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Episode 62: The Dangers of Automating Your Sales Process – Anthony Iannarino

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 62: The Dangers of Automating Your Sales Process - Anthony Iannarino
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How many of us keep track of calls and personas using a process that feels way too complex and doesn’t deliver the desired results? Today we’re joined by Anthony Iannarino, international speaker, sales leader, and best-selling author. His new book, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need, is an absolute must-read for anyone who wants to sell more and sell better. In this episode we’re talking all about the dangers of automating your sales process, and the research and science that backs up Anthony’s methods for creating an effective and lucrative sales process.
Episode Highlights:

  • Understanding sales by using the OODA Loop
  • Why successful prospectors have the mindset of a competitor
  • When asking for a referral goes wrong: Why we can’t rely on technology to do our work for us
  • “Automation is marketing, not selling”: Why you can’t automate intimacy
  • Creating value for multiple personas
  • Getting into an efficient sales rhythm



Episode Transcript

Marylou: Hi everybody, it’s Marylou Tyler. This week, I have Anthony Iannarino. Anthony is the bestselling author of a book called The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need. It’s a red book. You need to go pick this book up. I’m not sure if it’s the only, but it’s one of the only books that you’ll ever need in sales. Anthony, welcome to our phone call today. Thank you so much for joining. Anthony: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it. Marylou: We talk a lot, in our world here, with my folks about sales process. Predictable Revenue written in 2011 and then Predictable Prospecting written in 2016 really focused on the sales process, sales enablement from a process standpoint and metrics. I’m seeing that as we put these frameworks and these methods in, it’s really starting to amplify and accentuate what I call sales skills and what you probably call mindset. What I’d like to do today is discuss with you Predictable Revenue but looking towards the actual mindset piece. I believe that you’re exceptionally good in explaining that and getting people excited about the fact that it’s not just process and technology, it’s people as well. People is mindset of the sales rep themselves and also the buyer. Anthony: Happy to talk about that. I think I would start with the work of Colonel John Boyd who created the OODA Loop and if you’re not familiar with that, there’s a great book by Robert Coram called Boyd that explains Boyd’s journey from being a fighter pilot to being someone who actually designed airplanes, fighter jets, particularly. What this OODA Loop was is he recognized that he went to college and got advanced degrees on Science. He recognized the second law of thermodynamics and entropy and he started to realize that the reason that American planes did better than Russian planes is because everyone was trying to build a plane that could go longer, further and faster. What he realized is none of these are important when you’re in a dog fight. What’s important is how quickly you can adjust and turn so that you can flip over and get behind your enemy. What Boyd continued to admonish the United States Military about in joint sessions of the congress and in hearings was that it is people, ideas, and technology, in that order. They would get the order backwards, they would say, “Wait, it’s technology and then it’s ideas and people.” He would continue to tell them, “No, it’s people first.” I think we do this in sales quite a bit. We start with the idea of we have this technology so we can automate emails and we can do things now with video and all these other things that we think we want to do. We’re automating things that don’t lend themselves to automation. What it turns out to be the differentiating and defining factor between people that succeed and people that don’t succeed comes down to just a couple of things. The first thing is the willingness to do things that other people are unwilling to do. Successful people have a mindset to do things that other people are unwilling to do and they have a certain set of disciplines in a mindset that says this is how this works and this is what is important and that’s why we do it this way and in this order. What happens for many, many sales people is you can be really, really good on the telephone at prospecting and you can be really, really good when you’re in front of a client but if you’re not on the phone and you’re in front of the client, then none of those things matter. The differentiator tends to be people who believe that they are disciplined about their prospecting and that they put pipeline above everything else. When you look at people who do really well, their pipeline looks different. They’re disciplined about making calls, they’re disciplined about nurturing their dream clients overtime, they’re disciplined about following up. They don’t tend to give up, they persist for long periods of time, long after many salespeople will have made a couple calls and sent a couple of emails and gone away. The framework that I used, Marylou, is mindset, skillset, tool kit. It’s not tool kit and then skillset and then mindset. It starts with what does that person believe. If you are not generating the revenue that you want to generate, the first problem starts with you and the disciplines and the actions that you take and it’s what you really believe about prospecting. I