Sales Influence, with Victor Antonio [Episode 762]

In this episode, Victor Antonio (speaker and author of, “Sales Influence”), joins me to discuss how to elevate individual and team sales performance. We start our conversation with this provocative quote from Victor: “At times, it seems to me, that the more we engage with technology, the less we engage with clients.” Is that the case? And, if it is, where do we go from here to enable sellers to connect and have more productive sales conversations. Tune in for all that and more.

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Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Victor, welcome to the show.

Victor Antonio: Thank you for having me, Andy. Pleasure to be here.

Andy Paul: It’s a pleasure to have you here. A pleasure to meet you, somewhat virtually, but as we were just talking before the show, we hadn’t had not had the opportunity to meet.

Victor Antonio: No, and I, as I mentioned, at the pre show is that I kept hearing your   name and people were shocked that I’d know who you were. So you were like some celebrity I didn’t know about. And I felt like ashamed, like who was this guy named, Andy? I don’t know. But anyway, so I’m here finally.

Andy Paul: Yeah, as I told my wife, I’m very famous in a very small circle. I think we have you here because I think we are anxious to share our thoughts on a number of topics that I think we are concerned about in common and one that you’ve written about. And you’ve talked about as this concern about declining sales performance, you know, we all see the, the same stats that come from the various industry reports, whether they’re CSO insights or whatever. And just interested what your thoughts are as why that, why that’s happening?

Victor Antonio: Yeah. I mean, one of the things I always talk about that sales will always be known as pre-internet and post-internet. You know, pre-internet. We had all the information as salespeople, right? And so, you know, customers were willing to talk to us a little longer. You can build a relationship so forth and so on. Fast forward, we have this thing called the internet now.

And Google came out with a study years ago was called the Z Mott study, a Zero Moment of Truth Study, which you’re familiar with right. And my favorite number in there is that, and I bet you, that number has gone up is that on average people will look at 10 sources of information before deciding to reach out to contact the vendor, which means, again, depending on which numbers you read, the customer could be anywhere between 57 to 90% into the buying cycle, which means they’re a little smarter these days.

And I think that’s what makes sales a little more challenging now is that salespeople have to be more domain experts than ever before. In order to provide that quote unquote insight we often hear about.

Andy Paul: Yet, I don’t really think I see much evidence of them becoming more domain experts. You know, so if I look back on all my past episodes, 755 or whatever it is, you know what we’re really talking about is how do we enable sellers, and this is what you spend your life doing as well, to sell to the best of their abilities, right?

And yet we seem to have this gap, right? We’ve got this declining performance cause you know, this is all occurring at the same time. We’re in this golden age of sales technology that unprecedented levels of technology coming into sales, which, you know, some can be very beneficial for sellers. And yet we’re seeing declining performance.

Victor Antonio: It’s kinda like, it’s kind of like, well, we got more tools. We have more knowledge. We have more access. We have more abilities to reach out and touch somebody. Whether it’s video conference, you can call, so forth so on, but why are the numbers declining? And I still go back to that customers are more- you know, one of the, one of the biggest misconceptions or misperceptions is that salespeople are no longer neededas much because you know, consumers have a lot of information and I think that’s the biggest error. I think salespeople are now more valuable than ever because there’s so much information out there. There’s so much content out there that now buyers are actually confused. And it takes a great sales person, to go back to the domain expert piece, to actually help them clarify their thinking in order to make a decision. Because what are they trying to avoid? And, and you know, this I’m preaching to the choir. They’re trying to avoid making a bad decision because now, you know, some of these investments are kind of big if, especially if it’s a B2B type enterprise level sale. So people want to be careful in terms of how they invest, but all of this uncertainty has created a greater dependence on salespeople.

And I think where they fall short and I, and I want to emphasize it was a stat that was put out by you. Are you familiar with corporate visions?  And I was listening to a speech years ago, a couple of years ago by, by Tim Rister, one of their researchers, great presenter. And he actually talked about, you know, that on average across industry study, 40% of all deals are won. Again, cross industry across different industries. That means 60% are lost. What’s interesting is when they look at the 60% that were lost, 20% went to the competitor. The other 40% were no decisions.

Andy Paul: Right.

Victor Antonio: So if you think about it, your biggest competitor is as he quotes it, the status quo, the no decision.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I’ve seen a study that shows that is as high as 80%.

Victor Antonio: Could be, which begs the question. So why are there, why is there a no decision? And that’s because it is the anxiety versus the certainty that the customer is experiencing. And if a sales person isn’y able to go in there and clarify that thinking, guide them and reassure them, they’re not gonna make a decision. Buyer’s regret is always looming around the corner. I’d rather not make a decision than make a decision and be wrong.

Andy Paul: I think. Yeah, well, risk is certainly a huge factor, right? The, that perception of risk on the part of the buyers. Well, I also think that part of that too, is that, and this is still, I guess, is a factor of the risk, but is that we’re sellers, they don’t give the customer help guide the customer to a point where there’s a compelling reason for them to make a change, risk, not withstanding.

