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Kindness in Business, with Cole Baker-Bagwell [Episode 879]

Cole Baker-Bagwell is the founder and Chief Kindness Officer at Cool Audrey, a consulting firm that teaches companies how to put kindness to work in business. In this conversation we discuss why thriving in a 21st-century company requires building a new set of core competencies based on awareness, meaningful connection and a shared commitment to kindness. Then we dive into why kindness isn’t an intangible soft skill but something that can be quantified in the impact it has on people and business outcomes. Plus, we get into how kindness plays out in a sales environment and is interwoven into the way buyers experience you and your company.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Cole. Welcome to the show.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Thank you. I’m really happy to be here with you today.

Andy Paul: So where have you been hiding out during the pandemic?

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Oh gosh. I’ve been hiding out in our home in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m very grateful to be here. And yeah, but I’ve been hiding out with my husband, Andrew and our two pups

Andy Paul: Nice name, Andrew.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yes, it is. It’s a nice name. And and we’ve just been, we’ve been hanging out and super fortunate because we’ve got a big backyard and walkable city and we’ve got loads of masks in hand.

So it’s w it’s been just actually pretty, pretty good. How about you? How about you? Where have you been hiding out?

Andy Paul: Oh, we spent the first three months in Manhattan and then we’ve spent time since then in San Diego.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Wow. That’s really different.

Andy Paul: Yeah we’re very fortunate. We’ve able to go back and forth between the two. My wife had to be in New York for work, and then they finally decided they could handle all that remotely.

So we decamped out to California. So it’s been nice to have a ready access to the outdoors,

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Absolutely. And the sunshine and the warmer weather. So that’s great.

Andy Paul: Well, actually the cooler weather during the summer, that was the real bonus.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Oh, sure.

Andy Paul: If I can avoid New York in the summer, I’ll go to great lengths to do that.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: It does get a little stuffy.

Andy Paul: Probably not too dissimilar from Raleigh as a matter of fact.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Nope.

Andy Paul: All right, so big question for it right off the bat.

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself during the pandemic.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Think the biggest lesson I’ve learned about myself is that I have too many shoes and I know that sounds like a surface. So I’m going to give you two answers, right?

Andy Paul: No, I liked that. I liked that one. So how did that come about?

Discover this? That you didn’t discover it before?

Cole Baker-Bagwell: So quite honestly, before, my, my life before COVID I was traveling, I was actually in Manhattan, three to four days a week. I was in Toronto. I was in various cities have working. And I. I hadn’t. I had shoes that I took with me to work. And the funny thing is during the pandemic, of course we’re not really going many places.

And because of that, I was I guess about three months ago, I said, I’m going to clean the closet out. And, it’s just time and whatever, I’m not using, I’m going to give it away. And because I was basically wearing, five black shirts every week and the same, a couple pairs of jeans.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Uniform.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yeah, the uniform. And my husband would joke. He was like we have five black shirts again this week. Look at that.  Started going through my closet.

Andy Paul: uniform, by the way. Typically it’s a black shirt and jeans. Yes.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: It’s typically mine as well but the problem was, is I was wearing like the same five black t-shirts over the week. Not even pulling out like a blouse or a sweater, so there was perspective there.

And as I began looking through the shoes, I thought, Oh my gosh, what, who bought these shoes in here? So that is that’s something I’ve learned is that I definitely am all set on shoes and clothing and and that’s been great because then, I’ve been able to do other things with the money I would have spent on shoes and clothing, donate it, donate that money to good causes.

So that’s yeah. So that’s been pretty cool.

Andy Paul: Cool. What’s, it’s a very unique answer to that question. I’ve asked many people, so that’s I like it.  You’ve got a business called cool Audrey?

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I do

Andy Paul: And you’re not Audrey. So explain the Genesis of the name and what you do.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Okay. So this is where the people who are already maybe thinking that kindness doesn’t fit in business. I’m going to ask them to hang out a little while longer because this answer speaks to the soul side of my being. So what happened was a few years ago when I felt the pull to, to leave. The role that I th you know, the role that I had in corporate America, which was in sales and strategy, I had to come up with a name for the company and you know how this works, right?

A website name for the company, trademark, that all of those good things. And there’s a process you have to go through to actually make all those pieces click together. And they weren’t clicking as the point. And not only that, but I reached this point where I really could not think of the creative side of my brain had taking a vacation. And so my husband and I went to dinner. We walked from our home to dinner one night and I always have, a journal of some sort that I carry with me. And in this particular journal that I had with me that night, it sounds very morbid, but I had the little tag from my great aunt’s ashes from when she was cremated.

