In today’s episode of the ‘Sales Samurai’ podcast, host Sam Capra, who helps marketing leaders in the retail space go beyond the sale/transaction, talks with guest Mr. Joe Barhoum, an Author, Consultant, and a Professor at the University of Portland. They are discussing pipeline versus pipe dream, and the four steps to “gut check” your opportunities and overall pipeline health.
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Speaker 1 00:00:01 Coming to you from Orlando, Florida, Orlando, Florida, and streaming around the world around the world. You are now tuned in to the sales samurai podcast. The only B two B sales podcast, providing unfiltered unapologetic news and tactics directly from the sales trenches. Here's your host, Sam Capra. Speaker 2 00:00:30 Welcome to another episode of the sales samurai. Thanks for, uh, joining us before we begin, do us a favor, take a moment to subscribe and download on today. Show we're gonna be discussing some, something that I truly believe is one of the biggest challenges facing sales professionals is pipeline versus pipe dream. I don't know if that's a coin phrase or whatever the hell it is, but I have one of my favorite guests and he's actually returning Mr. Joe Barham. Who's actually gonna be helping us with this topic cause there's some great things he's been discussing around this. And you know, for those who are not familiar, Joe's an author consultant and a professor at the university of Portland, Portland, Joe, welcome back to the show, man. Speaker 3 00:01:09 Sam, you are the best. Thank you for having me again. Speaker 2 00:01:12 Well, man, it is always a pleasure and I truly believe this and I wanna get your opinion first and foremost, is this the hardest thing for sales rep like pipeline, like truly underst pipeline in managing pipeline? Or am I overestimate? Cause I always thought it was really difficult for me and I thought it was a halfway decent rep, but I always was very optimistic. Like, oh yeah, that's gonna happen. It's good to go. Am I off face? What are your thoughts? Just in general around pipeline pipeline, those type of things. Speaker 3 00:01:40 I haven't thought about it in that way. Like if it's the most difficult things, but now I'm thinking about it. So back to when I was a rep, I spent 10 years in enterprise software sales in that space. I worked for pretty big companies, Oracle ADP, and they both used Salesforce. And in that case, the amount of data that you can track about a deal, I mean, it is beyond granular. Like that's not even using the word granulars, not even doing it business. And so in that case, when you have to measure an account for so many little things that becomes tedious and becomes a difficult part of the gig, particularly when some of those things don't actually in the end, they don't really matter, right? They matter to somebody in ops, they matter to somebody in leadership, but to you and the buyer, it doesn't really matter if you've noted this thing or those things or not. Speaker 3 00:02:29 Now on the other hand now as a consultant, I see a lot more small businesses where they're using something like HubSpot, where you can get pretty granular, but nowhere near level of those big CRMs. So it's way less, there's less time spent on that. It's just like, tell me eight, that's going to close. Make sure you have your contracts uploaded. Who's the contact log, all your emails. It's all about activity really. And then just needing to know like what's the size of the deal and uh, commit level. So when you have it broken down at just a handful of things, it shouldn't be too much if you're selling commodities. I, I imagine it probably is right. You're selling so many things, but if it's just a handful of transactions a quarter, then you should be able to roll up your sleeves and get it done. So it's hard. It, it definitely is challenging because it's not what you necessarily think you're getting into. When you get into sales, you think you're gonna be whining and dining and talking all the time. Right. But there are people looking over your shoulder to make sure you're following process. Speaker 2 00:03:23 I think that's a good transition topic from the standpoint of like pipeline management. And I don't know, like I said, if pipe, you know, I used to have an old mentor used to say, Hey, is it a pipeline or is it a pipe dream? Like, is this really gonna happen? Or are you just dreaming about this bad boy? But it does differ, right? If you have those more transactional sales, it might be a little bit, I mean, you have a lot more, but it's a little bit easier maybe to manage from a pipeline. But when you get into those super complex, you got 15, 20 different buyers and you're org charting things and you're figuring out pain points and opportunity points. Is this person a champion, is this person influencer decision maker when you start to getting those com complex deals, I think that's where pipeline management really gets a little bit more challenging. Cause there's just so many moving parts. Right. Joe, and, and I don't know if you've ever fully got your thumb on it. I mean, I think, I know we always say, is it 90% of forecast, those type of things, but I think that's where I'm kind of coming at from it is more of those complex sales deals, right? Speaker 3 00:04:20 Yeah. Okay, good. So let's look at it from that lens. Yeah. So in that case, the hardest part about it is that if you have multiple buyers, right? So that's the line you're looking through. Each one of those buyers is going to have a personal interest in the decision or in the outcome as well as a professional interest. And it's going it's, I shouldn't say it's impossible, but it's very hard, especially in a world for a sales, one single sales individual to penetrate the personal and the professional motivations of every buyer. Then how do you even, like, what are you even logging? Cause a CRM system doesn't say like, does CFO want this outcome so that she can buy a boat? That's a personal motivation. That's not in a CRM. So it kind owes in the salesperson's mind. Then you may have a team of salespeople, right? Speaker 3 00:05:04 You might have your key account manager. Maybe you're just a salesperson selling one product out of a suite. So you're part of the transaction. You have a relationship and not all the relationships. So then what's your responsibility level. So you don't override something that the key account manager wants to input or have reflected in the CRMs system. Maybe you have a sales engineer or consultant the technical person that everyone respects, and they're gonna open up to that person. Well, those people aren't sales people. It's not their responsibility to keep the opportunity accurate in the CRM. So, and that's just, you and I are just like spitballing. We haven't even thought about all the way through. So those are just a handful of challenges that make it difficult and certainly very important to make sure those pipeline, those opportunities in the pipeline are accurate and they're, you know, they're going to close and they say, they're going to close or at least, you know, the waited amount. So yeah, I hope I answered your question. Like you just got Speaker 2 00:05:55 No, no, I think you