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How To Sell To C-Suite Executives By Outbounding

On this episode of the Salesman Podcast, Will Barron and Skip Miller dissect proven strategies for contacting, communicating, and closing deals with C-suite executives.

You'll learn:

Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Skip Miller
President of M3 Learning

Resources:

Transcript:

Will Barron:

This episode of the show is brought to you from the Salesman.org HubSpot Studio. Coming up on today’s episode of the Salesman Podcast.

 

Skip Miller:

Homework is so important. Building that relationship before you even try to get to the C-suite. Everyone’s hunting for the small game, the small fish, because it looks good on numbers. You got to go hunt for the bigger… We call it small game, right? Birds and fish, and then go hunt for buffalo. You got to go hunt for those buffalo at the C-suite level. Everyone’s got their own style. So let’s not mitigate somebody’s style. Me, I like to use people and humour.

 

Will Barron:

Hello, sales nation. My name is Will Barron. I’m the host of the Salesman Podcast. The world’s most downloaded B2B sales show. On today’s episode, we have Skip Miller. He is the president over at M3 Learning, which you can find over at m3learning.com. And on today’s episode, Skip is going deep. He’s given us a deep dive into how to contact, communicating, get deals done with the C-suite and executives in your space. How to essentially hunt whales rather than faff around selling small deals to middle management. Everything we talk about is available in the show notes over at the salesman.org. And so with that said, let’s jump right into it. Skip, welcome to the Salesman Podcast.

 

Skip Miller:

Hey, it’s a great opportunity, Will. Thanks for having me.

 

Techniques to Master when Selling to C-Level Executives  · [01:16]

 

Will Barron:

[foreign language [00:01:16]. I’m glad to have you on. Okay. So we’re going to talk about selling to the C-level executive in this episode. We’re going to talk about doing that from an outbound perspective, and just I’ve got a couple of questions just to frame up the rest of the conversation here, Skip, before we get into hopefully some tactics and tips for the audience. But just to frame up maybe the effort that we have to put in, or for strategic, the effort that we do have to put in, how much more effort do we have to put in, how much more work do we have to do when we’re targeting an outbounding C-suite executive versus the usual middle management.

 

Skip Miller:

Yeah. Homework is so important. Building that relationship before you even try to get to the C-suite. So it’s really important. I break it up into three categories. The first category is if you’re just going to start, talk to 10. I want to get to 10 executives. Three or four minutes per is fine. Go on their website, go on their LinkedIn. Look at their industry real quick. Three or four minutes to just catch what school they went to, or what their latest LinkedIn post is, or whatever it may be. Just show a little bit.

 

Skip Miller:

The second would be that 15 to 30 minute segment. This is an important customer for me. All right. I want to do some really research. I’m going to actually look at their website, really do some history on their LinkedIn. See if they know people that I know. And let’s go look at that. I mean, you’re going to do your 15, 30 minutes of homework.

 

“The number one way to get to a C-suite is through referral.” · Skip Miller [03:04]

 

Skip Miller:

Then there’s always those one or two whales that, whoa, this is an opportunity. I’m calling friends up. I’m going, “Do you know John? I’d like to know what you think of John. Can I use you as a name? Can you introduce me?” And those types of things. Those are pretty rare. 80% typically are in that first category. The second and the third or fourth, the other 20%. But please, please remember the number one way to get to a C-suite is the referral. So if you know somebody they know. If you know a company they know. If you know somebody in the industry they know. That’s going to give you a leg up. So just doing that little homework. You can do that in a couple of minutes. So typically I like homework in those three segments.

 

The 80/20 Rule of Selling to C-Level Executives · [03:23]

 

Will Barron:

Love it. And just, again, for context here, if 80% is that smaller amount of research, and 20% is that larger amount of research, is it fair to say that if we get that 20% right, that’s probably 80% of the revenue that’s out there? Those whales are disproportionate to the rest of the people that we might be reaching out to.

 

Skip Miller:

Will, that’s a great question. And I’m a firm believer that there’s three segments. There’s the whales, there’s the mid-market, then there’s the SMB. Most of your activity is going to be in that smaller segment. Just a lot of time there. And you’ve got to spend time there because it’s a bigger market. It’s a huge market. But when you have a chance to really go after some of those bigger accounts, those whales, you’re going to have to do it right. Because they will end up being a big part of your forecast. Not as a numbers standpoint, you’re only going to have two or three, but they’ll be 60, 70% of your quarterly forecast because they’re the million pound, million euro, million-dollar deal.

 

Will Barron:

For sure. And now that mirrors very literally my career in medical device sales, then ruining sales into org as well. There’s always one, like the HubSpot deal that we’ve done recently, just smashes every other deal that we’ve done in the past few years. And so the effort that went into making that one happen clearly outweighed going the other route of trying to deal with 500 different smaller deals in that instance.

