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#060: David Priemer – Sell The Way You Buy: Salespeople Get The Idea of Selling Value All Wrong
Welcome to Scale Your Sales podcast, now my next guest is founder and chief sell scientist at cerebral selling former vice president of commercial sales at Salesforce and also to the best-selling book Sell The Way You Buy.
I had listened to David on another podcast that sells evangelist, and I was so impressed. I immediately brought the book and contacted him on LinkedIn and invited him onto the show you’re in for a real treat welcome to Scale Your Sales podcast David Priemer. David, now I’ve got to say. First, I love the titles some of the titles in your book it’s really enticing, trouble at the happiest place on earth. Brilliant love it. Yeah lots of people, especially you read on amazon, and you read like the table of contents they’re like this sounds like a good book. It’s funny how you say that people just like the titles. Surprisingly they didn’t change very much during the editing process that I guess the editor liked them as well, so I’m looking forward to having you dive in. It really encompasses what you say. It has to be attractive to the customer. You have to add value but seduce them into it so well done.
They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but apparently, people do so you gotta have a good cover. Not to unnecessarily get into this too quickly but for example, like a sales pitch, people think oftentimes the purpose of a sales pitch is to communicate the sum total of the value you can add. But it’s just like a headline in a newspaper article, it’s just to get you to read the first sentence, and the first sentence is to get you to read the second sentence and so everything is cumulative. The pitch the cold call tactic is just to draw you in to earn the right to continue the conversation.
Tell me a little bit more, there are various concepts that I haven’t really heard from other people in the way that you explain it. One is the perception of value, and the other is emotional pathways. I’m going to dive right in so perhaps you can enlighten us?
For sure, well this concept of value as sales leaders and I understand there’s a lot of sales leaders listening to this show. Oftentimes we go out, and we tell our sales teams to go out and sell value, and this was our battle cry working at Salesforce for five years. This is what we would tell our reps, but the problem is a lot of people confuse the idea of value with ROI or return on investment. When we say as leaders go out and sell value, it really means go ahead and tell the customer that they spend money with us but they will either make more money or they will save more than that money, and there’s a business case to be made. That’s what we mean by selling value, but the word value by definition, the former is an objective statistic, right? It’s something we can calculate and put in a box, value proper is a subjective feeling and this, if you think it. You’re sitting there listening to this podcast, and you ask yourself, what’s something that you spend money on that another person would look at and say that’s ridiculous I don’t know why she’s spending money on that thing, right? So that’s the concept of value, it’s discretionary. It’s a subjective feeling even when people say well that doesn’t apply in b2b customers don’t buy based on feelings. First of all, I will go toe-to-toe with anyone, any day that says feelings don’t play, real feelings have 100% a roll.
Have you ever heard the phrase Janice, no one ever got fired for buying IBM? Whatever the big gorilla in your space is. no one What does that mean? Does IBM have the best solution? Does that mean that IBM has the most return on investment for what we’re spending? What does it mean when I say no one ever got fired for buying IBM “It’s the perceived lowest risk.” That’s right! Now that’s important if the risk is something you value, right? If you’re saying well I don’t want to buy a product from this startup which I’ve never heard of before the small company. There’s a high perceiver of I’m not going to get fired if I buy it and it doesn’t work. I’m going to get fired. No one ever got fired from buying IBM. It’s saying I care about risk. We all know that a lot of these small startups and fledgeling companies do manage to attract buyers because those buyers align with the value of working with that company. They’re more agile; they influence the product roadmap, the customer service, is better whatever it is because that’s what they value. Value and ROI completely separate things. The idea is, if you want to be successful in sales, you have to sell to the things that your target customer values, not the ROI. The processes are understanding by discovery questions what that is and weighting it as well, so what is number one and why. You go into a lot about why. It’s funny when we get on our discovery calls with our customers here’s the problem because we see this all the time. You get on a call with your customer you have a lovely conversation you speak for a long time, you ask lots of questions, you take lots of notes, and then you go back to your CRM, and you try to figure out, okay where should I forecast this thing. Then your manager comes over and starts asking you questions about the opportunity, and you say to yourself oh man, I forgot to ask that. You don’t know where to forecast it, so you had this lovely conversation, but you didn’t go into the call really being clear about what you wanted to know in the first place, and you didn’t target your discovery process around that. That’s step one thing you need to do step two. This goes back to your first question of selling emotions and feelings the idea is like I said, we all buy feelings in our everyday lives but oftentimes the way we execute our sales motions whether it’s how we describe what we do or discovery we’re not really leveraging feelings. We’re almost like computers, it’s like a polite interrogation, here’s the list of questions, I would like to you to answer to put you in a box, here’s what my product does we’re a platform that does a b and c and can help you. No one cares because we live in a world of infinite numbers of solutions so much choice a million salespeople who by the way customers don’t like talking to and then you smoosh that all together. You need to use tactics that are far different today to connect with modern buyers than what we’ve traditionally done. Emotion is the quickest way to get that value to create that rapport and help the customer understand how they will benefit by working with us.
