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Salespeople as Entrepreneurs, with Susanna Camp and Jonathan Littman [Episode 882]

Susanna Camp and Jonathan Littman are the co-authors of an interesting new book titled, “The Entrepreneur’s Faces: How Makers, Visionaries and Outsiders Succeed.” It’s full of compelling stories about entrepreneurs, but what struck me was how it really is a guide for personal development. Specifically, for sales professionals. We are all mini-entrepreneurs in how we manage our patch, afterall.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Hi friends. Welcome to the show .I’m your host, Andy Paul. Joining me today as my guest star, Susanna Kim and Jonathan Littman.

All right. Let’s jump into it. Jonathan, Susanna, welcome to the show.

Jonathan Littman: Great.

Susanna Kim: Glad to be here, Andy.

Jonathan Littman: Thanks for having us.

Andy Paul: Pleasure. So this might sound like deja vu, but where have you been sheltering to the pandemic?

Jonathan Littman: San Francisco, right near the golden gate bridge over in Marine County.

Where. Not going into San Francisco very often crisis.

Andy Paul: Yes. I’ve heard of it. Yeah. All right, so here’s the question I’m gonna ask him, I guess recently we’ll get an answer from each of you. So what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic. We’ll start with Susanna.

Susanna Kim: We actually started a group called the reset club. We took a cue from Nassim, Nicholas Taleb, who tweeted one day about how the pandemic was forcing a total reset, personal professional and financial for all of us. So we gathered some of our friends and colleagues from our network and set up a monthly zoom call with them to talk.

About how we are resetting our lives and our professional careers in our outlooks during this time. And it’s been wonderful. We start with a prompt and we have some had some great conversations.

Andy Paul: So for you, what do you think that reset will be?

Susanna Kim: I’ve been studying instructional design. I’m getting a certificate at Harvard extension.

I have been thinking a lot about how we are all teachers. It’s not just a, the teachers in front of the class, or even the instructional designers creating that digital courses, which I’ve been doing. It’s there were many opportunities to create lasting enduring understandings that really help people to change their lives and keep learning as lifelong learners.

And writing is another one of those things for me and teach.

Andy Paul: At least I believe this is true in sales. I think it’s always been the case, but it’s certainly, I think it was more pronounced now is this to your point, is this need for becoming a continuous lifelong learner? If you’re not, you are going to get left behind.

Susanna Kim: Indeed.

Andy Paul: You Jonathan?

Jonathan Littman: We  had this little thing. We were actually up in Lake Tahoe and suddenly a shutdown of everything. And we had a book which we were coming toward a. Finishing the entrepreneurs faces are new book and the expert told us you can’t publish in a pandemic. Just forget it.

Andy Paul: People are, if they weren’t home, what do they have to do? But read.

Jonathan Littman: Well, because there was an election you might’ve heard, there was an election coming and a lot of times people will say, no, they’ll tell you not to try a new way to sell something though. Tell you to wait.

And we decided we would go ahead. We actually discovered to our, joy that more companies have been started in the last four months than the last 13 years. It’s a huge amount of new startups and new businesses. And it’s actually a great time to be publishing a book about being entrepreneurial.

And our book really is not just for entrepreneurs, it’s actually for salespeople and people who have a new product, they need to get out in the market.

Andy Paul: But to your point about the reset Suzanne is, yeah, I think this is an interesting time for people to take stock and. A lot of the lessons I think in the book are, yeah.

The book about entrepreneurs start a book about personal development, the guys, those stories about entrepreneurs. Cause I think it applies pretty widely in terms of how you take stock of who you are and what’s gonna bring you happiness and fulfillment and challenge going forward. Yeah, it is .

Susanna Kim: It’s a lot about the entrepreneurial mindset. How can you approach your life or your career or the task at hand with experiential learning learning by doing so the, all of the entrepreneurs in our book were, had to wear multiple hats as entrepreneurs do.

Switching back and forth between salesperson to business development, to leader and manager, to everything else that they need to do to keep up. Keep things going. Rob building a team to help fill in those roles with other people.

