Episode 105: Perfecting Your Sales Process – Scott Leese

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 105: Perfecting Your Sales Process - Scott Leese
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In sales, perfecting your process can be the key to making more sales. But how do you find the right process? When do you know that you’ve hit on a process that works, and what do you need to do to customize it or improve on it for your situation?

Today’s guest is Scott Leese. Scott is the Senior Vice President of Sales at Qualia, a settlement platform for real estate professionals. Scott has also written a book about the sales process. Scott has an interesting background even before he got into sales, and this helps inform his success in the field and interest in process. Listen to the episode to hear Scott describe his history and talk about how he settled on a sales process, why he believes in the importance of delegating, and how to handle stress and pressure in a sales leadership role.

Episode Highlights:

  • Scott’s background and how he got into sales
  • How Scott settled on a process that worked for him
  • Why it’s important to educate a prospect on the problem before selling them on a solution
  • Why Scott thinks it’s important to get good at delegating
  • How to handle pressure and stress when you’re in a sales leadership role
  • Scott’s upcoming conference in Costa Rica
  • The top challenges that startups face
  • Scott’s thoughts on outsourcing the startup phase of a company or part of the sales funnel
  • The Addiction Model Framework


Scott Leese


Addicted to the Process

The 2018 Surf and Sales Summit


Marylou: Hi everybody, it’s Marylou Tyler. I’m coming to you from San Diego. If the quality of this recording is not perfect, I apologize. I’m in a hotel.

Scott Leese is with me, he’s a trooper for doing this interview with me in this less than stellar condition. Scott is the SVP of a company called Qualia in the real estate side of the house. He’s got extremely vast amount of knowledge in building and scaling companies, and that’s why I really want him to talk about his experiences, the good, the bad, of building companies and what he continually learns. I’m going to pass the baton to him. Scott, thank you so much for coming on the show.

Scott: Thanks for having me, Marylou. I’m excited to be here.

Marylou: Tell us. Start at the beginning. When we were talking offline, you’ve done a lot of different things, you’re continually doing a lot of different things, from advising, to actually building, to implementing. How did you get started and tell us your story of the path that you’ve been taking?

Scott: I got started in sales a little less than 15 years ago or so now. I never really had a job, to be honest with you that didn’t involve playing or coaching sports until I was 27 years old.

I studied Psychology and Religion as an undergrad, I played two sports in college, soccer and tennis for four years. I played some professional soccer. I went to grad school at Arizona State and got a Master’s Degree in Learning Theory, and then I got super sick and proceeded to spend the better part of the next four years in and out of various hospitals fighting for my life.

I had all sorts of nasty problems. I’ve had nine total surgeries, two life saving surgeries. Needless to say, I’ve been through the rear, that all process got me hooked on opioids, pain medicine and had to kick off that.

There I was at 27 years old, trying to figure out what I want to do with my life and the only thing that I could think of, as a competitor that I was, was sales that would allow me to make up for lost time and get rewarded by how hard I worked and how well that I did. That’s how I got into sales. I picked a startup because I thought that I can make a move up faster and learn more in a shorter amount of time. I’ve been building and scaling sales organizations ever since all around the country. That’s how I got into sales.

Marylou: Wow, that’s quite a background. To pick a profession like sales that is typically filled with a lot of rejection or not necessarily part of this professional being. Depending on what field you’re in, it could go from this used car salesman type of profile, all the way up to this knowledge engine which it sounds like from where you came from, you’re now into that knowledge engine side of things, which is great.

You got through a painful experience, you started working in organizations, helping them build their revenue streams, what lessons did you learn along the way that you can share with the audience as you transitioned from an individual who was not as healthy as the rest of us, maybe, and also struggling with personal demons, and then working through that to put that aside and start building and teaching others how to do so.

Scott: There’s so many lessons to cover. But one of the things that I think I got really good at was finding a process that worked and sticking to it and not tinkering around constantly and changing things.

I know everybody nowadays loves to test and test and test before they actually do anything, and I was sort of a jump out the airplane and assemble parachute on the way down kind of a guy. I made a few mistakes along the way, but nothing too dramatic.

It allowed me to very quickly find a process that worked to sell a product, to hire, and grow, and scale organizations, and to build a sales ops engine, and all these kind of things. Just getting started, finding something that works, and then sticking to it and just rinse, wash, repeat rather than tinkering around all over the place.

Marylou: That’s a great advice. Let’s stop there for a second. I want to make sure the audience understands this. Because process is getting a bad name as well these days about what you just, we do something, run a couple of records through it, move on to the next one.