And, and so what I see oftentimes with when customers who don’t reach a decision and you do a analysis of the deal and the opportunity is you look back and say, well, yeah, we never really qualified them. Right. We never, we never got to the point where the customer said, yeah, these are the outcomes we wanted it.

We want to achieve with us the investment in your product, your solution. And we know what that outcome’s gonna mean for us in terms of hard dollars. So we’ve quantified what those outcomes are. And for me, that’s like this critical point, right? If you haven’t got your prospect to quantify what the outcome is going to mean to them and dollars. They’re not going to close.

Victor Antonio: And, and there’s, there’s two components in there. If you go further, your point is dead on and push it just a little further that even if I quantified the sale and I actually created a magnitude of that sale. Look, I mean, it’s not just a, a little bit of improvement. It’s a bigger thing, proven something that’s has some magnitude.

There’s also this, and I think this is where the brakes are being applied. There’s this perceived effort slash risk. And I’ll give you a perfect example. And I talk about this in my talks. It’s just, it’s a stupid story, but true and really draws attention to what happens.

About a year ago, I had a small little leak in my bathroom. I heard it from my office. I go, what is, I heard this little tick tick tick, and I go, what is that? So I go over there to the sink and open up the bottom of the sink, open up the doors and all of a sudden, I see this thing just dripping. You know that whole thing. And then I looked at it and I go home. Now, if you’re a real man, what do you do?

Well, if you’re like me and you’re not mechanically inclined, go to the kitchen, you get a bowl. And so I went to the kitchen and got a bowl and I stuck the bowl under there and said, look, wife, it’s fixed. And so couple of weeks go by the droplets get faster and faster. So what do you do? You get a bigger bowl? So I went and got the bigger bowl slid right under there. Finally, you get to a point where you can’t stick a bucket in there. You got to tell yourself I got to fix this thing. And so sure enough, I mentally psyched myself up to go over to Home Depot, to get all the supplies. Andy, next day, I’m going to go in and I’m going to get this thing fixed, man. I go in there, Andy, the next day after, you know, drank my coffee, go in and it’s like five minutes into this thing. Bam. It is fixed. It is PVC-ed up. It is fixed. And the first question that comes to mind is, well, why didn’t I do that like two, three weeks ago?

And what it was is that there was this imagined fear. In my head, because based on my past experiences, things had never got well with plumbing. So this, this imagined fear is there. So that part of the brain, the primal brain, that, that amygdala was lighting up like a Roman candle. And what is the job of a salesperson? Because a customer’s thinking the same thing.

The perceived effort and the imagined fear, our job in selling is to assuage the customer’s concern that it’s going to be okay. Here’s the blueprint. Here’s how we’re going to do it in five easy steps. And that’s where I think we fail in assuaging the customer’s concern that we’re going to be able to do that for them.

Andy Paul: Yeah, it’s, it’s a really fascinating point because again, having a conversation with somebody else about this is, cause now you’re sort of talking about trust, right? And, and the question we were just debating was really how much trust does a buyer need to have an, a seller in order to make the decision right? To buy from them.

You know, I use the analogy as you know, I know my customer trusts me enough to buy from me, but they probably don’t trust enough to babysit their kids. So, so what is this level of trust that, that we really have? Is it, is it really trust or is it this, you know, cause we were talking about the perception of risk. Is it really the perception of trustworthiness that is really this, this, attribute we’re trying to develop in the mind of the buyer?

Victor Antonio: I think that, that what you just said is brilliant because it’s that perception of trust. Right. And I was reading a book by, I interviewed about two weeks ago. Jonah Berger has a new book called The Catalyst, great guy in there. I told him, I said, you know, you’re doing that you’re doing a great definition of trust, but I don’t think you meant to do it, but I perceived it because it was kind of one of those just statements in the book. It was, I think he was emphasizing and his definition of Trust, the way he defined it, lined it up in the book. I go, I like this one, the first one, the first it’s a two part trust factor.

The first part is you empathize, you understand my pain, you really understand what I’m going through. And then plus you also have my best interest in mind. You know what I mean? If you can put those two together, I understand and have, and I know that you have my best interest in mind, then I trust you.

You know, the problem is there’s no meter over somebody’s head to say, Hey, I think you’ve reached that point or you’ve crossed that threshold. Yeah. I trust you. It’d be nice, but there is a, but I think empathy and knowing you have to best interest in mind being able to communicate that effectively is the challenge.

Andy Paul: Those couple things she said that I think really critical for people understand, at least my point of view one is, is, you know, there are various forms of empathy and, you know, compassionate empathy, which is the one that most people will stop and talk about us. You know, I feel how you feel.