 

Skip Miller:

And Will, that’s the problem right now. Everyone in their pipeline has got slop from the fourth quarter of last year, and they’re trying to close out first quarter business. I’m right now asking questions like what’s your second quarter look like? That’s a management question because the salespeople still have two weeks to make the quarter, or whatever it may be. And by and large, when I ask them, “Okay, how many deals do you have for the second quarter?” And let’s just say they say 100. Okay. “Of the 100, how many are over 100,000?” That’s a good question.

 

“Everyone’s hunting for the small game, the small fish because it looks good on numbers. You got to go hunt for those buffalo at the C-suite level.” Skip Miller · [05:14]

 

Skip Miller:

Everyone’s hunting for the small game, the small fish, because it looks good on numbers. You got to go hunt for the bigger… We call it small game, right? Birds and fish, and then go home for buffalo. You got to go hunt for those buffalo at the C-suite level. Bubbling that up. I’m going to get in at the lower level, really excite them and bubble up, that just takes forever. So if you’re going to go for second quarter, get one or two or three pretty big activities. Let’s go hunt for the C-suite. It’s a faster deal. And they’re the ones with the problems right now.

 

Practical Outbounding Strategies for Selling to C-Level Executives · [05:45]

 

Will Barron:

And just one more thing to clarify here. And I think you might like this question. And before we get into some of the strategy here, and hopefully we’ll build a framework of how to go after individuals practically. When we are wanting to sell to the C-suite, is the most appropriate way to go about, it is the most effective way to go about it, is it inbound, creating content, social selling, stuff like this? Or is it to be direct and do outbound sales, more traditional outbound sales, to very key specific people within an account?

 

Skip Miller:

Okay. Inbound is typically, we think there’s two types of buyers, below the line and above the line. Below the line is the user buyer. They’re going to use your stuff. The above the line is the fiscal buyer. I’ve got a 40 million pound problem. And if you could make a dent in my problem, what do you cost? 20 grand? So there’s two different buyers. Inbound is typically below the line. So you’re going to have a great time talking to them. They want to talk about you. You want to talk about you. Oh, they just have a great time. Well, good luck working your way up to the ATL then. So it’s going to be different.

 

“80% of good salespeople outbound to the C-suite effectively.” – Skip Miller · [07:15] 

 

Skip Miller:

If you want to go after some of those big accounts, you’re going to have to outbound to the big accounts at the C-suite because they’re the ones with the problems. And sometimes they know their problems and their hunting. And sometimes it’s the unknown unknown. They didn’t know that they had this problem. And boy, you brought some new information to light. But without a doubt, you want your 80-20 rule again, 80% of good salespeople outbound to the C-suite effectively, rather than just talk about what they talked about to the below line buyer. We’ve got the latest thing. Stop.

 

How to Sell Above and Below the Line · [07:28]

 

Will Barron:

That makes total sense. So people got different language for this. Is there a way to describe those conversations? Could we say that the above the line, the C-suite executives, were having strategic conversations as opposed to product focused conversations.

 

Skip Miller:

Will, I’ve got five brothers and sisters. I got a big family. And before COVID, when we would get together for holidays and stuff, we’d have like 50, 60 people. A lot of people. There’d be so many people we’d have what we call a kids table and an adult table. And the kids loved it because they got to speak kid talk, and the adults loved it because they don’t have to speak kid talk. So what happens is we get to the below the line buyer, we speak kid talk. Oh, we have a good time. Oh, great. So then when we get a chance to go to the adult table, we do a summary of the kid table talk, which the adults don’t care about. So they are two different languages.

 

Skip Miller:

For the above the line buyer, I have this thing called initiatives, which we call trains in the train station. So here’s my initiatives. And they’re in the train station for a reason. I got a problem with them. And if you can address multiple trains, oh my gosh, you could affect train one, train three, and train four. Watch how fast this deal goes down. Your below the line buyer is only the conductor on track one. They don’t care about track two and three. So that’s the different type of conversations.

 

Skip Miller:

When I have a conversation with a VP of sales, I go, “As you look to 2021, what are your biggest challenges?” “Ramping. I got to get my salespeople to ramp faster.” “Okay. What else?” I don’t stop at one train. Because if I can affect multiple trains, that ATL buyer’s going to go, boom, this guy can make a dent in three or four of my initiatives. “Hey John, let’s get this thing done. Let’s go.” So you’re going to see faster sales cycle times.