So what do you mean by emotion?
How can a salesperson utilize that to better ascertain the value? Because I’ve seen that you have these questions, but it’s almost like, I need to ask this question to match them up to this solution whatever happens. I need to get them to that solution, so all of these questions are leading them to the one solution, so there is no emotion involved. Still, it’s very targeted, so how does a salesperson negotiate the emotional field? What you just described there is a tactic we really need to stamp out in the sales profession, which I refer to as leading questions. Let’s say I’m a purveyor of sales training, and I say Janice wouldn’t be better if your team were better equipped to connect with modern customers. They executed with science and empathy, and you had better revenue, and better customer reviews wouldn’t that be good, Janice. That’s a logic trap, because if you say yes, then it’s almost like you’re compliant to allow me to do whatever it is I want to do in my little sales world here. So the idea behind emotional awareness is to realize that you shouldn’t be asking these leading questions one of the easiest ways so I’ll give you a couple of examples in terms of how do you use emotion. When I ask you what you do be honest what do you do, or you ask me what I do I might say oh I train salespeople or you sell widgets, or we have a platform that allows it providers to do whatever, right? No one cares because there are a million people that do what we do when we answer that way. One of the quickest ways now when people ask you what you do that’s almost evolved, what people will say is to say well we can help you increase your revenues by 30 percent right. We talk about not what we do but the benefits like the outcome. I would take it a step further and say you shouldn’t be talking about what you do in terms of the content or the benefits; you should be talking about the problem that you solve for the customer the pain that they have. If you ask me what is it that I do and I say I train salespeople not so exciting. If you ask me what I do and I say well I’ve been in sales for 20 years, and I’ve realized that people love to buy things, but they hate talking to salespeople right now you’re thinking to yourself my gosh I have a sales team, and people probably don’t like talking to them. I don’t like talking to salespeople even as a sales leader. Now you’re leaning in, and you’re saying
David tell me more about what it is that you do?
I’m leading with the pain, and there are lots of different ways you can lead with the pain. In my third startup, we had an online feedback coaching and performance solution for people at work, and we led with this message of people love feedback. Still, they hate performance reviews right, or men love to dress well, but they hate to shop, and so you can use all of these very emotionally pain problem-driven statements to describe what you do, and that’s a much quicker way to get into the mind of your buyer. Because people are attuned to avert losses to avert pain. If you can speak to those pains, especially if those pains are hidden, you’re going to have a much better chance of converting and engaging that customer. Interesting, What’s your view we’re talking about the buyer the seller customer world but let’s talk about the whole sales industry and then more specifically b2b.
What’s your view on diversity? Has it changed? Has it progressed enough or do you feel there’s a lot more work to be done? Having worked at Salesforce a large organization and I’m sure they have lots of policies and programs but like when we look at the whole industry has it evolved enough to be a diverse sales industry because certainly, the buyers are very diverse?
