Selling To The C-Suite (CASE STUDY PART 2)

Josh Braun is the former Head of Business Development for Basecamp and the Co-Founder and CEO of Sales DNA. He is also an expert in helping sales leaders, CEO’s and founders create systems to generate a steady flow of meetings each month with qualified buyers.

In this episode of The Salesman Podcast, Josh returns to continue explaining via a real-life case study, how to close big deals directly with the C-suite of large organisations.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Josh Braun
Sales Training Expert

Resources:

Transcript 

Will Barron:

Coming on today’s episode of the Salesman Podcast …

 

Josh Braun:

I am of the firm belief that you can’t cause urgency and you can’t push people into something that they’re not ready to do. What you can do is you can shine a light on something and you can see if that light bulb goes on in the prospect’s head.

 

Will Barron:

Hello, sales nation. I’m Will Barron, host of the Salesman Podcast, the world’s most listened to B2B sales show. If you haven’t already, make sure to click subscribe. And with that, let’s meet today’s guest.

 

Josh Braun:

My name is Josh, the founder of Sales DNA, and I help people sell things. It’s as simple as that.

 

Will Barron:

On this episode with the legend that is Josh, we’re diving into part two of how to sell to the C-suite. We cover a lot of ground in this in dealing with politics, how to frame up conversations about money when you’re dealing with a room full of powerful individuals and a whole lot more. If you haven’t already checked out part one of this episode, it’s linked below this video or this audio or it’s over at salesman.org. And so with that, let’s jump right into the conversation.

 

The Difference Between Selling to the C-suite Versus Middle Management or an End-user · [01:02] 

 

Will Barron:

I want to tee things up here of what do we need to do when we are selling to the C-suite? What do we need to do before we go and meet those individuals versus I’m pretty sure we all know the prep that we need to do for a middle management or an end-user. What difference is there between the two groups?

 

“What the best salespeople do is they don’t ask about problems, they find problems.” – Josh Braun · [01:34] 

 

Josh Braun:

Yeah, I think before we get into the tactics, we have to go in with the right mindset. And so remember, if you remember from part one, this was an outbound approach where we proactively tried to find a gap between where Geico was and where we thought they could be. And that’s what the best salespeople do. They don’t ask about problems. They find problems. So with Geico, the hypothesis was, hey, the process by which people select insurance is complicated. There’s a lot of jargon. There’s a lot of choices. And because it’s complicated, our hypothesis is that you’re losing a lot of people because they don’t understand stuff, and that’s why they’re not buying. So that’s the before state. Then the after state is we have some ideas for how we can make this funnel a little bit more clear, explain things in more clear ways, simplify it so that more people will complete the auto quote process and ultimately buy insurance.

 

“Oftentimes when we’re reaching out and even if prospects take a meeting with us, we have to understand that they might not be motivated enough to actually buy, even though they like the idea. So one of the concepts that I often talk about is what I call the struggle-o-metre. If you can imagine a struggle-o-metre that starts with green and then goes to yellow and then goes to red. And unless the struggle-o-metre or the desire is in the red zone, people don’t buy.” – Josh Braun · [02:11] 

 

Josh Braun:

So that’s a hypothesis, but oftentimes when we’re reaching out and even if prospects take a meeting with us, we have to understand that they might not be motivated enough to actually buy, even though they like the idea. So one of the concepts that I often talk about, Will, is what I call the struggle-o-metre. If you can imagine a struggle-o-metre that starts with green and then goes to yellow and then goes to red, and unless the struggle-o-metre or the desire is in the red zone, people don’t buy. And this is a really good concept that I want to talk about a little bit because salespeople spend a lot of time with people that are in the green and the yellow zone.

 

Josh Braun:

Let me give you an example. My barbecue is broken. Only half of it works, but I’m only cooking salmon for my wife and I, so I just move the salmon to the left side of the grill. If you were to call me and tell me about a grill, I might take the call and I might listen to the demo, but I’m not in the red zone because I’m making progress. I’m getting the job done. A lot of your prospects, and when we get into this Geico example, might be in the green or yellow zone because they got a lot of things going on and they’re making progress. But eventually if my wife said, “Hey, we need to cook salmon for 10,” all of a sudden now, it becomes a little trickier to manage that on half of the grill, and now I move into the red zone.

 

Josh Braun:

So when we do our initial call with a CEO or anybody, we have to get really good at understanding very quickly where they are. And if they’re not in the red zone, that’s fine. We have to get out, and what we do is what the BBQGuys did. They sent us every month a video of how to become a better griller. This is how you make steak. This is how you make salmon. This is how you make vegetables. The videos were awesome. The content was great. And when I was ready, of course, I thought of the BBQGuys. So part of the strategy … Yeah.

 

Which is More Effective, Building on Buyer Pain Points or Waiting for the Buyer to Become Ready to Buy and Just Stay Top of Mind? · [04:01] 

 

Will Barron:

Let me just jump in here, Josh, because this seems old school selling, and this might work if you’re selling a used car versus selling to Geico, selling to the C-suite. It would suggest that it’s our job to push people into the red zone to really build on those pain points. Is that what we should be doing at this level or is it more than … and especially when we’re dealing with a large account. Is it worth playing the long game and waiting for them to … not necessarily waiting, but being ready for them to be in that red zone versus trying to manipulate someone into it?

 

“I am of the firm belief that you can’t cause urgency and you can’t push people into something that they’re not ready to do. What you can do is you can shine a light on something and you can see if that light bulb goes on in the prospect’s head.” – Josh Braun · [04:37] 

 

Josh Braun:

That’s a great question. So I am of the firm belief that you can’t cause urgency and you can’t push people into something that they’re not ready to do. What you can do is you can shine a light on something and you can see if that light bulb goes on in the prospect’s head. So no matter how hard I pushed you, Will, there’s probably no scenario where I could sell you something that you’re not ready to buy. Just because the sales person thinks, and I hear this all the time, this is the language I hear from salespeople, “What we have is a no-brainer.” Of course, we think that; however, if we have empathy, the CEO, the C-suite is working on a bunch of things probably, and there’s always risk in changing, and we have no idea what else they’re working on or what their priorities are. And who knows if they’re not working on something right now that they’re AB testing for this conversion funnel?

