Prospecting Best Practices w/ Mike Weinberg [Episode 1]

Straight talk with my guest, the New Sales Coach, Mike Weinberg. There’s a reason Mike’s first book New Sales. Simplified has been such a huge best-seller and why Mike is in such high demand as a speaker and consultant. New Sales. Simplified speaks the hard truth about why companies that want to grow must proactively prospect for new customers.

In this episode, Mike shares some of his key recommendations for disciplined prospecting that really work, as well as his opinions on the need for greater specialization in sales roles and on the fundamentals that help sales teams close more business and increase their productivity.


About The Show

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.

Let Us Introduce You To Our Guest… Mike Weinberg!

Hello and welcome to the show. I couldn’t be more amped up to talk with my guest today. Joining me is Mike Weinberg, bestselling author, speaker consultant.

Mike is a leading expert on new business development. You’re growing your business in zero time demands that you have a steady flow of qualified prospects streaming through your pipeline when you can always get orders from current customers.

That’s not going to get to where you want to go in your goals. How do you grow? How do you accelerate your sales orders for new customers?

Well, that’s what we learned from Mike today. Practical tips and strategies on how to prospect for new business. Mike, welcome to the show.

Andy, always good to be with you. Thanks for having me.

How Mike Got Into Sales

Well, thanks for joining me. So take a few minutes. Introduce yourself. Tell us how you got started in sales.

I never wanted to be in sales. I haven’t told that story in public in years. But, you know, my dad was a sales executive and I thought, there’s no way I’m going to drive like a Chevy Corsica and Stack.

My second job was at a school where I was assistant to the chairman and CEO of Slim Fast. Tommy Lasorda and I got to manage a private jet. It was crazy, crazy stuff. But the founder and CEO was very active in the business.

I would get to go along on sales calls to giant accounts of ours, flying to Minneapolis to see Target or down Arkansas to see Wal-Mart.

I learned that sales wasn’t what I thought it was. It wasn’t about pitching in and manipulating it and trying to push something on somebody. It was more about being a consultant and an adviser and understanding their business and seeing if you can help them win. And if you can help them win, then you’re really going to win.

I thought, huh, I like this. And that’s kind of what led me into sales. And I mean, I never, ever, ever, ever thought I would’ve ended up in consulting or let alone having a book, not just a book, a best selling book.

I’ve been blown away by the response to it. I know you know this as we’ve exchanged books and reviewed each other’s books.

When I sent it out to get endorsements. I wondered how sales gurus will respond to it. And then, you know, I’ve got these great endorsements and then the book took off like crazy.

I just didn’t realize, I mean, I knew the content was good because this is what I do with my clients and I wasn’t scared about that. But I didn’t expect it to get the attraction.

Blunt Truth

You know, the world is just craving blunt truth today. Everyone is telling us that, well, everything has changed and nothing is the same. And you need that, this and the other thing.

So I think the timing of the book being blunt and practical and about basic hunting for new business probably helped me.

Yeah. Well, I think that you and I both in our books focus on these fundamentals. Right. Because they’re timeless. They’re ageless. People seem to be always focusing on just blocking and tackling basic blocking and tackling.

But, you know, one, it’s not sexy. And two, it’s not what the lazy, reactive salesperson wants to hear because they’re looking for the magic bullet or the new thing that’ll stop them from having to do the working out.

So they’re good at blocking and tackling. You know, I’m curious for your take on this. I think part of what’s going on here is that there are so many and I don’t want to demean anybody’s integrity.

I’m just gonna say that there are a lot of people out there that are wrong. I don’t want to say that they’re lying or manipulating, but there are a lot of people preaching that.

What used to work is dead and doesn’t work anymore. And if you don’t do this new thing and buy my platform and use my tool and do this thing socially or do this thing inbound, then you’re going to fail.

And part of what I think the consequence is what’s happened the last couple of years, is people that drank all that Kool-Aid and got way out of balance and pitched everything that was old. And as you say, you know, the basics, the fundamentals. Tried and true stuff. People that pitched that, they really struggled because when that new toy doesn’t produce the number of leads or opportunities that you were thinking it was going to and you’re staring at an empty pipeline and a lousy commission cheque again. What do you do? Right. So there’s a there’s a hunger for like, help me.

You know, I believe too many of these new fangled theories today. And yeah, there’s this new stuff that is great and should supplement what we’re doing. But it doesn’t take the place of the things that have always worked in sales.