 

How to Have Meaningful C-Suit Sales Conversations as a First-Time Salesperson · [09:06]

 

Will Barron:

If we’re going to break this up into steps, how do we get into a conversation where I’m sure, Skip, if you ring up a CRO, a CEO of an organisation you want to deal with, you’ve got such a resume, you’ve got such a kind of a portfolio of companies you’ve worked with, they’re probably going to pick up the phone. They’re probably going to have, as we’re describing it, an outlook conversation. You’ll probably be able to add a tonne of value just in that conversation themselves. Change the paradigms, and kind of open their eyes to different things. Now, that’s one thing for Skip to do this. It’s another thing for Sam who’s been selling for two years, who’s been targeted internally to grab some of these large accounts who doesn’t have the clout that Skip has. How does Sam get into one of these conversations so then he can start asking these intelligent questions?

 

Skip Miller:

I’m brilliant because every year I do SKO, I do sales kickoffs, and I’m the keynote speaker. And we just had an account that sells to the chief audit officer. I didn’t know there was one, right? So I typed in what keeps a chief auditor awake at night in 2021. All right. I’m shocked at how much information there was. So on my second or third slide in this SKO, I go, “Guys, here’s what the experts are saying.” There’s actually a chief auditor magazine out there, which I didn’t know. So I said, “Here’s the top five, six things that are…” You would thought I was speaking from the golden mouth. This was hysterical. They’re like, “Oh, where’d you get this.” “Guys, there’s tonnes of good stuff out there.”

 

Skip Miller:

Let’s say you target CIOs, right? The Gartner Group every year has two or three virtual conferences now that target CIOs with the hottest topics. Type on Gartner CIO Conference and find out what the topics are, because those are probably the topics the CIOs are looking at. So it’s not hard to find information that everybody’s really important with. Just do some homework on the title that you’re going for.

 

Improve your Customer Outreach Using Personalized Sales Touches · [11:04]

 

Will Barron:

So when we outreach to these individuals, are we going to them with a hypothesis what we think that they may have an issue with? And then we’re saying, “Hey, maybe we can solve this. Let’s jump on a call.” Is it simple? I know it’s not quite as simple as that. But is it as simple as that in theory?

 

Skip Miller:

Okay. Remember in outbounding, I wrote my latest book, Outbounding, because I talked to a salesperson, and I said, “How are you doing for the year?” “I got 80% done. I got it done.” “What are you going to do for the 20%?” “Well, I’m going to have to go get some leads.” “How’s that working for you?” “Well, I just sent a guy an email last week. I’m waiting to hear back.” “Really? That’s your whole strategy? Really?”

 

“Outbound needs a series of touches. We kind of recommend seven to 10 touches at a two-week window.” – Skip Miller · [11:43]

 

Skip Miller:

Outbound needs a series of touches. We kind of recommend seven to 10 touches at a two week window. So your first email doesn’t have to be the whole kitchen sink. “Hi, I’ve noticed you on LinkedIn. Here’s some questions we’re hearing from people like yourself. If these are interest, let’s chat.” Two days later, “Hey, I also talked to so-and-so who is in your industry, and they also had these questions. Maybe we should chat.” It should be a story within those seven to 10 touches. So it’s not I sent him two emails last week, and I’m waiting to hear back. Guys. I mean, you got to build your story up. And your touches are just so important that contribute to that story.

 

Your Sales Process, Personalization, and the Hero’s Journey · [12:30]

 

Will Barron:

Clearly there’s the hero’s journey, which most stories are based upon. Is there a specific story arc that you like to do throughout your kind of campaign, if we’re going to call it that, or cadence?

 

Skip Miller:

Yeah. And that’s going to be very specific for the individual. We interviewed probably 10 to 20 companies. I mean, Zoom, Snowflake, Tableau, I mean, tonnes of great companies when I wrote this book. And what I found was everyone’s got their own style. So let’s not mitigate somebody’s style. Me, I like to use people and humour. So I know so-and-so. I know so-and-so. John, I sent you two emails last week. You haven’t responded back. My mother gets back to me faster. I mean, I’ll use anything like that just to build up some rapport, but that’s my style.

 

Skip Miller:

Some other people are very informational, right? Here’s some information. I just read something and I thought this would be applicable to you. Boy, based upon your industry, I just read this one page, especially in paragraph three or four might be applicable to you. So everyone’s got their own style. Use your style. That’s your strength. Don’t try to be somebody you’re not.

 

Skip Miller:

But you definitely want a story arc that says, intro, here’s why we should chat, oh, I haven’t heard from you, I’ll put you on hold, I’ll be back again. Just be professional integrous. But the last thing you want to do is overindulge them with stuff. Here’s three articles I read. No one’s going to read them. So just take it one step at a time here. Let’s go on a series of first dates. It’s not first date, let’s get married. I mean, that’s kind of ridiculous.