did. And what I really kind of would spark my interest in kind of rekindling and, and reaching back out to you is there was a post you made and, and whether it was talking about complex or transactional, I think it applies to both because it's really just a simplified formula of, Hey, here's what you should be doing, to be honest with your pipeline. Right. It's all about, am I being too optimistic? Am I being too pessimistic or am I being kind of right on, right. Yeah. And so I wanted to kind of tackle that with you and get your thoughts around it. Uh, so walk me through, cause I, I think it's four steps, five steps somewhere in that neck of the woods, but first step was pretty simplistic. I think you mentioned, Hey, what deals do you have planned out that are gonna close this quarter and next quarter, right? JoEM my off base there. Speaker 3 00:06:38 No, you're a hundred percent. Right. So if you don't mind, I'll just set the tone to the post. This post came in in Q4 nearing Christmas time. And the reason that I wrote it is cuz I was dealing with it and I thought, you know, that's a great reason to post something. So it's, and I don't think that it is only relevant between Q4 and Q1 certainly could be relevant between any two quarters or any two accountability cycles. Maybe it's monthly, but it's yeah. It's that process. You mentioned that I it's very simple, but I think it's helpful. So the first step, the idea is to play devil's advocate. So all four steps allow you to play devil's advocate with your own pipeline. So first step is just write 'em all down. I don't mean pull a report from CRM. I mean literally take a piece of paper or like a, a tablet, like if you're into, into tablets and just write 'em down, there's something about that thought. Speaker 3 00:07:30 Like, I don't know if it's like muscle memory or something, what the technical terms are, but from my experience, there's something about writing them all down. Like if I write down a deal, maybe I write down Sam Capra. I'm like, okay. As I write that down, I see it on the paper. It's like, I start to remember my relationship with Sam. Right? All the things that maybe I didn't write down, but they're just in my they're in my gut conversations the way I feel when I see the person's name or the buyer's name, the company name. So write 'em all down, all the deals that you have for the current and quarter and the next quarter. Okay. So we're the current accountability cycle. Next accountability cycle. Just write 'em all down. There's gonna be some emotion there. Speaker 2 00:08:06 Hey, so Joe, is that active or is that like forecasted? We'll close those quarters. Speaker 3 00:08:13 The latter, right? So you think so, cuz you know, oftentimes, especially in Q4, the deals that you maybe will close in in Q4, they tend to push, but very rarely do they come back in just because of the holidays, people tend to slow down, uh, as you get close to Christmas, so you write them down, maybe it's 15 deals or 10 deals or something. We're not talking about a hundred. So for every one of those deals, you just want to answer a couple of questions. Right? The first question is what are the problems? The, at the buyer or the buyers, right? If it's a committee yeah. He said they need to solve. It's just as simple as that, Sam Capra, here's the problem Sam says he wants to solve. And so 1, 2, 3, all the problems, all the needs that Sam has and maybe it's multiple buyers. Speaker 3 00:08:54 So you write them all down. And if you want to take it a step further, this is not in the post, but prioritize 'em if they didn't give you priority, you missed something. You should have asked about priority because oftentimes in sales it's not, it's not a hundred percent compatibility fit. If you ever hear, if you're a buyer and you hear a salesperson say, this is perfect. This is exactly what you're looking for. That person's just, you know, they're trying to close you. Right. Right. What you wanna hear instead is you told me, you're looking for five things. I know exactly how I can solve four of 'em. Here's what the solution looks like. And that's when we get into like demo mode, right? We do a demonstration or a proof of concept. Yeah. There's that fifth one though. We're not sure we can get you there. Speaker 3 00:09:38 Maybe in a future release, maybe with some process re-engineering we can make it fit, but we don't have a direct answer for number five. So you have an 80 or 85% solution depending on if there's a workaround for number five. So you may wanna prioritize which ones you're solving. Cause it turns out that that fifth one you can't solve is the most important thing you're sunk potentially, unless they're pretty equal except for just by a little bit. So, okay. What problems do they wanna solve? Maybe you prioritize them. The third step is to write down your justification for why you expect to win. I have this in Q4 because I have this one in Q1 because, and you might find that as you do that again on paper, not in the CRM, that you might be moving some of those Q4 S to Q1. So a healthy pipeline is, you know, within what, four weeks, you might have a different opinion, but within four weeks of a quarter, you should kind of have a good idea of what your quarter looks like. Speaker 3 00:10:33 So now we're talking about week nine or 10, so maybe eight, nine or 10. So if there's more sliding to do, you might get a slap on the wrist if anyone's paying that close of attention, but at least it's not gonna be the big slap on the wrist. Come December 31st when he didn't close that deal, you currently have as a Q4 deal. Right. So why do you think you're going to win? Write that down to, and then the last step is to write down the two to three risks associated with you winning the deal. So risk is probably an entire podcast series that you can do, especially with your experience. Just like what are some of the risks associated with it? Like I, I was telling you offline that I lost a really strategic deal recently and it wasn't a big deal. It wasn't like a needle moving deal. Speaker 3 00:11:15 It was just very strategic for my client and saw was helping. And it was really my responsibility to bring it home. They asked they were counting on me and I couldn't. Now the reason that we lost, if we had to boil it down to just a quick summary, the big risk is that the buyer had tremendous comfort with an alternative solution. Tremendous. He called himself an expert in that software and he was very gracious with his time. He gave us a ton of time and, and we definitely gave it our best effort. He said it was one of the best sales cycles he'd ever been a part of. And he was very flattering to me personally, which, which was nice. But ultimately at the end of the day, I, you know, I have to chalk it up as a failure. So many times I was doing risk assessment on this deal, particularly because of the magnitude of it. Speaker 3 00:11:57 You know, it's hard when you have a lot of deals to do this type of exercise for all of them constantly, let's say every week, but this one in particular had like, you know, C level attention. So I was constantly like, before I type out this teen's message or this email saying like, where do we stand? Cause I, I wanna