Mike Robbins is a former professional baseball player, motivational speaker, and author of an interesting book titled, “We’re All in This Together: Creating a Team Culture of High Performance, Trust, and Belonging.”
Now here’s the thing about this book. As I was reading it, I kept thinking, well, this applies to sales and that applies to sales. In fact when you think about it, successfully working a complex deal selling to an enterprise with a lot of stakeholders involved, is, in fact, an exercise in team building. On this episode, Mike and I discuss his 4 pillars for team building. Unlike in most books about team building these lessons are not just for leaders. It’s really about what you can do as an individual to be part of team. How your contribution helps to build the culture of the team. We also dive deep into the need for authenticity and vulnerability in our communications.
Andy Paul: Mike Robbins. Welcome to the show.
Mike Robbins: Hey, thanks for having me, Andy. Glad to be here.
Andy Paul: Well, it’s glad to have you, so you’re joining us from where.
Mike Robbins: Yeah. I live just North of San Francisco in Marin County across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Andy Paul: Got it. Got it. And how’s, how’s things they’re quiet these days?
Mike Robbins: Quiet. Yeah. As, as it is in many places, but, uh, you know, looking forward to life returning to some sense of normalcy.
Andy Paul: At some point. And do you have kids at home?
Mike Robbins: We do. We’ve got two girls, 14 and 11. So an eighth grader and a fifth grader who’ve, uh, you know, learned how to use zoom and a lot of other things in the last few months.
Andy Paul: that amazing. So homework is same homework assignments I might have if they were in the classroom or how are they managing that?
Mike Robbins: A little different. I mean, they’re doing projects and different things, you know, definitely got adjusted, but, uh, you know, I have to say, I already had an enormous amount of appreciation for educators prior to this, but, uh, my, my appreciation is run runs even deeper. I think I saw in the early days is all the kids were at home.
I saw someone post on. On social media somewhere like teachers should make like 10 times what they make. I’m been homeschooling my kid for three days and I’m already ready to quit, you know?
Andy Paul: Absolutely. Not withstanding the fact that my stepdaughter’s a public school teacher in Manhattan, but, um, yeah. Yeah. They definitely, um, deserve more than they get, so, yeah. And they’re going extra, extra mile these days, all the videos about teachers, you know, doing the parades in front of students’ homes and yeah. Yeah. That’s a
Mike Robbins: It’s amazing.
Andy Paul: Essential workers on the frontline doing a great job. So-
Mike Robbins: it’s true. I mean, I think there’s so many different people in our society now that we have had such a deeper appreciation for what they do and how important it is and all of the different aspects of, uh, you know, what, what people do and how they do it and how important it is to make, make the world go round. So to speak.
Andy Paul: Yeah. Like people working in the grocery stores. I mean, here, here in Manhattan, it’s, it’s a, you know, sort of ground zero for the infection so far, it’s like, Yeah. Yeah. These, these people are risking their health showing up and working at these jobs that are hourly wage jobs and probably not much above minimum wage. And, uh, they show up.
Mike Robbins: I know. Well, and you think, I mean, if you go into, you know, be a firefighter or a police officer, or you go into the military or even, you know, into the medical profession, I mean, there are things people do knowing that I’m going to put myself at risk, but I don’t think when someone got a job as a, you know, a postal worker or a, you know, working at the grocery store, they thought that there was going to be some aspect of health risks by doing that in terms of, you know, putting their health and their life at stake. And here they are showing up to do it for us, which is remarkable.
Andy Paul: It is. Absolutely Graditutde is not strong enough for what, what these people are doing and keeping us fed. Cause just imagine what would happen in this situation if there wasn’t access to food. Um, yeah, it would be much different than the way where we’re treating and it’s bad enough as it is. So Well, we’re gonna, we’re going to talk about, uh, something somewhat related team culture. Uh, we’re talking about your book called together, creating a team culture of high performance trust and belonging, which you know, this whole idea of trust and belonging in our society today is, is an important issue.
Mike Robbins: For sure for sure. And you know, I’ve been fascinated by team culture and team dynamics for most of my life. We were chatting a little bit about this before we hit record here on the podcast, but you and I both had a chance to, uh, to go to Stanford university. I grew up here in the Bay area and actually played baseball, growing up as a kid.
I actually got drafted out of high school by the New York. Yeah. Didn’t end up signing. Cause I, well, you know, look, it was 1992. Um, You know, I was really excited to get drafted in by anyone, especially the New York Yankees, but, you know, education was super important in my family and I’d gotten into Stanford and Stanford had a great baseball program and the practical reality of baseball.
Is why you signed right out of high school. You’re going to spend three, four, five, even six years in the minor league before you get to the major leagues. If you’re lucky, if you’re good, if you stay healthy, it’s not easy to make it right. Even, you know, once you get drafted and signed and a place like Stanford.
Yeah. Such a good baseball program, it’s basically like spending three years. You know, at at least a ball, you know, if not even maybe close to double a ball and in the minor leagues. So from a baseball standpoint, you know, there’s a little bit of risk involved. You could get hurt or something bad could happen, but I knew if I went to Stanford and played while there I’d get a chance to play professionally, which I did cause after my junior year at Stanford in 1995, we went to the college world series, which was a lot of fun.
