Sean Sheppard is the founder of GrowthX and today we talk about the challenges of starting a company during a pandemic and selling to customers that are more risk averse. We also dive into Sean’s vision for a Professional Sales College. That’s right. Sales College. In Sean’s vision this will be the first fully accredited for-profit, post-secondary school for professional sales education. It’s a big dream. And as you’ll hear, perhaps one whose time is finally here.
Andy Paul: Sean Shepherd. Welcome back to the show.
Sean Sheppard: Thanks, Andy. Glad to be here.
Andy Paul: Great to speak with you again. So last time we spoke, you were in your backyard now, you’ve I think you’re having a much bigger backyard today.
Sean Sheppard: I do. I’m sitting, with Lake coeur d’Alene, Idaho behind us. And, just trying to, enjoy, make the most of the, of this age that we’re living in right now, since I’m working remotely, why not work from anywhere?
Andy Paul: Yeah. So interesting. You were saying earlier, before we start recording this, you actually have dropped off a daughter at college. So college, the students are going to go back?
Sean Sheppard: certainly are. My daughter will be a sophomore at Gonzaga university, which is in Spokane Washington, only a 45 minute drive from where we sit right now. And they are giving the option of coming to class or not because she is studying medicine with lab environments and everything else. And her learning style, she prefers to be there. So that’s what we’re doing.
Andy Paul: Well interesting. My wife teaches a medical school and all their lectures. For at least the last 10 years, I’ve always recorded all of those anyway. So the students have them to go listen to, as a study aid. Are they doing that as well now? So I think that’d be cool. I wish I had that when I was in school. I was able to go back and listen to a recording of the lecture.
Sean Sheppard: They’re going to do that. And also they’re going to live stream for the students that aren’t in the classroom, which is something we’ve been doing at the Academy for quite a while. Anyway, because that’s just been the global demand for, for the sales program, the marketing program, it’s designed for us. It’s all the infrastructure has been in place as for a decade or longer for the world to make this digital transformation. They just haven’t prioritized it until now, because now frankly they’re forced to, and you know how changes people either change because they want to or they have to.
Andy Paul: They have to. Yeah. so the question is, in your mind, Yeah. You look from the perspective you support a lot of startups, is it harder now for startups?
Sean Sheppard: For some it is and for others, it is not, across our portfolio, companies that are well-positioned and delivering services that are contactless anyway are exploded. I’ve got companies that are just, they can’t keep up. And then I’ve got others that are struggling very much for customers and capital. And so I spent a lot of time with both frankly, working on company building and scaling on the resilient companies as we’re calling them. And then on that, aren’t as resilient. And that’s not a knock on the company or the people. That’s just the nature of the business they’ve chosen to be in. And in the markets they serve, spent a lot of time with the letter on how they can generate revenue now to stay on the field.
Andy Paul: Why are you seeing that a lot of them are having to pivot as a result of this? ringDNA had done some research with this recently with some customers and just people in the sales industry in general and, survey we had done about two thirds of companies saying, yeah, we’re pivoting. We’re having to pivot.
Sean Sheppard: Yeah, very much And I would say broadly, the easiest way to answer that is, and this is a piece of advice I give to everybody who is struggling is you need to pivot at least in the near term towards contactless services. And by that, my theme to them is to leverage the relationships that you have to find problems that you can solve really well right now, regardless of what you’ve been doing. And get your focus there, orient yourself around that problem and the personas of the individuals who have that problem. And then focus on a plan, what I call a market milestone that says over the next period of time, I need this many customers under this kind of circumstance and scope to stay alive, frankly, to survive this period, and then run very high. When I say high touch, high touches in
Andy Paul: Virtual touches. Yes.
Sean Sheppard: Yeah, I don’t mean slobbering all over people. But coming up with campaigns that aren’t your traditional asynchronous, scalable campaigns and do very synchronous live campaigning, to uncover, uncover problems that you can solve in the fashion that I laid out.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I think for me, as I advise people’s priority is I call it Speed to Value, are the problems that still retain urgency, maybe they’re a smaller part of a bigger initiative. If someone was contemplating prior to the retrenchment we’ve had, can you get them to a point quickly where they can show an ROI on that investment? So I call it speed to value. So they get speed of value, speed, outcome, whatever it is, that’s that I think at the type of solutions it should be looking for, or opportunities should be looking for.
