One of the Best Salespeople I’ve Ever Known, with Brandon Fluharty [Episode 766]

Brandon Fluharty is Vice President of Strategic Account Solutions at LivePerson, and he’s one of the best salespeople I’ve ever known.

In this episode, Brandon joins me to share how he wins BIG deals. Why? Because that’s what he does, he wins HUGE deals with Fortune 50 companies and he does it quickly. We’re going to dig into his selling process, how he moves deals through his pipeline, and the steps he takes as a SaaS seller at the very top of his game to keep improving.

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Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Brandon, welcome to the show.

Brandon Fluharty: Andy. Thanks for having me.

Andy Paul: That’s my pleasure. It’s great to have you here. So you’re joining us from where today?

Brandon Fluharty: Okay. I am joining you from my home office here in Sarasota, Florida.

Andy Paul: Sarasota, Florida. So you’re not out these days since we’re recording this during a time when everybody’s sort of working from home, as we say.

Brandon Fluharty: Yup.

Andy Paul: So you’re not out enjoying kite surfing or those are the things that, that take place in Sarasota.

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. Not, not surfing or, or on a, on the bike as I normally would be and, certainly not on a plane as I would especially be at this time, trying to hunt down the new business.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, I’m on a plane quite a bit as well too. And that’s been a. That’s been an adjustment. I’m there’s been several adjustments right in this period.

Brandon Fluharty: Absolutely. Yeah.

Andy Paul: You and I share some of these adjustments. One is we’re not out bicycling. We’re bicycling inside. two is, we’re not able to watch Liverpool play football.

Brandon Fluharty: That’s right.

Andy Paul: And three is we’re not traveling as much.

Brandon Fluharty: That’s right. Yeah. Yeah. So, so we have to adapt and, trying to make a positive out of it and trying to just keep things in perspective. you know, both you and I have been successful sellers. I am actively selling, so coming off of a monster 2019 year, which I was very proud of, but understanding that circumstances can, can be a lot worse.

You know, my, my wife actually is, is a nurse and I’m, I’m selfishly grateful that she’s not a practicing nurse right now. She graduated, she graduated nursing school in New York City where we met, and we’re just extremely grateful that, she’s not, not in an environment right now, but, you know, I can only imagine what healthcare workers are going for going through right now or you know, if you’ve been furloughed, as an employee.

So, so certainly there are folks who are being hit very hard. So trying to keep things in perspective, be grateful, try to remind myself write down what I’m grateful of and try to use this time to. kind of get back to some of the basics and, I’ve been writing as much as I can each morning, getting to some healthy habits like meditating and, you know, getting on the indoor bike trainer and trying to get a good workout in.

But, but also, you know, try to use this downtime to improve my skills you know, where there were gaps. Can I take time and. And learn, you know, some new skills, you know, what are some certifications that I can take on and learn a little bit more about my industry, which revolves around artificial intelligence. So just, just trying to come see. Yeah-

Andy Paul: Scause you, so you use, you use the term. I mean, here, you’re a seller Saas world at top of your game yet. Yeah, you and I know each other from before this call, yeah, your monster year, you call it downtime. So yeah, a lot of times you look out on LinkedIn these days it’s come on, let’s keep going. Let’s Push, Push, Push, Push, Push. Don’t be, don’t be wusses. Let’s go do this. And it’s like, now some of that may change from business to business, but so you used the term downtime. What’s that mean for you?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. So it’s just sort of reevaluate, kind of coming down to the foundation and in realizing that no one knows what’s gonna happen this year. you know, knowing that everything has changed and the whole world is going through this. So a lot of, you know, you know, I pursue strategic accounts, so, you know, fortune 10 level businesses who are going to get hit hard in Q two and Q three. so we’ve

Andy Paul: So you still engage with them alone. And that’s what I meant with downtime. I mean, you, so how are you following up with your, your customers, your existing prospects that were in the pipeline?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. So, yeah and, and I focused on, on net new logo acquisitions. So unfortunately I don’t have relationships that I can sort of lean back on unless they were in advanced sales stages and coming off of the big year. Understandably the pipeline was then coming in to 2020. and so I had ambitious targets, you know, continuing the momentum of 2019, obviously this macro event, this Black Swan event has changed and appended everything for everyone.

So I’ve tried to adopt a framework, a very, very simple framework under these uncertain times, which is just empathize, humanized and then materialize and understanding that, you know, a lot of these early stage sales pursuits. A lot of them have just completely put things on hiatus. and no new initiatives are going to be evaluated at this time. obviously making it much more challenging for someone like myself to kind of come in and continue conversations, build the relationship. Or, you know, something, even in the hospitality space, you know, some, some large brands have furloughed corporate contacts.

