Why Good Enough is Better than Perfection, with Edward Nevraumont [Episode 327]

Joining me on this episode is my guest Edward Nevraumont. Edward is a speaker, author, and consultant with a long track record of success at companies like Procter & Gamble, McKinsey and Expedia.

Among the many topics that Edward and I discuss are the battle between good enough and excellent (and why good enough is almost always better), practical tips to improve your sales with the information you already have in hand, and the value of responsiveness what you gain by making callbacks in seconds.

Key Takeaways

  • Edward came to Andy’s attention by writing about marketing — how it is being modified through Big Data.
  • Which is better — ‘good enough’ or ‘excellent’? What happens when we start to chase all the new, fancy things?
  • What kind of jump in sales conversions can you expect from setting your callback time to seconds, instead of days?
  • In Andy’s performance pyramid, what basic behaviors need to be present before skills will produce the desired sales results?
  • Only after you’ve run out of ‘good enough’ things to try, should you then try more complex and advanced things.
  • How do satisficers and maximizers come into play in the buying experience?
  • Why is it hard to be good enough?
  • When planning an email, is mediocre, but personalized content better than good, non-personalized content?
  • In complex sales, does the feedback cycle affect A/B testing? How can you shorten the feedback cycle?
  • How can specialized sales roles help improve feedback?

More About Edward Nevraumont

What’s your most powerful sales attribute?

Share, and give away, as much of my knowledge as possible.

What’s one book that every salesperson should read?

Everything is Obvious*: *Once You Know the Answer, by Duncan J. Watts

How Brands Grow: What Marketers Don’t Know, by Byron Sharp

What music is on your playlist right now?

Music from Hamilton, the musical

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul 0:56

Hello, and welcome to Accelerate. I am excited to talk to my guest today. Joining me is Edward Nevraumont. I put a little French twist on that, sorry. He’s a speaker and author consultant with a long track record of success with companies like P&G, McKinsey, Expedia, and my favorite, actually, Concord Confections, because they’re the makers of Double Bubble bubblegum. So Edward, welcome to Accelerate.

 

Edward Nevraumont 1:41

Thanks. It’s nice to be here.

 

Andy Paul 1:42

So did you get a lot of free samples when you worked at Concord Confections?

 

Edward Nevraumont 1:46

I did. The candy factory and the head office were attached in the same building. So if you ever wanted free gum, you could walk into the factory and pick free gum right off the line. 

 

Andy Paul 1:58

What does a bubblegum factory smell like?

 

Edward Nevraumont 2:00

Smells an awful lot like bubblegum. The first day I walked in for the interview, I walked into the building and it was just an overwhelming, powerful smell of bubblegum. And my first thought was, I don’t think I can work here. I don’t think I could work all day long with this powerful, powerful smell. 

But what’s interesting is after working there for a few months, the smell just went away. And it wasn’t that the smell went away, it was that your body just became used to the smell that you didn’t even register when you walked in the front door that the smell was there. I think our bodies just are so prepared to recognize unusual things, unusual smells that we don’t normally associate with. It just immediately put that smell in the background, and it was totally fine. But when I went in for that interview, it just was overpowering.

 

Andy Paul 2:47

Yeah, it’s funny how you get used to things. I remember early in my sales career, I was cold calling on some businesses in this industrial park. And I walked in the door of this one company. It wasn’t marked out front what they did. It was a generic name. And you walked in the door. It just about knocked me to my knees, how horrible it smelled. And they were making dog food, dry dog food. I don’t know what goes into it. But I was thinking I couldn’t get out of there fast enough. And yet, there are hundreds of people working there perfectly content.

 

Edward Nevraumont 3:17

And not just content. It goes away. It was amazing to me. It just went away. You wouldn’t smell it at all.

 

Andy Paul 3:22

Alright, so let’s jump into it. Take a minute. Maybe introduce yourself, and tell us how you got your start in sales and marketing and so on.

 

Edward Nevraumont 3:30

Yes, I sell into it a little bit. When I was in college, I was majoring in physics, not knowing what I was going to do with my life. And my housemate at the time was in commerce. And they invited him to these corporate events where you’d go and they’d give you free food and free drinks. I was a very poor college student. And he said, hey, you want to come with me and get some free food and drinks? And I said, absolutely. And during one of those sessions,it was Procter & Gamble. And they put on a very tight show. I said, hey, I’m gonna go work for these guys, and I did. 