just shot a video this morning for my YouTube channel about our mistaken expectations of emails and voicemails. We send an email and we expect some of these people will reply to my email and schedule appointments to meet with me. That doesn’t happen and the salesperson is disappointed. Or we leave a voicemail, we say please call me back at this number and then we say no one ever calls me back. No one is ever going to call you back. That’s an expectation that’s out of line with reality. We’re pursuing their business. They’re not pursuing buying from us. If there was a line of people in front of your company waiting to buy from you, you would be redundant and we wouldn’t need you. What we need you to do is understand that the way the relationship works is we’re in pursuit of them and so you need the mindset of a competitor, you need to be resourceful, you need to take initiative, you need to be disciplined and you need a prospecting process that gets executed with such a great consistency that it actually produces predictable revenue. Marylou: Most definitely. One of the things I heard you say was the fact that you need to have consistency, what I call habit. I do a lot of talking about habit trumping inspiration because a lot of times what I see from the inspiration side is that we’re hopeful. It’s hope prospecting as opposed to consistently prospecting. The other thing I love that you said for some of this with predictable revenue is that it was all about asking for the internal referral, what’s the actual predictable revenue but I’m seeing all these email coming through now from folks that have embraced that process that ask for 15 minutes of time without giving you any. It’s almost like you have to look at the email and try to figure it out yourself. They give you this email and there is no sense of urgency, there is no reason why and then at the end of it, they want you. They want your time. It’s over and over and over again because technology allows us to just put those emails all into a string and send them out over a period of time. Anthony: Yeah. I’ll just give you an interesting story about how this goes wrong for people. I got an email from a sales person at one of my companies and the email said, “We’re doing business at companies that look like yours. Here’s a name, here’s a name, here’s another name that we’re working with. Click on this link and see what kind of work we’re doing for them.” There’s links built into the email because clicking on it is an indication that I’m interested. At least that’s their perception of it. It’s not, but that’s their perception so we’ll leave that as it be. I did not reply to the email. Three days later, I get another email from the same sales person that says I wanted to make sure you didn’t miss this email. That email was pasted below it. It said, we really didn’t want you to miss this link. We’re doing important work in this area. I deleted that email too because it really wasn’t about me and it wasn’t for me. The third email came in and it said this link is still up but I don’t know how long it’s going to be there. We want to make sure you didn’t miss it and then some more text with some more proof providers which is why us, not why change until the proof providers were not aligned with where I was in a buying process by any stretch of the imagination. Finally I sent the person a note and said, this strategy sucks and you should [00:14:52] prospecting because what you’re doing is not working. I didn’t get anything back for about three or four days. And then I got an email from the sales person saying, I’m sorry. I didn’t send you any of those emails. They were all sent by our CMO who does marketing automation. This is not even a person who’s trying to reach me. It’s a piece of technology that’s trying to reach me. It’s not tailored to me, even though they have the industry right, it’s not tailored to me. It doesn’t create any value for me. We’re trying to automate relationship building. Relationships don’t lend themselves to automation. When you’re checking the box and saying yes I communicated to this person because I sent them an email, that’s not the same as saying I’m nurturing, I’m developing a relationship, I’m creating value, I’m sharing insights, I’m helping understand where they are in the buying process, I’m delivering a message of why they should change and what their better future might look like. None of those things were happening. I think that’s the mistake that we make thinking that we can turn something that’s going to take more effort and energy into something that technology by itself will solve. I’m a technology guy. I do think that technology has a role to play and I even have a number of presentations I give about intimacy at scale but it’s the intimacy that matters. You need to know me and you need to know what’s important to me and you need to speak to me about why change and what you know that might make a difference for me or basically what you’re doing is not going to have the desired impact at all because it’s not aligned to who I am and what I want. Marylou: I think what’s beautiful about what you’re saying to the audience is that we can’t rely on technology to do our work for us, number one. Number two, it’s still about the conversation. It’s still about the relationship. It’s still about learning about our prospects. The rebuttal part from the audience will probably be something like you know what, that’s great, Marylou and Anthony, but we have thousands of records. We are given 250 records a week to work and this is the new business development, for example. How the heck can we have conversations that are personal in nature with that