I understand, but you’re not gonna understand, right. This is the thing, what sales people oftentimes don’t do is we don’t, to me, true empathy comes from when I understand why somebody feels the way they do. If I have that understanding, as you talked about then that is that’s important. And then the second part you brought about us, you have to think we have our best, their best interest in mind. Is are we completely transparent in our motivations for why we’re talking to the buyer in the first place? And this is, this is something that, you know, you’ve seen undoubtedly millions of times like I have is that, you know, we go in and we tell the customer we’re here to help you, we’re here to serve you, we’re here to serve you. And then we get to Thursday on the last week of the month and it’s like, but here’s 10% or 20% off to make sure you buy this month. And suddenly our motivations become very clear. It’s no longer about serving them. It’s about us.

Victor Antonio: Isn’t that something, there there’s so many contradictions in what we do. And when you look at a lot of sales training programs out there, I’m often amazed at, you know, how I believe in a philosophy slowed down to speed up. We’ve all heard that right. Slow down to speed up. In other words, really talk to the customer, really try to understand them.

And I think one of the key things I think the best of the best do is they’re not afraid to lose the sale. By being forthright like, you know, and so I always talk about people don’t have a sales problem. They have a prospecting problem. And that is that if you had enough prospect you’d sell differently, but when you only have one or two prospect, you sell desperately and said another way if I have a hundred customers lined up waiting to see me, I’m going to be like, all right, let’s qualify hard. Those who can afford or need my product on this side, those who can’t please move to that side and come back another time. You sell differently and removing that if salespeople were to sell that way with no fear of losing the customer and just being forthright and looking out for their best interests, empathize you looking out for best interests and just laying it down right down the middle. I think they’d be surprised how many people would just come towards them. You know what I mean? How many people would want to buy from them?

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I think the, sort of the main of the corollary to what you were saying is, is that when you can teach people to be that way and to sell that way, is it very quickly highlights the fact that wow I need to go get more prospects. Right? Cause even if they don’t have enough, when they find it and they can teach them to understand, that’s how they should be addressing and helping the customer, then they get that motivation to go out and get more prospects because wow, I get this.

Victor Antonio: Yeah. Sometimes I think people don’t truly understand the value of what they’re really offering. Do you know what I mean? They don’t understand the impact, the ripple effect of what their product or service can do for a company. For example, I sell sales training, right. That’s one of my products. And so I believe when I sell it, I’m not looking at selling the package. I’m looking at how it’s going to impact your bottom line, how it’s going, increase your revenue, reduce your costs or expand your market share. I’m looking at how I’m helping you not only stay in business, but keep people employed within your company and those people in your company have families. So guess what? The fact that I’m helping you help your company helps families. That’s the way I view the value of it. So I don’t mind rushing to somebody’s help. Here I can help you sell more. I can help you generate more revenue. Or sometimes I think people don’t understand their real value. They just see the price, not the value.

Andy Paul: Well, it isn’t, some of that may be tied to also, as they don’t see their own value in, in the context of what they’re selling. I mean, I’m a huge believer that that based on my own experience, as well as experience with many, many others I’ve worked with, is that yeah, people still buy from people and you know, if you’re not a personal value, it doesn’t really matter what the product and service does you’ll we lose the deal all the time. If you’re not a person of value, if you’re selling a product that’s high value. And people were still having a hard time convincing sellers that this is of paramount importance, more so than your sales process or anything else that you’re doing.

Victor Antonio: Ethics above all else, you know, ethics above all else in terms of how you sell. And I  think th,  you knowm in a world where we’ve reached out to them, the world of Six Sigma, where all products are almost the same, all services, almost the same. There are no real differentiators, unless you’re an Apple or Google or somebody different, every product or service is the same.

And so I truly believe we’ve entered an era Andy, where the sales person as you’re pointing out is the differentiator. And if they don’t see their value in that process, as part of that sales equation, if I may. Then I think they’re missing out because they are the differentiators today.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I think part of it is that, is that increasingly we’ve, we’ve told salespeople to focus on the wrong things. And part of this, I think is, you know, part of the way that we increasingly are selling to our inside sales and sales, specialization, and so on, and sort of, you know, fixation on activity versus quantity of activities versus quality of activities and so on.

But, Gartner don’t know if you rembmer, they did their buyer enablement study a couple years ago and they came out this what they call their spaghetti diagram, this complex flow chart of a buyer’s process.

Victor Antonio: I see it. Yeah. I think I saw it.

Andy Paul: And, and what they highlight is that the buyers don’t have this sort of linear stage based process to go through, to buy.

They have four jobs they need to complete, and they don’t necessarily happen in series. And there’s problem identification, solution exploration, building requirements, choosing a vendor. And increasingly my belief is that we train sellers to only focus on the last one, choosing a vendor. Which is, you know, sort of to me the horses out of the barn at that point. Cause what we want to do is focus on those first three because that’s how we influence how they’re going to solve their problem. And if we can influence how they solve the problem, then when they get to choosing who they’re going to solve it with, we have the inside track. But instead, when we just focused on, on being competing at selecting the vendor stage, then we compete on price.