So my great aunt, her name was Mary Lucy. She was born in 1916. She was, living during the heyday of Audrey Hepburn. The unique thing about her is that. She was, total glam girl, like Audrey Hepburn. She was a fierce business woman, but she was also fiercely kind. And so I was, this is the only explanation I have, right.

So I’m holding the book to my chest and I’m crying and I don’t have any ideas. The corporate world has taken it away from me, blah, blah, blah. And all of a sudden this little. This little seed was planted in my brain and I blurted it out and I said, cool, Audrey. And my husband, Andrew said, who is she? And I said, she’s the name of the company?

And he said, where did that come from? I said, I have no idea. It just literally there was. And we on the bench we were sitting on, we looked up the domain, it was available and here we are. So  she’s everything and nothing at the same time. She represents, I tell people that she has some, she quite literally chose me and I just breathed life into her.

So that’s who Caladrius and that’s where she came from.

Andy Paul: I like that. To me, Audrey Hepburn is the epitome of cool. Yeah. I mean there’s yeah. Any movie she’s on. I. I watch. So yeah, my wife, same thing. What’s the one with Gary Cary grant charade?

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I haven’t seen, I haven’t seen all of her movies. I’ve seen many of them, but I think that’s when I might’ve missed. So I’ll have to check it out.

Andy Paul: Yeah. A classic thriller. Yeah. Good. All right.  We’re gonna talk about kindness,

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I love this topic. Let’s do it.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And so we’ll start with a quote from your website. So you wrote. That’s the quote decades ago, it was invoked for business people to quote the art of war. Competitors were enemies and executives are generals, presumably leading troops into battle.

And that approach to business may have made sense then, but times have changed. People have changed too. And if you want to build a thriving 21st century company, You have to build a new foundation, the human foundation based on awareness, meaningful connection, and a shared commitment to kindness to do no harm.

All right. So I want to serve, go through that. So why do you believe kindness is so important?

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Kindness is is a quality that is born from compassion and intention. And, I think that. A lot of folks think about kindness. And unfortunately it’s been compartmentalized in the bucket of soft skills, which is, I’m working to change that someone

Andy Paul: Yeah, we’ll get into that.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yeah. Okay, cool. That’s good.

So kindness to me is more than just the surface stuff.  Those things are all lovely to buy flowers and pay it forward and donate. That’s all definitely a form of kindness, but as I think about kindness, I really go back to a definition that I learned. So I’ve been a Yogi for 26 years, and I go back to the first ethical rule of yogis, which is called it’s called a himsa and it means do no harm, compassion, nonviolence do no harm.

So for me, when I talk about kindness, that is the highest form of kindness. And,  for anyone that just considers that for a few moments, if you thought about. The profound power that, that one commitment holds for really transforming each of us in the world at large, it really becomes quite self-explanatory.

That one commitment in thought word and action to do no harm. It means that, we’re showing up and we’re taking care of one another. It means that we’re showing up with good intention. It means that we’re showing up and we’re bringing soul into business, which. Absolutely. It needs to be there, or really what’s the point.

And kindness is that thing that allows us to be, it allows us to be direct. It allows us to be transparent, to be firm when we need to be without, doing harm and from a research standpoint, It’s been proven at an organizational level that kindness actually helps people develop trust and which allows them to collaborate and then create new things together.

So my question is why isn’t kindness of main staple in business. It seems pretty obvious to me.

Andy Paul: So I guess one question, sorry, just to jump right into it. Here it is. But does that mean the world’s sort of schizophrenia? Cause at the same time and I agree by the end of it, I believe in the importance of kindness. And yet we see in public discourse coarsening and with anything, a reduction of kindness right  as know, our leaders have sewed more divisiveness into the, into our.

Conversation and, instilling fear of others and just plain lying.  Yep. We’ll look in the world and say, okay, we’ve got this country that’s, divided pretty evenly in many respects is yet the same people come together in a workplace with these different points of view where publicly they may.

Support somebody who’s anything, but kind, but then you get in the workplaces. How does that translate back into the workplace? I’m going, people have to work together.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yeah. So it’s actually that’s such an awesome question. And I love that you asked me, so thank you. So first off we do if you, it depends on which lens you look through from a worldview standpoint, as you consider kindness. So I’ve actually seen I completely concur with every single thing you’re saying about.

The state of the country and the leadership, the divisiveness, et cetera. As we think about that is those actions are coming from ego. They are coming from fear, from insecurity, from, the places where the. The worst part of us is allowed to surface they’re all self preservation mechanisms and that’s been something really important for me to remember because otherwise it just would take me down and make me so angry.