be, be honest. I don't wanna be like, I got this boss, don't worry. We're gonna win this. Like I have to be real. We may lose because of, and hear all the risks. That was the biggest risk that I, I noticed from the very beginning. And then, uh, there was something that was a side comment that was made by a partner on the sales team. And I knew that that stuck in the buyer's head, cuz he kind of mentioned it a little bit. Speaker 3 00:12:33 Not like this person said that, but he just sort of took that message and flipped it around. And then he used it against us to sort of try to make sure we are the right fit. And I, I just, that's another risk. Like we said, that we probably shouldn't have and that carried with us for, for many weeks. Okay. So if you do those four things, you're gonna start to identify like, okay, I've got challenges, these reasons I could lose. I've got these reasons why I think that I would win. And you're just having this healthy devil's advocate. I guess isn't healthy, but you're having this ultimately healthy conversation with yourself on paper, in a room, no one watching you ride no boss looking over your shoulder, just to make sure that you have alignment between your, your pipeline target dates and your ex expectations to win. Speaker 3 00:13:15 And this could move the needle in terms of, uh, probability as well. So maybe you don't shift it from Q4 to Q1, but yeah, maybe you just kind of dial back the commit level from like a 60 to a 40, not sure how much that matters. It depends on how your CRM is configured and how much your boss watches you. But that's sort of the idea behind the post is challenge yourself, ask those hard questions. Cause it's easier to ask yourself than it is the buyer, right? So like ask yourself those questions, formulate a plan and then go talk to the buyer about it. Like, Hey look, I've been thinking about this and from my a vantage point, these are the risks associated with like, these are the reasons why you may tell us, no, you may find discomfort with, with, uh, selecting us, am my writer. Am I wrong? Like, let's talk through these. It's a hard thing to ask, but one you get kind of comfortable with it. It, it works pretty well. Speaker 2 00:13:57 No, that's perfect. And so let's loop back to some of those, cuz I mean you were using a real life scenario, but as we were talking through that, obviously writing out the deal, I'm actually a big proponent of actually handwriting things out. Like I agree with you. Don't just run the report and read off of it. I think that's a fantastic idea of actually get the pen out. I, I don't know what is triggering. Like you said, it's a muscle memory, something in the brain who the hell knows, but it does help. There's something there that does help. So I'm in agreement with you. I really wanna spend some time on number two because I think this is where the devil's in the details, right? For each deal, answer whatever the buyers set at their problems are and how are they seeking to solve it? You threw in, Hey, if there's multiple buyers, right? That should also be like, how many buyers do I have involved? Is this single thread or multi-thread right Joe, Speaker 3 00:14:45 Great point a hundred percent great point. That's the kind of thing that if you're a young seller, so if you're listening to this and you've been been selling for fewer than five years, you may not be thinking along those terms that there might be more people involved cuz you may not be asking. You may not see those people, excuse me. But generally speaking, we tend to see it in differentiated product sales. There's more than one person involved. It's more than the person you're talking to Speaker 2 00:15:08 Without a doubt. And so as you start to layer in those stakeholders, I love the pain piece and I really love what you said about prioritizing the pain, right? Or prioritizing how what's the impact? Like what do they value as more? Because you're right. No one SU salts, everything. What I like about that? I think there's another layer to that. And I think this is where you might be one, a little bit more devil's advocate as well is like, is that a, a real pain or is it more of an in inconvenience to him? Cause you've seen this where like, Hey, we've gotta solve it. We're bleeding millions of dollars each and every quarter or Hey, it's kind of an annoyance, but we've been dealing with it for 400 years. I may not wanna solve the ladder, but that first one I, I need to solve. Right. So I don't know how we would kind of bubble that up. I kind of think of, Hey, is it more of an annoyance or is it really a pain, right? Maybe that goes to the priority. But how would you Whitle that in if you will, Joe, Speaker 3 00:15:58 It's a great point. I think that that's where you start to see chinks in your armor or, or gaps in your own sales plan as it relates to that particular deal. If you can't answer those questions, like if you can't prioritize it, then you didn't ask the right questions to, to at this point doesn't mean that you'll, you can't go back and ask them. You certainly can. Like, like I mentioned to you a moment ago, you can. So then I think if you get into a habit of doing this and being critical of your own deals, then you start to become, you don't wanna be critical of your own deals all the time. So you might become better at asking questions during the sales cycle, especially early on. So when you talk to me, the first person you talked to as a senior finance analyst at you, I'm just thrown at a title, right? Speaker 3 00:16:39 You talk to this like mid-level person. So what are you trying to achieve? X, Y and Z? Well, you're probably not getting the business objectives. You're probably getting more detailed objectives like it's cuz at that they're closer to the actual pain. Um, they're closer to the symptoms, not to the causes, the higher up you go. So now maybe you're at a controller level or a director of finance that person's gonna be like one foot into the actual pain and one foot in the business objectives and have more of an idea of what the strategic direction is of the business. Maybe there's a giant, like multi acquisition strategy over five years, senior finance analyst, probably isn't aware of that unless it was water cooler talk. So you're never gonna get that detail unless you kind of ask up, right? And then that's a whole separate conversation how you get up. Speaker 3 00:17:28 So if you're trying to figure out the priority, you also have to keep in mind that the priority kind of differs from person, the person up the decision making hierarchy. And then of course asking the right questions like, okay, so these things are important to you. You gotta remind the buyer. They said that at any one of those buyers constantly remind them every time you have a formal meeting, not a call between the call. Like just call a check in being a good salesperson, but a formal call. You're having your, your demo. You're having your discoveries, all that stuff. Remind them. You told us that this was important. Now what you might find is that senior finance analyst is working on behalf of director of finance. Who's working on and with the controller or something or the CFO. And so when they mature the deal, because