Sean Sheppard: Yes. and as part of that, we talk very much about the concept of instant metrics or what I call leading metrics versus lagging metrics So value in any circumstance, your speed to value concept or formula, manifest itself in that way, there’s the things that immediately show value and what are the metrics that measure that and what are the metrics that demonstrate that value instantly? Focus on those because if you do that, the rest of the long-term stuff starts to take care of itself. You have established-
Andy Paul: Yeah, so right. Trust being one of them, but I was just gonna say, what are some of those leading metrics you talk about though?
Sean Sheppard: I guess it’s obviously use case specific, but it’s, I talk about how our customers don’t want more work, they want less. And if you can immediately, one of the words I like to use is you can handle something for someone right now and measure how you’re handling it. That is a leading metric.
I spent some time in Eastern Europe this last year and had the good fortune of speaking at an event with, Oh God, I feel terrible, his name’s escaping me right now, the gentleman that created the jobs to be done framework. and, and he was a disciple of WEdwards Deming and, FordMotor Company, and, who came up with the Kaizen theories that Japan would kick our ass for 20, 30 years. Because again the great Deming story is that Ford wasn’t interested so he went to Japan. Yeah. And Ford, regretted it ever since, even though they probably would never admit it.
But he inspired me to really think much more about the concept of a sale is simply asking to be hired, to do a job. What is that job? think of it like a job description. and put yourself in the position of what are the roles, responsibilities, and how do you measure those things and how you demonstrate that you can do the job for someone.
Andy Paul: I think-
Sean Sheppard: Sorry, go ahead.
Andy Paul: I was going to say along that same line that I think that Gartner’s integrated, and were you talking about Clayton Christiansen?
Sean Sheppard: No, not Clayton.
Andy Paul: He used that, but it’s-
Sean Sheppard: Yeah, he used the framework.
Andy Paul: Right is because I just on the show and that’s gonna be coming out by the time people hear this interview, but this episode came out with Whitney Johnson, who is, was a. Yeah, studied and worked with Clayton Christianson and has taken his principles of the S-curve innovation disruption and applied it to personal development. And, but this whole idea of jobs to be done is, she and I are talking about this as the customers are one, the jobs is they hire you to help them make a decision.
Sean Sheppard: That’s exactly right. and so if you can focus your mind, let’s say your frame of mind as you enter that conversation with someone it’s really about defining the roles and responsibilities of a job and how to measure it. And then demonstrating that you can do that job. There’s another person that, and now I’m forgetting his name too…
Theo Epstein! I don’t know, baseball fans would know Theo Epstein. He was the general manager that killed the curse in Red Socks and then killed the curse for the Chicago Cubs? I don’t know if there’s a more successful human than that guy over the last decade. If you think about the situations that he turned around. And he’s young and he got to work very quickly. And someone once asked him, how did you climb the ladder so fast? He said, I found someone who was very important. And I found what they hated to do, and I offered to do it for them. And that’s been his model.
Andy Paul: I love it.
Sean Sheppard: I love it too. And I think that, as a sales professional, that’s what we should be doing. Find someone in a position of real power and influence, understand who they are and what they do and find out the things they hate to do the most and then figure out a way to do those for them. And I think right now in this environment that we’re in, I don’t think there’s ever been a more important time to use that approach.
Andy Paul: Yeah, because first of all, work has expanded to fill the time. Everything’s just, people are working harder, not necessarily being more productive, but working more, let’s say. Yeah, if you can offload something, just give people some brain space. If nothing else that has value.
Sean Sheppard: You’re right. You, you and I were talking about that offline just before we started about, I said to you, I’ve never been busier and then you quipped, but is it productive, busy, and it’s great, it’s a great point. There are many of us out there that aren’t used to working in this kind of environment so we haven’t learned how to manage ourselves through it in a way to create more productive work. There are others that have, and already are familiar with this approach. Have that self management discipline who are getting more out of, out of the same amount of time. And it’s, it’s an interesting time if you already are. like I said, the resilient companies are, for this environment, you’re going to do well because I don’t view COVID as a, like I viewed the Oh eight Oh nine crisis or, the to com crisis or the ’87 crash. And you and I are old enough to remember and be a part of all of those moments.
