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Moving from Models to Mindset: Rethinking the Sales Conversation, with John Reid [Episode 806]

John Reid is the founder of the sales advisory firm JMReid Group and author of the book, “Moving from Models to Mindset: Rethinking the Sales Conversation.”

On today’s episode, John and I find ourselves in violent agreement about (most of) the main points of his book. We dig into why so many of our sales training dollars are misspent. Most of you know that is a particular concern of mine! And we spend time on what separates the good from the average seller. All sellers receive pretty much the same training and have the same skill set. So what enables some to achieve consistent results? The answer is simple. Plus, a great story from John about how he first learned to sell.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: John Reid. Welcome to the show.

John Reid: Thank you. It’s great to be here, Andy.

Andy Paul: Yeah, we’ve been planning this for a long time. We finally made it happen. Either between I had to reschedule or you had to reschedule. So glad you’re here because gave me a chance to read your book, Moving from Models to Mindset: Rethinking the Sales Conversation. And you know, I got to tell you, it’s your book’s headed to the top of my list of favorite sales books I’ve read recently.

I mean, it’s just good, common sense thinking about what we need to address in sales to help people perform better. And in a very simple, straightforward way, that’s not full of unnecessary complexity, which I think is really what’s needed.

John Reid: Yeah, thank you. That was the intent. So it was intended to be pragmatic and something that obviously didn’t have a lot of complexity to it because it doesn’t make something easy to apply.

Andy Paul: Yeah, well, it got me thinking about a number of things because you have the stat in there, which I’ve seen other places too, is that the annual spend on sales training in the US is $20 billion. And if you, if you look at that and say, okay, well, gosh, look at these reports are showing the sales performance or the number of reps, attaining quotas dropping year over year for the last seven to eight years. What are we getting for that 20 billion?

John Reid: Yeah. I mean, I know who’s I know who’s doing well. The big, large sales training organizations, they’re doing fine. but the actual, participants really right. The learner, if you really get down to it, cause the sales organization can be doing fine. Cause you can have some people carrying the organization, but if you get to the learner level, some people are being, you know, overfed models and underserved something that’s actually gonna work.

So if, if you say, you know, who’s, who’s, what does this all mean? Well, there’s, there’s people out there trying to sell that’s their call in life. That’s what they’re trying to do well, and they’re just not being equipped to do that effectively.

Andy Paul: But where’s the, where’s the sort of real challenge lie. I mean, is it the learning methodology? Is it, which certainly I’m sure it’s part of it is that, you know, the content for what we’re trying to train people. I mean, where do we start trying to fix

John Reid: Wow. I mean, it’s a little bit like the industrial military complex when it comes to training cause training, you can have these training providers and HR and the, you know, they, they they’ve got a symbiotic relationship where we’ll certify you, or, you know, we have the latest book, we have the latest thing. And so it kind of sped itself for a long time, that sort of, that sort of industry, and it’s an industry built on intellectual property. So it’s an industry built on that somebody’s written a book like me and that because I’ve written a book naturally I can deliver training, which are two unrelated things, but let’s stay with me.

So I’ve written a book. I can start a training company and the answer is the intellectual property. The answer is the model. The answer is the belief system is that, you know, the model is the answer.

Andy Paul: There’s one way to sell and this person has happened on it, right?

John Reid: Yeah, I’ve happened on it. It’s the right way. It works in any context. And if it doesn’t work, it’s gotta be you. It’s either your commitment to the spend wasn’t as big as we hoped it was, you didn’t buy enough. You’re not using it. Right. Um, of course. We’ve made it hard for you to use it right because we don’t really want you to integrate it with other stuff that might be working in other people’s intellectual property.

We don’t really want you to make copies and send it around or have reinforcement unless you pay us more for that. So we really don’t want you to apply it in an easy way. What we want you to do is buy our intellectual property. Listen to us, talk about it and just fall in line.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And keep buying

John Reid: Yeah. And keep buying it. And yeah, go ahead.

Andy Paul: No, I’m sorry. Go ahead.

John Reid: No, it’s just, it’s just amazing, right? I mean, I come from business. So I spent the first half of my career in industry and I joined the training and development industry kind of late. And I work for a variety of companies before I started my own 11 years ago. And I just noticed this. I was just fascinated by like, I want to say, it’s a scam that people running because these people are well-intended and they really do believe they have the answer and they want to do value. Yeah. But it’s hard to get at. They just, they just, they companies have a difficult time getting out of their own way. They believe they have the answer versus believing they have an answer. So I believe I have an answer, but I don’t think it’s the answer. Once you think it’s the answer you’re zealot.

You’re right. They’re wrong. It’s, it’s a whole bunch of unhealthy things show up that don’t help for learning.

Andy Paul: Well, I think one of the things that comes out of that is this idea that everybody has to comply to that model and that somehow that model, that methodology is appropriate for all the sellers in your company.

John Reid: Yeah, it’s insane.

Andy Paul: Which is absolutely insane. And yet it seems like this is, this is becoming more prevalent in sales organizations is we need to have people be more compliant with our process, with our playbook, with our methodology. And if you’re not, then yeah, we don’t have room for you. And I think what we’re heading for, oftentimes this is, you know, we’re really aiming for the least common denominator.