So that’s what I’ll say about that. The other side of things. So as during COVID, especially. I’ve actually seen evidence of humanity rising. And I think really, as we have been forced into our, isolation at home, that we’ve begun to realize how important we are to one another and how much we need one another and the power that compassion, the wellspring of kindness, that the power that, that holds for us to really create solutions.

So I’m seeing a lot of evidence of humanity rising as well. As far as the part of your question around, are we schizophrenia? How are we able to in a protest and yell at each other spaces in the street, disagree and then show up and work together. What I’ll tell you is that all that stuff, all that energy that we hold, cause we are the same self.

Whether we are home on the streets, protesting in workplace, whatever, same self across the board, we may behave a little bit differently. But whatever’s inside. Whatever is driving. Your reality is going to surface at work as well. And so if you have this ego in the sphere, in this uncertainty that is, creating division in the world at large, that we’re all seeing on, media 24 seven, if you chose to pay attention that division still exists.

And so whether it’s a thought, whether it’s a word, whether it’s a decision that’s being made. Those decisions are going to be made from that place, because that becomes the mindset of that human being. So it’s not that we’re schizophrenia. It just may have, it may surface a little bit differently, but it’s all still the same.

Andy Paul: Scary,

like about it.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yeah, it is scary and it’s especially scary now because man, before COVID, we had, I was studying the stress levels, burnout levels, anxiety levels, voluntary turnover, levels of folks. And it’s astounding, $322 billion globally is what burnout was costing us before.

COVID. Now you take these folks. Who have extra layers of challenge.  Real challenges, right? So much larger than we had before. And now they’re being forced to stay at home and sanctuaries have become everything. But now we’ve got, maybe some of us have little people. We have dogs, we have others who are there or worship we’re alone.

And we’ve got to figure out how to navigate that. Now, all this extra noise intention from the outside world, the uncertainty about where we’re going to go. It’s tough to make business deals right now, too. Cause maybe you have a client you’ve never met in person. All of that is now amplified. So this is really.

And even more important time to be checking in and talking about this. From not just for business, but for really like a mental health and overall wellbeing standpoint, because if we’re not well and body, mind, and soul, as ourselves in our normal lives, personal lives, the chances that we’re going to show up and be well in any other facet of our life is pretty sun.

Andy Paul: Yeah, no I agree. And that’s, this is why I started when  I was going through your stuff and reading and you’ve written some really powerful things. That’s just yeah, we just have this I don’t know. That’s where I’ve sink consoling. A respect sounds like. Maybe, the force for kindness actually might be originates at work and then extends outward from there, perhaps as opposed to starting elsewhere and coming into work.

I don’t know.  It’s it’s fascinating to think about it because again, given how polarized we are these days.


Cole Baker-Bagwell: I actually think on that front, I’m going to offer you a thought on that. So I think that we have to start with ourselves. So before COVID.  Was traveling three to four days a week for work and I would sit in airports and restaurants in lines and whatever, and I would look around me and we were so disconnected from ourselves and we were so terribly disconnected from one another.

People’s faces were on their screens, headphones on everything. And if you looked at a lot of the habits that were contributing to. It’s the stress and anxiety that people were feeling and the depression, which had a ripple effect on all the other health conditions as well and performance at work and personal lives and, violence and everything else.

If you really look at that, A lot of people were feeling to be kind to themselves. And what I mean by that is they weren’t getting enough rest. They weren’t nourishing themselves properly their bodies, they were on autopilot largely. And and the judgment that was coming in from a self standpoint was so huge.

And I think that. What I understand. And what I have lived and experienced personally, is that if you are not being kind to yourself, if you are not doing the things to take care of yourself, showing yourself that, that commitment of doing no harm, then you become whatever you have created, right?

Whatever you’re taking in is what you become. And then that is what you’re taking into the rest of the world. So I actually think. As we think about my call for people to do no harm, to extend that highest form of kindness, it starts with the self. And then once you cultivate that inside your, I call it unfolding, you’re then able to take that out and share that with everyone else around you.

And then that’s really where the snowball of that beautiful snowball begins to happen at the collective consciousness, but we have to start with ourselves first.

Andy Paul: Yeah.  Suppose as I’m thinking through this and looking at your pledged to do no harm and so on is. And think about what you just said actually is I believe that, one of the issues that we’re dealing with the shore show this idea about kindness or lack of kindness, do no harm is something as simple in the midst of this pandemic.

As people wearing a mask.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I guess. Yep. Yeah.

Andy Paul: A mask is fundamentally an act of kindness toward others. It may be uncomfortable for you, but you do it because of the common good. And this is such a hard message to get across because people have, political objections and, doubts about COVID even existing, yada.