Victor Antonio: Every time, it’s the bake off at the end. And I think what’s, you know, back to the original question of why, you know, why are the numbers so low? Why do they keep declining in terms of close rates and winnings? Also think about, you know, Andy, the number of people involved in the decision making process today. That number continues to increase, which now, you know, the, if you remember back in the day, what was the book? I think it was Strategic Selling the Miller-Haldeman, you know, where, you know, you can find the management buyer, the user buyer, the technical buyer-

Andy Paul: Economic buyer. Yeah.

Victor Antonio: Economic buyer, you know? And so you have those four types of buyers, but today, and then you find their motivations and their why buys and you address those motivation, those dominant buying motives, and then you sell to those doubts.

Well, the thing is now you’ve got 10 people in a room, 11 people in a room, you know, and all of a sudden it becomes quite complex. Add to that what you just said, that it’s never a linear process, you know, A B, C identification, you know, assess what’s going on, what needs to be done, and then begin to narrow down, do the search, find vendors. Now bring them in, qualify them. Let’s have a bake up. Let’s talk about it. It’s never that clean. And so I think from a B2B perspective, it’s become so complicated that a lot of buyers are actually doing the research on their own. And this is where it gets really interesting because now, unless you’re an aggressive salesperson, by aggressive, I mean, very active in reaching out to customers to try to insert yourself early on into the buying cycle. By that, I mean, when the problem is still being identified, you’re not going to, you’re not going to close the deal. And you’re at the mercy at the end of the, of the buyer at the end, asking for a discount or some type of, you know,

Andy Paul: Yeah, well, right. I learned this through my own experience. I sold big, large complex satellite communication systems for a long time. And I just remember early in my career, I was working on one of my first deals with that. And I remember calling my boss after I was overseas in Europe and America calling my boss and said, yeah, we’re going to win this deal. And it was six months before I got the order. And we won it right. Because I knew at that point that going forward, they were going to base their requirements on our product and our services.

Victor Antonio: If you can get your product spec-d in early on, you’ve got it, man. Hey, by the way, I don’t know if I told you this ad. I don’t know if you knew this, but I came from the telecom side.

Andy Paul: No, I didn’t.

Victor Antonio: I did it. I started out as a, my background is I started out as an electrical engineer, got an MBA and I started actually designing wireless systems and then moved into fiber optics and, you know, hybrid fiber, coax, all those wonderful things and actually sold some satellite equipment, some transponder, transceivers, all that good stuff. So, yeah, I I’d know about getting your product spec-d in.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I mean, you, you came from the technical side. I was a history major, but, but yeah, it was. It opened my eyes at that point to say, well, okay, well, this is what I’m trying to do, right? If I can, if I can influence the choice they’re making, about how they want to solve their problem, then the decision about who they want to solve it with becomes much simpler. And I’ve got the advantage going into it. You’ll still be competitive, but I have the advantage because it’s, you know, it’s designed around, you know, my ideas are, are our product, our services, and so on.

Victor Antonio: You, you, you, you know this for a fact already that if you can, co-create

Andy Paul: Yeah,

Victor Antonio: the solution with the customer. You’re going to win that deal. I used to tell people every time I got the technical person up with me on the whiteboard.

Andy Paul: Exactly.

Victor Antonio: I would win the deal, you know, are let’s just say the probability was very high. I would get the deal because now we were co-creating their solution.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Did you ever read Dan Roam’s book Draw to Win.

Victor Antonio: No, I’d never even heard of the book draw to win.

Andy Paul: Draw to Win by Dan Roam and he’s been a guest on the show and he’s very smart guy, and he’s written several books about drawing and business and so on, but this draw to win. He gives that precise example. You know, you may know what your flow charts to look like, but don’t draw it all. Stop and fight the customer up. Okay. Can you help me finish this? Right. Just as you said, that becomes so powerful.

Victor Antonio: Yeah, or just, I always hold hold the marker out and say I’m not understanding something can you draw this out for me? Just to know how the network you want to configure and they’re like, sure. And I’m like, here we go. And so subtle things, the more you can co-create in fact, I just finished reading a book called The Expansive Sale.

Andy Paul: No, I don’t know that one.

Victor Antonio: It’s got several authors on that, Corporate Cisions guys and in there they talked about how, you know, using, they, they looked at using PowerPoint versus using big pictures with big words on them, on the PowerPoint slides versus bullet points. And then the third one was actually drawing. And obviously when you drew, you know, the credibility went up, engagement went up so forth and so on.

So the numbers are there that being able to draw things also shows that you have some type of, I can go back to the phrase, some domain expertise. That you can draw things out. And I’ll give you a perfect example of where I think domain expertise fails. I was looking for a drone and I just wanted to buy a drone, man.

So to make a long story short, I budgeted 1200 bucks for this drone and I’ve been doing all my research. You know, I went beyon the Google 10 sources. I just started searching. Right. I narrowed it down to about three choices. I go over to Best Buy and I’m looking at the displays there. There they are, the three drones. Right. And I’m thinking, okay, what are these three? I’m going home with one of these bad boys. My credit card is ready to leap out of my pocket. I am ready to buy at. You see what I’m at? All of a sudden, this guy comes over, he’s like six, seven, six, eight big, giant dude. He says, can I help you?

