00:05 Ian Altman
Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I’m your host, Ian Altman. I am joined today by Mareo McCracken. Mareo is the guy who runs sales and marketing for Move Medical and also just wrote a fascinating new book titled, Really Care For Them. So Mareo, welcome to the program.
00:26 Mareo McCracken
Thank you. No, I’m honored to be here. I love your work, Ian, and I’ve been a fan of your books, especially Same Side Selling, for a long time, so this is a great pleasure. Thank you.
00:34 Ian Altman
You know what, it’s great to have you here. And it’s interesting because as we were inviting you onto the show, I thought to myself, man, I should almost talk to Mareo, just about how prolific he is on LinkedIn and how you connect to people. Because I think you do a masterful job of connecting with people on LinkedIn. And maybe we save that for another topic for another day.
00:54 Mareo McCracken
Yeah, for sure.
00:55 Ian Altman
But, I want to make sure I get this right because I don’t want to mess it up, but in, Really Care For Them, the gist is that the full title, if you really look beyond the title in the book, if you read between the lines, literally and figuratively, it’s “They don’t really care about you. They only care about what you do for them.” And then, of course, you’ve got the really bold Really Care For Them. So obviously, there’s an emphasis there on making sure that people are focused on their clients, what their clients are trying to achieve, focused on your reps, and what they’re trying to achieve, personally.
What are the biggest mistakes that you see? I mean, you run a sales marketing organization. What are the biggest mistakes that you’ve seen over the years that get in the way of people’s success?
01:40 Mareo McCracken
So there are quite a few things that kind of stop people from finding the success they want. Often, it’s actually a top-down problem. It trickles down from leadership. And it’s evident in lots of things. But I think the way it’s most evident right away, immediately, especially for new salespeople, is the way they ask questions is very leading and manipulative, almost. And just the way someone is talked to you can feel if that person cares about you, or cares about themselves and their own product and their own quota. And so just the way you ask questions is the first step to just kind of solve that problem of not coming across as somebody that’s selfish. And it’s true, there are people that care about you, right. But in sales, the customer doesn’t care about you as a person. They only care about solving their problems. But our job as salespeople is to care about their problems and to care about them as people, and no matter what other people think about us, it’s our job to still care.
02:34 Ian Altman
Got it. And so, what are some of the cues? Like, give me examples of what people might hear when someone is asking a question that clearly, they just care about themselves, versus the questions they ask when they’re demonstrating care for the customer or the client.
02:50 Mareo McCracken
Yeah, so a question might be, so what’s your budget for this quarter? When you go straight, like in the first call, into asking, you’re trying to disqualify them, when you’re still trying to prove value, but you’re disqualifying them before you have even proven value. So that question for sure. And that’s taught to them, right? That’s not a natural question either. So you can tell when a question is natural or when they’re taught to say stuff like that, right? Another question might be when the answer can only be, don’t you want more new business? Or, don’t you want to solve this problem? Or, are you interested in solving this such and such problem? Where you’re making these assumptions, where if they say no to it, they’ll feel stupid. Well, yeah, of course, I want to solve this problem. So that’s kind of manipulative in a way, right? And so, more open-ended questions that say, hey, we’re helping people solve these types of issues. Based on your experience, what are you trying to solve, right? And so you give them the chance to say what they want to say without feeling pushed into a corner. And anytime you push somebody into a corner, it can turn out really bad. And that’s usually them just rejecting you, but it could turn out worse too.
03:58 Ian Altman
Yeah, and obviously, you know, this is something that is near and dear to my heart. Everything we teach is about this idea of disarming and making it so that we’re just trying to get to the truth. We’re not trying to persuade people. I often think that the trap that people fall into, and I love the fact that you point to its often leadership that trickles down because the leader says, well, you need to see if you can push this deal into this quarter. And the real question should be, would there be value to the client in doing this sooner rather than later? And if not, then the answer is no, there’s no reason for them to do it sooner. And people make the mistake of that all the time where it’s end of quarter. It’s almost like somehow, well, the revenue is worth more today than it is a week from now. And that’s not the case, and the value to the client likely is not worth more to them today than a week from now. Now, if there’s something that’s in their best interest to do it sooner, that’s great. If the client is going to solve a problem sooner. If they’re going to get results sooner, that’s fine. But I think that too often, what happens is the behaviors that people exhibit are behaviors that their manager taught them, or someone else taught them, and then we think to ourselves, why is this rep doing this crazy, silly thing? You’re like, they weren’t born doing that. No one was born, their first words were never, so what’s your budget? I’m pretty sure no child has been born uttering the words, so what’s your budget? Or my favorite worst question, who’s the decision-maker?Like, I’m pretty sure mommy or daddy usually come up as the top two, and I’m pretty sure what’s your budget and who’s a decision-maker is way down the list for first words from newborns.