And I got drafted by the Kansas city Royals. And I did sign at that point. And, uh, went into the minors of Kansas city, unfortunately for me, and I got hurt when I was in the minor leagues, my third season, and I was a pitcher toward ligaments in my elbow,
Andy Paul: Oh, Tommy,
Mike Robbins: my arm out. Yeah, Tommy, John. And, but wasn’t able to come back cause I had had some other problems.
I tore my labor mid my shoulder and just. Series of injuries. Yeah, it was pretty much a mess from a baseball standpoint. That’s for sure. But the thing is I basically played baseball from the age of seven when I started T-ball until I got hurt at 23 and finally retired at 25 after a series of surgeries on my arm.
And I was super disappointed as you can imagine. Um, as I tried to figure out, like, what the heck am I going to do with the rest of my life? Cause this has been the focus of it. And even though I’d gone to school and gone to a good school, I didn’t really know what I was going to do next professionally.
But the thing that I had become most interested about outside of the game, by the time I got to Stanford. And then when I was playing professionally, as I was fascinated by team dynamics, because I was on some teams, sometimes they had really good talent, but the team wasn’t very good. Like, you know, egos and yeah, people are mad about their roles or didn’t like the coach, or didn’t like each other or whatever the heck it was.
But it was like the chemistry was off on the team. And then I was on some other teams where, you know, the talent was good, not extraordinary, but the team was incredible. We would like beat other teams that have better players than we did, which was like, well, how does that work? Because in sports, you know, you figure baseball, any other sport.
You figured. If we got the best players, we should have the best team, but that wasn’t always the case. And I erroneously thought this was a sports thing. Um, I get my first job, actually, a sales job in the late nineties, working in the.com world here in San Francisco Bay area. And I immediately realized, Oh yeah, this whole sales thing, this whole business thing is definitely different than sports, but that whole team chemistry thing that I thought was related to sports.
That’s not just a sports thing. That’s a human thing. We, we just call it culture in business, but it’s basically the same thing. It’s that intangible or those sets of intangible qualities that groups have that leaders bring forth that kind of bring us together and allow us to, you know, challenge each other, push each other in a positive way and bring, you know, get the most out of ourselves and one another, or have the opposite impact.
So, After a couple of years working for a few different internet companies in sales, I ended up starting my own consulting business about 20 years ago, and really wanted to try to study and learn and understand more about what is it that, you know, it takes for a team to really thrive. And for the last 20 years, the books I’ve been writing and a lot of the work I’ve been doing has really focused on trying to answer that question for myself and then for the leaders and teams and salespeople that I get to work with.
Andy Paul: What’s an interesting thing about the book. This book is that, um, It’s in my mind, a sort of raises the question is, is of where are the, the shared responsibility is where the line is drawn between the leader, having responsibility for creating the culture and the contribution of the individuals.
Mike Robbins: Yeah, well, it’s a good question. I mean, you know, the, the, the title of the book and the focus of it is we’re all in this together. And I think, look, even in really competitive environments, which a lot of people listening to your show, I know, or, you know, they’re competitive salespeople. They want to produce results.
They may have leadership positions or not. But the thing that’s interesting is I’ve always believed that it’s both, obviously if you’re in a leadership role, Um, again, this could be at work with your team, but this can also be in your family. And in any, like, of course, it’s part of your responsibility to think about the culture, you know, how do I lead?
What are the values that I have the larger values of the company have that like, right. However, Really strong cultures. Ultimately everyone takes some level of responsibility for the culture itself because any culture is just made up of a group of individuals, choose to buy into something bigger than themselves.
And that’s the thing. I mean, and even though we all understand culture and most of us have had at least some experience in our lives being a part of teams that had that, you know, good, strong chemistry. It’s more the exception than the rule, quite frankly, but when it happens and when we can sort of.
Crack that code, if you will. It’s extraordinary for everybody involved. I often will say to people, look, even if you literally don’t care about anyone else, but yourself and your own individual performance, it’s actually in your best interest to be part of a good team, because we all know that success is contagious.
And when you’re on a winning team, whether it’s in sports or in sales or in business, It not only makes you better and it makes you more valuable. I mean, think about it just in sports terms, you take a mediocre player in the NBA or in, you know, soccer or in baseball or in any of the sports. Right.
Mediocre. And I say that with quotes, obviously every professional athlete is extraordinarily talented, even if they’re mediocre by pro pro sports standards, but you take that mediocre player and they are on a championship team versus that same medium player on a mediocre team or a not very good team.
The one on the championship team is more valuable in the sense that they’ll literally sign a bigger contract the next time around, because why they’re on a championship team. Like they have some intangible quality or at least the perception is they, do they know how to win? They’ve been around that before.
They’re going to bring something to them, a locker room or to the team. That’s more simply than just their skills, but it’s true in business. It’s like, you know, you work for a great company with a great brand or even inside of a company. Your team, the team that you’re a part of is really producing results.
All of a sudden they’re like, Hey, I want that guy, Andy, on my team because he’s obviously, you know, knows how to win. They’re winning over there. Let’s hire him. Let’s bring him in.
Andy Paul: But one of the key things. So in that environment though, is that individual has to understand, and this is what I think the savvy professional athletes do is that they understand that they may be signing a bigger contract. They may have been on championship team. But they understand they’re still mediocre.
