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Technical Intelligence in Sales and Beyond, with Justin Michael [Episode 822]

Justin Michael is the founder of the SalesBorgs, a new community for sales and revops folks, and he’s joining me on this episode to talk about sales in the future.

I like to caveat these conversations with a quote from the Nobel prize winning physicist Niels Bohr, “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.” But, hey, the prospect of being wrong has never stopped me before. So why start now?

Justin has a particular point of view about what the future will hold for sales. For instance, we’ve got various measures of potential. IQ for intelligence. EQ for emotional intelligence. RQ for relational intelligence. We’re going to talk about whether sellers will need TQ – technical intelligence – in order to fully compete in an automated future. We’re going to explore that and much, much more.

Episode Transcript

Andy Paul: Justin. Welcome to the show.

Justin Michael: Thanks for having me on Andy. I’ve been a long time fan of your books and podcasts, and also a big Revenue.io fan.

Andy Paul: Thank you very Much. Yeah. Well, why not? Let’s shout out. Shameless plug is great for both of us as a matter of fact. So where you’ve been hiding out.

Justin Michael: Yeah, so great question. Um, I have been carrying the bag. I have been an operator in software as a service companies for the last 13 years and doing my best to advance. Um, and to do that, you kind of go from inside sales to an account executive. Over time, they give you a team. Sometimes when you’re leading AEs, they’ll give you SDRs. Sometimes you’re running all SDRs and you get a region and then what you learn as the more and more you take on, that’s just actually, you’re playing all the positions

Andy Paul: Which is good training.

Justin Michael: Yeah. And you want to be a player coach, but if you’re good at prospecting, you’re kind of always going to be on the phone. So that was my story. Like, no matter what team I would lead, I would always kind of still make the cold calls and enjoy that and try to stay close to the front lines.

Andy Paul: Yeah, well, a question for you. So what’s, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned about yourself during quarantine.

Justin Michael: Oh, wow. Um, I am like very sedentary. I can sit in one place all day. I have the opposite of ADD. I can just get lost in a, something I’m doing at like 6:00 PM and it’s one in the morning. And, uh, it reminds me of when I used to study things in school and just get carried away on a report or something. So, uh, Yeah, I have to really make sure that I get out in the sun.

I live in beautiful Southern California, but you know, I work on different time zones. So I’m often like kind of strapped into the matrix.

Andy Paul: Yeah, you’re speaking like a true science fiction fan. Yeah. You need the Apple watch that mine annoyingly tells me every hour, it’s time to stand up

Justin Michael: That’s smart. Yeah. Um, luckily I have a Shepard Husky, so, and some chickens, so that keeps it all interesting.

Andy Paul: Chickens. Interesting. So fresh eggs.

Justin Michael: Yeah. It’s it’s soon. They’re just, they’re still kind of coming online. I think a couple months here, we raised them since chicks.

Andy Paul: Very interesting. Yeah, I don’t. Yeah, the neighbors don’t mind. I mean, if they don’t mind the, the clucking then, uh, or you can bribe them with eggs, I think is the strategy most people employ. Yeah. Then you’re lucky you get actually, you know, fresh eggs as supposed to factor eggs.

Justin Michael: Yeah, just a fun part. And I’m just trying to eat fresh, trying to get stuff delivered. It’s kind of crazy when it takes weeks to come in. I haven’t been reading a lot, but I’ve written the most I’ve ever written in my whole life. So I, you know, I wrote a book and I’ve been doing podcasts and blogs and all sorts of multimedia, and it’s a lot easier and harder to do this stuff. That’s why I do respect the caliber and quality of, of your blog, uh, even getting on here and making sure we had our great mics on. So that’s cool.

Andy Paul: All right. So we’re going to talk about the future of sales. And I always like to start these conversations with a caveat, which is one of my favorite quotes from Niels Bohr, who was a Nobel Prize winning physicist from Denmark, and then participate in the Manhattan Project and so on, development of the atomic bomb and his quote is “That prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

So, um, We’re going to talk about some things and yeah, we’ll invariably be wrong, but it’s going to be an interesting discussion, nonetheless. So as you said, you’ve been writing a book and taking something from what you had read, you said that, um, that reps going into the future, you have to develop TQ as a distinct from EQ and IQ. So tell us what that means.

Justin Michael: Yes. So there’s this term technology quotient and I’m not really sure why it resonated so much with me or where I found it. I’ve seen it inPpsychology Today. I think Gartner and Forrester have a concept of this, it’s in Deloitte, maybe some different consultancies, maybe something Tony Jay Hughes talked about, but essentially we can become more empathetic and develop our EQ. We develop our IQ because we can do Lumosity or read a lot or be creative and our neuroplasticity can literally change. Well we’re in a world of systems, our cars have seven onboard computers. Everything we touch is actually tech and human and machine confused. There’s actually a quotient for how facile for how seamless and superhuman the platforms come together.

