February 1, 2024

Mastering Authenticity and Autonomy in Sales with Andy Paul

Alper Yurder and Andy Paul explore the role of authenticity in sales, investigating how trust, autonomy, and genuine human connections within today's competitive landscape.

Table of contents

Meet our guest

Andy Paul, Founder of The Sales House, Host at The Wind Rate Podcast 

Andy Paul is the author of a few best-selling sales books and an in-demand sales speaker. A sales expert with a billion-dollar track record, he champions human-centered selling, offering coaching and advisory services to drive individual and organizational success.

Key takeaways

  • Recognize the importance of authenticity and individuality in sales. Don't conform to rigid playbooks; instead, find your unique approach that resonates with both you and your buyers.
  • Go beyond surface-level questions during the discovery process and strive to truly understand the needs and context of your buyers. 
  • Acknowledge the distinction between enabling the buying process and enabling the decision-making process.
  • Understand that trustworthiness has emerged as the paramount factor influencing buyer decisions. 
  • Recognize the intrinsic value of building genuine relationships and understanding individual aspirations in sales. Human connection remains a cornerstone of successful selling, even amidst evolving dynamics and high-velocity sales models.

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The importance of authenticity in selling

The discussion kicks off with the importance of diverse voices in the sales profession and the limitations of the prevailing "echo chamber." With over 3 decades of experience in sales, Andy reflects on his upbringing, including a formative year spent in Tokyo, which broadened his perspective on life and career possibilities. 

“But they were recruiting for these sales training programs where there were hundreds or thousands of new college grads and then sort of put them through a program and winnow out most of them over time. And those that were left would become hope they thought, you know, career sellers for their company.”

Reflecting on his training, Andy recalls a pivotal moment when his instructor deemed him "too analytical" for sales, leading him to recognize the necessity of authenticity and individuality in selling.

“They said you're too analytical to be any good at sales. That was their evaluation. I was too analytical to ever be any good at sales. And I'd already pretty much made up my mind at that point that, you know, if I was going to, you know, succeed at doing this, um, again, with no idea that I'd still be doing it decades, decades later, I knew that I was going to have to.”

He emphasizes the importance of sellers finding their unique approach, rather than conforming to rigid playbooks, and highlights the enduring truth that people buy from people, not companies. 

Sticking to playbooks vs seller autonomy

Andy Paul discusses the evolving landscape of sales amidst a crowded market filled with countless companies offering similar products. Drawing from a post by Santosh Charan, COO of Retention, he highlights the saturation within product categories like Conversational Intelligence, CRM, and Sales Engagement, emphasizing that buyers perceive these products as virtually indistinguishable. 

He underscores the diminishing significance of product differentiation and pricing, asserting that trustworthiness has emerged as the paramount factor influencing buyer decisions, as corroborated by research from Gartner and others.

“Does anybody think there's anything really different between the products? No, there can't be. I mean, no one, if anybody had any sort of technological advantage, it's gonna be quickly, you know, glommed onto the others. The products are all the same virtually, and they're all priced roughly the same. So on what?”

Furthermore, Andy delves into the delicate balance between autonomy and compliance to sales playbooks, noting the tension between individuality and standardized processes imposed by sales leadership. Reflecting on his own career trajectory and sales philosophy, he champions the importance of autonomy for sellers, urging them to prioritize finding environments conducive to their success. 

“And I think this is a really important lesson for sellers is your ability to succeed both in terms of working with the type of customers you want, winning the type of orders that you want, making the type of money that you want, having the type of life that you want. It's all based on the situation you put yourself in.”

Andy advocates for reclaiming the entrepreneurial ethos inherent in sales, where sellers are empowered as CEOs of their territories, entrusted with the freedom to operate within ethical guidelines while pursuing opportunities that align with customer visions of success.

Evolving dynamics of sales

Alper and Andy engage in a candid discussion about the evolving dynamics of sales, particularly in the context of high-velocity, transactional sales models. Alper emphasizes the intrinsic value of building genuine relationships and understanding individuals' aspirations, framing sales as a profession where success is intricately tied to human connection. 

"If your win rates are too high, then the sellers aren't being aggressive enough... I mean, there's a learning curve when you go to market, right? But when you figure that out, when you find your product market fit... then what are you doing? Talking to people outside your ICP as a seller?"

Andy highlights the pitfalls of a predictable revenue model that treats salespeople as mere cogs in a machine, leading to low win rates and diminishing the human element in sales. He challenges the prevalent notion that aggressive pursuit of volume equates to success, advocating instead for a strategic focus on quality interactions and discerning prospect selection, even in high-velocity sales environments, citing that success lies in increasing the probability of winning each deal.

“What's the key to velocity? Key to velocity is that you're talking to someone who is an actual prospect for what you're selling, right? You're not, you're not talking to adjacent markets. They are a fit and we're going to determine that fit really quickly in a transactional sale. And if we need high velocity, we're not going to be having conversations with people that aren't a fit.”

Understanding the buyer

Alper and Andy delve deep into the nuances of successful selling and buyer enablement. Andy emphasizes the pivotal role of truly understanding the buyer's needs, going beyond the surface-level questions often posed during the discovery process. He stresses the importance of grasping what truly matters to the buyer and understanding the context of the information gathered. 

"The people who are the sellers who are most successful are those who make sure they really truly understand the things that are most important to the buyer... It becomes very superficial. I'm gonna gather this information. Well, knowing information is not the same as understanding the context of this information for the buyer."