Mike Robbins: Yes. You got to have some self-awareness right.
Andy Paul: and they, so they know that their role, the good ones know that the role is when they go to that next team to be mediocre. Again, that sounds so a negative it’s. They are at their best. They’re not as good as some other people. Right. And let’s talk about that way.
And so in sales the same way as that yeah. You may be on a great team and you may. Say, Hey, I’m performing to the best of my ability. And then you get recruited to go to another team. Another company I’ve seen lots of sellers make this mistake. They think, well, I’m really good. And you know, they take that big offer to go jump up to the next level, perhaps at another company, not understanding their strength is being part of a team.
Mike Robbins: It’s true. It’s really true. And I think a lot of times what happens is look at, I mean, we see this a lot. We’ve all seen this in sales, but also in the economy, right? It’s like, we’re never quite as good us individually. And even collectively as we are when the economy is roaring and we’re never quite as bad as when the economy’s in the tank, because again,
Andy Paul: as good when I worked for that really hot startup that’s them that the products is flying off the shelves.
Mike Robbins: Well, you know, it’s interesting. I remember. So my, so my initial experience in sales, I was telling you this before we got started with the podcast, like I went to go work for a company called 24/7 Media in 1998. Basically we repped about 600 websites and we sold there. You know, banner ads for them in those days, it was the early day of on online ad sales. But we, you know, we had sites like MapQuest and others that we, you know, so we’re calling up ad agencies and you don’t want, and you could buy just the one site or a whole channel that was in a certain category or the whole, the whole network. And, um, I didn’t know much about anything. I worked there for about a year and a half, but the dot com boom was happening and I was making some money and I was figuring some stuff out. Then I went to go, I took a job working for a small sports website based in Seattle. Called Rivals.com. And I was like, Oh, this’ll be better. Cause I know about sports and I’m a former athlete. What I found though, and didn’t realize it was a really hard sell because I was competing against ESPN and CBS SportsLine, which were the two main sports websites at the time that people were watching, nobody had heard of rivals.com.
They didn’t know what it was. And it was a really hard sell. I didn’t realize that I took the job because they paid me more money and gave me stock options. And I thought, Oh, I know how to do this. I was 26 and I knew everything and I’d worked for a year and a half. And, but it was humbling because I realized like, Oh, Sales is yes, you have to have skills. You have to know what you’re doing. You have to have good relationship skills, but like what you’re selling actually matters. I mean, it was a pretty basic realization, but for me it was a really important one because I hadn’t really thought it through in terms of what does it take to be successful. And there are so many factors with respect to the team, to your point being part of a good team, being part of a group.
Where you trust people and you can count on each other. You know, I had a really interesting, very simple experience with my very first job. I remember being at the holiday party. I mean, this is back. It’s like holidays of 1999 and the sales team that I was on Andy, we sat on the second floor and then the tech team, which we call the traffic department.
They were basically the ones that, you know, I’d sell the ad campaign and then they had to go implement it and actually make it work on the site. Which of course, none of us salespeople, most of us definitely me. We’re tech savvy enough to know how the heck to do that. So thankfully we had these folks who could do it, but most of the sales team were constantly complaining.
About the tech team and the draw there, they blew it and they screw it because if they didn’t get the campaign up or there were tech issues with it in 1998, 1999, there were a lot of technical challenges. Um, we didn’t get paid. The client was unhappy because their ads didn’t run and then we didn’t get paid.
And so I kept hearing my fellow, you know, salespeople constantly complain and I was having this weird experience. That I wasn’t having nearly as many issues as a lot of the guys I was, and it was mostly guys that I was selling with and I kind of superstitiously didn’t even want to say anything about it.
Like, there’d be an issue from time to time. I’d pick up the phone or I’d go upstairs and talk and try to work it out. So we’re at the holiday party and all the sales people are sitting around with each other, drinking and hanging out and all the tech folks is kind of separate. And I walk over and I’m just chatting with a few of the folks from the tech team and they look at me and they kind of look around and they say, “Hey, Mike, do you want to know why we always put your campaigns up first?”
And to try to take really good care of you and I’m like you do. And they said, yeah, do you wanna know why? And I said, yeah, sure. And they said, because you’re kind to us and you say, thank you. And I was like, what do you mean? I was like, “Do people not do that?” And they were like, no. And then they started just sort of complaining about all these guys I’ve worked with. They were jerks and they were this and they were arrogant. And I was like, Oh my goodness. And I realized, look, this tied back, Andy, to my, to my days, playing sports when, as a pitcher, right. I learned early on if I was good to my teammates, now, most of them I was friends with, but some of them weren’t my favorite guys, but if I was good to them and I gave it everything I had when I was on the mound, They were more likely to be engaged in play hard behind me.
Like it was this intuitive thing that I had. Like they were going to die for balls in the hole. They were going to go the extra mile. Like I watched it happen, the pitchers, the other pitchers who had bad attitudes and were constantly yelling at the second base. And when he missed the ball and didn’t turn the double play.
