Can experience and enthusiasm be a bad thing? For lenders, it can. Mike Bosworth outlines the steps a lender, or any salesperson, must take to walk with a customer through their buying cycle rather than pushing them through a sales cycle. It all starts with purpose.
Dallas Wells: What we’ll talk about next is taking that team, taking the systems and a lot of the stuff that we talked about yesterday, and really architecting that customer experience. The team, the systems, now focusing back on that customer. Here to talk about that is Mike Bosworth, I’m really excited about this one too. Mike is the founder of the Mike Bosworth Leadership and Story Seekers. That story is the important word in that description there. He cofounded story leaders in 2008, he founded Mike Bosworth leadership in 2013, he provides keynote speeches like you’ll hear here, workshops, executive coaching. Really good stuff. Again, we stumbled across Mike’s stuff as we’re just kind of solving some of our own problems here. His Story Seekers Workshops help people learn how to use the power of story, and connective listening.
Andy Max yesterday talked about that, the power of stories. Mike, he mentioned it up here again. He wrote stories of things employees do well. Stories have a real power to them, and Mike is going to talk about how you can use those stories, and those real, human, personal interactions to really connect with your customers and shape that experience for them. We’ve talked about technology, it’s all really important. It’s kind of our philosophy here, the technology is to enable you. It’s a tool to put in the hands of real people so that they can have better human interactions, and Mike has a great story to tell about that. Mike, come on up. Everybody welcome Mike Bosworth.
Mike Bosworth: Thank you sir. All right.
Dallas Wells: Green button is go.
Mike Bosworth: Green button is go. I’m happy to be here with all of you today. You’ve probably all heard people say over the years that if you give a person a fish, you feed them for a day, but if you can teach them how to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. I’m a sales trainer, I teach people how to fish. Sales is kind of a creepy word for most people. Let me do a little poll. How many of you when you were growing up had a mother that had a vision for you her child, that when you grew up you are going to have a career as a salesperson? What kind of adjectives would your mother use to describe salespeople? Just shout them out in here.
Dallas Wells: The number one answer, this is a word cloud from a book Daniel Pink wrote a few years ago called To Sell is Human. The word cloud, the bigger the word the more often it comes up. This was a word cloud about what people’s reactions are to sales people, or being sold. The whole idea of being sold. As other speakers have said, I think most of my insights have been 20 20 over the years. I did some really good things when I was a young salesperson intuitively, and I’ve spent the rest of these last 30, 40 years trying to figure out what I was doing intuitively so I could teach it to other people. The thing about most great sales people, is they do it intuitively, and you’ll see it in company after company that great sales people end up getting promoted into sales management. The number one reason they get promoted, is they sold the most. The vast majority of superior salespeople, when they get their first management job, they crash and burn.
People say, “Well, they don’t understand management.” No, it’s that they don’t understand how they were so good. How do you teach someone who isn’t naturally as good as you to do what you did if you do it intuitively? You really can’t. The holy Grail of sales productivity improvement, is to figure out what the best of the best do, and codify it, and figure out a way to teach the rest of the people in your organization. Much easier said than done. I’m going to tell you my Xerox story, because that’s where I kind of got birthed in my business career. Most people when you hear Xerox, what do you think of? Copiers, right. Well, Xerox has invented more cool technology that they never made money at than any company in the history of the world. Besides the copier giant, they had the skunk works in Palo Alto California called the Palo Alto Research Center or Park.
I joined Xerox in 1972, I got recruited on campus at Cal Poly Pomona. I was almost 25 years old, I had spent a year in Vietnam, and then got out of the service, and went on the GI bill, and was just finishing up college, I had been poor all my life, and I was looking for my first job. I just miraculously discovered a division of Xerox that nobody has ever heard. Xerox, let me tell you what they did invent that they never made money at, and then I’ll take you down the chain. The biggest thing Xerox invented and they never made money at was the whole desktop with the mouse, the icons, all that, I had a demonstration of that on a screen this big in 1976 at Xerox. The first Apple Macintosh came out with a screen that big in 1984. Windows came out in 1989. Xerox had dreamers, but they didn’t have doers. The people in the copier giant, their whole paradigm of business was copiers, they couldn’t imagine how they could turn that into a business. Xerox also invented ethernet.
This clock isn’t working, so it’s supposed to be telling me how much time I have left, and I’m going to go over if this thing isn’t fired up. If they can make that work that would be great. Xerox also invented ethernet. Never made any money at that. What most people don’t know though is that Xerox invented cloud computing. In 1969, Xerox signed to big data systems, and they had these big scientific computers, and they said … They were now saying, “Well, how do we turn this into a business?” In 1969, in Marina del Rey California, Xerox computer services was funded by Xerox, but it was a start up, so really you couldn’t have a better way to have a startup that have all of Xerox benefits, and company name, yet be a started. One of the things that surprised me back when I first joined Xerox in 1972, I want to know how many of your companies have this policy today, but back in 1972, all Xerox employees, right down to secretaries, flew first class. How many of your companies have that policy?