The discussion touches on the concept of a "good enough decision," coined by Herbert Simon, which Andy expounds upon. He explains that buyers, constrained by time, access to information, and understanding of various factors, seek a solution that satisfies their requirements and enables them to achieve their desired outcomes. 

"Enabling the buying part is sort of secondary, right? It's a secondary task of secondary importance. And I first have to get them to agree that we are the best company for them to work with... one has to happen for the other to happen.”

Resources

Full episode transcript

Alper Yurder: Today in the therapy chair, we have Andy Paul who needs no introduction, which is why the introduction will take forever. So everybody bear with me. I'll do my best. He is the one who preaches building relations is the cornerstone of every good sales leader, that the best sellers are still human. Andy Paul is the writer of Selling Without Selling Out, the host of many popular sales podcasts, including his newest hit, The Wind Rate Podcast. And with over three decades of sales experience, he's coached countless CEOs, entrepreneurs, and sales managers to accelerate their route to close one. We'll talk about his success, the joy, the pain, and the journey, as well as his predictions for 24. So welcome to Sales Therapy Andy Paul. How are you feeling today?

Andy Paul: I'm doing great. Thanks for having me.

Alper Yurder: My absolute pleasure and thank you for being so open and joining this show, which is still at its infancy. It's only 15 episodes in and how generous and kind of you to say, of course, man, I'll do it.

Andy Paul: Well, no, I mean, I, yeah, I, I think the more podcasts, the better, right? The more voices we get out there, the more perspectives and opinions we get from different places, then the better off we're going to be because, you know, the sales profession if you will, and the thought leadership has been dominated, I think, by too small of a cadre of people over the years. And yeah, we just need, we need more voices. And so certainly that's, you know, I've been devoted many years to do just that.

Alper Yurder: I love that. And sometimes it's a bit of an echo chamber. And today, the other guest I had the privilege of having was Kyle Poyar, and we were speaking like how sometimes the noises dumb us down and we start to keep it smart. So maybe we talk about that a little bit too.

Andy Paul: Yeah, well there definitely is an echo chamber and unfortunately, you and I touched on this a bit before we started recording this is, yeah, there's certain industries to sort of dominate within the echo chamber like SaaS, for instance. And yeah, yeah, that's just a small fraction of the world of sales yet. If you're to read leaked in, you'd think it's everything. And it's not. So yeah, I actually started my first podcast explicitly back in 2015 explicitly with the idea of talking to non-tech audiences and but then, yeah, who listens to podcasts? Largely tech audiences. So, you've got some non-tech, but yeah, over time the audience became dominated by those types.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, that's true. Yeah, we'll dive into that. I have some specific questions for you today, which I'm looking forward to. So let's follow our flow. Any good therapy starts with childhood and growing up. My first question will be to tell us about your younger years, your growing up years. And the reason I ask that is everybody goes into business mode and like I just did that. Like, let's get to know you first. The person that you became and that's shaped by your, you know, growing up experience, your values, your business person you are. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

Andy Paul: Sure. Yeah, I think you're living it. I mean, it seems like a pretty unremarkable childhood. I grew up in Wisconsin, the middle part of the United States. My father was an executive for Oscar Meyer. People familiar with Oscar Meyer are a large meat producer in the United States. And yeah, I lived there most of my life and almost my childhood until right before the start of my last year of high school, when my dad shows up, gosh, about 30 days before my senior year of high school is supposed to start and says, uh, we're moving to Tokyo and.

Alper Yurder: Oh wow, I had the we're moving coming, but not Tokyo.

Andy Paul: Yeah, and so yeah, within 30 days, I was just we had to be there quickly by the start of the school year. And yeah, for me, that was really a huge inflection point and growing up because instead of sort of I think maybe if I'd stayed in Wisconsin, I might have who knows what path my life might have taken. But yeah, going spending a year attending American school in Japan, meeting just a whole different range of people than I was accustomed to meeting. And just really broadened my horizons in so many ways that, yeah, I mean, for me, that was a fork in the road, perhaps, looking back on it. And yeah, I think it, I've been back a couple of times, very briefly.

Alper Yurder: Do you ever go back to Japan?

Andy Paul: I met that year in high school in Japan. Yeah. Yeah. We're, um, yeah. Planning a trip back. Uh, yeah. Hopefully this year actually. So yeah, we've not. This is a second marriage for both of us. We married other people and reconnected and got married in 2010. So we've not been back together for, yeah, 50 years practically. So yeah, we're looking forward to doing that.

Alper Yurder: Wow. Okay, I just love my podcast. Like, how else would you know all these things about Andy Paul: ? I love that. My co-founder is in Japan and he married a Japanese lady. I'm sure he'll be thrilled. Okay, so Tokyo and then you got back to the US or was there more traveling around?

Andy Paul: No, Tokyo and then I mean, obviously, we're there, we traveled somewhere around Asia with my family. But yeah, we're back to states from school in California and I think it said it's just what I thought I could accomplish in the world. I think the perspective of that, because when you're in a place like Tokyo, and you're starting to meet the parents of your friends, and they're all very accomplished business people, and for the most part, and yeah, just made me excited about things I could possibly do with my life. But I really had no vision that I was going to go into sales. I still think, like many people, It was an accident.

Alper Yurder: Who has? Yeah, I think we... A lot of people I interview and a lot of people I know, including myself, I think there's a thing for sales in you, maybe extravertism and blah blah blah, but then it happens by accident for many people. I don't know if you agree.