And so it’s really important sales. It’s the singularity in time. And my first predictions were really about 50 years from now, like blade runner type stuff, but I, what I started doing in the field as a rep is I just started buying as much tech as I could. And then I was part of a company called Outbound Works, where we raised, um, uh, a few million dollars. Uh, we had some good angel investors and we started to try to build this stuff like fully automated messaging and personalization at scale. And a lot of these are funny concepts cause they sound like, you know, something funny like jumbo shrimp or some kind of oxymoron, like

Andy Paul: Yeah, I, I, I wrote, I wrote about that actually. Maybe you read that two weeks ago. It’s just what I said enough was enough with this. You know, we can automate personalization at scale. I read it in somebody’s ABM brochure and it’s like, okay, come on enough. Enough, enough, enough, enough.

Justin Michael: Yeah. Cause true personalization is really a one to one experience. So this thing could write sentences and it could do various levels of personalization that sort of, it does pass the Turing test because you’re not sure if it came from a human or a machine or an enhancement.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, there is that, but I mean, I got a message this week from somebody said, you know, on LinkedIn, Andy, just a personal message, promoting a summit they were doing. It’s like, well, of course this isn’t personal. First of all, use the word this is a personal message. That was the clue right there. That, uh, it wasn’t a personal message, but yeah. Yeah. I, I get sidetracked on that, but I just think that, that, you know, one of the holes we’re digging for ourselves is, is maybe worrying too much about. You know, personalization and true personalization, just even to pass the Turing test because yeah, people that receive emails, they know what’s going on.

Justin Michael: Yeah. So our prospects are smarter than we think. And when they get that same, you know, Hey John, or, Hey Sally, these are times of crisis, you know, hope you’re doing well. There’s just so many generic, vague emails. And I think some of the new technologies that I’ve been looking at, they pull information, they source more quickly. So it’s an efficiency play like Cheetah IQ, it goes into the annual report and pulls out some nuggets that you could use as snippets in the email more quickly. You know, that’s going to be kind of, the future is on the efficiency level. It’s all about applying the AI and ML to the right piece of the problem.

Andy Paul: Yeah. And there is that sort of contextual dynamic insertion of content going on right now on outbound emails. Right. Uh, which, you know, can provide some of that, that feeling of personalization, but I mean, part of, it sort of gets back to my first question is, is, so you were, you wrote that, you know, you said you can imagine the not too distant future when they, I love this term, you used the SDR-AE industrial complex crumbles. Um, so what does that mean?

Justin Michael: So the way I look at it is applying an assembly line to sales and having a distinct opener and closer on a supply chain is just a function of looking at what a human being does to open a sale. There’s a funnel that naturally develops in marketing and sales. Aaron Ross in 2011 to describe things he did to scale Salesforce, as part of the team that went from zero to 100 million, created a book called Predictable Revenue and in many ways it’s the Henry Ford model for scaling startups. And it’s been widely accepted. You raise some VC, you get some SDRs and AEs and sales development reps, some account executives, and you go to market.

Now, this really described emotion that was popularized in the arts, like 2007 on now there’s been a Cambrian explosion of vendors. There’s 500 going to 5,000 on the David Delaney V6 map. There’s gonna be 5 billion in VC according to Aragon research, that’s poured into the tools and you have this environment nobody wants to go public and air the dirty laundry. So the secondary markets crazy, like in 2019, 40% of the rounds were a hundred million. And if you raise a hundred million dollars and you’ve got to sell and you’ve got to get to 20 to 40%, year over year growth, you have to hire SDRs. And so now we have this industrial complex where we’re taking inexperienced people who have not had traditional sales training and now instead of 600,000 in North America, we need 2 million just to fill these roles. And so my book is about a Tony Stark era, 70% of what a top funnel opening sales rep can do can be automated at the state of today’s technology. So much like the first industrial revolution in Upton Sinclair. I always joke that that was the factories and meatpacking, and it was a problematic.

Andy Paul: Yeah, that was, I think was really the second industrial revolution, but yeah.

Justin Michael: You’re you’re spot on. So these days you have an SDR who’s in an air conditioned place who has to make that existential choice between a Coke Zero or a Diet Coke. Right? So we’re not really struggling in that regard, but I think there’s something humane about giving back a rep the 70% of their time that can be spent on admin and managerial tasks. And that is a return to innocence. That’s making them be human to human and sell again. So there’s ConnectAndSell, right? Like there’s these parallel technologies, a Revenue.io is actually an awesome technology where you have a dialer’s and you have ways to speed up the connection rates. So there’s just more conversations and better quality conversations per day. That’s really, the future is a convergence of all this tech to take the admin loads off the rep that’s choking them out. And that’s where it’s like Tony Stark and a Jarvis Iron Man suite, maybe I should say iron person to make this a really modern

Andy Paul: Well, so my question though about that is, is, is, would anybody care if the SDR role, top of the funnel role, it would, you know, in a few years, would anybody care if that was completely automated? Other than people that might lose their jobs, but I mean, what would the buyers care.

Justin Michael: You know, I think email interaction back and forth, it was very relevant and you can get the utility out of the back and forth, if there’s enough machine learning and AI, that you have a very inventive, creative Wiki, where the answers are perfect. There’s a certain amount of selling, I think, even farther than transactional selling where the neural linguistic programming, right?