When you were working through defining your process that worked for you, what was the statistical relevance or the relevance that caused you to say, “Okay, this is one now that I’m going to mold into something better and continually pour records into it or pour process into it so that it can become a rinse and repeat.” What did that looked like to you?

Scott: For me, it was actually just personal experience. As somebody that was dealing with health struggles, I realized that I had to admit that I had a problem, I had to understand why it was important to solve that problem and why it was important to do so quickly, and then and only then, was I interested in hearing about a solution.

I just applied my own life experience and experience I had dealing with other people with addiction issues, I applied that to sales. I realized that it was the wrong move to just pick up the phone or approach somebody and say, “Hi Marylou, this is Scott. I’m with the company called Qualia. This is what we do.” And just start talking about their solution.

It was a wrong move to call somebody up and say, “Hey, you have this particular problem.” That doesn’t work. What works is, me having a conversation with you, asking a lot of questions and listening and getting you to tell me what your problem is, getting you to admit your pain to me.

Then I spend time educating somebody on why solving that particular problem might be important, then I try to create a story around why it’s important to solve that problem quickly, and then and only then, is somebody interested in hearing about the solution.

For my own trial and error, as I began my early career of selling, and through my own experience, I slowly over the years created this model for selling, I call the Addiction Model. It’s find pain, build value, create urgency, then discuss solution. I don’t deviate from that process and I’ve been teaching that process and using it in my own organizations ever since.

Marylou: Thank you for clarifying that. Because I think a lot of people think in a process, but as you said, it’s the ingredients and how they’re ordered within the process that really make a process fail or make a process shine. I wanted to make sure you clarified that and I appreciate you doing that. What was next? You started to talk about the next thing.

Scott: The next thing is I got really good at delegating. I understand certain things that I’m good at and certain things that I’m not good at. One of the things that I’m not that great at is the whole operations, sales operations side. I don’t enjoy spending my time buried in sales force and building out reports and work flows and all these kind of stuff, and working with sales enablement tools. I know I need all these things, but I don’t want to be the one hands-on building them all.

Whenever I go into a sales organization, my very first hire that I try to lobby for is somebody to help you with sales ops. I invest very heavily in sales operations right from the beginning with scale already in mind. I can’t tell you how many people I talked to, who have fairly large sales organizations, who’ve spent almost no time doing this and their head of sales is the one trying to not only recruit, and coach, and manage the personalities of the team, but they’re also heads down in salesforce building reports out.

That’s one piece of advice that I would give any sales leader is get really good at delegating, figure out what pieces of the puzzle are maybe not your strong suits and find somebody and align yourself with somebody who’s really good at those things to complement you accordingly.

Marylou: That’s great advice as well. I know that I agree with you that we sometimes put the reporting and dashboarding pieces in as an afterthought. Whereas if we’re trying to really improve on that process we just talked about and streamlining it, and making it more effective, we need some type of data to tell us the direction or at least point the direction of where things are plugged up, what’s running smoothly, where we can improve our communication canvass, whatever it may be.

That’s great. We’ve got the process, we’ve got delegation of certain elements of the job function itself to people who are going to excel at that so that you can excel at the things that you do. What else have you discovered?

Scott: One thing that doesn’t get talked about enough is the pressure and stress that comes along with the role and the mental health, somebody in a sales leadership role. I don’t know that anybody will really understand it other than somebody else who’s building and doing the exact same thing. It can be very isolating, very lonely.

I think it’s really important to find another practitioner in the field to talk to, who’s going through it right now, who’s been through it before. You just have somebody to unload on and share these things with.

It’s different talking to somebody who’s maybe a full time sales consultant, or who’s been out of the field for a long time. I think it’s really important for people to find somebody that is in the trenches still, building, and selling, and doing all these things, so you can vent, too.

That’s something that I don’t think is talked about enough. People in roles like mine, you’ve got to find time to take care of yourself because you’re spending so much time and energy worrying about everybody underneath you, everybody alongside you, trying to make their jobs easier, you forget about yourself sometime. It’s really hard to take a break in sales. You take a vacation, you lose pipeline. You’ve got to find ways to release some of the stuff before it eats you up.

Marylou: Release and unplug.

Scott: There you go.

Marylou: Tell us about this event you have coming up, speaking of releasing and unplugging. I really was interested when you started talking about an event that’s coming up in Costa Rica.

Scott: I went to Costa Rica with a friend of mine, and his family, and my family over thanksgiving last year. My friend Richard Harris is a sales trainer and goes to all these conferences all the time and meets clients all over the place. I made a remark about how to me going to another conference at the Marriott in Omaha, Nebraska, it doesn’t do it for me.