 

Josh Braun:

So it’s very rare that when you have a meeting with someone, they’re ready right now, and you can’t persuade and you can’t push and you can’t create it. If there’s literally no motivation, you just end up pissing people off and you ruin your chance. We can find and shine a light, but ultimately, that light bulb has to go on and we have to get really good at knowing if the light bulb is on or if it’s not on. Where we get into trouble is when we push and push and push and waste time, and then we’re following up and we’re chasing, and that puts us in a very subservient role where we’re not seen as the person that can take them to the promised land because we’re like the little child chasing, “Please, mommy, give me your attention.”

 

How to Identify and Influence Key Decision Makers Within an Organisation · [06:08] 

 

Will Barron:

How does this dynamic work then? Because it’s amazing what you’re saying. For someone like a CEO, who clearly isn’t sat in front of their MacBook doing AB testing on forms to sign up for insurance. It’s probably not even the person below them. It’s probably 15 people below them in a large organisation. And then you’ve got different dynamics here of perhaps that end user, the person who is doing the work, perhaps they don’t really care that much about the conversion rates because they’re probably paid on a salary versus as a programmer, as an engineer versus the CEO who just wants to see revenue generating activities or cost reduction activities or ways to wrap up the market or whatever it is.

 

Will Barron:

How do you engage where the CEO is in the red zone of pain, and then how does that trickle down to the person below him or her, who then goes, “Well, that’s red for the CEO but it’s yellow for me because we’ve got this other problem,” and then trickles down even further? How do you manage all of that and wrap your head around it?

 

Josh Braun:

Yeah. So let’s talk about that. So the red zone could be struggle, but it could also be desire. I don’t know if you could see this in the background, but we talk about desire. I went into the bike store the other day and my tyres were fine, but the guy showed me some new tyres that were faster and I’m like, “I want those.” So it’s also desire. We just sometimes want … You have a cool car on your desk … because sometimes we just want stuff too. We’re making five million and we want to go to seven million. So that struggle-o-meter is really struggle and also desire.

 

Josh Braun:

But you’re asking a great question. How do we know who the people are that essentially matter and are responsible for deciding if this is something that they want to pursue? So we’ll just go through an example. So when we’re in the room, again, the only purpose that I have in the room when I get there in that initial room is not to assume what I have is what they want and to start pitching and selling. So what I’m not going to do is ask a bazillion questions that I don’t even know why I’m asking. Half the time, discovery questions are weird. You ask 20 questions, but I don’t exactly know how they’re using that information. It’s almost like someone said, “Here’s the 20 questions.”

 

Will Barron:

Yeah.

 

Josh Braun:

I don’t exactly understand them. They’re not purposeful. And what I’m not going to do is start pitching. What I want to understand is, is there any motivation to be able to change based on the gap that I think I created? So one of the first questions I’ll ask when I get in the room is I’ll say, “What motivated you to want to invite us in today?” They might say, “Hey, you cold email this. You cold called us.” Yeah, but you get cold emails and cold calls from lots of people. “What was it that was going on in your organisation that changed, that caused you to want to meet with us today?”

 

“Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking they want to buy a car. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking they want to buy a mattress. And certainly, the CEO doesn’t wake up thinking, I want to be able to change my conversion funnel. So usually, there’s circumstances and events that are happening that lead them to this conversation. We want to find out, are they at the very beginning of that where they’re just starting to shop or are they at the tail end of that where they’re ready to make a decision right now.” – Josh Braun · [09:00] 

 

Josh Braun:

And here’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for the buyer’s journey. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking they want to buy a car. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking they want to buy a mattress. And certainly, the CEO doesn’t wake up thinking, I want to be able to change my conversion funnel. So usually, there’s circumstances and events that are happening that led them to this conversation. We want to find out, are they at the very beginning of that where they’re just starting to shop or are they at the tail end of that where they’re ready to make a decision right now because they’ve been trying things for seven months and haven’t been able to crack it and they think this is nirvana? So we have to find out how long they’ve been looking.

 

Josh Braun:

We could just ask them, “Is this something that you guys have been looking at for a while or is this something you’re just starting to look at now?” And based on what they said, we can see how far along in the journey they are. And if they’re at the tail end and we’re starting to hear things like, “We’ve been doing this for seven months. We’re losing tonnes of money. We haven’t been able to figure this out, and we saw this thing. We tried seven things. We tried nine things. We think this has the potential.” That’s going to be a very different conversation than if they’re like, “This just came on our radar. We got 50,000 things on our plate. It sounds interesting. We’re not sure.” That’s the very beginning of a journey. And where we get into trouble is where we treat the beginning of the journey as if it’s the end of the journey.

 

Josh Braun:

And so if we’re at the end of a journey, we can simply say, “Is this something you’re looking to do now?” And oftentimes, people don’t ask that question. Assuming you like what you see, before we even get into it, assuming that you like what you see, is this something that you’re looking to do now?

 

Will Barron:

Yeah, that’s a question I ask pretty much every time when I’m selling the advertising space on the podcast. It is, have you done this before and why … Because most of my leads are inbound that I’m replying to at this point. It’s why do you want to do it now if you haven’t done it in the past? And a lot of the time, it’s, “Well, podcast advertising is hot. It’s trending.” I’m like, “Well, that’s probably not the best reason. Can we narrow it down?” And then it turns into a consulting role. And very few people get off the phone and go, “Okay, maybe we should spend our money elsewhere because that isn’t a good use of our … This dude sold us away from himself.”

