs to reset their mindset to meet the customer’s needs and expectations.
  • Rebirth of the Salesman took a surprising turn in the writing, and ended up being a book about why customers make the decisions they make.
  • Rather than planning to land and expand, plan to fit in and stand out. This requires your best people on the hand-off.

More About Cian McLoughlin

What’s your most powerful sales attribute?

Empathy and EQ.

Who is your sales role model?

A personal associate, who was very disciplined and a good relationship builder.

What’s one book that every salesperson should read?

To Sell is Human, by Daniel Pink.

What music is on your playlist right now?

U2, Simon & Garfunkel.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul 0:35

It’s time to accelerate! Hi, I’m your host, Andy Paul. Join me as I host conversations with the leading experts in sales, marketing, sales automation, sales process, leadership, management, training, coaching, any resource that I believe to help you accelerate the growth of your sales, your business and most importantly, you. 

 

Hello, and welcome to Accelerate. I am excited to talk with my guest today. Joining me is Cian McLoughlin. Cian is the founder and CEO of Trinity Perspectives, a sales consultancy based in Sydney, Australia, one of the latest guests we’ve had from Sydney, as well as author of a great new book called Rebirth of the Salesman. So Cian, welcome to Accelerate.

 

Cian McLoughlin 1:18

Hi, Andy. Nice to be here.

 

Andy Paul 1:19

Well, my pleasure. So take a minute, maybe introduce yourself to the audience. How’d you get your start in sales? And also how’d you find your way to Australia?

 

Cian McLoughlin 1:30

So yeah, I’m actually Irish and spent most of my formative years in Ireland and then did what a lot of Irish people do when they finish university, jumped on a plane and came to Australia to see a little bit of the world as a backpacker. And met a girl, and stayed, and married, and I’ve been here for almost 20 years. So yeah, it’s funny the way these things happen. 

 

In terms of how I got my start in sales, I think probably like so many other people, I had no plan to pursue a career in sales. I didn’t set out to do that, but ended up almost by accident taking a role in a software company. And 15 years later, I have moved through the ranks of a number of different software companies, always carrying a quota, always either working with channels or direct sales. And yeah, it’s just been an interesting evolution over that period of time. 

 

And then about five years ago, I stepped out to establish Trinity. And we’re in the sales consulting and advisory area, but we’re probably in a bit of a niche element of the industry. We focus on win loss analysis and sales transformation. So really helping organizations better understand why they’re winning and losing the deals they pitch for, and then taking those learnings and insights and reverse engineering them back into their sales process.

 

Andy Paul 2:45

Well, that’s a concept that’s really at the heart of your book, the win loss ratio. And it’s interesting, companies really talk primarily about doing lost deal reviews. But you say there’s really more value in doing the win review than doing the lost review So why is that?

 

Cian McLoughlin 3:01

Well, it’s interesting. So I think there’s huge value in both. But I think you’re right. Traditionally, if there are reviews done at all and unfortunately, they’re not done very frequently or very consistently by most companies. But when they do do them, they have a tendency to focus on the losses probably for a couple of reasons. 

 

They think there’s more to learn from the losses. And also they assume if there’s been a deal they’ve won, then they’ve done a great job. 

 

Andy Paul

Let’s go drink instead of exactly analyzing why we won. 

 

Cian McLoughlin

Yeah, let’s clap each other on the back and then move on to the next one. But what we’ve been finding is the reasons that we win versus the reasons that we think we win are often very, very different. And one of the most interesting parts of my week of any given working week is when I talk to a sales rep after I’ve reviewed one of their deals, particularly a winning deal. 

 

And I’ll say to them, tell me the top two or three reasons you think you won this deal. And then they’ll list them off, and often they’ll say, well, I think we definitely won on price, and our product was a stronger fit, and I think we won based on the quality of our references. And then I can respond and say, it was none of those things. It was you won based on risk mitigation. You won based on the fact that one of the people they spoke to who wasn’t a reference of yours but was a peer of theirs gave a very, very strong reference. And you won based on cultural fit. And by the way, you were the most expensive solution. 