I mean, it was a great place to work, and I was thrilled to get that job, but I was the first person they hire out of college. Let me tell you about the cloud computing. They had a central computer in Marina del Rey California, and by the time I joined them in 72, they had 50 local Los Angeles-based businesses, and public agencies, they had the city of Pasadena, city of El Segundo, manufacturing companies, distribution companies. All hooked up to that computer with phone lines and dumb terminals, using our pre-developed applications of General Ledger, Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, order entry, inventory, material planning, benefits, payroll, cost accounting. The whole gamut. I bet you nobody in this room knew that Xerox invented cloud computing. The only real difference back then is that it was dumb terminals and phone lines.
It was still transaction processing, and the only way we made money was for our customers to hit that carriage return. We charged them 2.2 cents for every transaction. We charged them for print lines, and the amount of storage their data took in our computer. It’s so funny today, because I’m working for so many information technology companies who now have to evolve to the cloud, and they realize that the cloud is forcing them to have conversations about how the customers are going to use their products, because there is no more it to demo. There is no more product with specifications and stuff. It is in the cloud. The cloud is forcing people to rethink how they speak with customers about their products. I will give you a little story in that too.
Years ago, when I was still doing solution selling, I was doing a public workshop in Delmar California, and when I do public workshops, I do a couple a year. Most of the people who attend were back then selling some kind of information technology in the enterprise. It was expensive, it was perceived as complicated, intangible, hard to explain, etc. I am going around the U, because it is a public class, so people can come in a onesie-twosie basis, and I get around to this one guy, I said, “Bill, what do you sell?” I was asking everybody what they sell. He said, “I sell glue.” I said, “Glue?” I said, “I’ve never had a glue salesperson go through one of my workshops before.” Then I made the mistake, just as I made the next statement I wanted to grab it and put it back in my mouth but I wasn’t fast enough and I said, “Tell me about the glue.” He was a chemical engineer.
If you ask a chemical engineer to tell you about the glue, get ready for the whole detail thing. Bonding, and different temperatures, and mold, and all this stuff. I’m looking around the room, and everybody’s eyes are rolling up in their head, because of this detailed technical explanation. It finally hit me, I said, “Bill, it sounds like you are using the word glue as a noun. Can you change that word glue to a verb, and tell me about your product?” He was a smart guy, he was a chemical engineer from MIT. He got it. He started talking about the gluing his customers do instead of the glue. That’s the struggle so many technology companies are having today, when they talk about what their products do with their prospects and customers, because they’ve been used to selling nouns all these years. Now they are forced to think about it from the customer’s perspective.
How is my customer going to use whatever I’m selling? It’s customer usage. I was the first person Xerox computer services hired straight out of college. Usually start up companies don’t hire kids straight out of college, because they don’t have any relevant experience yet. I will talk about how we help kids out of college get jobs in this economy later if I forget when we open the questions you can ask me. The reason they hired this kid out of college, first one out of college, I was 25 at the time was because they had a job that was so shitty that none of their senior people would do it. That job was the help desk. All those 50 customers out there, they would get stuck, the computer wouldn’t let them close a batch, the computer couldn’t find their part number, the computer couldn’t find the customer. That red phone was ringing all day long.
I had the manual for every application, three ring binders right above the phone. General ledger payables, receivables, order entry, you had this whole list of manuals, and I had to get those people through their problem in using our system, because they didn’t use it, there was no revenue. After a year of that, I got to go out for the next year face to face with existing customers, and new customers.
I have to tell you, that the number one thing my customers would say to me, the ones I had been on the phone for the past year with, but I had never met them face to face, was they said, “Oh, we thought you were taller.” Maybe I have a tall voice, I don’t know. Anyway, I got to go out, and now I got to take the new sale from the salesperson, and go out and be the person who converted them from their other system of processing inventory, and payables, and receivables to ours.
I formed some pretty nasty opinions about our sales force, because I get out there in the first meeting, and I would say, “So, tell me what your expectation levels are.” And I was ending up saying to myself, “The salesman told you it would do what?” The salespeople were saying whatever they had to say to get the deal. Then they would throw it over the wall to us. We had to make it work. And, they are driving BMW’s, and going home at 3:30, I’m working 50, 60 hours a week, and I’m driving a shitty old car. My view of the world back then with salespeople, I wasn’t real impressed, plus, to make it worse, my violent alcoholic father was a salesperson, and he never kept the job longer than six months the whole time I was growing up.
The reason I tell you that, is after a year of going out and now face-to-face helping customers, clients use our system, they came to me one day and they said, “Mike, we’re really happy with the work you are doing here at Xerox Computer Services, we want you to go into sales.” I had two answers, no, and hell no. I actually said, “I’m not that kind of a person.” I remember it today, still leaving my lips, I’m not that kind of a person. The combination of my father, and all those people making promises we couldn’t keep.
I said no, and they came back about a week later, and they mitigated my risk. They said, “All right Mike, we understand you’ve got reluctance. We really think you would be good at sales, we want you to try sales for six months, we’ll put it in writing that you can have your old job back as an application support specialist if you don’t like sales, and, you can keep your techie salary, you don’t have to take a drop to the base of the rest of the salespeople for pay.