Andy Paul: I think it mirrors to some greater degree these days on perhaps a force is challenges just facing people during the pandemic, is a fear. A young couple of young kids, school-aged kids at home and you’re both have jobs and yeah, suddenly you’ve become a different type of business person. You’ve become an educator. You’ve, these other roles certainly got thrust upon you, and that requires a different perspective.

And tech support ever about texts apart, right? Yeah.

Jonathan Littman: And we have to break out of these old traditions, right? So if you find your office is now your home, you’ve got to come up with actually new rituals and new habits. W we think there’ve been a lot of bad habits that we know we’ve acquired.

And part of our reset club was searching for, better habits. And better techniques. And one of the things we really believe in is connecting with other entrepreneurial minded people. Because then you may find ideas for, your new offering, this new product you have, because you’re getting outside of your bubble, which now actually might be your living room.

Andy Paul: And for many people, I think it is. Yeah. All so just so we let people know, we’re talking about your new book titled the entrepreneurs faces, how makers, visionaries, and outsiders succeed and profile. 10 founders are moving through these seven stages you identified that are entrepreneurs. It’s our pass through in order to bring their eyes ideas to fruition.

And I said I really enjoyed the book cause I run it less as a book about startups and more about personal development transformation to some degree. And I think everybody started confronting that idea now. And to your point is, yeah. Are we going to go back and assume or resume?

Excuse me. It’s are the same habits we had before, or are we actually going to do something.

Jonathan Littman: Yeah, I think we’re going to do something different because we are, and because this is, we can see this is a year and a half to a two year with three year, phase right. Crisis and variably. And so habits changed during that time. And the big thing we discovered here is Suzanne and I both, we’re seeing this growth in startups, in San Francisco, and we realized there wasn’t one kind of entrepreneur. And we actually traveled a lot in Europe 15 different countries, and we found these different types.

One of the one that’s probably has something to bear very directly with the sales. Angle is the evangelist. But we have other great types, which we think bear, we call the maker, the prototyper, we have a type. We call the actor.

Susanna Kim: Maker prototyper is of course very needed right now during the pandemic.

That they are the ones who will prototype new things. We’ve seen all kinds of new products being developed right now from the new pain points that are popping up everywhere.

Andy Paul: Yeah. It’s certainly to your point about growth and startups. There’s always this correlation, I think that over time with extra economic disruption that frees people up to become entrepreneurial.

Man, cause quite frankly, a lot of people that. Lost their jobs, they furloughed or whatever,

Jonathan Littman: Maybe the only path, right?

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. It has. And I think for, to your point about startups is, people doing that and stuff, being a gig worker at some sort is take control.

Susanna Kim: Actually, we saw this in Portugal.

We spent a lot of time in Portugal, the past couple of years and became really close to many people in the ecosystem. There. I think that the U S and other countries could take a tip from Portugal in terms of starting off people with an entrepreneurial mindset, they of course, had to do it during their last financial crisis in 2011 or so, they actually were.

Under a sturdy nether measuring, they had a, the European union overseeing their financial status for awhile. And that, from that time, a lot of an entrepreneurship K gave took root. The entrepreneurs found that one thing that they could do was take their unemployment money as a lump sum to seed their startups.

And so a lot of new companies were born in a whole new movement in entrepreneurship. That’s still going strong today, especially now in the pandemic.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And I would imagine we’re seeing some of that here in the U S with people, the checks that they came from the government as well. So a question for you is cause a lot of this.

We talked about entrepreneurs, the talk and variably trends toward this idea of what successes. So for these entrepreneurs that you profiled what was success? Because I think this is another thing that is a survey result of an outcome for the pandemic is redefining these.

Some of these are fundamental terms we serve, talk about because life has changed so dramatically. Do we define success differently than we did before?

Jonathan Littman: I think it’s a great question. I think in our 10 entrepreneurs, we didn’t want to just have 25 year old, billionaires. We, we didn’t although many of them are very successful even in monetary terms.

I think they’re all successful in that they were bold and they had something they believed in. We have everything from a sort of restaurant tour who created the largest food truck parks in San Francisco in the world, very entrepreneurial he’s actually a conductor, a platform builder.