 

And they’re floored, because they’ve had all of these assumptions based on the interactions they had with a client or based on their own internal biases. And the tricky thing is if we go away without understanding the detail, then what happens is we actually start to make decisions about future aspects of our business, of our sales process, of our pricing strategy, our competitive strategy based on false assumptions. And this is happening all the time in our industry. So it’s quite a niche area, but it’s a very interesting area to play at the intersection of the sales process and the buying process.

 

Andy Paul 4:49

Yeah, and I think one of the key points you had in the chapter was that through doing the win review, the customer highlighted areas in which you would excel. But they singled out one specific area as key to their decision. This, to me, is the thing that’s really critical about doing the win analysis. Because it’s those single things, especially in large complex deals, it’s these single things that no one ever really pays attention to. Like you said, they don’t understand that. And that’s the key to winning the next deal that’s similar, and the deal after that, and the deal after that is really understanding why they made the decision.

 

Cian McLoughlin 5:27

Exactly. And do you know what? There is an even more fundamental issue here, which is if you’ve done a decent job as a salesperson, you’ve earned the right to this feedback in my opinion. And actually, not just in my opinion, but in the opinion of the vast majority of customers. They’re very happy to share it with you. So if you put a little bit of structure around it, you ask for it in the right way, you explain to them, look, this is what we’re going to do in the feedback. We’re going to use it internally to develop our salespeople, to focus on getting better from a demo perspective, pricing, whatever it might be.

 

But equally, this is what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to use it to beat up on our sales team if we’ve done something wrong or our pre-sales people. We’re not going to use it to try and get back into the deal by the backdoor if we’ve lost a piece of business. This is very much about us just improving and delivering a better service to you in the future and to all clients in the future. 

 

We’re leaving these nuggets of gold on the table time and time again. And I just think it’s a missed opportunity, particularly when it’s so hard to find a really, really good piece of business to go after. The market is becoming more competitive. It behoves us to do these little things which can give us a strategic advantage.

 

Andy Paul 6:31

Well, I think again, just to reiterate a point I’ve made in the complex enterprise sale, and I’ve given this example on the show before, you may have a deal that you’ve been working for years. When I worked in that type of environment,  I’ve worked on deals for two, three years, get to the end, and part of the bid process is there’s this compliance matrix you have to fill out. It could be 180 lines long and detailed. 

 

But in there is the one thing that’s gonna get you to win the deal. And you have to find out what that one thing is, and most salespeople don’t. And that’s one of the things I always focus on. What is that one thing? Well, the way to find out is to go back and look at the past deals, because that one thing is usually identified.

 

Cian McLoughlin 7:16

Yeah, and it’s really interesting. So you talk about those 180 lines or those big tenders that we all have to respond to on occasion, particularly for the larger, more strategic deals. We worked on a deal on one occasion for a vendor who had won a piece of business. But the initial feedback from the customer was that they very, very nearly lost it based on the poor quality of their tender response. 

 

And what they did is a classic mistake that a lot of businesses make, which is they didn’t have a dedicated bid manager or tender response person in their business. So everyone cobbled together responses at nighttime and on the weekends and then threw them all back in, and they got consolidated into one document and flicked over the fence to the customer just before five o’clock on a Friday when the tender was due to be submitted. But unfortunately, what that does is that becomes your first impression to this prospective customer. And this organization had put a huge amount of time and effort into preparing the tender before they put it out into the world. 

 

And so they saw this very slipshod response and said to themselves, well, this is essentially how we judge this organization. And luckily, one person saw just enough that was relevant and interesting to say, maybe we should take these guys through to the start line. And that was a $50, $60 million piece of business that they almost lost based on essentially a very, very small thing, which was they had just poorly handled their initial bid. But as you said, it’s the one percenters, the two percenters which can determine success or failure.

 

Andy Paul 8:41

Oh, yeah. That’s a chapter in my latest book, the amp up for sales, is the 1% differences. Yeah, that’s the winning margin. I’ll ask clients. I’ll say okay, well, tell me, how much did you win your last deal by? Yeah, was it 5%? Were you 10% better? I’m not talking about price. How much better were you? Well, no one knows that, right? You don’t know. So you have to assume that it’s only gonna be 1%. So what’s that 1% difference? And like you said, it could be first impressions. 