Like it turned into this contentious thing and just sheer out of like, I was not six foot five and I didn’t throw 95 miles an hour. I was like, I need every advantage I can get. So I want to be a good team player cause A that matters to me, but be the guys behind me play better. And I can’t tell you how many times over the course of my career, my fellow pitchers would get mad at me cause they’d be like Robin, you get so lucky. They make diving catches in the alleys and I’m like, listen, maybe it’s luck. But I swear it had something to do with the fact that I actually care about the relationships and I want to make sure. We are all in this together because I knew like unless enlist threw a no hitter and struck everybody out, which never happened in my career. I had to count on my teammates in order for us to be successful. And for me personally, to win the game. And again, I’m not trying to sound all holier than now. It’s not like I’m never a jerk or I know. Right. But again, I just think, you know, being kind and being considerate and caring about people in sales and business in life, in sports, like it benefits us.
And it’s not about a popularity contest and having everybody like us, it’s really about trying to get in the, in the. Minds and in the hearts and in the shoes of other people and think, well, wait a minute, how would I want to be treated? Or how would I want this to be handled if I were them? And that goes a long way in terms of as being successful in sales.
Andy Paul: Oh, absolutely. And I surf it makes me think of this concept. We talk about in the book, um, negative competition and where this idea, those a scarcity of something, right? It could be a scarcity of recognition, a scarcity of praise, a scarcity of time thing that makes, makes people on the team act badly. Right?
Cause they think that they have something to protect us is the boss doesn’t have enough good words to go around for all of us. So I’m going to take the good words I have or try to compete for those good words and make sure you don’t get any.
Mike Robbins: Totally. I look, and it happens a lot in sales and sometimes what you have to look at, if you’re a sales leader and you have the ability to manage the comp plan or the way that, you know, things are distributed or the regions. Cause sometimes just by the nature of the work, if you and I are in a really competitive industry, um, and w it’s set up in a way that we are actually competing for a scarce amount of resources or clients or deals or whatever, most of the time, that’s not the case.
And so negative competition is when we compete against each other. And I want to one up you, I want to beat you so that I win and you lose. Now, again, we live in the real world. Sometimes I am going to win and you’re going to lose, or we’re both going to go for the same job or the same deal or whatever.
And only one person is going to get it. The reality is if you can create an environment where there’s healthy competition, healthy competition, and in looking in sales, it’s set up that way. We are going to be somewhat competitive. That’s the nature of people. Usually they go into sales and we’re motivated by some external factors of wanting to produce results.
And of course, I’d rather be the number one sales person than not if I can, but positive competition is when we compete with each other so that we push each other and it brings out the best in us one.
Andy Paul: a level playing field though, too, it’s then this is this the thing that when I was reading through the book and thinking of the sales examples, this is like, you see this all the time and sales is that sales leaders. Thanks. Well, I don’t have enough trust or confidence in John over there.
So when a good lead comes in, I’m going to give it to Jennifer. And then you set the stage for the serv vicious cycle of, yeah. John doesn’t get the same opportunities. If he was given the opportunities, perhaps could actually improve his performance and be worthy. And the manager’s eyes of getting more opportunities, but they’ve made the decision.
That’s not who he is. And therefore it.
Mike Robbins: right. Well, and, and look, I mean
Andy Paul: competition.
Mike Robbins: it, yeah, absolutely. And in that scenario though, I mean, you can, you know, this as well or better than I do given the work that you do when people listening. But what, the other thing that I would say to that though, is it’s almost never perfect in terms of the level playing field.
One of the things though that I find works well for sales leaders in those situations, because at the end of the day, every sales leader. Started in sales themselves and is oriented around the goal that he or she has for the team, right. Their quota is now the whole team’s quota. And look, if I’ve got a team of five people and a lead comes in and I’m a sales leader.
And it’s set up in such a way that I’m not actually closing deals myself. I have to sort of fare at those out to the team. I’m going to give it to the best one. If it’s a big one, cause I don’t want to blow this. Right. Cause at the end of the day, I want us collectively to hit our goal. Cause that’s part of my remit as the sales leader that said though, if there’s a way to be.
Open about that, to be real about that. So again, if Susie really is the rock star on the team, and she’s going to get more opportunities than John, to your point, it’s not fair. Cause John might be able to develop more if he got them, but if I’m not giving them a John, do I have, I have the courage and the willingness to go have that, what I call sweaty palm conversation, with John to say, Hey John, listen. Here’s why I’m afraid to give you the big lead when it comes in. It’s not necessarily to be critical of John. It’s just like he needs some coaching. He needs some feedback. He needs some support. He also needs to know this is why this is happening. Cause most people can handle bad news if we’re, um, direct about it, if we’re respectful about it, if we’re upfront about it, what we often do is we kind of dance around it or we sugarcoat it or we justify it, or we do all the things we do as human beings. Cause like, look, I just want to get the deal closed. I’m just giving it to Susie. If John gets upset, whatever he’s got to get over it, you know?
Andy Paul: Well, I think it’s it’s yeah. The whole example is tied to a lot of things in the book, not just the sweaty palm conversations, because you know the managers, oftentimes when there we’re in that scenario where there’s not that unequal there, where there is the unequal distribution, excuse me, of opportunities. Let’s say our resources to support it is you know you talk about authenticity in the book is that level of authenticity is not present.
Mike Robbins: Right, right.
Andy Paul: On your scale that you have of, uh, of, uh, authenticity at one end, and then what was on the other end of that?