The natural language processing, the ability for machines to train themselves, to listen. A machine could be listening to thousands of answers concurrently and building a neural net as how to answer that question, and then the future could answer in a human like way. So people have relegated AI, like, yeah, it’s just going to be chat bots and it’s going to do low level transactions. It’s going to get to the level where it can be strategic. And you’re hearing that probably on the show here first, because I’ve never heard, it said anywhere in the world. Ky Fu Lee  is this a AI prognosticator at a China, and I love his stuff. What the AI’s won’t be able to do. I mean, one brain right now is equal to all human compute, is they won’t be able to love and emote and create and scope and problem solve. And there are, there are questions that you could ask that AI interactor that are going to be far complex and will always break it, but not forever.

Andy Paul: Yeah. When I’m, you know, I’m not worried about that timeframe personally, because that’s going to be beyond the scope of my lifetime and probably yours as well.

Justin Michael: Yes.

Andy Paul: So yeah, I’m not concerned about that. So, I mean, I think that, I think we have a different issue, right. And thoughts are triggered by what you had written. And some of what I read is that okay. Yeah, we’ve got certainly for SAS businesses, subscription based businesses, we’re into this predictable revenue model. We’ve got these specialized sales roles and to a large degree, I think that, you know, the top of the funnel activities that we assigned to SDRs and BDRs it’s questionable, whether it’s really selling or not, or is it marketing?

Right. And that discussions going on in lots of companies, you know, where does this appropriately belong? Right because this is fundamentally a lead generation role. Um, and so I think to me, the equation that needs to be looked at is for SDRs to continue in human form is, is they need to be able to add value to the buyer, right?

Because if we’re making an assumption that if we can automate some of this stuff, that that function could be a lower cost function is, you know, buyers tend to gravitate to lower cost channels. If in the absence of, of, uh, added value. So if you have players, they think all the vendors are somewhat alike and they’re all going to look fairly similar. I think if they’re driven by, by automation is, you know, if there’s no added value, they’ll go to the lowest cost channel. So the question becomes what’s the value SDRs can add to buyers to stay in place.

Justin Michael: I might shock you first and say nostalgia, but that’s like a time machine, 50 years. Right. I can get a wax record, like a record player and you can play on. In the future, you’ll have a more premium option where you insert the human. You want a human seller? Oh, that’s so nostalgic. That reminds me of right. The other thing that’s going to go away-

Andy Paul: Well, but I don’t, I don’t think that is nostalgic though, by the way, we’ll talk

Justin Michael: Well, I think that’s way future for now the value is that the way that a human can empathize, emote, and synthesize and create context and storytelling and sort of a hive mind right now that synergistic rapport level is just not something a computer can do. There’s a famous one, where will Smith is talking to that female robot and she’s like, she’s totally on. And then very awkward and then very on. And so it’s like, it’s going to be more like that.

Andy Paul: Well, but the question is really about. And this is the part, I think that that is a big, big concern to me is, is, is, you know, we need to separate in the way we perceive things as is. Yeah. Certainly from the actual selling takes place once an AE gets involved. That’s what I believe. Right. So if you look at and listen to interactions of, uh, of SDRs making outbound phone calls, which I do, is I would say that you know, and these things we talk about that are so important in sales in terms of making that connection and empathy and so on, when you’re just trying to sell a demo or a meeting, quite honestly, I don’t see a lot of it. And now it’s absolutely necessary when the AEs get going and involved, because this is, you know, more complex engagement at that point.

But that front end, you know, this is why I think it’s vulnerable to automation. And that’s why I asked the question before, but what’s the value that we can have SDRs provide because you know, if you’re fundamentally doing appointment setting, No, there’s not, there’s not big opportunity to do that, to get into the emotion and the empathy and the creativity and the problem solving, which AEs absolutely need.

Justin Michael: Yeah, so this is why I call it the, the AE-SDR industrial complex because Justin Roff-Marsh wrote a book called The Machine.

Andy Paul: He’s been on my show several times. I love Justin

Justin Michael: He’s awesome. So we’re not playing Moneyball when we’re using it hammers and nails and there’s SDRs and AEs and CSMs. We need new acronyms snowflake, like structures to teams, like study crystals. Like there’s just a ton of different linkages and ways to run it. Even from the 50, 50 splits and OTE and forecast models and all the software has to change. And it’s a bit like when you study the planets going around the sun in like a fixed system, but then you realize like, the time continuum is warped and everything is moving to the side and the planets are moving in spirals almost like they’re going through viscous, liquid, like the real structure, that stuff is it’s way more complicated in openers and closers. I think that’s one of the mistakes which creates an industrial complex.

Andy Paul: We just, we need to blow it up.

Justin Michael: right. I, I do think that because I think someone that has a, a skill, like we want to move SDRs from Excel to SQL. Let’s say someone’s awesome at targeting, so good at that. And so they learn data science and they learn sequel and R and Python and node JS, and they learn these systems like Tableau and then someone else is just awesome at social media. We’ll put them in LinkedIn all day, creating content, interacting, and being empathetic in the comments. So you get out like flavors of SDRs. I talked with Aaron Ross about this and liked it. So I want attributed like Skittles of SDR is it’s like. Think of any specific piece of, of subspecialization and that becomes an SDR.