I said, yeah, I’m thinking of buying them one of these drones. Well let me just kinda, you know, read it. What’s in front of me and then if I need your help, I’ll call you. He says, I’ll be right over there. If you need me. It’s a great, so sure enough, I narrowed it down to two drones. Size became a factor. One of the new variables. I said, you know what? Let’s look at the size. Let’s go with the smaller ones. So sure enough. I called the guy over. I’m ready. Tell me the difference between these two drones. I’m ready to make a decision, Andy. And he starts reading, I swear to you, he starts reading the little text placards and I’m like, yeah, I could see that.

I can read. I said, I said, but beyond that, what, why is one better than the other? What would you say? What is your opinion as an expert? He goes well, and he mumbled a couple of things. I go, wait a minute, do you even have a drone? He goes, no, I don’t. I said, well, you trained on the drones. He goes, no, I wasn’t.

And then it was very awkward moment. Like you are no use to me here. And so my level of certainty was very low. So I walked out of the store, credit cards still in check, 1200 bucks, just walk out the door.

Andy Paul: You buy it online?

Victor Antonio: To me, epitomize’s what’s going on today.

Andy Paul: Did you end up buying it online?

Victor Antonio: I ended up buying a lot. Yes, I did. You know what I did? I did the whole spindle of fact, I went on, Amazon, looked at the reviews, read tons of reviews and eventually came to my own conclusion because I couldn’t find a sales person to help me. It was too frustrating.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And undoubtedly that we have cases of that in B2B world, but most to your point earlier, is anything with any SAR, complexity, not transactional is the buyers because of the risk that you and I spoke about for, they want the sales person there to help them, help them make a purchase decision. I think fundamentally that is a sales person’s job if they really think about it. It’s it’s and I’ve written about this in my book is your job is to help a buyer make a purchase decision. That’s it?

Victor Antonio: That’s it. I think CEB came out with an interesting study. I’m gonna see if I can recite off the top of my head CEB, which is now Gartner, obviously. And I think, I think the study was in, do you remember the book, The Challenger Sale, which came out in, I think December of 2011, something like that. And in there they talked to, they had this slide had, I think it was about customer loyalty, what drive drivers or customer loyalty.

And I think it was 19% was brand loyalty, which shocked me 19% was brand loyalty. 9% was service to price ratio. In other words, pricing. 19% was service and delivery. Right. But the big one, the difference 50 plus percent was the buying experience. And then they go ahead and define the buying experience, help me navigate, make alternatives, avoid making wrong decisions.

So for the so on, make it easy to buy, blah, blah, blah. And it just brought me back. When I saw that slide, I go, wow. Brand is no longer the dominant factor for buy it’s a consideration, but the buying experience overall is what people are missing. And I think when that guy couldn’t help me, he ruined my buying experience.

Andy Paul: Right. And one of the key things you just spoke about is people formulating their choices. And so there’s been a bunch of studying down on how people make decisions and, you know, there’s one author is a guy named Paul nut too, was at Ohio state university has written about this is he’s saying that that people can make decisions.

They go through two steps. First one is I’m going to choose how I want to solve the problem or whether I am going to solve the problem. And then the second part is, okay, who am I going to solve it with? And so when people go to do that first one, how am I going to solve it? That’s when they look at their options, what are my options? Well, if you can’t help them, if you can’t be one of those options, if you can’t give them enough information to be one of the options, you’re never going to get the second, the second decision. So yeah, this is where the credibility comes in. This is where, I mean, a lot of things that you talk about in your you’re a smart framework, which I really liked, which I want to talk about for a second.

Yeah, this is if people can. Be enabled to perform in those situations to understand what the real job is. And that’s, it’s not at that point is not to get the order it’s to help the customer make the right choice about how they’re gonna solve their problem. Then you’re more like, then you’re more likely to get the order.

Victor Antonio: Every time. Eh, again, I think it, it, you know, we can, we can say the word empathize a hundred times. I mean, but at the end, that’s the core. Do you really understand what I’m trying to achieve?

Andy Paul: Yeah.

Victor Antonio: has asked, you know, that’s the, that’s the ultimate question? Is it, if you understand what I’m trying to achieve, that I know you get me.

I know you understand

Andy Paul: right. Yeah.

Victor Antonio: too often we go into transactional mode though. And the. You know what I mean? We just want to get a kid to say, we want to get the sale, get the sale, close. That deal.

Andy Paul: one. I think that one of the things that we don’t stress enough with, with sellers or isn’t stress at all, is that you always talk about creating value for the buyer. Understanding them is huge value for the buyer to your point. If we really understand if we do the right discovery, if we make sure we confirm our understanding, we ask the right followup questions, we ask confirmation questions, mirroring questions, all those things, understanding.

And to their point, they were your point. You’re saying they really get me. Right. They get it. That’s huge. That’s huge value for, for the buyer that that’s, that deals with the room, risk deals with all these other things we’ve spoken about today.