He doesn’t actually own a single restaurant, he created this platform and we have a young woman who, gave up a great career in TV at 25 and then went to singularity also here in the Bay area and was inspired to create really the first global platform to be able to work anywhere in the world to simplify the whole visa and a hiring process.

And I think the beautiful thing of these 10 individuals is. They had a, a dream of a specific, product. One guy got fired, which will, we were talking about this with a pandemic. He found himself on the street one day. It really happened that fast and he was a vice-president at Decker’s a big shoe brand.

And he had this dream of a different way of working, which we actually would advise people to check out it’s called a fluid stance. And he dreamed up this board that you can stand on a balancing board while working. And it’s not a toy. It’s very advanced then. We can talk later, but he had to do some amazing sales to make this happen.

And I think in each of these 10 stories the thing that separates them is they just threw themselves into these new products or businesses. And that’s really what the success was. There was monetary success, but the success was, it was so fulfilling the journey itself. Yeah.

Andy Paul: And I would agree. I think the reinvention portion of it really is, yeah, it was two points is what’s fulfilling.

I I look at my own career as I’ve. Laid out maybe seven or eight major reinventions throughout the course of the career, largely first half, largely in tech, in the Valley and yeah, renew company. I went to a completely different product. If an industry definitely had a. Fundamentally change what I understood about customers and selling and the products and the technology and so on.

And I think that this is Whitney Johnson on the show. We talk about personal disruption, and I think this is a piece is that, how people have a hard time taking the risk, taking the plunge. I’m just wondering what you saw with these people that, that was serving common in terms of their willingness to.

Susanna Kim: I think so we’ve been talking about the satisfaction of the personal journey and of the kind of lifelong learning if you will, and the fulfillment that comes from that, but there’s also meeting the customer’s needs. That is another level of satisfaction. Where people are out there.

They’re prototypes, they’re prototyping and iterating and changing their product to meet those demands of the customer’s needs. They’re filling in people to take roles, to actually help, to have a more diverse approach toward what the customer wants. And. Because if you build your own company by yourself all around to the idea of meeting a customer need, it’s probably not going to reflect a very diverse base of customers.

So you need the other team members to help you reach other pockets of users. And that feedback itself okay. Can be very fulfilling. When you know that you’re serving your community of users, you’re serving your community, your network of partners. And your, and also your

Jonathan Littman: Yeah. And let me jump in, we sure about a fifth of our book is set in Stanford. I think you maybe went to this university at Berkeley, right? And it’s in the D school, which is a design school founded by the IDEO founder, David Kelly. I wrote a couple of books in the past with IDEO. And salespeople would love this part of the book.

I think they might love all of the book, but this accelerated their it’s called launchpad. And it’s a college class. It’s 10 weeks and half a billion of value of companies have come out of this college class. And they nine years in the reason is they prototype selling. It’s very interesting because a lot of accelerators are prototyping pitching, right?

The idea you just pitch and you get money and there’s a happy ending. And we all know that’s a fantasy most of the time. Yes. And this professor, his name is Perry Claybin. Had created a company, a real product. And he really loved it. Crazy things, no shoes, anybody loved selling, any loved figuring out, the key value for a customer and then prototyping the price, the proposition.

We got to attend this for two years. This incubator in really what astounded us. It was so different from other accelerators. You’ve heard of the famous Y Combinator 500 startups here. He would make college kids who really couldn’t sell anything. They couldn’t sell actually lemonade and they actually have a whole exercise where they have to sell lemonade and they figure out.

If they create a better proposition, they can make thousands of dollars in an hour or selling lemonade. So they is one of the greatest incubators for selling probably in the world because they take this maker mindset and really think deeply about your customer and how you’re going to sell.

Yeah.

Andy Paul: It’s one of the ironies I think of in my mind of, Oh, I’ll just say broadly the SAS business is that so many of these companies are started in order to fundamentally disrupt the markets that they serve. And yet when it comes to pass the. Innovation stage and past the beginning stage, it was actually becoming more of a company and trying to create predictable revenue streams is that they basically default to selling the old fashioned way.