 

How to Find your Own Selling Style · [14:03]

 

Will Barron:

Clearly you will do a lot of this unconsciously competently, right? As do I, which is a problem when I’m teaching. How do you teach one to be congruent with their own style or find their own style? Because I find a lot of sales people, and I get a lot of cold email, right? And I’m sure you get just as much as me on LinkedIn in that as well.

 

Skip Miller:

And most of them are terrible.

 

Will Barron:

And it’s terrible, right? And surely somebody looks at that email, that LinkedIn message, they know that they wouldn’t say that to us in person if they met up with us. That’s not how they speak. That’s not how they would communicate. So how do you teach someone to be congruent in the way that they’re communicating? Because I find that if a message is at least congruent, and I think there’s a real person at the other end of it, at least I’m going to evaluate whether I want to reply to it at that point.

 

“It’s all about attitude. You’ve got to have the right attitude when you’re outbounding.” – Skip Miller · [15:11]

 

Skip Miller:

I started writing Outbounding, and it was funny story. I was halfway through. And then I looked at how many words I actually contracted with the publisher to write. And it was like 35,000 words. I’m like, oh boy, I better get moving here. It’s like a lot of words. I probably was at 10,000 words, and I threw the book away. Because what I found out was it’s all about attitude. You’ve got to have the right attitude when you’re outbounding. And the attitude is not, boy, I have something of interest. I want them interested in me. That’s called a solution hunting for a problem. And that’s probably what makes everybody mad.

 

Skip Miller:

You’ve got really do your homework, and go, listen, I think I can help this company, right? I’ve just read where their sales are down, or their competitor’s kicking their butt, or they’ve got a churn problem, or something. And I don’t know if I can help or not. But I’m on a mission to get to that C-suite person and just ask a couple of questions to find out if we can be of help. That’s it. If I could sell something to them, great. I’m not worried about that. But your attitude has got to be, I’ve got a territory, and there’s people in my territory losing money because they don’t have specific answers. Let’s go find out if we can help or not. That’s got to be your attitude as opposed to, okay, I’ve got my pitch ready, and I’ve got my deck ready. I mean, that’s the wrong way. And most companies prepare their salespeople that way. Okay, here’s your deck. Here’s your first intro. Here’s your 30 second speech. Here’s whatever else. I mean, stop it.

 

“Be Inquisitive. The best outbounding salespeople with the C-suite have a natural curiosity.” – Skip Miller · [16:27]

 

Skip Miller:

Be yourself. Be inquisitive. We find the best outbounding salespeople with the C-suite have a natural curiosity. They’re just curious about what’s going on. An informational interview is unbelievably important. I’ll challenge your listeners, Will, to go back to some of their customers that they’ve just sold in the last quarter or two, to the executive suite and say, “Hi, Mary. Skip here again. Thanks for doing business with us. Hey, really quickly, just as an informational interview, could you help me? As you look at the rest of 2021, what are some of the biggest challenges and risks you see?” And you’ll get the ATL, the above the line vocabulary that way. That’s a great tactic, to build your vocabulary up so you can speak in your voice.

 

Key Difference Between ‘Above the Line’ and ‘Below the Line’ Selling · [17:10]

 

Will Barron:

How much of this, Skip, the effectiveness of what we’re doing here comes down to the fact that, I’m going to be as PC as what I can be here, there’s a lot of nobodies in middle management that’ll get on the call with anyone and just have a chat, and maybe they’ll buy. Versus at the C-suite, most of these individuals have some kind of talent or there’s something to them that’s gotten them to that position. So how much of what we have to do to sell differently above the line to these individuals comes down to the fact that we’re not dealing with morons anymore. We’re dealing with actual legit business people.

 

Skip Miller:

The below the line buyer wants to buy your stuff because they’re tired of working weekends. They’re tired of having 50,000 Zoom meetings. They’re tired of doing the same thing over and over again. While they talk to buddies and find out they’re doing things in half the time. It’s taken me 20 hours a week to do this. I know there’s technology out there. So once they get it, they’re really happy. They do everything. It’s all great stuff.

 

Skip Miller:

The above the line buyer’s looking at a different story. All right. I just launched this initiative, and I said we’re going to get 40 million pounds of revenue this year. We’re through first quarter. And we’re on a trajectory to get 25 million. I mean, I got a problem here. Okay. I got to hire some more people. I may need what you guys are selling. I have to assemble the pieces to go after my 40 million pound goal.

 

Skip Miller:

Now the below the line buyer doesn’t know that. The below the line buyer’s just doing their job, and they want a better way of doing their job. The above the line buyer always has these trains that they got to get out of the station. And they’re in the station because they got a problem. And that’s the total difference of your approach. It can’t be, “I was talking to your below the line buyer Bob, who’s really excited about our stuff. And I’d love to get your opinion about my stuff.” That never works.