 

Cian McLoughlin

It could be. And the thing is, if you can, because you don’t know for sure what 1% is, what you need to do is actually lift your game across all those aspects. So how we engage in the first place, quality of our demos, how we do our discovery, all the way through. We worked on one bid that was very, very interesting where it was apples for apples, which is obviously a term lots of customers use when they get down to the wire and they’ve got two vendors. 

 

And the way that the legal guys from one of the vendors engaged with this particular customer in terms of the best and final bid, so they were really helpful, and then the customer would say, look, we’re not really comfortable with this particular line item. And instead of saying, well, we’re not going to change it. They’ll say, well, look, let us go away. We’ll have a think about it. We’ll see if we can find a way to make that work for you. 

 

And they kept bringing that attitude of we’ll find a way, we’ll do our best. And occasionally when they couldn’t move on a particular issue, the customer said, look, that’s fine. We recognize you’re working hard. The other vendor they were talking to and taking right through the process just fought them on every detail. 

 

And so the feedback we had from the customer was we hadn’t even signed on the dotted line yet, and yet they were fighting us. So we felt that this was likely to be the relationship right the way through the implementation and the go live. And that concerned us. So that was ultimately a cultural factor, which made the final decision much easier for them to go with the company that had been actually really good through the commercial process, as distinct from the other organization. 

 

Again, not something we’d ever necessarily think about. And at that point, the salespeople were actually out of the process. It was now very much handed over to procurement, commercial, legal. And yet, ultimately, that was the deciding factor. So we’ve got to be professional and squeaky clean at every step of the journey, not just the piece that we control.

 

Andy Paul 10:49

Yeah, people that listen to the show and read my books and my material know that my huge thing is responsiveness, right? If you can master one skill as a salesperson, being responsive, to my mind, is the most important thing you can do in large part because it creates those positive first perceptions in the mind of the prospect. Wow, this is who we want to do business with, especially compared to the other people.

 

Cian McLoughlin 11:10

I could not agree more. And where I’ve arrived at in the last five years, Andy, from all of these conversations with customers, and this was a real leap for me from my time as a salesperson, is that actually no matter what you’re selling, no matter what the brand on your business card, to a large degree people aren’t buying what you’re selling anymore. They’re buying you. So you become the personification of the product or the service or the brand that you represent. And if you do a good job in that respect, and there is a strong cultural fit, and they like you and they trust you, and they see you as a credible authority, it’s going to make a huge difference in terms of their ability to make a decision on the product or the service that you’re selling.

 

Andy Paul 11:48

Yeah, absolutely. And so one other point I’ll make before I move on to another subject about your win review is I advocate doing something similar that has a different component to it. But blended together, I think it becomes very effective. Because I think that in competitive situations, what happens is when the customer signs on the dotted line, in their mind what they’ve bought is the best of every vendor that they’ve talked to. They get confused to a certain degree. And it’s an intense situation, they start conflating and confusing the various things that they’ve heard. 

 

So doing the win review is a way for you to do a reset to some degree about what the requirements were, why they were interested in talking to you, why they bought from you, the value they expect to receive, and their expectations about the product or service. So that when you actually start delivering, your expectations are all in alignment.

 

Cian McLoughlin 12:41

I think that’s a really interesting point. And I haven’t heard it described that way before, but that makes a lot of sense. Because one of the biggest issues which often crops up in a situation where you have had a win is the handover or the transition from the sales team to the delivery team. And you can have built a great rapport and connection with a customer and they really like you and trust you, and then the handover takes place. 

 

And if that’s done poorly, or it’s not managed properly, or the ball is dropped, you get this buyer’s remorse. You get this, hang on a second, we thought they wanted to partner with us. But all they’re doing is flicking us to their technical guys, and we’re left out in the cold. And that can cause major issues. It can cause issues on the initial implementation, but also it can cause issues in terms of their likelihood of purchasing more features, expanding the footprint. So it’s all of these little things. It’s nuanced sales insight. But these things are critical to long term sales success.

 

Andy Paul 13:38

Yeah, I call that the most important sales call, the first sales call you make after they sign the order.

 

Cian McLoughlin 13:44

I like it.