Andy Paul: Well, yeah, I don’t disagree. I mean that’s but the thing is that the way it’s currently structured is that, yeah, this is a short term job, you know, you’re just in here for 12, 18 months, and then it’s either up or out, right. As opposed to, look yeah, because I had actually, I had this conversation with Aaron.

It’s like, okay, why aren’t we hiring SDRs who have 10 to 15 years of experience? That’s what they want to do. They’re good at it. You know, this special thing that could be targeting or whatever, and why don’t we encourage the development of that role into that degree of specialization. So that actually can come up, become a career for people just as someone wants to be a career salesperson.

Justin Michael: Yeah. So, yeah, it’s really interesting because in an enterprise company, you have a person with a couple of years experience setting the meeting to try to pique your interest. They might BANT you like budget authority, need time, and then to do it again.

Andy Paul: As I said, blah, blah, blah. That’s not qualification. That’s qualification for the meeting, but it’s not qualification for the business case for the customer.

Justin Michael: And it might have been twice. And then that’s a really poor experience. So to, to highlight this, you think like LeCirque in New York, a beautiful restaurant, you might have the maitreed might be the owner who has been there 25 years, knows how all of the menus were put together. The seating arrangements right down to the fabric on the tablecloth. The most experienced person is going to greet the customer who’s going to go in and have a thousand dollar dinner. And I think that’s why full cycle sellers have become back into vogue, the full cycle AE who has a jarvis around him or an acumen training for SDRs. They can really understand business case, but I would just be a proponent of let’s custom fit selling models and sales motions to the product market fit and the customer’s buying process and let’s, let’s do away with, uh, and, and Aaron himself has evolved from that model. Cause I think if you move to the Aaron Ross model of predictable revenue, you’ve shifted into the first gear and that’s important.

Andy Paul: Let’s be fair. Aaron Ross and Mary Lou Tyler.

Justin Michael: Yes. And Mary Lou is a friend and I love Predictable Prospecting and, uh,

Andy Paul: Like they call wrote that book just a, you know, just to make sure everybody gets their due,

Justin Michael: Yes. I love Mary Lou and I felt like her, her book yeah. Even brings like a process focus over the top of it. So I definitely suggest people need both. Um, and I think their models actually are totally relevant. I think we’re just going to see subspecialization and we’re going to see converged systems because I think CFOs are going to say, I don’t want to pay for a dialer, a data source, CRM, sales navigator, sales engagement platform, conversational intelligence. It’s a thousand dollars per rep per month, per Lars Nielsen, for high growth companies and that’s only about 15%. Someone’s going to pound their fist down and say, doesn’t some company make all of this in a bundle.

Andy Paul: Well, that’s consolidation is inevitably going to take place when the market’s expanding, as you talked about with the number of vendors. So yeah, I think everybody’s, uh, rapidly positioning themselves for that inevitability. The vendors are rapidly positioning themselves. Yes.

Justin Michael: For sure.

Andy Paul: Unfortunately, Salesforce can’t buy all of them,

Justin Michael: Yeah. They’re going to try.

Andy Paul: Well they’re gonna be pitched every one of them, but they’re not gonna buy everyone. Yeah.

Justin Michael: I love it. I love it.

Andy Paul: So you, you had written something for TenBound, an article about top 10 SDR stack tech stacks that, it was as longer title, but, but it was interesting as I read that article, you know, my takeaway was. One, Oh man, we suck so bad at sales. Two, because we suck so bad at actually the selling part of the motion is that we really have to rock the top of the funnel because we have to feed the inefficient and ineffective sellers at the bottom of the funnel.

That’s sort of my takeaway from your article. And I don’t disagree by the way. And I think, I think that’s one of the problems and the people don’t universally see it, uh, to your point about, you know, we’re seeing increased back on full cycle reps and so on is that yeah, we have a business that, and most subscription businesses that, um, you know, operating like a 20% win rate on the most qualified opportunities. And so you’re, you’re, you’re churning through all these prospects and you’re basically playing the odds as opposed to selling.

Justin Michael: That’s a really good point. I like that whole angle as well. I have found like, it’s kind of like with vampires, like they have to be invited in, in, in the movies and the lore of vampires. The problem now is

Andy Paul: Wait, they have to be invited in.

Justin Michael: I guess in, in a lot of the vampire movies, like there’ll be on the balcony and until the person invites them over the threshold, there’s some like law of vampires that they can’t come

Andy Paul: Oh, wow. Okay.

Justin Michael: So, yeah,

Andy Paul: check that out.

Justin Michael: Yeah, so I’ve equated that to sale people. Here’s what I mean is that the average CXO, like the CEO is getting 250 emails a day and it’s getting more and more personalized. There’s a lot of garbage in there too, but pretty much because buyers of research so far, a lot of times openings, the new closing.