So I spent three years at Procter & Gamble, another year at Concord Confections. I went to business school, spent four years at McKinsey helping out companies all around the world. It was a bit of operations and a lot of marketing. And then they moved into the online digital space in 2009. I moved to Seattle and led up a bunch of marketing for Expedia. I did that for a couple of years and then jumped to a smaller company called A Place for Mom. That was a private equity backed company. It was trying to be the Expedia for senior housing. How Expedia helps you find hotels for travelers, A Place for Mom would help seniors find new housing, assisted living or Alzheimer’s care, usually for their parents. 

And so I spent five years turning them around, fixing up their business, turning them around, growing them. And it was a ton of fun. So far in my career, every job I’ve had has been the best job I’ve had. Hopefully I can just keep that up.

 

Andy Paul 5:04

So what are you doing? You work for yourself now.

 

Edward Nevraumont5:07

I do. I left A Place for Mom earlier this year. And we successfully turned it around, and the work was done. And so since then, I’ve been working on a book and doing a bunch of consulting. Warburg Pincus, his company owned A Place for Mom. and I’ve been helping out their other portfolio companies a week here and a week there, sometimes more than a week. My travel schedule has gotten a lot worse for the last six months or so while I figure out what I do with my next thing. And it’s been a fun six months.

 

Andy Paul 5:43

So you caught my eye because of some of the stuff you’ve written. I do a lot of research online looking for guests and so on. And I came across some of your writing. And it’s like, okay, this is really interesting. Because you were somebody that’s really a skeptic or contrarian, if you will, about lots of the current hot trends in marketing and sales. So how did this come about?

 

Edward Nevraumont 6:05

So I come at marketing from a very data driven place, right? So again, I majored in physics in my undergrad. I double majored in Finance and PhD Quantitative Level Marketing in business school. I spent four years at McKinsey. McKinsey charges ridiculous rates to clients, and you can’t charge ridiculous rates and give your opinion. You have to have data to back it up. So I come from a very, very data driven place. 

And I think marketing is in that place right now. But it’s in the early stages of that place. I think in the 1970s, if you were in finance, you were a wheeler dealer. In the 80s, all of a sudden data came into finance, and it totally changed how finance was done. The same thing happened in medicine probably in the 1950s. 

Marketing, it’s happening now. Up until the early 2000s, marketing was very much a qualitative profession. People decided what colors were better based on feelings. Lots of, I call it, fake data was thrown behind it. Because what would happen is the CFO would say, hey, before you spend that budget, give me some numbers to back it up. And so we went out and did market research or we did conjoint analysis or we did any number of these analytical marketing things. And sometimes the math on those things was hard. 

But what wasn’t true is that these things had any relation to impact. Nobody did the actual effort to say, hey, does the segmentation work? Does conjoint actually predict anything? Does your business run better if you do these things? And instead, it was math for the sake of math so that you could impress people internally with putting some numbers behind things so you can get approval for your big budgets. 

And I bought into that a little bit because, hey, I’m a math guy, I love that stuff. But as I dug into it more, and as I spent more time helping companies, I realized that where our gaps came from, far less often it was a lack of math, and far more often, it was a lack of common sense and simple things. Rather than focusing on the newest, hottest thing and the math behind it, the answer often was get some of your basics right that you’re leaving on the table. And I’m happy to spend the rest of this conversation talking about examples of that. 

 

Andy Paul 8:36

Well, yeah, let’s do it. I was gonna run through some of the things that you’ve written about that I thought were really interesting, myths that you take on. And so one is you say, and you can bring up stories and the context I guess, is when you say that good is better than excellent. So what were you talking about there? Was it specifically about marketing? Or it could be about sales. It could be about anything.

 

Edward Nevraumont 8:56

It’s actually about all sorts of things. The pattern repeats itself many, many times like many things in the world. And so saying that good is better than excellent is a bit of a marketing statement, right? Because it’s catchy and so on. And obviously, better is better than not better in everything. But we don’t actually have the choice between being good and excellent. We have the choice between trying to be good and trying to be excellent. And trying to be excellent is oftentimes not as good a choice as just trying to be good. 

