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Solution Selling, with Mike Bosworth [Episode 853]

Mike Bosworth is the author of the classic book Solution Selling. In this episode, Mike and I talk about how to coach sellers to master creating trust and emotional connection in conversations with their buyers. Plus we talk about the importance of relationships in sales and why the idea of relationships makes so many seller so uncomfortable.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Mike Bosworth. Welcome back to the show.

Mike Bosworth: I’m happy to be here with Andy.

Andy Paul: It’s good to talk to you again. So how’s life up in the Orcas Islands?

Mike Bosworth: It’s a pretty darn nice. 

Andy Paul: All things being equal. Yes.

Mike Bosworth: Yeah. We’re on about five acres with a 300 feet of South facing beach, looking at the Olympic Peninsula. It’s pretty magnificent.

Andy Paul: I guess. And how has the pandemic been treating the islands?

Mike Bosworth: Total San Juan County, all of the San Juan islands, which I think is a population of maybe 25,000 year-round, there are 13 people with COVID.

Andy Paul: Oh, that’s not bad. That’s not bad at all.

Mike Bosworth: I think we have the lowest, COVID rate in all of Washington.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And so you have the ferry stopped running.

Mike Bosworth: Oh, the ferry’s still going. Yeah. the touristias has had been clamoring to get out here and real estate is going crazy because, people living in Seattle and cities like that- 

Andy Paul: they 

Mike Bosworth: want to escape. Yeah. I think the New York suburbs are going crazy on real estate too. I’m sure Bergen County, New Jersey and all that stuff is going nuts right now.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. I would imagine. Yeah. Out on the long Island. Yeah. it’s funny. It’s one of those things where people are still talking about. Yeah, there’s been emptying out San Francisco, New York, the high rent places, but we’ll be interested to see what happens once. Once whenever that is, we get to start feeling normal again.

Mike Bosworth: A lot of corporations have, pleasantly discovered that their people working from home are just as effective if not more than coming into their office every day. So I’d hate to be in commercial real estate in Manhattan right now.

Andy Paul: Yeah. There’s a lot of discussion about that because people were saying this feels the same as it felt after 9/11, where everybody said, look, we’re leaving the city and. The opposite happened. More people came, even though certain functions, critical functions left the city for safety purposes. But yeah, more real estate was built, more buildings and so on. But yeah, too early to tell, I think personally, I think people will miss coming to the office. 

Mike Bosworth: A lot of people do, a lot of people need it and they don’t want to be with their spouse 24 by seven.

Andy Paul: Or the spouse doesn’t want to be with them

Mike Bosworth: Yeah. have our own offices in our home and she’s a couples therapist. So it’s I live in an emotional growth boarding school.

Andy Paul: Ah, there you go. we’ll get, we’ll talk about that. Yeah. But see your personal growth as part of that. But yeah, I do feel for families, younger families with, two income families, kids in school they’re having to do remote learning. That’s, it’s.

Mike Bosworth: Okay. Yeah.

Andy Paul: Something that no one signed up for and it’s, it has to be extremely stressful. And I think that’s, I worry that we’re at this time, as we’ve when you and I recording this and end of September that, although increasingly talk about a second wave,

Mike Bosworth: I know.

Andy Paul: And I’m concerned for people that have been working from home for six, seven months and. Quite honestly, for most people, the experience has been, they’ve been working more and, the endless round of zoom meetings and, yeah, I worry what’s gonna happen when people start to just hit the wall emotionally and energy-wise, and then look at the second surge. And I was like, I wonder if the productivity will maintain itself.

Mike Bosworth: I know. domestic violence has gone way up.

Andy Paul: Yeah.

Mike Bosworth: Yeah.

Andy Paul: And what’s your wife seeing relative to, as long as we’re on that threat, what is she seeing in her profession? What are people saying about, yeah, not just domestic violence, but yeah. Divorce rates, couples breaking up all of that.