But even just setting aside that is, is. Maybe not a full believer. Maybe it is uncomfortable. All you have political objections. So what, it’s just an act of kindness for others. And it seems like we’re our inability to grasp that part of it for me is the most frustrating part.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Totally. That, that is a form of doing no harm of, and it is a soul thing. It is a mind thing. They are not separate things. It is, this is a simple thing that I can do. If we look at, in contrast, when we had the flu pandemic, a hundred years ago, we had leadership at the top of our country that called these victory mask.

And it was a badge of honor to put a mask on your face. And by the way, folks, those masks back then were nowhere near as comfortable or cool as the ones we have now. You want to get like bedazzled mask now, or your favorite football team, whatever. Sky’s the limit,  and they’re comfortable and they work.

But the point is that the people who were the outliers back then were the ones who did not wear the mask. They were the ones who. Who really stood out as people who weren’t rowing in the same direction of humanity. And, but the thing that made that time so different was that we had leadership that made it important.

And and it’s just so funny, like the power of that office, like the power that office holds and the platform of that office that, that it could convince people to. To really turn away from the human side of this whole app, this whole pandemic that we’re facing.

Andy Paul: I think that’s a unifier that’s the part I think where it’s opportunity missed is that is yes. We’re worried. We do have these divisions and some profound policy differences in the country and that’s fine,  that’s what we do. As part of our democracy, but this inability to serve rally around and be rallied around this idea of just as a simple gesture, we can all take.

That’s not fraught with political meaning. It’s just, it’s an act of kindness. That’s an act of kindness to yourself and to others

Cole Baker-Bagwell: And the thing –

Andy Paul: And would bring the country together.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. And the thing that gets in the way is what I call the evil three it’s ego it’s agenda and it’s bias. And those things have gotten in the way here. And when we operate from that place of ego agenda and bias, we’re not ever going to be able to show up.

In this space to make that commitment to do no harm. So because by the way, you can still disagree and come and take the pledge to do no harm. I wrote a letter to president elect Biden and he’s not responded yet, but I’m still hopeful. So I,

Andy Paul: he’s got a lot on his plate, I think

Cole Baker-Bagwell: He’s got a little bit to deal with right now, exactly, but I felt so compelled to write in this letter because as I consider his position, And as I consider all of the series of challenges that we’re facing right now.

And for the foreseeable future, it becomes really overwhelming to try to understand how do I fix all of these things, right? Because there’s so many steps that have to happen for each and every one of those things. And so as I thought about it and thought about it and thought about it I certainly think that a good place to start would be.

With this one simple pledge to do no harm in every single thing that we do, because what I know is that until you can bring people together, there’s no way that we can move forward in business and life and politics, whatever it is. So that’s what I wrote to him about, about, maybe you just start there.

With that one. Yeah. With that one commitment. And you ask others around you, what, whatever side of the fence, they’re on to make that one commitment before you start any conversation and see where that lands for you. So I’m hopeful. I actually think there’s a lot of power in it. Yeah,

Andy Paul: Yeah. You have to let me know if you get a response.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I will. I totally will.

I totally. I expect it might be some time, but I had to do it.

Andy Paul: Yeah, no it’s impressive. You did. So let’s talk about this idea of kindness and so on, in a sales context, because you spent time in sales and we have sales audience. So you start with this concept of do no harm. Now, when I was first reading, I was thinking the sounds are vaguely.

Like something that Google put on their website for years. Which they’ve since removed. But for you in a sales context, what is harm?

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Where do I start with that question? There are so many different harmful motions in sales.

Andy Paul: We’ll start with a couple of popular ones.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Okay. I’m gonna start with a couple of couple popular ones.  One that I’ll use as an example is, going in and pushing your own agenda. If you’re representing a company and you have products or services to sell.

Okay it’s already implied that you’re going to be hopeful that you get those products and services into the hands of your buyer, but going in and pushing your own agenda and thinking, and this happens a lot. Thinking about my quota,  my, my forecast, my commission, my, this, my, that you’re in that place of, I you’re in that place of ego, it’s a form of doing no harm because what ha are doing harm, because what happens is that when you’re showing up in that place, you are already showing up to serve self instead of to serve others.

And so I think that’s one prime example and it’s a really easy thing to change. I think the another really good example is this just, it just drove me crazy when I was in sales this game of cat and mouse that happens between sales folks and. Either client or a procurement partner, which is also their client, it just drove me nuts this whole, posturing that happened.

And it’s also a form of doing harm of I’m going to offer you this price, when we get a month out to the end of quarter, I’m gonna offer you this price. Or maybe it’s not the real thing. And, but I’m going to try to get this, or, this thing in the door and it just. It’s so much nonsense and so much noise, and there’s such an easy way to correct that.