 

Andy Paul 13:45

So okay, next thing that I want to talk about from your book, which I found very interesting, is as everybody listens to the show, not everybody but I presume a large fraction, understand that we’re coming into a world of increased sales specialization. And you’ve got a quote in the book talking about the strange fixation so many large businesses have on splitting their Salesforce into separate autonomous groups to focus one on new business acquisition and the other on existing customer retention. So that certainly flies in the face of a lot of what’s happening these days. So what do you see as the problem with this specialization?

 

Cian McLoughlin 14:24

I see quite a few different problems actually. But let me take it from the salesperson’s perspective first. So it can be very, very taxing to be constantly focused on white space, blue sky, net new opportunity, smashing the phones, and having a million conversations. But also it can be very one dimensional as well. And I think the value which salespeople bring to any of their interactions as much relates to their experience and the stories that they can share in the context that they can provide to customers. 

 

So if you’re in a fairly one dimensional role and doing the same thing on an ongoing basis, it becomes muscle memory. And often, we can unconsciously slip into behaving in a particular way. I think having a more hybrid role, allowing some of your best salespeople not just to go out there and pound the pavement or make cold calls. But actually account manage, actually hold and develop their skills, create longer term relationships with customers. 

 

We work so hard to win new business. And often we put our best and our brightest people on to that because we think, well, that’s the hardest thing to do. But the missed opportunity is expanding the relationship with our existing customers, sweating the asset of all the work that we’ve done in the past, understanding that not all customers are created equal. So I would far rather have an existing customer than a net new customer. Your likelihood of sale is higher. Your likelihood of discount is lower. The ability to get referrals is exponentially greater. 

 

So there’s a whole lot of things which are in favor of actually working more closely with our existing customers whilst obviously continuing to build net new prospects as well. So I think it’s too binary for me, it’s too black and white. And I think it doesn’t work that well for salespeople, and it doesn’t work that well for customers. So I think a more hybrid approach has always been what I’ve seen to be the best approach. 

 

And I agree, it does fly in the face of a lot of the accepted wisdom, which is either you’re a hunter or you’re a farmer, either your white space or you’re in store base. But the landscape has changed. The way customers want to buy and interact with us has changed. And I think we need to reset on that if we’re going to be able to meet them where they’re at over the next 3, 5, 10 years. 

 

Because I think a lot of salespeople, unfortunately, are starting to struggle, and their careers are getting into this terrible debt spiral. Because they’re not reinventing themselves, and they’re essentially a generic salesperson from having a level of specialization or depth of knowledge in a particular area.

 

Andy Paul 17:07

And I think that’s really the key. Again, not to pump my own books. But yeah, I’ve got a chapter in there about specialists versus generalists. I mean, it is a world for specialists. I think the generalist in sales is an endangered species.

 

Cian McLoughlin 17:22

I agree.

 

Andy Paul 17:23

Especially in B2B complex sales, anything with a technical aspect to it. What’s the value you’re adding?

 

Cian McLoughlin 17:31

And that’s the critical thing. So I’m in an incredibly privileged position in that I get to talk to the key decision makers from customers on a regular basis and ask them post their decision, why did you make the decision? And it’s interesting, because when I set out to write Rebirth of the Salesman, I thought it was going to be a book about win loss analysis. But actually, it turned into a book about why do customers make the decisions they make, and what does that mean for us as salespeople and sales leaders? How do we need to evolve to have the characteristics and behaviors and skill sets that are required to deliver the things that are important to the customers based on what they’ve been telling us? 

 

And it really surprised me, because I thought it would be certain things. But I didn’t think it would be around the stories that they tell, and cultural fit, and their EQ, and some of the other characteristics that actually come through in the book.

 

Andy Paul 18:24

Well, I think that the one of the key points that you bring out, and I think this is something that sales managers have to really think about, because there’s this bias that exists that says hunters are different than farmers. And we don’t have hunters farm. We don’t have farmers– And as you say in the book, you’ve got to really understand that there’s a real difference between the skills and characteristics and behavioral attributes between hunters and farmers. You think about a good account manager, an excellent account manager has to do the same thing an excellent hunter has to do, account exec has to do. 