So there was one, one major brand who has completely furloughed, an entire team I met with in December and, you know, understandably, you know, there’s really nothing to talk about with them. So, you know, my strategy is kind of working with the marketing team, working with a strategic SDR and, and how can we strike the right tone? and again, it’s kind of going back to, okay, well, How do we empathize and try to put ourselves in their shoes and understand their situation? How do we humanize the, the new climate that we’re in understanding that the whole family is trying to work in a very business, very busy households, it’s you know, hair on fire, crisis management type of thing.

how can you come in with the right tone? But I think the third element is, is though important. One is for what would be a new provider, a new vendor for the logos that I’m pursuing is trying to actually show them, in a very succinct way. Hey, we’ve actually done some work. We’ve done some homework, I’ve done a gap analysis and, and very clearly, and in quickly, here’s where we can provide immediate relief.

So those have actually proven to be, again, this, this isn’t, you know, an approach that you can just spray and pray and, and, and put out there to everyone, you’ve gotta be selective. which I already am with strategic account pursuits, but I’m not giving up either. Right.

Andy Paul: it sounds like what you’re doing is dialing back the ask, right? Here’s something we know that provides immediate relief for a solution you may have that may or not be caused by what the situation we’re in.

Brandon Fluharty: Right.

Andy Paul: But irrespective of that, it makes sense to really consider

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah, absolutely. And I mean, this event has luckily benefited a company like ours. I mean we’ve seen 90%, boost in, in, in, the messages coming onto our platform. So we’re a conversational platform and we help brands kind of shift those conversations between their consumers, from voice calls and email and some of these old legacy channels, even web chat and move that into more inherent natural behavior of consumers, which is just messaging. And so we’ve seen a huge spike obviously that’s our current client base, but how do we take some of those learnings over to, to net new prospects who may not even really have a complete understanding of what we do at our company.

So that’s the approach and it’s, it’s, it has accelerated this, this crisis that has accelerated what we knew was going to be the new normal anyways. And I know that is a cliche tagline right now, the new normal, but, you know, we were talking about a new normal before this crisis said, this has just accelerated that, which is, you know, when you look at long hold times, Yeah, that, you know, we’re, we’re hearing like day long hold times, like-

Andy Paul: Customer service and so on, and we’ll, we’ll get into how you guys serve that. But yeah, that’s, those are every financial institution, website or travel website, any place you go? That message is right at the top of the page.

Brandon Fluharty: Right, right. Yeah. Yep.

Andy Paul: All right. Well, let’s, let’s get back and talk a little about you a little bit because you know, we want to tell people, so, okay here’s somebody you got at the top of your game in the Saas business, selling to mega accounts but you start off trying to be a pro soccer player. I know we share this passion so what was that about?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. so I got into to soccer. I mean, I’ve been playing my whole life, but really seriously got into soccer my teenage years. And, throughout high school, played a youth leagues and, and, It was a passion and a sole focus of mine throughout my teenage years and, and have the opportunity to then go on and play in college and then have the opportunity, early on to actually go train in Europe as essentially a, a training with professional soccer club in Romania and, yeah, off the beaten path for sure.

Andy Paul: Yeah. So how’d you get hooked up with somebody in Romania.

Brandon Fluharty: So, between my freshman and sophomore years in college, I went to a training camp that a group here in the, in the States put together, for, for youth players and, serious players. And we trained with the professional clubs in Romania and, you know, I was sort of scouted and identified early on and invited to come and train.

I didn’t want to sign any contracts because I didn’t want to lose my college eligibility, but I was essentially brought on with the first division professional club. and. Have trained with them. And as if I was one of their players and got to participate in friendlies and matches and things like that, with the, the goal of, of signing a contract, because, you know, as you are well aware of soccer, and world football that, if you don’t start your career as a, as a teenager and starting your professional career at 16, 17, you’re, you’re sort of behind the curve. And that was the case for me, you know, kind of going over there 19. 20, you know, I was behind the curve, as an American.

So I went in full force. Like that was my, my committed focus, with the intent of becoming a professional soccer player. Unfortunately ran into some injury issues and, had to kind of reevaluate my future. So again, luckily I didn’t sign any professional agreements so I could maintain my college eligibility, ended up recouping and recovering from that injury.

And, you know, went back to school and, finished up in, in New York. And that’s what took me to New York City, ultimately as a young adult. And wasn’t intentionally looking to get into sales, but my first career move was, parlay my expertise in soccer, and I started with a soccer training startup, an education startup in, in, in Long Island.

And our focus was creating a system of training youth players, particularly five to 12 year olds, using the expertise of American based players who’d played collegiately or professionally. And we kind of created this unique system, that we were hoping to take elsewhere but ultimately the, the, the company was sold.

But I went into it with just the pursuit of, Hey, I love soccer. I’m not going to be a professional player, but the best next thing is to be a trainer or a coach and, and help help the youth. but I kinda cut my entrepreneurial teeth and sales teeth there. and really that’s was the blossoming of, of my sales career.