If you sell anything, it’s gravy.” Now, they weren’t worried about losing any money on that, because, the fastest that any new hired salesperson had ever made their first sale in that company was seven months. That’s the fastest. The vast majority of other salespeople that we had hired were former IBMers, because our CEO Jim Campell was a former IBMer. He was Ross Perot’s boss at IBM. They weren’t too worried about that. I went into sales, went on quota. The only thing I didn’t know how to do was cold call. I knew that if I could get somebody in manufacturing, or distribution, or the accounting department to admit a problem, problem managing cash, problem managing vendors, problem with too much inventory, I knew I was golden because I knew the system cold, and I had helped all those job titles over the past two years do their jobs better using my stuff. How do I go find that first prospect?
My boss ex IBMer, he said, “We are going to go cold calling.” I said, “Okay.” Back then, cold calling wasn’t on the phone, back then cold calling was smoke stacking we call it, we go into an industrial park, and we’d walk into a building, we knew who we wanted to call on, I knew that our sweet spot was manufacturing companies with a minimum of 30 employees, and a maximum of 250. That was our Goldilocks zone, assembly manufacturing. There was a bunch of them.
I had a directory, and so walk into the lobby, up to the receptionist and say, “I’m Mike Bosworth with Xerox computer services, and I would like to speak with your materials manager.” 80% of the time, the materials manager would come out. Now when I tell my audiences that today, they are awestruck. 80%. If you think about it, there is a couple of reasons why. First, that materials manager who is maybe 48 years old, he has been out of college a long time, the only way he or she can learn anything about new cool technology back then is by seeing salespeople.
If a salesperson from Honeywell, or Burrows, or IBM, or Xerox, or Hewlett-Packard walked in, in a lot of cases they would see that salesperson there was no Internet, they could not go browse and look at new technology solutions. The way they learned about technology was from salespeople. Salespeople had more power back then because they had the technology knowledge. The second thing was a materials manager, no salesperson ever called on a materials manager. They were curious. They were curious why somebody from Xerox wanted to talk to me in materials manager. And, since at Xerox, they might have some cool technology that I can learn about. 80% of the time they would come out. Now, I’m 28, he, they were all he’s back then, I never met a female materials manager that year.
He is 48, I have something in my pocket, meaning my product that will rock his world. I had the ability with my product, to allow him to replan his whole manufacturing plant overnight. He didn’t even know it existed, there is nobody looking for it, the way he typically planned his manufacturing was on a quarterly basis where they would take a weekend, and put flip-chart pages all over the walls, and manually explore bills and material. It was enormously complicated process back then, I had it overnight. However, my gut instinct told me that he is probably not going to want some 28 year old telling him how he can do his job better. That was my instinct, and oh was I right. Because I will show you why in a little bit. He would come up, and I would say, “You are the materials manager.” He would say, “Yeah.” And I would say, “I’m working with another materials manager.” This is completely true, “Less than a mile from here. Can I tell you a quick story about him?” “Okay.”
Came out to the lobby, introduced myself, I made hundreds of these cold calls, and guess how many times that materials manager turned down hearing a story about one of his peers? Zero. It is almost a guarantee, “Oh, you are a bank branch manager. Can I share a story with you about another bank branch manager I’ve been working with?” People just don’t turn down stories about their peers. “Oh, you are starting a pump manufacturing company, you’re looking for a business loan. Can I tell you a story about another pump company I worked with, or another manufacturing company I worked with?” Stories are irresistible, and we’re going to talk about why. Anyway, all those other salespeople Xerox hired, they could go out and cold call, they could get the manager, the materials manager or the controller, whoever they asked for to come out to the lobby on a pretty frequent basis, but then their sales dropped off.
Because, back then even Xerox Computer Services, as smart as they were, whenever they would hire, all new employees had to go through product school. Product school was really demo school. For all these X IBM salespeople, they went through demo school meaning before they could graduate, you typically took six weeks, they had to demo general ledger, payables, inventory, they had to demo it. Since they had no knowledge of how customers were using that system in their jobs, they would get out, they would meet the materials manager and say, “I’m with Xerox Computer Services, we got a new manufacturing system, can I show you a demo?” They didn’t have the story I had in my pocket. The story I had took 90 seconds.
The stories about Ed Blackman, he is the materials manager at L Paco electronics, I met him almost 2 years ago at an apex meeting, American Production and Inventory Control Society, and Ed was becoming a practitioner in MRP, and he was the president of the chapter. When he found out 18 months ago that Xerox could replan his whole plant overnight, he decided to be an early adopter, and he signed up with us 18 months ago, and today, his inventory turns are almost 6, that used to be 1.9. He used to have $8 million in inventory with a huge past due backlog, now he has got less than 2 million in inventory, and they are shipping better than 95%. 90 second story, and I would say, “Enough about me, what is going on here?” Virtually 100% of the time, they invited me back. They would say, “You want to come in and look around?” What do you think I said? “Sure.”
For the next 45 minutes or an hour, I’m saying, “Show me the piece of paper you use to open up a work order. Show me how you do this now. Show me how you do this now.” At the end of that 45 minutes I would say, “So, because of the cumbersomeness of the way you’re doing it now, you’ve got way too much inventory, your CFO is all over your butt for that. Your VP of manufacturing is all over you because he is missing his shipment schedule because of the shortages you have. Do I get you?” I’m 28, he is 48. Now what is he thinking about this 28-year-old? He understands my job, my world, the difficulty of my job, and I have hope that maybe he has got a better way, I haven’t had proof yet, but I’ve got hope that there is a better way.