Mike Bosworth: There, it’s really hard if you haven’t worked out all your relationships stuff and she’s got a system called a Weekend Style, which is education for couples to help them. Understand their partners, emotional wounds that we all develop growing up. And one of the biggest things about what she’s trying to do is help people learn their partner’s family of origin. So when their partner gets triggered with something they can, when we respond with empathy, instead of acrimony,

Andy Paul: Interesting. Yeah. Yeah. That’s what I’m thinking of in my own case, yeah. With my wife was, yeah, I was, how are we all damaged growing up, because no one escapes unscathed. I think so.

Mike Bosworth: No. And even if you’re raised by Ozzy and Harriet, you still are gonna have some emotional wounds.

Andy Paul: I can, by having watched that show, I can imagine. Yeah, I bet there’s a lot of anger on the surface in that household. yeah. good. so yeah, jumping back into sales a little bit as is yeah. Because I was thinking about what we’re going to talk about today. I was drawn back to this line on your website that I’d seen before. And you say that you’ve been coaching sellers to master, creating trust and emotional connection in conversations with their buyers and this really, I think it’s been a mission of yours and. Yeah, I want to talk about why this emotional connection is important. Because I know it makes some people uncomfortable and I see increasingly people writing in the echo chamber of LinkedIn. People who suppose it’s sales experts writing about how relationships are unimportant in sales and that it’s a myth. And, just want to get your take on that. So why is this emotional important connection so important and-

Mike Bosworth: what led me to this was, I was in the sales process business with solution selling and customer centric selling for many years

Andy Paul: great books, classic books.

Mike Bosworth: About 20 times over 20 years, my VP of sales client would say to me, Mike. My top 20% love solution selling, but the bottom 80% quit using it after two weeks after the workshop. And it finally dawned on me that the reason they quit using it was their buyers were pushing them away. And I guess what I’m saying is top 20% salespeople. And if you think about a top 20% performers in virtually every profession, whether they’re executives or teachers or politicians or whatever, they have an intuitive ability to connect emotionally and build trust, but they do it intuitively, which is why most senior sales executives are so frustrated because they can’t teach their people to be as good as they were. And so we realized that the reason that people quit using that the bottom 80% were quit using solution selling or customer centric selling two weeks after the workshop. Was the bottom 80% lacks that intuitive ability to connect with strangers quickly. And so what would happen is they would go to their sales process too soon. They’d go to their sales process before their buyer really felt comfortable with them and was willing to open up. And so since they lack the intuitive ability to connect, they get into their discovery questions. And all of a sudden the buyer is throwing their hands up and saying, yeah, you don’t know me well enough to ask me all those questions. And so my current mission in sales is to help the bottom 80% learn to connect with strangers. And since they don’t do it intuitively we have to give them some kind of a model to follow. And the model is built on story because human beings have been around at least for 200,000 years where they have been using Oracle language to pass on tribal information and leaders have been using stories to promote and influence their people to do difficult things that need to be done.

Andy Paul: Right.

Mike Bosworth: And so for salespeople, we give them three types of stories in their toolbox, the first story, and it’s not the one they use first is the story of the organization they work for and why they chose to go to work for that organization. What about it inspired them enough to join up? The second story is their personal career growth story of, when I was in junior high, I wanted to do this. And then in high school, I wanted to do that. And that personal growth story, the whole idea of that one is to lead the buyer to the emotional conclusions that this person has character. This person can take coaching. This person can be responsible when they make a mistake. This person can pick themselves up when they fall down. So it’s important for salespeople to be able to have that story in their quiver. They don’t normally get to that story until two or three calls and a long sales cycle. The third type of a story. And this is one where they can have many, if we call customer hero stories. And the whole idea is professional people. If you’re selling to the enterprise, they are most curious about their peers. So if you’re a CFO and I say, Oh, Andy, you’re a CFO, can I share with you a story about another CFO I’ve been working with?” The odds are about 99%. You’re going to say yes to that story. Because people are curious about their peers. So that one minute customer heroes story, we teach salespeople to build and tell at the end of that 60 second story, the buyer now has been led to some emotional conclusions. One of them might be gee, the salesperson’s 25 years younger than me. However, it sounds like she really understands how hard my job is. And it sounds like she has helped another CFO just like me deal with an issue. I haven’t figured I’ve had to deal with yet. So I want to know more and I might even have hope for a solution. So at the end of that one minute story, when we coached them to say enough about me, what’s going on in your world. One of two things happens. If the story was successful, they open up, start talking freely and all their discovery resistance has been removed. If the story didn’t work, they fold their arms and say, what do you want to know? It’s binary. It’s one of the two.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah. but

Mike Bosworth: go ahead.