they've down selected you from 10 options to five, for example, they'll start to bring senior finance analysts will bring in other people or there might be a recording that you can share and that they will share. Speaker 3 00:18:20 And so you have, or a deck, remind them, put it in the deck, verbalize it stop. After you ask, after you list the objective, say you told us these are things that are important. Stop wait for them to respond and say, yes, this is correct. Or no, it's not correct. And then you could say, you know, I was wondering, I put them in this order specifically because I've worked with other customers and they've kind of organized these challenges in this way. Would you change the order? That's a good way to get them to say, well, yeah, I move number three to number two. But number one is solid. And then the, the other people who are then invited who weren't part of the previous calls, they might be like, well, you know, we have some other things that we're trying to accomplish. The reason these objectives are important to our business are because we have this say five year multi acquisition strategy. Oh, okay. So what's the purpose of doing that? We're trying to gain more market share than eventually you we're gonna go public maybe in like 10 years. Okay, cool. So now when you're having these conversations, you're way closer to what the business is trying to achieve at a strategic level, but you're not ignoring the pains cuz you have nothing to demo. If you're not paying attention to the pains. Sorry. I know that's a lot of stuff, but I get hyped whenever I talk about stuff. Speaker 2 00:19:21 Hope. Yeah. No, but it's fair. So one of the things I was gonna, and I think you were going down this path and you kind of touched on it is just even no. And I being devil's advocate, I think we're doing this along the way, but I'm gonna hit home here. Is that, that, let me ask you, maybe you do this cuz in my thought process, when I've done this before I put a little check mark next to something that is a red flag or Hey, I don't know this or I highlight it and I start to look at page. I'm like, God, I got way, I got way more highlights than I do free paper. This is not a great opportunity. There's a lot of chinks in the armor. So it allows me to educate my myself on, well, what do I need to get on the next call? I have a call coming up or maybe I need to send an email to my champion and shore up some of this or it's helping me understand and educate me, what do I need to shore up between now? And either the next meeting or maybe just in general, is that a fair way of approaching it, Joe Speaker 3 00:20:20 Man, that's brilliant. I don't do that, but I'm gonna start doing that. That's really brilliant. So that tells me that you are a, obviously a high level thinker and you've been doing whatever you're doing for a long time, because know sort of like what to expect from every deal that you win and maybe the ones that you lose. Like you sort of get an idea of why you win, what information you have that allows you to position your win themes or position your clothes. So that's awesome. Now, if you're a young salesperson or you're young in the position in maybe in the career that you have or the job you have rather talk to somebody who has a history of success, talk to a colleague and ask them, Hey look, I'm trying to figure out how to create a list of the most important types of information, the things I need to know in order to have an effective opportunity effective of, uh, win strategy. What are the things that are most important to you when you talk to a buyer that helps you understand if you're on the right track. So even if they're not doing the, what I'll call the Sam Capra method, which is really smart, even if they're not doing that, they can give you the information you need so you can do it. And I, I think that's a really good suggestion. Speaker 2 00:21:25 Fair enough. So let me ask you a on that. When we talk about this one, I like, because I think this one could be, can go either way. Why do you expect to win? Like how GRA like, do you need, does it need to be validated when you say, Hey, cause I could be like, Hey, cause the guy likes me or I have a good relationship. Like, is that something that's tangible, help us understand? Like, is it just, how do you justify it? Or what does that look like? Speaker 3 00:21:49 Okay. That's awesome that you said that. So let's put that on the parking lot for like 45 seconds. So the reason I wrote this, I put this on the list of things to do. This is number three, right? Write down why you expect to win, right? It's because you have to have a business justification for the purchase. So if you put yourself in the shoes of the buyer, why would they select you? Your saw software, your pipes you're drilling equipment, whatever it is, why would they select it? Is it, is it one of many things or is it one or is it many things right? Like it's price, it's availability. It's scalability, growth, potential. I guess the same thing. Like there might be a number of different reasons. Right. And those will have priority as well. Um, cause there's solutions to problems. Now go me back to what you said. Speaker 3 00:22:29 Do they like me? If that's all you write down your host <laugh> OK. Just like, uh, an example I gave a little bit ago, we lost that important deal. And the guy literally put, if you put it in an email, like it's the kind of thing that if I were a kid I'd printed out, put it on my fridge and he wrote you're the best salesperson I've ever worked with a plus. Well, great. But we lost. Right. So I can't really like celebrate that. I can't post that in LinkedIn and be like, look at me world, you know, gimme a, a a like, because we lost, right? So it's not always about being super likable, being liked and trusted is the foundation of a good sales and buying relationship. It absolutely is. It goes both ways by the way. But if your only justification for winning is good relationship like me, that they laugh a lot. Speaker 3 00:23:16 Anything that kind of implies, they like you, that's not enough. Cuz even if you're light entrusted, you can still lose. And just like you told me before we, we hit the on button here, you're gonna lose like 65, 70% of the time. It's hard. And I'm. And imagine when you said that you didn't mean you lost like a stage one opportunity, like you're gonna go down to the wire and you're still going to lose two out of three times, uh, you know about, and that's hard. It's hard to be told no so often. So that's why you don't let it kind of get to that point unless you know why you're going to win and you'll still lose sometimes. And it'll be heartbreaking, like the strategic deal example I gave, but at least, you know, you had a complete sales, a complete plan that you presented and we're dealing with human beings that are malleable and they have opinions. There's personal and, and professional objectives. Things are trying to achieve multiple buyers. Like you talked about when you set the stage. So it's not trivial. It's not like a math problem where you just have to find all the constants and variables and make sure everything equals that. Like it's not that it's very complex with human