Andy Paul: Really?
Sean Sheppard: Yeah, believe it or not, but what I, this one feels a lot more 9/11 in that it’s going to change behavior for the long run, how we work, the way we work, what we do? What is the boomerang and the rebound gonna look like? None of us know. But thank goodness, as I said, the technology and the digital infrastructure has been in place for a decade or longer for this to be enabled.
In our corporate innovation work that we do at GrowthX, all of my leaders have gone, they’re already coming out of triage and they’re coming into what’s, what does life look like in the age of what the World Economic Forum is calling The Great Reset. and, and now it’s our time and chance to rethink everything, realign our priorities, and maybe do it not just better, but at least let’s say morally and ethically, This time.
Andy Paul: Let’s talk about that. That’s our trigger. The thought is, cause this is something I think about all the time with regard to sales is you know, I see a profession. You know I’ve been on it. Thankfully you’ve told people how long I’ve been in it. It has seen a ton of change and despite the change it still seems like we’re just doing it the same old way. That we’ve, haven’t fundamentally changed. and you brought Edwards Deming before as, I love his quote, which is, and this was, so it came to mind again, because I’ve been reading Dan Heath’s book Upstream and the quotas, every system is perfectly designed to get the results it gets, which I just think is brilliant, but it’s true. And yeah, we’ve got. in so many facets of sales, he says, we’ve got these low wind rates. We’ve got high rates of no decisions, every one’s shorter sales cycles. And we want people to be better at coaching and yeah, go down this whole list of complaints or desires among sales leaders and salespeople.
And it hasn’t changed in decades. Fundamentally. It’s the reason it’s changing is because. We’ve got the system that no, one’s ready to say. Let’s just really rethink radically rethink how we’re doing this.
Sean Sheppard: Yeah, I think you’re right. I don’t think people have the, let’s just say whether it’s the mindfulness of the awareness of the wherewithal in the moment, especially in moments of perceived crises that, to be as introspective, as necessary to, to try and intentionally make those changes.
I think. People with, like you, for example, I, I call you to learn it all right. You’re not to know what all you’re learning all. you read voraciously when you interview people like, that you learned from, and then you try to create for the world. and because you’re constantly reading and learning and leading in that way, it’s very natural for you to incorporate those changes as you go along.
And that’s a classic in my mind, growth mindset mentality. Most people are not like that. And I think now’s a wonderful opportunity for everybody to take a step back and think about whether or not they want to know it all or learn and whether or not they want to focus on developing themselves as a person to adapt to the changing needs of the marketplace.
and that’s why I talk a lot about what skills are most important. Necessary for every individual sales or otherwise to be successful in commerce in the innovation economy. Now going
Andy Paul: Those are.
Sean Sheppard: reset. The first one is mindset. So it’s having a growth mindset that says, I don’t know what I don’t know, and what I don’t know is more important than what I choose.
and that I’m here to learn. And I put my spirit in front of my ego. and I focus on trying to develop myself. And be open to feedback. I take the word rejection out of my vocabulary entirely. and I replace it with feedback and I see feedback as a gift. I take the worry out of my vocabulary and replace it with thought, or as an action for thinking critically about every situation I incorporate, the notions of, of key insights and takeaways.
and try to take three things from every interaction and experience, and incorporate those into my life and into my work. knowing that I can master anything with the deliberate intent and practice associated with it. the second is, emotional intelligence, right? EDI in the age of AI, we all know the bots are coming.
We all know that anything that can be automated will be automated. And if your job is very much rooted in repetitive tasks, and, it’s at risk, if it already hasn’t been replaced. but that doesn’t mean that there’s not a place for you in this world. What’s going to separate you from the robots.
It’s your ability to collaborate and be creative and think critically and solve problems in a dynamic way with other humans, and to understand who they are, what they’re going through.
Andy Paul: Yeah, so
Sean Sheppard: the thighs with that.
Andy Paul: creativity and empathy. Yeah.
Sean Sheppard: and then after that, the other three are business acumen, market acumen and communications business acumen to me is the most important in terms of trying to understand how businesses work, how they operate and how you can contribute to them and show value, is the most important thing, regardless of what product or service you’re offering.
put that in the back of your mind and put in the front of your mind, who am I helping? How am I helping them? What are they after? and who are they? Who are their customers and their customers’ customers and where do they fit into, in play into this ecosystem or this value chain? And what can I do to contribute to that?