There’s thousands of people running around, Dreamforce or more in San Francisco and you make all these superficial connections, that is just not my thing. Later that day, I was surfing in Costa Rica and I was just looking around and I thought, how come nobody builds a conference here? Why does it have to be hundreds if not thousands of people? Why can’t it be like a dozen or two dozen people who are passionate about sales, about leadership, about management, about career growth, anything you can think of, entrepreneurship? Why don’t I just try to get this little mastermind group together and combine it with a vacation? It’s like half work, half play.

I thought about it and I floated the idea across my network on LinkedIn—I said, “Heck, I’m going to go for it.” I booked three houses right on the water, I hired caterers, I hired transportation, I hired surf instructors to come every day. We’ve got yoga instructor coming. We’re going to spend the morning playing, the middle part of the day giving talks about sales, sales leadership, scaling advice, social selling, all these different kind of things, and then the afternoon, we’ll play again, and go surfing, and do all these fun stuff.

It’s the first time I ever tried anything like this and it’s May 28-24. I’ll leave in just a couple of weeks. I’m pretty excited.

Marylou: What a great way to learn and be with your peers and like you said, this more intimate type of gatherings allow you to open up a little more, talk about your challenges, perhaps helping mentor someone else who’s there. It’s a great way to share your expertise, but also come home learning about what others are going through so you don’t feel so alone. That’s great. Sounds like fun.

Scott: It’s going to be a lot of fun.

Marylou: That’s wonderful.

Scott: I hope it goes well and I hope it does. I’m thinking about turning it into an annual thing. Fingers crossed.

Marylou: Keep us posted on that for sure. You said you’re an adviser now to a lot of startup companies, what are you seeing are the top still challenges or mistakes, some big, and some not that these smaller companies, startups are going through that you wish like, if I could wave a magic wand over these companies, these people running these companies, what are the three or five things that they’re all doing incorrectly that you’re trying to correct?

Scott: The first one, I already sort of talked about it. It involves how they’re trying to sell it. At least 75%-80% of the companies are going to, in my opinion, are selling things the wrong way. Their approach is off, they’re focused on their solution, very heavily featured on paying and that kind of thing. I work with them to reshape how they’re thinking about the sale.

Secondly, I think startups today still really, really struggle with recruiting. In particular being networked well enough to find people to be their VP or head of sales. One of the ways that I’ve positioned myself is I’m really well connected on LinkedIn in particular with other sales leaders all across the country. These are VPs of sales, sales manager, sales operations people, sales recruiters, account executives.

One of the ways that I’m able to add value is I connect people. If I advise for some company in Iowa where you’re from, odds are I know somebody out there who might be looking to explore new opportunities.

A lot of the entrepreneurs, maybe they come from an engineering background or a finance background, or product background, and they really don’t know anything about sales, let alone how to scale sales orientation.

They’re not really selling at the right way and they don’t know where to begin in terms of recruiting. Those are the two consistent flaws that I see with the early stage companies that I work with in particular.

Marylou: I’m curious about that. What are your thoughts on the concept of putting together this dream team of people who you know, can come in, they can get things started, start building momentum, start building velocity, and then they pass the baton over to more of an operations type of leader which there seems to be more of those floating around than there are the visionary conceptual getting market started type of people.

Have you ever seen that model working where you bringing an intern team to get the ball rolling and then they segue to your team after they’ve reached a certain revenue milestone.

Scott: That doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. The first thing that comes to my mind is this old Jeremy Piven movie called The Goods. He’s the fancy car salesman and he has a team of other car salesman that goes and rejuvenate dying car lots. That’s what I’m thinking as you describe that. I’m sure that model can work, I haven’t seen it.

For me, I would have a problem with that, just sort of philosophically. I consider myself a teacher and a coach, and trying to be a mentor and whatnot. I would feel strange helping some organization grow a few weeks or a few months or whatever and just leaving and letting them deal with everything else.

Marylou: The aftermath.

Scott: I would much rather help somebody get their leader employees and help that leader for a while and then I can hand the baton off when everything is well under control. That’s just me, that’s just how I think about stuff.

Marylou: The reason I’m curious of that is because I think that method is similar to what startups want to do when they want to outsource their lead generation. I think it’s crazy that they outsource from the get go that piece of the funnel. It’s all the points that you just mentioned, it’s really understanding your unique value proposition. You’re basically saying, “I’m going to outsource this to others to do that for me.” I think that’s just as ludicrous.

Scott: I couldn’t agree more. I’ve never done that, I never will do that.

Marylou: But it’s a common thing.