I’ve seen also teams where there’s very competent sellers, but the company just can’t get enough meetings and demos booked to build enough funnel rapidly. And I know like Mike Weinberg’s talked about it, but for every company where the issue is just closing skills, there’s usually this bigger issue that not enough people are prospecting enough. Or they’re leaning on these tech stacks and thinking it’s, it’s marketing in a way or inbound marketing instead of doing the harder prospecting motions that have higher form of leverage. And this is where I talk about the Tiger Woods analogy, which is if I have a $3,000 Big Bertha driver and he has a club from the seventies, he is going to smoke me on that golf course. I’m going to slice into the, the side. I’m gonna hit the sand trap, cause I’m not a golfer so I can keep upgrading my tech stacks, but I don’t have the deeper form. What you’re calling to is better training so that when you actually do get them, the live fire, which is the purpose of this tech is to free up the rep that they know they need classic and traditional evergreen training on reframing and communicating and persuading and empathizing and active listening and storytelling, and it goes forever. So what’s funny is all these new methods and books just unlock, you know, more reasons that you have to go read more Andy Paul and in your write up on all the monitor stuff too. I’m not, I’m not antiquated your work. I’m seeing it’s classic because it’s not about tech for Tech’s sake.

Andy Paul: Well, and I think that this is one things, problems we’re getting into in sales is, is, and you see this so much in the writing is that, and Justin and I talked about this and I agree with him., I mean, the premise is that after certain level of training, it’s really not, at least this is my take, is after a certain level training, it’s, it’s not about skills improvement at that point.

I mean, I had a hugely successful career in sales and I don’t think my presentation skills are any better than the next person or you know, or opening calls is any better, but I think it’s a change in perspective about what it is you’re trying to accomplish. Right. And I think that, that we spent too much time focusing on sort of the hard skills and not enough on what’s the job I’m trying to accomplish here. Right. My job is to go out and persuade people to buy my product, man. I think that’s a losing proposition of my job is to go out and help my buyers make a good purchase decision, independent, whether they buy me or not, but to make a good purchase decision, I’m going to have a higher fraction of those deals closing and I’m going to win a higher percentage of them and we have these, these, this issue of, of, yeah, the blind faith in our tech stacks that help us, but you still have to be coming from the right spot.

Justin Michael: Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s really true, right? That comes down to storytelling and messaging and positioning. It comes down to compelling value narratives and what I find the biggest thing I see, that I’m preaching now, as I’m reviewing what’s actually being written is a lack of specificity because you can personalize to the company, the industry and similar clients and get some social proof, but it’s still not specific enough to not seem to the prospect like, Hey, this could have been automated. What I’m trying to do is hyper personalization. Just like what you did. I want to read one of Andy’s articles, pull something out of a book, pull something out of interview. Once I have two or three of those snippets of like minute 6;16, I credit Jeremy Donovan for helping with this definition. You’re really in hyper territory. Now the machines can be programmed to pull that level of insight, but to synthesize it into context and mash it up together, that’s a uniquely human ability.

Andy Paul: Absolutely. I mean that’s that’s and that, and that’s on both the buying and the selling side of things. And this is why I love the used word synthesize, because I think that is actually a critical skill that is never mentioned in any sort of training or books – will be in my new book – but is that is you have to be able to take these disparate sources of information, which means you have to ask the right questions, but you have to ask great questions, but they’re going to change from context to context. You have to listen to understand, right. Instead of listening to respond, which is how we train sellers today. And then yeah. Synthesize that information into either another question, an insight, something that will provide value to the buyer.  And that’s not a hard skill. I mean, this is, this is, I mean, it’s a hard skill to master, but it’s not a hard skill like presentation or, you know, these other things that we teach in training. So we have to have a different way of looking at how do we, how do we train people? I mean, I think about how did I learn how to do that? I mean, I, I, I like to think through complex things, I was a history major in college, but I didn’t love the, you know, The chronological history, even like, unfortunately all that stuff stuck in my brain, but yeah, it was, it was the why. Right. I always want to know the why behind it. And this is where we’re showing, selling.

Or shortening our sellers that’s like is not enough of this why? And I think it’s a hard thing to say, how do we help people acquire those, this ability, this mindset, this perspective, to look at it this way, because, because it’s it’s, um, gosh, it’s hard to say whether it’s scalable or not.

Justin Michael: Yeah, I like the Simon Sinek simplicity of the golden circle and taking golden circle into messaging where you really think about the why, the customer’s why. And there’s a lot of, you know, research into asking a Y based question versus a how and the impact that has, if you look at Chris Voss in certain linguistics negotiation. I’m very into words, but I think becoming a synthesizer and having that analyst skill, which is something like what a Forester or a gardener does. Um, it requires reading through a lot of stuff, developing your own voice, your own take, and, uh, mashups are a great place to start. So, um, I think what helped me to get to the synthesis point is needing to write original blogs that weren’t just derivations of the other blogs.