Andy Paul: Oh yeah, yeah, no, I graduated college with no career plans at all and much to the chagrin of my parents and sort of spent a few months after school and worked at the university where I graduated for a few months and then was running out of money. So the need to get a job was coming to the forefront. And when I went to the career placement center on campus. Yeah, the jobs that I thought I could do, I had a history major, so I had no specific job skills whatsoever. And we're all sort of sales jobs. And the big tech companies of the day were recruiting. I mean, these are, for the most part, names that no longer exist. But they were recruiting for these sales training programs where there were hundreds or thousands of new college grads and then sort of put them through a program and winnow out most of them over time. And those that were left would become hope they thought, you know, career sellers for their company.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, I was talking to, I think it was John Hammond who told me when he first joined, I forgot, maybe Cisco or something. And he said, you know, back in the day, we had those six months sales training programs where you would actually learn to do something and become Rodland just being thrown at. Was it one of those experiences for you or?

Andy Paul: Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I had, it was fairly structured for the first. Yeah, for the first six months or so roughly. So you, you came on board as a big company, it's called Burroughs, at the time their second largest computer company in the world. And yeah, you'd, you'd go get sent to a two week training program initially, which was for sales training. And yeah, I mean my reaction walking away from that was really questioning whether I really wanted to be in sales because the behavior is exhibited by the trainers and the training material or things I've written about this and sell without selling out. It just sort of made my skin crawl because that, you know, the pro typical sales behaviors, the being the extrovert and so on that just was not me. It is not me. And I came back from that first train class and I gotta wrote about this in the book is instructor, all the students go back to your, we worked in branch offices, so we went back to my branch office, which was in Oakland, California, and we had an evaluation to, from our instructor, we had to give our branch manager, and I handed mine to my branch manager, and walked back to my desk in the sales floor, and he comes back a couple minutes later and says, hey, come to my office, that's sure. He said, so, how do you think training went? I said, oh, Uh, fine, I guess. It says, well, it's interesting. I'm looking at this evaluation from your instructor and they think we should fire you. Like what?

Alper Yurder: Right away! Oh wow, okay good.

Andy Paul: And he said, yeah, they said you're too analytical to be any good at sales. That was their, that was their evaluation. I was too analytical to ever be any good at sales. And I'd already pretty much made up my mind at that point that, you know, if I was going to, you know, succeed at doing this, um, again, with no idea that I'd still be doing it decades, decades later, I knew that I was going to have to sort of find my own way. Right? That's gonna be because I looked at what they're training people to do. I was like, I can't act that way. I mean, I just can't. And I won't. So if I'm gonna make a go of this, I've got to find a way to do it that aligns with who I am and my values and what I thought my strengths were at that point in time. And that sort of started me on this lifelong journey of saying, Okay, yeah, everybody has their own way of selling. It's great to be trained. It's great to be exposed to methodologies, but really those who, and again, my experience working with many, many sellers and sales leaders, one characteristic that's shared about everybody that's been most successful is they found their own path, right? They don't sell like anybody else. They've got their own way of doing it. And the fact is that, and I believe this absolutely, that everybody sells differently. You know, there's a million salespeople in the world. There's a million different ways to sell. And that's, that's an important lesson for people to learn because yeah, we can, again, we want, we are influenced by the things we read and the way we're trained and we, we use various bits and pieces of those, but those people are most successful integrate those into a, yeah, let's call it a philosophy of how they sell and why they sell the way they do. And they're constantly experimenting and I post about this, this week on LinkedIn your experimentation is so key. And I think one of the problems that has arisen in sales over the last, call it two decades, is as sales become more automated and sort of mechanized, leaders want to take that flexibility away from sellers, right? Here's our playbook, just use our playbook, just follow this, follow these steps. Well, sure, as a framework, that makes sense, but yeah, I'm gonna approach it. I've got a different worldview than other people. I'm just gonna approach that differently Right. I interact with humans differently than the next person than you do or anybody else. Yeah i'm the unique person the people I talk to are unique Understanding that and and you know working working with the the freedom that that requires is Again, what sets apart? I think the top sellers from the others

Alper Yurder: So being too analytical, having empathy, being a human is not that bad after all, I guess.

Andy Paul: Well, and it's yes, but it goes deeper than that, right? Because that's it. It's always been the case, I believe. Some people believe that this is a more recent phenomenon, but I don't think so. It's always been, well, I'm not saying that the phenomenon, I think that's always been the case is that people do buy from people, not companies. And increasingly these days, I think this is more the case, but people want to think it's less the case. This is the irony.

Alper Yurder: It's a comeback, I think.

Andy Paul:  There was a great post that was put out by a gentleman named Santosh Charan, who's COO of a company called Retention. And he went to G2 and he said, look, there are, and I don't know the exact numbers, but there are literally, he went by product category, you know, Conversational Intelligence, hundreds of companies with products in that space. CRM, hundreds. Sales Engagement, hundreds. And not even low hundreds, you high hundreds. And in those situations, the buyer, the product is immaterial, right? If there are a hundred companies, let's say, doing a conversational intelligence product. Does anybody think there's anything really different between the products? No, there can't be. I mean, no one, if anybody had any sort of technological advantage, it's gonna be quickly, you know, glommed onto the others. Yeah. And so in the eyes of the customer and the minds of the customer and research has borne this out, research from Gartner's and others, the products are all the same virtually, and they're all priced roughly the same. So on what?

Alper Yurder: Yeah, they catch up in six months. Oh, Andy Paul: , you're pissing out my co-founders by saying products are the same. As the sales guy, I am allowed to say that, but now you're telling them the products are the same? No, no, no, that's a big no.