The reason I’m telling you this long story is in my first five months on quota, Xerox Computer Services at 28 years old, I sold more than anybody in the history of the company sold in a full year. I had no idea how powerful that story was, but because I could tell a peer-to-peer story with his before, and his after, and relating to the difficulty of the job, and creating a buying vision in that story, my pipeline just filled up. It was amazing, the power of story. After one year in sales, and at Xerox back then, boy it was fun being the top salesperson, because Xerox put a public ranking on all the bulletin boards in the whole company top to bottom every salesperson current near to that quota, and top to bottom every sales manager. Ranked. That public ranking meant that if you were in the bottom of that list as a salesperson, and you wanted one of the admin to stay late and do a proposal for you, they would go … They knew you were nothing, right?
They had the report right on their bulletin board. But, if you were at the top of that list, you could get any kind of support you wanted. It was pretty good, good life. At the end of the year, what did they do to me? Promoted me to management. It took me five years to get my income back to what it was as a sales person, but that’s a whole another story. They moved me from Los Angeles to New Jersey, wherein I inherited these four older to me, I was 28, 29, and they were 45, to 55, and two of them were alcoholics, and I don’t have much tolerance for drunks and alcoholics with my family of origin, and so basically I went from hero to zero.
I was number one salesperson in the nation in 1975, number last sales manager in 1976. Luckily for me, as they put me on the plane, they said, “Mike, we want you to come back to headquarters five times this year, because we are bringing in five new batches of salespeople, we want you to train them.” I said, “I don’t know how to do sales training.”
They said, “Well, Xerox our parent company has a course called professional selling skills. We want you to go learn that and be the sales trainer for our division.” I went to that school, and I almost puked it was so bad. It was manipulative, and handling objections, and close early, and close often, and arm twisting. It was really obnoxious, it was this. Pushy. I came back and I said, “If that’s the course you want taught, find yourself another race horse, because I can’t do that.” They said, “Well, you know you’re not the first person that’s told us this, and so.” We decided in Xerox computer services to roll our own sales training. We created what we call consultative selling, and we were trying to teach these salespeople how to relate to the persons business problem before they took the product out to demo.
Most salespeople take their product out way too soon. That’s why so many technology companies, it is death by demo. You go in there nine in the morning, and if you can get out by three, you’re lucky. They are showing you all these slide after slide after slide, with 15 bullet points per slide, it is pretty grueling. Anyway, I want to talk about selling versus buying. Because, what the real lesson has come out of this is that people love to buy, and they hate to feel sold. Let me go back to Xerox one more thing, I’m going to show you a picture in a minute. I figured out how to be a sales trainer. I figured out how to be a branch manager, by 1979 I had the number one branch in the country, they moved me to Philly, and so I got to go back as an actual sales manager, and I kept doing sales training. In 1979 I met a guy named Neil Rackham.
The reason this is important, is big Xerox, our parent company, they had heavy pressure to grow. They were a public company, they wanted quarterly earnings going up, up, up. The number one growth strategy is they had salespeople, gee if we sold four billion last year with 2000 salespeople, let’s add an extra thousand, and the math just works. Here we go. If you’re going to increase your sales force, who is going to manage those salespeople? You’re going to have to promote within, from within, and so who did they promote? The people who were selling the most. All those people, it wasn’t just me hero to zero, it was virtually companywide. They found out that 20% of the salespeople in the company were bringing in 80% of the revenue. In 1979, they finally concluded we keep promoting these star salespeople, and they keep crashing and burning as managers, we are missing something. The big aha moment for Xerox back then was great salespeople are unconscious competence.
That doesn’t make literal sense, if you are unconscious, you are unconscious. They meant that they do it, but they do it intuitively. They don’t have a model, they don’t have a framework, or a structure or anything, they just do it, and so when they are promoted, they have no clue how to coach the people who are in the bottom 80% who do need a framework. The holy Grail of sales productivity improvement is figuring out what those top 20% do. Xerox hired a behavioral researcher named Neil Rackham in 1979, he is a PhD in psychology, didn’t know anything about sales, and he went out and just observed top 20% salespeople.
He built a model called SPIN, SPIN selling, some of you might have heard of it. I got introduced to Neil because they needed a pilot division for the new SPIN project, and so we had 100 sales people, 20 managers, we were nice sized. We became the pilot. SPIN was from my point of view, an absolute disaster. The sales people hated it, the customer hated it, everybody hated it. We quit doing it. I figured out years later, why it didn’t work so well.
I will get to that story in a little bit, now that I’ve set the stage, but let’s go back to selling versus buying. Most people think of selling as persuasion. Daniel Pink in his book said selling his influence. Big difference between influence and persuasion. I mostly train salespeople, but once in a while I get to do a really fun workshop, and a couple years ago I did one for 21 CEOs. CEOs have a big disadvantage in influencing people over salespeople. Salespeople are forced to influence people they have no authority over.
CEOs have authority over their subjects. Because you have that authority card in your pocket, and because you are busy, you end up telling people to do things because I want you to do it, and I’m your CEO, and I’m your boss, and I want you to do it. Their leadership, their authority becomes an inhibitor for their leading. I asked this roomful of CEOs, I said, “What’s the hardest group of humanity to influence?” Took them a while.