 

Will Barron:

Okay. So we’ll carry on with this train analogy. Are there any unconventional questions we should ask? Are there any counter-intuitive questions we should ask? Let’s assume we’ve got the meeting now, after that cadence of sharing information, showing interest, and being congruent in the fact that we want to help this organisation. We’ve got that first meeting, Skip. Are there any questions, again, counter-intuitive or seemingly odd questions that we should ask in that meeting to get the executive to go, oh, this person knows what they’re talking about, and perhaps I should really open up to them, and this isn’t a question I’ve been asked 50,000 times in the past?

 

Skip Miller:

Yeah. Will, you’re not an engineer, are you?

 

Will Barron:

I’ve got a background in science. I’m a chemist.

 

The Right-Hand Rule: Marketing in Three Dimensions · [19:38]

 

Skip Miller:

Okay. Well, in engineering, they do this little thing I’m showing you here. And this is actually something called the right-hand rule. So when you’re designing on a CAD system or on a drawing board, this is two dimensional and this is three-dimensional. And that three dimension is time. The best thing you can do when you’re actually talking to an above the line person is time travel. See, most salespeople are two dimensional. Give me a problem. I fix it. I win. Yay. When you talk to an above the line person, you’ve got to time travel. If you’ve been listening to me on this podcast, I’ve been saying things like, as you look at the rest of the 2021, as you look to the next two quarters, what’s happened the last two quarters?

 

Skip Miller:

Will, if I go to a COO right now and said, “Right now, what’s your biggest problem?” He or she probably would say, “Getting you off this phone is my biggest problem.” Because every one of their meetings is about the last three, six months or about the next three, six months. So when you frame up your question to an ATL, “Hi, Mary, as you look at the rest of 2021, what are your biggest challenges,” is a totally different question then, “Hi, Mary, what are your biggest challenges right now?” We have been trained to be two dimensional. We call below the line. We say, “Hi, what’s your problem? Because if you have a problem, I can fix it. I’ll give you a proposal. And I win.” Which is very important to a BTL. So we’ve learned to be very two-dimensional.

 

Skip Miller:

So one of the best things, Will, I can tell your listeners is if you’re going to go to the ATL, to the C-suite, you got to time travel. Must time travel. It’s a totally different question. Because when you start framing things up, as you look at the next six months, well, that’s every meeting I talk about. I guess you’ve proven you can talk to me because we’re talking in the same language now. You go to a BTL and say, “As you look to the next six months, what’s your biggest challenge?” They’re going to go, “I don’t know. I’m never invited to those meetings.” So that’s probably one of the best tips we can tell your listeners is if you’re going to go to an ATL, you’ve got to time travel. You’ve got to be that three-dimensional.

 

Will Barron:

As you say in that, Skip, I visualise myself in that situation. That seller’s engaging me. And immediately I’m going to feel way less pressure that this person’s going to throw a pitch down my throat. I’m going to get hounded by follow-up after the meeting, when having a conversation about three, six months, or depending what the deal size is. We did deals in medical devices, we’re selling whole operating rooms, operating theatres. It took 12 months, 18 months for the deal to come through. When you’re having those kind of conversations, it almost becomes a bit more pleasurable, surely, for the buyer at that point because the pressure of I’ve to make a decision, I’m going to have to tell this dude, this woman, to get lost at the end of this meeting. I’m going to get hounded. I’m going to get followed. Surely all of that falls away. And does that give the opportunity then for the buyer to be a bit more open and less secretive about things?

 

Skip Miller:

Will, look at you. You run a business. As you look at your salespersonpodcast.org, right? Right now for you, what’s your biggest challenge in getting revenue? Stop. As you look at 2021, what are your biggest challenges of getting revenue? Two totally different questions. And that’s where the below-the-line buyer doesn’t know that. So we have to, when you outbound, time travel. “Mary, as you look at the rest of 2021, you probably have questions like…” is a much better email than, “Hi, you have questions like…” No, I don’t. No, I don’t.

 

Why Selling is a Numbers Game · [23:02]

 

Will Barron:

All right. So time, third dimension to this on top of everything that we’ve talked about so far, Skip. Is there anything else that we should be asking in these meetings? Is there anything that we have to ask? Is there anything that we have to clarify at the beginning of these conversations?

 

Skip Miller:

So I’m a huge fan, if you want to tattoo something on your forehead, or on your arm, it’s what’s the size of the problem? You got to get numbers. You got to get numbers. This is a key initiative. This is worth a tonne. Really? Like a tonne? Like a tonne? Really? Oh, it’s a top two. What does that mean? Even if you have to scale it on a scale of one to 10. “John, where are you at right now?” “A six.” “Where do you want to be?” “An eight.” You got to get some sort of gap.