Andy Paul: They absolutely are the same and companies have to, I mean it's table stakes to have a competitive product at a competitive price, right? That's what the customers expect. That's the minimum they expect and so then when they look at making their decisions Like Gartner had their study came out in April this year. It's saying that last year was April last year.  Is yeah, the number one factor the number one most important factor in the minds of the buyers when they make their decision is trustworthiness You know, they had a list of nine factors and product and price were not on that list So yeah, this idea of Be able to connect with people, you know Sell treat them as a human being be curative, you know be interested in them and the things that are most important to them to spend the time to understand what's really driving them They become differentiators.

Alper Yurder: So can I ask one thing about that? So this is all good. You and I know it. So one of the things that I always had in my life, I'm a sales guy. So I used to be at Bain Accenture strategy consulting, smart, na, na, na. Now, why did you become a sales guy? I don't know what percentage of salesguys people around me had at the time. And I don't really have any very close friends. And I think it's that probable stigma, like, you know, always being closed. I don't know, lack of empathy, whatever. And what they told you, basically, you're too analytical, right? So from there, coming to today, you want to make sure that you have all those skills. But at the same time, there is the board which is telling you you need a playbook, you need to be able to scale things, you need to automate things. And you have the VP of sales or CRO who has their playbook in their hand and like you have to do this. That's the way we win. No, no, no which I think you already pissed off by saying like, you know, my playbook is my playbook, which I agree with. So how do you balance those, the friction between those two, like the autonomy versus the compliance to the playbook?

Andy Paul: Well, I think that there are just like there are million salespeople that, you know, each sell their own way. There's a million sales managers that manage differently. And as a seller, you have to find the right situation that's going to enable you to operate with the autonomy that you want. And I think this is a really important lesson for sellers is your ability to succeed both in terms of working with the type of customers you want, winning the type of orders that you want, making the type of money that you want, having the type of life that you want. It's all based on the situation you put yourself in. And yeah, there are situations, you know, there are people that in one situation do so -so and you put them in another situation, they become seven figure earners.And it's such an important lesson as an individual contributor. You're hiring bosses, right? Yes, you're interviewing for a job, but really, you are interviewing and hiring a boss. You have to look at it from that perspective. Is this a situation? Is this a company? Is this a culture? Is this a person I'm working with and working for? Who's going to enable me to achieve the things that I want to achieve in my life? No one cares as an individual. Do you have to just you know, take this lesson to heart is that no one cares about your success as much as you do and you have to take ownership of it and Yeah, you know when I was coming up through the ranks I was even as a VP and working with boards and so on and CEOs I wasn't easy Right. I mean I'm cooperative. I'm cooperative. I'm a

Alper Yurder: I can tell. I relate to that a lot.

Andy Paul:  I'm a team player, but I question everything. You know, I, I, yeah, somebody will give, it could give me an order, a boss, give me an order. And I would say, well, let me think about it. Right. And because it was my career, right. As my success was on the line. And if I was going to fail, I was going to fail on my own terms. I think some of the beautiful things about selling is there's still this, this, you know, You are an independent contractor to some degree, even though you're employed by a company. And we sort of lost this ethos that existed when I started in the career, which was what my first boss made very clear to me. You have to come back from sales training and I was getting ready to be given territory. He said, look, you're the CEO of this territory. You know, we have certain guidelines about operating with integrity and operating with a strong degree of ethics. But, you know, as long as you comply with those.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, there you go.

Andy Paul:  You can pretty much do whatever you want in order to develop business out of this territory. And we've taken that away from sellers, because of the suit, there's automation and the need to have people comply with a process. And I like to say we've made selling small. I think that that's it's a real shame because And you know, there's certain things that we can we train people in that's again that people think this has always been that way and it's it's really it's not You know, it's really become prevalent in the literature about selling just in the last I say 20 years About pain points Yeah, everybody says let's talk about pain points find the buyers pain points and I'll tell you I've personally closed hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars worth of orders and I've never once asked a prospect about their pain points. Because my customers and the way I position things is what's the opportunity we're trying to achieve, right? What are the outcomes we're trying to achieve? You know, they're looking at the upside of making a change, not, oh, I've got a problem, let's put a band -aid on it. And when you're so focused on small things like what's your pain point? It's like I'm not trying to fix a problem. I'm trying to help you. Gain market share and try to help you grow revenue or try to help you become more profitable. Whatever that dimension is. And that's what buyers buy. They buy you know if you ask a buyer you're even asking sellers as you know sellers all time. So when your customer made the decision to buy from you what were they buying? And often I saw, I said, well, they're buying my product. I said, no, they weren't buying your product. They're buying the vision of what success looks like using your product. That's completely different. They weren't buying your product. They're buying this outcome. Well, you sell positive outcomes. You sell, I said, opportunities. And this is just an example I give of how we've sort of made selling small because we said, well, let's find a pain point. Well, we're not trying to fix a point solution. We're trying to help them achieve something bigger.  And yeah, unfortunately, we're sort of gone down that path. And I said, it makes selling small. And if you look at the sellers in SaaS, we use SaaS as an example, it's a big range. Those who think about it as I'm helping buyers achieve certain, you know, go after certain opportunities to achieve these things, they tend to be at the top of the ranks. They tend to sell bigger deals because they're thinking that way with the buyer. So questions ask the buyer, the insights that give the buyer, that stimulate the buyer to think more broadly.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. So the one thing that resonated so much, like I remember myself coming out of consulting and like sitting in an office. I started doing a bit of selling at Accenture and I just loved it because it had that autonomy, that feeling of this is my own business, my own territory. I'm building my own relationships. And after that, any sales leadership role where I went,

Andy Paul:  This is what we have to do as sellers.