To build human connection, to build understanding that will get you to potentially a much higher place. More revenue, greater partnership, deeper partnership, more loyalty to your company than you would have had otherwise. And it gets you out of the vendor bucket and puts you into the partner bucket. So it just was confounding to me, Andy.

How, like why people went through these silly emotions? I remember I was in a meeting one time

Andy Paul: Trained to,

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I know, it’s just, it just it was. So that was the part that was really hard for me, but it was also my opportunity across the landscape of my sales career.  And I really excelled, I think, because of that.

But I’ll tell you, it just drove me so crazy to to hear even the guidance that, that sales reps were given from leadership. It doesn’t matter what it takes. You get it in there. This is a battle and the, even the words that are used in seals, Oh my gosh. The words that are used drove me to such a sad place, resources, sellers, producers, FTEs, we’re going to backfill this person.

I was like, Oh my God, make it stop. Make it stop right now. So those are just two. Those are just two of the things that are. That,  come to mind. There are people who are flat out dishonest when they go into these relationships and that’s really unfortunate.

Andy Paul: So here, let me give him my take on this is I think that. That the problem emanates from the fact that the fundamental culture in sales is based on persuasion. This idea of persuading, somebody to do something which is a mindset that’s tells bias, says that sellers have to pretty much course the buyers into buying the product.

Persuasions a course

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Exactly it sure is.

Andy Paul: And that’s been at the heart of. Sales methodologies and sales culture and so on. And since modern selling started, a hundred plus years ago. And to your point it’s not about serving the buyer or helping the buyer achieve what they need to achieve.

It’s about getting what you want and what you need. And we seem like we finally had a hard time getting past that in sales and we’ve had. It’s probably 30 years since people start talking about customer centric selling and buyer-centric selling and so on and so forth. And the needle hasn’t moved real.

In fact, I would argue that it’s gotten worse in regard to being less buyer-centric than it was even 20 years ago. And it’s do you ever missing a real opportunity, but we’re just going to be stuck in this trap until we reorient ourselves about what it is we’re trying to accomplish.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Absolutely. I totally agree with you. And I think it’s really just A series of habits that have been created, since the art of war which, I put on my website, right? It’s a series of habits and choices that spring from those habits and decisions that spring from those habits, and it becomes a culture and there, the expectations flow from that place.

And it’s really then up to leadership of all of these companies to. Take a different approach. Not only to their clients, but to their employees and to really pay attention to. To the soul in business. My God, at the end of the day, people do business with other people. If I had something too, like I, the last few years of my career, I was working with the banks on wall street and I never used to drive my sales leadership crazy because they would say how are your quota numbers coming?

How is your forecast? I said, I have no idea. They would say, why not? I said, because I’m not focused on that. I’m focused on. Working with cultivating these relationships that,  will help me serve these people who are entrusting their business potentially to me into this company. And so it used to drive them mad, but every single year I was the top for every single thing that I did.

And I truly believe it’s because I didn’t, I was focused on the right things. I wasn’t focused on forecast quota commission. I never cared about it. I knew that if I was showing up and I could understand who I was serving. What they needed to solve and why it mattered for them. That was my job. If I could understand those three things, then we were going to have the conversations that would lead us to a path of partnership.

It was always the greatest compliment to me in the world when I was called a partner instead of a vendor, because if he really knew I had achieved something.  But even still, even,  the, some of the leadership that I worked with and they were lovely people, but they were, their optics were. Not aligned with my optics and and that made it really difficult. For all the leaders of the companies out there, they have to decide, they have to decide what they value and they have to decide that focusing on the human side of business doesn’t make them weak. It makes them wise and it makes their company strong.

And until they do that until they break the cycle of those habits, because there’s a whole lot of neuroscience that goes along with that too, until they break that cycle and they begin standing up very courageously for something different, it will persist.

Andy Paul: Well, yeah. Yeah.  I find it very interesting that cause I’ve been going back and I’ve been doing research in terms of the sales process. There’s the surf conceit going along the wrong. Younger generations of sellers that somehow there’s a modern sales method that somehow superior to what preceded it.

And, but when you look at the fun one, the sales processes that people lay out and I’ll say the SIM, and you’ve got five steps in your sales process or 10 or whatever. And they’re all laid out in CRM systems today. But previously before CRM systems, they’re written down somewhere, I’ve gone back and done research into, and they’re virtually unchanged from 60 years ago to today. Technology not withstanding. So then the conversation as well, Hey, the buyers have changed significantly. Buyer behavior has changed significantly. So I look at these linear staged based sales processes, which fundamentally unchanged and decades over decades, despite all the technology we have surrounding it.

