On today’s episode, Ian Altman is joined by the host of the Revenue Throughput Podcast, Jose Palomino.
As we approach the end of 2021, many businesses are looking to finish the quarter strong and set themselves up for success moving into the new year. Jose and Ian discuss how to avoid common traps in your sales tactics, and where to focus your energy for the best results.
00:05 Ian Alman
Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. I know it's a surprise each and every week when I introduce myself as the host. Those of you here every week, you're probably not shocked that I am once again the host of the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm joined this week by Jose Palomino. Jose is the author of Value Prop and host of the Revenue Throughput Podcast. He's an adjunct professor at Villanova University, teaching MBA candidates strategic marketing management and entrepreneurial marketing. And in full disclosure, I've been a guest on his podcast. We had such a good time we decided to do it again. Jose, welcome to the show.
00:48 Jose Palomino
Hey Ian, great to be here.
00:50 Ian Altman
Thanks for joining me today. So, one of the things that I wanted to tap into your expertise on is, as people reach the end of the quarter, the year, whatever the time frame is, there's always this focus on, I want to finish this time period strong, and I want to enter the next period even stronger. And sometimes people think they're doing that in a vacuum, but of course, your competitors are doing the same thing. So, what are some of the traps that people overlook that put them in that competitive landscape where all of a sudden they create competitive confusion for their clients?
01:28 Jose Palomino
Yeah, no, I love that question, Ian. And what comes to mind immediately, I'll just use this as an example. It's happening over the last six months or so that every used car dealer thought they were a sales genius, right? Because sales, you know, because that's it because it's an unexamined reality. It’s just like, okay, sales are going up, we must be doing something right. And the answer is, maybe you are, maybe you aren't. So two traps that I think a lot of people fall into, even if things are going well, or relatively well, which could be due to macro factors and so on, right, as in a new, used car business, is, do you really know why you're winning? Do you really know why you're winning? You may have opinions, but do you really know why you're winning? Because you cannot optimize, you cannot improve on something if you don't really understand what it is and the causes for you to actually win. Say, well, you know, we're great salespeople, so we just, we must be fantastic. And I'm thinking, you know, at one point, I did a project for one of the larger ERP software vendors and one of two biggest ERP software vendors in the world. And I asked him a question, I said, What are you doing that you're equally capitalized, funded, staffed, talented competitor is not doing? You know, what is different about you know. And in reality is at that level of the game, top of the game, Major League, like it's like Olympic or gold medal World Series that type of thing, at that level, everybody's a good player. So if you don't know why you're winning, then that's one big issue. You should not just, you know, just go up. We’re just going to charge forward into next year, keep on doing what we're doing. Really try to examine that. And the second is, from the customer's point of view, and I know you dig in deeply on the customer's point of view—the whole idea of, you know, same side, and so on. And I love that about what you teach and what you train people. Because one of the key thoughts is, do I really understand the problem we solve how the customer feels about that problem? How big is it to the customer? How important is it? Am I just something on the budget line item, like I'm nice to have or am essential to them? Have I figured that out so that I know why I'm winning? And do I really know how my customer sees the problem we solve? They may not even be buying our stuff because of the problem I think I'm solving for them. If it were a completely different reason, and if I don't know that, how in the world am I going to grow that?
03:53 Ian Altman
And Jose, I love that you mentioned that because very often, when I ask sales professionals and sales managers and Chief Revenue Officers, and I'll say okay, so here's this big pursuit that you have. So why do you think the client will pick you over somebody else? And what's fascinating to me is the answers that I usually get are pretty scary. The answers are, well, we spent a lot of time with them. And you know, we've been out there four or five times. And we really put together a great proposal. And I'm thinking to myself, none of those are reasons why they're going to buy from you. So what are some of the common answers that you hear from people when they say, Oh, here's why we think we're going to win this deal that you and I know aren't the real reasons.