Andy Paul: yeah, well, I’ll start somewhere. Right?

Brandon Fluharty: Exactly. Yeah.

Andy Paul: so what was the first professional sales job?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. So really from, from there, with that, with that organization, I sold, you know, personalized training packages and, again, kind of cut my teeth. If the company, the startup was eventually sold to a larger organization from there, I moved from long Island, you know, working in long Island to moving and working in the city in Manhattan.

And, that was really a core sales job. So, you’ll, you’ll see. another passion of mine is, is music and DJing. So I worked with another startup that was focused on DJ education, as well as c oncierge music marketing program, scratch music out of New York. And, it was selling into major brands like Gucci, Crunch Fitness, you know, Beaches and Sandals Resorts and, and what we Royal Caribbean cruise lines.

What we did was we leveraged the power of the DJ to customize music programs for background music and or DJ programs where we could lift revenue. In, in retail spaces or spaces on the cruise ship through, really engaging music. And, I sold, you know, essentially those those services, to, to those major brands. Yeah. We competed with Muzak. but, but trying to bring some sexiness to it, using a cool professional DJ mixing that and customized, not music, but yeah, that was essentially it.

Andy Paul: Yeah. At one point we were delivering music type services over satellite networks. I sold, so yeah, know, that business well, so, okay. So. Keep going then. I mean, so that was getting some sort of taste of selling to some larger accounts and so on-

Brandon Fluharty: Exactly. Yeah. So that was really my true foray into professional sales. And, and then I met my wife. We met in New York city and like I said, she was finishing up nursing school. She was a former fashion designer kind of going through the transition herself, former fashion designer to, to becoming a nurse and, And, you know, when we met, she had lived in New York city for a long time. I lived in New York city for a long time. we developed a really serious relationship and I think we’d figured, Hey, enough of New York City, it’s a very expensive place to live at the time, and, it hasn’t changed, but, but yeah, our circumstances, yeah. Yeah, our circumstances have changed a bit, but at the time we, you know, it was a place where we were looking to, you know, get more serious, settle down a bit, take the next stages in our relationship.

So we had the opportunity to move to Sarasota, Florida, where she grew up. And this was back in 2008 and, you know, another Black Swan event, the financial crisis hit, we had never owned a home. So at that time it was actually all upside opportunity for someone like me, you know, a couple of years into sales at that point, you know, we looked at moving here honestly as a temporary thing, but it became permanent, with. So the ability to buy our first home, at a great time and, you know, I, I really had nothing to lose, so sales was all upside for me. so sorta transitioned from kind of doing the big account stuff to actually SMB sales and that, actually was a great education as well because then it was more of, of, of the, you know, the grind. It was kind of creating systems. Like how could I bring sophistication to SMB sales?

Andy Paul: what were you selling?

Brandon Fluharty: So, did a few things, you know, worked, worked for media companies and then eventually got into, television sales and then, you know, advertising sales and then, digital media. Yeah. And then, you know, just climb the ranks, SMB to mid market, to eventually enterprise, to then strategic accounts over the past 10, 11 years.

Andy Paul: So, what was the moment in your career where there was sort of this, where it started making sense, the aha moment, right? I mean, I think every star has at some point where it’s like, okay, now I get it.

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah,

Andy Paul: almost, I think too. Yeah. Professional athlete. Yeah. Highly rated in college, but it’s different when you get into the pros and

Brandon Fluharty: that’s right.

Andy Paul: know, a couple of years for you to sort of like, Oh, okay, now the game slowing down. Everything’s making sense. What was that for you?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah, I would say it was when I made that transition to the, the broadcast television sales, that’s when things just started to click. Had, you know, maybe four or five years under my belt and professional sales. And it was the moment I started believing in myself self, because others were, were believing in me.

I was surpassing quota. I was getting recognition. I was being recruited when I wasn’t actively looking. So it was sort of, you know, I’ve even as a soccer player and I always struggled with confidence issues. It was always a mental thing for me, not necessarily, you know, the physical technical or tactical side of the game, so that I think was a big aha moment where I was being recognized and then that further instilled confidence in myself to just continue to push and do my thing. And then no, we kind of first time of entering six-figure earnings and you know, that belief that, you know, that should never go below that and only go above.

So yeah, that was, you know, that was happening around 2009, 2010, where we’re started to kind of make that transition. And then I just felt like I had the platform to continue to rise in the ranks and, and, or you know, outgrowing, you know, smaller companies and moving into larger companies who, who worked with, you know, really large accounts and, and logos and that’s-

Andy Paul: So you’re deliberate in your career path and sort of saying, okay. What I’m doing here is going to set me up. Cause I want to go sell bigger accounts for a bigger company. And, and you made those transitions and you’re looking at your own development, your own skillset. Were you ready or said I’m coming here because I want to learn these things.