Andy Paul: What I can say now is fascinating because, and I think we had talked about it before, but. in line with this again, the same surf growing sentiment I see on the echo chamber about relationships. It Isn’t important that you get the same thing as that look, especially in today’s modern SaaS model . They train SDRs with no small talk, right? And this thing that is scientifically proven to help you build rapport with someone else is being coached out of people. so you don’t even have the chance. Yeah. People aren’t being trained, not even to tell the story.

Mike Bosworth: developing rapport and telling stories might be two different things. When I first became a sales trainer for Xerox in 1976, they actually said to me, Mike, we can teach salespeople to be competent. We can teach them to great, give great presentations and write great letters and have conversations and handle objections and sets that you can’t teach rapport. They actually said to me, rapport is chemistry and the chemistry between every two human beings is unique. And I took that as parental knowledge until 2008 when I started to learn about story and they were putting people in MRI machines and then introducing the anticipation of a story while they’re in there. And you could watch the critical left brain shut down and the right brain opened up. And one of the key things about stories is. You have to get permission to tell the story. No stranger is going to allow some other person to come up and just start to spew a story. we’re talking about permission selling and ideally our buyer gives the seller permission to guide them through their bicycles. And if the seller does a great job of guiding them through their bicycle, they’ll never have to close.

Andy Paul: Yes, but what seems to be the issue that I see increasingly, especially again, especially in the world we live in today is that the focus is as much more transactional, even in more complex deals. And so the idea is it’s always about, yeah, persuading, someone to get to the point where we can close, as opposed to, as you’re using, guiding on a journey

Mike Bosworth: Yeah. Yeah.

Andy Paul: and this idea of the importance of the human interaction in there, which we can call a connection. We could call it a relationship, whatever is immutable. And I just find it curious that people are trying to set. Yeah. It’s just not important. And I feel like people just fundamentally misunderstand what a relationship is because. It’s not a friendship or relationship if you look at the definition, it’s how two or more things are connected. So just by virtue of selling to someone, you are in a relationship, it doesn’t mean a friendship. And I know it makes people feel uncomfortable. I think if people, it makes you feel uncomfortable, the ones you talk about don’t have the intuitive toolkit to build that rapport. 

Mike Bosworth: and most people don’t. And, it’s not just the bottom 80% of sales people that struggle with connecting. It’s the bottom 20% of humanity. In virtually every profession. If you look at the most successful people and the leaders, they have this ability to connect authentically and build trust quickly with strangers.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I think that was the whole basis of my career because I was selling complex technical products and I was not a male. Technical trained person,

Mike Bosworth: neither was I?

Andy Paul: but yeah, it’s all really large things to large enterprises. and I always felt that the real key to success was the connections, the relationships, whatever you wanna call them, that I made with the people that were going to buy from me.

Mike Bosworth: and they trusted you. People won’t admit a problem to somebody. They don’t trust much less buy from somebody they don’t trust.

Andy Paul: and so getting into that, as we all know the expressions, people buy from people they know and trust. So it’s reading against something this week. I’m like Dan, someone said, yes, you don’t need to be likable as a salesperson. In order to get someone’s business. And I think in the absolute sense, that’s true. You and I’re sure to have both in our career, we’ve known people who are huge jerks of one deal. But my point is, what’s it, it costs you to be likable. And when you look at, I don’t know, my perspective is if I ask somebody, okay, Mike, on your last deal, what was your margin of victory? How much did you win by? And firstly, you can’t quantify it. But I think if you can’t quantify it, then you have to assume you won by the thinnest of margins. And if that’s the case, why not do the things that have no costs that will make that 1% difference. And if that’s being likable or go down the list of things, why wouldn’t you do that?