04:39 Jose Palomino
Yeah, yeah. Well, it'd be versions of that, which is, you know, the effort we've put forth. There's some truth to that. There’s some of that effort required and associated effort on the part of the prospect. So the idea is, if they spent that much time meeting with us, they must be interested in what we have to offer. There's probably some truth to that. But I've also seen deep bake-offs, where both company headquarters are getting six meetings, seven meetings. You know, it doesn't mean you're any closer to it. And in fact, the other one is preferred. I remember, with a client against my advice, took the entire executive team, flew them to this meeting with this hospital that was buying software. And we knew they were going to choose the number one player in the industry. But they needed to have the balance of at least looking like they did a bake-off. So they were perfectly happy to spend a ton of my client's money and time and effort and saying, like, Hey, you don't, you're not gonna win this. It's not happening. They're not really interested in you. And sure enough, the CIO of the hospital was in the back of the room during the presentation because they flew me there as well. And a CIO had her arms crossed. And you could tell us like, this ain't flying. I mean, unless you really, I came to the conclusion, and I told the CEO, this on the flight back, I said, I know you don't want to hear this, but if you gave it to them for free, they wouldn't want it.
Yeah. Well, it's an interesting thing. So my co-author Jack Quarles in Same Side Selling, Jack is a guy who has spent two decades in purchasing and procurement. And so when we were first starting the book, I said to Jack, so, Jack, I know how you procurement people work. And half the time you put something out to bid, you already have a preferred vendor. And of course, I asked people, if they think that's true, everyone says, Oh, absolutely, it's true. Jack says it's not true. He said, 100% of the time, we have a preferred vendor. And if you don't know who it is, it's not you. I think that is the great mystery is that there's always a preferred vendor. And if you don't know who it is, it's probably not you. And just because the client had five meetings with you doesn't mean that they didn't have 15 meetings with somebody else or five meetings with three other vendors. And oftentimes, we end up in that area where we believe that because they met with us, they couldn't possibly be meeting with anybody else. And so those sorts of traps. And then, of course, what happens is, we get towards the end of the quarter, that deal hasn't happened. And people say, Well, what's going on with this deal? Well, I don't know. It may not happen this quarter. It may happen next quarter. And then we push it to the next quarter, even though there's no expectation or no reasonable expectation that it's going to happen. It just comes down to when your reps are spending more time in a church, synagogue, or mosque praying for a deal than they are strategizing on a deal you might have a problem.
07:34 Jose Palomino
Absolutely. And Ian, you talked about deal slipping, right? So one of the biggest tells whenever I work with a client, I say, Look, it absolutely is meaningful when a deal you were told was going to be decided on by let's say, you know, the end of October slips somehow just happens to slip into November. And if you're not really sure why other than generic answers like well, they would just the executives were at a retreat or, you know, some nonsense answer. Right? So and it goes to the point of what your partner said, which is, if you don't know you're number one, you're not, right. It's very rarely that you are the surprise number one. Like could good news. We're awarding you the deal. And you know, maybe in some industrial categories, where it's like a true Bake Off, like reverse auctions and things like that. But by and large, actually getting to relational complex sales, you're either in the winning lane or not. And this is something that we talk a lot about, is the phrase we use a lot is competitive edge, right? That's our cornerstone program is around that idea. And it really was inspired by athletics, right? Especially the Olympics. So I was watching Usain Bolt, who is the most aptly named athlete ever, right? Just fantastically. But it struck me, and I was watching him and a lifetime of watching the Olympics, and so it all came together in this one moment. I said, Gee, even though he wins consistently, by a fraction of a second because these other runners are world-class as well. He's just a little more so. They don't give him a fraction of the gold medal. They don't say listen, you only one by 1/10 of a second, so we're going to scrape off some gold off the metal. That’s all you get. No, you get the whole gold medal. And in competitive selling, it's the same thing. Very rarely unless you're doing major military things where they force you to partner with your arch-nemesis. By and large, you win, or you don't. And anyone who has ever gotten the phone call from that customer you thought you're going to do business with and they say something like this, boy, you were close. You were really close. It was so close. II feel terrible. It was just so close. You cannot cash that sentiment. It is not spendable. Not even in Bitcoin. It's not spendable. So you have to win or not.