John Reid: Yeah, I mean- there’s always that tension between process rigor and skills, right? Is it a behavior issue? Is it a, is a process issue? Is it an offering? You know, what, what are we trying to solve for? And it’s very attractive to try to solve it in a metric way in a KPI way and say, look, we’re just going to have- but you know, I still want, I’m still curious as to what comes out of their mouth when they talk to a client, I’m still kind of curious as to how they handle the objection? How do they present solutions? I mean, I think all that matters more, frankly, um, But the industry has really gone, gone driven by Salesforce, driven by CRM. All these tools, it’s become a tool driven sales approach. Um, and we’ve lost some of the arts that comes with the conversation and these end sort of the underlying belief system in order to be effective in any system.

Andy Paul: Which you’re implying, which I think is, I agree with those that selling is neither completely art or completely a science. It’s a mix.

John Reid: Oh yeah, definitely a mix. It’s all contextual. So, I mean, I was just off a call and this, because this private equity firm believes that this one sales person that they have in one of their portfolio customers is the greatest salesperson who ever lived. Um, But I had to kind of convince him that he’s good in the context of that sale.

It’s a very transactional sale. It’s a very, a high relationship sale, but I think he would have his lunch eaten if he had to do a long term complex sale with multiple decision makers. I don’t think he’d be effective in that context. So context matters in selling.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I think context matters in two different dimensions. One is certainly the dimension you mentioned, which is what you’re selling, who you’re selling it for, who you’re selling it to, that context is really important in terms of dictating someone’s ability to succeed. The other context though, and I think this is what gets lost is that sales is a series of moments.

Right. We can have all the process we want, but sales happens in these discrete moments that are strung together to create a buying experience that hopefully results in an outcome for you and there’s context for each of those, know, being able to successfully navigate from one to the other requires understanding the context that you’re in. And we were struggling, obviously helping sellers to understand how to process that and how to operate in the environment.

John Reid: Well, there’s a lot of forces that, I mean, the book, the book that I wrote, this particular books about, you know, moving from models to mindset. That’s the underlying belief system. You’ve got to get your head wrapped around that. If you get your beliefs, right. Uh, then your, the skill, the behaviors will probably show up fine.

You get, once you understand the underlying belief. Of the second book, I was going to write if I, I’m not gonna write this book, but you know, I was teaching my own team you know, it’s all about the second call. It’s not about the first call. The first call is just to get you the second call. And so if you really think it’s about that second call, what do you need to do on that first call to get that second call?

Um, to your point, it’s about, it’s about thinking it’s a process. It’s about those moments. It’s about what, you know, what do you do when and why do you do that? Then there’s an art to that.

Andy Paul: There is! I mean, but there’s. I mean certainly it seems experience-based obviously, but, um, when you’re talking about mindset, this is sort of interesting because people when talk about mindset, they tend to think it’s all about this power of positive thinking. And I don’t think that’s what you’re really referring to when you’re talking about mindset.

John Reid: Oh, not at all. Quite the contrary there’s enough books about, you know, that, that stuff just doesn’t work. And I, and I’m not a big believer in that. Pink does talk about the idea that if you’re stressed out or nervous, you might use, uh, you might ask yourself cognitive questions to get out of it. So you might say, why am I going to be successful?

Why, why is this going to go my way? Which isn’t positive thinking. It’s just trying to tone down your emotional brain and tap into your cognitive brain. When I talk about mindset, I’m talking about, you know, what do I believe in terms of why people buy? What do I believe in terms of how to build trust? Um, just what’s my underlying belief about all that, that, that stuff. What does the science tell us? What is the social science and neuroscience tells us I need to do. And then once I embrace that, execute on it.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I, I, so I, I define that as having a,sort of two words or two phrases, we can interchange, one is having a philosophy, right, or having a defined point of view about why things happen, how they happen and so on. And I think that the service that sellers do to themselves oftentimes, and certainly organizations do it as well, as by saying, there’s just one way that sales happens and hewing to this methodology is people aren’t encouraged to develop that point of view, that singular point of view about, yeah, my, my experience is this is in this, in this context and this situation, this is likely what’s going on.

John Reid: Sure the, I mean, there’s a place for models, right? The handling objection, model makes sense. A model around how you might open a call. Makes sense, because then you can coach to it. Then you can assess yourself against it. Then you can say, okay, this is what I didn’t do well that time. That’s why the call didn’t open effectively, but a model as the whole thing. It’s just silly. I mean, it’s just, it fails by its own weight. And so we, I do, I have a belief in models. Somebody said, Oh, you’re the guy that hates models. I’m like, no, I just don’t think the model is the answer. Uh, I think there’s a place for them.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, I look at it a little bit differently, which is that yeah models are important, but for me, the well-prepared salesperson is the one who knows or has a sense about what to do when things don’t happen, according to the model.

John Reid: Yeah.

Andy Paul: And I think that’s what sales fundamentally is, is I don’t know, you’ve been in sales for a long time, just like I have. I mean, how often has anything gone according to plan.