many people and then remember where they were in the sequence because our boss wants to send out eight touches or so. There is a catch 22 here as to how we can do this and do it in a way that’s impactful, yet it’s personal. Anthony: That would be 12,000 leads a year per rep. There’s not a single way that you can manage 12,000 leads per salesperson with any consistency and with hope of developing relationships with 12,000 people. Intimacy doesn’t scale that far. If you look at the research of Robin Dunbar, the most relationships a person can handle on average ends up being about 150. The best people can maybe get to 225. I have some thoughts that leveraging technology can probably get a little bit more than that because silicon is a better substrate than the human brain when it comes to remembering things. There’s no doubt about that. You can use technology to remember things but you’re never going to be able to manage 250 and automating it is not selling. Automating that is marketing. Marketing is not selling. Those are two different functions in my view of the world. Marketing says I’m going to try to message something, a value to get interest and awareness. Selling is different. There’s a communication where we’re having conversation about what’s important to you. If you’re selling transactionally like Amazon does, you can send me something saying, Anthony, you tend to buy books by Jablon. Jablon has a new book coming out. We can automate that part of a relationship because the price of Jab’s book is going to be like $27 but when I’m trying to send something that creates massive value that is strategic, that comes with risk, that’s going to require multiple conversations. Automations is marketing, it is not selling. There’s not a way to put eight emails together that say, I’m going to send eight emails and convert these people when you’re selling something that’s not transactional. It’s not the right approach. What do you say to a rep who does that? Make 250 dials, 180-200 go to voicemail. Those are calls where you got to leave a message of value and that you can follow up at some time on the future. You’re going to have some conversations with people. Some of those are going to be leads that you can convert. There’s not a way to manage 250 leads per week and have a meaningful conversation with that many people. It’s not a problem that can be solved by applying additional effort. You’re going to have make decisions about what’s important and what’s not. I would say that anybody who’s giving the reps 250 should think about what they’re doing. Marylou: That’s a very good point because another question that comes in a lot for me is this is our directive. How do I enlighten my manager that it can’t possibly be done in a way that’s going to generate a predictable outcome? Anthony: I don’t know that you can have that conversation. I think that a lot of people have to learn this by looking at the results and sailing over and over again. They have to have the experience of saying these people are making 250 calls and they’re not turning them into what we want them to turn into. Why not? Because they’re not reaching enough people, number one. Number two, they’re not targeted. If you have 250 a week, 1,000, you have no targeting at all. That’s absolutely a way to fail and not produce the results that you’re capable of but I don’t know that a rep can go to his boss and say that or her boss and say that. I think what they have to do is say what’s the process? There are two kinds of people, Marylou. There are people who believe that everything is their fault and people who believe nothing is their fault. All you can do is decide what am I going to do to succeed and I would tell you that would be find a way to look at that list of 250 and say this look like greater probability prospects than these. If you can make that slice, if you can say this 50 look better, and I’m going to double down on that so that I can produce the results that I want to produce for me, for my success, for my family and for my future and try to be as smart about it as you personally can. I will tell you as a sales leader myself, there are plenty of salespeople who are succeeding in spite of their leaders in just about every company on earth. Marylou: Yes. It’s interesting that with the new buzz word around account-based selling, it’s taking from it. I’m looking from a process record point of view. It’s taking those top 20, 40 accounts that you think are going to hit that high probability of closing, high revenue potential that you have a good conversation started with and those accounts you apply hyper personalization or what they’re calling hyper personalization of emails, of conversations, so that you’re getting to know that person at a deep level. I think that’s the reason why I’m seeing a lot more of rather than lead follow up, account follow up which is funny because that’s how Predictable Revenue was written originally. It was at 3 hour 15 minute sales process which means it was more of an enterprise based sale. There was more than one stakeholder that we had to get a hold of and have a conversation with. Somehow, that account lost in the translation as 250 a week, thousand records, they don’t all have to be different accounts but it turned into more of a machine and less about quality. Anthony: I don’t think that is the fault of the authors. I think it’s the fault of the people who believed that you can automate intimacy. Intimacy is what you’re talking about and I don’t really know what account-based to anything means but I know there’s account-based to everything. There’s like account-based coffee, account-based muffins, I mean, everything has