05:47 Mareo McCracken
Oh, exactly. Yeah, that’s the worst. You make them feel bad in so many ways by asking that question of who’s the decision-maker. It is so wrong to say that. It doesn’t make any sense.
05:57 Ian Altman
Yeah. When they phrase it that way, it’s almost like saying, So, Mareo, the organization couldn’t possibly entrust you with a decision like this. So, who do they entrust to make this decision? And it’s immediately confrontational, and it creates that adversarial tension. As opposed to if we actually ask a question like, who else is most directly impacted by the problem that you’re trying to solve? Who else would have an opinion about how we solve this and how we measure the results? That makes a big difference. So what are some of the things that people should be thinking? What are the lessons they can learn from the book about how to demonstrate that genuine care for clients? Because you also see people trying to pretend like they care about the client, and in some cases, I think that’s almost even worse.
06:47 Mareo McCracken
Yeah, for sure. You can’t. It is really bad to fake feelings and emotions because that’s not what we’re here for. We’re here for this human experience. And connecting with people on a human level doesn’t mean you have to talk about your favorite football team, your kids and graduation, and that kind of stuff. That’s part of the human exchange, but also, the human experience is just solving problems together. And so I think if you’re really curious about them, and what they’re going through, that’ll come out and how you treat them and how you act. And so, when you’re trying to find out who the decision-maker is when you’re curious, and you say, okay, let’s talk about your team, and how you’ve solved this in the past, and then they tell you a few things, and you ask them another thing. Okay, so when you did this, who else was involved? How did this come to be in your company? Eventually, it’ll come out who the real decision-makers are. If the person you’re talking to is a decision-maker, it will come out by them just telling their stories. So I found the best way to get people to trust you is to actually let them just tell as many stories as they possibly can, and they’ll tell you everything you need to know through their stories, and you just have to listen.
07:49 Ian Altman
Sure, sure. And I think that the notion of a budget, and the notion of decision-makers, in today’s world, is often very misleading, because someone will say, well, I’m dealing with a CEO, and they said, they have budget for this. But oftentimes, they want to get buy-in from other people on their team. So even if you’ve got the CEO’s ear, it doesn’t matter. So that notion that you just described, so how did you do this in the past. The CEO could say, well, last time, I was really passionate about a project like this, what I did is I got my COO involved. I got this director involved. I get these people because once they’re bought in, I know it’s going to be executed properly. Oh, okay. So the fact that I’m talking to you, as the CEO, clearly isn’t enough at this point. And you can even be so bold as to ask a question like, so how do you envision it would be the same or different this time around?
08:38 Mareo McCracken
Yeah, that’s a great one. Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, and I’ve really messed that up too, just even recently, like six months ago. And I know this stuff, but I still messed it up. Because I was talking to a high-level VP at a company, at a big company, billion-dollar company, and it was his decision to make, officially, but he wanted to get buy-in. And so instead of just saying, let’s get that so and so person by name, on another call, I said, so let’s get some of the other people who have the ability to help push this along. And just even wording it like that was totally wrong for him because he didn’t like the idea that other people have the ability when it was his decision. So I really messed that up, and I had to apologize. I could tell his tone of voice changed. And I really had to backtrack. When I should have just mentioned, let’s get John on the line instead of let’s get some other people who have the ability to influence this on the line. And I thought I was doing it right, and I still did it wrong after 15 years, 16 years, selling every day, I still do it wrong sometimes.
09:31 Ian Altman
So Mareo, there’s something I want to point out that you just demonstrated that I think could be lost on some people. And this is something that I fear with too many people in sales is a blind spot, and you handle it masterfully, which is, you identified a mistake that you made along the way. It’s amazing how many “sales professionals” I meet, who apparently are infallible, and they’ve never made a mistake. And I think that one of the messages that comes through loud and clear in your book is a sense of accountability that says, you know, right from the beginning, it’s, you know, you’re responsible for your own choices. And it’s that notion of making sure that it’s your own path, and you’re responsible for it. And I think that oftentimes, people fall into this trap of blaming their company, manager, and clients. When something doesn’t go right, they say, oh, well, the client did this, or they did that. And it’s always an excuse, rather than learning a lesson. And so I think about that great example, you asked a question that, on the surface, doesn’t sound problematic, but it was for that client. And you could have easily said, well, I asked this question that I’ve asked 1000 times, it didn’t bother anybody and upset this person; they must be nuts. But immediately, your default was, so I asked the wrong question, and I made them defensive. So talk a little bit about that because I think it’s a valuable lesson that many people overlook.