Because at the end of the day in a business to business selling environment, there’s only really four or five reasons why anyone buys to make more money, save more money. Create or maintain a competitive advantage. there’s some sort of emotion that you’re moving in the positive direction from a negative one. and cause that’s very important. People have to understand that oftentimes the rational brain will rationalize what the irrational brain wants. That’s human nature. And you can’t even escape it in a logical business environment, even though you think you can. And even though people might tell you they are, and then the fifth is staying out of prison,
Andy Paul: Which is always a good idea.
Sean Sheppard: yeah. Liability, Risk managing risk, and to understand what risk is and how people manage it and how it drives their behavior. and so that’s business acumens, and
Andy Paul: So before, before we go on those, and this is a big topic for me is how do we get people? sales sellers, how do we get sellers? To develop business acumen. right now it’s served as an experiential thing, A year, put yourself in enough situations. You get something. If you’re open-minded, something’s gonna rub off on you, you’re going to learn, but it seems like we’d be much more deliberate about it because the research is pretty clear that C-level. People on the buyers side, garnered to the study a few years ago, it was like, over 80% of them said no value in my interactions with salespeople. But the primary reason was, is the sales people have no idea about the company and what they’re doing, how their business works and the, all the points that you elaborated on.
So yeah. How do we be more intentional about helping sellers learn this? Because yeah, I remember when I first started, I died. I had taken accounting classes. My first job was selling accounting systems to small mid sized businesses. Yeah. I might’ve known accounting. I had no idea how business operated.
Sean Sheppard: couple of things, you can’t just do this in theory. You have to do it in practice and you’re right. Spiritual learning, direct experience. In fact is the number one principle of accelerated morning. Nothing replaces direct experience as a way to quickly learn. So once you have direct experience, if you’re following that path, then I employ the Fineman technique of accelerated learning, which is I need to get to a point where I can teach somebody else what I’ve learned as quickly and effectively as possible. You have to follow that path by incorporating what I think I’ve learned, trying to present it back to others and then filling in the gaps until I’ve covered them all. And I have a deep understanding. and then from the deep understanding, come the insights, which is creativity, and problem solving.
So that’s a mind that’s part of growth mindset thinking is there’s these building blocks to mastery. First is knowledge. What do I need to know then there’s competency. What do I need to be able to do? and then there’s, there’s proficiency. Can I do it well with some measure of efficiency attached to it, and then ultimately mastery, am I considered a subject matter expert?
Cause I will tell you this in today’s marketplace, everybody wants to talk to a subject matter expert and if you can put yourself in a position of subject matter expertise, you can get there, which is very much tied to my next thing. Market acumen. But what’s a rule people can use right now to start gaining business acumen, the lean business model canvas from Alexander Osterwalder.
Andy Paul: Yeah,
Sean Sheppard: and he just adapted Steve Blank’s principles of the four steps of the epiphany of customer development and customer discovery, to essentially a visual representation that starts with how you think about things. The first thing you do on the eight there’s eight blocks on the business model canvas.
The very first one is for.dot dot. So who are you serving? That’s the first question you have to answer for this person or this company with this kind of problem. That’s the first box, get focused on box one. Who’s it for. And then from there, how are you going to serve them? and measure that.
And so it’s for work its way through that. And then it talks about things like what’s the unfair advantage, what’s your pricing, what are the, how are you measuring it? what are your distribution channels and revenue streams. And now you think about that from the perspective of your customer first and then your business model as a seller as well.
You should canvas your own company and you should canvas every company you intend to reach out to, because it will give you a very broad, it doesn’t have to be deep at this point, but it’s going to give you an executive level mindset because ultimately if you want to be successful in what we do. You’re going to have to develop relationships with executives because in the innovation economy, relationships are the only thing that’s defensible.
Most things are easily copied these days, and there’s many competitors in every market. And so owning a relationship is what it’s all about. And you can’t own a relationship with an executive. until you can speak to them in language, they understand, and start to build trust so that you can lead them as opposed to follow them.
Andy Paul: You start at a certain level. And this is where I think the canvas, they used to have a great iPad app for this. I think they started to discontinued it, unfortunately for the business model canvas. and I used it in business planning. I thought it was fantastic.