Mike Robbins: Well, it’s a continuum it’s like phony on one side authenticity on the other side in the middle is honesty. And I think one of the, one of the tricky things that look in, in life in sales specifically, what are we trying to do? We’re trying to get people to say yes, right? We’re trying to sell a product, a service, an idea to get people, to influence them.
And one of the things that we’ve all bought into myself included is that in order to get people to say yes to us, we have to say the right thing to get them to say us. And while there’s some practical truth and reality to that, what people respond to the most, especially in today’s world is authenticity. And what that means is the way I define authenticity is it’s honesty without self righteousness and with vulnerability. So we have to remove ourself righteousness and then add some vulnerability to it. Now we start to get into a realm where people can trust us. And at the end of the day, as important as you know, our sales cold quota or goal may be, or as much as we want to close a deal or, you know, really expand an account or whatever what’s going to allow that to happen is an ability to actually build trust. And over time, sometimes that means in the short term, we don’t get exactly what we want, or we don’t say exactly the right thing, or we don’t spin it the way, you know, but over time with that particular client or account and in aggregate of how we do business, we’re going to get way more deals and way more opportunities than not. If we’re leaning in the direction of authenticity, as opposed to constantly trying to figure out what’s the right thing to say,
Andy Paul: Yeah, which is sort of the way that the sellers are molded, right. Is to think that they’re part of a performance piece.
Mike Robbins: Right.
Andy Paul: And especially with when they become more scripted as we’ve seen over the last 10 years, because we’re relying on technology to do things on a mass scale is, is, you know, people want a recipe. I want to sell. I want to follow a script on this, which doesn’t connect at all with the buyer because I sense that it’s not authentic, but as if even get beyond, though, I think this is, this is the other part. Cause I liked the part you wrote about self righteousness is that, you know, you define as the st ofor conviction that I’m right and you’re wrong. You see that so often in sales, where, where people make it more about the product they’re selling, then the connection. And therefore, if I know this about my product and you say, well, yeah, I’m not sure that’s exactly right. If you don’t have the context of the relationship and the trust, you can’t have what the sort of telling in the other part, you just talking about, you know, that sort of sweaty palm conversation with the buyer where you can honestly have that conversation about., Well, yeah, but let’s dig into that. You know, I’m going to chat, I’m going to challenge you on that.
Mike Robbins: Absolutely. And I think, look there w part of it is we got it, depending on what we’re selling and who we’re selling to, and our own personality, all of those things go into the mix. You know, I think if something, a couple of years ago, we needed some updates with our website and some tech stuff that we, you know, and I was looking for someone to partner with, and it’s not my favorite thing. And I don’t like doing it. And my team knows I get all kind of been out of shape, but whatever, it’s, that’s a separate issue, but we get on the phone and we’re talking to some different people and this guy comes on and he was really highly recommended and he’s really good.
And yeah. And he gets on the phone with us and he starts telling me all the things that are wrong with the website and what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. And like, none of what he was saying was untrue. You know what I mean? It was, it was resonating like he’s right. He’s right. He’s right. He’s right. But the level of self-righteousness, I literally stopped him and was like, okay, hold on. Time out. I can’t listen to this anymore. I’m getting defensive because like, you know, and I, and I actually, they gave him some unsolicited advice from me. And I said to him, I’m going to stop this. We’re going to end this call because I’m done. And in the future for, if you want to talk to me again, or I would just offer this to you, you might want to spend a little bit of time, like connecting with me first and actually asking me what I want and what I’m interested in before you come in telling me all the things that are wrong, because the natural human response to self righteousness is defensiveness. It’s just the way we’re wired. Most of us that when someone comes at us, even if what they’re saying, there’s value and truth to it, it’s like, you know, our guard goes up. And so we have to be careful that sometimes there’s an approach and I’ve seen people do this and sometimes it can be effective if you will, but to come in telling people why, what they’re doing is wrong or why the other solution they have is wrong or why their competition is wrong. It’s just, you know, it can get people’s attention. But ultimately what you’re going to do is have people on guard, defensive and upset as opposed to. Open and really sharing with you where they’re at and where the pain is and where they need help, you know, because ultimately look again, you know, this as well or better than I do getting people to say yes is a process is a psychological process as much as anything else, but it’s ultimately getting them to open up and be real with you about what the real challenges they’re facing and how, what you might have can help solve that. And the only way to do that authentically is if we go in and sort of open up a little bit first. That’s how we are as human beings. We’re relational creatures. So if I want you to open up with me and tell you what’s actually going on and where some of the pain or challenges, I gotta be willing in some way, shape or form to do that in my own way, appropriately with you as we’re having that conversation, if we’re going to get there.
Andy Paul: Right. Well, this guy you talked to us is he sort of confused the point and you see this again. All the time is that you can believe something is right, but you know, it’s okay to have a point of view,
Mike Robbins: Yeah, absolutely.
Andy Paul: want you to have a point of view. That’s one of the
Mike Robbins: For sure.
Andy Paul: to you is you have a point of view. It’s just, yeah. How do you express that point of view? And it’s to your point is, is you’re going to come in and just say, well, based on what I know, you’re bad, you’re wrong. And as opposed to, yeah, we build this connection and we’re gonna, we’re gonna talk honestly and forthrightly about these things and I’m going to express my opinion,
Mike Robbins: Yes.