Scott: I think it comes from founders and people inside the company who don’t know anything about sales. They’re afraid to or don’t know how to hire a sales team or a sales leader. They just try to offload it and they think, “Oh, here is this company in the Philippines,” or some place, they can do all these lead gen or STR kind of work for us and maybe they can even sell. I don’t buy it either. I’m on your side with that.

Marylou: I gave you an example of an extreme case that we all know—would be to bring a team in and get them up and running and then leave. But that’s essentially what startups are doing when they say, “Let’s outsource this whole sales prospecting function because there are people who have a better habit of getting the first appointments for us, and we’ll just be closers.” I just shake my head when I hear that.

I try to convince them that you know what, let’s get internally our messaging down so that we can give these outsourcers a playbook to follow step by step like you were talking about at the initial part of our call, about understanding the process and getting a process that’s rinse and repeat. When you got it to that point, then by all means bring in more outsource bodies to help execute that process. But to define the process and to create the process so that you have the ability to rinse and repeat, that should be done internally, in my opinion.

Scott: I don’t disagree with that all, don’t disagree at all.

Marylou: I’ve worked with so many outsourcers and it seems to be the same in a lot of cases is that the leads that come through remind me of marketing qualified leads, you get the menos, you get the whales, you get the sharks, you’re casting this wide net, rates suffer and the revenue suffers, and the forecast is all off because you haven’t taken the time to work through the core principle of why people should change, why now, and why you. It’s universal, we’ve got to solve that problem internally as a company, articulate why that matters.

Scott: I think we should co-author our next book. We are on the same page with this. We can start a movement.

Marylou: Right on my soapbox. In fact I’m teaching a class today on Prospect Persona Development. The UVP, the Unique Value Proposition is a huge part of that. We can’t start conversations if we don’t start them properly. I love your framework. Say that framework one more time for everybody.

Scott: The Addiction Model Framework is find pain, build value, create urgency, discuss solution. It’s a four-step process and we have to go in that order and you can’t skip around. You’ve got to get somebody to admit that they have a problem, and you have to educate them, and help them understand why this problem matters, and you have to get them to understand that it’s important to solve this problem as fast as possible and then and only then are they going to be open to hearing about the solution. You can’t just walk up to an addict and say, “Hey Marylou, I think you have a problem and I’ve got this amazing rehab facility called Passages down in Malibu and I think you should go.” It doesn’t work like that.

The person’s going to look at you like you’re absolutely crazy and say, “I don’t have a problem.” Find pain, get them to admit that they have a problem there. It’s pain, value, urgency, solution. Those four steps in that order.

Marylou: In that order and learn how to create and practice those question, so that the prospect or whoever you’re speaking with will admit to and recognize and become aware of acutely their pain, as opposed to you telling them what their pain is.

Scott: Very different when you’re telling somebody than them admitting it.

Marylou: Scott, how do we get a hold of you and if we wanted to download the framework or get some more information on the framework, what’s the best way for us to do that?

Scott: The best way to read about the framework is to get on Amazon and check out my book, it’s called Addicted to the Process. It’s on Amazon, on Kindle and paperback.

You can get a hold of me via LinkedIn. I have a really active presence on LinkedIn, I’m maxed out on connections. If you try to add me, I won’t be able to connect with you, but you can click the follow button and send me LinkedIn emails over there. I’m really responsive to that stuff. I love to help anybody out and talk to anybody who needs some advice.

Marylou: And for those of you who are thinking Costa Rica or some exotic vacation/working session, definitely put your information out there for that. I think that’s a great way to learn.

Scott: Check out the website, it’s called surfandsales.com.

Marylou: surfandsales.com. I’ll put all this in your show notes on your page so people who are listening could just go to that page, get all these great information and links for Scott. It’s incredible being maxed out on LinkedIn, it’s quite an incredible feat in itself, congratulations on that.

Scott: Thanks.

Marylou: We will be in touch. I want the audience to know that this a framework that definitely will get you more first meetings, more follow up meetings, will advance the sale, will get you more qualified prospects that will close at a higher rate.

It all starts with that initial conversation and how that’s framed out. A great framework that’s been proven, he has been working how long now in this environment now? You said 20 years plus?

Scott: About 15 years now. Not quite 20. Don’t hate me.

Marylou: Lots of accounts. I see, I’m just assuming you are as old as I am, which is not necessarily the case. But he definitely is a person to contact if you really want to hone your message and hone the reasons why the people should continue that conversation with you.

Scott, thank you so much for your time, I appreciate it. I’m sorry about the crazy connection today here in San Diego.

Scott: It’s fine. Enjoy San Diego. I had a good time talking to you.