Well, yeah. Even some of the things that are being put forth as new are really old. So, I mean, I love what a lot of companies are doing relative to how they’re accelerating their sales, scaling really quickly, but they act like they invented inside sales.

Specific Sales Roles

The fact is, inside sales with SDR as an account exacts has been around for a long, long time.

Yeah it’s funny. That’s one thing, is you’re buying that.

I’m encouraged by the stronger, more clear role definition and clarity I’m seeing in a lot of companies. Because one of my pet peeves is that in a lot of lazy companies, a sales role was a sales role.

You know you’ve got one. One Jack of all trades does all sales jobs. And I think the reality is that most people aren’t good at all aspects of selling. You know, there are people that are good at that prospect in your people that are good on the phone. There’s folks that are good at managing giant accounts and, you know, quarterbacking complex deals.

There’s folks that are real technical and they’re good at being, you know, sales engineers or our sales support. So I am encouraged when you bring up that.

Yes, I think it is amusing that we see companies claiming they’ve got this new model. But I at least am applauding that. We’ve decided that one size doesn’t fit all in a sales role because I don’t see a lot of people that are that versatile. And truthfully, when we have one sales guy doing 50 jobs from lead generation to prospecting to discovery meetings, to presenting, to proposing, to negotiating, to closing, to onboarding, to servicing, to cross-selling, to entertaining, that’s a lot of work.

No one defaults to the hard stuff like, top of the funnel, do the grunt work. Everyone wants to do the sexy easy part. I think the clearer the roles are, the better that the company is.

Oh, absolutely. And I think that the more specialized knowledge and information, experience, expertise you bring to bear on helping the customer to make a decision and get through their buying process, the better. So, yeah, I think this whole emphasis on more specialized roles within sales is right on the money.

Sales Mistakes (Slowing Down The Sales Process)

That’s good. Well, that’s right up your alley. I especially, in this last book of yours, I love. I love reading about the impediments to speeding up the sales process and actually them as you would place the buying process. There are so many things that we see salespeople do that shoot themselves in the foot that actually slow down the buyer’s ability to make a decision.

Well, what do you see? That’s that’s like that.

I’ll give you one of my one of my personal biggies right now. I’m seeing it across several clients, premature demos and premature proposals.

I think especially in the tech space, you have a lot more experience in the tech world than I do, but in my limited exposure in the handful of companies I’ve worked with, there seems to be this race to the demo and the customer has kind of trained everybody that they want to see the demo fast, that they don’t have a lot of patience, especially if they were a lead.

They signed up and they raised their hand and said, hey, we want to see what you got. You’ve done your inbound marketing.

You’ve drawn us in. Show us your deal. A lot of those customers, they’re not really if you follow their lead and just go into demo mode, you skip the whole discovery process. So you end up doing a presentation at a demo before it’s time and you really don’t understand the prospect situation, the buying criteria, they’re key influencers, what drove them to even come to you for this demo?

So you end up as we’d say in the old days, in show up and throw up mode and you just kind of puke in our features and you’re showing off bringing in technology into a cool interface. It makes you feel good and it makes sure your company feel good because you’re showing off your technology. But I think when you demo and present too soon, you actually slow down the sales process because you didn’t learn all these things and then the deal ends up stalling and you don’t even know if you’re relevant or not.

Well, I think on top of that, what you do is, when you use a demo as primarily as a sort of qualifying tool, you know, preliminary qualifying tool, you end up having to go back into a demo again that’s more relevant and specifically tailored to what they want.

It’s going to add time to your sales process. As you said, you do it too prematurely.

The ‘Spray and Pray’

Yeah, I think it’s just yet you end up living in the land of hope. You know I worked with a really talented sales guy years ago and what I would call the show up and throw up. He called it the spray and pray.

Yeah, I heard that from a guest yesterday. Really? I only heard of this one. I’ve never heard anybody use it.

It’s such a great word to picture because you spray it all out on everybody and you pray that you hit on something relevant. That’s not selling. That’s pitching. And, you know, we’re not advertising agencies going up, making a pitch like we’re supposed to be consultative problem solvers.

I don’t know how you can be viewed that way and be a trusted adviser if you don’t learn about the customer situation before you pitch.