been account-based now and I don’t know why. It’s like it’s the new social selling. Here’s the thing, it is targeting. Anybody who’s been selling for any number of years knows that you’re going to start with a list of defined targets that you’re going to develop intimacy with. That list is going to be finite. It’s not going to be 1,000. For me, I like the number 60 personally because I can make three phone calls a day, five days a week and cover 60 accounts in the course of a month which I would call dream clients. I’m going to go super deep on those and I’m going to get to know the people inside those companies. I’m going to create value for them. I’m going to nurture those relationships over time. I’m going to try to find my way in so that I can expand my relationships within that company. I’m going to create the intimacy where I know them and they know me as a value creator. Then, when they have an issue, they’re going to say you know what, we need to talk to Anthony. He knows us, he’s been talking to us, he’s been giving us these ideas for months or years. Now it’s very easy to make a decision to bring me in. That’s not something that lends itself to automation. I do think that there’s a place for content creation and content delivery and intimacy and creating that and sustaining it over time but I don’t think it can be done with eight mails that were written months and months ago. When somebody downloads your white paper, they get into a funnel where they get hammered with emails. I don’t think that that creates intimacy. I think that there has to be a human being that they’re communicating with and that human being needs to know something about them to personalize this or else it’s marketing. Marylou: Right. A lot of times, we’re also getting records that better cold in nature. We do target. We work through our ideal account profiles. We work through an ideal prospect persona that’s not a marketing persona but more of a sales driven persona. What I mean by that is typically the call to action for us top of funnel is to get that first meeting, to get that first conversation going or follow up conversation. We’re really looking at where people are positionally in the pipeline as we start having these conversations and trying to get a better sense of defining who they are and what their roles are or what their challenges are because they may be different or they may be languaged differently. When you talked about mindset before and getting your own internal mindset, what is your advice for people who do talk to multiple personas like an IT guy versus a marketing guy. Do they need to change themselves in order to be able to have these conversations? Are they always themselves but just languaging a little bit different depending on who they’re talking to? What would you say there? Anthony: I think it’s the obligation of the person who’s making the call to understand how to create value for the person on the other end of that call. If I’m a tech guy and I’ve got to call a marketing person, I need to have enough of what I call situational knowledge to be able to have a conversation with them about what I suspect is important to them or what I suspect their challenges might be and what I suspect their goals might be. That’s my obligation to figure that out. I’ll tell you what I see, Marylou, maybe this is what you see too. There’s an extraordinarily heavy reliance on [00:20:25] in a lot of sales processes now and because there’s so much of a reliance, a lot of salespeople have given up the idea that they have to have deep subject matter expertise because they’re always going to have [00:20:40] with them. The problem with that is you only need two things to be a trusted adviser. You need trust and you need advice. If you don’t have the advice because you’re not conversational and you don’t have the business document and you don’t understand that person’s role or their business well enough, and the only thing that you have is that you know a guy or you know a woman who can help them, then you can never be the trusted adviser. You can just be the person that knows somebody who can help them. I’m not saying that sales people aren’t orchestrators because for sure, we are. We are definitely leading teams on our side and on our clients side but the fact of the matter is you do need to have enough knowledge to be conversational with the people that you’re going to talk to in a day-to-day basis in sales. If it’s a marketing person, you’re going to have to do some work to understand that but it’s not that difficult to do. If you ask people to help educate you, even clients, if you say, “Help me understand what someone in your role need from a person in my role.” They’re going to be happy to share with you what kind of things they want and you can get that situational knowledge and that awareness of that quickly. Marylou: I think also another error that I find very helpful is if you’re in a larger company and you can look at some of the surveys that were taken on behalf of the client role like a marketing person being interviewed via survey and their responses to any type of loyalty or customer service or quality of service question and also challenges. You can get a lot of information by studying these responses and getting an understanding of how people talk. That’s one of the biggest things that I know my troops get a little bit weary or nervous about is how to use their language. I keep saying it’s mostly about your tone but there are some pieces of language that would be helpful so that they get a feel for, “That person understands me. He’s talking my talk. He understands where I’m coming from.” But like you said, it’s not a