Sean Sheppard: It is because it’s not about business plans, right? It’s about business models.
Andy Paul: Exactly. And you start a certain level of knowledge and then your job every time that you’re interacting with the buyer is to deepen your discovery, deepen your understanding and deepen the value you provide to help them make progress toward making a decision.
Sean Sheppard: Exactly. And that’s the perfect segue into the next skill, which is market activity. How quickly can you accelerate your understanding of a given market, whether that’s an industry, a sector or a domain. You’re selling managed services. How well do you really understand the managed services community?
The industry at large, who the thought leaders are, what they’re talking about, how to drive that conversation, not just participate in it, and show yourself as a subject matter expert because that’s the goal of market activity. And that’s why I always say that, that it’s probably gonna sound bold and arrogant, but I can run.
Early sales conversations with anybody with any product in any market, better than most who’ve been doing it for years can. Because I understand that. I understand how you use that framework to get there. What’s the taxonomy and language of an industry just cause you both speak English doesn’t mean you both speak the same language.
What were they using to describe what they’re going through? Not what you use. how do you position yourself and your company or your offering as. A trusted expert in a field. I still believe very much in selling through leadership. and I think more today than ever before, because we’re such a content driven society now
Andy Paul: I think sales is an act of leadership.
Sean Sheppard: I agree.
Yeah. Yeah. You’re absolutely right. And those who do it the best are perceived that way. And not transactional in their approach, but very relational. And not necessarily walking into that conversation with anything more than a hypothesis of how you might be able to create value, which is only there to compel the other person to give you the two things you need the most.
And I tell this to every one of my portfolio companies and every salesperson, but for revenue, you need time and you need truth. Get the person to give you their top award for the organization to give you their time and get them to tell you the truth. And if you can do that and with a growth mindset, you’re seeking an objective truth, not a biased one.
you can get to where you want to go faster.
Andy Paul: Yeah, and it’s funny, from a mindset too, is that’s having this conversation with someone just for you. And I spoke that your job as a seller is not to your point about time and truth is not to take what they say at face value.
Sean Sheppard: Exactly. Not at all. Keep asking open-ended questions, then you’re down the path of why as far as it will go. And as far as they’re willing to allow it to allow you to be a part of their truth and let them show that vulnerability, because that’s where you’re going to find the goal. And what’s interesting is you bring up.
Just generally conversations. One of the things I’m always lovingly reminded of when I speak with you, Andy, is how we enjoy what I call deep conversation.
Andy Paul: Yeah, that’s true. We should have recorded the first half of that when we were talking before we got on,
Sean Sheppard: What’s the fourth time around. And we say that every time,
Andy Paul: right? no.
Sean Sheppard: but it’s because we like it, we enjoy having deep conversations about a wide range of issues. we can talk about things that have nothing to do with sales. We talked about the world. We talked about politics and blah, blah, blah, and we enjoyed it.
and the art of deep conversation and even the science of it. Cause I always say arts, just science. You have to be measured. The deep science of it, has been lost in the age of social media. It’s changed our brains in a way that we are all about the quick and the Quip and the 140 characters or less, and the depersonalization.
of our communication because we’re sitting behind a screen. And I think right now in the age of COVID, we’ve never had a better opportunity to rethink that and get back to what I think are part of the lost, some of the loss, tenants of what it just generally is, to be a helpful human, which to me, what selling is, it’s just helping.
And fundamentally I was on the phone recently. I did a talk for, for VMware, for one of their big sales groups, for a friend of mine I’ve known for 25 years. And for the conversation starter, I said, so what are you guys going through? And VMware’s killing it because it is a perfect example of a resilient company.
And he said, even though we’re killing, he says, we’ve just gone back to the fundamentals and are saying right now in our mantra is how can we be helpful? It’s not calling people to talk to them about how many virtual servers they need. It’s calling the San what’s going on in your world. How are you dealing with this?
Cause we’re all going through the same shit nobody’s immune to what’s happening right now.