11:01 Mareo McCracken
It’s really hard. Because to be in sales, you have to have some level of confidence, right? You have to believe in your product, believe in what you’re doing. And so the opposite almost, of it’s not necessarily the opposite, but it’s that full cycle where if you’re confident enough in your abilities, then you can question yourself when you do something wrong. But usually, you don’t want to think you’re doing something wrong. You want to think you’re doing everything right. And so, getting to the point where you’re comfortable admitting that first, hey, I might have made a mistake, and then actually diving into what that mistake is, is really, really hard. And I think the best way to go about that, there’s a German philosopher, Martin Buber, who created this philosophy about I and Thou versus I and Me. It’s kind of complex, but when you break it down, it’s, I am a human, and you are a human, and we’re equal as humans. Rather than I am a human, and you are an object. And if the other person is an object, then it’s easy to make excuses, explain things away, blame them for problems. But if you’re treating the other person as a human, you can’t put the blame on them because then that’s the exact same as putting the blame back on yourself. So you have to say, okay, I can only put the blame on myself. I can’t put the blame on anybody else because they’re as equal as me. They’re not better than me. They’re not worse than me. Objects you can always put away. And so, if you can think of other people as humans rather than objects, it goes a long way to say, okay, what did I do wrong? Because I can’t fix another human. You can never change anybody else. The only person you can ever change is yourself. And in sales, that’s really hard to do because our job is to help people make good decisions. So we’re trapped. But we’re not changing them. We’re just helping them make good decisions for ourselves. So we can change ourselves. And that’s where we have to take that full accountability is only on ourselves.
12:43 Ian Altman
You gave a great sense of what’s in, and I think it’s chapter 10, in the book, of developing that outward mindset. The thing I like is that in the book you’ve got, it’s almost like a series of micro-lessons and things that they don’t have to read it cover to cover in one shot. You can read a piece of it and kind of internalize that part of it. Now, what do you do when you’ve got members of your team because I’m sure you’re managing an organization of people. And sometimes, you get people that score higher on the emotional intelligence scale than others. So some people naturally have that sense of awareness of other people. Others suffer from what I like to refer to as axis displacement disorder, where they believe the axis of the earth has shifted, the world revolves around them. So how do you help people shift that behavior and become more aware of it than maybe they would otherwise?
13:37 Mareo McCracken
So I think there’s a lot that comes into play with training versus coaching. And so training is knowing what to do, right? And so you teach them the skills, the steps, the process, all that kind of stuff. But the coaching is where they internalize it and have to figure it out for themselves. Where you’re asking questions where you do not know what the full answer is going to be, right? You’re asking open-ended questions, but I think it actually comes down to the exact same process you do with clients. If people share stories with each other, they connect. So I found the best way to have training that evolved into coaching is where people share their experiences of what they were feeling and what they went through, and then we discussed that as a team. And I found that when people share their stories, rather than the facts of what happened, they just share how they felt about what happened, it just kind of opens people up, and eventually, it teaches people to be open. The more stories you share, and that starts with the leader. The leader has to share vulnerable stories in order to get everybody else to share stories. I think through stories, you can sell your idea to your team, who then can learn how to do that and sell to the people, your future clients.
14:38 Ian Altman
Yeah, and I think that one of the notions is interesting when we roleplay in the Same Side Selling Academy. We do monthly Coaches Corner sessions where we do live roleplays, and anytime somebody engages in one of those sessions, the first piece of feedback that I encourage them to receive is from themselves. Meaning, okay, we’re going to do one version of this, and no one else is going to give you feedback. I just want you to tell us what you think you did well and where you thought you could have done things better. And then no one gives feedback until the second round because I want to give the person a chance to see their own strengths and weaknesses in what they did first. And other people can only give feedback in the first round that says, here’s what I thought you did well. I thought you did this one, and I thought you did that well, etc. No critique. The second time around, it’s, hey, I noticed this. And what I find fascinating is that when people take the time to have that sort of practice, they actually make a dramatic improvement from the first round of the second round, just by being self-aware. And what we find is, by doing that, they become much more self-aware and aware of their environment, because now they realize, okay, people aren’t going to be critical of me, but I know that I’m supposed to find things I didn’t quite get right. And it makes it kind of in a safe environment that they can share that. How do you build habits in your business and with your team?