Right. Well, I think one thing you see, as you see that demo, especially in certain tech companies, that the demo really becomes the handoff between the SDR and the accounting side. So the certain impetus you see built in that maybe incentives built on actually somewhat personal, to get to that demo stage quickly. But then to your point, it’s at that point you’re basically doing that spray and pray. But you’re really using that dumb, a little bit as a qualification tool.

Sure. And I get that. I just think maybe the metrics or maybe the incentives are messed up.

But I just worry when I see us get into demo mode so quickly. I feel like when we do it prematurely, the customer, the prospect perceives us as nothing more than a vendor who is pitching at them.

My real feeling is if we would hold off just a little bit longer and play, you know, consultant, do some discovery on the front end so we could tailor what we’re going to talk about better. Even the demos for the most part, is the same. But the talking points you would tailor to what you’re showing them so you wouldn’t be talking about features, you’d be talking about tie ins to what their objectives are or they’re paying removal.

So you and I read all these people and there’s a great theory today called inside selling there are two books by that name. We’ve got the challenge or sell book, which has been on the top of the bestseller lists forever. I think there’s some brilliant research and ideas in there. But the one thing that scares the heck out of me from the inside selling crowd and the challenger folks is that I feel like they’ve gone too far in telling salespeople, you need to bring all these insights to the customer because you need to teach the customer.

I’m all for bringing value. I’m all for insight. But I’m curious if this concerns you. I’m concerned that we have salespeople that like to talk too much anyway. They go into presentation mode so quickly that if we start feeding them the line, that they need to come off as professorial and teach and share insights that is going to destroy their ability to do good discovery work. They’re only going to be more apt to go in quickly and share and puke on customers. I don’t get to talk about this very much, people.

What’s your take on that? It’s now the Mike Weinberg show. So I want to hear from you on this. What do you think?

I agree with you, like on the challenger sale, it is absolutely valid, right? But the problem is that they think it’s broadly replicable.

This is my problem with a broadly replicable. The fact is there’s very thin strata of our stratum of salespeople that can do that. And you can’t. I’m just sitting in a presentation on side, given a keynote address at a conference in the spooky speaker that followed me. I was talking about how to scale a higher sales team to do the challenge or sale. I’m cynical. It’s just not scalable. There’s certain people that can do this, that have the experience, have the insights of will, have the intellect to be able to really work with the customer on a consultative basis, help them reshape their vision of what it is they’re trying to buy, and that that’s not easy.

So it’s not that the idea isn’t valid, especially in a competitive environment. If you’re sort of behind, you know, it’s a tactic I used all the time as I thought I was behind with somebody. Maybe I got into a deal late and it was a large opportunity.

I tried to reset the playing field right. So as more tilted toward me. That was what the challenge was that challenged their paradigm for what they thought they’re using for buying. I think inside sales speaks to what you’re talking about earlier about the specialization of roles within sales.

I think it’s an absolutely valid observation that they do work, but not every salesperson is going to be able to be effective delivering them. So what happens is then, the insights just become rote, right? They’re not really insights that actually become a fact to a salesperson.

Wow. I like that a lot. So I think that, again, we talk about specialization. There’s definitely a role for it. And in certain sales situations, maybe given the complexity or the price of the product or the strategic nature of it, you’re front line people need to have it in almost every situation. But in a lot of deals, it’s maybe an expert that’s brought in a specific time to help move the deal to the next stage.

We’re going to take a quick break here. Before we take a break, I suppose a hypothetical scenario to you. Think about it while we’re gone and come back here and answer. So there’s the hypothetical scenario. It’s right up your alley. You’re a new sales manager hired into a company where the sales stalled, stagnated, and management really wants things to change in a hurry. So what two things would you do in the first week that would have the biggest impact? We can talk about it when we come back. My guest is Mike Weinberg and he’s going to come back and share with us more of his tips on how to accelerate your sales growth. We’ll be right back.

Back To Accelerate, Mike Answers Andy’s Question

Welcome back. My guest today is Mike Weinberg. Check out Mike online at new salescoach.com. All right. So let’s talk about that scenario I posed right before the break. You’re a new manager, sales manager, pronto. Companies sales have stalled. What do you do in the first week? What two things could you do in the first week that will have the biggest impact?

I am going to meet with everyone on my team one on one, and I’m going to ask them to bring with them to the meeting their business plan for the year and their target list of prospective clients and existing customers that they are committed to pursuing for new business.