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. I would like to think that it was purely deliberate. I wouldn’t say it was a hundred percent deliberate. I would say it’s 80% deliberate and 20%, you know, good timing as well. So kind of fast forward to past couple of years and what ended me ultimately it’s my, my, my current role at LivePerson.

Yeah. Again, I wasn’t actively looking to leave the enterprise sales role that I was in. I was with a late stage startup out of San Francisco and I was recruited, but what I did do was I kept a short list of companies that I, on one side of companies, I would be willing to make that move for, or industries and LivePerson was on the industry lists of artificial intelligence and automation and new world of conversational commerce. And, and then it was, you know, I’m a big believer in, you know, I had my list of, Hey, here’s what I would want from a sales environment, not too big of a company, not too small of a company. All, all those various factors. And, ultimately though at the top of that list, are the people, the leaders that I ultimately I’d be working with and for and that’s ultimately what, what made me that makes that move and it’s, it’s certainly been, you know, a great past two, two and a half years, at LivePerson.

Andy Paul: Well, if you look back on not just the live personal experience, but prior to that, as you’re sort of growing and, and you know, you’re still comparatively early in your career is, and I love this question because I always get such interesting answers. It’s like, okay, who taught you how to sell big accounts? Who taught you? You know, some of the most important lessons. I mean, I look back on my own careers actually. Yeah. It was a mentor and that was my customers. I’m interested in what was for you.

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. I wish I could look back and say, yeah, I got a formal, MBA in selling strategic accounts. I just don’t think it exists out there. so you.

Andy Paul: It wouldn’t be any good if that

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah, right, right, right. so I think it’s, it’s very, so much of you it’s it’s you learn by doing? this is definitely sales is one of those, really interesting jobs that I think is very similar to athletes and it’s very similar to entrepreneurs.

It’s it’s it’s why. It’s it is a coveted role, but it’s a challenging role. but there’s, there’s high payoff, not, not just from a compensation standpoint, just from freedom and flexibility, similar to an entrepreneur, if you build a business, and continue to successfully grow that, you know, that’s, it’s sort of coveted. Hey, that, that entrepreneur like kind of a rockstar, that’s pretty cool.

Andy Paul: What about the chance to control a lot of your sort of destiny on a day to day basis?

Brandon Fluharty: Exists there. Yeah, absolutely.

Andy Paul: That freedom, I think that we talk about it in sales quite a bit, as you know, even in the early stage, it’s like, Hey, you’re an entry level sales or your early in your career and you’ve been given this patch of accounts or Apache territory be the CEO of that territory. Right. But, but that’s where like you, is that for me, part of the attraction of sales throughout the year is I like to say, on one hand, I was very fortunate to have this happen, but perhaps yeah, I contributed to making it happen is I was in situations where, yeah, as long as I performed at the high levels, I was in charge.

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah.

Andy Paul: Myself, my team. I mean, yeah. I report to a CEO, but

Brandon Fluharty: Okay.

Andy Paul: it was pretty light touch. If you’re doing the job,

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. And I mean, that’s probably why a lot of successful people actually don’t venture off into starting their own businesses because you don’t need to. There isn’t enough of that pain. The freedom and flexibility is intoxicating because we act like our own mini CEOs and on the big advocate of this concept of intrepreneurship. So, treat your company like a VC who’s funding you to go out and be successful. And when you are successful, you’re going to be rewarded and you’re going to be given the freedom, flexibility to operate your business. And yeah, why go out and go out on the skinny branch and risk you know, having to think about all the complexities and the headaches that go into building a business, let somebody else take care of that. Your marketing engine, you know, take care of health and benefits and payroll and all those things. And you just go out and execute on really the fun stuff, challenging,

Andy Paul: Fun stuff. Yeah,

Brandon Fluharty: Challenging stuff absolutely. But, but, but fun. If you can really think smart and strategic about your approach.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, in your case you carry a big title, but you’re fundamentally an individual contributor. Right.

Brandon Fluharty: That’s right? Yup.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I think that’s sort of, I knew so many people, over the course of my career, people who I had worked for peers and so on that had that ambition to run teams and so on. And then after awhile, usually about the same point in their careers as you’re at right now, you know, sort of 10-15 years into it said no, no, no. I just, I just want to sell.

Brandon Fluharty: Yep. Yep. Yeah. You sort of get beaten down by all the things of management. Not, not that there’s anything wrong with management, but you get away, you get out of touch of what got us into sales in the first place or what has kept us in sales. And so, yeah, I have been deliberate about being an individual contributor.

You know, my, my focus is I have a few milestones that I want to achieve as an individual contributor. I’d rather build a team from scratch that that helps to fuel my mini business within a bigger business, rather than manage, holistically as a team, so I have been deliberate about that and yeah, even though I have a VP title, I don’t have anybody that reports to me. I have groups that I obviously work with, but yeah, nobody, nobody reports to me, it was very deliberate in using a VP title to, you know, essentially escalate myself into these really large strategic accounts.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And there’s nothing wrong with that. I don’t, I don’t consider that a title inflation. I think that’s a worthwhile thing to have because you’re operating at that level. But yeah, I was always sort of like you as is, even though I was running and growing sales teams and startups, I’m the zero to 50 million guy, that’s, that’s where I came in.