beings. Speaker 1 00:24:20 Your listening to the sales samurai podcast, we'll be right back after your, this break Speaker 5 00:24:29 Sales samurai is excited to announce the launch of the largest database of B2B sales resources on the planet, 600 plus resources with more added every single day search sort and filter leading software providers, podcast, books, blogs, and so much more, the best part. It's absolutely free to search, go to sales, samurai.io to start your search. Speaker 2 00:24:59 So what I loved about that, because I could see myself doing, Hey, well I have a good relationship with X, Y, and Z. I mean, and I would probably, it was especially early on like, Hey, my champion is my guy I've talked to 800. Like that would be how I validated it. But let me, I'm gonna pose this back to you. I don't know if it's a valid way of doing it, but is that a, a question you should ask? I mean like, Hey, why us? Like, what are you seeing through this conversation? That's making you say, Hey, flex engage or who are you're working for over whoever else? Like what, what is the thing that's really making you kinda lean in our direction? Is that a fair question? Or is that just kind of a loaded question? You think? Speaker 3 00:25:35 I think it's a good question, but you don't always have to ask it. I think you're going to, sometimes you're going to know, because if we go back to your cool method that you outlined, where you have your list of things, you need to know. If you're finding that, able to answer a lot of those points as you go through the sales cycle, you probably don't need to ask that question cause it's probably in there. But if you're going through this exercise, let's say, and you can't really get a complete win theme out of it. Yeah. Then you probably need to ask that question. And if you think about you play the tape forward, we we've all won deals. We shouldn't have won. Believe me. <laugh> sometimes there's clawbacks and sometimes there isn't you just skate by and, and praise God and thank you and right. Speaker 3 00:26:19 And celebrate. But I'd say probably properly. What should happen is that you shouldn't win a deal on accident <laugh> and so, especially later in your career, when you're selling more complex things with more stakes, people are less likely to sort of make a mistake. I would think maybe that still happens, but anyhow, you're probably gonna play the tape forward and be like, okay, I didn't answer these questions sufficiently. I didn't really know why they wanted to select us. And that's ultimately, that's why we lost cuz we didn't know why they would even select us. So I think it's okay to say, look, I'm not getting the information that I need. I'm doing the Sam Capra method. I need to pause and I need to call my champion. Just be like, Hey, just let's just have a quick chat. This is not a, like a formal meeting. Speaker 3 00:27:03 This is just all between the call. Hey, you know, I was, I was going through our conversations. I was really thinking hard about it. And I've been through this a lot. I've talked to a lot of other businesses, we've done some really incredible things to help them accomplish their business objectives. I seem to have a gap in understanding and I don't want to just keep going along. Cause I really like you. I wanna make sure the it, we are the best fit for you. So what are you seeing in us? What are you seeing in our technology that makes you feel comfortable so far? I think that's a really good question to ask. You may not always have to do it, but I think if you did it, you'd probably be surprised at how much, how much more of this, these steps you can answer by. You know, you'll have way more information. You can build a much better plan. Speaker 2 00:27:42 No, I, I love that, but there's a key to what you just said. And I think maybe we've downplayed it or maybe haven't touched on it is a lot of the conversations that we kind of say, Hey, reach out to our champion, ping our champ. Like you have to have a solid champion, like do connecting that dot, having someone that can be a trusted Ali, maybe can't sign the deal. That's not a champion, but they can help navigate it. That you can balance. You have a sounding board off of like Joe, if I looked at the deals, I didn't win versus the deals I did win or part of deals that I won. Part of the deals that I was did not win. I would probably say a good majority. We did not have a solid champion. Like we could, that we could turn to and say, Hey, what's going on here. Help us understand. Is there too much value for put on a champion or not enough value put on a champion? Speaker 3 00:28:28 I'm not sure. I, I tend to talk to a lot of sales people versus talking to a lot of buyers. I mean, how do I put that from the intellectual standpoint conversations like this, where we're a dissecting process. I do a lot more of this with sellers than I do with buyers. I should do with buyers that I'm gonna write that down. But as I think about it, I'm not sure who's saying we should have so much emphasis. It's almost like a fad. Maybe I'm overthinking this, but I've been through a lot of corporate training in my first 10 years in sales last few years, not so much, but in that corporate training, there tends to be a lot of like buzzwords and I'm sure there's some people highly influential people on LinkedIn and also throughout the buzzwords and that type of thing. I think champion perhaps is a buzzword, but now you and I it's actual safe feet on the ground sales professionals who also think intellectually about sales as a discipline, let's have a conversation about the champion so you can win without a champion, certainly. Speaker 3 00:29:24 But what the champion helps is sort of like with the example you gave, as you were introducing the idea, the champion can help you on the side, right? Like here's kind of now be the champion. Hey, there's some politics going on. This person is giving, you know, is pushing back when we're offline. This person really likes it, but isn't, isn't vocalizing it. So when you have multiple people all across the hierarchy of decision making authority, oh man, it's tough. Now I've been in deals. I mean, I, every I've won and lost every kind of deal, right? Deal should have lost deals. I should have won all that stuff. But I think about there's situation like this have to me about a year ago where I had two champions at two people, they were lockstep. They loved what I was, what I had to offer, but the ultimate decision maker I could not get through. Speaker 3 00:30:13 I just couldn't. I tried everything. I sent a box of chocolates. I made phone calls. The LinkedIn is the only thing I got was a, was a LinkedIn connection. Right. Didn't break through. But I knew that person's motivations cuz my champions told me and we were in a tough spot because we didn't have the, my client didn't have the requisite sort of like market share to give the ultimate decision maker what he wanted. Cause what he wanted was to step into a community probably to make it's just ensure that if there was breakdown with the technology, he had people to go to. Maybe he wanted to grow his own network. That way. I'm not sure we couldn't offer that too small of a, of a company that was my