But then you look at the buyer behavior. It definitely has changed. And Gartner published his famous chart. I love talking about. The buyer journey, which is this it’s a flow chart, but basically it looks like a handful of cooked spaghetti was thrown against the wall. And so you have these linear sales processes that are specifically designed to persuade a buyer to buy your product.

To your point, you show up with an agenda to persuade them, to buy your product yet. What the Gartner chart shows is that they’ve got different steps. They go through the buyer at the core of their messy Charlies. So our four or five jobs that buyers do, you can never find a sales process that aligns to the jobs the buyers have to do. And we wonder where we have a problem.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Exactly.

Andy Paul: And this is persistent for decades.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yeah.

Andy Paul: And so we go through and re basically rewrite and re retrain sellers rewrite the same sales books over and over again about being born by her centric, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And we don’t do a goddamn thing about it because people are still so focused on.

We have to persuade these people to buy our product, as opposed to we have to go help them solve a problem. And if we. Yeah. Take your perspective on which sort of mirrored the way I went through sales, I was selling very large complex stuff, worth millions and millions of dollars. Yeah. I always thought about is how do I help somebody solve a problem?

And if I focused on that, I knew I was going to hit my numbers. I knew I was going to make the money I wanted to make, get the career advancement. I wanted all of that came true, but start from perspective of service. And that is, an act of kindness to the buyer. If for no other reason, then.

Yeah, the research shows that, and there’s just a book written about it called the catalyst by Jonah Berger about how every person in the world has this in-built resistance to being persuaded. So I find it ironic that we continue to persist in training sellers and having our go to market be focused on a behavior that universally a hundred percent of our customers hate.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: That and I am in total agreement with you and, I think it was funny. It was really funny. So in the last part of my sales career, I was working, I worked for a really exciting little company called Ansible and it was a startup. I was number 23 there. I was hired at their enterprise sales executive to manage all of our big stuff.

And then we were doing so well, we were picked up by red hat and I remember this, and that was like a sh being shell shocked to me, red hat as a fine company. It was great. And all of that, but yeah. But we were 50 little people about that time with really big aspiration. And by the way, every single one of us was hired for kindness first.

And  our ethos was so great that we took out into the world but I remember one of the sales leader at red hat said to me, as we were, post acquisition, he said, I’m going to invite you to participate in the red hat sales training. And I said, no, thank you. And he said, what do you mean?

I said, I’m not interested. I didn’t sign up for this. And he said what do you mean you didn’t sign up for this? This is the way we do it. And I said, then you can fire me because I’m not doing this. I, I’ve been in sales a long time. I’m not going to go through the methodology or whatever it is that you’re trying to teach people.

I don’t need a product dump. I came to do one thing and that was represent Ansible. And if that’s changed, then I’ll give you my notice. Because what I’ve realized is that in every single sales training and methodology and everything else, one of the fundamental pieces that’s missing is the place where awareness belongs.

And I think that. When we can begin in this again, you’ve got to focus on the human side of the equation and not just the revenues and the, the output that’s going to be created because by the way, as well as I do Andy revenue market share brand loyalty, all created by people that doesn’t happen by itself.

And those things are created. And they’re determined by the level of deep relationship that you have with the clients who entrust you with their business. This is like the easiest thing in the whole world for me. And I can’t understand why this isn’t the focus for every single sales organization out there.

This is where the beauty starts

Andy Paul: They just give it lip service.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I They totally do.

Andy Paul: Increasingly I can, I won’t name names here, but if you’re listening, you know who you are, people who are writing. Yeah. In the echo chamber of LinkedIn and other places that relationships are unimportant in sales.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Well,

Andy Paul: that there’s

Cole Baker-Bagwell: no need to be likable.

And this is, there are people that are listening to this

Oh my gosh. They’re probably going to be out of

Andy Paul: Come out soon after you. And I record this. Oh, these people are, gathering an audience. Cause I think what this idea of connecting with another human being is scary to most people.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I think we’ve become, yeah.  And not to cut you off there but I, it’s not only scary. We’ve become very comfortable with surface relationships. We’ve become very comfortable with the, whatever we anecdotally see on the screen. We, or the few things that come across in a tweet or whatever, like we’re happy with the surface stuff like that’s, but that we’ve been conditioned to become comfortable with that.

Andy Paul: A choice.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Many of our channels of communication with people these days are so superficial.


Yeah, so it’s, but it’s this idea. And I think part of it is that it stems from this idea and I think you surf walk around it and then you in your work is this idea of using the word relationship?

So I’ve certainly felt, and I just got connection human connection because. Too many people here, relationship. Think why don’t need to be friends with that person. It’s like you do understand what a relationship is. Don’t you the way to are things operating together. That’s a relationship. It has nothing to do with big friends and

to do with understanding it has to do with understanding.