They’ll be number one. And in my little framework for picking up new business, target selection is first and it’s first for a reason.

It’s a very rare chance to be strategic. And I would want it. I’d want to see everyone on that team’s own view of their job. And if they didn’t have a business plan in writing, shame on my predecessor in this position, we would be writing business plans very quickly that address very specific goals and strategies we’d put in place to attack those goals and actions we would be committing to. Etc.

I won’t impact the whole plan, but I’d make individual sales action plans for each and a little less overtly and an end in the addendum that would be attached to that plan is I need your strategic finite list of accounts that you commit to pursuing, because I never see a successful sales attack when there isn’t clarity and focus in the first place.

We’ve got to get clarity and focus, it is who we’re going after. Exactly. Andy, I’ll just add this, when I go to a company and everyone’s in reactive mode, you know, when they’re struggling a lot of the time when they live in a reactive mode and they’re waiting for a lead or they’re, you know, forming whatever business they have, you don’t really need a good list. You just kind of you kind of pursue what comes your way. But the moment you decide we’re going to go hunting, we’re going to look for new business and we’re going to go on the attack. The natural first question is, OK, well, what are we hunting for and where are we gonna go? So that’s thing one.

I want to make sure everyone’s got a list that we agree on, the right lists, like some thinking goes into it. We’re going to go down a path of high likelihood of success.

My number two thing is I would monitor the percent of time that my sales team actually spent selling. And this is my joke about this here and there with clients. But this is really my dirty little secret.

As a consultant, the number one cause I find in almost every company of why they don’t pick up more new business is really simple. It’s not the story. It’s not the sales process. It’s not that wrong talent. It’s that the people that are supposed to be selling spend very little time actually trying to sell new business.

They get all caught up in their underwear. They look for customer service buyers. They get on the safety committee, they socialize, they bring donuts to their favorite customers. They’ll do anything but the hard work of hunting. So honestly, what I would do next up is making sure they have a great strategic with the target accounts to work on, whether those be Groban customers or prospective customers that don’t buy from us yet.

The second thing I want to do is get a larger percent of their time dedicated to hunting for business. And I will tell you, forget the fact that I love my first book and 80 percent of it’s about how to do that better. I see sales lift take place in companies when we have a focused sales team that’s got a good list. And number two, when they spend more time working on that list, forget technique, forget process, forget story. It’s shocking to me, shocking, Andy, that how a small percent of time, most true, open quotes, air quotes salespeople. How how little time they actually spend selling.

I am writing a bunch right now about sales productivity and really focus sales. Productivity is different than sales performance and sales productivity.

If you take the classic economic definition of productivity, which is your rate of output for a unit of input. That is the ultimate measure of sales productivity is how much revenue you’re producing per hour, that you’re actually selling.

You can talk about every time we look at sales managers and say, gosh, how long is your sales cycle?

Mike, leading question. How long is your sales cycle?

Well, it’s two months. I said, no. That’s how long it is taking your customers to make a decision. How much time are you investing sales wise to get them from that point of interest to the point of decision? And no one has a clue.

Yeah, I think it goes both ways. I’m having a lot of conversations lately with people about the number of bats versus batting average. I’m all about increasing the batting average and being more effective.

You know, when you have a great story, you can articulate value and you probe better and you can run a great sales call, you’re more effective in all the other things you could talk about for qualifying, etc. But I will tell you, give me a high frequency attack over a low frequency attack.

A lot of the people I see that are still killing it when it comes to new business development, they are the ones who spend more time doing it. They turn over more rocks. They make the extra call. They self manage.

They do management and monitor their metrics and it’s both. It gives me more output for your hour. But could you please give me more hours? Because most guys don’t. If a lot of times when I’m doing a talk and I go over one of the reasons salespeople fail, I say they don’t control their calendar and actually haven’t gone back and looked at their calendar for the last 30 days.

I look at the number of meetings they’ve had for selling and how they spent their time. They’re usually shocked when they do the analysis and how little of their calendar is actually dedicated to proactively pursuing business versus just reacting to emails and work and crap that’s put on their desk.

Exactly. Yeah, well, I think the point I was making is that you can increase the number of sales hours available to somebody. Right. But that doesn’t change in their fundamental productivity because at some point you’re going to reach a max of what the number of hours that’s available to them, to actually sell. What that does in most companies, I don’t think really push the boundaries of that yet. But at some point you reach that limit and then you stop growing.