What is it? Teenagers. Teenagers are the hardest group of humanity to influence, because teenagers, their frontal lobes aren’t done yet, their executive function doesn’t get done till they are in their mid-20s. They are operating from their limbic brain, from their emotional brain, and they seem crazy because they are. I said to them, I said, “How many of you have teenagers?” 18 out of 21 had teenagers. I said, “So, how well does your authority card work with your teenagers?” When you are telling them they shouldn’t have their mobile device active and on while their driving? They admitted that their teenagers didn’t care how big a company they were the CEO of. Yeah. They weren’t being influenced, and so one of the assignments we had them write, since we’re teaching people how to build stories, is we had them build a story to tell their teenager to influence their teenager to not text and drive.
It was really hard for them. We don’t think of selling as persuasion, that’s a push approach, true influence is a pole. The best way to influence is with a story. Okay, here is the finding that Neil Rackham came up with in 1979, I don’t know why that box is around that M, but we’ll live with it. Neil Rackham was hired by Xerox to go and study top 20% salespeople, and figure out what they do differently, and he accidentally came upon this phenomenon.
Because Xerox back then was hiring like six batches of new kids out of college a year, from grade schools, they were getting the cream of the crop college graduates, they bring them in, six weeks of training, this is Xerox Copier, and they push them out of the nest and say, “Go sell for Xerox.” These new batches of young kids would get better and better and better and better, but at 18 months, by batch, you could set your watch by it, they would peak, and their performance would start to go downhill quite rapidly, shortly followed by their moral.
Every single class hit that performance peak, and then started going downhill. Now, it doesn’t happen to all salespeople at 18 months, in my division of Xerox, we had a much more complex product than a Copier. That peak was 27 months in my division. Because it took longer for them to become confident in their knowledge of the product. At 18 months here, they’d peak and start going downhill. What happened? Anybody have a guess? It was not an easy answer. Matter of fact, Neil Rackham went back to Xerox and said, “This is going to be expensive to figure this out.” And he got an extra million bucks out of them. It was not an insignificant problem. Turns out, and this is the biggest lesson I hope I can leave you with today, because this is huge for anybody who tries to influence somebody else.
In this particular case, the reason their performance peak and dropped, is over those first 18 months, they became experts. After 18 months, they had seen every combination and permutation of customer problem out there, that their product set would allow them to address. It took them 18 months to get that level of expertise. But, most salespeople are impatient, they were young, and they would go out the first day, the 19th month, and the prospect would get four words out of his or her mouth about their problem, and what would the salesperson do? “Oh, we see this all the time. This is out of whack right? This is out of whack, this too I’ll bet, yeah? We’ve got exactly what you need, you need our blankety blank blank, happen to have a contract here, press hard free copy, so let’s do business.” Their expertise, plus their enthusiasm became their enemy.
Now that they had the answer, they would see a big juicy problem, how long do you think it took them to calculate the commission on this deal? Boom, they would get excited, they see a big juicy problem, and they think, “Here’s what you need.” Here’s what you need. How many of you enjoy being told what you need? I have a little experiment for you, on your next break, take out your mobile device, how many of you are in a permanent long-term relationship with another person? All right, call that person on the phone, and try two to three you need-tos on that person, and see how they react. You can even temperate with honey comma you need to. The point is, if the person who in theory loves you more than anybody else in the world won’t take it from you, why would your customer ever take it from you? Everybody in this room, has more expertise than your customers.
You all operate from expertise. That expertise can get you in trouble if you see the solution to the problem more quickly than your customer because you are going to want to tell them what they need. The irony is, you’re right, you’re correct. You did figure it out in 4 seconds because you’re an expert, but they didn’t want to be told what they needed to do. We call this sales problem premature elaboration. It feels great to the seller, but it doesn’t always meet the needs of the buyer. What we are trying to do, is be buying facilitators. I’ve been telling salespeople for years, I said, “I would love for you to run into me and O’Hare airport sometime when we are both traveling, and hand me your business card, and then instead of saying sales engineer, or whatever, it says buying facilitator. Because people love to buy, and they hate to feel sold.
Why does buying feel so good? You are in control, you’re taking action to satisfy one of your own needs. That feels good. As sellers, if you truly have the purpose of trying to help your customers do better, make more money, save more money, satisfy their needs, if you truly have that purpose, then maybe you can be patient enough to facilitate their buy cycle, instead of taking them through your sales cycle. I didn’t bring them today, but well, let me take it a little further first. This is just an example of steps in a buy cycle. Somebody said yesterday, I don’t know if it was Ray or Lisa, that curiosity kills the competition. It is actually true. The first step in getting somebody who is not looking at you, to look, is curious.
Those materials managers I called on in 1974, ’75, they were not looking for a new MRP system, because they didn’t even know what an MRP system was, or that they existed. I was trying to get them to go from not looking, to looking, and the first thing I offered them in the first 10 seconds, I said, “Oh, can I tell you a story about another materials manager I’m working with?” They said yes. Curious. In that 90 second story, they got hope for a solution. Now, they want to schedule another appointment, and maybe have me bring an engineer out, or maybe they want to have a visit with one of my customers, that I’m going to build enough trust that he lets me develop his needs. The need development thing is really a big deal.