So yeah, we’re gonna come to the beginning, we’re gonna build this up. Cause I, especially with selling large stuff, like we were selling multimillion dollar communication systems. I wanted to play. with my guys and the team I had is, you know, that was all the fun. Yeah. I am. I have to admit, if it got bigger than, yeah, three handfuls of salespeople. It’s like, nah, let somebody else do it. I just, I want to have the fun.

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah, I think, you know, we’re, we’re very similar in our personalities and our approaches to these, these big deals. it’s it’s I think for me, I don’t want to speak for everyone, but if, for me it is more fulfilling seeing that when you can go to one of these major brands as we’ve done, and you’re not selling a transaction, you’re selling a transformation.

And then 12 months later look back and see that that is available to the public. An example of that is a major airline that I pursued that I was spending my own personal time on, prior to me even reaching out to them.

Andy Paul: You’re flying on them. You mean?

Brandon Fluharty: I was flying on them. Yeah. So

Andy Paul: Subsidizing their business. Yes.

Brandon Fluharty: yes, yes, exactly. and so I was, you know, very relevant as one of their top tier customers. I just also happened to be in a position where I could help, improve that customer experience. And so that was the approach that I took with this major airline. And honestly just wrote an open letter to a handful of, of their leaders and their executives. And I, I laid out in a very, again, succinct way. Hey, here’s, here’s a memo. Here’s an open letter of why I think we should have a conversation and it went from us, targeting them to them, ultimately pursuing us. And this was before we had SDRs, si I kind of was full cycle sales on this and. And kind of customize my approach and, and made it very on point from my lens as a customer who’s spending every week of his life on their planes.

And nine months later, you know, we’re landing the large seven figure deal with them, and fast forward, just late 2018, fast forward 12, 18 months to now, they are able to utilize our platform during a very challenging time. And, and, and it, it’s very fulfilling to actually see that many customers are saying, wow, I’m so grateful that the solution exists and they’re posting it.

Regardless that they know LivePerson is powering that this is just customers saying how happy they are. It’s very fulfilling to see that we’re we’re impacting real people’s lives, so that’s, that’s kind of what really keeps me going and really interested that I know that I can come in and make an impact. And again, when you see that, that gives you the confidence to just keep going to the next one and go bear and go bigger and go bigger.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, and I think you sort of slip this in there, but I think for people listening, especially if you’re Saas sellers, we’re talking about a seven figure Saas deal first contract, not some, Hey, let’s get a $9,000 contract and see what we can grow it to. So, What sort of in your perspective was sort of the key to say, okay, well, of course, there’s going to be some evaluation of risk on the part of the customer in terms of, you know, how big of a chunk they should start with. How do you, how do you work with them? What’s your, your skills, your talents, you’re using the say. Yeah, let’s look at the bigger picture and maybe we can start a little bit larger.

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. Yeah. So it does start with that premise of think transformation, not, not transactional and knowing that that’s going to take more time to close the deal, but also in the mindset that, Hey, we’re wherever you start with, that’s that’s going to be. Whether it’s a $250,000 deal or a $250 million deal, you’re going to be perceived at that value so you have to kind of be careful that you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself into where we know a lot of these large brands are going to use the procurement negotiation skills use, use every variable against you to, to kind of keep you locked in there. But you know, our contracts are typically signed off by a C level executive, or how do you get in front of a C-level executive if you’re responding to an RFP, or your doing an unsolicited bid, you know, you need to show big numbers and you need to show bigger impact. So that was always a mindset that, that, again, not, not necessarily learning it from any one specific person, other than just learning as I go along that those are key elements that if you want to stand out.

You have to be bold and you got to start with big, big numbers. So I think that’s like premise number one is keeping that in the back of your mindset and then having the confidence to be able to do that. And I think that takes putting yourself, you know, similar to this concept of being an entrepreneur, you have to put yourself in their shoes of who you’re targeting, and obviously you want to elevate yourself up the chain to, to the right executives who are thinking about enabling their North Star initiatives, not necessarily the end user. You certainly want to have good relationship with those end users, or you don’t want to burn a certainly in any bridges or dismiss anyone but you, but you do need to get to those leaders who are kind of thinking about, okay, we have really ambitious goals to increase our net promoter score or reduce operating expense by a large amount. How do you have a relevant conversation with them, with confidence and show that there’s truly a path forward using your services? So those are the things that I think of.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Okay. I’m sorry. I mean, there are, but I know that one of the things you’re really talking about here is that I love the idea of, of being bold. Right. Yeah. I mean, I remember days, similar type thing is, is pre-internet, as you know, I was calling companies around the world, cold calling them from my phone and in California, but yeah, to be able to capture the attention, you had to have a bold premise that you’re putting forth otherwise. Yeah. They’re not gonna pay attention to you. You’re just another small vendor, right? Yeah. I don’t have time for you. But as you said something transformational, and that, that really became a key. But to have that transformational conversation, though, you have to have a level of business acumen to be able to have that. And this is, this is a part that I think sellers really struggle with right across the board, especially as people coming up in their career. So for you, what, what was the key is, is it. Am I look back on me. I started my career. My dad gave me the recommendation, read the wall street journal every day.