client at the time. So even with two solid champions, we still lost because I just couldn't get the decision maker. So sometimes even having two was not enough to win. And maybe it depends on who the champion is. Maybe that's the question is who is the champion? And I'd love to hear your perspective on that. Speaker 2 00:31:09 Yeah. You know, I think a champion in my estimation and I think defining what a champion is, is probably you know, who they are and where they kind of sit in the organization is probably a better question, you know? Right. But I find, you know, today's day and age as you well know, Joe just, there's no one out there buying anything on their own anymore. At least in complex big deals. If you're selling a transactional 5,000. Yeah. I could sign off on it. But if you're selling a quarter of a million, half million million dollar deal, ain't no one saying, Hey, I'm signing it on my own. They're bringing in everybody in their brother, they're gonna get consensus. And within that they have politics. They high like this guy, this guy doesn't like him, but he does like him. Oh, he'll never do anything Sam does because him and Sam had an altercation over this one technology. Speaker 2 00:31:53 And if you don't have someone kind of in the middle of that, that's helping direct you. You're gonna wind up either beating your head against a wall, trying to convince one person that may not be that applicable versus not convincing someone of something different or of something else or whatever the case might be. So I think that that complex, I think a Champion's vital. I do agree with you. Probably the more important question is, is what level of influence that champion has. I think that's the key, like are they six degrees separation from the person and that can pull the trigger? Are they one degree, two degrees? Cause that means a lot. That's a big difference, right? Someone that doesn't get to attend those executive meetings or someone that does can shed a lot more light. So I think you're right. What type of champion is just as important, maybe even more so Speaker 3 00:32:43 That's perfect. I think that is absolutely operative thing is what's their reach that's well said, hanging out to dry. I love it. Speaker 2 00:32:51 So then on the risk side, this is where I love the post because this is something I don't often see when people are talking about pie management is like, okay, you've got the stakeholders and blah, blah, but like really being realistic and saying, what don't I know what are the risks that could come outta love field that I need to be prepared for. So I love this about that piece. How do you kind of utilize, are, are you utilizing this piece Joe to say, okay, if I know the risk, I gotta plan for it. I gotta get around it. Is that how you're kind of using this step? I'm assuming. Speaker 3 00:33:25 Yeah. You're spot on. And that's your experience coming through? I, I definitely think about how do I overcome these risks, minimize them. I don't like to hide from them. I think that's maybe where some of my experience can be helpful to people who are listening. If there is a risk that I can validate as a risk, I then have to understand what's the likelihood that that risk could become, could actually occur. And then what's the impact of that risk when it occurs. Does that make sense? I think about if, if one of the risks, for example, is the buyer perceives that we're gonna have a, that we may not deliver the technology within the six months we set, we would. So it's a time risk. Well, I can't guarantee it because who knows what happens. Some of it's not within the control of my clients, some of it's on the buyer. Speaker 3 00:34:17 So what can I do to overcome that risk? That's not easy. We're talking about people who pulling levers and, you know, spinning dials. I can provide references who had similar size rollouts, those references and everyone hides from references, right? Nope. Like we're gonna use our references because how else do I overcome this? I mean, I can have a detailed project plan or like during the buying cycle versus after the kickoff, I can have accountability from a key executive it's who can come in and say, you've got my personal commitment. Here's my cell phone number. We will not let this happen. But even then, we're just sort of making a promise. So I don't wanna hide, even if it might be a difficult problem to solve, I don't wanna hide from it. But I also don't wanna pull an executive in to provide a cell phone number. Speaker 3 00:34:59 If it's not actually a risk, a buyer perceives as likely to happen, they might call it out and then say, but you know, after conversations with you and your team we've realized, this is probably like a 5% chance and there's nothing wrong with putting percentages by next to the likelihood and the weight of these risks. There's a part of my core curriculum for my classes. I talk about, I think I talk about this on our last podcast. So I won't go into a lot of detail and a lot, this information's on my website, but there's a, I didn't invent this, but it's just a simple pros and cons exercise that you can go through. So the risks would be a synonym for a con. So you can write down in this table. I hear all my risks here are the likelihood they're going to happen. Here's the impacts on the customer if they do happen. And now you can sort of do some math and figure out how big of a risk those individual risks are. So yeah. Hope that helps. Speaker 2 00:35:50 No, that's great because I'm with you, like, I think you use the risks to try and get ahead of 'em or to, to curve 'em off or kind of just nip it in the butt as quickly as you possibly can. It's a lot easier if you can, right. If it's something you can address, like I have a reference where I have something that speaks to that, but then there are those intangibles that, you know, it's really just your word right there. It it's hard to kind of to, but that should be something that when you're having these can and comp conversations with the sales leader or with the rep, Hey, we gotta keep that top of mind. Is there anything that can lessen the blow if that does come to fruition? Or if that is what they say is why they're not moving forward? Like how do we get around it? I think that's the best that you could do, but the goal is, Hey, how do I minimize as many of those? Cause if you have three or four risks, the goal at that point is how do I just get minimize it as much as PO maybe I don't clip 'em all off, but I think I try to get ahead as many as possible. Is that fair to say Speaker 3 00:36:45 Yeah, a hundred percent. So I'll give you a different example. It's sort of related. So I, I recently had a shoulder injury and it was pissing me off. Right. Cause I'd love to exercise and I couldn't quite do my normal routines. So I went to a doctor, the doctor said, it's problem. This here's some treatment. And I thought, man, this is just, this feels old school. Right. It was rest high program. I mean, I don't wanna do that. There's gotta be a way to, to get some blood in there. I don't know anything about medicine, like or health. Like I got fun alternative path. So I went to a Chi uh, an acupuncturist for the first time in my life and I've had