How many of you when you get a cold call on the phone at night after you’ve been working all day selling whatever, say, “Oh, I’m glad you called, I’ve been having a problem with this.” How many of you admit a problem to that stranger on the phone? Nobody, right? A big step, a big public display of trust is when your client, or your customer, or your prospect trusts you enough personally to say, “Here’s my problem, here’s what I’m struggling with.” That struggle is going to fall into two categories, either it’s a category that you can help them address, or it’s a category that falls outside your expertise. One of the best things you can do to build trust is to tell I’m not sure we can handle that.
A lot more credibility and trust, trust is a huge issue. This is a little thing that was published years ago by sales and marketing management magazine on buyers perceptions and experiences with salespeople, and yeah they act like other salespeople don’t understand my business, and don’t follow up, but the number one thing is trust. I want to talk about trust. Trust is a feeling, not a logical conclusion.
Brains are very complex, but in our world we talk about three components of the brain. Your lizard brain, your survival brain, the brain that lizards and birds, and everybody has. That’s the 5 Fs, you remember it right? Fight, fright, like a possum, flight, run away, food, and fornication. 5 Fs. That’s the lizard brain. The limbic brain is the emotional brain, and that’s our feeling brain. The limbic brain is inside in there someplace, and the limbic brain is where we trust, where we like, where we want.
Your teenagers live in their limbic brains because their cerebral cortex isn’t fully developed yet. For we adults, we also have that big brain, big human brain that has got a right and left side, etc. Research has found that people feel, then they think, then they act. People do what they want to do, what their emotional brain wants them to do, and then they use that the human brain to come up with enough logic to explain to friends and family, and peers and superiors why the decision they made is so logical.
Then they act. Trust is an emotional decision, and I just said people feel first, think second, and act third. I like this quote, you cannot force me to trust you, however, you can influence my decision, and what influences my decision is your level of trustworthiness. Stephen Covey, you all know who Stephen Covey is? I treated myself about 20 years ago to one of his 4 ½ day management workshops up in Sundance Utah, it was fabulous.
I was having lunch with Stephen Covey one day, and he says, “Mike, what do you do?” I said, “I’m a sales trainer.” And he groaned, he goes, “Oh, sales people.” I said, “Why do you react that way?” And he said, “Because I don’t trust most sales people.” He said, “So many salespeople are trying to call on me, probably 100 a day, but my admin screens about 97 of them, but the three a day that are good enough to get past my admin, and get a face to face meeting with me, I’m not buying anything until I conclude two things, one, they are sincere, and two, they are competent. Now, the sincere part for sure is an emotional decision. Maybe your logical left and right brain are helping you on the competent side, but that is how he determines trust.
Years later he sold Covey Leadership, re-merged with the Franklin quest, the Franklin planning people, and now it is Franklin Covey, and they have a course called the speed of trust, and one of my former solution selling affiliates teaches it. I’ve gotten to go through it a couple times, and have any of you taken this course? I’m not recommending it, I get a little creeped out by it, because it is teaching how to pretend that you have character.
Their definition of trust now is character and competent. I like character better than sincere. It has got more depth. The problem is, the bottom 80% of sales people out there, certainly if we take the top 20% off the top, the next 50% pretty much have the blue circle and the red circle, they are people of character, and they’re competent. They’ve been around the company 2, 3 years, they come in early, they help new employees, they don’t make promises to customers we can’t keep. They know the pricing, they are experts. They are not selling very much.
The reason this is hard, is because even if you are lucky enough to hire someone who has got top 20% talent, and most complex organizations, that level of performance doesn’t come till second or third year, because they still have to develop competence in whatever your expertise is. They don’t walk in being competent, they might walk in with potential to be top 20%. That missing piece is what people are calling EQ, emotional intelligence.
It’s not just sales people, the top 20% in pretty much all professions have superior EQ. People are influenced to do things by people. People buy from people they like, salespeople, people do business with people they like, students are motivated by teachers they like. Boy, my second son, if he didn’t like the teacher, he wasn’t working, it was hard. Employees follow leaders they like. Employees hire people they like.
Like is a prerequisite to trust, and the reason I’m bringing this up is way back in 1976 when I first became a sales trainer at Xerox, they said, “Mike, we can teach people to be competent, but we can’t teach them to connect. We can’t teach rapport, that’s chemistry.” Well, in 2008, I found out that it is possible to teach people how to connect. The vehicle is story.
Two related creatures have been on this earth for at least 190,000 years. I’ve had a couple of anthropologist tell me maybe it is even longer than 190,000 years, and for the vast majority of that time, there wasn’t any written language, and everything we learned about friends, enemies, spices, culture, etc. was with story. If you think about it, for almost 200,000 years, stories were used for two primary purposes. To pass down tribal knowledge, and to influence people to do difficult things that needed to be done.
Leaders figured out that stories were the way that you motivate people to do difficult things that need to be done. When a human being anticipates a story, it is in our DNA, it isn’t even a conscious thing, they go, “Oh, a story.” I don’t have to do anything, I don’t have to make a decision, I can just relax and enjoy the story. I am safe, yet another part of the back of their mind says, “But, I should pay attention, because it might be important information that I have to remember.” Important information got passed down, like your grandfather ate those red berries, and that’s why he died. Right? Stories can help sellers, of course can help leaders too, but if you are a salesperson going through one of our workshops, we focus on helping you build three primary types of stories.