16:08 Mareo McCracken
So that’s a good question. So there’s, of course, a lot of practice, because it’s interesting, at least for me, and a lot of the people that I’m close with, the actual practicing is harder than the real thing. And maybe that’s how it should be. It’s that way in high school sports, right? Or even now, I’m training jiu-jitsu. Practice is often harder than the actual match. And I think what you just described, that training environment is really helpful. Another way that you develop good habits is it’s something that you constantly have to think about. You can’t just learn something one day and then not think about it for a month. So it’s much better to focus on something for a day or two, and then a week later come back to it and then a week later come back to it. So don’t introduce too many new topics or new ideas. Every day, a new topic. It’s maybe one week, you have three topics that week. And then the next week, you have the same three topics. And the next week give the same three topics. So it doesn’t get boring, you don’t do it days in a row. But over time, then it becomes more of a habit, right? Habits have to be put in slowly, not fast. And so yeah, that’s another area.
17:06 Ian Altman
And I think to that extent, one of the things that I often find is all the excuses people make about why they shouldn’t practice. There’s a remarkable correlation between the people who practice just an hour a week and the top performers. So it’s not like you need to practice, you know, 20 hours a week where half your time is spent practicing. But because the bar in sales is so low that people generally practice none, if your team practices hour a week, and the way we structure it with the Same Side improv that we do is, look, we have three different people, one person’s the observer, one person’s a salesperson, one person’s the client, go through a 10-minute exercise, and then give feedback, and then you take turns. So each hour that you’re doing this, people will hear three or four different examples of other people. And so and it’s amazing because just doing that, if you think about it, you do that one once a week, one day a week, okay, for an hour. Well, at the end of the year, you’ve experienced 150 different scenarios. So when your client all of a sudden does something, you’re like, ah, I know what’s going on. Because, you know, because I make that same statement or ask that same question when I’m trying to take on this role. So when I don’t trust vendors, that’s what I say in these role plays. So you know, in the game that we have in the academy called Same Side Improv, there are these little secrets or little things that the person playing the client, they pick a card, and then the card shows them how they behave. And so it makes it so each time it’s different. And what I love is people when they’re doing it, they’re actually having fun, but they’re developing skills. And I love your point about reinforcement because we need to make sure that people are actually reinforcing their behaviors over and over again. Too often, people will say to me, well, we want you to come speak at this event, and then that’s it. And I’m always thinking, okay, let me give you things you can do with your team each week for the next three months to reinforce this concept, so it sticks. Otherwise, all we did was entertain them. And if you’re only going to entertain your team, bring in a juggler or a magician. They’ll be entertained. You’ll have no other expectations whatsoever. So yeah, what’s the most surprising thing that you learned or discovered in writing the book?
19:42 Mareo McCracken
How much stuff is out there, and yeah, just how much knowledge is actually out there in the sales world. There’s too much to learn. And there’s too much to try to tackle it all at once. And that’s what I actually tried to do in the book. I tried to write a book that I wish I would have had when I started in my sales career. I want something that I could eat easily, reference and look at something and then decide if I want to go study it deeper. But then, if I would have written everything, it would have been a 500 or 600-page book, and I can’t do that. So it was really surprising that there are so many things that you can’t learn all at once. And even if you want to, you can’t. So it’s just you have to take stuff day by day, step by step, you can’t do it all at once, no matter what role or how much experience you have, you still have to do it step by step.
20:24 Ian Altman
Yeah. What I love about the book is these little micro-lessons, which is, if you’re great in sales, don’t be salesy. And that’s something that I think is counterintuitive for a lot of people. And in fact, professionals who are not in sales, they don’t see themselves in sales, often say, well, I can’t be in sales, because, you know, I’m really trying to, I’m focused more on helping my clients solve things. And it’s like, no, no, that’s perfect. That’s it exactly. You could be the Jedi Master of all sales because you’re actually being authentic with your clients and trying to solve their needs, and we need more of that. And that’s what I think people really need to latch on to. Is there a favorite piece of information or favorite chapter for you in the book?