Alper Yurder: The people who got it really well were this is the only job where you're being paid to build your network, go and talk to people, make friends, understand what their career aspirations are. Even at Flowla, I tell everybody, I am paying you to build your network because that benefits me, but also the others. But when I say paying to build your own network, it is just going to talk to humans as humans.

Alper Yurder: But I see your point like this predictable revenue model, it almost turns the human into a machine, like 30-minute demo calls, jumping to the next one. 

Andy Paul: Yeah. And it results in this. Yeah, but it results in a situation we've seen where sellers, for the most part, even the ones at top of the ranks in less SaaS companies have very low win rates. Yeah, 20%, 30%, that's considered good. And 30 % is considered good in SaaS companies oftentimes. Yeah, it's not, right? As a seller, your job should be is, you should win more than you lose. That's simple. That should be the baseline standard that you achieve as a seller. 

Alper Yurder: What do people tell you when you tell them this? Your job as a seller should be your win rate should be higher than your loss rate.

Andy Paul:  Uh, you get pushback, certainly in the SaaS world, you get pushback and it's, it's insane. And the reason it's insane is yeah. A gentleman was arguing about this with LinkedIn a couple of weeks ago. He's saying, no, no, no. If your win rates are too high, then the sellers aren't being aggressive enough. I said, well, what do you mean? Aren't I being aggressive enough? Well, they're not having enough conversations. I said, you mean conversations with people outside your ICP? I mean, there's, yes, there's a learning curve when you go to market, right? You have to find out what people are willing to pay you to do. But when you figure that out, when you find your product market fit in your ICP, then what are you doing? Talking to people outside your ICP as a seller, right? You focus, focus, focus. That's how you win more as you focus. You, you focus on fewer opportunities rather than more. You don't need to have conversations outside that outside your ICP until you've maybe gained dominant market share in your ICP. You've exhausted it. You say, okay, we can see the end of the road here. We need to go to an adjacent market in order to grow the company. But until that time when you're focused, there's just no excuse for low win rates. It's as I said, it's if you think if your win rates you've been in the market for a while and your win rates are 30 % or lower. One of two conditions exists. Either you don't have product market fit or you're just bad at selling. I said the second reason is that you're just bad at selling. You're not doing the type of discovery and qualification. You're not making the choices about who you should be selling to. That's really so important as I could put it, as a seller, you choose to win.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. And you run.

Andy Paul: And when people say, what do you mean you choose to win? I said, well, it's your choice who you sell to. It's up to you. I mean, this is, again, a matter of autonomy sometimes to take on the hands of sellers. But as a salesperson, you have to say, look, I am like the bouncer at the head of the velvet rope, letting people into a club. You choose who gets into your club. Not everybody gets in. Unless you have a strong idea as a seller why you're gonna win this particular opportunity, why are you letting them into your pipeline? It's a, it's, you know, it's a, I sold, I sold in markets often times that, or I maybe had 200 potential prospects worldwide. We were that focused and we were still selective about who we sold to. And we grew companies because we got bigger deals. We got better deals, deals that turned into referrals. Yeah, it's tempting. Understand as a seller I've been in that situation myself as you don't want to say well I don't want to be too narrow in my focus because I don't want to potentially miss opportunities that come They all come with a price and so you have to be very You have become you know develop excuse me develop the acumen pretty quickly to say look Is this an opportunity that we can win if so, why are we the best? Situated vendor to win this opportunity

Alper Yurder: Hmm. If I may. Yeah. This is fine. I mean, yes. Okay. Let's be the devil's advocate, the bad cop here. So this applies to the majority of my career, which is long sales cycles, complex selling, consultative selling, a handful of buyers, build relations, multi-million deals, da da da. But there's a lot of high velocity, make 10 demos a day.

Andy Paul: And you should be able to answer that question. Yeah, go ahead.

Alper Yurder: kind of products out there. Doesn't it contradict what you say contradicts with their go to market? Like what are they supposed to do? Like when you have a low ticket, it's all about the quantity scalable model the VC tells you is just get more people, you know, even if the ticket size is small, sell them more.

Andy Paul:  Sure. But what's, what's, what's the key to velocity? Key to velocity is that you're talking to someone who is an actual prospect for what you're selling, right? You're not, you're not talking to adjacent markets. They are a fit and we're going to determine that fit really quickly in a transactional sale. And if we need high velocity, we're not going to be having conversations with people that aren't a fit. This is, it's, you know, people want to have it all ways, right? You can't have it all the way. You can only have it one way really, which is, yeah, we're in a trend, low, low costs, high volume transactional business. I've been in those. We had to become even more focused on who we were selling to, right? Because that's how we ensured that we had a shorter sales cycle that would require fewer sales touches. To bring them from the initial point of contact to an order. So you have to be even more disciplined. It's mind-boggling to me. People want to, as I said, always keep their options open. And the fact is, well, yeah, but the fact is that it's safer and easier to narrow down your options and work within something that's more tightly defined, because that will increase your odds of success. I mean,

Alper Yurder: Yeah, well, I mean, it's safe. It's easier. Yeah.