 

Skip Miller:

So when I talked to a sales VP, this is a perfect time. It’s March. I’ll say, “How you looking for the year?” And they’re going, “Well, we probably got 80% in the bag.” I go, “Wow. What are you going to do about the other 20?” “Well, that’s the question, isn’t it? That’s why we’re talking to you.” Don’t look at me. I’m not going to solve your 20. I can help, but I’m not going to solve it. What are the things… So number one, always get numbers.

 

Skip Miller:

And number two, when you identify the gap, ask the C-suite person, ask the ATL, what they’re doing about that gap? Don’t start pitching, right? It’s sort of like, “So how are you looking for the year?” “80%?” “Oh, you got a gap. Let me tell you how we can help.” No. I didn’t ask for your help yet. “Geez, that’s a big delta. What do you plan on doing there?” Right? And that’s called hunting for trains. I’m hunting for their initiatives. But what’s the size of the problem?

 

Skip Miller:

I get invited to quite a few QBRs, quarterly business reviews, and the salesperson will come in. This is an important deal. It’s going to be 300,000 ARR, this, that, and the other. Yeah, I got it, right? “Well, let me ask you a question. What’s the size of the problem?” “Well, they got a problem in doing this.” “Well, how big is the problem?” Well, it’s big.” They wouldn’t be talking to us if it wasn’t big. “Let me ask you a question. When you’re proposing a 300,000 pound deal, euro deal, dollar deal, whatever, and your executive goes to the CFO, and says, ‘I got a big problem. I need 300,000.’ And the CFO’s going to go, “Sure.’ No. He’s going to say, ‘Well, how big is the problem?’ And your champion’s going to go, ‘Oh, it’s a big problem.’ No. They talk numbers all the time.”

 

“I find this funny, Will, that salespeople could tell me the size of the solution, but they can’t tell me the size of the problem.” – Skip Miller · [25:29] 

 

Skip Miller:

I find this funny, Will, that salespeople could tell me the size of the solution, but they can’t tell me the size of the problem. “It’s a $300,000 deal.” “Great.” “What’s the size of the problem?” “I don’t know. This is what they’ve asked for. And I’ve quoted them.” “I’m glad that you quoted them, but what’s the size of the problem? You know the solution. So you’ve pitched them a solution without knowing the size of the problem. Is that correct?” I find that hysterical.

 

Below the Line and Above the Line Value Propositions · [26:58]

 

Will Barron:

And this is surely a red flag as well, right? So if we come away from a meeting, and we have asked or tried to ask, and we don’t have those numbers, there’s a gap in trust there, or they’re using you for pricing to buy from someone else, right?

 

Skip Miller:

Exactly right. And budget is a below the line term. Because if I have a $20 million problem, 20 million euro problem, pound, whatever it may be, I’m going to give Bob, my guy, a budget of 10 grand to go to help me fix my problem. Well, if this solution’s 15 grand, oh, that’s out of budget. But if it can help make a dent in my 20 million problem, I’ll find the money. So when I hear, well, their budget is, I know you’re talking to the wrong person. You’ve got to win both value stakes. And way too often, we just know our value proposition, but we don’t know the below the line and the above the line value proposition. And they’re both important.

 

Skip Miller:

I’ll give you a quick story. We used to do a kickoff for a company every year. And I used to be at their kickoff all the time. And they used to bring up a below the line buyer. And the below the line buyer would sit there and tell a story about how they use their stuff, their software. And they cry. They cry every time. The last one I went to, he was a guy that worked for a company, lived in Seattle, but they have a big plant in Tennessee here in the United States. And they had a big problem. And he was going to help solve it.

 

Skip Miller:

So he gets on the private jet, right? The corporate jet. He goes, “I’d never been on a corporate jet before.” And as they’re flying to Tennessee, he solves the problem. And he gets there, and they solved the problem. And he goes, this is great. He was able to catch a flight back out of Friday to see his son’s first little league baseball game on a Saturday, which he was going to miss. He cries. The whole audience, they cry. It’s hysterical. The below the line buyer, the user buyer’s value prop is important, but it’s different than the above the line. So when you’re outbounding, don’t take that same template and messaging for the BTL to the ATL. It’s different.

 

Signs You’re Doing Sales the Wrong Way · [27:53]

 

Will Barron:

This is going to seem like a daft question, but this’ll be valuable for anyone who’s perhaps newer to sales. How do we know, other than we get no response to anything, how do we know if we’re doing this wrong? How do we know if we’re not quite hitting the mark of some of this?