Who we’ve helped stories, you could have hundreds of these, these are stories where your customer is the hero, you give the setting of your customer, you give the old way they used to do it before they met. You give them their aha moment, you give them the resolution of the story, and then you say, “Enough about me, tell me about you.” Your who am I story is a story of your character, and your who I represent is the story of the character of your organization. If we go back to our trust model, if you look on the left, the who we’ve helped stories, and how people use our stuff stories, build your competence. Your who am I story, leads your customer to the conclusion that you have character, and one of the biggest ones, part of that story has to be some accountability, where you goofed, and you figured it out, and you were accountable.
Mikey was exactly right on that, and the who I represent story has to be the story of your company’s character, how you guys maybe stayed a weekend because you had a customer in crisis. By the yellow circles, we have what we call story tending. We have two primary things we teach in our workshop, story building and telling, naturally. But, it’s the story tending where the real connection happens. It is being able to draw out the customer story, feed it back to them, and say, “Did I get you?” That’s where the real connection happens. Extroverts and introverts, and then we’ll throw it open for questions. Extroverts are typically better storytellers. Introverts are typically better story tenders. My wife is a therapist, she is an introvert, and she is amazing at getting people’s stories out of them. These skills are mutually exclusive.
One of the best storytellers I ever had in one of my workshops was a CEO of a pump company in Minnesota. He was magic. He was just one of those people that is magic at telling stories, and he was the worst listener in the room. Most of us have places we can grow, and what we are doing is giving the bottom 80% of humanity, the people who don’t have that natural magic EQ where they can connect intuitively, we are giving them a framework for connecting where you can connect on purpose. Because if you can learn to connect on purpose, following a proven structure, you can beat a top 20% who is connecting intuitively. Because they are not doing it on purpose. The most gratifying thing to me though with the work we do, is that the sales leaders like what I do even more than the salespeople, because deep down inside of every sales leader is that frustration that they’ve never been able to coach people to do what they did intuitively.
Once we can put a framework around it, invariably they go, “Oh, I do that. I do that. I do that. I do that.” I said, “Well now, you can consciously coach people to do that, because we’ve got you thinking about a framework in steps. Instead of doing it intuitively. Should we open it up for some questions? My questioning helper. Oh, the one thing I wanted to offer you, is most people’s pipeline milestones in salesforce are way too seller oriented, and not customer oriented enough. It’s we did a needs analysis, and we had an initial meeting, and we did this, and we did that, versus the customer progressing through their buy cycle. I’ve got a set of pipeline milestones around how customers buy that my clients are using in sales force, and if you’d like a copy of those buyer oriented milestones, just send me an email, you can get on my website, mikebosworth.com, and I’ll send you a copy of those buyer oriented, customer oriented pipeline milestones for salesforce.
Dallas Wells: Mike, one of the things we’ve been talking about along the way here is in banking organizations especially as silent as they are, getting the different pieces of the organization to go along with some of this big change that really needs to happen in the industry. Is this a technique that not just with customers, that can work internally with those culture issues as well?
Mike Bosworth: Absolutely, an example of that it is a little convoluted, but I think you will get it. Last December a large US client of mine named Mitel, they wanted me to go to Europe and train their European people. I do Europe on occasion. I got in there, and I normally try to and limit a workshop to 32 people, they had 36, and it was such a long trip, and I said, “All right, but in our workshops, we need a coach for every 4 people.” That means I had 36 at the U, and I had nine coaches. Okay, so here’s where the class got difficult, and I will come around to your point of silos. Is turns out, that of the 36 people in the room, they came from four different companies that had recently been acquired, and they didn’t know each other, they didn’t like each other.
In addition to that, they came from nine different countries where eight of them English was there second language, and for the last one, the Brits, I can’t understand them very well anyway. It was hard to understand all of them. Second afternoon, the story seekers, normally we teach you how to build stories about customers you’ve helped. I realized that Mitel does not want these people from these four companies that were acquired building stories in their past life about their old company. We took the technology from the four, and it was almost like silos, and we put them up in the board, and we said, “All right, what expertise do you have in the market?” One group said, “We’ve got expertise in government agencies, we just sold a passport.” I said, “All right. Your assignment is to now go brainstorm the passport system you are going to be able to offer a year from now, because you can combine this, this, and this.” The brainstorming to me is, it’s let’s take the strength of each silo, and let’s brainstorm as a group how we can elevate the customer’s experience by integrating all of them.
Dallas Wells: Yeah. One other question I had, and we’ve got a couple others after that. one of the questions I had is I was listening and thinking about applying this in the banking universe, I think about some of the lenders I’ve worked with, and I went back to the movie Tommy Boy, and thinking about Tommy, trying to replicate his dad’s story telling technique, and how he really mangles the butchers and the bull’s rear end story. This isn’t just something you can say to your lenders, “Hey, go tell stories.”
Mike Bosworth: Right.
Dallas Wells: How do you kind of cross that bridge of getting them to be good at it to where it feels natural?
Mike Bosworth: Practice, practice, practice. In our workshops, we say you can’t learn to do it, you have to do to learn it. You need feedback and practice. Do it in small groups, and give each other feedback, emotional feedback, and really speak from the heart when you hear these stories, and say, “Well, that phrase didn’t work for me. That pushed me over, and I think you went too long here.” But there is a structure too, setting, complication, turning point, resolution, and the moral, or the purpose. That is the yellow card in our system. My book’s got a system, if you want to figure out how to build stories.