Andy Paul: Encourage sellers, you know think about their world this way think about everything you do in terms of probabilities Right Every sales touch I make with I have with us prospect. Is this increasing my probability of winning the deal or not? And if I can't answer that question affirmatively, then why am I doing it? You know, there's just this inherent logic that the escapes that we're not training. Let's say it. I don't say escape cells. We're just not training sellers in and it often I've seen starts with managers that don't like in don't a handcuff themselves don't preclude their options But those people who are succeeding most are more focused on a more narrow set of prospects Until such time as they I said they dominate it then they go to the next ones the next category then the adjacent market.

Alper Yurder: Okay.I have three rapid-fire questions for you that I want to definitely cover before our time runs out. Is that okay if I go with them? Okay. The first one will be, so we talked about, I think the common mistake is clear and we talked about mistakes. What are the top one or two things that the best salespeople do other than building relations in terms of closing a deal?

Andy Paul:  Yeah, absolutely.

Alper Yurder: Like what do you think? Yeah, sorry. Let me rephrase that and we'll cut this out. It was a long way of asking it. What are the, what are the things you need to do to close a deal as a salesperson that you'll be a good salesperson and what are the common mistakes that people do that results in them losing winnable deals in your opinion?

Andy Paul:  Sure. Well, I think… And this is sort of aligned with what we've talked about here in the show today, is that the people who are the sellers who are most successful are those who make sure they really truly understand the things that are most important to the buyer. And We encourage sellers these days in discovery to be very superficial, right? Here's the list of questions we need to ask. Here's the information we need to know. And I know people love medic and med pic, but I think that's just part of the issue in the way that people are using it. It becomes very superficial. I'm gonna gather this information. Well, knowing information is not the same as understanding the context of this information for the buyer. And too few sellers bridge that gap between knowing something and truly understanding it. And it's been my experience and every large deal I've worked throughout my entire career. Again, spanning from five-figure deals to nine-figure deals is that there's always one thing that is most important to every buyer. And when you figure out what that one thing is and who it's most important to, then your odds and probabilities of winning the deal go up fairly substantially. But it takes some patience. It takes persistence. It takes resilience. It takes building trust with the buyer. So you have the permission to ask some of the questions that you really need to ask and get permission to get the answers. You know, I give an example from years ago. Company I was working with, we were working with a cruise line. That was gonna be the first cruise line to put high speed internet to the state room and for voiceover IP and so on. And we were, we're a small company, we're a startup, but we were really scrappy and, and. We got down selected to be the final two vendors and the cruise line handed out. It says RFP and this RFP was, you know, hundreds of pages of RFPs and they had these right in the middle of the RFP. You're probably familiar with this as a consultant. They had these compliance tables. You know, you have to tell us, do you comply with this feature, this feature, da, da, da, da, da. And I was sitting down with the seller on the deal and I said, look, here's the problem. There's more than 300 line items they want us to acknowledge. I said, they're not all equally important.

Alper Yurder: What do you really need?

Andy Paul:  What's the one thing that's most important to them? And he didn't have the answer to that. So this cruise line was actually ped -quartered in Asia. So the next day he got on a plane and went back and had a meeting with the CEO who was a large shareholder in the company as well. And what he found out is that through all that, the thing that was most important to this individual was, that he has 24 seven access to the real time take from the onboard casinos. He wanted to know up to the minute how much money they're making on the onboard casinos, because that's where they're raking in all the dough on the cruises. So I said, oh, well, okay, that's pretty simple. What we did then was sell satellite communication systems. We reconfigured the network so that there was hot standby for all the links from the ships. We had multiple links, but especially the one from the casino. That link was never, ever, ever going to go down. And that's why we reshaped our whole proposal around that one thing. In fact, we ignored most of what was in the compliance tables to focus on one thing. That was the most important thing to the CEO. And yes, there was a committee of stakeholders and they had outside consultants and so on. But once we figured that out, that was it. We want that to be the same as an $8 million deal.

Alper Yurder: Yeah. An alternative scenario. An alternative scenario would be an alternative Andy Paul:  going through the 300 items, waking up everyone in the company to validate every single point internally and being the most hated salesperson ever and then, you know, and not winning on top of it. Yeah.

Andy Paul:  Exactly. Well, but it's not winning it. Right. You have to, you heard a great phrase recently. Actually, it's from Steve Martin, the comedian Steve Martin, who's in an interview said that, you know, as a, when you're on stage and you're building this presence, he says, you know, you have to become undeniable. And I thought, what a great, great way, right? To talk about it. And as a seller, that's what you're trying to do. You're trying to become undeniable. And that's what we did. Not, not the, our competitors, or at that point there's only one more that has left, but they didn't. Go to the effort to try and find out what the thing that was most important to the buyer was, the thing that was really the upside for them that they wanted to manage. We did. And they were a multi-billion dollar company and we were, at that time, less than $100 million in revenue. But that was it. And that's such, you have to do as a seller, you just have to get that level of understanding the buyer. I said, everybody's got one thing, but yeah, you'll find in the course of doing your discovery, there are multiple things. But you gotta find those. So that's really the thing is, are you taking the time to really truly understand what's most important to the buyer and then help them get that.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, I guess the one thing they wanted to rip you off in that very first training, too analytical. By the way, being analytical is not enough. Being smart alone is not enough. You have to care. You have to have empathy, curiosity, a genuine interest in helping somebody to do that, you know, go the extra mile and have that presence, the acumen, because once they know, why are you asking me this question? By the way, all those playbooks and like all these discoveries where they have 10 questions to go through. It feels so terrible being on the other side. It's like an investigation. It's like an endless list of questions you answer. You don't even have a clue. Why are you asking me this? Nobody teaches these people guided discovery. Oh, yeah. So much to fix. So much to fix. Yeah. Why am I answering all these questions? Like what?