So I’d take in a few articles, really think about it and then just start to say my opinion, like one of my big opinions is that mobile phones will go away in our lifetime. It will be like a typewriter. Pretty much all the computing interfaces will be wearable or heads up display are floating in the air. I think in our lifetime that’s possible. And it’s good because the human body ergonomically needs to do more than sit in a chair and hold a piece of polyurethane with CorningWare glass on it.

Andy Paul: Yeah, I can see that for sure.

Justin Michael: That’s, that’s from probably reading five or 10 books and articles and really thinking about it deeply and going over to the Google campus and seeing people wearing the glasses. And I thought it was actually pretty cool.

Andy Paul: Right, but is it too much to expect every seller to do something similar?

Justin Michael: What I’ve been encouraging sellers to do is as counter culture in a way is there’s a curation time, everyone curate, but now it’s so inexpensive to put out content, whether it’s an article or a blog or podcast, it’s very hard to do it at your level. And this is a world class show, which I appreciate, but if sellers can persuade and they can talk in a unique voice, it may not be grammatically perfect or great writing that’s going to get a Pulitzer Prize, but funny enough, they’ve been writing convincing emails for years and they’re subject matter experts. And if they could turn some of that content into kind of a lead magnet and automate some of it, get it out there. Um, it would be very cool to-

Andy Paul: Well, I think even absent being a lead magnet, I think if they just got it out there and this is why I encourage people on it, it’s for people listening to the show. They’ve heard this before is you only have a, and why I love talking with you is we have a, a shortage of new voices in sales. People 40 and under,

Justin Michael: Just made the cut.

Andy Paul: Just made the cut, but what, well, yeah, give a little leeway am plus or minus, but it’s really, really necessary. And, and the way that you express that as you get started, as you’ve done is you post a ton of stuff on LinkedIn or wherever you did, that was basically about your experiences, things that you think, things that you’ve spent some time to think about, you know, why this works, why this is and so on. And that’s, that’s the first step and everybody has experiences.

And I really rebel against this talk on LinkedIn, where there’s been people saying, you know, in the sales community saying, yeah, should we be harsh on people that say stuff that just seems so obviously wrong? And it’s like, no, because what makes you, why do you think it’s wrong? Maybe it’s right. Right.

Just doesn’t work for your experience necessarily, but we need to encourage more and more people that express themselves about this because fundamentally, and you address this at a higher level, but fundamentally sales is, you know, this veneer of technology put on it but sales hasn’t changed in the last hundred years. The way we, the way we manage it, the way we measure it, I mean, it’s like. We need to, that needs to change substantially.

Justin Michael: Yeah, I felt compelled after 20 years in sales in 2021, I just turned 40 to start talking about things. Thank you. Yeah, you don’t really get like a frequent flyer mile or a prize

Andy Paul: No, you should. That’s interesting. Yeah.

Justin Michael: Yeah. So I just realized that the stuff I was reading in my LinkedIn feed was compelling. And a lot of it was great content marketing and marketing advice. But when it came to actually getting some convincing someone to change their organization and spend, you know, six figures or seven figures on disruptive software, I was noticing a lot of the things that do work for that are authors that haven’t figured out necessarily how to go quite as ballistic as we do in social media. And so I decided, you know, I’m going to go in there. It’d be like Tim “Tool Time” Taylor, and just show you how to build a cabinet. We’ll how I did a seven figure deal in 90 days. And here’s the tech stack I used. And here’s exactly what I said and how I wrote the emails. And there’s not really a pedagogy or a school, or, you know, some of this stuff is hacked together, but it worked and that’s kind of fun. It’s an interesting voice. It’s just like a practitioner voice. I still make cold calls every day, myself.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, and the only thing that I rebel against when I see stuff, some stuff like that, not yours on, on LinkedIn is that the implication is that yeah, every, every everyone’s like this, right. I can do this a million times, you know, do my seven figure deal in nine days. And it’s like, don’t oversell it. If you did it once share that experience, that’s valuable.

I don’t care if you’ve done it 10 times or.. First of all, the skeptic in me will never believe based on my own experience when someone says, Oh yeah, this is easy and you can do it, you know, replicate it a million times. That’s okay. You did it once. That’s fantastic. Right? How many people actually can close a seven figure deal in their lifetime? Fine. Let’s learn from it, put it out there. And I want more people to do that. Right. Even if it’s just a one off, that’s fine.

Justin Michael: Yeah. I mean, the thing for me is I wanted to almost say how hard it was. I remember Kevin J. O’Connor who founded DoubleClick. I got to meet with him in my mid twenties and I. Read his book and he always joked, like it didn’t sell a ton of copies cause he talked about how hard it was to like fund the company in his parent’s basemen,t run up money on credit cards and almost go out of business. Tons of time and regulation. And it’s incredible. And then he always jokes. Cause I don’t know some ungodly figure. He sold for hundreds of millions in the day after Google flipped it to, somebody flipped it to a private equity for 1.2 billion and he just jokes I lost 500 million on that deal. Right. He’s a great guy. He’s really funny. His book’s amazing. It’s called The Map of Innovation. It has a mousetrap on it, which is the folly of Silicon Valley. We want to make the bigger, better mouse trap. Let’s just pour the VC money in and we’re not always solving the right problem. Um,

Andy Paul: Well, no, we’re oftentimes a solution in search of a problem, but yes.