So I think it’s really, as you say, that’s really it. It’s a two pronged approach. One is, yeah, you do want to free up sales people’s time so they can spend more time actually selling, actual sales hours at the same time you’re right to focus on. Okay. How can I make them more productive for each hour of sales time that they’re investing? Right. How do I train them? How do I give them more knowledge, more expertise, more experience and the things that we need them to do in order to help their customers?

Wow, you’re challenging me. I like this. I like the need to. I’m going to go read more your recent writings on productivity. Well, I like the way you’re framing it from a year, almost from a yield, you know, to economic manufacturing.

Yeah, I do that. There’s a there’s an output reality here. We got to look at at the input right now.

I’ll send you some stuff there. We’ll make it available to the audience in the month of October 2015. There’ll be some stuff coming out that they can they can look at it. All right. Awesome. Excellent.

Rapid Fire Questions For Mike

So I’ve got some rapid fire questions I want to ask you here. And you can you can you can give one word answers. You can elaborate really up to you. All right.

You writing a reply, Andy? I’m just reminding you that I went to New York public schools, so I may take a second to process this rapid fire.

Yeah, there’s no spelling or math involved.

OK, that’s helpful. Okay. So first one.

What’s the most powerful sales tool in your arsenal for selling my own business when I’m selling what I’m doing?

Yes. I hate to give this answer because it goes contrary to what I coach people that are not consultants, but in my own business, the most powerful sales tool I have is my content or I’m writing articles about real sales situations and how to address them.

Okay. Great answer. And you know, salespeople can do that as well. Sales people can create an image of who they are and a perception of who they are, based on having their own platform. It could be just tweets that they share, articles they share on their social platform that prospective customers see.

Totally. I agree with you. I won’t get into a long conversation with you Andy because you want to go rapid fire. But my one fear is that sales people that started to do that, some of them get so lost in the content creation that they forget they’re supposed to sell.

One just almost sharing, right. Share.

Well, sure. I think that sharing is different than writing.

Yeah, it’s a lot of sharing, a lot of guys, a social selling space that are preaching. I want salespeople to write content. And I’m like, whoa, no. I just want them to share relevant content to their customers.

OK, I am into that.

So name one tool you use today for your sales or sales management that you can’t live without?

My personal virtual assistant.

What’s her name?

Her name is Mary and she works for a company called E Help, which has been a phenomenal partner for me the last couple of years.

My business, my head would explode without my executive assistant and she’s not even the same city as me, but she’s in my inbox and she’s helping with travel, planning and communications and I couldn’t do what I do without her. She’s invaluable to me.

Excellent. That’s ehelp.com. Yes. We’ll give a plug. Yeah. ehelp.com. Good people. Good question for the management team, Do they really run in a first class operation there?

All right. Here’s a hard one for you. Who’s your sales role model?

My dad. My dad was a successful sales person online, not only as a sales manager, as a kid. He just taught me great stuff when I was young about working with the customer or not pitching at the customer. That your job is to help the customer win. If you help them win, you’re going to win. He just really understood communication and making it about the customer.

Excellent. All right. Last question.

Favorite music to listen to psych yourself up for a sales call?

My music collection is so bizarre, From Celtic stuff to Flo Rida. So worship songs, like you would think I had a personality disorder if you saw my playlist. I don’t even have to answer that question.

Well, choose one.

I can’t. Honestly, I don’t have a favorite. I don’t. It varies. I mean, it’s usually some type of 80s mix, you know, Def Leppard.

All right. Got it. 80S heavy metal.

Yeah. Heavy metal or or slightly softer.

Wrapping Up The Episode

That’s great. Well, good. So thank you for joining me today. My guest has been Mike Weinberg, author of the bestselling book New Sales Simplified. Mike, tell folks how they can find out more about you first.

Great. Now Mike, scurry back with us. Before too long, an upcoming episode to talk about his new book that’s coming out, which we’re all very excited about. And be sure to subscribe to his podcast. Make sure not to miss that episode.

So remember, make it a part of your day everyday to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your sales. And I hope we helped you with that today. Until next time. This is Andy Paul. Good selling, everyone.

Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard, I want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes. Please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or Stitcher Economy. For more information about today’s guest. Visit my website at andypaul.com.