Brandon Fluharty: Yup. Yup.

Andy Paul: And I did. It was the first thing I did when I got my first job as a subscribed to the wall street journal. I just read about business. I literally had read the physical paper, scan it, but, you know, go through the whole thing to back every day and read other books and some, but that was really important. That really helped me learn about business as well as just being curious about it. But, but what was it for you?

Brandon Fluharty: I think writing, I think being a good communicator, obviously reading and just being no. Well, articulate, you know, these are the things that are really important. You don’t have to know the ins and outs of your products like a solutions consultant would, I think it’s more important to have good business conversations foremost.

And so that’s kind of the advice that I give a lot to sellers who are starting at a new company. you don’t need to dive into the product and the wait 90 days that you’re, you know,

Andy Paul: to onboard. Right,

Brandon Fluharty: and onboard. And you, you, you know, the ins and outs of, of your, your product, go, just, just, just go and have good business conversations. So for me writing, yeah, yeah, yeah,

Andy Paul: that’s, that was the part I started driving at is,

Brandon Fluharty: yeah,

Andy Paul: I think this is the barrier is, you know, when you have Gartner and people reporting the, you know, 80, 80% of CEOs or CEOs report that 80% of the sales calls they have are of no value. What is that core knowledge, that core skill set that enables you to, to have those conversations besides the confidence to have them. Cause you know, it is intimidating when you’re new to meet with the CEO of a big company.

Brandon Fluharty: yeah. I mean the diamond standard, and again, it’s, it doesn’t have to be overly complicated. So a diamond standard for me that I try to uphold is know the customer experience better that, because I’m ultimately B2B, to B2C that’s the solution I’m selling. So man, there’s going to be different if you are B2B. but, but as, you know, that airline example that I gave, you know, what, what gave me the bold approach to just write that open letter, and then tactically, I could understand who’s opening it when it’s been opened and things like that. It was more important that one I had, the writing skills and I was coming from a place that a, I, I know how to fix your problem because I’m the one receiving the problem.

And I, you know, I think that’s a good approach because you’re best served too, articulate those problems and then knowing your solution well enough, not again to the 10th degree, but, but knowing it too, a certain degree that you can solve for those business problems, that’s how I did it. And again, for me, writing is, is kind of the tool on, on how I serve that up on a platter.

So I kind of really scrutinized. Hey, attention deficit disorder exists at the executive level. I’m not, you know, for any other reason, other than they are time starved. So if you’re going to put something in front of them, Can you grab their attention and can you hold their attention for 3-5 minutes?

And how can I be as impactful as possible in those three to five minutes with text on a screen. That was always kind of what I scrutinized in a, in an I I’ve just been drawn to writing. I love writing. And so I wanted to utilize those skills. That’s kind of what has helped articulate that. And when I write then it also helps me to then be better prepared when I speak. so I love just writing and then, you know, that then forms my point of view on how I present and how I talk on a discovery call and so forth. So, for me, it was, you know, to ultimately answer your questions. It’s, it’s writing. That’s how I gained the business acumen. And I think, how has helped land these, these really large deals?

Andy Paul: Well, I think it’s a great insight because as somebody who’s writes quite a bit myself written some books and so on is, is, yeah, even after having been in sales for forever, every time I write, I understand something better, you know, something I thought I knew and that I could maybe verbalize when you have to write it, it really forces you to really say, okay, I really do understand this.

Brandon Fluharty: Correct.

Andy Paul: think when you’re talking about preparing for these conversations is that if you can be. Coherent on a piece of paper and compelling on a piece of paper on a screen. yeah, it’s a, it’s a big leg up to have a good conversation with someone.

Brandon Fluharty: Absolutely.

Andy Paul: yeah, it’s great. A great, great tip. So let me some bits and bites about these deals you work on. Seven figure deal for you. Average length of sales cycle?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. It’s anywhere from six months to 18 months. And you know, obviously my pursuit as a business operator is how do we shorten that? But, but, but, but for now, I mean, these are massive, massive companies, so it just, it takes times it’s not so much a selling problem. It’s buying problem. Yeah, exactly.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, well, because you think about it from the buyer’s perspective, and we’ve talked about this on the show many, many times they don’t do this very often, so it’s not like they have a written process that they follow to procure conversational commerce platform from

Brandon Fluharty: liveperson

Right, right. Right. Exactly.