John Reid: I mean it does, but not to freak out the listener. Like it never goes to plan, but yeah, there are those moments where you’ve got to lean back on your skills, on your belief system on, you know, I don’t know what to do. I’m going to ask a question. I’m not going to talk that’s, you know, just rule one, questions are always the answers. Ziglar said that, right. Um, and so, yeah, there’s certain things as you get wisdom, you know, as you go through stuff, You start to say, well, that didn’t work. I’ll do this. That didn’t work. I’ll do this. Uh, and so you, you, you sharpen your craft as you go, of course.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I think part of the craft is in a significant part of the craft is having that flexibility and adaptability to sort of take in unexpected bits of information, synthesize them into a, the right response.

John Reid: Yeah. That’s why, uh, you know, I, I w I mean, while I was just, I think I’ll name names, but the most popular one, like Spin Selling, but there’s other leaders in this field, uh, Spin’s less of a leader these days, but the, um, yeah, the idea that was a model and you put the customer through the model, it’s just like, you know, farce to me, it’s like, really?

That’s what we’re going to go do. I mean, they’re not going to see that we’re not going to have a genuine conversation. We’re gonna try to force them into this construct that somebody said they observed people and it worked. Um, I know Rachman. I mean, maybe his research is good. Maybe it’s not, but I can tell you that I’ve never spun anybody.

That wasn’t the framework in my head when I was selling anyone, uh, I was having conversations. That I was genuinely curious about what they were trying to do. And if something didn’t make sense, I might challenge them on it. Or I might say, please, I would do it this way. Why are you doing it that way? I had no, you know, and I never thought it was about relationship.

Like I want them to like me. I thought they probably did. I don’t think any customer wakes up and says, Oh, I hope a sales person calls me today. And I hope I really liked them. And we become friends. They wake up and me, I got a problem and I hope that the salesman calls me amd he’s not gonna waste my time talking at me.

It’s just so obvious to me that that’s how they wake up. So I want to come along that journey with them. But other training doesn’t most training doesn’t have that conversation. For example, you can go through lots of sales training and never have that fundamental conversation.

Andy Paul: Well, and so you focus a lot on the book in sort of that, that first conversation, the connection building the connection, and you. Say that one of the first things you want to sort of shift as people’s perception of what a relationship means in sales. And so to you, what does a relationship mean in sales?

John Reid: Um, it means that they trust you. It means that they believe when you speak, you’re doing it with their interest in high regard. That you’re not self serving that you’re not doing it because you’re under some sort of pressure to make a number, uh, that, that they, yeah. That they can really trust you. And because they can trust you, if they have a problem, they’re going to reach out to you and that they see you as more curious, Then just about what they can buy and sell from you.

But you’re curious about their business as a whole and them as a human as a whole, uh, you know, you’re, you’re just not going to ask, you know, how many containers did you buy last month .Because our questions reveal a lot about us. I’m going to ask about two years from now, where do you see the company heading?

Cause I’m telling you by that question that I’m going to be around two years from now. But if I only have short term transactional questions and that sends a different message. So, you know, getting my head wrapped around that in terms of relationship. So it’s all about trust obviously, but it’s not, it’s not about being liked.

It’s about being, it’s more on the, on the respect end of them.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. One of the ancient Greek philosophers, I forget which one, was Plato or Aristotle or someone was saying that, uh, you know, describe this type of relationship as, um, a friendship of utility. Um, and I think that describes it, right? It’s it’s it’s not, not an emotional friendship. It doesn’t have to be a friendship, but then, you know, he started brought it, but it’s sometimes utilitarian relationship. I think, you know what you talked about people waking up saying, Hey, I want to talk to a salesperson today. But, but I think that somebody once asked me, well, you know, how should have a buyer feel about you? And I think, yeah, you do want to be like, well, I said they should be positively neutral about you.

John Reid: I would agree with that. Yeah. I mean, yeah. I mean, if, if they like it that’s bonus, right. If you become friends and that, that, that relationship that’s great, you know, good for you, but that’s not the end game and that’s not the plan all the time and that’s not why I want people to buy from me.

Andy Paul: yeah. That’s why I thought positively neutral right. It’s it’s a great sort of oxymoronic statement that

John Reid: yeah, it’s works.

Andy Paul: it and it works. And so you had an interesting point in the book, you said that, uh, you know, A, a lot of recent books about sales dismiss the importance of relationships and, or they assume that sellers are already proficient in building relationships and neither of which is true. Right?

John Reid: It’s amazing. The one thing that sales people would say, yeah, I’m good at, yeah it turns out they’re not very good at it. And I tell them, we do the training, I’m like, look, you know, I’m going to prove to you in 15 minutes you’re not as good at this. This is after they say confidently that one of the, of the six selling skills, fundamental selling skills I’m really good at connecting with people and making a connection. And then when you give them this quick scenario where you know, the customer wants to end a new customer, excuse me.

Andy Paul: Is this your soccer story?

John Reid: Yeah. Do you mind if I tell it or no? Okay. So yeah, we give them this scenario where it’s a new customer. They’ve agreed to an hour meeting at three o’clock. And when the meeting starts, they say, Hey, I want to cut the meeting to 30 minutes to see my daughter’s soccer game. And it’s just fascinating. These people who say I’m great at building relationship, I’m great at building connections, maybe a handful, maybe on a good day, you might get three out of 20 sales professionals ask a question about the daughter, the rest, stop and go right to the agenda. They go right to what do you want to cover? What do you want to cover in the time they have some of them get angry. They say, do you want to know what I would say or what I’m thinking? I’m like, what are you thinking? Like, well, how dare they.