Justin Michael: So as a, as a, as a futurist and someone that just scores that way psychologically, and some of the CEOs I’ve talked to and even talking with, uh, Mary Lou, Tyler to her great credit, I asked, you know, where should all these tool companies be building? What are your favorite features? What are your favorite things they can do? And she’s like, they got to do something totally different. There’s they gotta get out of the white space. Right. She wants like a followup engine. She shared it on my show. I mean, it’s like, can we think differently? Cause at this point we have another industrial complex of same, same, same tech. It’s like when everyone was making a photo sharing app or social network, we’re like there’s 200 social networks. Can someone, you know, cure COVID well, let’s work on that one. You know, it’s like, uh, too soon, but.

Andy Paul: Yeah, but I think to follow up on your point though, is, is the technology has shaped how we perceive and Mary Lou’s point is right on, is that so, um, I think it was Steve Norman in New Zealand sent me this, or Australia. Excuse me. I keep saying New Zealand, Australia, uh, had sent me this, this, um, or may have that backwards or whatever, uh, this diagram, and it showed three circles on it. And the one left, let’s say a size of basketball. The one in the middle is size of a tennis ball. And the one on the right was the size of basketball. And he said, you know, this is the way people perceive sort of the necessary allocation of resources in sales. And the first basketball on the left is top of the funnel. The tennis ball was selling. And the second basketball was closing and yeah, it’s just completely out of whack. First of all, closing is outcome. it’s not a process. You know, we spend a disproportion amount of time on top of funnel and very little comparatively on the middle where the selling, where it actually takes place.

You know, when you look at LinkedIn, and look at the comparative amounts of stuff written about top of funnel versus discovery and qualification and, and so on, which are the meat of where the rubber meets the road, where you actually win the deals. And, and we need to, to change that. And I tell people, you know, we’ll know we’re on the right track when instead of salespeople saying, well, I’m signed up to go to outbound this year. I’ve signed up to go to inbound this year. They’ve signed up to go to discovery and qualification this year. Right. Where’s our, where’s our conference on qualification? Where’s our conference on discovery. Those are the things people need to get better at.

Justin Michael: What’s really interesting. I was talking to the COO of CIENCE, Eric Quanstrom. He was talking about how marketing had figured out. He’s awesome. Right? So marketing had figured out specialists quite a long time ago. You don’t have your SEO person and your graphic designer working on your UX, and they’re not necessarily buying your media or doing your branding. So they get it. Now the sales structure is being revolutionized by specialization. And so having these conferences is more of a mission statement or political statement about in many ways people have become too obsessed on inbound because the beauty of the automated tools is you kind of can make money when you sleep, because you can send them so many emails. And when I sent a million emails, it was for a hundred customers. So I was only doing about a thousand contacts a month, which is pretty humane relatively, but you could buy one of these things, send 30,000 emails and just pick up the low hanging fruit. And you’re not really sure selling your order taking, but if you have enough TAM total addressable market.

Andy Paul: So many of these companies are doing it though.

Justin Michael: The people warned me about my book. They said, look, it’s you got to put a caution. So I actually have a creed in the front of like, you’re going to read this book to learn about these weapons of mass communication. And the goal here is to send it in smaller batches, more thoughtfully and to take your time and make it quality. It’s just like you can drive your car 200 miles an hour, but it’s no longer safe and might be fun, but you’re going to get a bigger than a ticket.

Andy Paul: And that, that is the lesson though of that we haven’t learned about the way we’re are here using technology and sales is just because you can do something like drive two hundred miles an hour. It doesn’t mean that you should. And, but there’s not enough questioning going on about, well, how should this change?

Because everybody, so short term oriented is all I want to do is goose this thing and try to get an exit or some sort of outcome from it. And we’re going to see, as we already do. I mean, you look at, you know, 60% of venture funded companies at a minimum fail, right? I mean, you talk to investors they say of ten investments, six fail, two are middling successes, and two are okay, so this is happening. Same things playing out in Saas. The predictable revenue model, the way we structure selling is not the savior, it’s not the reason these companies succeed.

Justin Michael: Yeah. I mean, I think I just so like respect how Aaron has developed a work for the new generations, but I do believe that just looking at a sales organization and structuring it as SDRs AEs, CSMs, here’s the forecast. Here’s the benchmark. Here’s how we’re going to do it. Everyone’s agreeing on this model. Even the commission structure. Now what we can’t change as a P and L obviously, if you’re not making margin. You’re not profiting. You know, you don’t have the good fundamentals of business. We can’t change the free market economic system, but some people are doing cryptocurrency and, you know, distributed general ledgers and smart Ricardian contracts and doing things with blockchain that are really wild and phenomenal because of the transparency levels. But I think for now what’s an actionable


Andy Paul: they don’t, but they don’t, but they don’t sell. That’s just part of the process. That’s not influencing a customer to buy from you.

Justin Michael: Yeah that’s

Andy Paul: true.