And I find this so curious, right. Is that Yeah, companies that are dedicated and created this idea of disruption default to using these really rigid compliance, oriented sales processes that, that had they thought or tried to use them at the front, it would never have succeeded. It becomes anti entrepreneurial and it’s I don’t know if you have any insights now that’s just an observation.

That’s just it’s crazy to me.

Susanna Kim: We do have some insights in that at least side. I do, I think we do together that sales, it can’t be an afterthought. It can’t be the thing. Like you can’t dream up a great product, but not think about how you’re going to get it to market and how you’re going to get it out there to customers.

We found it that when we went to two trade shows, say CES or web summit, one of the biggest tech trade shows in Europe, we would we, it to control thing, the pitch that we were getting from the young entrepreneurs in their booths. So you can’t really walk the floor and be pitched to again and again or your time will all be stolen away from you and you won’t actually end up learning anything.

We flipped it around on people in the booth. We would walk the floor and we’d, we would approach the booth and we would say, Hey, do you want to play a game? Usually they would, and we’d say, this will just take two minutes of your time. We switched the power dynamic on them and controlled their pitch.

And so what we would do is ask them four questions and these questions were, if you think of say a quadrant with a, like a letter in each one, first letter would be C for customer who’s your targeted customer. The next quadrant is P for pain. What is the pain that you’re trying to solve?

These are obvious startup questions, right? Sure. What’s your sort of special sauce of core magic your, of your product and what that it can’t live without. But then in that fourth quadrant sales, how are you going to get it to people? How are you going to achieve sales fast? And this is the question that often would made them make them fall down.

They would say, Oh we’re gonna, we’re gonna sell to corporates or, they just didn’t know. They didn’t have it worked

Jonathan Littman: It was amazing. It was just missing. It was just, they had no strategy. And as you pointed out, no innovation, no. Enterprise customers will just buy our product.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I’ve heard that dream anytime. Yeah, I think that. There’s a process innovation demand. I think that, there’s a lot of talk about how buying behaviors have changed and they have certainly to some degree in our really they have not perhaps as much as some people think, because quite frankly, humans, aren’t evolving, measurable over 25 year period and the way they process information.

But. You don’t get these innovative products people want to bring to market. Oftentimes. So I said in the most cumbersome way, and it’s like, all right, if buying behaviors really have changed, don’t we need to fundamentally change how we approach those customers and deal with them as they go through their process of making a decision.

Don’t get too far off the Mark, but in the conversation. That part. It’s right for right. For innovation.

Jonathan Littman: Yeah. I’ll just mention another character in our book. Alan Young and Alan Young is a guy would call a leader and he, attended Seth Godin’s alternative MBA program. And Seth Godin is one of these creative people.

I think you were talking about where. Alan was really learning about how to create buzz and how to market and ultimately about sales. And so after going through this nine month program, which was free, but he had to be like, one of a thousand, a 10 of a thousand people that wanted to get in, he got into Y Combinator, not because he believed in this startup that was joining because he wanted to learn their model.

And then he created his own incubator and. He actually sold, space in the incubator by creating buzz. So he had free events for all these, international entrepreneurs and people coming to the city. And in three months he had 300 entrepreneurs there. I think he had. 80 different startups.

And it was called runway. It was it is in the Twitter building. He did the same thing with getting investors, for this process. And after he did this model, he actually created a different incubator, which was all about sales because he realized that, when startups start to prove out their tech.

They do need more people, they do need to sell. So he created a completely different incubator around selling. And I think that is still missing in the world. That, that there’s a stage that a company moves to where it’s really about customers and customer acquisition, but there isn’t a really good creative, support for that yet in the world.

Andy Paul: I think where the gap exists. And I think we’re the innovation demand is we’ve used technology very effectively to. Create demand at the top of the sales funnel, if you will. And to get that level of initial level engagement with potential buyers where the gap exists and where the problem exists is from that point to actually getting an order.

And the way that takes place today is virtually the same as it was a hundred years ago. It doesn’t matter. This is through tech companies. I’ve worked that, that process of helping the customer understand what the problem is they’re trying to solve and helping them understand the alternatives and choose the one that’s going to help them achieve their vision of success.