My time valuable. And how, why would they do it? Yes. And so it’s just fascinating to watch. And what the point of that whole thing is that the best of us, uh, particularly those that are blind to it though, really misreport cues. People are giving us report cues all the time, but we have our own agenda, our own pressures, and we miss them.

And then we talk about how we’re great at building relationship. And we’re just not.

Dimaggio who has, you know, the range of appropriate emotional responses goes from dismissive, disinterested, interested, and overly interested. You know, most people are dismissive. I mean, I, the customer says the daughter line and they don’t even mention it.

You can say, okay, we’ll get, well, I’ll keep it quick. Some people are disinterested. They’ll say, Oh, that’s, that’s good you can go to the game. Let’s get started. So we’re not going to talk about it, but I heard you. There again, only three of 10 might say, wow, that’s great, so what position does your daughter play? Or how long has she been playing soccer? How many games do you get to see.

They missed that opportunity. And the whole point is so what you can now, the listener could go well so what you didn’t ask about the daughter, well, rapport in sale is huge because if you find something in common with someone they want to help you and we all need help.

So finding common ground is a very human thing and that’s way more important than if I can find something in common with somebody that’s way more important than whatever else I had on my agenda. Arguably. In terms of the longterm value of that. So lean into those opportunities to build rapport and to make that connection. And I just, I’m fascinated to some degree less. So as I’ve gone on just how many sales people miss the cues?

Andy Paul: Yeah, it’s compounded by the fact they’re being told it’s not important, which is absolutely ridiculous.

John Reid: Well, yeah.

Andy Paul: And the connection you form with another person, that’s everything about sales. And I have my own soccer story. I’ve told this before, as you know, I’ve written about it before, where early in my career had formed this great rapport with the guy that owned a small chain of retailers and I was selling a computer system to them. And we’re marching the path. But. At some point momentum just sort of slowed and, and yeah, it’s really anxious to get the deal closed and just wasn’t happening. And, and the owner of this retail firm was a older guy, a grandfather, and, and he’d invite me in to talk to him, but nothing would ever happen. And so finally, I get down to this is our last meeting and it sort of dawned on me that he was trying to teach me a lesson, but that we had built this rapport, but then I’d gotten so focused on getting the order. I had ignored the relationship part and he had on his desk a row of pictures of his grandkids and soccer uniforms. And finally invites me back in again. And this time I lead off by asking that question about the kids. And he made a point just telling me this is where he was reminding me.

John Reid: Wow. Wow.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, I think you often learn how to sell from your customers. Right.

John Reid: Yes, that is true.

Andy Paul: That was a fantastic lesson about, yeah, you can, you just can’t give it lip service, you know, if you’re building this rapport and this connection it’s, it has to be built on, has to be sustained.

You just can’t take it for granted. You know, I can, I can look at an opportunity of a pipeline of opportunities that people have lost and deconstruct the deals. And oftentimes you can trace back the point of failure to right at the beginning.

John Reid: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, the other thing about relationships are that our salespeople in this area of relationships is too many of them. It’s just off the charts. The other thing that I would say is off the charts is the number of salespeople who think it’s about being responsive. That being responsive, getting back quickly is sort of their brand and why they’re going to succeed. And we have a lot of fun with that because, you know, we have them, we have to get people. Do you want to compete on a. Yeah, where’s the relationships. Is it about competence or is about responsiveness and most people say, you know, a lot of people, it’s something 60, 70% over the time say, yeah, I’d probably try to win on responsiveness.

So those three characteristics, I am really highly responsive. And then I say to them, well, you know what other part of a company might describe themselves as somebody who gets back to people right away, they’re quick to respond and they quickly realize is customer service. And I say, yeah, you guys are glorified customer service people. You know, I mean, it’s not bad to be responsive, but you don’t want to win on that. Cause you can be replaced. It’s it’s a candidates, I’ve always liked behaviors that salespeople do that can get them replaced by either a robot or customer service or lower cost fee. You’ve got to add value. You’ve got to,

Andy Paul: Well but, so I have a counter story to that though. Because, because in my first book I wrote actually my first two books, I wrote extensively about responsiveness.

John Reid: Okay. You like responsiveness?

Andy Paul: But as I said in the book being first respond is not being responsive.

John Reid: Ah,

Andy Paul: You’re only responsive if you know, the customer has a question inquiry, if you’re delivering something of value in your response. And so for me, responsiveness has always been the combination of value plus speed.

John Reid: Yeah.

Andy Paul: Respond quickly with something of value. So, you know, if somebody has a question and, and you get back quickly, but you don’t know the answer, you’re not being responsive.

John Reid: Can I use that? I’m going to use that. That was good.

Andy Paul: Sure. It’s in the books. Go ahead. I mean, that’s, that’s what responsive is. It’s it’s not being first to respond. You know, as I said, speed in itself is great in a foot race, in isolation, but it’s, it’s no good in sales without value associated with it.

John Reid: Yep. We are. We’re in violent agreement.