Mike Bosworth: I know, but I don’t know the whole idea of manipulation and pressure is a big turnoff for me. And I’ve always prided myself on being able to, one thing over the years, Firstly, most of the companies I worked with as a consultant and a trainer, they’re obsessed with their competition. Who else are we competing with and trying to position themselves against competitors. And personally, my take has always been, I’ve never cared or thought about any competition because as long as my buyer, I believe my buyer is telling me the truth. And being straight with me, I’m going to continue in that cell cycle. And as soon as I think they’re manipulating me or trying to get a proposal out of me so they can buy from the one they want to buy from, as soon as I feel that they are not trustworthy to me, I’m gone.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I learned that lesson the hard way. I got used to a big deal in retrospect, since it was much earlier in my career, but it was a great lesson to learn because. It was, it was a big deal with a prestigious company and

we got fooled because we were a substantially better product and it just didn’t matter because they were going to use this other company and they were leveraging us for a price.

Mike Bosworth: in most of these corporate deals that we, and you and I have sold in the same world. There are corporate rules. We acquire that they get three solid bids. So that means two of them are being manipulated so they can buy from the one they want to buy from.

Andy Paul: but I’m with you on the competition thing aside, I, hadn’t never focused on the competition and I was, take inspiration from one of my childhood heroes, Vince Lombardi, who was coach of the green Bay Packers as I was growing up. Who, yeah. Pete got criticized for having this conservative offensive playbook.

And yeah, he just like executed so, he was like, I’m not concerned about the competition. They have to be concerned about me.

Mike Bosworth: Yeah.

Andy Paul: And I always want to take that approach. I’m not worried about the other guy. I want to make them worried about me.

Mike Bosworth: Yeah I’ve 

Andy Paul: been 

Mike Bosworth: preaching the salespeople for years. The worst thing you can do is go the distance on a three, six or nine months sales cycle and lose. If you were, if you’re working for me, I’d rather you after one or two calls, come to see me and say, Mike, I think they’re using us. I want to pull the plug.

Andy Paul: and I would say even worst thing is to work a three, six or nine month deal and have it go to no decision

Mike Bosworth: which actually

Andy Paul: sin of all.

Mike Bosworth: it is, and that’s the nut. It’s been the number one competitor over the years and there is no decision over any single competitor. And that means to me, they didn’t really have a solid vision of a solution.

Andy Paul: which starts with poor discovery, poor qual work qualification, poor needs analysis, all things you’d need to put together this vision for the buyer.

Mike Bosworth: So one thing we’ve been playing with lately is saying to a buyer,

would you like to see a list of what other CMOs are doing with our offering, right? or whatever their job title is. And most people will say yes. And then I would say to you for each of these usage statements, I want you to get me one of three responses either. I wish I could say that. I can say that today, or I don’t care about that. So for instance, If I, if I said to you another one of my marketing clients is saying, we now know how to get qualified leads out of trade shows. So the first time talking ideally would say, I wish I could say that. And if he says, I wish I could say that, then I can take it, would you like to hear the story of my customer? Who says that? He’s not going to deny that story. And now I’m starting with the vision.

Andy Paul: and also way more effective than like a scripted list of discovery questions.

Mike Bosworth: Oh, yeah. Yeah. And so after I tell him the story of the other person, then I go back to him and say, so tell me, what’s preventing you from being able to say this. And now I get into discovery. This discovery resistance has gone because he’s heard a story of how one of his peers has already been smart enough to figure this out.

And he’s got hope for a solution and he believes that I understand how hard his job is. And so they’re open for real discovery.

Andy Paul: I think that discovery resistance, I term that really is persuasion resistance because I think when sellers, my belief is when sellers get into the scripted discovery questions. That just seems a little. Pat is customer feels like they’re being guided

Mike Bosworth: Yeah.

Andy Paul: and shepherded in a certain direction. And the barriers go up.

Mike Bosworth: it’s really the resistance of feeling sold that human beings hate to feel. So then I tell people, as soon as you use a word or a phrase that reminds them of a previous encounter with a salesperson that went bad, you’re telling

Andy Paul: No. It’s true. It’s interesting. I hadn’t thought about it that way. Yeah, you bring back the psychological scarring, the triggering.