 

They have to build a rapport with the customer. They have to understand their business, what the requirements are, what their aspirations are, the discovery process is the same. As you point out in the book, some of these things you get accelerated with an existing customer because you have that relationship formed already. But fundamentally, the task is the same.

 

Cian McLoughlin 19:22

I completely agree. And I think it’s naive to suggest that your best and your brightest should be the ones that are out there talking to net new prospects because really, it’s much easier to be a farmer. So let’s put all of these farmers to work on our installed customer base. That’s actually disparaging to your customer base and to the salespeople. But also, it misses the point that your ability to grow your business very much will derive from your installed customer base or it should do and how much they like you. 

 

Because ultimately, most organizations don’t do the big purchase as their first purchase. The first purchase is the opportunity to say, okay, well, let’s give these guys a chance. Let’s see what they can do. We hear about the land and expand strategy all of the time. And a lot of companies do the land piece very well, but very few do the expand piece well. 

 

Because, as you say, the expand piece requires all of those skills, the discovery, the relationship building, the ability to network, and to create a framework within a much larger organization and understand how can we spread our message throughout this organization. That’s a very, very complex thing to do. And it’s not something which should be just handed off to your tier two salespeople. Because if you do, you’re missing a massive opportunity.

 

Andy Paul 20:36

Well, I think that it’s perhaps the wrong metaphor to be using which is rather than land and expand, you should think about this concept of fit in and stand out. And so fit in means that you can come in with your system, integrate into the processes that they have. That you’re not necessarily going to be a part of, even though you may be disrupting and transforming some of them. 

 

But you do such a good job at it, that you’re given the opportunity not only to expand that, but do other things for them. And that’s really the ideal situation. So to fit in and stand out requires that you put your best people on it. It’s not just pick up the phone and call the customer and say, hey, do you have anybody else that wants to add seats?

 

Cian McLoughlin 21:20

Yeah. And unfortunately, we’ve all been on the receiving end of that where you do get that call. And that’s not value adding. And so as a result, you give them short shrift, and you say, yeah, sorry, I’m not interested, and hang up the phone. And that’s a missed opportunity. Because what they’re doing is they’re undervaluing you as a customer in that scenario. They’re saying, that’s how we intend to treat you.

 

Andy Paul 21:41

Well, I think also with the things we’re seeing with some of the specialized sales roles, which I don’t disagree with with some of the need for some of it, let’s say in the SaaS business and so on, but this bifurcation with the customer successes. It seems like they’re not really focusing on the fact that the long term opportunity with the customer is not just expanding the number of seats for your existing solution. But it’s understanding what the next big solution is the customer is gonna need and how you can serve that. 

 

Cian McLoughlin

Yes, I agree. 

 

Andy Paul

And that’s the goal. It’s not just go from 20 seats to 100 seats within this company and declare victory. It’s what’s their next hundred seat application that we can fill?

 

Cian McLoughlin 22:21

Yeah, but Andy, you said a couple of things in my book were contrary. Well, I think that that philosophy that you’ve just described there is contrary to the way a lot of B2B organizations work. If you go from 20 to 100, it’s job well done, and you’ve done your job, and no one’s gonna bat an eyelid. 

 

Andy Paul 22:39

Well, that’s because the focus is, as you talk about, it’s all on going and getting new, green field customers.

 

Cian McLoughlin 22:44

Correct, yeah. Short term, what can we do this week, this month, this quarter, as distinct from that longer term?And I recognize that there’s commercial imperatives that you’re required to hit certain metrics and go in quota, but I think the balance has shifted too far to that side. And so we’re missing out on some of the more customer centric, strategic, longer term conversations as a result.

 

Andy Paul 23:09

Yeah. So let’s, let’s dig into this a little bit here. Last part of the segment of the show is about what customers want. And you have some five points that you laid out that what customers want from us as sales professionals. And the first one is they want us to be professional.

 

Cian McLoughlin 23:26

Yeah, I’m sitting here with a wry smile on my face, Andy. Because that was one of the biggest shocks to me in the last four or five years in talking to customers, how often, if you were to boil it down, a lack of professionalism was the key determining factor in an organization losing a piece of business. Now, lack of professionalism covered lots and lots of different areas. It could be poor preparation. It could be poor tender response. It could be a lack of understanding, not doing the discovery properly, moving straight into pitching mode. Lots of other things, not returning phone calls, not being responsive, as you said. It covers a lot of ground. But if you roll it together, they just weren’t professional. And by association, we felt they were risky.