Andy Paul: Yeah. That’s why I thought it was interesting. Cause people sort of say, and I hear this a lot and read it a lot is, and I absolutely agree, but just depends how you define responsiveness because I think, you know, it’s like a, you watch a courtroom drama on TV. The lawyer asks the witness a question and they give an answer and, and the lawyer says, well, you’re not, they’re not being responsive. It’s not, they didn’t answer, they weren’t answering the question. Right. So you got to combine the speed with, with the value and if you do that hugely effective. Cause what are customers trying to do? Customers are trying to in general, quickly gather information to make a good decision with the least investment of time and effort possible. And so responsiveness, as I define it has been a huge advantage for me throughout my entire career.

John Reid: Yeah, because you’re focusing when you’re focused on both value and speed. A lot of salespeople, um, I think focused on the speed part. . I mean, I had a partner at a professional consulting company, really smart, impressive guy. And he said, you know, I told my customers I’m available 24/7.

I’m like, wow, you sound like, you know, you sound like a 7/11. I mean, what are you doing? That’s your brand? I mean, really I’m always open. I mean, come on. I mean, it’s, it’s a, it’s a way to go, but I just wonder if that’s really, what is they value and how much value is that versus getting a really good answer when I call or, you know, having some things that were challenging.

Whereas Challenge I’m not a big Challenger Selling fan, except for the idea that challenging companies thinking or having them think differently is a very big value you can add. Um, if you, if you have a relationship and you can effectively say, I don’t know about that. I don’t think you need that.

There’s a story. We use example we use called Bring Me a Rock that I came up with years ago about the idea the customers is, bring me a rock and you know, a lot of sales people run off and get a rock and say, here’s a rock. And they say, Oh, I was hoping for a blue rock and they’d run off and they’d come back and like, Oh, you know what? I was thinking, it’d be bigger than this or smoother. And so this, you know, this is what sales, so you got to find out. So most of those people. So relationship only sales people that think it’s about relationship and only about responsiveness with no value. We’ll just go get rocks. As a percentage, a lot of people will go ask questions about the rocks. Why rock, why rock? But what color rock you looking for? How heavy a rock do you want? It is the challenge or the insight driven sales person who will say, well, hold on, you shouldn’t even need a rock. How did you get to a rock? So as a salesperson, you want to be questioning the, you know, the initial requests. Cause you. Under the guise of not the guise under the real 10th of really adding value and getting people what they really need.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, you talk about curiosity as a lost superpower in the book and I, I tend to think that’s true. Cause we’ve, we’ve over scripted salespeople and, and don’t, you know, the best questions are the ones that you didn’t know you’re going to ask, right?

John Reid: Yeah.

Andy Paul: the meeting, I mean, if you only ask the questions around the script and you go to a meeting, it’s like, did you learn anything? Well, nothing special. Um, you know, you didn’t take the extra step, go extra deeper, you know, ask two, follow up questions, all those things. And I see this behavior or hear this behavior on recorded calls all the time. So talk about, you have a phrase used in a book called The Expertise Trap. So define that for people.

John Reid: Well, the expertise trap is based upon some research that says that the smarter you are, the less curious you become. Uh, imagine a curve, a U shaped curve, uh, and the access is low and high knowledge, and it starts out bottom low left, you know, bottom left, goes up and then it comes back down at high and that represents the curiosity curve.

And what happens is that, you know, people with some knowledge and uh, some interests, you know, they’re going to be curious, but people that have no knowledge sometimes they’re incurious because they don’t want to look foolish, but equally people that have lots of them knowledge about a subject, they find themselves not being curious.

So yeah, there is a trapping, the expert for two reasons. One, either you think, you know, at all, or even more damning as you think you’re supposed to know it all. So you don’t want to ask questions that may be reveal. So customer couldn’t use jargon and you think, well, I’m supposed to know that, I guess, cause I’m an expert, so I’m not going to ask them what that jargon was. Where people in the middle would hopefully say, I’m sorry, I’m not familiar with, you know, ABCD. What was that? What does that stand for again? Uh, and so we really have to watch it the smarter we get. But this sort of curse of knowledge, right? That’s wonder we get the less curious we become.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, the corollary though is, is the Dunning-Kruger effect, which says that your perception, personal perception of how much, you know, uh, is the bigger issue perhaps. I mean, because then you become incurious and lack the desire to learn. Cause, well, Hey, I’ve done this once. I know how it works or, you know, I’ve been in sales for five years.

I’ve got it all figured out as opposed to I’ve been in sales for decades I’m still trying to figure it out, uh, even performing at the top of the game because it changes everyday practically by customer, by customer.

John Reid: Yeah, and that, and they’re all auditions, but every call you can go, Oh, here’s an opportunity missed, Oh, here’s something I should have done differently. Here’s the hole I fell into. And I mean, sometimes you go, wow, I nailed it. That was great. Look what I did there. Um, but there are times, uh, you know, and I’ve written books. You’ve written books. Very, you go, ah, Now, why did I make that mistake? What caused me to do that? You know, what was I thinking when I did that? And

Andy Paul: Well and I give the example of. This show this podcast. So I know you’re probably about the 800 interview I’ve had

John Reid: I feel so special, when you say that.

Andy Paul: Yeah, we’ve big audience, lots of, lots of value we’re delivering.

John Reid: Okay. All right.