Because what happens is we can only do things. And we hope that those things lead to excellence. But oftentimes they don’t, and we get caught in the spiral of the things that we can do to lead to good are often very clear. The things that we can do to lead to excellent often aren’t. And so we try to do more of the things that lead to good, hoping that excellence comes, and it often doesn’t. Or we try to chase new fancy things, hoping that leads to excellence, and it often doesn’t. And that chasing of excellence often distracts us so that we all the stuff that we could do to lead to good, that we know what to do, we don’t do. And so you end up being in a worse place by trying to be excellent than just trying to be good.

 

Andy Paul 10:10

But without being too redundant on the words there, the road to excellence is not further down the path to being good. It’s almost like a separate path you’re talking about.

 

Edward Nevraumont 10:21

Oftentimes, and it depends what you define as excellent. So I’ll give you an example. If you want to be a professional tennis player, you have to be excellent. If you were the hundredth best tennis player on the planet, you’d have a really rough, difficult career. You need to be the best of the best in order to be a successful tennis player. Not just top 1%, top point .0001% before you’re really doing well and having a great career as a tennis player. 

So you can go across that route and try to become that point .0001%, but there’s no path to get you there. There’s a bunch of stuff that you need to do in order to have a chance at doing that. But there’s no guarantee that you’re gonna get there. And it’s almost a guarantee that you won’t. It’s a bit like a lottery, right?

 

Andy Paul 11:06

Even if you spend 10,000 hours.

 

Edward Nevraumont 11:09

Even if you spent 10,000. In fact, Malcolm Gladwell has come out to say something along the lines of that he was surprised that that meme came out of that book. He was not expecting that. He basically said, hey, 10,000 hours is the minimum you need. But 10,000 hours doesn’t guarantee anything. And he’s totally right.AP

 

Andy Paul 11:24

Spawned a whole other book with Jeffrey Colvin.

 

Edward Nevraumont 11:27

That’s right. Or for example, you could try to become a teacher. And so there you can put in tons and tons of hours and become the best teacher on the planet. But hey, the best top 1% teacher makes basically the same living as an average teacher or even a terrible teacher, the way that the union contracts are set up. 

But what if you did both? What if you became a top 20% teacher in the country and a top 20% tennis player in the country. You combine those two things together, and now you can become a professional tennis coach. And your career could take off, and you could be  excellent as a tennis coach even though you’re only a top 10% teacher and a top 20% tennis player. And by the way, both those things are things that any normal human can do. There’s no reason why you can’t put the effort in and become a top 20% teacher or a top 20% tennis player or both. 

And that’s a path that’s almost a guaranteed success if you work that way versus the other two. The path of becoming the top tennis player in the world is a lottery. And the path to becoming a top teacher in the world doesn’t get you very far. And so by becoming good at a number of things, you’re often better off than trying to become excellent at any given one thing.

 

Andy Paul 12:42

So one of the Huxley – it wasn’t Aldous Huxley – but one of the Huxley brothers back in London or England in the late 19th century said it’s better to know something about everything than know everything about something, right? So what you’re talking about, again, is the path the greatness is really by avoiding excellence

 

Edward Nevraumont 13:12

Or avoiding chasing excellence, I would say. I’ll give you another more concrete business sales example. Fortune 500 CMO came to me. It was actually more than the CMO. It was  sales and marketing. And he’s for one of these big companies where it sells a big, high price point product at the end of the funnel. And they need to do marketing in order to generate leads. This is common in a lot of businesses. They need to do marketing to generate leads. They hand it off to the salespeople, and the salespeople then try to convert into a sale. 

And his question to me was, how do I integrate these two better so that when a salesperson is working with a customer and that customer comes back to my website and starts looking around at a certain product, that information can be fed to the salesperson. So the salesperson can then have an intelligent conversation, reach out to that person proactively about the product they were looking at in the marketing website. He’s like, I have marketing technology, I have sales technology. They don’t talk very well effectively together. How do I make that happen? 

And so I paused for a minute and said, hey, that sounds awesome. That sounds like a great thing to shoot for. But let me ask you a question. When marketing first hands those leads over to sales, how long does it take for sales to call that customer back? And there’s a hesitation, a pause at the other end of the line. And he said, I don’t know. 