 

Skip Miller:

See, that’s the great thing about doing cadences and sequencing, right? So at the end, you can do a breakup email. You can do an ABC email, you can do something. I find it funny that the normal judge here is no more than 120 words per email, but people write 300 or 400 words. No one’s reading them. So at the end where it’s saying, “Listen, I don’t want to bug you. Just tell me, please hit unsubscribe. Please tell me. If I could do something on a mobile device. Sure. Send, bye.” That’s what you shoot for.

 

Skip Miller:

So near the end of your cadence, if you’re not getting anything, if you’re not doing it right, just quickly ask, “Could you please either send me ABC so I know not to bug you anymore.” Hey, send, boom, done. I mean, that’s going to be very helpful. But make sure you take your buyer’s perspective in mind at the end there. And stop writing these novels, stop writing these whole big things. If you’re not doing it right, you won’t get a response. And if you’re using good CRM tools, you’ll know open rates, you’ll know hit rates, and stuff and so on. The best in class organisations that we know outbounding are getting somewhere in the area of 50, 60% open rates, and then 20, 30% of response rates. So I’ll go into a company, and they’ve gotten a 3% response rate, like, wow. You’re doing something wrong here. You’re probably pitching, aren’t you? Yeah.

 

Will Barron:

Yeah. And that’s our experience as well. That 1 to 3%. And people seem to be happy with that. I think the issue perhaps culturally in sales in our industry, Skip, is that people are happy with that 1 to 3%. And they go, we just need to send more emails as opposed to getting to 20% would be an incredible achievement for most organisations. It could be transformative for organisations.

 

“We’re so busy numbers, we’re not focused on quality because we don’t know what that means.” – Skip Miller · [29:54] 

 

Skip Miller:

Numbers are easy. Quality’s hard, right? Will, answer me this. I’m a sales VP. I just put together my forecast for second quarter. And there’s 100 deals. And I’ve got 2X, 3X funnel coverage. So if I just get 50 of those 100, I’ll make my number. Well, wait a minute. You’re wasting 50% of your organization’s effort. I mean, I’m missing the point. Why wouldn’t you disqualify those deals early and try to get 80 90% forecast accuracy? Nope. We live in a world where, hey, I have to have 3X coverage. That means two of every three deals you’re working on aren’t going to come in. Isn’t that a lot of wasted effort? Oh yeah. But as long as I make the numbers. We’re so busy numbers. We’re not focused on quality because we don’t know what that means. So people better do some more homework on that.

 

Will Barron:

And it’s short-term thinking in that you might burn those individuals that you might need to then prospect the next year with spam if you’re going down that route, and a low quality messaging that they might not want to deal with your organisation from having a bad experience. As you’re trying to spam more people upfront, as opposed to focusing on that quality. I think that’s really important. I appreciate that, Skip.

 

How to Improve Your Sales Game · [31:01]

 

Will Barron:

I’ve got one final thing. I’ve got one final question I ask everyone that comes on the show. I’ve got one final question to ask you before that. I feel this. I don’t know this for a fact. But I feel like dealing with the executive, dealing with the C-suite, you mentioned earlier on that we can do customer interviews and we can gather insights from them. We can understand that language. We can communicate more effectively using that language with potential C-suite buyers in the future.

 

Will Barron:

But is there anything that we can do, other than listening to podcasts like this and working with yourself and doing training, is there anything else we can do to improve our business acumen, or our ability to speak to a CFO, for example? Is there anything specific that we should be doing as a salespeople who are going after these larger deals so that when we walk into the room, perhaps you feel less uncomfortable and we feel that we actually belong there?

 

Skip Miller:

It’s a great question, Will. We are big advocates of something called customer chair. So if you’re targeting CIOs, if you’re targeting COOs, you got to do some homework on them. CIO Magazine, CRO Magazine, right? Really be in the customer’s chair. If I was a CSO right now, looking at my business, what would be my issues and risks? Call up some CSOs that you know, and say, “I’m not trying to sell you anything. I’d love your help.” C-suite loves helping people. So just I’d love your help. You got to develop that vocabulary. You are not going to get that from your company. It’s rare. We’ve seen it, but it’s rare.

 

“You want to learn French, go to a French immersion class. Go to France and learn. Same thing. You want to learn to speak like an ATL, go start hanging out with your ATLs.” – Skip Miller · [33:17]

 

Skip Miller:

The best thing you can do is contact your current customers, contact people on LinkedIn, do an informational interview, get on Survey Monkey and do some surveys. I mean, whatever it is part of you have got to be a student of the game. You’ve got to know your customers. I was a former VP of sales so I probably could sell to them pretty well because I was one. So your salespeople have got to be as well. Be in that customer chair. Don’t sit there and think I got a pitch. If I was a CSO, why would I take my call? And stop with the features and benefits. And what are their trains? So that’s the best advice I can tell somebody is do as many informational interviews as you can go. Go hang out. You want to learn French, go to a French immersion class. Go to France and learn. Same thing. You want to learn to speak like an ATL, go start hanging out with your ATLs.