 

Will Barron:

But it’s happened a few times, especially with small organisations and startups that go, “Right. We’ve just been funded. We’ve got 10 grand a month to spend on whatever it is.” Well, they should probably be spending it on building an email list or something like that as opposed to advertising slightly more passively through a podcast. And the branding elements of that work the other way round. For a bigger organisation like the LinkedIns, the Microsofts, the Salesforces all sponsor the show, the Wistias is the Soapboxes. They just want that brand banged into people’s brains all the time. So it’s a different conversation.

 

Josh Explains How Salespeople Can Use Revealing Discovery Questions to Understand the Buyer’s Journey · [11:17] 

 

Will Barron:

But similarly, it’s a question I always ask of why now and how far down this process are you? The results go either way, I find. Tell me if you find it as binary of I’m doing this because it’s cool, it’s trendy, or I get the, “Well, we’ve got data and all this.” It never seems to be anywhere in the middle.

 

Josh Braun:

Yeah. It’s a great point. So oftentimes, what people tell us what they want isn’t really what they want, so we have to be really good as salespeople. So we want to be able to make more money. That’s not really what they want because the money is a means to an end. What are they going to do with the money? To be able to grow their business. That’s where the energy is. And I always say we have to listen to, I call it the oomph, the energy. Are they talking a lot? Are people piling in? Can you see it ratcheting up that there’s a lot of struggle that they’ve had over the last seven or eight months? That’s a very different conversation than if it’s at the beginning.

 

Josh Braun:

To your point, we have to be really good at knowing where they are in that scale by asking some really smart questions with finesse. We should be able to do this, and here’s the big takeaway. Well, we should be able to do this in about eight minutes. In about eight minutes, we should know one of two things. One, should we continue spending our time with this prospect because we in fact do think they’re in the red zone, because we asked the right questions? Or two, they’re not in the red zone, so we have to get out, and what we do is what the BBQGuys did. We put them in a track that makes them smarter about a topic that they’re interested in, and not in a newsletter way where it’s 50 pages but in an interesting way maybe where you’re teaching something or it’s actually entertaining and you’re learning. So not all drip marketing campaigns are the same. Most of them that I’ve seen are not great.

 

Josh Braun:

I advise that the rep himself or herself actually does these drip marketing campaigns. Literally turns on their camera and, hey, one of the questions I always get from podcast people like Will is this, and here is how I’m going to answer it. It’s two minutes and they make six or eight of those. They put it in a nurture track and drip it out, so that when the prospect does start to get into the red zone, you’re top of mind. So many leads are wasted when we don’t do that and we reach out after six months and follow up. And by that time, they’re searching and they found somebody else potentially.

 

When the C-Suite Takes a Meeting with you, Does That Mean They Are Ready to Buy? · [14:12] 

 

Will Barron:

At the C-suite level, is it more likely that they are in the red zone to even take a meeting with you? Is that something that we can assume here?

 

Josh Braun:

It’s a great question. I’ve had it both ways. So there’s a lot of risk to changing. We always talk about the benefits and the value and what they’re going to get out of it. But specifically for Geico, it’s an interesting story. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of moving parts to an auto quote funnel.

 

Josh Braun:

By way of example, the quotes change based on zip code, and the quotes are always changing. And there’s a database behind all that stuff that ultimately has to interface with the stuff that we were doing. And at the time, if there’s no API, which there wasn’t back then, that stuff is really complicated. So oftentimes, someone could want it but the technical complexities and the heavy lifting is just not worth it because IT is like, “Oh my, God. We just don’t have this in place.” So you don’t have visibility into that when you are the seller. So just having an idea isn’t enough. It’s the risk that we also have to mitigate against in sales like that to be able to cross the finish line.

 

The Stakeholders We Need to Have in the Room to Make the Buyer’s Journey as Seamless and as Efficient as Possible · [15:27] 

 

Will Barron:

So who do we then need to engineer to be within this room? Are there any obvious stakeholders that we need to be in there to make this meeting run seamlessly or do we take the other approach of just dealing with the heads of the departments and letting them do the work? How much responsibility should we take, especially when we’re dealing with the C-suite on this?

 

“Whenever you book a meeting with anyone, think about who else you think would benefit from being in this meeting? And then you can suggest, “Oftentimes, when we have these meetings with other large insurance companies, they invite the CTO for this reason. Would that make sense?” – Josh Braun · [15:51] 

 

Josh Braun:

Awesome question. And here’s something real tactical for everyone listening. Whenever you book a meeting with anyone, and this is what we did with the Geico account, is who else do you think would benefit from being in this meeting? And then you can suggest, “Oftentimes, when we have these meetings with other large insurance companies, they invite the CTO for this reason. Would that make sense?” And oftentimes, when you suggest that … because remember sales is about leadership. Nobody wants to be with someone that they don’t feel as the personal trainer that can get them the ripped abs. So we have to essentially lead and suggest. And you’re exactly right. We want those people in the room because we want to understand the technical complexities. We don’t know that from the outside. And it’s possible.

 

“I think salespeople work really hard. And I think if we sit back and we ask the right questions, the prospect will actually tell us how to sell them and why they want to buy and why they might not be able to buy.” – Josh Braun · [17:09] 

 

Josh Braun:

Here’s the thing. It’s possible that it’s just not worth it. By way of example, if it would cost them $2 million and take four years to get the tech working potentially, the ROI just wouldn’t be worth it. And that’s a perfectly reasonable outcome because again, it’s a hypothesis. And where we get into a lot of trouble when we go into these meetings is we think, “Oh my, God. They got a meeting with us. This is a done deal.” And we can’t bring that energy in. We have to remain calm and we have to be able to see what the risks are that we have to mitigate against and almost lean back. It’s almost like they’re selling us in a sense. We lean back and we don’t work so hard. I think salespeople work really hard. And I think if we don’t, if we sit back and we ask the right questions, the prospect will actually tell us how to sell them and why they want to buy and why they might not be able to buy.