Andy Paul: Do with understanding.


Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yeah. And how can you have that? How can you have that? If you don’t have connection with someone, how can you understand them

Andy Paul: I tell. Right? So I’ll ask people the question I said. So what’s the, perhaps the biggest source of value you can bring to your buyer is to make them feel understood.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Actually unended to actually understand them.

Andy Paul: It’s a it’s a basic human desire. People want to feel understood. And also when they’re trying to solve a problem for them to feel that they, you understand their problem, both on a business level, on a personal level and what it means for the company, it means for them, that’s huge. You want to put yourself in a prime, competitive position, take the time to really connect and understand the buyer.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Absolutely. And you know what, auntie, it’s not just nice. It’s their responsibility. Like in my, and my last role that I had, my job was to go in and help companies figure out how they could bring automation in to, their infrastructure, to their networks, to create fluidity, increased productivity, security, all of those things.

If I looked at it as my fundamental responsibility to understand their world, I and to understand the challenges that they had and the customers who relied on them and what were the real concerns that they had and the real breaking points for them. And that was my responsibility because they were interesting business to my care, to the care of my company.

It was making a promise to them that we were going to make all of those things better. So it wasn’t just that it was going to make them feel good. I looked at it as irresponsible for me to do anything less. And my teams that I worked with, same way, they’ll all the people that worked with me on the teams.

I said, listen, Our first, our primary goal is to understand. And second goal, second mission that we had to accomplish was the people that, all the cross-functional team members that were showing up, that had been in their bubbles, working quote unquote, owning their own slice of heaven inside of these banks.

They had to now come together in a different way, perhaps for the first time. So I told my team, I said, if we’re not able to help them connect. And we have to be the catalyst for that connection. We can’t help if we can not get them in the same room together and come to a common understanding, they will never ever be able to make the magic happen with this technology that they need to make.

And that is our responsibility. So I think like that is a posture that every single sales executive, who is worth their salt, every sales leader, who is worth their salt. They need to make it their responsibility to understand, and to cultivate that connection, that relationship tapping into that human side.

And if they’re not, they’re really doing themselves and their clients a huge disservice.

Andy Paul: Yeah, so this gets back to this disconnect with the process that sellers follow versus the journey that buyers go on. And I posted this on LinkedIn earlier this week, I said, yep. Buyers, go on a journey, sellers, follow a process. There’s the problem. Right there. It’s just that perspective.

But to your point about understanding is the first step on the buyer’s journey is to come to a full understanding of the problem that they’re trying to solve and the full understanding of the outcomes they can achieve by solving it. Where’s that step cyst on a sales process.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: It doesn’t and by the way, wasn’t there a statistic  and I’m going to get the number a little wrong, but I think I’m in the right ballpark. Wasn’t it? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 72 or 3% of buyers had already made a lot of those fundamental decisions prior to ever meeting the quote unquote reps that are walking through the door.

They’re doing more homework now than they’ve done before.

Andy Paul: Sure,.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: No, it doesn’t mean it’s full fledged, but they’ve gotten head start. Exactly.

Andy Paul: they haven’t made the decision.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: No.

Andy Paul: I, there’s a reason buyers talk to sellers and it’s not because they want to talk to a salesperson yet to meet a customer. I’ve had great relationships with customers. None of them want to talk to a sales person.

They talk to you because they need to .

Cole Baker-Bagwell: My clients actually enjoy talking.

Andy Paul: I’m sure they did, but.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: No, honestly, Andy, they did. They really did. And even the toughest ones, even the folks in procurement

Andy Paul: But in general, they don’t want to, no one sits there and says, look, I want to talk to a salesperson.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Well, they didn’t want to talk.

Andy Paul: But if you’re willing to come in and if you’re able to come in and help them, then yes,

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Sure.  Sure. I but I will tell you, I think more than anything else, the greatest compliment that I received there was a fellow who was a CIO that I had worked with for about a year and a half. And he said to me, one day out of the blue, he was so fantastic.

Very tough guy. He said, you know what cold? He said, have you ever thought about going into sales? And I said, this was a funny conversation. And I said that’s a funny thing to say, tell me more about it. He said so much about the product and, you’ve been able to guide us along the way and help these teams.

And I think you might be good at it. I said, what is it that you think I do. He said you’re a partner, you’re the one that comes in here and you’re helping us, talk through these problems and you’re helping us, figure out a solution. And I said, you know what?

You’ve just given me. I had tears rolling down my face. I said, you’ve given me the biggest compliment that you could possibly give me because I am your sales executive. And it was, and I’m not tooting my own horn, but I am telling you, maybe a little

Andy Paul: You can, You’re on the show. That’s you? You can toot your own horn.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will tell you that every single time,  anybody listening could go in contact, the people that I worked with, the clients that I worked with, and they would tell you this absolutely to this day when I was in sales, that yes, the thing that brought us together was there a need to solve a problem.