Andy Paul:  Yeah, well, and it doesn't lead anywhere, right? So you have to think why. Well, but you have to ask yourself the question as a seller. And we've seen all the studies have come out from, I think, Gartner and Forster and so on saying, look, you know, 80 % or 75 % of B2B buyers find no value talking to sellers, right? And they would prefer quote unquote, they prefer to do it on their own, which is not true in terms of prefer to do on their own. And it's not true that 80 75 to 80% find no value with sellers, that's probably closer to 100. But anyway. You have to ask yourself, if you're having a conversation with the buyer and they're on record saying they don't want to talk to a salesperson, why are they talking to you? It's because they need to, right? If you, there's something you don't want to do, but you end up doing it because you need to. What do they need from you? Well, they're trying to make a decision to make a change in their business. Oftentimes they need you to ask them questions that they don't think to ask themselves to give them a way to think more broadly and deeply about the problem they're trying to solve or the opportunity they're trying to achieve. That's what they need you for. I mean, there's a whole theory of, you know, strong ties and weak ties, right? Is that we need to have, if we're in an organization and we're thinking about, you know, making a change in the business, making a decision to do something as, and we're out collecting the information, you know, the sociologist said, look, we all have strong ties. Now the problem with people that have strong ties is the sociologist says you all know the same information. So you all know redundant information. The reason you want to talk to salespeople, people you have weak ties with, is because they bring you perspectives and the insights that you don't have yourself. And there was a study post pandemic from MIT where they were trying to do a study about how often do people really need to be in the office together in order to sort of share these insights and new perspectives. And it was all from the perspective of strong ties and weak ties, right? So this is, yeah, when you're having this conversation with a buyer, it's because they need to talk to you. Well, what do they need from you? What's the help they need from you in order to continue to make progress toward making their decision? And if you can frame it that way as a seller, then it's like, okay, well, I'm not just asking these superficial discovery questions. I need to understand what the need is here.

Alper Yurder: What is it really? Yeah. Yeah. And some of the need, I mean, this is what after a year and a half of building flowla, researching all these areas, like what do buyers want? What do buyers need? I mean, at the end of the day, they want to be handheld. They want to feel safe. They want to feel they're making the right decision by going ahead with you, et cetera. But a lot of it is happening, async. A lot of it is happening internally when you're not in the room. A lot of it's, but.

Andy Paul:  What do they need from me? It's always been that way.

Alper Yurder: But at the end of the day they want the human interaction because to be honest they want three things based on our research one is autonomy Like they want to be on their own to make the decision But they also want availability which is like when I want to ask the question when I need this information It should be available. I shouldn't be chasing you and the other one is authority which is Enable me you seller enable me as the buyer of the champion or whatever? To make sure that I'm making the right decision, to make sure I'm educated, to make sure I'm educating others, influencing others, to help me to actually help you sell this product internally because I need it, if I need it.

Andy Paul: Yeah. I mean, yeah, I mean, I largely agree with that. I think that's what. I would say most sellers don't understand. And I've written about this in my last book. It's going to be in my new book as well. Look, you're into, you're into an environment where you're selling into an environment where people are pressed for time for whatever reason. Right. I mean, and that's always been the case. Buyers have always, buyers have always been busy. This is not new. I mean, somebody's trying to make the argument the other day with me that all buyers are busier than they were 23 years ago. And I'm like, no, it's just not the case. First of all, yeah, we don't go down that road. But anyway, people are busy. They don't have endless amounts of time to spend investigating and evaluating and researching what they can do. Right. So when that's the case, what happens is, and this is somebody who won a Nobel Prize, largely based on this work, Germany, Herbert Simon, he said, look, create this thing called the theory of bounded rationality. He said, when people make decisions. They have three constraints. Everybody does. They don't have unlimited time. They don't have access to unlimited information, nor do they have a perfect understanding of all the factors at play. So when that's the case, he said, when people make decisions, and this is not 100 % of people, but certainly the majority of people, when they make decisions, they look for a solution to the problem that satisfies the requirements and suffices to enable them to achieve their most important goals. And he created a word, but the other goes, that's satisfying.

Alper Yurder: Nice, I love it.

Andy Paul:  And what happens is, as he found out, that when people find the solution that satisfies, that satisfies the requirements, suffices to hit their desired outcomes, they make their decision. And it's called a good enough decision. This is good enough, right? It meets our requirements. It suffices to hit our desired outcomes. And yes, we could spend, we could invest, more time to look at more options. But the fact is, A, we don't have the time. And B is what we'd find is that there's no solution that's so much better that it's worth the additional investment of our time to keep looking. And this is what your customers do all the time. And so your job as a seller is to be able to help your buyer. So first of all, get out of your head that your buyer is trying to make the absolute best decision, because they're not. I mean, there's a sign pointing out there are some people are called maximizers, though the opposite of satisficers. They will look at every opportunity, every option that exists, every alternative to satisfy themselves to make the absolute best choice. Most people don't. Your buyers have these constraints. They don't have unlimited time. They don't have unlimited access to information or a perfect understanding of it. They're looking for your help to get them to the point of saying, look, this is good enough, let's go. And if you can tap into that as a seller, if you can harness that as a seller, and again, I wrote about this in Sell Without Selling Out, there's milestones you hit along the way that enable you to show that you're getting to that point. Wow, that's gold. And the way you do that is not by consuming more of your buyer's time, but it's becoming more effective at helping the buyer so you can actually help them make this progress with consuming less of their time and less of your own time.