Dallas Wells: All right. I think we had a couple over there.
Male: Yeah, hi Mike.
Mike Bosworth: Hi.
Male: Quick question, I think you just answered part of the question, just looking for more resources on understanding emotional intelligence and store tending. Your book being one of them. Would you recommend any other resource?
Mike Bosworth: Boy, the store tending is harder than it looked. For 2008 to 2010, we built the story framework, and we started training people, and we realized we didn’t have that connection yet, and luckily my wife came and helped me coach one of these things, and she says, “Mike, we’ve got to teach these alpha male salespeople how to tend the story of the customer, how to get the customer’s story out and play it back the way a therapist does.” People come to the workshop because they want to learn how to tell stories, but they end up liking the tending better, because they can use it with their teenagers, and they can use it in their family life as well as with customers. Only 2% of the population has had any training in listening. We are still getting better and better at it. I am more of an extrovert, and a natural storyteller, and the tending part for me was a big learning curve too. It is something that if you can get good at it, your whole life will change. Not just your business life, but it is going to take a little work.
Dallas Wells: Mike mentioned Dan Pink in his talk, that is another resource we’ve used internally, but it is a good one.
Male: You mentioned spin selling, and you’ve had some anxieties about that. Could you differentiate that just a little bit more?
Mike Bosworth: Yeah, if you’ve ever looked at SPIN selling, and then if you’ve ever looked at my solution selling methodology, or customer centric selling methodology, they all have lists of discovery questions written by the smartest people in the company, for the front-line salespeople to use. Because, the way you judge people’s expertise is by the questions. If you go to a doctor you’ve never met before, you judge that doctors expertise by the intelligence of the questions they ask you. The whole idea is let’s load the lips of the salespeople with artificial intelligence, so they can sound smart.
Well, so now you have a list of questions, whether you’re doing SPIN, solution selling, or customer centric selling, top 20% salespeople know intuitively when they meet a buyer for the first time, that they’ve got to establish some connection and trust before they start asking those questions. The bottom 80% that don’t have the natural EQ, they pull those questions out too soon, and start, “I’ve got some questions for you here.” Thinking they are establishing expertise, and the buyer goes, “Whoa, you don’t know me well enough to ask me all those questions.”
That’s why, over the years, in my both solution selling and customer centric selling clients, the VP of sales, number one complaint I got they say, “Mike, top 20% love solution selling, the bottom 80% quit using it within two weeks of the workshop.” I never figured out why until 2008. Those questions coming before the expertise has been established, and if you’re a consultant or a lawyer, you can go out without connection, and start asking questions because they almost expect you to. But, the danger is you’re going to start slipping into you need-to’s, and then they are going to push you away on that. Does that help?
Male: What recommendations would you make to the top-performing salesperson who gets promoted into that sales management role to help them avoid that frame out?
Mike Bosworth: That person should attend my story seekers workshop as soon as possible. Because I want to make him a conscious competent. He is already an unconscious competent.
Male: Two questions. We had a conversation about this last night at dinner. First, why is it do you think that colleges do not have a sales major?
Mike Bosworth: Oh, you are hitting my hot button.
Male: Then the second question is, I think it’s fascinating for those of us that manage sales folks, is if you compare them like we often do using sports analogy stories as it were to professional athletes, where I find my sales folks get off the rails, is that professional athletes practice 95%, and play games 5%.
Mike Bosworth: Right.
Male: Sales people think it would be an anathema if you asked them to practice 5% and not sell 95%.
Mike Bosworth: You’re right, they wing it.
Male: Comment on those two things for me.
Mike Bosworth: That’s why I’m a fan of practicing in the office, but you can’t practice something if you are all selling intuitively. The only way you can practice as a unit, is if you’ve all agreed that we are first going to get them curious, then we are going to tell them a story to create some hope, then we are going to brainstorm some visions, then we are going to offer them proof, and we map out a common approach. Now you can help each other, and coach each other, but if everybody is winging it, you can’t. I think more salespeople would practice if they had a framework they believed in that they could practice, and get some good feedback from their peers and their boss.
Oh, and the colleges. 4000 colleges and universities in the United States, and only 37 of them have more than two courses in sales, or sales management. Yet, 50% of all first-time college graduates other than engineers, they could take the engineers out, but all the people majoring in art history, and history, and English, whatever, their first job was in sales. Of course, that brings up another problem too. If you don’t change the paradigm of selling, I developed a reputation in the 80s of being the first person in the history of the world that could teach geeks to sell.
I was teaching engineers how to sell. But we had to reframe it, because if you ask an engineer what’s the last job you want to call your mother and tell her you took when you graduate from Carnegie Mellon engineering school? Sales. Once we reframe what selling is from convincing, persuading, and overcoming objections to helping our customer achieve a goal, or solve a problem through use of our product. As soon as you make it helping somebody solve a problem, engineers are all over it. A lot of it is just reframing what the concept of selling is.
Dallas Wells: Anybody else have questions for Mike?
Mike Bosworth: I’ll be around during lunch and this afternoon. So, if you have any other questions.
Dallas Wells: All right, thank you Mike, that was good.
Mike Bosworth: Thank you.