Andy Paul: But we’re going to do it in the, in the context of we’re building this relationship, this connection that’s going to lead to trust as opposed to sort of saying, yeah, right up the top, this is what’s wrong with what you’re doing.
Mike Robbins: Right. Well, and that’s the different, the difference between self righteousness and conviction, self righteousness is I’m right. You’re wrong. Conviction is I believe this to be true. I’m willing to speak up about it. I have a point of view. However, I have enough humility enough self-awareness to realize a couple of things.
First of all, it’s possible that I’m wrong. Even if I don’t think I am. I mean, it’s possible. And there’s also very likely there’s other ways to look at this thing that I can’t currently see. We’re all biased by our own experience, by our own worldview, by our own identity and background. That’s fine. Again, to your point, people want you to have a point of view, but I think if we have back to the earlier conversation about the mediocre player, knowing that he’s mediocre, we have to have some self awareness about ourselves that like I’ll even say when I have really passionate opinions about something and I’m coming on very strongly, even in the moment, I’ll say, okay, hold on, let me calm down for a second. I get really fired up about this stuff. Trying to express to the person that I’m talking to you. Like, I know I’m getting really animated and excited here. I don’t mean to freak you out or stress you out. I’m not telling you if you don’t agree with me, you’re an idiot or you’re wrong. I’m simply just, this is how I passionately feel about this, or think about this and people want that and like that, but again, it’s a fine line. And when we’re being self righteous, we don’t think we’re being self-righteous, we just think we’re right.
Andy Paul: Yeah. And I think also it’s important to distinguish between humility as most people sort of think about it. Sort of the humble , It’s actually it’s intellectual humility, right? It’s not just the facad that yeah, I’m a humble guy. It’s that I really believe that yeah, there’s a possibility I could be wrong here and I’m willing to listen and learn. Cause that’s part of the reason I’m here talking to you as a potential customer.
Mike Robbins: Absolutely. And I think it’s really healthy to be able to challenge our own assumptions. I always look, I mean, I do a lot of selling in my own business now, you know, just as I connect with and I’m, you know, these days talking to CEOs and executives of really big companies that, you know, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I have some confidence in my ability and what I’ve done and what our team does and what we provide at the same time though and I think in some ways I’m grateful I started doing this as young as I, as I did, because I did have a real beginner’s mind in those days. I have to challenge myself now and catch my own arrogance thinking well, I know, well, I’ve been around well, I’ve seen because the truth is I try to bring a growth mindset to what I do as much as possible because I learn as much from my clients as I think they learned from me in a lot of cases because they’re experts on their business. They’re experts on what they do. My job in the work that I do when I come in to speak or consult or work is like, I know things about leadership, about teams, about culture, about a lot of the stuff that I’ve studied in research.
But I’m the first to admit when I sit in a room with a CEO and his, or her executive team, I don’t know what it’s like to be them. I’ve never had those jobs or those roles. You know, even spending a couple of years in sales, when I talked to like a chief revenue officer for a big company in Silicon Valley, like I have no idea the amount of pressure that person’s under, personally,
I can empathize with it. They can tell me about it. I’ve heard a lot of stories from people like that, but I’ve never sat in that seat. So I think again, having that sense of a lot of times when we’re selling, even if we’ve sold what we’ve been selling for a long time, and we’ve sold to a lot of different people, similar to the people we’re talking to. We don’t know exactly what it’s like to be them and so that can bring us to the table from the standpoint of, let me share with you, what I have to offer that I think is going to be really helpful, but I love to learn from you about what’s going on for you. Not so I just, so I can sell to you, although that’s what we’re doing in this moment, but so that more effectively I can serve and support everybody that I work with.
Andy Paul: Or just get smarter on your own. I mean, it’s, it’s both, both things are important, right? Yeah. And I think that’s, that’s really a critical thing. We talk about, you know, sales being a sort of educational process. We’re educating our customers.
Mike Robbins: Yep.
Andy Paul: Yeah. I’m with you. I mean, I’ve, I’ve had several clients over the years where it’s like, alright, I feel, cause I guilty they’re paying me because I’m learning so much from this guy.
Mike Robbins: Totally.
Andy Paul: It’s like, yeah. Wow. This is hardly fair. I’ll take the money though. Um, because they are, they are getting value for it. Absolutely. But, but yeah, it’s just like when you’re selling to someone you should be learning as much as, as they’re learning from you. I mean, if it’s too out of whack, it’s going to be separate problem in the relationship.
Mike Robbins: Absolutely. Well, I also think, look, sales is one of the most vulnerable professions that we can be in because we’re putting ourselves out there. We’re hearing a lot of nos getting a lot of rejections. You can’t really hide. I mean, the upside is again, not only can you make some money and have some impact and move along.
You know, you also know what the goal is. It’s really clear when I talk to people, salespeople about folks who are in non sales roles. Like again, not to disparage it by any stretch, but imagine if you’re in finance or you’re in HR or you’re in legal, or even have a, you know, a, an engineering tech job as engaging as those that work can be, it’s harder to determine, am I doing a good job or not?
In sales kind of like in sports, it’s sort of. Cut and dry, at least in terms of the result, here are the numbers. The numbers don’t lie for better or worse. Now, again, the numbers don’t tell the whole story, but here’s my goal. I got to hit the goal or exceed the goal. Great. Or I don’t hit the goal and oops. And you know, it’s scary because we can’t hide from it.