Andy Paul: never been easier to establish common ground and shared experience with someone
Sean Sheppard: exactly. And because of that, now go deep use that time, have deep conversations. I’ve been enjoying more deep conversations in the last four months. With people that I’ve enjoyed in years in terms of having willing participants on the other side. And I think it’s because once again, we have that time and we have that opportunity and that focus, to do those things.
and so those deep conversations get you to the truth faster, and your job as you’re doing that is to just actively listen. And be buoyant and open to many different ways in which you might be able to help someone. And that’s why I said at the beginning of this, take a service mindset. How can you serve these folks?
as opposed to just sell them?
Andy Paul: and yeah, it was two things there that I think are really interesting. Oh, lots of interesting things. But two things that amplify, maybe one is, you Geoffrey Colvin and his book, humans are underrated. Talking about the future in an AI world for people. And you touched on that is, the ones who are going to succeed are the people who learn how to become more intensely human. And so we don’t want to run away from being human. We want to amplify our humanity and, I think naturally people want to be helpful, but we’ve been trained. And we train people, but that’s not necessarily the best path because we want them to be more transactional.
Sean Sheppard: Very much. So in fact, I talk about it a lot. When I do my workshops for my startup accelerator and our market acceleration program. When people ask me, does this framework for finding product markets fit? work for me because I’m B to C or it doesn’t work for me because I’m selling a service or it doesn’t work for me because I’m selling software or does it work for me because I’m selling consumer packaged goods.
And the answer is yes, because it’s not B2B or B to C it’s H to H it’s a learning framework. every new experience is an opportunity to learn something new. And then I like to apply Greg McKeown’s essentialism principles. To the, to that learning experience, I alluded to it earlier, which is what are the top three key takeaways from any experience.
and then what are the actions you want to take based on what you’ve learned. and then are those hopefully things that you can share with your prospect or customer in a way that gets them thinking similarly, and now you’ve got them now, in my opinion, you’ve got them in a place where. You’re not just defining a use case, but you’re defining thoughts and actions around that use case.
And if you can get people to help you to allow you to help them, let’s say lead their behavior and their thoughts and actions that I think you got them where you have an opportunity to build a lasting relationship.
Andy Paul: Exactly. And this is, I think is something that’s so fundamentally messed up about the way we’ve been, training sellers, if you will, or however we want to say it is that we’re trying to convince them that they’re trying to tell them that selling is about persuasion when it’s really about influence. You just described, we want to work with someone. We have that relationship. We help them understand the options that exist to solve a problem. And by doing that, by being that trusted advisor, they are likely to say, yeah, this option, that’s you, or one of your two options. That’s the one we want to pursue. And the whole job to be done theory and Gartner laid out the four jobs that buyers do. No identify problem defined solution, finalize the requirements or build the requirements, choose a vendor. And in the sales world, we train people that last one, how to compete on choosing the vendor and they’re missing the whole first part of it.
Sean Sheppard: Yeah. That’s just like Rackham’s spin framework and, dr. Neil Rakim talking about the four steps of the buying process now using a need, evaluating your options. Resolving your concerns and then making a decision. And we’re all focused on very much the evaluation of options phase in that framework.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah, it was Paul, not who was a professor at Ohio state. The Heath brothers talked to him in one of their books about yeah. How people make decisions, which is to formulate options. And then we choose from among the options that we want to pursue further. And unless you’re participating and helping the buyer define what their options are, and you’re just focused on competing on your features and your price and delivering then you’re of course, you’re gonna miss out.
Sean Sheppard: Yeah. And Rackham’s data shows the same thing. We spend most of our time on evaluation of options when we need to be spending it on needed recognition. And if we spend it on needs, recognition, evaluation of options happen, and resolution of concerns happen much faster.
Andy Paul: Well, and what not founded his research is that in a corporate level, most companies at most evaluate two options before making decisions. So I think it’s like, if okay, if you’re doing a good job on the front end, and especially if you position yourself properly, both those options could be you and what a minimum, one of them will be you.
And yeah, if you’re ever a salesperson you’re going into account and you’re saying, wow, it looks like a, it looks like my competitor. It really dictated their requirements document. Of course they were in there six months before working with them to help them formulate those options.