Andy Paul: How do you help them sort of map that out?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. so it, again, it’s, it’s starting with someone who’s going to be a good recipient of that. so, you know, we, we know that we can make a big impact for instance, leaders of a contact center. It’s a good beachhead for us. It’s a good starting point. but for us, that’s just a starting point.

So again, it comes back to then how do you articulate, Hey, I can create a hero moment for you in the contact center. One, again empathize and humanize. I understand what, what your life is, is like, this is what we’ve seen with others. Does thise seem true in your, your, your life and 99% of the time it’s, it’s consistent.

And then using data, using facts, using stories too, relay those facts. you know, here’s how we, we, we get started, but this is one component of the full transformation of four components. You know, if we start with conversational care, you’re you’re leaders are going to lean into what you’re doing there because you’ve shown success in a relatively short amount of time.

And typically for us, it’s a hundred days. That’s going to lead to conversational selling or digital ordering dependent on the business, digital reservations, if you’re a travel business, that can lead to conversational marketing, how you rethink your advertising to be more effective through two way dialogue and using automation, to you then, wow, this is great for our customers.

Why aren’t we adopting this frictionless type of experience internally and using this type of technology for human resources or how we communicate over our intranet? Can we make that more conversational and use AI and bots and automation to make it more efficient? And so that’s like the full picture that we try to paint.

but then without, I hate when people use this term, but it is true, like without boiling the ocean, yeah,  where do we start? And again, that, that starting point shouldn’t be super tiny. That starting point should still be big because everything that we put in front of our customers, is, is validated by a true business case and there’s an ROI. So every dollar you invest in in us, we can show our return on it. And here’s what that looks like. And we can defend that again with facts and data. So that’s where we start and we start big enough to make an impact. And then that’s the momentum for even larger seven, eight figure deals from that original seven figure or eight figure deal.

Andy Paul: So another question maybe you’ve never been asked before, but sort of putting things in context, because really what you’re talking about is everything is, is yeah, you don’t need to have detailed knowledge of the product, but you need to understand the context that it is used and, and be able to relate that in the context of the buyer is, let’s say for a seven figure deal is how many conversations, phone and in personal ever, how many conversations do you think it takes you to get a deal from first conversation to close?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah, probably about 15,-20. and again, that’s probably about five or six in person meetings. and you know, the, you know, the, the rest web, or, or, or phone calls 15 to 20, And again, trying to dial that down even further. How can we be the more efficient that, like, that’s my constant quest and that’s, that’s kind of the fun, fun stuff, but you know, some of the deals that I was mentioning, and it’s, it’s, it’s about 20 meaningful, you know, not little check-in emails or I’m not even counting.

Andy Paul: So I think it’s really important for sellers who are listening to this to think about it because chances are, if you’re selling even something that’s relatively transactional, maybe it’s a five figure, deal, maybe six. You’re probably having almost as many conversations as Brandon’s having. And I would tell the story too about selling, you know, $10 million satellite communication systems with five conversations, you know, one in person visit and so on. It’s just, yeah, you can be more efficient and effective. And so you just shouldn’t give into this idea that. Big deal, we gotta be on top of them. We got out in a blanket, these people with communications and so on. It’s like, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. Stop here. Right.

Brandon Fluharty: Yup. Yup. Yeah, it’s a, I think an excellent point because it kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier. Kind of when you, where you start is sort of where the company perceives you, right? So if it’s $250,000 deal, or $25,000 deal, it’s almost harder, you know, almost to get even those deals done. Then than it is that the big transformation is because again, you had the bigger, the number, the more you’re escalating in the more empowered those types of leaders and executives are to push this through once, if you’ve connected the dots and everything’s sort of clicking in place.

Ah, so it’s almost. Easier in, in, in some regards there. So yeah, I agree with you, the audience shouldn’t be put off that. Oh my gosh. These massive, you know, multi figure deals are so much more, so much more work. it’s it’s not necessarily the case. You just have to be again, be confident, be bold. Be smart about and very strategic about your approach that’s

Andy Paul: going to lead to my last question of our conversation here today, which is, you know, the term sales enablements used a lot these days. And I think it’s used in too narrow function. So part of the function of this show is we’re trying to broaden the definition of that. Cause I think a good chunk of sales enablement is really self enablement. Right. So question for you is, you know, you’ve talked about your writing, but in addition to your writing, what, what’s your personal development plan, right? To take you where you want to go, what do you, what are you investing in these days?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. So I’m investing a lot in, again, operating like how a world class athlete would operate. Bringing that into to sales. I think what’s often overlooked and missed by a lot of top sellers is. How you sleep, how you eat, how you, exercise, even your mental preparedness, your, mental wellbeing. All those need to factor in because for some, it’s going to be, you know, the, the, the, the micro gains, the marginal gains for others. That could be the difference between. You know, missing quota to surpassing quota. when you, when you put a concerted effort into that holistic approach to what makes a natural seller, cause ultimately there’s like five things, right?