Andy Paul: And, but the thing is, is that to a certain degree, yeah, whether you’re author, a thought leader, a sales VP, a CEO, you have interviewed whole spectrum of people, you would think, well, haven’t I saw heard it all, but the fact is I haven’t, you know, every time I interview somebody, I learn something new, part of the reason why I keep on doing it.

And that’s something similar thing you could talk to hundreds of customers. I mean, engage in a conversation in depth conversation like I have with a guest on the show. And if you’re curious, you’re gonna learn something every single time. And I say this from the background of somebody with decades of, of incredibly successful sales experience, I’m still learning.

So that’s why I love doing the show. Well similar you should have that same mindset when you’re in sales. Is, is this curiosity as you talk about being your superpower, Is, yeah, that’s A, what keeps it interesting? What keeps you challenged? What keeps you motivated to serve your customers is learning what the new about them that’s different from anything else that you’ve seen before.

John Reid: Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, I was blessed out of school, I got hired by Dow Chemical, and I had never had a chemistry course in my life. And that by definition required me to ask a lot of questions. And my, my peers, uh, wouldn’t ask those questions because they were, they thought they knew it. Uh, but you know, people like to talk about themselves. People like to talk about their filtration system or their pipes or their, whatever it was I was asking about people like to talk about their stuff. Um, and so I, yeah,

Andy Paul: There’s another part of that though, that you bring out in the, in the book, which I thought was, was really good. So I believe that one of the biggest sources of value that we provide us as sellers to a customer is understanding. Yeah. If we do a good job of digging in and really understanding the issue, they’re trying to solve the objectives, they want to achieve whatever, that has value to them.

You know, as they perceive who to make their choice to go with, feeling understood is important. And it’s a basic human need as well. And, and you, you talk about this in the book, cause you know, your job is to out understand the competition and I think that’s a good way of putting it.

John Reid: Yeah. I decided long ago that I wouldn’t have understood. I just, I realized that, wow, if I can demonstrate understanding, then people trust the solution so that they feel like you got it. Oh my gosh, you got my situation. You got me, you got my concern. You know, what do we do? Tell me, tell me the solution.

Then that was easy. It’s when they don’t feel fully understood that you have all these questions about your solution, because this doesn’t feel right. And it doesn’t feel right. Or make sense because some level, this doesn’t represent a complete understanding of me. So I. I can be persuasive as the next person, but I’d rather not win on that. It’s actually easier to win on out understanding and not persuading.

Andy Paul: Well, yeah. Understanding is influential, you know. I would say you want to be influential rather than persuasive, persuasive is sort of coercive. You’re trying to force it, whereas yeah. If you want to have a competitive reason or if you’re sitting there thinking, cause another question I could ask the buyer about this. I, I think I understand I’m not quite sure. It’s a competitive advantage to ask that other, ask the additional question.

John Reid: Yeah, it often is that extra question.

Andy Paul: Yeah. They never resent it. They never resent giving you the time in order to answer a good question that you’ve asked them.

John Reid: No, no. It could, people want to be understood and they want, they want you to know what you need to know in order to give them good advice. Good value.

Andy Paul: And this is such a human aspect of sales that, that people want to overlook. So we talked about before making that initial connection is this human to human element that cannot be replaced and you know, moving on is understanding. People want to be understood. As you said, it builds trust it mitigates the perception of risk.

John Reid: I had a customer, you know, years ago, say to me, Oh, you know, you finally agreed to talk to me in 15 minutes. And he goes, like, I got 15 minutes, tell me about your company. And I said, look, I only need three. Can I have 12 to ask you questions? And he said, yes, but it was like, it was like dance monkey dance. Cause that’s what you salespeople do.

I’ve got a sales person on the line who has been chasing me down. I know how they are. So go ahead. Do your dance. You get 15 minutes and I’m like, I’m not going to do that dance. That’s a loser’s dance. That’s re that’s not a value add dance. So, and by the way, if you can explain what you do in three minutes, 15 minutes, it’s probably not going to help you.

Andy Paul: Well, no for sure. But I think it’s a great response. If you’re listening to this and you want a great response for that opening call, if somebody says, yeah, tell me what you do. You got 10 minutes. I was like, yeah, give me three then give me the rest to ask you questions.

John Reid: Because I, and I think I even said to him, like when I use my three, it’ll be more valuable to you because I can make it relavent.

Andy Paul: Yeah, that’s a good one. So, uh, another thing I enjoyed in the book you talked about, uh, telling your customers story, um, tell people what you mean by that?

John Reid: This is big. I mean, this is my, this is an original John Reed idea. I had a client recently who said, you know, there’s nothing to really new or, you know, and I’m like, well, I know this is new beacuse I thought of it and I’ve never seen it anywhere else. Um, And it came about. I actually, I do it. Uh, so I was doing it and then I noticed that there was this passion and a sort of movement to get salespeople, to be storytellers. And the idea of, you know, I need to tell your story better, that you need to tell your clients, you know, the story of case studies or the story of your company in order to make the sale we know we have to tell it.

So it was like the problem to be solved was salespeople don’t talk well enough. Like what that’s, that’s the underlying belief, right? That if they could just tell stories better, the customers would like it more, which I think is just hogwash. I mean, if the storytelling’s nice and it’s important, but let’s not get crazy. What far interested me, which I noticed was a differentiator in my sales approach was I had a couple of meetings that, you know, they were good discussions. And when I summarized and I always sort of ask questions, summarize, and then talk about me, cause I want to out understand. So I have to nail the summary. So the summary was big, always for me as a sales person.