Mike Bosworth: and we all have a hundred percent of the population has psychological scars from encounters with salespeople, where they felt pushed or manipulated or pressured into doing something they did. You don’t want to do it.

Andy Paul: Interesting. but we’d have today though in large part, a sales process, certainly in subscription-based services that starts with persuasion as the first sales motion. Will you take a meeting with an IE? Will you take a meeting? Will you do a demo?

Mike Bosworth: God, I hate leading with demos, but, can I tell you about another little project I’m working on with one of my clients we’re trying to teach their website. To do the need qualification before they pass it to the salesperson or the

Andy Paul: Sure 

Mike Bosworth: So they, Hey, they come to your website. And first thing you do is you ask your web visitor to identify with one of multiple buyer personas.

And the only buyer personas that should be on my website are buyer personas, where I already have a success story. So they might go through and say, CEO, CMO, VP of sales, et cetera. And they check CMO. So the next screen comes up with, would you rather see. What other CMOs are doing with our offering, or would you rather see what problems their CMOs have been able to solve?

And we find that some people would rather go with what they are doing? Other people would rather start with the problem. Say, give him a choice. So if you, if they say, I want to see what problems other CMOs have been able to solve. I give them three problems. So for instance, a CMO, it might be the leads we send to our Salesforce fall into a black hole.

Our success stories on our website make our product, the hero. We are not getting a return on our enormous investment and trade chips. And then it says, indicate which one you’re curious about. And if you check them all, then you can hear them off. If you said, I want to hear what other people are doing.

Then I give them a menu choice of three. The leads we send to our Salesforce are for targeted buyers who are curious how we’ve helped their peer or their competitor solve a problem. Second one, we know how to get qualified leads out of trade shows. Third one we’re able to harvest successfully. Usage of our product stories from our happy customers and clients.

And again, indicate which ones you’re curious about. And so everyone that they’re curious about, they check it, then the system says, would you like to see or hear the story about that client? And ideally I have a 62nd first person video. customer hero’s story where the customer is actually telling their story.

That’s the ultimate, but you could also have a written story, as long as it’s clean and succinct, and those stories make the emotional connection. They establish trust, competence and credibility. They reduce discovery resistance, and they create a vision of. Hope and success for the buyer and they haven’t met a human being yet. And so then at the end of each story, depending on how many of them they want, if your product is simple, we could go straight to purchasing options, offer them purchasing options. There’s so many things today that don’t need a salesperson to sell them. So it’s simple, would you like to see some permissioning options?

Maybe you give them a discount code. If it’s a complex product, the system comes back and says using a calendar. Would you like to schedule a 15 minute conversation with one of our representatives to learn more? And so this, if they say yes and they go to Calendly and, and schedule with you, their discovery resistance is pretty much already gone because they related so well to the peer story that your website gave them.

Andy Paul: In that case, you can also use tools like qualified or drift, through chat to actually engage with a person in real time.

Mike Bosworth: If you were there in real time. Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. But at that point, if they’ve really gone through one of my customer hero stories and they want to talk to a human boy, if I’m a salesperson, I want that

Andy Paul: Yeah. I’d

Mike Bosworth: all over that.

Andy Paul: I know. Yeah. I’d make sure my name pops up first in the round Robin

Mike Bosworth: Yeah. We didn’t know if even today, if you go into most organizations, the marketing department thinks the salespeople are weak. they’re not following up on leads that I sent him. And the salespeople think the marketing department, the leads they send them, or, could be used as toilet paper.

And, the touch point between sales and marketing seems to be. What’s your definition of a qualified lead? And I’ve, I have found the best way to integrate marketing with sales is where the VP of sales and the VP of marketing, both agree to the same definition of a qualified lead.

Andy Paul: Which in this case would be

Mike Bosworth: Yeah. The definition of a qualified lead would be a defined, targeted buyer.

some job title we know we want to sell to. Is curious how we help their peers or their competitors make money, save money, achieve a goal or salvage. No problem. There’s not a, there’s not a salesman in the world. Wouldn’t jump on it,

Andy Paul: Yeah, of the four things they’ll make money, save money,

Mike Bosworth: achieve a goal or solve a problem.