Firstly on changed in a hundred years. And this is I think problem. Cause since centimeter is certainly a tech startups, or I’ve got a lot of familiarity and experiences is great products, but very ineffective in.

Jonathan Littman: The way they sell. It’s a great point. I think what we find with our research is that often innovation and entrepreneurship, and be limited in key elements of business.

And obviously we haven’t seen the same kind of innovation with sales as we have with design as we product development. Innovation and entrepreneurship is not universal, right? Yeah. And I think you’re hitting at something really important. There hasn’t been the same creativity and innovation in sales, as there have been in many other elements of startups.

And I think it’s ripe and there’s a lot of opportunity and people like yourself, and I think many of your guests hopefully are. Working at this we’d say that our type, the maker type and Susanna happens to be a maker here is a great time to start prototyping some of these new sales approaches.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Why would I go back to a comment in the book, which I really liked. And as in your awakening section, the first of the year seven phases, Is you talking about, this is adopting a mindset of discovery, which say it’s about character too. And I want to explore that because I think we spend way too little time talking about the importance of character in business.

And so tell us what you were thinking about when you were writing that.

Susanna Kim: We’re thinking about, we wanted to give a model to people that was missing. We had an empathy for our entrepreneurial community. Prior to her book the lean startup was and still is the kind of a Bible for people in terms of product centric approach to entrepreneurship.

Of course business model canvas is another framework that people can get around. But. With the re we, we felt that what was missing was the human centric approach. The model that would bring people narratives to learn from and other archetypes that they could study and embrace after they found their own.

So that’s self-awareness of what are you good at? What do you maybe not so good at? Where do you need help? This is how you build a team of the, a strong, diverse team to really get your venture moving and keep it successful.

Jonathan Littman: Yeah, we were actually talking I’m actually on another podcast the other day on a similar topic to someone who saw themselves as a visionary, which is one of our 10 types.

He was expressing sort of his frustration that his partners. I would think that he would talk too much and was wasting their time with his visions right. In meetings and in, in prototyping and brainstorming. And I think when you start to find your archetype I’m the athlete type for instance, you also start to have empathy and understanding for the other types and you start to realize what you’re missing.

And you’re better at listening to the other types. So you’re willing to listen to the visionary because they have this potential of a breakthrough in a new model that really isn’t in your bandwidth. I need the maker here, Susanna, because I can’t do these quick prototypes.

I might have an idea for one, but I can’t do the tinkering and the hard work. To test it. And when you go back to this question of character, I think there’s just a lot of power in finding your type or types. And it’s okay to be a hybrid and accepting that and going full in with who you are, but also realizing who you want to partner with.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Interesting. Yeah. We don’t go through life alone for sure. And whether that’s, as a salesperson, whether that’s a mentor you find or a peer that, that can help you, but you talked about, makers and so on. I think in sales, you. Everest are forced to some degree to be served from maker.

Cause this is ideas that you’d have to constantly experiment. And I think this is where the stagnation I see at least in the sales field, but also see in business oftentimes is that, is this lack of a willingness to really experiment. I mean it’s. I have this, one of the favorite quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson referred to for college was, it’s all, life is an experiment.

The more experiments you make the better. And I think that really captures it to a large degree is, and I think also through the stories of the 10 profiles and archetypes, your 10 entrepreneurs is. Is, they all experiment a lot. I think they all pivoted fairly significantly at one point or another as well, which is, I think is for me, the surrogates back to character and resilience and so on is that you’re going to have these challenges, but keep experimenting and be prepared to.

Jonathan Littman: The pivot. Yeah. And when you come to sales, so one of our grade characters is a fellow named UE Deagle. He’s actually a little older. He was going through the certain phase in his early fifties and he had this great new product and he’d always had success with Kickstarters and it was a sort of health-related product and he.

Failed in a Kickstarter. So here you have a sales effort, complete failure. And then he realized why it was a failure because it was a product to help people with disease, which is something that really hadn’t succeeded ever in Kickstarter. It was, quite a serious medical product. So instead of licking his wounds, he jumped on an airplane and he went to this famous web summit.