09:59 Ian Altman
Let me say, here's the funny part about that. So people often will say, well, the deals we're not winning, we're at least coming in second place. And here's the funny part. So when I talked to Jack, my co-author, about this, Jack said, Look, when somebody doesn't win, what do you think we do? Like, we don't say, oh, and we hated you, we say, oh, you guys are so close. Next time, sharpen your pencil a little bit better and maybe you can get it. Because they just use that to leverage their preferred vendor. And so the idea is that, guess what? Somebody won. They were in first place. There was a tie with all the other vendors for second place. They don't need to tell you, Oh, just you know, there were seven vendors, you came in eighth place. You didn't make the list. Like my dog was in a higher place than No, it's like, Oh, guess what, you're in second place with everybody else, you were so close. We can't wait to work with you again in the future. So we've gotten the sense now of what leads to these kind of competitive confusion areas with clients. I know that you've got a structure for four pieces or elements for how people can stand out better from the competition and create that differentiation.
11:24 Jose Palomino
Yeah, so think about it this way. And I love using the Olympic example, for the simple reason that you don't, especially in the mid-market, people read things like Good to Great, Blue Ocean Strategy, fantastic books. But they sometimes come away. And I've been to, like, many a Vistage meeting where that was the book of the month, the Blue Ocean Strategy. And you have these $10 million contract manufacturers or $20 million dollar OEMs thinking, Gee, I got to invent the next Apple. And I'm thinking that's a brutal way to go forward is to think that you have to like change the world, but only a handful of companies ever do that, anyway. But you can grow your business. So I love thinking about incremental wins in four areas. And if you win incrementally, it's actually if you have four variables, ABCD, and you improve each by 10%, and you multiply them, you end up with almost 50% growth on the backend if you can impact those areas. So the point is, you don't have to revolutionize to win, you can and it's a terrible turn of phrase, but you can evolutionize to win. You can just grow a bit in each of these areas. And as four areas are, first of all, you have to, have to, have to sharpen your value proposition. You got to really know who your best customer is, and what the best problem is that they believe you solve for them and that you solve it in some different way. Now, somebody listening to this might say, Well, I'm in sales, man. I mean, that’s like marketing. That's executive stuff. And I think any great salesperson understands that application is key. Understanding how what I offer fits into your particular set of problems. So value propositions, yes, you have to have one writ large for the enterprise for the company or for the product line. But as a sales professional, you are absolutely creating a value proposition thought for your best customers if you're doing your job. You have to align it. You can't just say here's the brochure. Read it and find out what our value prop is. It's about what is it really for you? What is your value proposition? So you can sharpen that. And again, you don't have to necessarily lap the field. You just have to be better. The second one and this is critical, and you say in sales, it doesn't feel like it's your job, but it always is, which is value delivery. Are we fulfilling on our promises? If you're working the big deal, the deal that is going to make half your year. And I did this when I sold market research for Yankee Group years ago. And we had big accounts for like Accenture, IBM, NCR, and I handled the IT companies for them nationally. And I absolutely dug into what our delivery team was doing to make sure we were fulfilling the promises that I just went out on a limb to help us close business that I was told we can do. So I'm not saying you're going to get into somebody's shorts on production. You may not be able to do that. But you can be aware of what's going on. Because ultimately, you're the relationship that you just spent six months developing a year developing, you have to make sure that isn't undermined by how you deliver and find out quickly if your organization can fulfill the promises you're being told to take forward.
14:23 Ian Altman
Sure. So Jose, let me just stop for a second there. These first two, we’ve got value proposition and, in essence, the delivery model. So on the value proposition side, it's being able to not only articulate something that's near and dear to my heart, which is what problem are you solving for them? But what happens if they don't solve that? And so that way, we understand what the value is. Because if they've got a problem that isn't really costing them anything, they're probably not going to spend a lot of time and effort to solve it. But if they know what's costing them something, that's when they'll step up. And then, the delivery model is ensuring that people are actually getting the results that they bought into.
15:01 Jose Palomino
Absolutely. And not as a salesperson not abdicating and saying that ain’t my job. It's your job.
15:09 Ian Altman
Exactly. And I think that it's fascinating because in the research I've done with over 10,000 executives on how people make and approve decisions, the first questions people ask is, what problems does this solve or why do I need it? And what's the likely outcome or result? So when people decide, I'm not going to worry about the results, that's someone else's problem, you're missing the boat because you should be selling that early on. So now we've got these first two components, which are value proposition and delivery model. What comes next?