And so I said, before you start trying to solve these intricate integrations between these two different functions in your company and trying to find big data personalization opportunities, why don’t you start by calling your customers back? And I can guarantee to you that if your callback time goes from days to seconds, your conversion rate to a sale will go up. Not just by a little bit, but by a lot. Speed wins. I’ve never seen a business where if your callback time goes from a day to 30 seconds, your business doesn’t jump by at least 20%.

 

Andy Paul 15:00

You must have read my first book called Zero Time Selling. That’s what it’s about.

 

Edward Nevraumont 15:03

Yeah, it’s super clear. It’s a super clear thing. It’s obvious. It’s not super rocket science. But succeeding in that is not easy, right? Now you’re gonna have to get the tracking set up. Your scheduling is probably wrong, because people are calling people back when they choose to rather than when they need to. You need to create performance standards. You probably need a centralized call center so that you can get those calls to seconds. 

And then once you have a centralized call center, you may need regionalised or specialist people to actually handle the calls. And so you need to have a handoff program now between your centralized call center and the person who’s gonna actually close the sale. And maybe you need to triage the leads based on quality, so the best ones go to your best salespeople and the worst ones go to your worst salespeople. 

All of a sudden, you have all this work to do. But none of this work is rocket science. It’s all like blocking and tackling and what I call being good enough. But the problem is that stuff sounds a little boring compared to big data, personalization, having your marketing information fed dynamically into your sales funnel to personalize the message and automate, and reach out, and all these different other fancy things you could be doing. 

Those things matter maybe, sometimes. I’d want to AD test them to see if they’re going to help or not. But definitely don’t get distracted doing that when you haven’t got your basics figured out yet. And most companies haven’t.

 

Andy Paul 16:28

So I guess to the point, I have a pyramid I talk with companies about. There’s three levels to the pyramid. The bottom is behaviors, the middle is habits, and the top is skills. You need to focus on behaviors and habits. And if you do that, then you’re more likely to generate the results you want than this focus specifically on excellence in skills.

 

Edward Nevraumont 16:49

Sure, or processes or whatever you want to call it. But figure out what the basic drivers of success are, and they’re usually fairly simple. And then go and do those. And don’t get distracted. Don’t get distracted chasing excellence. Don’t get distracted by the nearest– I’ll give you another example. I was working for a company. And they wanted to have more information about our customers. Everyone wants more information. 

And they thought, hey, we can go append Targus’ – Targus is a company – they have a list of people across the country. And they can append data on everything from whether they own a home or they own a car and what magazines they subscribe to your datasets. So we can get more information about our customers. I get this all the time. The company I was working for wanted to go and do it. And they wanted to pay the subscription to Targus, because it was going to let us do all these amazing things. 

But my first question was, how are we treating our customers differently based on the data we have right now? And the answer was, we weren’t. So you have some internal data. If you’re not using that, what makes you think that getting more data is going to be helpful? People have this desire to go and do things and to get more. And sometimes that feels like it’s the right thing to do versus just using what you already have. And only after you’ve used what you already have and you’ve run out of good enough things, what I challenge companies to go after things that are better than good enough. And it doesn’t happen very often. 

And even big companies, again, I was at Expedia, a big, huge multibillion dollar company that dominates the space they’re in. When I got there, they had what they called the elite plus programs, so the top customers at Expedia. And so if you were a top 1% of a user of Expedia, they put you into this Elite Plus Program. If you remember, the Elite Plus Program, we sent you four emails a year telling you, you remember the Elite Plus Program. And that was the extent of the benefits of being in the Elite Plus Program. 

And so, again, one of the things they tasked me with is personalization of the website. And I’m like, before we start personalizing the website, why don’t we develop a benefit for customers who are elite customers that we’re telling them are so awesome? And again, it’s not telling you to be amazing. It’s telling you, hey, be good enough. Provide a benefit. 

And that turns out to be a lot of work. We ended up visiting hotels across the planet, trying to sign up independent hotels to upgrade to best available room all of our elite customers. And we did it, and we were successful, but it took years. And only after all that work’s done can we start talking about things like personalizing the website.