21:16 Mareo McCracken
There are so many. But I think when you can focus on just that, you don’t need to memorize anything. I think memorization is good at key points, right? But most salespeople try to memorize the whole script instead of just the message that they need to go. And I think that helps people open up and be a lot more curious. When they memorize where they want to go, they memorize the value they bring. But they don’t have scripts for the whole complete conversation memorized. I think it really helps them to really break out of their shell. And that’s something that some people talk about, but other people say you really need to memorize this. And I think the idea needs to be memorized, and the plan and the outline. But the overall words, you need to adjust your words to what your customers. Like, that’s getting on the same side of the table. If you’re using words that your customers don’t use, why would you still use those in your script? Like, it doesn’t make any sense. So we call it like, in our, in my business, we call something asset optimization, but sometimes they call it inventory optimization instead of asset optimization. And so, if you just keep using the same word that your clients are using, even if it’s in the script, you’re going to not make that connection. So you need to figure out what words to use, and that just takes adaptability. So for me, changing the words you use to match your customer’s language is a way to show you care, but at the same time, it frees you from having to memorize every little thing.
22:37 Ian Altman
Interestingly, you say that because I speak to a lot of organizations and financial services. And people often use the term, well, so banks and credit unions, and the funny part is that banks have customers, and credit unions have members. And you would think it really doesn’t matter. And if you’re speaking to a credit union audience, and you want to lose them, just refer to someone as a customer. And they’ll like, they’ll tune out from anything you say from that point forward. It’s fascinating. When I speak in the UK, I often tell people at some of my most challenging talks because if I’m speaking in a country where English isn’t their first language, then I know it’s going through translation, and it’s fine. If I’m speaking in the UK, all the little colloquialisms and terms that we use in the US that they don’t use there I have to change because they otherwise have to translate everything in their mind. So if I’m using the example of something in dollars, I translate ahead of the talk into pounds, right? Because otherwise, they have to translate it. And I remember going there one time, and I was giving a talk, and it was related to the sales and marketing side, and I said, Do you guys use the term elevator pitch because you don’t have elevators, you have lifts? Yeah, we use that term. Okay. I had to make sure that they used the term. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make any sense. There was a little bit that involved the term elevator pitch at the end, and I’m thinking, if I don’t get this right, it’s not going to make sense for them.
24:05 Mareo McCracken
Well, that’s good you thought about it in advance, though, because that’s one that you can easily skip through that one, huh?
24:09 Ian Altman
Yeah, there’s, there’s a lot of stuff. So it’s just funny because if I was speaking in a country where it was a totally different language, I know that they’re expecting you to speak English. It’s going to be translated. We’re fine. And even then, I’m always thinking about what’s going to be easy for them to translate or not translate. And I think that those are the types of things to have that awareness of the other people you’re dealing with, that sometimes gets lost on people, and they feel like well, then if they don’t understand it’s their problem. Actually, it’s your problem.
So Mareo, what’s the best way for people to connect with you and learn more about what you’re doing?
24:42 Mareo McCracken
So most of the time, people connect with me on LinkedIn. So I’m the only Mareo McCracken on LinkedIn. And so you should be able to find me as Mareo with E, and yeah, that’s where I spend most of my time. I use LinkedIn actually like we talked about the beginning as a way to kind of solve my ADD. So I work for 50 minutes, and the last 10 minutes of every hour, I go on LinkedIn. And it’s a way I feel productive, but I get a total break from my real life, right? And so that’s kind of how I do LinkedIn. I just say I work hard for 50 minutes, and I take a 10-minute break almost every hour. So that’s kind of my plan. And it kind of allows me to rebalance myself. And so that’s kind of how I do and how I like it.
25:16 Ian Altman
That’s great. Let me give people a quick summary. Because my audience is used to me summarizing some key points. So let me just kind of capture these for them. And hopefully, it’s something that people can latch on to and take advantage of. Remember, the book is, Really Care For Them. I can’t recommend it enough. I mean, I love how it’s all these small lessons, the big takeaways that I think you can use and apply to your business right away. First is, make sure you’re asking great questions and fundamentally be curious. Because it’s not about memorizing, it’s not about memorizing the exact script. It’s about trying to figure out why clients need things and how you might be able to help them. And then think of all of your learning in terms of small, incremental steps. Don’t try and boil the ocean. Don’t try and do 20 things at once. Pick two or three things that are going to move the needle for you in your business, and focus on those week after week until you’ve mastered them. And then you can pick up two or three new things to focus on afterward. So, Mareo, hopefully, I did a reasonable job of recapping some of the key points there.
26:28 Mareo McCracken
26:28 Ian Altman
Thanks so much for joining me.
Yeah, thank you. Appreciate it, Ian.