Andy Paul: achieve an outcome, solve a problem. Yeah.

Mike Bosworth: With your product. In other words, how do we help their peers or competitors? Yeah.

Andy Paul: and how we do it is really the critical part. That for me, when I look at what passes for qualification, oftentimes these days, it’s always about, requalify somebody, cause they, they wouldn’t do something like what we do as opposed to, they want to use our product to make this happen.

They want to do, they want, they need exactly what we’re offering and people don’t qualify for that. it’s going to cost them something in their pipeline. And everybody’s so obsessed with the size of their pipeline. More than they’re obsessed with winning.

Mike Bosworth: Yeah. And they’re being judged by the size of their pipeline. And, so much bad sales behavior out there is caused by managers who are forcing salespeople to push them, to try and buy before they’re ready.

Andy Paul: no disagreement at all. I think. Yeah. I was having this conversation with somebody yesterday and on another somebody else’s podcast. And I say, yeah, the issue is not sellers. The issue is leadership and management.

Mike Bosworth: Yeah. I’ve been saying for years that I don’t think salespeople should do forecasts. I think salespeople should be building enough qualified pipelines to make their number first-line managers should be grading that pipeline. And the first line manager should do the forecast because that forces the first line manager to really get into, are these people going to, likely to buy from us or not?

Andy Paul: we’re in the scenario again with more subscription-based services that, you know, in the SAS world. Most companies are operating like a 20% win rate off of most qualified opportunities. And it’s yeah, but they’re so proficient if you will, at top of funnel activities that, and they know the conversion rates down cold is it’s we weren’t gonna grow the business.

We probably have to grow the top of the funnel and it flows through, We play the odds, but it’s our.

Mike Bosworth: it’s expensive.

Andy Paul: It’s expensive. It’s not really selling, it’s just playing the odds so we can do, we can have these bad behaviors, but it’s okay, what are you really teaching your salespeople?

If you lose four out of five opportunities?

Mike Bosworth: I know. Although, baseball players, they’d be happy to hit 300, right?

Andy Paul: Sure. But over your career, what’d you think your,

Mike Bosworth: My personal win rate on the ones that I stayed in and didn’t walk away from 90%.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I operated always with, again, I wasn’t selling for the most, not always sometimes weird subscription services, but selling things that sold and denominate in the millions of dollars, but, yeah, it was,

Mike Bosworth: Cause I won’t stay. Yeah. I don’t want to stay if I don’t believe they’re going to buy from me.

Andy Paul: having our processes as eyes for most part, those serve a nerve, if you will, to make those decisions. Because again, the incentives are not in incentives. The measurement is the size of the pipeline.

Mike Bosworth: and then the pipeline milestones are typically so vendor or salesperson oriented. What I’ve been trying to do with my clients is to get them to put buyer oriented pipeline milestones. So for instance, when they go from not looking too curious about a peer or a competitor, that’s a step. And then. When we say, tell me more, they open up and they allow themselves to be tended to. That’s okay. So now they’re giving us a little more trust and then the buyer shares their constraints, puts up political issues, things they’re going to have to deal with. That’s again, they’re demonstrating trust because they want us to win and they want us to help them win in their organization.

And then the buyer. Introduces us to all key players. That’s another huge victory. Then the buyers agree that they’ve had satisfactory proof, that our offering will meet their vision. That’s huge. And then the buyer will sit down and work the value numbers with us. So we can go to their CFO together and show the potential.

So these are all milestones where the buyer is taking the next step.

Andy Paul: Well, they also are milestones and actually qualify the account. And this is, and so what I find, this disconnect, when I talk to sales leaders today, it’s you’re calling this a qualified opportunity, but. You haven’t even touched on three or four of those things you just mentioned, especially the last one, which is, for me, I don’t have a qualified opportunity until that internal business case is done and signed off on. Because at that point prior to that, they haven’t made the commitment that they’re gonna move forward.