 

Josh Braun:

And so with Geico, we actually ended up doing a smaller project because, it’s an interesting story, they loved us. They liked us as a company, liked the culture. They loved the ideas. But the actual technical complexities of what we pitched were so vast and big that both sides … on us too. We would have had to have absorbed substantial money to be able to gear up our engineering side. We both decided we wanted to do it, but the risks and the costs, once we started delving in, just weren’t worth it, and we were all aligned. We figured out another project to do while we’re on their homepage in some other way, to help in some other way that was a better fit, and we sold with integrity. It was awesome.

 

Will Barron:

So I want to get into the politics or the potential politics of this in a second.

 

Josh Braun:

Yeah.

 

How Salespeople Can Help Key Decision Makers with Different Priorities See Value in Seeing the Deal Through · [18:30] 

 

Will Barron:

But talk us through the meeting itself. So we’ve outlined we need to ask good discovery questions. We need to perhaps lean back a little bit and allow the buying team or the C-suite that we’re in front of to negotiate and go back and forth, especially if there’s a technical stakeholder and then there’s a revenue holding stakeholder. Everyone is going to be potentially battling for … because everyone has different priorities. There’s going to be potentially battles there. But how do you frame yourself up within that meeting, as in are you a mediator? Are you in control of it like a task master of it? How do you frame yourself up in the meeting? And then if there is a structure, what is the structure of a meeting with, say, seven people and four of them are C-suite?

 

Josh Braun:

Sure. So I love the position that sales is about leadership. So one of the examples that I always give is I recently interviewed three triathlon coaches because I’m doing a triathlon in November. And two of the coaches were asking me a bunch of questions and asking me what I wanted to do and how I wanted to train. But the third one was like, “Dude, you’re not a triathlete. I am. This is what you’re going to do. This is how you’re going to train, and this is how we’re going to get you across the finish line.” And of course, that’s the person that I hired.

 

Josh Braun:

And I think sales is the same way. When we come into a room, there’s what I call the flip that happens. At a certain point, you can almost see it where the prospect actually starts to look at you like, “Holy Christ. They know some things that we don’t know about this space.” As salespeople, we have a huge advantage. So Geico and all your customers are working in a silo. You’re working with lots of Geicos, and you can bring a perspective that they don’t know about, which is very appealing to people. When you come in and you’re like, “Hey, we’ve seen some things with your counterparts and what they’re doing and here’s our perspective on that,” that’s very appealing to people.

 

Josh Braun:

So from a mindset perspective, I’m coming in from a leadership role and I’m the guide. They get to choose if they want me as the guide. I can’t make them have me as the guide, but my role is I’m leading and I’m guiding. Just as if I was taking you on a trail and you’re on a vacation, I wouldn’t say, “Will, where do you want to go?” You want to veer off and get eaten by a bear. God forbid, because we wouldn’t want anything to happen to Will and this awesome podcast. But you’re leading them down a path.

 

Josh Braun:

With regards to the structure of the actual meeting, what I like to do first off is I like to find out where they are on the journey. So if they are, let’s assume they’re in the red zone for a second. And we can talk about different scenarios because it’s not the same, depending on where we are. Where we get in trouble is we’re like, there’s only one track depending on … regardless of where they are. It’s just not true because if they’re in the green zone and we’re trying to close, it’s not the case. So if we’re in the red zone and we’re using language to make us see that they are in fact ready to buy now, we can ask some questions.

 

Josh Braun:

So here’s the structure of it. First, I might say, “Where are you on your buying journey? You guys have been looking at this for a while, just starting.” They say, “You know what, Josh? We’re way at the end of this thing. It’s been six months, seven months, eight months. We’re ready to buy.” What do you need to see from us to make you comfortable? And I shut my mouth because, Will, your prospects are smart. If someone has been shopping for seven months and someone has been in this space for eight months and these guys have been working auto insurance for God knows how long, who are we to come in and assume some stuff? So what do you need to see from us, person that’s been thinking about this for a while? And they’re going to tell you. Again, as salespeople, we work really hard. “Well, we’ve got this question. We’ve got this question. We’ve got this question. We’ve got this question.”

 

Josh Braun:

Assuming that we could get, and this is the next part … These are all some great questions. These are a couple that I’m not sure about. We have to work through some of these. Assuming … Part three. So we find out where they’re on the struggle-o-meter. They’re in the red zone. Part number two is we ask, what do you need to see from us? Part number three is assuming that we could get you happy with all of these things, and assuming the money was right, is this something you’d want to move forward with this quarter? I’m saying this to 15 people in a room. But then I say, “And by the way, who am I looking at? Who gets to decide this? Is it you, you? Is it all of you? Is it none of you? Do I get to decide? Do you guys put this on your credit card? Is it American Express?”

 

“What we never want to do is leave a meeting without knowing one of two things. Do we have a buyer today, or if your sales cycle is this quarter, this quarter, literally or not? And so what we fail to do as salespeople oftentimes is ask the question, which is, do you want this now? So assuming that we can get you happy with all these things, is this something you’re looking to do right now?” – Josh Braun · [22:36] 

 

Josh Braun:

So that’s the question I ask. And we want an answer because what we never want to do is leave a meeting without knowing one of two things. Do we have a buyer today, or if your sales cycle is this quarter, this quarter, literally or not? And so what we fail to do as salespeople oftentimes is ask the question, which is, do you want this now? So assuming that we can get you happy with all these things, is this something you’re looking to do right now? It’s a great question. Or the old Zig Ziglar one from way back, I’m an old guy, but he used to ask a similar one, which is he’d say something like, this is a strange question, “But on a scale of one to 10, where are you in terms of your desired out by this week?” And if they said an eight, he’d be like, “What do I need to do to get you to an 11?” That to me seems a little bit more Zig Ziglar-ish if you can pull that off because he’s got that Southern draw, but it’s the same type of question I’m trying to get at.