15:38 Jose Palomino
Well, that also is critical, especially in B2B is the whole area of lead generation. Right? And I know, look, there's Account Based Marketing, there's all this, you know, automated, multi-stack, multimodal, everything is happening there. And people send out emails, social, everything that builds leads, especially in technology, and so on, and all companies are doing it. I just think as a sales professional, and you should always be thinking about how do I add to my pipeline. So that may be okay if I only sell, chances are I'm selling for a company that has more than one product line. One of the biggest mistakes that people make in sales is thinking that my prospect or my customer even understands everything I can do for them. They don't. They know what I've done for them, but they may not even know. And that's when you end up with a phenomenon that you go back to visit your customer, you have that quarterly lunch or that semi-annual lunch with your customer. And they tell you all about this project, they're in the middle of with your competitor for something that you also could have done, and you got oh, didn't you know, we did X, Y, and Z. And he says, honestly, I didn't know. Because it's not their job to know that unless you put it on their radar in some way, so this whole area of opportunity creation is something I think everybody, certainly executive marketing, but sales you have to create some. It's like in basketball. They talk about the guy who can create his own shot. You’ve got to create some of your shots. Yeah, you need somebody to pass you the ball, clearly. But you need to be in a mindset of creating your own shot as well if you really want to drive growth.
17:06 Ian Altman
Sure, Jose, let me let me touch on that a little bit. There's research in a book I believe it's called Spiraling Up, a number of years ago, where there it was, they were talking about selling professional services. And the statistic, I could be off by 1%, but somewhere in the neighborhood of I think is 85% of the time when the client went to somebody else because vendor A couldn't do that work, 85% of the time vendor A did that work, just the client didn't know. So it's not like it happens infrequently. Based on the research, it happens all the time. And the challenge is that if you said to them, and here's this other service we offer, they're not going to care. You have to be able to articulate here are the problems that other people come to us to solve. We have solutions in those areas too. Because people are aware of their own symptoms, but they're generally not aware of the treatment for that. So if we use that medical metaphor, it's this idea of too often we have people saying, you know, if I was if I follow through that medical metaphor, oh, in addition to amoxicillin, we also have an analgesic. And people are like, well, whatever. And it's like, if they said to them, well, listen, if you have an infection, we treat that. Also, if you have inflammation, discomfort, or swelling, we treat that too. Okay. And then when they have inflammation, they go, oh, I should contact them because they deal with that. Oh, I'm in pain, and they deal with that. But, you know, too often, people are pitching or selling the solution, but they can't describe what the underlying problem is that would need that.
18:48 Jose Palomino
Absolutely. So you see these four things that we've gone through three of them very quickly, but they're connected, right? They're all connected, right? So you create opportunities if you understand what we do very if I understand what I do well, what my firm does, what the problems we solve better than the other guys or you know, and we have some distinction, and how we approach it, then my nose for opportunity should be like, I should be sniffing out opportunity all the time. That should just be standard operating procedure. And when I see sales teams, and I've seen sales, I'm sure you have as well Ian, that are waiting for the lead gen engine to like, serve it up for me as an inbound call them. Okay, that's great. But now, how do you leverage that? Because that $10,000 deal, maybe there's $100,000 worth of business there if only you took the time to ask.
19:35 Ian Altman
Sure. And so, what's the fourth step in this? We've got value proposition, we've got the delivery model, we've got lead gen, basically, being responsible for identifying your own opportunities, not solely waiting there with your hands out and saying, okay, you know, send it my way, send it my way. It doesn't work that way.