Mike Bosworth: and then you get the, a situation where you’ve got a highly complex product where the salespeople are all engineers, because the product’s so complex. And when the engineer salespeople call on the engineer users, they have a wonderful time, but then neither one of them know how to talk to the CFO.

Andy Paul: I’ve seen that. Yeah.

Mike Bosworth: the engineer seller or the engineer buyer don’t know how to deal with the CFO.

Andy Paul: there’s another layer there too. That’s that I find interesting as in, especially when we talk about the size of stakeholder groups that are involved in decision-making these days is that, and I find this again, this part missing from most of the sales teams I work with is that the only ask the individual stakeholder about what this will do for the company, but they never.

ask or what will this mean for you personally?

Mike Bosworth: Personally. Yeah,

Andy Paul: and again, there’s established research on this dating back to the fifties that you know, that the people in a decision-making environment consider both

Mike Bosworth: they do. And for the most part, yeah, they won’t share that with their salesperson.

Andy Paul: yeah. I tell people, I said, when you think about it, you really don’t have, if you have 10 stakeholders, you really have 20. And if you’re not saying, look as part of my plan, I’m addressing all 20 of those, then you’re gonna miss out. And I think this gets back to even when you’re talking about oftentimes the top 20 or more intuitively tuned into a tune just to this fact that, yeah. Everybody operates on two levels and yet.

The vast majority of what we see in terms of sales training. And so it’s only about the company side, but we’re in a human business with people making these choices and decisions.

Mike Bosworth: Yeah. Yeah.

Andy Paul: Okay. Question for you is, you’ve been doing this for a long time. You were a couple of classic sales books, which I tried reading back when they first came out. and. Yeah, thinking. Okay. Yeah. When you look back is, and you think about your experiences and you mentioned I think even on your website that you’re 90% retired,

Mike Bosworth: Yeah. Yeah.

Andy Paul: pretty active for something that’s 90% retired, but, what are the big things you think, before we make it a hundred percent retired?

What big things you think still need to change that you’re working to change in sales?

Mike Bosworth: the number one thing for a company selling productivity improvement solutions to the enterprise. The number one thing that still has to change is product marketing. I think product marketing needs to die and be replaced by the customer usage market. So for instance, when I first joined Xerox computer services in 1972, we were selling first-generation MRP systems. All new employees had to go through product school. They called it and it was really six weeks of learning to demo all the applications. And you couldn’t graduate until you could demo all applications.

Andy Paul: yep.

Mike Bosworth: Now for me, I was, yeah, I was young out of college, so they, luckily for me, they put me on the help desk, but all these sales people, they had hired from IBM who were in their mid thirties to early forties. They’d go up and after six weeks of product training and go on a sales call and that, and all they know how to do is offer, do a demo.

So they say, would you like to see a demo? When I found you went into sales? Two years later, having installed an MRP system for a materials manager, I got a cold call. I go to the receptionist and say, I’m Mike Bosworth with Xerox computer services. I’d like to speak with your materials manager, 80% of the time they’d come out.

And when they did come up, I’d see them look at me and then they’d look at their watch because I was 28 years old and he was 48 years old and he thought, ah, shit, I now gotta be polite that this young guy for the next 15

Andy Paul: who knows nothing.

Mike Bosworth: Who knows nothing before I get rid of them. But when I did intuitively back then, and I’ve been now trying to codify, as I say, I confirm the job title, I’d say, so you’re the materials manager here and you’d say, yep.

And I would say, can I share a quick story with you about another materials manager, less than a mile from here, who’s been able to eliminate his shortages. no materials manager. I co-called ever turned down that story. And I tell him a 62nd story. And then say, but enough about me, what’s going on here.

And they’d say you want to come in and look around and in other words, my 62nd story eliminated all the doubt, all the he’s too young, all the, he doesn’t know anything about it. And it created enough credibility and hope for a solution that they took me in. And then I did the next 45 minutes of discovery walking through his plant with him. And I sold more in my first five months on quota than anybody in the history of the company sold in the full year, using that story, that customer hero’s story about another materials manager. I filled my pipeline with that one story.