 

Andy Paul 24:07

Yeah, in any environment where you’ve got products that you’re selling, but whether you’re in a competitive environment, whether there’s some idea or perspective that the products you’re selling are somewhat commoditized, the first line of differentiation is you, the salesperson.

 

Cian McLoughlin 24:21

Absolutely.

 

Andy Paul 24:22

And these first impressions that you’re creating in the minds of the prospect are absolutely essential. And we’ll get to the importance of that in number five. But the second one is you said they want you to listen, which seems to be so hard these days for people to listen without being distracted.

 

Cian McLoughlin 24:40

It’s interesting. I don’t even know if customers consciously want you to listen. I think they’re just making an assumption that you will. And then when you don’t, it’s really, really obvious to them. That kind of show up and throw up mentality, no matter what your problem, no matter what your illness or ailment is, I’ve got one bandage. I’ve got one solution. So that’s going to be the solution. And that’s just crazy. And as a result, customers are switched off. Because if you’re just looking for the first opportunity to start your pitch, firstly, you’re missing out on a massive, massive opportunity to find out what’s important to them, to do your discovery, to really scratch the surface. 

 

But not only that. You’re just going to lose the room very, very quickly. Because we’ve all got a very strong bullshit meter. And we can feel when we’re being pitched at or sold to, rather than listened to and understood. And the invisible walls will go up. And they’ll nod, and they’ll smile and say, thanks very much. And then your phone calls won’t be returned, because you haven’t earned the right for your phone calls to be returned.

 

Andy Paul 25:43

Yeah, but they didn’t get a return on the time they invested in you. And that is what you have to be thinking about. Every time they give you some time, any time a customer invests time in you, what is the return you’re giving them on that investment? So next thing, it says they want you to be consistent, which I interpret as being they want you to be reliable.

 

Cian McLoughlin 26:05

They do. And I think that goes to a whole lot of things. It goes to risk, it goes to them–  because you think about it, in any B2B sales transaction, particularly a relatively large one, there’s all of the benefit that will accrue to the business over time. But equally, there’s the benefit that will accrue to the stakeholder or internal sponsor who’s supporting you and your bid. And I’m making a decision on that. 

 

So they’ve got a huge amount of personal involvement in the decision and in the rollout and the go live and the value that’s derived. So they’re looking at you not just, will this solution work for us? They’re saying, how’s this going to impact on me? How’s it going to impact on my career, my professional brand inside this organization? 

 

So your ability to be consistent, responsive, relevant, helpful, it will all speak to giving them the comfort that, you know what, yeah, we can trust these guys. They’re going to be good to work with. Even when there is a problem, that’s okay. Because they’ll still be around. They’re not going to run for the hills.

 

Andy Paul 27:10

And these really can become decisive decision points for decision makers. Oh wow, lots of D’s in there. Very alliterative of me. But it is, and I have a workshop I give. The name of it is How Do You Win the Sale Before You Win the Order? Meaning how do you get that mental emotional commitment from the prospect prior to them actually making a final decision? And these are the ways you do that.

 

Cian McLoughlin 27:34

This is hearts and minds stuff, Andy. This is them feeling that you’re a safe pair of hands. And let’s be honest, we as human beings, we use the limbic part of our brain. We use the right, feeling, emotional part of our brain very often in decision making. And then we justify those decisions with the left brain, with the logic, with the reason, with the features and functions. 

 

And yet as an industry, invariably we sell feature function left brain. So we’re selling to the part of the brain that actually isn’t necessarily making the decision, that emotive, do I trust them? Do I feel comfortable with them? I’ve got a gut feeling these guys aren’t great. And yet we don’t focus on that. So that’s a whole other conversation in itself.

 

Andy Paul 28:16

Yeah, but that’s where you need to focus, I think, if you really want to increase your win rate. Focus on the emotional side. And you said sometimes emotions come into it, actually the research has found, and there was an article I read not that long ago online about this is that a researcher found this person that had had a brain injury. There’s a condition where they felt no emotion. What they found out was they couldn’t make any decision. 