Victor Antonio: Yeah, I’m always fascinated by the irony that during the day you’re a sales person, but at the end of the day, you’re a consumer. And you, if you ask the body, how do you like to be sold? Cause we don’t say, well, Victor, how do I sell effectively? And ask yourself, how do you like to be sold? And the way you like to be sold is how you should sell.

But it’s not, it’s usually mutually exclusive, you know what I made and you ask a lot of people, how do you want to be sold? Well, I want a buyer to be informed or sell it to be informed. I want them to be direct. That will be honest. And you know, again, not look out for their interests. Look out for mine.

Great. Cool. Here’s your instructions? Go sell now.

Andy Paul: Oh, it escapes a lot of people. I tell a story in my books about the CEO, this is a number of years ago, but he had CEO client and he was just bitching at me, not about me, but he had just been trying to reach some company. I couldn’t remember which one on their phones. And he got stuck in, sort of, this phone tree.

And he was like, that’s the worst customer services, you know, how do they sell anything, dada. Slams the phone down. So I pick up my cell phone, I dial the number. I hand it to him. It’s his company. It does the exact same thing and their sales voicemail box was full and no one has ever paying attention to it, answering it. And it finally sunk in with them. It was like, Oh yeah, I see, I see the thing here is, yeah.

Victor Antonio: Yeah, it’s interesting that we can see the error in other people’s ways, but our own.

Andy Paul: Yeah, it’s funny how it works out. So, Oh, did not spend a few minutes on the smart framework you have for sellers. Cause I think, yeah, it’s not just the way to assess sellers. I think it’s a way to really enable sellers. Right? If you look at so smart as an acronym for a skills, motivation, adaptability, resources and time. And so tell us a little bit how you came up with that.

Victor Antonio: Well, I was looking at, you know, You know, what is it that a sales person needs in today’s market? And it’s more, I guess when I came up with the smart framework, it’s more of a holistic approach to what you need to do to be a great sales person. So, you know, we know that it’s always about skill and will, we’ve all heard that phrase, right.

Skill, and then there’s will, right. A lot of people have skill, but they don’t have the will. And the will part is actually very interesting because I think you can develop a lot of skill, but the will piece is what do you have to do consistently on a day to day basis to actually be successful. And I think that if you were to ask me, what is the one thing you mentioned it earlier, you, you, you briefly said it, but I picked up on it because you understand it, that a lot of times we measure activities, right.

But also, you know, beyond activities, we look for high leverage activities, but then beyond high leverage activities, it’s consistently doing those high leverage activities to make you successful. So the smart and the smart model or framework was just a way for people to understand these are the different skillsets, because we’re just a, an aggregation of different skill sets that come into play.

Andy Paul: Well, if I want to dissect it a little bit, I mean, because first of all, you start with skills and this is now you say you sell sales training, but does sales training of the way we currently do it doesn’t really work. I mean, there’s always a question I have and I’m not no offense on yours. It’s just like, yeah, we studied CEOs say they don’t find any value in sales training. We know that that we’ve known for 150 years that, you know, people forget 90% of what they learn in a classroom setting within 30 days, all that stuff is. Yeah, are we really approaching skill development the right way?

And combining with that, the reluctance of many sales managers, frontline sales managers, to get involved in sort of the personal development side of, of their reps to help them. Is there a better way?

Victor Antonio: They’re, you know, the, the best way to learn is obviously, you know, you know, without practicing in front of your client. Without practicing on the client is, is, you know, role-playing. That, to me has been the biggest help in my career. Being able to sit down and say, let us talk, let’s have a, a simulated discussion because I think what happens when we look at skillsets , let’s kind of really what’s let’s, let’s go ahead and splice that one up a little bit, right?

Skill are the, you know, cause you can look at the mechanics of actually presenting and selling. Right. And so we can talk about the soft skills and the soft skills, or, you know, your body language, you know, your presence, you know, all the wonderful things, listen carefully, you know, you know, two ears, one mouth use them in that proportion type of thing.

Right. Those are the soft skills. And, but when we look at soft skills, then we have to say, what are the I’ll call these the response skills, is that the response skills is you just asked me a question, how do I respond? And I, and I think there’s a skill set in that. There’s a skill in, how do I respond to a question that was just asked? Do I just answer it or do I clarify then ask? And I think you need to develop that, that isn’t something that’s automatic. That’s something that you

Andy Paul: The clarify and ask part.

Victor Antonio: What’s that?

Andy Paul: To clarify first, then ask a followup question or respond.

Victor Antonio: Exactly. Too often we’re like we just want to jump in. And so that’s a skill, right? Listen, absorb, reflect, and then deliver something. And if you have to clarify, go ahead and do that. Yeah. And unless you practice that as a skill. You don’t develop that. I move over to you, you know, that, that, that, was it Albert Mehrabian, you know, that, that phrase on the study on liking 55% of whether I like you or not as visual 38% is based on my voice, my tone, and only 7% is actual content or verbiage.