Andy Paul: That’s genius and it’s so simple and it accomplishes things at so many levels. It is a credible credibility builder for you. Cause you said you had this age differentiation, you demonstrate some business acumen. you start making that personal connection because they were saying, look, this is. This guy is worth some of my time, which is for me, the first barrier you have to get over.

and then by flipping it to them and said, so what’s on your mind? Yeah. You’ve, they’ve suddenly given you permission, as you said before is to ask that question.

Mike Bosworth: They’ve given me permission to facilitate their bicycle and they usually quickly admit pain. They’ll say, Jesus, I’ve been having terrible shortage problems because the guy in the story has caramel syrup. Charlie’s problem. But we talked about how we gave him the ability to fix that problem.

And, I’ve said for years that a suspect turns into a prospect. When they trust the salesperson enough to admit pain to that salesperson

Andy Paul: Yeah, I use a similar term. I didn’t. So meeting pain butts, just due to sharing I don’t call it like proprietary, but I use that term, but not confidential information, but to share yeah. Proprietary information about the company, that there we’re opening up

Mike Bosworth: yeah. Yeah. It’s a demonstration of trust.

Andy Paul: and back to what we’re talking about originally is that if you don’t make that connection on the human level with somebody, if you don’t think that’s important, You won’t have that trust. You won’t have them open up to you and yeah, you may succeed selling something transactional, but if it has complexity to it, you have to go through that step.

So I think that the last question I asked you in the time that we have is because it relates to the solid idea of storytelling in your experience, which mirrored mine to a certain degree. Yeah, sellers today and it’s been true forever, but it’s still true. And perhaps more painfully obvious is that this lack of business acumen, And certainly customers report this as, the reason we don’t find value in dealing with sales is they don’t know enough about business to be able to provide insights or stories that you talked about. How do we close that gap? Because yeah, I look at my own experience. I was really fortunate in my first job out of school, I was selling.

Yeah, mini computer systems that were anything but many compared to that, I only filled one room worth of equipment, but they were far, but they were for accounting applications. So I saw into small mid-sized businesses and I learned how business operates, because that was my job because I was selling all the modules for general accounting and plus cost accounting.

And I focused on the construction business, so I understood job cost accounting and so on. I learned it. And so it’s, that basis has stood me in great stead throughout my entire career, because I understood how business operated. how do we get

Mike Bosworth: Did you have to, did you have to learn those questions yourself or did your company teach you those discovery questions?

Andy Paul: basically learned on my own by talking to the customers. They gave them

Mike Bosworth: exactly. So salespeople shouldn’t be making up their own stories and they shouldn’t be making up their own discovery questions. We needed a strong customer usage marketing department, teaching salespeople. Oh, if you’re calling on the cost accounting manager, the odds are he or she is struggling with a, B and C.

Here are the intelligent discovery questions for you today? Yeah, that was the whole idea of solution selling. We have the smartest people in the company, right? The discovery questions, both to diagnose and to create the vision of the solution. The reason that the bottom 80% quit using it is they went to those discovery questions before the buyer had connected with him and believed that they were competent and trustworthy and authentic. They went to him too soon and the buyer went, Whoa, you don’t know me well enough to ask me all those questions, but the questions were solid.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Happens. Unfortunately, more often than not these days is because we’ve got our entry-level sellers, metrics that prize quantity over quality. For the most part, even though everybody gives lip service to the fact that they don’t, they still fundamentally do.

Mike Bosworth: they sure do.

Andy Paul: and if that’s the case, what you expect people to do.

yeah, very interesting. Mike, as always just an incredible pleasure to talk with you and, yeah, people want to connect with you. How can they do that?

Mike Bosworth: Mike browsers.com. We’ll get him to a website where they can send me an email. I’m on LinkedIn and I have Mike Bowser’s leadership page on Facebook. So I’m really not hard to find.

Andy Paul: Even though you’re 90% retired

Mike Bosworth: I’m coaching my channel and I’m doing webinars and I’m having fun. 

Andy Paul: now. It sounds like it, and staying healthy is important. All right. Mike, look forward to doing it again before too long.

Mike Bosworth: Thank you. Andy is always a pleasure.

Andy Paul: All right, Alex.