 

Cian McLoughlin

Isn’t that interesting?

 

Andy Paul

What to eat, what to wear, even the most basic decisions in life that we think are just sort of logical. You’ve got to eat to survive. They’re driven by emotion.

 

Cian McLoughlin 28:51

It makes perfect sense. We’re running a workshop over here in Australia at the moment, which is how to move from IQ to EQ in sales process. Because ultimately, that’s the bigger driver. It’s really interesting stuff.

 

Andy Paul 29:04

Very interesting. The fourth one is they want you to invest time to really get to know them, which we sort of covered a little bit. And then the last one was, which to me is the Holy Grail. And I write about this extensively. They want you to add value with every sales interaction.

 

Cian McLoughlin 29:26

Yeah, so there’s a little mantra which I’ve adopted, and I think it’s one that I share with the sales teams I work with, which is treat them like a customer before they ever become a customer. Because I think that does a couple of things. It speaks to adding value with every interaction. But it also speaks to honesty and integrity when you’re dealing with people. 

 

So if someone’s not a customer, quite often we’d be inclined to maybe sugarcoat things or paper over the cracks or whatever. And recognizing that you’re still in the sales process, so it’s not about exposing all the flaws of your product or your service. But it’s just recognizing that they’re a person, they’re a human being. And if you are honest, and you are authentic with them, and you endeavor to add value in whatever way you can at each step of the journey, you’re treating them like a customer. 

 

But they’re asking themselves all the way through the process, what would these guys be like to work with? And so what you’re doing is you’re reinforcing, you know what, we’d be good to work with. And everything that you do through that process reinforces that. And that’s very, very profound in terms of its ability to influence them to make a decision.

 

Andy Paul 30:32

Absolutely. I think two other points along with that, one I talked a little bit about before, is that customers are making a judgement about the return of investment they’re earning on the time they invest in you. And there’s been research. Research has been done, and a guy won a Nobel Prize in part based on this. People make economic decisions about how to allocate their time, their limited time. So if they’re not getting a benefit from you, then you’re gonna stop getting time. And it speaks to the need of being able to add value.

 

Cian McLoughlin 31:03

It does. You know those meetings, Andy, where someone says, look, I’ve got half an hour. And then as you’re adding value through that half an hour meeting, all of a sudden they’ve got another hour at the back end. Because they allocated half an hour to see if you could add some value. Then once you started to challenge them and bring some new ideas to bear, they were able to free up time in their diary. 

 

Because you’re absolutely right. There is an economic value to people’s time. And so we have to earn the right to have them give us more time. And in exchange, we give them more value. And that’s the exchange. There’s a lovely quote from Jill Conrad. I think it was in one of her books, where she says, in a world of perceived product service quality, sellers are the key to higher standards. And I firmly believe that’s only in the B2B world, certainly in the world that we’re moving to. We have to be the key differentiator, because otherwise,

 

Andy Paul 31:51

Absolutely. Okay, great. So now we move to the segment show where I’ve got some standard questions I ask all my guests. And Cian, the first one is a hypothetical scenario. In this hypothetical scenario, you’ve just been hired as the new Vice President of Sales at a company whose sales have stalled out. The CEO and Board of Directors are anxious for things to get turned around. I know sales turnaround doesn’t happen in a day. But what two things could you do your first week on the job that could have the biggest impact?

 

Cian McLoughlin 32:19

Okay, I think the first thing I’d do would be run a quick sales benchmarking exercise. So I’d be trying to benchmark my sales team to determine where they’re at against key metrics for  sales success. There’s a variety of good benchmarking tools out there that you can go through and you can do pretty quickly. 

 

But it would be a quantitative and qualitative thing. So I would want to interview them. I would want to sit down and talk to them. But I would also want to see, at a qualitative level, how they were performing against key metrics. So I think that’s the first thing I’d do. 

 

The second thing I’d do, I think I’d probably go out and talk to the customers. I’d look at some customers that we maybe won recently and maybe some of them that we lost recently. And I’d go out and try and have a very just candid conversation with them and ask them to tell me what we’re doing well, where we have some room for improvement, maybe get some insights about my competitors at the same time. 