 

Josh Braun:

And then what I’ll discover is what’s the decision-making process. So after that question I ask, who gets to decide or is this something you want to move forward, who’s responsible for this? What’s your decision-making process? How does it work? How many hoops do we have to jump through? And then what we’ll do is we’ll just map it out. Well, this guy, this guy, this person, this girl in procurement. This is how it all works. And so now we understand the process. We understand what it’s going to take. We knock down all those questions.

 

Josh Braun:

And then what we do is something else that’s real magic, which is we create, this is really good for enterprise sales, a mini project plan. And the mini project plan lays out all the steps that we learned based on what they told us, and we actually present that to them. And the last one being when it goes live. And before that, when the contract has to be signed? This is really key. The contract terms and concessions that we made during the negotiation are contingent on the signature date.

 

Josh Braun:

And so when we go through this, the project plan, everyone sees what has to be done and when, and everyone sees the contract date. Does it always happen? No, but it does accelerate it and make it more “urgent” to get you maybe prioritised in front of other contracts, but that’s the structure of the meeting at a high level.

 

The Key Difference Between Dealing with C-Suite Versus Middle Management in the Sales Cycle · [24:38] 

 

Will Barron:

So you may have done this. I think you did this overtly. I think you did this on purpose, but is this perhaps a difference between dealing with the C-suite, the enterprise sale versus dealing with a blow schmo middle management, who’s only got 50 grand to spend a month? You didn’t mention price there. You inadvertently said when do you want to get this done? Let’s get this done. Let’s get dates in the diary. Are we assuming at this level that if they’re in the red, they’ll find the budget? Budget isn’t an issue. We don’t need to be asking them, do you have budget for this project? Are we making the assumption that at this level, the CEO can move things around within different departments to make this happen?

 

Josh Braun:

Yes and no. Let me tell you why. I’m not of the opinion that just because you have a high ROI, they can find money. So for example, if I said to you, “I can make it two million bucks. It’s only going to cost you a million.” You’d be like, “I don’t have a million.” It’s possible that they don’t have enough money to be able to pay you what you want.

 

Josh Braun:

So one of the things that I do in this process is oftentimes they’ll ask, “Well, how much is this?” And if they don’t, what I’ll do as they’re in the red zone is I say, “Is it okay if we talk about money?” Sure. “This is going to require a $450,000 investment. How does that sound? Unless you have a Groupon, at which case it’s only 250.” I always do that at the end because again, in my first podcast, we use a lot of humour to diffuse sales pressure, but oftentimes that money will come up organically. If it doesn’t come up organically and they are in the red zone, before we actually start to button things up, hey, once they’ve seen what better looks like and they’re bought into the vision, once they understand what version two could be like, a better tomorrow. “Hey, is it okay if we talk about money?” Sure. “This project is going to cost between 450 and $500,000. Can you see yourself falling in that range? You guys have a Groupon.” And then we talk about it.

 

How to Prepare for the Cost and Budget Discussions · [26:40]

 

Will Barron:

Are you … How do you describe this? How do you know … And this goes back to, I guess, what we started this conversation with. Have you done all this prep of costs beforehand or are you willing to do this on the fly in the discussion and you’re weighing up balances and you’re trying to make it profitable in your own head as you go through the conversation itself?

 

“If I’ve got all the players in a room, I don’t want to go away without knowing if this is real, and it’s never real until we actually talk about the money. Like I want stuff all the time until I find out how much it costs.” – Josh Braun · [27:03] 

 

Josh Braun:

Yeah. Remember, we’re in business to make money this quarter. I got all the players in a room. I don’t want to go away without knowing if this is real, and it’s never real until we actually talk about the money. I want stuff all the time until I find out how much it costs, so we have to talk about the money. If they don’t bring it up, we bring it up. I say, “Do you guys want to know how much this costs? It’s not free, you know.” We’ll bring it up. And yeah, we do our homework and we give them a range. “There’s a lot of technical complexities we haven’t delved into. We have some caveats with IT we don’t know about. We don’t even know what this is going to cost and what’s going to be involved on both sides. But generally speaking, the investment is going to be between 600 and $800,000. Is that something you feel comfortable in that range with? Of course, we could always charge you more if you’d like.”

 

“Laughter is really key when we talk about pricing because it just diffuses things.” – Josh Braun · [28:00] 

 

Josh Braun:

So I’ll always do something funny every time I present pricing. I’ll use my Groupon line. I’ll use we can charge you more, or I’ll say we can put this on American Express, Visa, MasterCard right now. Who’s got a credit card? We can actually start right now. And then sometimes I’ll take out my phone. I put a little Stripe thing on it to zip it out? Usually it gets a laugh. And again, laughter is really key when we talk about pricing because it just diffuses things.

 

Josh Braun:

One of the things we might here, this is another great tip, Will. We might hear, “That’s interesting. We just need to get some references to check you guys out.” And the salesperson might be thinking, “Oh my, God. Once we give them references, we’re across the finish line.” And then they leave, they’ll get all these references and they won’t get the sales. So this is a different approach that I did, which is, “Hey, Jim/ Happy to give you some references.” Actually, you know what, Will? Let’s role play this. You be the CEO.

 

Will Barron:

Oh, great.

 

Josh Braun:

You tell me. Because you are. And you tell me, “Josh, this sounds great. We just need some references.”