Right. And the one that always stuck out to me was the 38% of whether I like you or not is based on tone. Voice. Speed. Alignment. Right? And so there’s another skillset and you have to be very conscious of this and it can be learned that when you go down, look, when I’m in Florida, I talk real fast. When I moved to Georgia, things begin to slow down. And so did I, right? You know what I mean? So these are things that you have to learn. These are skills that you can learn, whether it’s, you, you know, we can talk about mirroring and all those wonderful things, but at the end of the day, Are you conscious, it’s almost like being mindful of what you’re doing in the moment when you’re selling.

And that is a skill that, that has to be learned, but can only be learned through, I guess, feedback, reflection, and it takes time. And that’s why I say selling is a skill. Just like speaking in public is a skill. There’s a way you, you and I both know that I can say something one way and just flip a couple of words and it has a totally different impact. And the ability to, you know, and I don’t know if I’m answering your question, but to me, when I, when I use the word skill, I mean, all of it, you know, not just learn, Hey, walk in, say, hi, shake his hand, you know, ask a couple questions. You know, that’s, that’s the mechanical stuff. It’s the stuff in between the soft stuff.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I mean, I, I started looking at a hierarchy of behaviors practiced consistently become habits, habits practiced consistently become skills. And because, you know, it’s never gonna be a skill if you don’t practice it. Right. But, but I think that we tend to want to diminish the importance of law, the soft skills these days just cause you know, people feeling so pressured to, you know, do a certain quantity of activities and so on.

And, and it’s like, okay, well how do we, how do we train people to slow down? Cause this is, this is to your point is so right as selling has to be a deliberate act. If you’re just scripted and just reading off the script and just trying to follow the playbook and you put any thought into it. You’re not gonna get anywhere. Right. So you have in, you have to be in the moment. Yeah.

Victor Antonio: It’s hard to find, you know, the thing is, is you’re pointing out, you know, you’re under a lot of pressure to hit those numbers, make those dials, get those meetings set up. Right. You know? And so all of a sudden, that’s, that’s what you’re being measured on. this morning I was, I was writing up a podcast when I was talking about measuring the wrong KPIs. Because when you measure the wrong KPIs, you get the wrong results. And also salespeople are not stupid. They know how to gain the system. If you’re going to measure me on the number of calls, well, hell I’ll just call anybody. If you’re going to measure me on new client acquisition. Well, hell I’ll just get a bunch of clients.

I don’t care about the quality. And, and so, you know, sometimes we’re focusing on the wrong things, those activities, because we believe they’re tangible, they’re metrics, let’s measure those. But the unintended consequences are always there as you well know.

Andy Paul: Well, so I’ll ask you an interesting question or I think is interesting question. This is my show. I can, I can ask it is, to that point. That’s quota and outdated metric.

Victor Antonio: That’s a really good question. That’s a really good question. I would say no, because, I believe that there has to be some type of aspirational goal to go after. Right. But. I would also allow some, I’ll call this a, a ventilating modifier to let it mentally a little bit in other words, allow for other options.

And that is we could argue that I’d rather add more concerned. And again, did another podcast on this where sometimes we’re so short term that we’re not looking at the customer lifetime value. So then I would argue that maybe quota isn’t important and maybe customer lifetime value is a bigger metric to look at.

For example, in my new book, I have a new book coming out is called Upselling is the New Prospecting upselling to your existing customers. And so in there I highlight how Starbucks has a 20 year lifetime value. So they’re not looking at the immediate number, so to speak. They’re looking at 20 years worth of possibilities here.

And to your point, I think a directly you’re asking me, Victor, is it, are we looking at now numbers every year? Or are we really looking at the business as we move forward? That’s why I think there’s an argument to be made that on one hand, quotas are important, but is customer lifetime value more important over the long run? And we could have another debate on that, but I think both are valid depending on the industry and the business.

Andy Paul: Yeah, i’d have you think about, we can talk about this another time, cause they’re gonna

Victor Antonio: but it’s, by the way, it’s a great question though. It’s a great question though, because you’re, you’re, you’re, you’re challenging. One of the, you know, one of the,

Andy Paul: Central tenets of selling, yes.

Victor Antonio: You are, you’re basically saying ha it’s, it’s almost like a very socialist idea. If I might throw in that because it’s like,

Andy Paul: I actually, I think it’s the opposite, right? I think that, I think that quota has become sort of this central plan and that suppresses performance and overall performance measured in terms of dollar sold. So, just to give you an example, a couple of points. One is, you know, it’s a British economist, Charles Goodhart, who formulated this law called Goodhart’s law and he did this in the sixties and there’s been studies on it, serve, proven it out, which Goodhart’s law says in short that when a measure becomes a target, it loses all value as a measure because what you do is you optimize your process to achieve the target.

Victor Antonio: Yeah,

Andy Paul: And so.

Victor Antonio: Like when the say the metric is the mission, the mission is, is no longer valid. You know what I mean?