But the thing that kept us in touch was the fact that. I built those relationships with them and help them succeed. And they, some of them, many of them, I know on a human level, on the most human level, and I was honest with them and I, and I really did my best at every single turn to show up for them.

And what, they knew that, and some of them were a little shocked, I think at first, or, what is it that you’re angling for? I’m not angling for anything. I just want to help you solve a problem. Let’s talk through this let’s figure out the next step together. And you know what, I rarely, we rarely were talking about products.

It took a long while. I could assume that’s what got me in the door. They had done some research and they knew right. But but that was never the first point of conversation. And I, and they really appreciated that because I think it was a different experience for them.

Andy Paul: I think it’s, and you talk about this with kindness in terms of, changing the way that we interact with the world around us and show up and relate to each other is this idea of transparency is one that sellers really struggle with, which is it’s not uncommon for a solid. Maybe open a conversation saying, yeah, we’re here to help, but then it gets to the end of the month.

And it’s what can we do to get you to close this week?

you’re suddenly not there to help anymore. It becomes very clear what your agenda is. And we understand the, the needs of business to bring in revenue and hit certain numbers, but there’s a way to do it. And it doesn’t rely on waiting till the last week of the month.

Sometimes better to let the business. Fall to the next week,

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Oh, or the next quarter or the next quarter? Absolutely. And you know what that happened?

Andy Paul: A long-term relation. Sure.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Happened many times to me, Andy, I was working on deals that took, sometimes two or three years to cut because they were so complex and they had so many moving parts and it was great, the, and, but every year, somehow every year my, my teams were successful.

My clients were successful and we made it happen, but it was never because we were focused on that. And the few people who would join my team and say call, we’ve got to close this, we’ve got to close this. I said I need you to focus on the next step in understanding this problem that we’re solving.

We’re going to get there. If the fit is right, if we do a good job, and if we can come to a common understanding, we’re going to get there. But to your point, it might roll into the next quarter. And if it does that’s okay, because that’s not, what’s driving this relationship right now. What’s driving. The relationship is that we have established trust mutual trust with one another.

And we are, moving towards something together. So that’s where we are.

Andy Paul: Yeah, and I have a perspective, as I share with people, which is, just a different way of thinking about what you’re trying to do when you. Meet with the customer, virtually person is you’re only a four tasks, deepen the connection, discover more, understand, more, give something of value.

And if you could just do those four things every time you interact with a buyer, those four simple things, deepen the connection. Discover more, understand, more, give value. You’re going to succeed. That’s pretty simple,

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yeah. And that word value is one of those funny words, because it’s relative. You know what may be valuable to you as not valuable to them. So it’s really that understanding is the piece that has to come first, so you can understand what would be valuable, right?

Andy Paul: Cause they have to acknowledge that it’s valuable and that’s that’s right.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: yeah, no.

Andy Paul: Caveat or the addition I put on to everything we’ve talked about, we got deliver value. I said yeah, but it has to be acknowledged by the buyer. That’s valuable to them.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: You’re right. What’s valuable to them. And then, so if you began to go backwards now from that place and you think about what does it take to execute successfully? When we talk about human connection and understanding what does it talk about too? What do we need to think about as we consider what’s valuable to the other person?

We have to have a certain level of awareness and in a culture that is focused on doing over, being a culture that focuses on, do more, produce, more, produce more. You’re never going to get there. You have to slow down long enough to cultivate awareness. First of self and of others, before you can move to that place where you can develop all of the, all of those other things that you’ve mentioned and that are really great points.

You have to. Cultivate a sense of awareness first, and that gets you. It’s that’s the foundation that will enable you to move forward successfully and execute on all of those other, all of those other things.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I think who was my Dan pink or someone’s done some work talking about being attuned to the buyer and I think the awareness surf, I think it’s a similar usage Jeff, to be attuned to these individuals that you’re connected with.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Yeah, for sure.

Andy Paul: All right. We’ll call we’ve run out of time, but this has been a great conversation.

Thank you for joining me. And if people want to connect with you or learn more about what you’re doing, how can they do that?

Cole Baker-Bagwell: I will be talking a lot about soul and relationships and connection and the importance of those things on LinkedIn and doing no harm up under Cole Baker Bagwell. So they can find me there.

Andy Paul: Perfect. Again, thank you very much. And look forward doing it again.

Cole Baker-Bagwell: Thanks, Sandy. It was great talking with you.

Andy Paul: All right, Alex.