 

Will Barron:

Josh, I love you. I love what you’re saying, mate. I just need a few references to show other people that you’re not completely full of shit because you’ve sold me on it, but I’d need to pass it down the food chain.

 

Josh Braun:

Awesome. Will, how many references would you like?

 

Will Barron:

Two.

 

Josh Braun:

Two? How about I give you four?

 

Will Barron:

Perfect.

 

Josh Braun:

Perfect. Okay. Let me ask you. Let’s say that we line up all four of these references next week at 2:00 and you like everything you hear, would you be ready to buy and move forward next week?

 

Will Barron:

Yes. I don’t see why not.

 

Josh Braun:

Okay. So that’s what I’m listening for. Is it up to you?

 

Will Barron:

It is up to me. I’m the head honcho here. You know this, Josh.

 

Josh Braun:

Okay. What often I hear, Will, is, “Well, I got to talk to my boss,” or, “Yeah, probably.” So when I hear words like I got to talk to my boss or yeah, probably, what we know is that that’s not really what the main objection is. Oftentimes, they’re smoke screens because people want to move away from salespeople that are trying to move them more fast than they want to go. So what’s great about that question is, and I use it on almost every objection, assuming that you love this, is this something you’d be ready to move forward with this week? And then we really get the real objection. Well, I got to talk to my boss. This isn’t a priority. I’m not sure. Probably. If they said probably, I’ll say, “Probably. It sounds like you’re not sure.” Well, it’s not really a priority for us and, God, do I want to know that now?

 

“What we don’t ever want to do, even if it’s a fortune five, is waste our time chasing.”- Josh Braun · [30:25] 

 

Josh Braun:

Because then I’ll say, “Hey, it seems like references are a little premature. It seems like we need to step back. It doesn’t seem like this is a priority right now. Can I put you in my nurture tracks in your book so that when or if it ever comes to be something you want to look at, you can think of us?” Sure. Because what we don’t ever want to do, even if it’s a fortune five, is waste our time chasing. I find out real quick, I’m in the red zone, are they giving me objections which are going to happen? Is the objection real? Josh, we’re ready. This is perfect. I just need to ask for three people. Absolutely. Let me line those up for you, or I flesh it out, it’s not really the issue.

 

Josh Braun:

So that’s another key thing with these enterprise sales, is we can get these false alerts that, oh my God, they’re ready. They’re just asking for references. When in fact, there’s a bunch of other things. They may say, “Well, not really. We’re still concerned about IT.” Oh, let’s do that then first before we start talking of references.

 

Tips for Formalizing a Sales Meeting When Everybody is Onboard and All You Need is to Push the Deal Towards a Close · [31:21] 

 

Will Barron:

Got it. Okay. Final thing on this, and I’m sure this is a 15-part episode in itself, but you get the verbal confirmation. Say it’s gone swimmingly well. It’s gone perfect, this conversation, this meeting. They’ve got stakeholders in the room. There’s a bit of back and forth between IT and human resources or whatever, and everything got resolved. What is the next step to amalgamate everything that’s been talked about? Do we put it in a document that gets sent out? How do we formalise this? And how do we essentially capture the fact that everyone has agreed on things? Because that is a powerful … People don’t want to go back on their word if it’s written down. How do we pull all this together to use perhaps where we don’t use it as a tool to build further value?

 

Josh Braun:

That’s a great question. So we never want to leave a meeting, and you guys have all heard this a bazillion times but I’m going to give you a new tactic for how to do this without another next meeting scheduled, to be able to keep the momentum, and the meeting scheduled can’t be something that you want. It has to be something that’s based on value that the prospect is going to get. So what I do is I do literally a one-page letter of intent that spells out the business objectives and what we’re going to help them achieve, and very briefly, how we’re going to do it. Literally, one-page letter of intent. The second page is the key page. The second page is the project plan, and it’s a little mini project plan that just lists out all the things that have to happen, who has to do them and by what date. 

 

Josh Braun:

So in that first meeting when we got the verbal, let’s say in that Geico meeting, what we would say is I think it would make sense to schedule our next meeting where I could lay out to you all the steps that have to happen for us to be able to realise this vision. Is that something you guys will be open to checking out and reviewing with us together? Sure. Schedule it for five days out. We go put it together. We get them on. While you guys skipped a step, skipped another step, we put all that stuff in, and then we have them sign off on it, and then we actually will use those dates as ways to be able to drive the sale forward. The key date being that this deal is contingent on the contract being executed by X date, which will prioritise your contract over other contracts because most contracts don’t have that in there, especially tied to a nice project plan.

 

How to Ask For the Sale Without Being too Pushy · [33:16]

 

Will Barron:

That’s something I’ve got to think about because I’m far too happy to send more than a proposal but less than what you’re describing here or a letter of intent, project plan, less than that so it’s more in the middle. And then I’m happy to go, okay, I’ll hear back from you in Q2. I’ve literally got a project at the moment, which is … I will definitely come in. I have multiple verbal … how would I say it? Because I know this company listens to the show. I’ve had senior people in the organisation go, “Will, it’s coming in. We just need to get our budget sorted for Q2 to enable it to happen.”

 

Will Barron:

But having a date where it all wraps around would be really useful because then I can say, “We’re two weeks away from this date. And between you and I and 20,000 and 30,000 people watching this, I’ll move that date a month forward. I don’t care, as long as I get the deal done. But in everyone’s minds, you set precedent. You’ve set a standard that people want to align to that if it’s in place. If it doesn’t exist, then there’s nothing to work around, is there?