 

And hopefully by bringing those two sets of information together, I’d have a better view on what we needed to do. Because otherwise, I’d just be throwing mud against the wall and hoping something stuck. And that’s not a very good strategy long term. 

 

Andy Paul 33:24

Okay, great answer. So now here’s some rapid fire questions. You can give a one word answer. So you can elaborate if you wish. You’re Irish. You’re storyteller, right? 

 

Cian McLoughlin

That’s right. 

 

Andy Paul

So when you, Cian, are out selling, what’s your most powerful sales attribute?

 

Cian McLoughlin 33:42

I think probably empathy or EQ, if you want to call it that. I genuinely enjoy spending time with people. I like finding out about their stories. Sometimes, maybe to my own detriment because I forget to talk about things I was there to talk about because I’m more interested in what they’re talking about. But my view is whether we do business or not, not that it’s irrelevant, but it’s not the primary factor. Whether we can find some rapport and connection is probably more important. So I think that’s probably it. 

 

Andy Paul

Okay. Who’s your sales role model?

 

Cian McLoughlin 34:19

Oh, that’s a good question. Well, the person who probably– it’s not someone you would have ever known or met. It’s not somebody high profile. But there was an individual who I worked with many years ago when I was starting out in sales. And he was just so disciplined and structured in his approach. But he also built such great relationships with customers.It was back in the days of fax machines where the biggest issue was if the fax machine ran out of paper or ink in the lead up to the end of quarter. 

 

And this particular individual had such a strong rapport with his customers that he could pick up the phone to ring them and say, look, I’m 150 grand away from making my number for the year. And I know there was a few things we’ve been talking about doing over the next little while. So just entirely up to you, if you felt it’s appropriate, maybe we can get something done before the end of this week. 

 

And he would always get three, four or five extra orders off the back of that, purely on the strength of the relationships he developed with his customers over a period of years. And that just amazed me. And I think it’s something I’ve always kept to the forefront of my mind. That’s people doing business with people. That’s not businesses doing business with businesses, if you know what I mean.

 

Andy Paul 35:27

Okay. Next question is, besides your own, what’s one book you think every salesperson should read?

 

Cian McLoughlin 35:37

I’d probably say– there’s a book by Dan Pink called To Sell Is Human. And it just really, really blew my mind when I read it. He talks about some of the negative perceptions of our industry and how they’ve been formed, but also how they’re starting to disappear. And it just puts a whole new spin on the world of sales. So that was one that really, really stood out for me.

 

Andy Paul 36:03

Okay, so last question for you. What music’s on your playlist these days?

 

Cian McLoughlin 36:07

It’s interesting. I’m listening to more and more music as I work these days, where in the past I used to be pretty quiet. will always be on there somewhere. But I’m also a fan of Simon and Garfunkell. So sometimes when I’m trying to be creative, I’ll break out a bit of Simon and Garfunkel. 

AP

Andy Paul 36:25

Simon and Garfunkel. Okay, very cool. Well, thank you very much for being on the show today. And tell folks how they can find out more about you.

 

Cian McLoughlin 36:32

So you can head to Amazon if you’d like to pick up a copy of the book, Rebirth of the Salesman. It became an Amazon number one bestseller a couple of weeks ago, which was great. You can head over to our website, which is TrinityPerspectives.com.au. Or you can follow me on Twitter @TrinityPerspect or on LinkedIn there. So yeah, always very, very happy just to chat to people who care about the same things that I care about in terms of increasing the perception of the sales industry. Because I think sales is the best job in the world. And I think without it, everything else grinds to a halt. So I’m very passionate about our industry.

 

Andy Paul 37:11

Clearly. Good. Well, thank you again. And remember, friends, make it a part of your day every day to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success. And one easy way to do that is make this podcast, Accelerate, part of your daily routine. 

 

Whether you listen on your commute, in the gym, or make it part of your morning sales meeting, that way you won’t miss any of my conversations with top business experts like my guest today, Cian McLoughlin, who joined us all the way from Sydney, Australia, who shared his expertise about how to accelerate the growth of your sales. So thanks for joining me. Until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling, everyone. 

 

Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard, and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or stitcher.com. For more information about today’s guest, visit my website at AndyPaul.com.