And it’s like the constant scoreboard. But for a lot of us, myself included, I actually like that because, because the numbers aren’t personal, the numbers aren’t, uh, ambiguous, the numbers are just the numbers. They’re just the scoreboard. They’re not the game, but they tell me a lot about the game I’m playing and do I need to focus in a different way in how I’m playing or adjust it in some way or not. It’s just constant feedback. And so the reason though that I say that is because in working with a lot of salespeople and sales leaders and sales teams over the years, What happens is dealing with the vulnerability of sales, dealing with the failure, the public newness of it, even if it’s just you and your sales manager, who knows your number that can make people do some really weird things. Sometimes unethical, sometimes not all that friendly, sometimes not all that kind. And we just have to be aware of it because the hardest part of sales is not the selling often. It’s the dealing with the rejection and the ups and the downs of the whole process.
Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s both right. I mean, I think that, I think rejection certainly a big part of it, but I think that there’s been spending a lot more time thinking about this in the last few years. That’s just. We’re having harder time connecting. And so this rejection is to me, sort of like multifaceted it’s it’s yeah, it’s the rejection. Maybe we didn’t get the order, but then it’s not having the self awareness. You talk about to really understand that there was actually a sort of rejection on a personal level because ultimately I believe, and it’s been my experience over decades of sales of all types is that it’s ultimately about me.
Mike Robbins: Yeah, for sure.
Andy Paul: It’s a referendum about me personally. It doesn’t matter what the product is that I’m selling. Is that right? And so if, if I don’t get the order, I don’t look at it as well, you know, the product’s bad or the product doesn’t work or, or whatever. It’s like, I failed in some, some degree and I need to find out what that degree was.
Mike Robbins: Right. Well, and the healthy side of that is if we can do some self reflection to have some self awareness to look at, how can I make some adjustments? The unhealthy side is when all of us do this, some of us more than others, we take it really personally. And it becomes this again, indictment of who I am as opposed to, well, they just said no.
Do you know what I mean? And again, I don’t mean to oversimplify it because I’m about as sensitive as the next person. I hate hearing. No, you know what I mean? And like, I have stories I can tell you like, that guy said no. What, you know, I think at some level it really is, you know, it’s, it’s all the cliches in the world.
It’s the Wayne Gretzky. I missed a 100% of the shots. I never took phenomenon that we all know. And we’ve all heard in every sales training and, and sort of motivational speech you’ve ever heard at a sales meeting. People say that stuff. But the reality is, you know, how we orient ourselves and the mindset that we take is really important.
You know, one of the first sales leaders that I ever had said to me early on in my very first sales job, he said, Mike, how good are you at making friends? And I was like, uh, I don’t know. Good. I guess I could tell it was some kind of a weird trick question. And he said, well, good, he said, look, people don’t like it when they’re being sold to, he goes, but everybody likes making friends and people like buying stuff from their friends so just go out and make a bunch of friends and you’ll have a pretty decent time selling. And I was like, is that really it? And it was a little bit of an oversimplification, but for me, someone who’s oriented towards relationships. Like I’ve said for years, I don’t love sales, but I love connecting with people, which is genuinely true for me.
So when I connect with people and then if there’s an opportunity for me in the connection, of course, the context of the relationship is that I’m trying to sell something. But for me, it’s a lot easier to come from that place. When I go from sell some that I got, I got to hit this number. I put a ton of pressure on myself and I put all the attention on me, which is never usually a good thing because I’m not really paying attention to them.
Andy Paul: Yeah, well, and this, this all ties back to points we’ve talked about before is to make that connection, the vulnerability is really really critical, right. To build trust. You know, that oftentimes people think, well, if I can build trust with somebody, I can demonstrate vulnerability where they don’t really understand vulnerabilities the precedent to building trust, right? Because you have to take that risk. Um, my friend, Charlie Green writes extensively about trust and, and he uses this term bring a risky gift. You know, when you’re building a relationship, you know, what, what are you going to take a risk on from a vulnerability standpoint?
Mike Robbins: Yes.
Andy Paul: In order to build that connection with the potential buyer.
Mike Robbins: Absolutely. Absolutely. I mean, and sometimes it’s as simple as just, you know, the asking for the sale at times sometimes it’s the admitting something about yourself or sharing something about yourself. Sometimes it’s. Admitting you don’t know something or, you know, I often say to salespeople that I’m coaching, it’s like, look, it’s okay to screw up. People don’t expect you to be perfect. It’s how do you handle the screw up? And that same thing for leaders, you know, Oh, I can’t do that. Or I’m embarrassed or I hope they didn’t notice. Look, what’s even worse is when we try to cover it up and people realize like, Oh, he just, he or she just wasn’t telling me the truth. Again, most of the time people can handle the truth if we’re direct about it and we’re respectful about it.
Andy Paul: Yeah, well, it’s, I’ve told the story, so I won’t tell the whole thing again, but my first interview for my first job, uh, out of school in Oakland, I got it because I refused to try to BS the person interviewing me.
Mike Robbins: Really
Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, Asked me a question. I didn’t know the answer to, and I said, well, Hmm, I studied this at school, but it’s just drawing a blank. Can I find out the answer and call you back tomorrow?