a lot of injuries. So, so this acupuncturist, like this was a big leap for me. I went there and it was so cool because he starts diagnosing me. Speaker 3 00:37:24 Right. Like taking my arm and moving it in all these different directions. Right. So he's trying to identify where, what causes the pain. In other words, he's trying to figure out the likelihood of the pain occurring. So then once he figures it out and he, you know, like, okay, now he, you tell me, is this a seven outta 10 or a six outta 10? Now we're talking about impact right. Of the pain occurring. So it's very similar to sort of like pros and cons exercise that I talked about. And then he is like, look right now, acupuncture is a diagnostic tool for you. If we can bring your pain levels down and we can stop the pain from occurring in like three outta these five, it moves. Then now we know that we're on the right track. It's not a diagnostic tool. It's a treatment tool. Speaker 3 00:38:05 Right. And I was like, man, this is awesome. Like, this is a salesperson right now. I'm a buyer. I'm all in like this. Guy's giving me a very clear path and helped me understand that I had a bunch of questions. Right. But I wasn't gonna walk outta the place. So he knew he had me, but you know, I had a lot of questions and I wanna figure out the side behind it and all that stuff. And he just freaking nailed it. And sure enough, after two treatments, a second treatment, I was like, way better. He was like, this is totally no longer diagnostic. Like we are solving this problem. So we're gonna turn it up to 10. I'm gonna just, you, I gotta go into graphic detail about what this guy did in my shoulder. It was amazing. <laugh> and uh, anyway, after three sessions, I was back to lifting, not at full blasts, but you know, I was able to lift again, which was really good for my, my mind, you know, for my, my mental fitness. So anyhow, it's kind of similar, right? It's like, you're never gonna know unless you take that, unless you have that conversation, right. <affirmative> the salesperson presented in that case, the acupuncturist presented it to me. Speaker 2 00:38:58 That's fantastic, man. Hey, so I had a question that's kind of off script a bit, but I think it closely relies back to pipeline and, and deal management, if you will. And I made a post some time ago around mutual action plans and I hear people that are pro like, Hey, yes, a sound deal as a mutual action plan. Like it should be collaborative. Like, what is your thoughts? Because there's more and more of these. I, I just saw, you know, there's a few companies, some really cool companies that are doing recap IO, just to shout out to them. Outreach is now launch as part of their sales automation tool. Like we're seeing that this is kind of bubbling to the surface. What are your thoughts on a mutual action plan and how it worked on obviously more with the complex sale, but what's your thoughts around it? Speaker 3 00:39:39 I think it's a, it's a formalized version of everything we're talking, not everything, but of a lot of what we're talking about. Yeah. It formalizes that. So I know that some of these platforms, and I'm not too caught up software behind it, but it's a, it's like a dual login, right? Like the salesperson can log in and have some public stuff and then some private stuff like comments and then the buyer can also log in and view sort of like the status where you can list all you're nodding along. I just wanna make sure everybody knows. So, okay. So I'm on the right track. So it's a very similar idea to what I've been articulating. It's like, well, let's bring the risks and like the pros and cons, let's bring them to the forefront to help facilitate the conversation. So I know that some of these platforms, and I'm not too caught up software behind it, but it's, uh, it's like a dual login, right? Speaker 3 00:40:21 Like the salesperson can log in and have some public stuff. And then some private stuff like comments and then the buyer can also log in and view sort of like the status where you can list all you're nodding along. I just wanna make sure everybody knows. So, okay. So I'm on the right track. So it's a very similar idea to what I've been articulating. It's like, what's bring the risks and like the pros and cons, let's bring them to the forefront to help facilitate the conversation. So you've probably been in demos where you are a proof of concept meeting where there's a lot of work put into it and you get there and it's just one hour, maybe it's 90 minutes. And it's like, you've got a show for those 90 minutes. And if you're off track outta respect, people don't say anything a lot of the time. Speaker 3 00:40:58 So you've almost wasted like 20 minutes here or 10 minutes there, these mutual action plans, if you are having those dialogues, whether it's formalized in that regard or not, if you're having those conversations, it helps inform like, Hey, look, we're gonna show you a, B and C. We're gonna spend this much time on a, B and C because we perceive them as important for these reasons. Do you agree? There's a mutual action plan in this, these various platforms to help you have that conversation. So if I'm a buyer, I might be resistant to that until I get used to it just like, as a seller, like, I don't wanna log in to put all my stuff there. I gotta put stuff in CRM. Now I gotta put it there too. But, and, but it, I think it's a great idea. And I like to see how it, how it matures and develops. Speaker 3 00:41:39 Because one thing that I've been thinking about and been bouncing this off a mutual friend of ours, Alex Boyd is like, aren't we gonna see more RFPs. I, I just feel like we are like, we're gonna see way more like formalized buying cycles now, because is there's, it's so exhausting. How much marketing is out there, how much sales is out there? It's, it's amplified since COVID started, everybody went to home and they can start being, you know, LinkedIn heroes. I just feel like formalized buying, which aligns with this formalized mutual action plan idea. I think it's gonna become more common. It's totally off the top of my head. I have any reason to say that an expert in that area just feels like we're gonna see more of this stuff in that case. Yeah. Maybe we should all be embracing it as sales people. Speaker 2 00:42:21 Yes. My, my thought around it has been, people think they know how to buy. Like, we always wanna say, you wanna follow your buyer. You wanna follow their process. But the fact of the matter is you're the one that sells the solution that they maybe have never bought before. And you wanna identify where are the steps for them to buy a solution like yours? Definitely who needs to check the boxes, all that, but actually the steps that they're gonna need and buy, win, cuz they may be thinking, this is only gonna take two weeks to get done. And really it's gonna take six months and they're, you're gonna be under, over promising and under delivering. Yeah. And you're setting yourself up for failure. So I almost think it does a disservice to the prospect. Even if you say, listen, I just wanna map this out with you. Speaker 2 00:43:00 Whether we go any further or not, here's what it's gonna take. Is there anything I missed here? Love