huge amount of effort to get this information but you do need to be consistent with the roles. That’s another area that we have a little bit of a challenge with this technology is that we’re sometimes fed multiple records, multiple roles. We can’t get within a rhythm in our calls if we’re not in charge of ordering our records in a way that we can make phone calls to certain people of certain roles during our block time. We have to switch ourselves around a lot which is really hard to do. Anthony: I agree with you. I think it’s much easier to get momentum. This is a mindset thing too. I see so many sales people who pick up the phone, they make one dial and it takes them 10 minutes to research and adjust to make the next call. That is just an ineffective use of time. What you’ll see high performers do is to do their research and then when they sit down and dial, they’re dialing and they get into a rhythm and they get this momentum. I do think that if you have to keep switching gears, it’s difficult. If you’re having one conversation over and over again with a certain stakeholder in a certain role, you get super confident at that and you get this momentum going where the conversation gets easier and easier because you keep having them all day. When you don’t do that then you keep switching the conversation, I don’t think you ever really get that rhythm. Marylou: I remember seeing one of the women as I was walking through the business development area. She had sticky notes on her terminal of three different colors. I was looking at that thinking, “Wow, what the heck is that?” I went to talk to her and she said, “This is my call log. This is who I’m talking to and they’re three different people.” She said she never knew who she would need to talk to next. She just kept notes in order for each of the three different roles on her computer, basically, so that she had the conversation pieces. I thought, wow, that is very inefficient. Anthony: But that’s what probably took her to be straight when she picked up the phone and called somebody. Marylou: That’s exactly right. For her, it was a nice fix of saying, look, we need to reorder your view so that you lump everybody and clump them all together. The other thing that I suggested and I hope people still do this is sometimes it’s easier to plan your calls the night before. Meaning, do the research you need to do on the people you’re going to call in you’re calling queue at the end of the day or the time when there’s a block of time where there’s not great phone activity and organize that. Then, go home, rest and your subconscious will work through some of those conversations so that when you do come in and do your blocks, then you’re going to be fresh and like Anthony said, you just start to talk and work your way down. That’s the best way to do it. Anthony: I think that’s right. You separate the research and the calling and you do get into a rhythm and it gets far easier and you’re far more effective that way. Marylou: We’re running out of time here, Anthony. I could talk to you all day. I was hoping if there are a couple things because a lot of my folks, some of them are new, some of them are doing all roles but if they were to like, “Okay, we’re going to take one thing away from this call that we can put into action.” What would you suggest? Using that word predictable again, thinking about mindset, what would you suggest that these folks do? Anthony: There is one thing and it’s the first chapter of my book, it’s discipline. It is to determine what the disciplines are that create predictable revenue. If that’s what you want, it means that you’re going to do x amount of prospecting every day. You’re going to do this much nurturing every day. You’re going to do this kind of follow up every day. It’s called discipline, you call them habits. I call them disciplines because it really is in my view, it’s a discipline. Anything that you do that leads to success, it’s the discipline consistent action over time that produces the result. It’s not the one day of prospecting that build predictable revenue and it’s not the desperate trying to catch up with 250 prospects. It’s specifically just the daily, day after day doing the same thing over and over again that gets you there. That’s what I would say first and foremost, put those processes in place and then execute against them with great discipline and that’s the secret. Marylou: I’ll be putting all these in the show notes, the links to your book. Where else can we find you? Anthony: Best place to find me is thesalesblog.com and then the other place is youtube.com/iannorino. I do a daily blog post and a daily video blog at those locations. Marylou: Wonderful. Are you going to be speaking anywhere? This is airing probably at the next month or so, are there any places that people can meet you in person that you’ll be at? Anthony: The only live event that we have on the calendar right now is the Outbound Conference on April 13 but if you keep your eye at outboundconference.com, there’ll be three or four more shows this year. Those are lead public events that people can attend. Marylou: You guys will learn all about the entire pipeline at those events, right? Anthony: That’s right. Marylou: This is not just top of funnel, it’s everything which is great. Thank you so much for your time, Anthony. I really appreciate it. It was great speaking with you. I love the book and I know that you shared with me there maybe another one on the horizon but we’ll get you again coming on the podcast when that one’s launched. Anthony: Sounds good, thanks so much for having me, Marylou. Marylou: Thank you.
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