 

Josh Braun:

Yeah. I’d have to look at your deal, Will, but I’m curious to know about this because generally speaking, and I don’t want to be harsh on anybody listening or you, generally speaking, when that happens, it’s the rep’s fault because they didn’t ask the tough questions. So in that case, I would never, ever, ever send any proposals. I get asked for proposals weekly, and I never send them because I always ask the question. This costs $50,000. If you got the proposal and you loved it, do you want to buy today or when you get it? And the answer usually is no. The answer usually is some of their stories. I don’t know if you asked that specific question and they said, “We specifically have $50,000 in the budget for this, and we’re going to sign this contract by this date.” And then we have someone that’s not of high enough character to be able to go through on their commitments. You have to decide if that’s someone that you want to partner up with.

 

Josh Braun:

But I don’t know if you asked the questions that most people don’t ask for, which is for the sale. Most people don’t ask for the sale, most of the time, and they think they did but they really didn’t.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. And you’re not being harsh. This is good learning point for the audience. So it’s about a hundred grand and they don’t have budget in Q1. They just don’t. There’s a couple of things that happen in the organisation. People move around and other stuff going on. And I’m fully aware of the projects that they’ve got lined up. So the project will only start in Q4. They have long net terms, so that’s why I want to get the deal done end of Q1 and Q2 so that I’m cashflow positive as we get started with everything.

 

Will Barron:

But yeah, you’re right. I’m banking on my relationship with that organisation and the people within it as opposed to having a date of we need to get this done by here. There’s perhaps ways to leverage that as a negotiation tool to get it done, get done before that. But yeah, I’m … because it could be very simple. One of the two, three people I’m dealing with could leave the organisation, be replaced, get promotion, whatever it is, and that just goes to shit then. So you’re spot on and you’re not being harsh with what you’re saying. Having a specific date would be particularly useful in this case.

 

Handling Price and Budget Objections · [36:18]

 

Josh Braun:

Well, we have to also know, Will, that price and budgets, there’s always four or five things going on there. One is I literally don’t have the money. Two is the pile of benefits is smaller than the pile of money. Three is, you know what? I have some of the money, but I don’t have all of the money. So another approach to that is, hey, tell me a little bit more about the budget. Is it that you don’t have all of it? You have some of it.

 

Will Barron:

That’s the case. I’ll interrupt you now. You could tell us the fourth point, but we could potentially have done a little bit Q1, the bulk in Q2 to lock it in for sure.

 

Josh Braun:

And that’s exactly it, because oftentimes I think what we do is we don’t get to the truth because, again, with objection handling, we’re getting back to this, what does that mean, no budget? Just to go through this. It means only five things. Either they literally don’t have any money, zero, which is … For instance, if we were talking and I said, “Hey, Will. I can get you $2 million. It’s a million.” You’re like, “Dude, even though I can get two million, I don’t have a million. It’s not happening.”

 

Josh Braun:

Number two, the benefits are smaller than the perceived pile of money. And we could flesh these out. Generally speaking, when they tell me they don’t have the money, it’s because they don’t think the benefits are worth it. Is that the case with you?

 

Josh Braun:

Number three, they’re in the green or yellow zone in the motivation metre.

 

Josh Braun:

Number four, there’s no perceived difference between what you’re selling and somebody else is selling in the eyes of the buyer. And if it is in fact the same thing and it’s for less money, you should absolutely tell them, “I want you to go with the other guys or girls.” And then four, we just talked about.

 

Josh Braun:

Five, which is they don’t have all the money at once. So is it one of those things? Is it that you don’t have all the money at once? And if they don’t have all the money at once, we can now go down a different path, which is, “Hey, would you be open to setting up some payment plan where we could take a little bit now, get started, and then do some work as we go along?” But we can’t have that conversation unless we know which five of those areas they’re in. And when we hear budget, we’re like this big thing, but we have to break that down and find out which of those five things is it.

 

Will Barron:

We’ll wrap up in a second. I’ll tell you who the organisation is. I’m sure they won’t mind me and you discussing it privately, but as I said, I know half the starting company listens to the show, so I’m conscious of what I’m saying here. I’ll screw myself before the deal is done.

 

Josh Braun:

We’re never having Josh on the show again. We lost my biggest sponsor. Forget that guy.

 

Why You Need to Help the Buyer Break Up the Payment Plan When They Don’t Have All the Money Right Now · [38:38]

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. It cost me a hundred grand in my cashflow [inaudible 00:38:45]. But the payment plan, is there another way to word payment plan? It’ll make sense when I tell you who the organisation is. For me to say, do you guys want to put a payment plan into place?

 

Josh Braun:

Break up the payments. Break up the payments. Break up the payments.

 

Will Barron:

Break up the payments. That seems like a better way of putting it. Because that is something that we probably could do and probably then could be engineered into the contract and the deliverables themselves, which make it all succinct as opposed to you can’t afford it, blah, blah, blah. There’s a payment plan. I guess if you break up the contract of we’ll deliver this on this date with this payment Q1, we’ll deliver this, this date Q3. That makes a lot more sense. Right?

 

Josh Braun:

And it starts with finding out where they are because sometimes no budget and no price means they’re in the green zone, and sometimes it means literally they have no money. I think this idea, and this is really common in the sales world, people will find the money if they have enough benefits. I call BS on that. I do. If someone were to walk up to me and say, “Josh, I could make you 600 grand next week if you give me a hundred,” I’m like, “Dude, I’m not giving you a hundred. I don’t have a hundred. Literally I don’t have a hundred liquid cash.” And I think that’s perfectly reasonable. So I think we have to be really good at finding out where they are in those buckets and be comfortable at walking away if someone doesn’t have the money, and not trying to persuade or convince them to find it because it’s possible that there just isn’t money there.

 

Josh’s Advise to His Younger Self on How to Become Better at Selling · [40:17] 

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. Good. Well, with that, and I appreciate that bit of coaching there, Josh, I’ve got one final question. I asked you this about a month ago when we recorded last, so I’m going to ask you again and we’ll see if anything has changed. If you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, what would be the one piece of advice you’d give him to help him become better at selling?