That you’re trying to balance everything really everybody’s trying to balance, but time, energy motivation, prioritizing your account list and, and focusing on, on the work. And there are so many factors that can disrupt that, of you taking on meetings that maybe you shouldn’t take on. so that’s eating into your time, your energy levels.

Are you going out and having drinks at night? Or are you give, behaving like how a world class athlete would would do? Is like getting to bed at a proper time and getting proper rest so you’re waking up refresh and doing that consistently. Are you eating well and exercising. Well, that’s further fueling that energy and that plays into motivation.

Are you motivated to actually do good work every single day? and then using data, and, and resources to prioritize your, your account list. You know, why should you focus on that account versus this one what’s telling you to do that? So being, being smart strategic there. and then also ultimately blocking off your time and not being afraid to do that, so that you can just focus on good work, not multitasking and scrambling around, but being very concerted around.

Okay. If I put in this effort, I know it’s going to return X, so that’s kind of how I approach it. Yeah.

Andy Paul: You are investing your own money in your improvement. I mean, this is, this is something that it’s a message. I, I talk about quite a bit, a hark on harp on is, is. You know, it’s sometimes sellers, they look at, okay, well, I get this coaching. I get this training occasionally from the company and they look at it like an entitlement instead of saying, well, it’s yeah, it’s not a title I got to, I got to add to that if I really want to create some value out of that. So what are some of the things that you do where you’re actually spending some of your own money?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. Yeah. so I mean, I, you you’re, you’re not cheap. You’re well, worth your time though, Andy. so I mean, I, I personally pay to, to work and, and, get coaching and advice from you, which is very worthwhile. I also have worked with other coaches in other domains where I feel like I want to improve. So kind of talking about mental. that the mental side of thing, I’ve struggled with confidence even after success. How do I maintain that?

Andy Paul: Imposter syndrome.

Brandon Fluharty: yeah, exactly, exactly. Working through that imposter syndrome. That was exactly what I worked with. Yeah. and, and then even yo, improving, you know, the, the big muscle that we have to use, the big organ that we have to use up here, the brain, kind of, you know, using science based approaches to, to improve the, not to even things like, you know, this, you know, utilizing where wearables, which is woo.

you know, this is yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. And yeah, I know we’ve had conversations about this, but, but I think wouldn’t it be really neat. If, if as a sales organization  were operating more like a high performing professional world-class sports team. Yeah. And you’ve got the mental coach, you’ve got the nutrition coach.

You’ve got all of these factors. You’ve got systems in place. So that. You know, you can show up and I know you can relate to you. You have a Peloton, I’m using, something called Swift for the indoor cycling while we’re at home. and I was just thinking to myself the other day, I was doing a virtual race on Swift.

You, you hook up your bike and, you know, Just so this doesn’t get lost on, on some of the people in your audience, but you hook up your physical bike to what’s called a smart trainer. so it kind of understands, Hey, this is the yes. At the moment,

Andy Paul: on. Yeah.

Brandon Fluharty: drain your you’re writing on and, and then virtualized on my iPad.

And so I can go and immerse myself with real other cyclists in race, in a world. And so if I’m.

Andy Paul: game.

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. And I was thinking to myself, well, you know, that’s really powerful stuff like for an hour of time, I’m, if I’m on a training ride or I’m on a race, you know, I’m, I’m locked in there on that screen and it’s surfacing up real time data that tells me to go faster or push harder or do this, or do that.

And so my actions are motivated by the realtime feedback. Yeah. We kind of have to do that as sellers on our own, you know, we have all the different tabs open. We’re trying to collect data here and use that data. you know, and I know we’ve talked about this, but it would be really powerful. I think that, and I think we’ll, we’ll eventually get there is why not have that was with like, experience that portal where I could step in every day.

As a seller and know, Hey, I’ve slept well or I haven’t slept well. And that should dictate my behavior for the day. I should be getting real time coaching feedback on, you know, those elements that I have to manage to be a good seller. and I’m almost just like operating in a game. I’m managing my, my sales career, my, my sales pipeline.

So, Yeah, all interesting stuff that I think will we’ll we’ll we’ll see, a reality over the next few years.

Andy Paul: All right. Well, Brandon unfortunately got jumped, but, Fantastic. Talk to you as always. So if people want to contact you, how can they find you?

Brandon Fluharty: Yeah, you can find me on LinkedIn again. I’m very active on LinkedIn. my Twitter handle is at Brandontechexec. Two great places to connect with me.

Andy Paul: Excellent. All right, Brandon. Thank you very much.

Brandon Fluharty: Thanks, Andy.