 

Andy Paul 19:30

Yeah, I think that from a sales perspective and a purchasing perspective, you talk about this good enough phenomenon and this love that emanates from work that Herbert Simon did in research about people making decisions, satisficers, maximizers. And satisficers are people that make the good enough decision. That, from a sales perspective, actually is sometimes the preferred outcome.

If you can be that one that calls them back in three seconds, you capture their attention, you do discovery, you start building that rapport, if they’re prepared to make that good enough decision, then they eliminate the incentive to go talk to your competitors. So the good enough can become a great outcome for sales.

 

Edward Nevraumont 20:12

Good enough is often enough. The other thing I will say is good enough is often hard enough. It’s hard enough to be good enough. Before you start trying to be better than good enough, get that first thing done. Email is another sales channel thats a great example of this. So many companies I talk to want to talk about how they can personalize their email.

 

Andy Paul 20:35

By putting the first name on an email?

 

Edward Nevraumont 20:37

Oh, yeah, you saw that in Trump’s email that came out yesterday?

 

Andy Paul 20:41

No, what was that?

 

Edward Nevraumont 20:42

Oh, he sent an email to a bunch of his people who donated to him. And the first line said first name comma, we think you’re a great person. We want to get more money from you. That type of stuff happens all the time, right? Fiix that stuff. But more importantly, why do people open emails? Well, because the email has good content for them. Either it’s a great sales deal or it’s fantastic information, or it’s super entertaining. There’s some reason to open it, because the content in that email is good. 

There are two ways to do that. One is you can personalize that message to make it personal for that person. Or two is you can make good content that’s good that a wide variety of people would like to open. And people think that the answer is personalization oftentimes. But if you want to make something personalized, and you want to segment your customer listing to two, you’re now going to need to make twice as much good content. Because just because something’s personalized, doesn’t mean it’s good. 

And so the first step is making content that’s good. And so many people skip that step and jump straight to how do we personalize this to make sure everyone’s getting these unique emails? I say, well, stop. Let’s make one good email first. After you can make a good email that goes to your whole base, then we can talk about how you can make two good emails that go to your whole base that are personalized. 

And trying to segment them all, you’ve just taken your difficulty level up by four in order to split your base into two. Because you need to make twice as much good content, and you need to figure out which piece of content goes to which person. Before you do all of that, why don’t you start with making one piece of good content, which is where most companies fall down.

 

Andy Paul 22:22

It’s so basic, but it makes so much sense. Master the basics. I focus on that from a sales perspective. Master the basic sales behaviors before you worry about some more advanced skill that you need to master or become excellent at.

 

Edward Nevraumont 22:40

Yeah, and I’ll throw one more in, which is that we don’t know what excellence is. One of my favorite examples, we’ll leave business and marketing. And we’ll look at kickers in the NFL. And so how would you decide which kicker in the NFL today is the best kicker in the NF? Give me your take on how you’d do that.

 

Andy Paul 23:03

Gosh, you would think percentage made, right? Successful attempts.

 

Edward Nevraumont 23:08

Sure. And maybe you want to even add that based on some sort of difficulty factor. Because the guy who’s kicking all his field goals at 20 yards is probably not as good as the guy who’s kicking at 60 yards, right? But you could do that, right? You can add in a difficulty factor based on what they had to hit that year and then figure out who’s been most successful last year at hitting those field goals. And the guy who was hitting it at the adjusted rate of 90% is probably gonna be better than the guy who’s hitting it at the adjusted rate of 40%. 

Then what you’d say is, okay, so if that was true and if we said the guy who had hit 90% this year, we would assume that he’s going to be better than average better than the guy who hit 50% this year. Which guy’s gonna be better next year? That’s what we really care about. Looking at past performance is one thing. We want to predict future performance. And we assumed if the guy was 90% last year, he’s gonna be better than the guy who hit 50% last year next year. 

It turns out that’s not true. It turns out that there is zero correlation. Actually, there’s a slight negative correlation from season to season in kicker performance. So the guy who hit 90% this year is actually likely to be slightly, slightly worse than the guy who hit 50% this year.

 

Andy Paul 24:21

Interesting. So what accounts for that?

 

Edward Nevraumont 24:25

Noise. It’s the number of data points that we have aren’t big enough for us to know which kicker next season is going to be good. What we do know, however, is that if you or I were kickers in the NFL, we would be the worst kickers in the NFL.