 

Josh Braun:

Have more empathy. And I’ll make one example to this. I was doing a coaching call yesterday with a person. We were role-playing a cold call, and I picked up and I said, “Hey, this is Josh.” He goes, “Hey, this is Mike with acne. I was hoping to speak with you for a second.” I go, “Dude, I can’t. I got to run to the hospital.” And he was like, “Okay, great. How about next Thursday at 3:00?” So this is what happens when you don’t have empathy. I actually messed this up, I’ll do this story in 30 seconds, actually two weeks ago. I’m still working on this.

 

Josh Braun:

I had a prospect that was in the red zone, ready to buy. We talked about the money. It was done. And there were two meetings that I had scheduled for the project plan that she had cancelled both. And I got upset. Who are they to cancel a meeting on me? My ego took over, and I wrote an email, which I still … This was three weeks. This is fresh. Guys, I’ve been doing this for 20 years. So it just happens, just a raw story. I wrote her an email, “Generally when people cancel meetings, it means that they’re not serious about moving forward. For that reason, I’m out,” essentially is what it said.

 

Josh Braun:

And then I went for a run, which I should’ve done before and I started to think to myself, “What do I know about what’s going on in their world? Maybe she had someone in the hospital. Maybe the CEO said something to her really quickly and had to pull her in a room.” Stuff happens. And so I’m still working on this, Will. I’m still working on this empathy and being more empathetic to the people that I’m calling. And I think we don’t have enough of that in sales.

 

Will Barron:

I’m the same. And the only, and humbly this is advice for not necessarily yourself, Josh, because you’re probably further down this track than what I am. I can be a bit of a dickhead at times and be jumping into things quicker than what I should do, but the only way I’ve ever solved this is just to, and it’s an age old piece of advice, you just sleep on it. Every time I want to send a nasty email to hound someone on the phone, whatever it is, I just go, I’ll just do it in the morning. I’ll forget about it for this evening. I’ll go for a run. I’ll go train jujitsu. I’ll have sudden bath, whatever I need to do to forget about it, sleep on it. The next morning, I go, “Oh yeah, yesterday, Will was an idiot. And it probably isn’t that important. And yeah, egos probably involved in it.” And that all gets dissolved over just that night’s sleep. So not I’m trying to give you advice.

 

Josh Braun:

No, Will. I want to thank honestly, dude. I know we’re still in the air, but thank you for that because some of these things just seem obvious and you know these things, but you don’t do these things, and I’m grateful for the reminder. I wish you would’ve talked to me before I sent the email, but okay, Will. Better late than never. I think that’s great timing.

 

Will Barron:

I have to do it with the freelancers and the team. If someone messes up, they know this. If they do something stupid and they don’t hear from me for 12 hours or whatever it is, they know I’m sleeping on it. I explain this to them. I have to do it with my girlfriend. I have to do it with everyone. Also, here is a new one for you. I have another rule. Everyone once a year could do something stupid and I give them a pass. If you do it twice, you’re gone. You’re out of here.

 

Josh Braun:

Wait. It doesn’t matter what the stupid thing was?

 

Will Barron:

I don’t want people to come and murder my family. That’s all [crosstalk 00:43:45].

 

Josh Braun:

Of course.

 

Will Barron:

But girlfriend goes nuts because of whatever is going on in her world, and I’ll just sit and take it once a year. I don’t know. Someone-

 

Josh Braun:

Wait a second. Once a year with a girlfriend if she goes nuts, but-

 

Will Barron:

Full psycho. And honestly, it’s very rare that it happens. She’s a legend on that front. It’s one of the reasons why I’m with her, and she’ll never hear this so I can say it, in that all the girls I’ve ever been with, she’s the least psychopath of them all. So yeah, make of that what you will.

 

Josh Braun:

I love that idea too.

 

Will Barron:

Very infrequently does she have a psychopath moment, and everybody has these weird moments because …

 

Josh Braun:

I think that’s great, Will. Because I think resentment lingers on you. It’s not healthy to have it. I think it’s awesome that you have that approach. It’s great. I love it.

 

Will Barron:

Everyone gets one free pass a year. Do it twice, I’ll call you out on it. Do it three times and we’re probably done if you’re not kind of …

 

Josh Braun:

Just so I know. Have I used any of mine yet or I’m at zero? I just want to know.

 

Will Barron:

Not yet. You’ve got another 11 months and 29 days to go yet before we get a reset on it.

 

Josh Braun:

Awesome.

 

Parting Thoughts · [44:53] 

 

Will Barron:

Good, man. Well, with that, Josh, we’ll have to wrap up, mate, because I feel like there’s a part three, which we could share and chat and now go deep into the rabbit hole of all this. But before we do wrap up, tell us a little bit where we can find out more about you, and then you’ve got an awesome tool, which you can share with the audience as well.

 

Josh Braun:

Yeah. So salesdna.co/badass is a Google Doc that contains 68 plays, individual things that you can do, tactics, scripts that you can use to start conversations with difficult to get in front of people that I’ve used and that top performers that I’ve worked with have used. You can go grab it. It’s lifetime updates, one fee, and I add new plays monthly, and it’s a Google Doc so it changes, salesdna.co/badass.

 

Will Barron:

And where can we find out more about you as well, Josh?

 

Josh Braun:

LinkedIn is always a great place. I’m always up for a chat on LinkedIn and also salesdna.co. There’s a scheduled time to chat with me button right on the homepage.

 

Will Barron:

Amazing stuff. Well, I’ll link to all that and everything else we talked about in this episode over at salesman.org. And with that, Josh, I appreciate the part two, mate. I always have a good time chatting with you and I appreciate your insights and thanks for joining us again on the show.

 

Josh Braun:

Will, dream come true being on the Salesman Podcast, number one podcast for me and all my fans. Love you, buddy. Love you.

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