Alper Yurder: I mean, it's actually first of all, you gave me two real new vocabulary for which I'm thankful. But I think the one I love most is a good enough decision, like amazing. And actually it lights like the light bulb in my head goes. This is why we're building Flowla to help them make the decision in an easier, you know, frictionless, shorter amount of time. Let's get to the decision. Let's get to close one easier for the buyer. And I think I'm going to definitely take it and use it if you don't mind the good enough decision.

Andy Paul:  Sure, well, but that's, and the good enough decision is this interesting thing. It's like all decisions, it's driven by emotions, right? That's good enough, right? But it's also coldly rational as well, because what you're saying is, let's make this decision now instead of continuing to invest our time, right? To look at all their alternatives and so on. Now, this happens even within the context of, you know, a buyer's process that, you know, doesn't automatically stop, right? When they decide you are satisfied, it may still take you some time to actually get the order, but this is where your instincts as a seller come into play as I knew when that happened with my customers. I didn't know at the time it was happening. And I remember having a conversation with the boss and I was winning these deals. I was getting the sense I was winning these deals before we were getting the order well in advance. And it's not like they were actually telling me stuff yet, but I knew that I'd got it. And we'd go back and talk to them afterwards about exactly what's happening. They said, yeah, good service said, yeah, you're the one, but we couldn't just stop it. We still had to go through our process internally. But you want to get to that stage. And so as a seller and I got to talk about and sell without selling out is there's a way you operate to help the buyer get to that point.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, of course.

Andy Paul: with you before they get to that point with any other vendor. And if you can do that, you've made better use of their time, right? They've been able to make more progress to you and less time than with other people. That is reflected in a buying experience that's substantially better.

Alper Yurder: And you're a friend for life then, not just a seller.

Andy Paul:  Well, yeah, but I mean, it's, it's based on building that trust and credibility. So it's, but it's, um, yeah, it can be very powerful. So, um, I don't know that answers your question, but yeah, sorry. Going down that point. Cause I think it's, it's something that sellers can do that gives them a firm, I don't want to say control necessarily, but get more control over what's happening. If you can shape the way you're selling to help the buyer get to that point before they get to it with another vendor.

Alper Yurder: And there you go, yeah, of course.  Before we run out of time, I want to also ask your opinion about our space a little bit, like buyer enablement, because these are obviously very apt for what we're trying to build. I mean, I started building it to solve my own problem, which was these complex sales. Lots of stakeholders, decision making, help them make their decision easier, blah, blah, blah. Make it easier on them, really. Because once, actually, let me take that a second back. All my life I was a seller and I was selling and feeling the pain of selling. Then I became a buyer and I started feeling even more pain because buying was even worse than trying to sell. And then, you know, Flola. What do you think about our space now? Buyer enablement, digital sales rooms, all these Flola you've had a little bit of experience with. What's your take on them?

Andy Paul: Right. Well, I think that. Yeah, I hope this is okay with you. But I think that that

Alper Yurder: Yeah, yeah, say whatever you want.

Andy Paul: I think there's two things. Yes, there's enabling the buying process, but first we have to enable the decision process. And those are distinct in my mind. Because there are things you do to buy that are outside the things you do to make the decision about who you're going to buy from. And, and so, yeah, well, I think certainly, and yeah, I was in the room at Gartner at Gartner when they first unveiled their in 2019, their 2018, their bio and buyer enablement study with the famous spaghetti diagram. But when you looked at that diagram, you said, well, look, right at the heart of it, there are at least four jobs. And I don't think there's four, I think there's three, but that's the decision, right? And we need to be able to enable the customer to be able to make the decision to make a change, as well as help enable them with buying. Because, you know, things like, contract negotiation. That's not part of making the decision. Right? I mean, if you're in contract negotiation, if you're in contract negotiations with a customer, my, again, my experiences, they don't go into contract negotiations with multiple companies. They do with one. Now doesn't mean you've won the deal yet. You've still got to finish that part, but you have, they made the decision to go with you. But until we get better at helping them make the decision to go with us.

Alper Yurder: Yeah, yeah, it's just the hustle they have to go through, yeah..

Andy Paul: Yeah. Enabling the buying part is sort of secondary, right? It's a secondary task of secondary importance. And I first have to get them to agree that we are the best company for them to work with. So I look at it sort of two, two frames as yeah, both important, but one has to happen for the other to happen.

Alper Yurder: Got you. Well, you know what? I probably agree with 80 % of that. The rest of it we can talk about on your show next time we meet. Nice, nice, nice segue to the closing remarks. And this has been an absolute delight. Thank you so much for joining me. Any closing remarks before we... We're already way over time.

Andy Paul: Sure, sure. Thanks for having me on. This has been a lot of fun.

Alper Yurder: I'll tell you something about it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Any closing remarks and I'll tell you something about it.

Andy Paul: No, I'm good. Thank you for having me on.

Alper Yurder: Okay, for sure. The reason I say we're over time is because I'm supposed to be a good therapist who keeps us on time and who needs to cut us on time. But today it was too good that I couldn't do that. So I made a bad job of that. But thank you for being with us. This was a great conversation. I'm looking forward to the next.

Andy Paul: Yeah, likewise.

Alper Yurder: Absolutely. So that's a wrap on this episode of Sales Therapy. If you enjoy the show, subscribe to us on YouTube and your favorite podcast platform. I thank Andy very much for doing the honor of joining us in this conversation. I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did and look forward to the next one. Bye.

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