it because they may open their eyes. Like holy sh I did not know. I need to do that. That I could get it involved. Yeah. Because we got in security. Yeah. Like those type of things. It it's almost like, I think you mentioned in our last podcast was don't avoid the objections like earlier you can bring a man, that's fine because that's how you start to justify. Is this a real opportunity? So I think that's where I see value in him. Speaker 3 00:43:28 I love that. Sam. I'm so happy you brought all this up. Okay. So if we go back to the foundational, uh, part of a relationship between a buyer sell, right? People buy from people. They like and trust how much trust can you build? If you help a buyer become a better buyer. Oh my gosh. Like early in the discussions, if you start laying out what the buying cycle will likely look like for them without insulting them. Right? Sure. You don't know anything, but you know, you wanna be complimentary and a good person and all that, right. If you can help them understand what it will take. Oh my gosh. I think you'll build a lot of trust. It, it depends person to person. Sure. I be liked and stuff, you know, it's hard, but in an ideal situation, yes. I think bring that to the forefront and help the buyer become a better buyer, help them understand, like this is what's going to take. Speaker 3 00:44:14 And here's how we normally go about thing. How, how do you expect to complete your evaluation? Because something that I lecture about is in the buying process, like just the buying process, not the buying process of, of Joe's stuff, but just, you know, general buying process after you've defined your need and you start to do solution research. It's very likely that the buyer, so they matured from step two to step three, they're gonna go back to step two and there might be a little bit of a recursive loop. I mean, you've probably been in sales where cycles, where this is the second time they've looked for a solution that didn't make a decision the first time or it's the third time that, and so it's been five years of spun. It's spitting up these buying cycles, then shut them down because they can't quite find a solution. Speaker 3 00:44:54 Cuz what happens is they go to the market to learn about stuff. Cuz the market is matured in terms of, uh, you know, ability to solve problems. And then they go, well, man, well that means that our problem is now this. So we go back to defining our solution differently. And so you don't want to assume that they're expert buyers who are totally prepared and ready to go. Because when you come back to this exercise and you're riding down all of your gaps, you're, that's gonna be a risk for you potentially, right? Is that they've never done this before. This is their first time buying, not necessarily buying your software or your, your drills or something, but this is their first time trying to solve these problems with technology or with consulting services or whatever it is you happen to have because you know, it's always a combination of people, process and technology to make business operate. So wherever you fall in those three, or maybe you kind of have one foot and two or in all three, you have to understand that the buyer may not have tried to solve the problem this way before, which means they could, you could be an alternate solution, a core path they're down. So for example, Speaker 2 00:45:54 Right, Speaker 3 00:45:55 If you're having pain, when you're running on a treadmill, you could go get new shoes. So now you're in a buying cycle trying to identify exactly what kind of shoes are gonna help solve your problem. Or you could switch to power walking, which is an alternative solution that we're, I'm not, I'm just not gonna run anymore. Yeah. 45 or whatever this much impact I've had this happen before. Screw it. I'm gonna go power walking, which is gonna be better for building leg muscles. I'm still gonna get a cardio workout, but I'm not gonna have that impact on my knees anymore. And now the shoe salesman guys going, why did this guy come back in? I really, he liked me. I thought he was funny shoes. Right? Speaker 2 00:46:29 That's a good something that I kind of picked up on there. I like where you're going with it is maybe it's a nuance from the mutual action plan gets to be. I think there's a lot of value in it. Have I adopted it 100%? I probably should, but I haven't. I think it is very individualistic. Like when do you bring in, in, I mean, if you do it for the first call, is it too premature is put in the cart for the horse. If you do it too late, then the process is basically over and maybe someone else has brought it to their attention on their buying process. So now you're late to the game, like understanding those are, are imperative. I like what you said that maybe the precursor is, have you ever bought a, a technology like this? If the answer is no, then that is a prime opportunity. Well, let me help you understand what it's going to take to buy. Whether it's not someone else they're pregnant of a very similar process to us. So I'm helping you across the board, right. And that builds trust and it builds those inner workings of a relationship. Speaker 3 00:47:23 Totally agree, man. Totally agree. Speaker 2 00:47:25 Well, man, we've said it all. I mean, is there anything left to say on deal management? I think we've conquered pipeline management deal, man. Don't think there's anything else to do on pipe. Everyone should be closing at least 5% better. <laugh> Speaker 3 00:47:38 I hope so does no, that'd be cool. Speaker 2 00:47:40 That would be cool. Uh, Joe, how do people, I know Joe's been on before, but how do people get in touch with you? How they learn more about your services and you know, five you and things of that nature. Yeah. Speaker 3 00:47:49 Thanks. Thanks again, Sam. This is, I love talking to you about this stuff. So the best way to reach me is through email Joe conduit, construct.com or you can find me on LinkedIn, Joe bar home B a R H O U M. And yeah, if, if you have questions, even, even if just a salesperson, you're looking for somebody to whiteboard with, like, I don't mind, as long as I have time, I'll do it. So yeah, that's the best way to reach me. Speaker 2 00:48:13 Fantastic. We'll put all that in the show notes and, uh, Joe, we sincerely appreciate you taking the time. It was awesome to have you again, man. Speaker 3 00:48:20 Thank you very much, Sam. I wanna do it again in the future with you. Speaker 2 00:48:23 Definitely. Speaker 1 00:48:25 Thank you for listening to the sales samurai podcast with your host, Sam Capra. Be sure you subscribe to our podcast and visit sales samurai.io and join the conversation. Access show notes and discover bonus content.
Founder @ Conduit Construct
Professor Joe Barhoum has been selling software and services for more than 15 years. Since 2013, he has been teaching Sales at the University of Portland, while developing the University's Personal Selling Certificate program for graduate students. He is the author of The Great Sellers Playbook, which he uses as a basis for his lectures, delivered to active and aspiring sellers around the globe. Since 2018, Joe has been advising CEOs through his consultancy, Conduit Construct.