It’s getting there. we’re not totally there yet. I think, and it’s interesting actually, to see how many companies are out there trying to tackle this problem. One of my clients today works in the recruiting space to try to stamp out confirmation bias and diversity bias in interview processes because we unwittingly do that. I had a friend of mine who works at Shopify the other day posted something to LinkedIn saying hey look I’d like to increase the diversity of my sales team but when I look at my network they’re all people that look like me, how do I get beyond that? We are doing better. It also depends on the organization you work for. I love organizations like Salesforce that are absolutely leading the way in creating diversity that have a chief diversity inclusion officer trying to stamp that out in their recruiting processes also just creating an environment where for example, if you’re a mother who needs to bring their children to work having daycare at the office like just simple things like that. It’s all very well and good to say oh yes we want to be more diverse and inclusive, but if you’re not creating the environment to do that and you’re not making those behaviours visible, then it becomes very difficult. I feel like we are doing a better job. I’m excited to see more organizations trying to tackle this problem systemically both on the operational side and the technology side. I still think we have more to go definitely. We talk a lot about the customer’s experience. Although we have a way to go in terms of a diverse workforce how do you bridge that gap in that you’re trying to deliver an experience to a customer you’re trying to understand the customer’s perception of value. However, your workforce, your sales force has a limited view of the world, not their fault, simply because they all look pretty similar, but how do you bridge that gap? It’s interesting, one of the challenges that exist and I talk about this a lot of my book as well; it’s this concept I refer to as experience asymmetry. Because diversity can be, let’s say physical socioeconomic whatever it is, but it can also be in terms of experience and skill set. One of the biggest challenges that exist in sales, and it’s a very deep hidden enemy that took me a while to uncover. The symptom is this you have sales reps especially a lot of young sales reps, your business development reps your younger sales reps who are trying to call on older more experienced buyers whose job they’ve never done. You have these like very young enthusiastic sales are trying to call these experienced buyers, and that creates a gap. I call that gap experience asymmetry, and it could be all sorts of diversity metrics, years of experience industry and what happens is this becomes a very difficult thing to diagnose because you say well I have this wonderful sales team and they’re making lots of calls, and they’re calling the right people at the right time, and they have the right script, but then there’s no pipeline production. I actually had this problem at Salesforce, and so I started to look at it. I’m Canadian, but I ran small business sales for the Eastern USA, my sales reps in New York City and a big shout out to them, they would always hustle the most, the most calls and I would have reps from time to time that would have lots of activity but actually very little pipeline to show for it, and I wouldn’t understand why until I started listening to their sales calls. What I heard, imagine you’re listening to the young enthusiastic sales rep trying to call on a more older, more experienced buyer whose job they’ve never done. I’m just closing my eyes, and I don’t even care about the words, I’m just listening as though I’m an innocent bystander here and I’m like, it just sounds to me like you’re bothering this customer. It sounds to me like you’re afraid, it sounds to me like you’re don’t think you’re adding enough value and I can hear it in your voice. The same way I have three kids, when my one of my kids comes to me and is about to hit me up for something, a lift somewhere, to download an app or a snack I can tell immediately, just by the way they approach me. In sales, it’s the same thing, for whatever reason, I feel that there’s an emotional barrier, meaning I don’t feel like I’m adding value. I don’t have the same background as you or the set of experience, and yet I’m being tasked with calling you and trying to convert you. I can feel that because those buyers are saying who the hell is this person and why are they calling me to talk about this thing so there’s actually a very real problem and there’s a lot of different ways to solve that problem, but it’s very real. Oftentimes, organizations don’t think of it in terms of the diversity gap. There are lots of ways that we can overcome that one of the ways is just simple, and I say video calls is like this where people can see you; it removes this psychological concept of abstraction. Like someone cuts you off in traffic and you start swearing and shaking your fist, and you do these things that would be inconsistent with how you would be in normal everyday life. Because you’re a lovely person, but you wouldn’t do that if you knew who that person was yeah you get to do that because of this veil of anonymity. So part of it is just doing more video calls is a great example of just getting closer to our customers to break down those barriers. Especially when we meet people that we can see in their eyes how much they care about us and our business and how we can help it has a tremendous impact on your ability to convert them.
That reminds me when I work for a customer experience consultancy, and I remember for AOL, this was so many years ago. I set up in Germany, Paris and London so the various people in the organizations from the designers, the technical team, marketing and sales, we had to set up customer experiences with their customers. If a customer sat in their bedroom on their bed and did the experience the technician, the designer had to sit with them, and they could not say anything because if designers designed a certain path, customers always find the shortcuts. These ways haven’t been designed into the system. Customers are the best designers; they couldn’t say anything they had to watch them do it. When they came back after doing the customer experience trials, they were completely changed people. Because they had newfound respect being in the customer’s shoes in their environment understanding their language, understanding how they found those shortcuts. They came back refreshed, and they designed better products, they made a better sale, all of these things about being in the customer shoes. Sometimes you need to lift them up to take them out and put them in the customer’s environment. Because it’s a revelation and their level of respect went high for the customers, it’s really powerful.
I totally agree, and you can create some of that magic certainly the ride-along, and we would do a lot of those, and I totally understand what you mean by the user experience it’s almost in my third startup. We were encumbered by the fact that as founders, we were sales and marketing people, so we were very comfortable talking to customers. Still, then we didn’t design a product that from the get-go didn’t require any discussion. I think what you want to do. One of the tactics that we would often do a lot in my sales organizations brought customers in. Sometimes I refer to this funny term the CEO petting zoo and what I mean by that is when you see CEOs in the wild. I’m glad you’re explaining that because my mind is going in another direction.