Mike Robbins: Yeah. Great. And look, people appreciate that. It’s refreshing. Right. I was watching my, my family and I were watching a binge watching a show called Parenthood that my wife and I watched years ago when it first was on and we love it. But there’s a scene that we were just watching in this episode where one of the kids, she’s a senior in high school, sits down to have a college interview with a woman who graduated from UC Berkeley and she’s nervous and she doesn’t want to do it. And then she sits down and the interview’s going kind of not well at first and it’s awkward. And she looks at the woman and said, I’m feeling really nervous. And I’ve been trying to figure out like act, and I don’t really know how to act. And the woman said, Oh, just be yourself. And then she tells the story of her first college interview and how terrible it went and they start laughing. And then of course the thing ends up going incredibly well, but it was, to me, it was great example of sometimes in life, you know, the sales call that’s going sideways.
Can we turn that thing around by just being real with the person that we’re with or the people that we’re with. Cause I have often said for years, you know, as someone who not only does a lot of selling, but has been giving presentations for the last two decades, of course you can imagine there’s been a handful of them over the years, especially in the early days that were really bad.
But I learned a lot from some of those bad ones. And one of the things that I learned about giving a presentation in a room when it’s going poorly is that it’s not just bad for the presenter. It’s bad for everybody. We’re literally all in this terrible presentation together. Right. So I try to think of, have to suffer through it.
And in some way it’s like, look, the person that I’m trying to sell to, they ultimately do want to buy whether it’s from me or someone else and the person I’m giving the presentation to we’re all in that same room, in that same conversation together, even if it’s on zoom or Skype or whatever. So in a way, if we can think about it more in terms of where do we find common ground and where do we connect with each other?
If I’m a senior leader and I’m working with lots of people down through the organization at different levels. Yeah. We’re different in terms of our roles and our backgrounds, but we have that common ground as human beings. I mean, that’s the fundamental core of a lot of my work and research over the years with teams is just that when it comes down to it, people are more effective and successful when they’re able to connect with other human beings, human to human, as simple as that sounds.
Andy Paul: Core of my work as well. I mean, that’s philosophy runs through this whole show and the books I’ve written this, and I use the word and I’m glad you did because we’re so wrapped up on this note is, you know, the, the, the reason you will be vulnerable. And express some vulnerability is to find that common ground,
Mike Robbins: Yeah.
Andy Paul: You know, you may be talking to someone who, with whom you have sort of diametrically opposed positions on a number of issues, right.
And it could even be with having to do with what you’re trying to sell, but you can’t have a discussion unless you’re gonna establish some common ground. And the common ground comes from willing to be vulnerable about something, finding something that’s a shared experience. That, you know, shows this vulnerability and the other person can relate to and you can start the discussion around that.
And it builds outward from the common ground, as opposed to trying to say, I’m going to attack that, that position you have or challenge that position you have. We’ll start in the middle.
Mike Robbins: Absolutely. Well, even if we have similar experiences like you and I talking before we hit record on the podcast that we happen to have gone to the same college, even though it was at different times, we can tell stories and what we’re really connected, that is not as much the shared experience as more of kind of the shared emotional experience.
So I could talk to someone and we could be from halfway around the world, different places, different language, different races, different culture, different gender on and on and on and on and on. We look at each other and go, well, we’re so different. But if I’m willing to sort of lower the water line on my iceberg as a human being get vulnerable, we’re going to find some common ground because you know what. I may not know what it’s like to be them. I may not know what it’s like to do, what they do to be where they’re from, but I know what it’s like to be nervous. I know what it’s like to be excited. I know what it’s like to be angry. I mean, the human, emotional aspects of life, that’s where we can ultimately find common ground always. And if we happen to have shared experiences or shared interests or whatever, we can talk about a sports team or a band or a place we’d like to travel. Great. But those are a little more superficial. What we’re really trying to get to is that shared common ground, emotionally human to human.
Andy Paul: Yeah, no, that’s a great way to put it. And yeah, it was just, um, had interviewed on the show. Um, Jonah Berger, who has written a book called catalyst, uh, about how to change minds. And he, he talks about that. This is, you know, this, this emotional common ground you find with people. And he gave some great examples in the book from several political standpoint. But yeah, as is, if you can make that connection where you have that shared emotional experience, um, that opens the door and this is what you’re looking for in sales, as it’s not just a superficial, oh, I see, you went to X school. It’s and you’re looking for something that relates to what some, maybe something you’ve done and experienced.
You’ve had something you’ve felt that naturally what vulnerability is about. Right. You’re exposing your feelings, your emotions about something and establish that common ground. So yeah, I love the way you express that.
Mike Robbins: Thanks.
Andy Paul: All right. Well, Mike, unfortunately run out of time, but, uh, gosh, I got to about 5% of the questions I had lined up.
Mike Robbins: Sorry. That often happens with me. I go off on long tangent, so-
Andy Paul: That’s the way these interviews go. So for, or, uh, people to find out more about you and the work you do in your book, uh, where they can find that?
Mike Robbins: Best place is at mike-robbins.com/together.
Andy Paul: All right. And connect with you on LinkedIn and
Mike Robbins: Yep. All of the social platforms, LinkedIn, especially.
Andy Paul: Okay. Well, perfect. Thank you very much. And I will look forward to doing this again.
Mike Robbins: Thanks for having me.