 

Will Barron:

You’ve just given me, Skip, this insane, right? I’ve never thought about this before, and you just put it right there in front of me. So we have sponsorships on the podcast. We have an individuals who buy our training programme. And then we have a handful of larger organisations who buy 100 seats, 200 seats for the training programme. And clearly they are our big deals. They’re our whales. When one those comes in, we’re all high five, and kind of doing whatever we can to celebrate them.

 

Will Barron:

Well, we do a show called the Sales Leadership Show. There’s no reason at the end of that show, I couldn’t do a tiny 15 second ad that says, “Hey, I would love to know what your issues are right now, sales leaders. Please fill out this… Go to salesman.org/form,” or whatever, and just get them to give us insights. And that would be a useful piece of content to share to our audience and other audiences in the future. There’s multiple levels of value to it. But then we could just use that data from our own audience who are likely to buy from us in the first place to then make these outbound calls. That’s-

 

Skip Miller:

It’s not hard.

 

Will Barron:

Wow. That is so practical. So I’m going to challenge myself to get this implemented in the next kind of few weeks. I’ll report back to you, Skip, and see how it goes.

 

Skip Miller:

Please do.

 

Will Barron:

But that is, and I guess, I mean it’s practical for the audience, your marketing team probably have access to some of these individuals as well. We want to do it proactively ourselves. But from an organisation perspective, depending on the size of your company and the size of the marketing department and that side of things, they might be able to throw some of these insights at us as well like I’m going to do internally with this. That’s awesome.

 

Skip Miller:

Will, every other month, we’re working with a market research firm to go after CSOs, CROs, I mean, sales leaders. And we do a 14 question Survey Monkey. What’s your quarter look like? What’s new? What’s different? Stuff and so on. And then we do a free 30 minute review with people who answered it, right? We typically get a 100 plus response. That helps me really understand. I mean, I was a CSO, but that was years ago. I mean, things are different. So that helps me really understand what their current problems are. And we get nothing for it. They get the data. I mean, I’m helping them out. I’m not looking for free sales. I mean, there’s no pitch. I’m learning the new CSO CRO vocabulary every time we run one of these surveys. Your salespeople could do the same thing.

 

Skip’s Advice to Younger Self on Better Selling [35:40]

 

Will Barron:

Love it. Love it. Well, that Skip, I’ve got one final question I ask everyone that comes on the show. And that is, if you could go back in time and speak to your younger self, what would be one piece of advice you’d give him to help him become better at selling?

 

Skip Miller:

What’s the size of the problem? I mean, without a doubt. I mean, I was so busy pitching. I could remember I was selling a million dollar deal to a company. And we had a meeting with the VP, the senior VP of this big company. And I had 100 slides. I had a 100 slides in my deck. And I had screenshots. Oh, I had so much good stuff. This guy’s office was bigger than my house. I mean, it was huge. And all I did was go through my pitch, and then go, “What do you think? Huh?” What I should have done was just sat there and said, “Before I even get into my pitch…” And we sell big sized deals. I haven’t done a pitch since 2016. I don’t even have a pitch deck. Because I walk in going, “What’s the size of the problem.” And then, “What’s the size of the problems?” Because I’m hunting for multiple trains. So guys, what’s the one piece of advice? What’s the size of the problem?

 

Will Barron:

Love it. Well with that, tell us more about the book, and where we can find out more about yourself as well, Skip.

 

Skip Miller:

Yeah. The latest book is called Outbounding. Nice, pretty cover. Nice kind of thing there, right? The whole bit. Amazon is probably the best spot for it. If you have to do a better job outbounding, inbound lead handling, as well as go outbounding, there’s tonnes of tools, tonnes of tactics. There’s templates in there. I’m a very tactical person. So there’s strategy about the cadences and the sequencing. But there’s really some cool tactics in there as well. And on my website, m3learning.com, there’s different ways that you can get some information like this. On my website, m3learning.com, on the video section, I put together a series of five, three or four minute videos that kind of outline some of the stuff in the book. And it’s free. We just tap on, watch the five videos. They’re free. So happy to help.

 

Will Barron:

Amazing stuff. We’re adding to all that in the show notes of this episode over at salesmen.org. And with that, Skip, genuinely, mate, I really enjoyed our conversation. We’d love to have you back on in the future. And I want to thank you for joining us on the Salesman Podcast.

 

Skip Miller:

Oh, it’s been fun. Thank you, Will.

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