And as I started to think about this craft. And you can actually, if you have your, a game on, you can do the summary in story form, meaning you can say to the client look, here’s what, I understood:

Five years ago, you know, you joined the organization, you were all excited, you came in and what you immediately noticed was, and what you’re doing is telling their story. Telling back what they told you, but in a story form, and the beauty of that is a couple things. One of the beautiful things about it, that’s not obvious is you can sneak things in. You can say, I’m guessing you nervous. It sounds like you might’ve been excited. So you can cause you’re, you’re telling a story. So it doesn’t have to be factual. It’s a story of them as you see it, and then you can ask it, you know, and you can, so when I do this and I play their story back to them and variably, they’re like, well, you nailed it. Or if you didn’t nail it. It’s great because they want you to get their story right. So many salespeople are like risk averse, like, Oh, well, what if you tell the story and you’re wrong, they’re gonna fix it.

It’s their story. They’re not gonna fix your story if it’s wrong. But, so I did stumble upon something that I thought was at its height, it’s like the masterclass of out understanding your competition. I don’t do it always, but when the time is right when I have that picture created by the client, when I’m taking my notes and getting the thing together.

And, uh, I, when I do it, it’s very powerful as a sales tool and people will say, well, you really got it. And then I know, you know, it’s almost game set match. I haven’t even talked about me yet. I haven’t presented my solution yet. All I’ve done is listen and tell their story back to them in a way that was compelling. And they agreed to, and we’re 90% to close. And I haven’t even talked about what I do. How great is this?

Andy Paul: Yeah, and I sort of, I extend that a little bit. I take the exact same approach. I’ve written about this as well. Is that the one story you need to tell is you need to be able to tell the customer story. That’s the one story a sales person needs to be able to tell is the customer story. And yeah, it’s combination what you talked about.

And I think if you include also the vision of what they’re going to achieve, through their investment in your solution or working with you. Then you’ve completed that picture. And that’s the story you build continuously through the selling process, is you’re building the story of them. And there’s a great quote from John Steinbeck that I always refer to, which, uh, I think actually it might be from East of Eden, I think, but the quote is from Simon is “If a story is not about the hearer, he will not listen. The strange and foreign is not interesting. Only the deeply personal and familiar.”

John Reid: Wow. That’s good. I’m gonna steal that too. Now, when we teach, when I teach this and it’s a nuance, but I understand, I mean, we, my purpose of those of the story here is to get to the summary, right. To get to the point of choice. If you can think of a classic story, it’s okay. Who are the characters? What’s the context, who’s the characters, what’s the crisis?

And so I get into that sort of point in the story, and then, you know, then I’m going to come along and say, okay, you’re at a point of choice. You can either stay with what you’re doing, but here are the risk. Or you can go in this direction. That’s where that struggle you’re having. And they’ll say yes. And then, you know, then I can come along to say, given where you are, here’s what I would recommend.

Here’s how we could help you in that dynamic. So I take them all the way and you can say, well, you’re just doing the old pain thing again, but that’s not, that’s not the point. I’m not, I’m not ,my questions aren’t to manipulate. Bad selling is like, okay, you got to expand the pain. Do you have to go ask him about pain? I mean, I never thought that way for a day in my life. That that’s what I mean, because I wanted to be authentic. I wanted to have a conversation and that it goes where it goes.

Andy Paul: Yeah. So I’d tell people, you know, my career have taken orders for over $600 million, uh, big systems, small systems. So, you know, huge enterprise, some biggest company in the world never once asked anybody about a pain point. No one was ever buying for that. They were buying to achieve something.

John Reid: Yeah. I mean, it’s just

Andy Paul: What was the outcome that they wanted.

John Reid: Some of the stuff people have been taught, you know, and I don’t know, there’s some stuff we’re taught, like, uh, No, no, it’s not. No, it’s just no, for now. I’m like, no, no. Now the move go do something else. Go find out where to leave. I mean, you know,

Andy Paul: I know this one, cause we’re hearing this all more and more now during this COVID time, as you know, let’s manage these objections, let’s handle these objections. You mean the fact I just laid off 50% of my workforce and you still think I should go ahead and, um, Yeah. Sometimes no is just no.

John Reid: yeah.

Andy Paul: that’s okay.

John Reid: Yeah.

Andy Paul: I had an early, early manager who taught me this lesson is I have since adopted his, his philosophy or did early on, but he would say, yeah, they’re not prospect. He says, let me tell you my big world theory. And I said, what’s that? He said, it’s a big world out there go find somebody wants to buy what we have, what we’re selling. Okay. I mean, out there, you’ll find somebody that wants and needs to buy what you have.

John Reid: Yes. Or you have to look at what you’re trying to sell. Yes. Yes.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, yeah, exactly. Even a big world. You know, lots of, lots of products to find markets that maybe shouldn’t, but,

John Reid: I mean, every Edsel made was sold. I mean, they were so.