 

Andy Paul 24:46

I can guarantee that.

 

Edward Nevraumont 24:48

And not only would we be the worst kickers in the NFL, if they decided to keep us in for more than one season, we’d be the worst kickers in the NFL every season we were in there. Our correlation would be extremely high from season to season in how bad our performance was. So how do you reconcile those two things? How do you say, hey, our performance will be highly correlated, but the existing kickers’ performance is not correlated at all from season to season? 

And the answer comes back to my good enough. We are good enough at figuring out who is a good kicker. We can figure out who’s good enough to be in the NFL. But once that gets to that high level of ability of people who are in the NFL, our ability to differentiate who the good kicker in the NFL is and the great kicker in the NFL is disappears. Our metrics no longer work. 

And it’s not to say that we couldn’t find other metrics. Maybe you have to get them into a sealed room and have them kick in isolation and so on, drop some other metric that predicts it. But the data that we have on just performance kicking on the field no longer correlates to actual performance. Our ability to predict good is there, but excellence goes away. And that pattern repeats itself again and again and again.

 

Andy Paul 26:02

So what about sales? The thing is, there’s never really a level playing field. Because some people may have better territories or different accounts they work on and so on. But how do you apply that same concept, let’s say, to sales?

 

Edward Nevraumont 26:16

It’s a good question. So I have not found a good data set to do this on. What you’ll find oftentimes, at least with the datasets that I have worked on in sales, is that performance does correlate among salespeople from period to period.

 

Andy Paul 26:30

But not from year to year or?

 

Edward Nevraumont 26:33

Call it whatever period you do, month to month or from year to year. You do see correlation in sales performance from group to group to group to group. There’s gonna be tons of confounding factors, which makes it really difficult. 

 

Andy Paul 26:53

Good people getting good leads.

 

Edward Nevraumont 26:54

Yeah, exactly or by region, for example. If your business has lots of penetration in Texas, but poor penetration in New York and your salespeople in Texas are doing better than your salespeople in New York, maybe it’s because they’re better salespeople or maybe it’s because your penetration is better and you have more product to sell in Texas, right? So you can try to pull those things out. 

In general what I’ve seen is most of the time, performance of salespeople is correlated from season to season or from period to period or from year to year. But again, beware, especially as you get to the highest levels of performance. Oftentimes the things that get you to one stage don’t keep going in further stages. I could talk about that in a few different categories. I can’t talk about it super intelligently in sales, just because I haven’t seen a data set that I love in sales to be able to figure out where that good enough bar happens. Because the good enough bar happens at different times in different places. 

In the NFL, for example, we’re talking about the best of the best of the best before that bar happens. In teaching, it happens much earlier. So if you look at tests in the United States, you look at teachers’ knowledge of mathematics, call that on your x axis from terrible to fantastic knowledge of mathematics. And then you look at student performance and how students they teach, how well they improve in mathematics. We’ll call it the annual improvement by having that teacher. There’s zero correlation. 

So the teachers that are the worst in knowledge of mathematics are no worse at teaching mathematics, and this is at the elementary school level, to the teachers who are the best at mathematics. The driver of success is not knowledge. The driver of success must be something else, teaching ability, emotional connection with students, something else. And so basically, the teachers in the United States are good enough at math that paying a teacher more because they get a Master’s in math and they know math better is not a good driver of success of the thing we care about, which is do kids, how do they learn math. 

That’s not true internationally. So similar studies have been done in Peru and Indonesia. And there, their knowledge of math is highly correlated to how well their students learn math at the elementary level. And it’s not too big elite to guess why. And it’s that the worst teachers in America are still good enough at math, whereas the worst teachers in Peru and Indonesia just aren’t good enough yet in math. 

And so, once again, the bar keeps going up and up and up until it hits this kink. And when the kink happens, the metric you’ve been measuring doesn’t correlate to the metric you care about anymore. And you need to find a new metric.

 

Andy Paul 29:34

Well, I was just thinking about that, since we have a large sales audience, in the sales context. How do we correct for the external factors that might influence the perception of good enough and excellence?