Sean Sheppard: Absolutely. We experienced that on a regular basis with our corporate and civic innovation clients. They’re figuring out ways to bring us in. They’re not looking at other providers. They on a regular basis are reaching out to us and saying, here’s some problem sets that we’re looking at, can you help us with these as opposed to sending out RFPs because we’ve delivered for them, we’ve built those relationships and we’re driving their thoughts and actions and leading.
and so you just need to get the opportunity to do those things. And I see so many salespeople and organizations being very shallow in that way. they’re focusing so much on getting one deal done. Then they walk away because their incentive to walk away and go get the next deal. And then they leave it to a customer success organization, bless their hearts, who probably weren’t involved in the process to begin with.
They weren’t the ones doing the selling, and don’t own the relationship. And now they’re expected to build it. From scratch, essentially, try and create that environment. and it’s, it’s clunky at best.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Okay. I have a question for you. Cause I hadn’t noticed this before is, as I was trolling through your LinkedIn profile and. At one point and we’ve known each other for a number of years now, but I’d never seen this as you were going to start a professional sales college.
Sean Sheppard: Yes. I built the curriculum ironically enough. That’s been used in the Academy and variations of it 15 years ago.
Andy Paul: So this was, you said I was gonna be the first, fully accredited for-profit post-secondary school for professional sales education.
Sean Sheppard: Yes. I wanted to build a university that was dedicated specifically to professional selling and I was going to launch it in September of 2008. So all of the, all of the, the student loan. For private colleges, all the student loan programs for private colleges that weren’t already accredited dried up. So I had to shelve it. but, but that’s still something that I want to be able to do or be a part of. And the Academy manifests it in its own special way with a very specific niche, helping people transition into working in sales and technology in the Valley and in other parts of the world.
But. But I still believe that it needs to be a thing. Absolutely. professional selling needs to be elevated to its rightful place in society. And if it was, and it was treated that way and children were taught that stuff at a very young age that it was okay, this isn’t, retails in used cars that, that it’s an amazing profession.
and there’s data out there. I can’t cite all the sources off the top of my head. I’ve got them out there, but professional salespeople make one of the highest average journey incomes over a lifetime. They have one of the highest qualities of life as pulled by, other against other industries and one of the lower divorce rates.
but just to name a few anecdotally, it’s a wonderful profession and I, to the true business leaders who get it, they will tell you. That there’s no one more valuable in their organization than their best sales professionals. And we don’t teach it. And it’s maddening.
Andy Paul: there are a growing number of undergrad sales degrees available.
Sean Sheppard: There are 6,000 higher education institutions in North America alone, and maybe a hundred or two that even offer programming
Andy Paul: right. Yeah. If that’s right.
Sean Sheppard: doing this with the university sales Alliance 15 years ago, there were only a dozen. and, and now it’s getting better. The university of Texas Dallas is doing some good stuff,
Andy Paul: Howard Dover, right?
Sean Sheppard: Yeah. Euston university, Houston doing some good things, saw the States had a good program for a long time.
Andy Paul: Northern Illinois university.
Sean Sheppard: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. but even those bless their hearts are still doing some very kind of old economy teaching. I think university Arizona’s Eller school has got a good program.
I’ve had quite a few interns come up through that. I speak there. Every quarter I’m doing a lot with MBA programs, ironically, because teaching market development now, as opposed to just sales or business development, or product or marketing, is where I think you can be most effective in an MBA program where most of them are lacking.
Andy Paul: Very cool. All right, Sean. Unfortunately, we run out of time, but we’ll do it again, Sharon shortly. It’s it, it blew me away when I looked and said it was, almost 10 months ago. The last time we talked.
Sean Sheppard: can you believe that? But that’s the great thing about having deep conversations, right? You, it feels like we just talked yesterday. We picked up right where we left.
Andy Paul: Yeah, I said we won’t wait so long the next time, but, yeah. What do you want people to know about you to contact you? Growth X or your other work?
Sean Sheppard: Sure. of course they can Google and pick up a lot of my content, but GXacademy.com is for the sales development program, at growthXAcademy.com, growthx.com to see the work we do, on go-to markets and partner ecosystem stuff for corporations and governments, they can follow me or connect with me on LinkedIn.
They can follow me on Twitter, I’m out there. I’m happy to be helpful to anybody who intentionally wants to be better at the work that we love so much.
Andy Paul: all right. Perfect. Sean, we’ll talk to you shortly.
Sean Sheppard: Thank you. Thanks. Thanks a lot, Andy. Talk to
Andy Paul: Thank you. Bye.