Andy Paul: They were kind of cool looking cars. Not that I’m old enough to remember, but I do. So, um, so I just thought sort of summarizing, you had a great line in the book, you said it’s far better and more differentiating to win by out understanding your competitors, show up, listen to them intently, then summarize everything you understand in their story. And that’s a, that’s a great way of encapsulating a lot of what you were writing in the book, which I liked.

John Reid: Yeah, I hate salespeople who say what I’m about to say, but I’m going to say, I don’t think I’ve ever lost business when I’ve done it well. In other words, if I’ve done the storytelling back to them, I don’t, I can not remember a time when I’ve done that and they didn’t buy from me, but it doesn’t always make sense to do it because the calls don’t lend themselves to that technique. But if they’ve got a robust enough discussion and you’ve, you’ve gotten into it and you’ve, you’ve got this sense, I don’t think I’ve ever lost one when I’ve done that technique.

Andy Paul: Yeah, that’s funny. You triggered a thought on the book as you know, writing about technique and, you know, I haven’t, I don’t think about anything sort of in terms of technique that I do. It’s like sort of just part of who I am. And I think this is, we talked earlier about this as you know, people having a point of view is, is you’re going to embody all those things in your point of view, your philosophy, how you operate.

And they’re not going to be thinking a peer to you as a technique. Yeah. I need to be in the moment, use this technique. It’s no. How are you serving your customers? And that’s a built up of things you’ve learned over the years, but if you’re conscious of it being a technique than I it’s, that’s not gonna work for you.

John Reid: Yeah, well that’s thing. I mean, yeah. One of the huge problem for me with Spin Selling was  I think the customer can see what’s being done. I mean, they can see you. Okay. Now you’re asking about ask what situation now you’re going to ask about my problem then the impact. I mean, I think, you know, we’re not very few sales people have spin where that clever to mask it all and make it look like a natural conversation.

But it’s attractive in a lot of that, given that you mean, if you look at, um, your green sheets in blue sheets, and if you look at spin, I mean, there’s such an attraction to a certain crowd of like engineers, accountants, the people who aren’t by nature, don’t see themselves as salespeople. Don’t maybe didn’t sign up to be a sales person that this, the structure, and this thing is going, even though it’s from 1980, uh, Is going to be, this is it.

You know, I can, if I fill out these boxes, I’ll be a good sales person. And it’s just, I mean, one of the reasons it’s all failed is because there are learners or buyers of learning attracted to that. Um, even though there’s no debt there’s no, I don’t think there’s any great demonstration that it’s been a very effective.

Andy Paul: No, I, I, yeah, a couple issues. One is obviously in sales, we have no rigorous studies of sales. You know, that we’ve got self reported data on sales.

John Reid: Yeah.

Andy Paul: You know, there’s been no comprehensive clinical type third party, academic rigorous study of, of sales. So everything is, is anecdotal. I mean, of course we admitted this upfront here today, but this is all anecdotal. I mean, it works for some hopefully work for, for you, but you know, there will be something out there that’s-

John Reid: Let me slow you down there. Cause it’s not, what’s not anecdotal. So yes, you’re absolutely right about sales training with this versus that what’s not anecdotal is adult learning research. So whatever you’re going to train somebody on it ought to have certain characteristics, right? It’s gotta be contextual. It’s gotta be relevant. It’s gotta respect the learner. It’s gotta to challenge their thinking and make them uncomfortable. It’s got to be a social endeavor. I mean, there’s some certain principles around adult learning that sales training companies violate. So even if they argue that their sales training is good. That their method, they’re the, you know, the models are good or whatever, the way they’re actually trying to teach it is not good. And there’s evidence to back that up that they’re, they’re not designed for adult learning. They’re much more pedantic, much more, uh, uh, you know, more about the facilitator and less about the learner.

Andy Paul: Well, yeah. Gosh, we could spend a whole nother session on, on training because

John Reid: Shall we.

Andy Paul: yeah. Well, I think Rochelle, right? I mean it’s because just the way that so many companies structure it, um, to your point. You know, bring people in the classroom and, and they tend to forget all about this thing that’s been known for a couple hundred years called the forgetting curve, which guarantees that most of what you’re being taught, isn’t gonna be retained, just start there. So yeah, all the different methodologies you have available today to teach people and to reinforce learning just haven’t been embraced the way that they need to be.

John Reid: Yeah, we use the analogy of, um, a restaurant, you know, a restaurant or if the food is bad, then you know, people don’t come back. Um, and so bad trainings, like bad meal people don’t, you know, people don’t value it. They don’t like it. The training has a bad reputation and deservedly because participants have been served some very bad meals and because they’re poorly designed often. Well,

Andy Paul: I was going to say it’s less about the content and more about the delivery. I think in many cases. Yeah. All right. Well, John, we could, uh, we will have you come back. We’ll talk about training. I’ve got some ideas to bounce off you about that. Um, so people want to connect with you and learn more about you.

How can they do that?

John Reid: Um, you can email me always. I’m at john@jmreidgroup.com and we have our website. jmreidgroup.com. Love to hear from you. Love to learn from you and love to share what we do in the world developing sales capability, sales management capability. It’s fun work. And, uh, I really appreciate the time Andy with you today.

Andy Paul: That’s been fun. Look forward doing again. Thanks Jon.

John Reid: Thank you.