 

Edward Nevraumont 29:52

Yeah, one of the things I find works really well in these situations is feedback cycles. The faster you can make your feedback cycle, the better. And so if you’re in a sales organization where calls come in and you sell on that first phone call, because you’re selling some $12.99 widget, and the goal is close the deal on that first call, you have a fairly fast feedback cycle. And you can figure out who your good salespeople are pretty quickly. And you can find out which techniques work better or worse, right? 

So we could run an AD test for a day and say, hey, we’re going to start offering our product at $20.99 and then discount it to $12.99 in that same phone call as a special deal. And we’ll find whether or not we sell more widgets that way. And after a couple of days of that, give me half the sales with one technique and half the sales with another technique, you’ll find out which technique works better. And then you can roll it out to everybody and keep going. It works great. But let’s say you’re a–

 

Andy Paul 30:49

Complex salesman?

 

Edward Nevraumont 30:50

A more complex sale that takes months to sell. Now two things happen. Because these more complex deals tend to be bigger price points, you can have less sales per salesperson and the economics still work, right? So the sales force would have to sell a lot of $12.99 widgets to pay for themselves. You only have to sell like one thousand dollar enterprise contract to pay for themselves every few months. 

And so all of a sudden, the n, or the data you have to work with on those big enterprise sales gets a lot smaller. And secondly, the feedback cycle time takes a lot longer. So now we want to test, hey, what things can we do in that first phone call that drive success for sales? Well, we can do a bunch of tests on that first phone call. But now we need to wait three or four months to see whether or not those things turn into sales or not. 

And so instead of the feedback cycle being daily, the feedback cycle becomes monthly. And you need to wait. Again, using that model, you need to wait years to find out whether or not anything that you do is working. So anything you can do to shrink that feedback cycle is a big, big win. So you can shrink that feedback cycle from months to weeks, or from two months to one month. You’ve just doubled the number of experiments you can run. If you can get that down to days, it’s even better. 

And so a lot of what I’ll do is figure out early predictors of success and things that you can measure early on in the cycle to predict whether or not that sale is going to happen. Maybe it’s like a demo, for example. Maybe you can’t get a sale on the first call, but you can get a demo scheduled in the first call. Historically, 20% of demos turn in sales or whatever the number happens to be. 

So now we can do a feedback cycle in the first call where we’re not trying to make a sale. We’re just trying to get a demo. And all of a sudden, our feedback cycle drops from months to days. And we can run a bunch of tests on that same day in whether or not different techniques on that first call drive us to getting a demo or not. It’s not perfect, because oftentimes what you can do, or one of the things that can happen, is that you can create techniques that get you demos that don’t get you sales. 

For example, hey, we’re going to run a promotion that every person who signed up for a demo, we give them a free iPad. Well, you might get a lot more demos, but maybe they’re doing the demo to get the iPad and not to be interested in your product. You’ve got to be a little bit careful in these early stage metrics. But as long as you’re smart about it, shrinking that feedback cycle allows you to just learn and reapply much quicker.

 

Andy Paul 33:38

Yeah, and that’s a lot of what you’re seeing these days in sales with specialized sales roles where teams of people are just making those first calls, trying to set up meetings for account executives or demos with account execs or sales engineers. And the technology increasing is providing that type of feedback. 

So we’re moving into the last segment of the show. I’ve got some standard questions I ask all my guests at this point. And the first one will be interesting for you, Edward. So in this first question, it’s a hypothetical scenario. You’ve just been hired as new VP of Sales at a company whose sales have stalled out. And CEO and the Board are anxious to get things back on track. So what two things could you do your first week on the job that could have the biggest impact?

 

Edward Nevraumont 34:22

So the first thing you need to do is build your sales and marketing funnel. So you need to know where your leads are coming in from, what channel they’re coming from. And you need to track those leads through your entire funnel through to revenue. And you need to do that in two different ways. 

One is I call it your activity view. So in the month of July, how many leads did we get from each marketing channel? How many of those leads turned into all the marketing qualified leads? How many turned into sales qualified leads? How many of those sales qualified leads turned into, say, demos? How many of those demos became high profile opportunities? And how many of those high profile opportunities turned into sales? How many of those sales end up getting billed? How much revenue did we collect? 