I mean, that’s the, that’s the thing we get, we got hung up on the, you know, the, the drapings and we’re missing some of the fundamentapoints, which is we fundamentally have a ton of companies that are employing a certain S inside sales model that’s predicated on a land of plenty at the top of the funnel and poor execution at the bottom, but we put enough into the top of the funnel. We get away with it.

Justin Michael: Yeah. So it’s a low hanging fruit, sausage grinder in a way, if I’m going to mix metaphors, I think what the new technology can allow us to do is point the artificial intelligence and machine learning at another problem. And that’s the issue of how much selling time is being spent. So if you have a serious person who’s trying to optimize for contact rates. Or the amount of replies to the amount of discovery calls that they can do. I think that’s where this tech could be phenomenal because ultimately what I’d like to do is show up to work, do less than 20% of filing and admin and the rest taken care of by robots. And I would like to be on the phone, like talking with you, being provoked, having insight, like being challenged, growing, learning, hearing your stories, your references. I gained from this, I don’t gain from your template emails.

Andy Paul: Yeah. Well, here’s thing and you wrote about that is, you know, you mentioned that the reps only spend 31% of their time selling, but here’s, here’s the problem with that. It’s always been the case. I mean, I started selling 40 plus years ago. Well, I spent a third of our time. The stat was the same.

Justin Michael: Interesting.

Andy Paul: That hasn’t changed. So it’s not going to change, right? You should never design a system assuming that is that number is going to change. And so, as I tell people, the challenge is how do we make people more productive with the time they spend selling? So how can I get you to go from a hundred dollars of revenue that you generate for every hour you spend selling actual selling to $200. That’s productivity increase. How do I get you to generate more revenue per selling hour? And that’s, that should be the metric that we spend focused on everything else, like quota and so on. It’s just for me is immaterial.

Justin Michael: Yeah. So I think the way that you would apply technology that are things like, um, you know, Revenue.io and conversation intelligence, because I was like, you’re talking to someone and she found that her, she was saying the exact same thing as another rep to try to handle an objection, like a common rebuttal. And they tested tone changes. And it actually was the script. It was psychologically what was said that one, but because they had it recorded and they were remote and they could go back and look at the exact same script and moment in the sale that became a process handling that one objection in a certain way was a streak and it worked, it would convert more customers as that A/B test.

And so that became then adopted by that team. And now you’re using technology as the lever. During the time that you’re selling, making the selling more effective to think, I’m think I’m learning from you. I’m synthesizing and playing it back.

Andy Paul: but that is, that is the goal, right? Like we need to, we need to Edward Deming who, you know, the quality control expert has the saying no, every system is perfectly designed to get the system, to get the results that gets okay. And that’s absolutely true. So let’s change the system. Let’s let’s change how we look at productivity. If some, if a rep makes 60 calls a day, And then make 65 the next day. Are they more productive? The next day I would argue? Hmm, depends how many of those calls actually end up resulting in an order?


And we should only count calls as productive that end up in an outcome. And then we say, okay, well, if that’s the case, then we need to change how we look at how we make the calls, how we message all the things that you’re talking about.

Ben come into play to say, how do we completely transform what we’re doing? To say, okay, the fraction of calls that they make, that actually result in an outcome down the line go up

Justin Michael: Yeah, my, my work is about superhuman scaling, but just like garbage in, garbage out. If you don’t first focus it’s so Mr Miyagi, like painting the fence, like on your blocking and tackling. And if you don’t practice that same one kick 10,000 times, and you have 10,000 variations of a bad kick. And so the fundamentals, like really the exercise is get rid of all the tech stacks, get people into room drilling and practicing live fire. I was talking with Kevin Dorsey. He’s like, I can do more in an hour, one on one with someone just going back and forth. Okay. Start, Hey, it’s Kevin and then boom. They’re flatfooted or okay. Try again and drilling through live fire then they would maybe observing that or listening to a course or a video. So that, that old practitioner apprentice mode of like, you know, AI could do flight simulation, just kind of like DARPA they’re flying jets now. Mike Sherra was working on this problem, actually, a flight simulator for reps where you, you talk to a computer or you talked to some recordings, but like a chess game, you turn it up to a harder mode. It starts to really stump you and argue with you. You know, that could be helpful.

Andy Paul: But here, I think was one of the, one of the crossroads we’re at. And unfortunately we’ll have to come back and talk about, cause we’ve come out of runoff time. Is that sales isn’t apprenticeship. This is how this is how people learn. And yes, and so until we understand how to train that’s right, reinstate the guilds, middle ages, here we come. But, you know, until we learn how to, to really scale that we’ve got problems. So anyway, Justin, it’s been fantastic. Unfortunately, we got to run, but, uh, tell people they can connect with you.

Justin Michael: Just look for Justin Michael on LinkedIn. And my book will be tech powered sales. Coauthor is Tony Jay Hughes

Andy Paul: We’ll have you back on and yeah, we’ll have you back on when, when that book comes out next year and Justin and meantime, take care.

Justin Michael: Thanks Andy. Great show, honor to be on

Andy Paul: Thank you. Okay. Alec, Alec.