Andy Paul: Just Same thing. Just a different way. And so what becomes self fulfilling prophecy? Right. If we have our central, you know, five year plan now, Soviet style and say, Hey, this is what quota is going to be. We know on balance people aren’t gonna exceed it because that’s what they’re aiming at. Instead of saying, what if we had a, my favorite example, this is what if we measure true productivity for sellers? So your productivity, you have a productivity factor. You know, you, you sell X number of dollars of revenue per hour of selling time. If I compensated you on you improving the number of dollars per hour sales time that you generated, there’s no limit to what you do.

Victor Antonio: Right, right. so you know, you you’ve seen the sales velocity equation, right? Take the number of opportunities multiply by the close rate multiplied by the average deal size divided by the sales cycle. That’s how fast you’re selling. Right. And that’s a metric you could use. If you could increase your sales velocity, then that’s another way of measuring that. So I do like that. I’ll do like, I, I love the, I love the question about challenging a quota. I’m with you on that. I, I, I’m going to really think about that. Then I go, you know, what would replace it and what would make more sense? A great question, Andy.

Andy Paul: Well also just one last point too, is to think about is, you know, what if sales cycles really aren’t a duration of time, but their quantity of time, their quantity of time. Your sales cycle is really not three months long. It’s how many hours did you spend in those three months engaged with the buyer?

Victor Antonio: Great point actually great point because you’re right. If we don’t measure it by, in other words, we switched how we measure it, as opposed to days we go hours that I I’ve never, I’ve never, I’ve never heard that. I’ve never heard anybody took

Andy Paul: right? The duration of time as an artifact. Yeah, it could be, it could be six months because the customer needs six months to go through it. But how much time did we have to invest during those six months?

Victor Antonio: Yeah. So in other words, it’s interesting because it’s a great match. It’s a really good, that’s a mind bender right there in a good way that from a seller stamp from a, the person buying, they have a sales cycle, how long it took, but really we should look at our duration of our investment of time, because from there, yeah. Cause in there we can also extract opportunity cost in case we’re working on the wrong

Andy Paul: And how effective we were in the interactions we had with the buyer and all that. So,

Victor Antonio: By the way too, to your point on the quotas and make it unrealistic quotas, you and I came from a space where people would give us quotas, Willy nilly.

Andy Paul: yeah,

Victor Antonio: know, just, you know, there’s just kind of came up with it. They had, they had a top number and they need a distributor to pull it out. That’s how I used to work. And I think the, the, the, the downs aside of that, well, there were many downsides, but one big downside was that if the sales person didn’t believe they could do it, there was no line of sight. So to speak, using a technology term there that they would actually feel defeated and give up and maybe even quit. And so churn rates and quota, you know, unrealistic quotas and churn rate. It’d be interesting to see what the correlation between those two are.

Andy Paul: Yeah. It’d be interesting. I’d bet you there is, right?

Victor Antonio: Oh, absolutely. I, I-

Andy Paul: I think quotas are still by and large arbitrarily set.

Victor Antonio: I agree with you. Cause every time I asked him, where’d you come up? How’d you come up with that number? Well, you know, we took this, we took the average of that

Andy Paul: Yeah. Divided by 10, took away 20%. And there we go. And they’re wondering why they’re not hitting their targets. So-

Victor Antonio: And so it’s, it’s this irrational exuberance to keep growing. I won’t say that if quotas are anti-gravity, they should never go down. They should always go up.

Andy Paul: Well, I had this conversation with CEOs that are as presenting to a group of CEOs at a private equity firm, you know, meeting of portfolio CEOs. And I said, well so raise your hand. If you’re going to raise quota next year and everybody raises their hands. That’s all great. Said. yeah, it was like 10% to 15%. We sort of did a rough average. That’s a great, so have you trained your salespeople would be 15% better this year. And there’s a correlation between raising quota and making our people better? Oh, no.

Victor Antonio: That’s interesting. That’s interesting. It’s I I’ve, I’ve used that before. It’s like, yeah. They’re like, what, what, what did you just say to me? And I’m like, yeah, that’s what I thought. But the answer is no, obviously they hadn’t thought about it. They just said, go get us more money

Andy Paul: Right. And no, no attention given to it. Well, let’s improve the asset that’s going to generate that extra revenue. So Victor, I’ve got to take off, but, that’s what fascinating love, love our conversation. And we have to make sure we do it again.

Victor Antonio: Yeah, we can, we come from the same space and background, so yeah, we’ll have to do part two. Again, we have to do part two. We got to go to the framework eventually.

Andy Paul: Yeah, Well, that’s true. We only got through the S of the smart, so we’ll definitely come back because I really enjoyed that. I think that those are the five key things cause skills, motivation, adaptability. Adaptability is huge. You know, we, we started touched on it several times here today, but adaptability is huge. Esepcially because we are so scripted these days that when they hit a moment where they need to be adaptable, they don’t know how to. So, alright, we’ll talk about that. Victor’s and great talking to you and we’ll be talking again soon.

Victor Antonio: Thank you, Andy. Appreciate it.