And he entered a contest. There were a thousand startups in it and he didn’t even know there was a prize, but he got on that stage. He shook Al Gore’s hand before. This is what a big event it was Al Gore was the keynote speaker. There were 12,000 people in the audience. Live right. And thousands more outside.

And he gave this amazing pitch and he won 50,000 euros. He didn’t even know. And he got this big contract. So here you have a guy who failed in his prototype, his experiments, right? Then didn’t you have. No more drama than that. He did it. He had plenty of drama.

Susanna Kim: Yeah. A lot of drama. And he, so he’s the character recall the evangelist and he, an evangelist really knows that this, you can just tell a story about your launch or tell it, tell a little story about who you are.

There has to be drama. There has to be conflict. And he knew this from the get-go with his pitch, which is, was why it was such a winning pitch. He was able to move people’s hearts around the idea that this product that he had made was actually developed for his brother who is a diabetic,

Andy Paul: It’s a refrigerator to carry medicines.

Susanna Kim: He had his insulin frozen, but the hotel staff, so somewhere where they were staying. And so they needed to create a product that was for people like him. Or also just people who had chronic diseases and needed refrigerated medicine. So that was what was a mini-fridge, but he really got that.

That the story is really the most important.

Jonathan Littman: Yeah. And he built up this company years before thinking about the story of it years before he actually be able to. Even sell it. And we actually call him Mr. Cool. Because he makes these refrigerators right.

Mr. Cool is now coming to the rescue actually for COVID and creating refrigeration to carry vaccines as we speak. Cause he has different products that, that cool. So his bags will be carrying vaccines in a few weeks around Europe. So it’s he’s a pure storyteller salesman. So I think that’s something we would maybe encourage your listeners.

Is that part of the story and people like that, there is this. This creative aspect of selling, which is, moving as Susanna mentioned, hearts and minds and figuring out things that are beyond, data and beyond, the obvious, product feature and benefit. And this guy is a master.

Yeah.

Andy Paul: That. At least based on my reading of his story is so intuitive, but he was telling a sort of specific story and is one that I emphasize a lot when I’m working with sellers is that there’s this emphasis on becoming a storyteller but these days everyone’s to give sellers stories, to tell and most effective stories, as you referred to us is the story of the person listening to you.

Yeah. If you can help them envision what success is for them. I was think back to this quote from John Steinbeck, he says, if the story isn’t about the listener or the reader, then they’re not going to be interested paraphrasing it. But I think that’s such a critical thing when you’re trying to do something new is you have to put the person on the frame.

Has to be their story of success.

Susanna Kim: It’s called the Woodfin, right? The what’s in it for me. Yeah. You need to actually put the user first and tell them why they need to care.

Andy Paul: Exactly. Exactly. All right. Unfortunately, we’re running out of time, but so people want to learn more about your book and connect with you.

What’s the best way for them to do that.

Susanna Kim: They can find the book on Amazon. So again, it’s called the entrepreneurs faces how makers, visionaries, and outsiders succeed. We also have a website, the entrepreneurs faces.com, which I, as a maker built. And I built a little, I built a little quiz there where you can find out your own type and then share that with us or share that with other people on social media.

And of course we’re on LinkedIn.

Jonathan Littman: Yeah, I’d add we write a lot, we’re writing for startup nation, a number of other publications. So we would like to tell more great sales stories. Maybe something to your audiences, we’d like to hear, a creative or just, or, heartwarming or successful sales story.

And we think it’s gonna be an amazing time in the coming months in terms of business.

Andy Paul: Excellent. All right, Jonathan Susanna, thank you so much for joining me.

Susanna Kim: Thank you, Andy. It was wonderful to be here.

Andy Paul: Okay friends, that’s it for this episode. First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to listen, ever so grateful for your support of this program.

And I want to thank my guests, Jonathan Littman, and Susanna Kim for sharing their insights with us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe to this podcast sales enablement with Andy Paul on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you listen to podcasts. And if you can also leave us a rating or review and let us know how we’re doing, we’d appreciate that.

No, you could do all that on your phone in less than a minute, as soon as this episode is over. So thank you for your help and thank you so much for investing your time with me today until next time. I’m your host, Andy Paul. Good selling everyone. .