And once you get that basic funnel information collected, you can usually diagnose where problems are or where opportunities are. You’ll find, hey, this marketing channel– oh, and how much you’re spending on each of these different places, both in terms of marketing dollars and sales costs. And you’ll find out, hey, in this particular channel, we’re spending $1 to make $10. Is there an opportunity for us to spend a lot more? Meanwhile, somewhere else we’ll be spending $1 to make 50 cents, and maybe it’s a time to turn that off. 

But getting that basic understanding is important. And then seeing across all those marketing sales funnels where things fall apart. So where, when you cut it these different ways, are leads not progressing to the next stage? And usually the ones where you see those big drop offs are where there’s opportunities. 

But until you have that, you’re you’re, you’re scrambling a little bit in the dark. And again, most companies I’ve talked to don’t have that structure built out. I’ve spent the last six months basically going and helping companies as varied as SaaS for small business, through to education companies, through the marketplaces. And all of them need this same thing.

 

Andy Paul 36:30

Okay, great answer. So now some rapid fire questions, you can give me one word answers if you wish or elaborate. The first one is when you, Edward, go out selling your services, what’s your most powerful sales attribute?

 

Edward Nevraumont 36:41

I don’t sell anything. I stopped selling a long time ago. I try to share and give away as much of my knowledge as possible. And if someone, after finding and hearing about that, decides they want to pay me for more engagement, I’m happy to have that conversation. But I don’t think I sell anymore.

 

Andy Paul 37:09

Well, that’s how you sell. Perfect. So what’s one book you’d recommend that every salesperson read?

 

Edward Nevraumont 37:21

So there’s lots of– I read a book a week. There’s so many opportunities. But I’ll give you two. They’re a little both off the little beaten path that probably people haven’t heard of. One is by Duncan Watts called Everything Is Obvious Once You Know the Answer. And fascinating book that basically says our ability to predict the future is much worse than we think. And our ability in the past, we pretend we’re much better than we actually were. It’s kind of like a thinking man’s tipping point, I call it. 

And the second is a book by Byron Sharp called How Brands Grow. And I think it’s the best book out there for understanding how marketing actually works versus the BS that you’re often fed.

 

Andy Paul 38:07

Excellent. Okay. So last question for you, what music’s on your playlist.

 

Edward Nevraumont 38:12

Alexander Hamilton, the musical. That’s about the only thing I listen to these days.

 

Andy Paul 38:16

Have you seen it?

 

Edward Nevraumont 38:18

I have. I actually wrote a blog post about how I managed to get center theater 10th row tickets for 400 bucks just before Lin left the show.

 

Andy Paul 38:29

Oh, excellent. And how’d you do that?

 

Edward Nevraumont 38:32

Well, you should read the blog post. It was quite an adventure, but it involved traveling to New York and talking to people in the cancellation line, and convincing somebody to let me be their guest. It was definitely an adventure. I went through like four or five false starts before I found a successful solution. And it was definitely worth it.

 

Andy Paul 38:55

Yeah, no, I’ve seen it, as well. Or you could do the lottery.

 

Edward Nevraumont 38:59

The lottery works great, except there’s no guarantee with a lottery unless you get really lucky.

 

Andy Paul 39:04

Yeah. And it helps to be living in New York City to do that. So good. Well, Edward, thanks very much for being on the show. Tell people where they can find out more about you.

 

Edward Nevraumont 39:12

I have two websites, one that I’ve kept recently updated, and one that has a lot of archived information. But BeGoodEnough.com is my current site. And I have an earlier site that has a bunch of archive stuff called MarketingIsEasy.com.

 

Andy Paul 39:25

Got it. Well, great. Well, thanks for being on the show. And remember, friends, make it a part of your day every day to deliberately learn something new to help you accelerate your success. An easy way to do that is make this podcast, Accelerate, a part of your daily routine. 

Listen in on your commute, in the gym, or make it part of your morning sales meeting, that way you won’t miss any of my conversations with top business experts like my guest today, Edward Nevraumont, who shared his expertise about how to accelerate the growth of your business. So thanks for joining me. Until next time, this is Andy Paul. Good selling, everyone. 

Thanks for listening to the show. If you like what you heard, and want to make sure you don’t miss any upcoming episodes, please subscribe to this podcast on iTunes or stitcher.com. For more information about today’s guest, visit my website at AndyPaul.com.