Well, the last one, and it's really, it's interesting, and I'll reference it back into the midmarket a little bit, but it's sales process, right? Like actually having a sales process. An intentional, what I call selling on purpose. So when you get into the very large companies, or more sophisticated companies and technology, that do a lot of sales training, they tend to hire people who have gone through whether it's programs like yours, a Miller-Heiman, etc., you know, Richardson training, that's such a, they have a sense of process. Move down to the mid-market companies below 50 million in revenue, you find that they generally end up they promoted the person who knew the engineering, who understood the technology. And they don't value, not intuitively, because they're engineers, the technical types that do industrial services, things like that, they don't value that sales is its own science and art. That actually it's a learned life skill and actually can be taught in part. And yes, there's some gifting that's necessary. It helps to have certain types of mental processes in terms of being good at selling. It helps if you like people because you're going to deal with a lot of them. So, you know, but the bottom line is they ignore the sales process. So really, start thinking for next year, have we really thought through our sales process? Or is it like get lead, follow up meeting, submit proposal, wait for answer. That's not a sales process.
21:14 Ian Altman
You know, it's it's fascinating that you mentioned that, because one of the things that I find is that for when it comes to organizations who are really struggling to grow, oftentimes what they'll say is, well, you know, I mean, I have great success, the rest of my team doesn't. And I'll say, Okay, well, what process are they following that's different from yours? Well, what do you mean? I mean, I don't I don't think there's really a process per se. It's like, well, yeah, there's a process. And if you don't know what it is, then that's an even bigger problem. So you need to have some sort of process or methodology. And what's fascinating is so I run the Same Side Selling Academy, and every month, we have something called the Coach's Corner. So people come on, and they talk about different issues that are going on. And we talk about different scenarios and role-play situations. And I can't tell you how often the response is something as simple as well, so we used to not have a real process and now that we follow this structured process, we have fewer surprises, and our customers actually find it's easier to work with us. And we feel like we're winning deals, mostly because of the way we're selling, not even that we're selling something different. And so I think it's really telling that you touch on that because this isn't something that is arbitrary. If you have a consistent process that’s integrity-based if you follow through with that, that often today is the single greatest way to stand out because someone says, you know, when I deal with these people, they ask better questions than the other vendors. And if they ask better questions, and if they're more attentive, and if they have a better attention to detail, I'm probably going to get better results with them than these people who appear to be winging it.
23:02 Jose Palomino
Oh, absolutely. And you know, what's interesting is, everybody actually has a process. It just may not be a good one. And if you never established any kind of framework for your business, and you have ten sales reps, then you have ten sales processes of varying quality. And then, how do you optimize anything? And you know, when you come back to this idea of winning by a little bit to get the gold medal, I always like to tell somebody who's hearing this and saying, well, that's a lot of things I got to work on. I say, No, you look for incremental improvement in all four areas, and you're always iterating. It's kind of like changing a tire. Right? You can't tighten one nut fully before you, you turn your attention to the next one, you move around. And you know where you are today, where you are in six months, where you are in a year is going to be vastly different as long as you're committed to the idea that I need to always look for an edge. And if I win by a little bit in four areas, I'll start winning very consistently.
23:56 Ian Altman
That's great. I love it. And it's following a consistent process that's going to work. So Jose, what's the best way for people to connect with you and learn more about what you do?
24:06 Jose Palomino
Oh, thank you. So, first of all, I'm on LinkedIn. So Jose Palomino on LinkedIn. And if you want to learn more about Competitive Edge, just go to ValueProp.com. That's ValueProp.com/Edge, and learn all about what we've been talking about.
24:22 Ian Altman
Perfect. And I'm going to give a quick 30-second recap of key takeaways from this session, and then I'll give you a final opportunity for rebuttal to fill in the blanks with anything that I may have missed. So I love how you started this notion with every used car salesman thought they were a genius over the last several months because they were selling more cars. They didn't really have a process. We need to understand really why you're winning or not winning opportunities and understand from a client's perspective the problems that you solve. I also enjoyed that notion of you don't want a partial gold medal for coming in first place. You get the whole gold medal, and then there's those four steps and how you differentiate and make sure you get that competitive edge being a clear value proposition, a solid delivery model that you can convey to make sure you're delivering results for your clients, taking an active role in lead generation, and then having an intentional sales process so you're not leading by accident. So did I leave anything important out?
25:21 Jose Palomino
Well, if I was scoring at home, it'd be 100. No, thank you. That's fantastic. Really very useful. It's great to hear back that it makes sense to you as well, so I appreciate that.
25:31 Ian Altman
Great. Thanks so much, Jose, and thanks for joining me.