Well now here’s the thing, everyone’s told to call high, call the CEO, try to get the deal. What happens is when you see CEOs in the wild they’ll bite your hand off, right! I called it the CEO petting zoo, where I would bring in CEOs, customers to talk about their business and tell my team how decisions are made in your company and especially if you’ve already used my product. It doesn’t have to be the CEO. It could be whatever your target buyer is; I want customers to tell my team the value you’ve gotten from the product. Because we all have slides and case studies, but for most people, it’s an academic exercise. they’re reading these things on a piece of paper and then recounting that to someone else, but when you hear it from someone in person you are absolutely able to communicate that value with tons more conviction than when you read it.
An experiment that Adam Grant who’s a professor at the Wharton School of Business did with the alumni department at the University of Pennsylvania. He had the alumni BDRs who traditionally call up alumni, and they ask them for donations, and those donations are used to fund scholarships for underprivileged people. What happened was he had a recipient of these scholarships come in to talk to the BDRs about how the scholarship changed his life, and because they told that story one on one the revenue from that BDR team increased 400 percent. They could have read the story, and there’s a case study, but it hears it first-hand, that’s the power of emotional connection.
What one tried and tested strategy would you offer listeners to Scale their Sales?
The title of my book is called Sell The Way You Buy and the reason I called it this way because that was just the thing I kept saying over and over. When people ask me this question and what does sell the way by mean it means first two things don’t use tactics that wouldn’t work on you. A little bit of the golden rule, frequently, in sales we feel that we got to go out and treat people in a different way than we would like to be treated because oh it’s okay we’re in sales. The second part of it is really to commit yourself to understand the pathways and mechanisms by which human beings make purchasing decisions of any kind, right! So you can align your sales motion that way so if you want to be good at sales the overarching statements of sell the way you buy, use the science and the pathways and don’t do stuff that wouldn’t work on you is the best advice I can give.
So why the science bit, this seems to be your thing why the science bit?
Well, because for so long the way we learned how to make sales was just from the person that taught us our managers right, and none of those things is necessarily scientifically proven to work. Some of the tactics that over the course of time, people have been taught have actually been shown to decrease their sales effectiveness. Now for me, we all got into sales in a different way no one ever grows up and says you know what, I want to be in sales. I started my career as a research scientist, so this was 20 years ago and not even in psychology, I was in engineering. I was building computer models. When I got into sales by accident at the turn of the dot com boom, I started to realize that sales like anything else is a system and there are variables and all sorts of forces. I started to unpack that there’s the nuance of human behaviour, which is a very big wild card and a big source of error but that’s where I got into the science of selling and what are the pathways mechanisms, how do people make purchasing decisions. Even down to things like tone and emotional intelligence. The great thing is, I don’t fault our ancestors who used to sell in the old school methods because we’ve actually through research and science and studies have learned things biochemically hormone release all these things in the last 5, 10, 15, 20 years. Especially since the world of buying has changed so much, it’s not like math or medicine or accounting where these small increments the world of buying changes so quickly you need to arm yourself with tactics that have been signed, not hearsay, just do this because that’s what I did. Tactics, where you can understand from first principles why they work and the beauty, is if you arm yourself with these tactics you’ll be able to execute them with more conviction because you know why you’re doing them. Part of the challenge that exists in modern selling is oftentimes people do things without knowing why they do them; they do them because someone told them to. It’s funny we talked about business schools, I also teach at a business school here, and actually, there’s a business school here in Canada that uses my book as the textbook for their course. I zoomed into the class a couple of days ago, and there was a young lady there who said hey look I worked at this company and they gave me a script to read, and I just said this doesn’t feel like words that another human being would say to someone else. She said I changed it to suit more of my style, and I found that my conversion rate just went through the roof. So this idea of being a human being who’s armed with the understanding of how human beings communicate and buy will make you an unstoppable sales force. The science came from my background, combined with this is just the way the world is going.
Excellent so will write a review; I absolutely have loved talking to you so who is your hero or shero?
Yes, my wife, we’ve been married for 18 years and I together for 24, I should get that right. We started dating when I was in the science lab, and she’s been through four startups through the whole journey, I’m a cancer survivor as well, so what I think you need to have is someone who stands by your side and encourages you to do what you love, reminds you of what you love and why you’re doing it. She is mine, and she teaches me so much, she is my absolute shero.
Thank you for sharing this. How can listeners get hold of you, David?
I like to give away a lot of things for free mostly I mean the book. Unfortunately, you got to pay for that, but everything else I give away for free and you can find it on cerebral selling dot com which is my website, and the book Sell The Way You Buy, you can find that on Amazon or anywhere you buy books.
Thank you so much for coming on to Scale Your Sales podcast David. My pleasure Janice thanks so much for having me.
https://cerebralselling.com/blog YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/c/CerebralSelling Book: https://cerebralselling.com/book/ LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/dpriemer
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