“If you’re not curious, you’re not going to be a good sales rep.” That’s the well-considered opinion of our Market Dominance Guys’ guest, Elena Hesse, Vice President of Operations of Thomson Reuters’ tax and accounting professionals. As a naturally curious person herself, Elena has observed that “You can’t be speaking more than you’re listening” if you’re going to learn what you need to know about your prospects and their businesses. You have to ask those insight-seeking questions and then truly pay attention to their answers in order to discover whether your product or service is a good fit for their needs. Our two podcast hosts, Corey Frank and Chris Beall, totally agree with Elena that the best way to establish a good relationship with your sales prospect is with an inquiring mind — not a sales pitch. Curious about what else these three have to say? Listen to today’s Market Dominance Guys’ episode, “Do You Have an Inquiring Mind?”
About Our Guest
Elena T. Hesse, Vice President, Operations – Tax & Accounting Professionals at Thomson Reuters, has been with this firm for more than 13 years. Elena is also a thought leader for #GirlsClub, leading the book club discussions to support #GirlsClub and its continued work in changing the face of sales leadership by empowering more women to earn roles in management.
Full episode transcript below:
Corey Frank (01:17):
And we are here again, Chris, the Market Dominance Guys podcast is on the air. Welcome to our fabulous guest that we have in the seat today, Elena Hesse who's the Vice President of Operations over at Thomson Reuters. The behemoth that is, the worldwide force that is Thomson Reuters, and Elena hails from somewhere on the hand in the... Not the upper Michigan, but somewhere over there.
Elena Hesse (01:42):
Right there. [crosstalk 00:01:42] That's right.
Corey Frank (01:43):
Absolutely. Well, pleased to have you as always, my name is Corey Frank and we have the duke of dials, the profit of profit. We have the CEO of ConnectAndSell, my pal, Chris Beall. So Chris, welcome once again to the Market Dominance Guys, another great reporting with an incredible guest here that we've lined up for today.
Chris Beall (02:00):
The guest who has the best quote I have heard in my entire business career, so...
Elena Hesse (02:09):
What is that, Chris?
Chris Beall (02:09):
And you know, I've heard a lot of stuff and I said a lot of stuff and I don't forget very many things.
Corey Frank (02:13):
Okay. All right. Pen in hand. What's the quote?
Chris Beall (02:15):
Pen in hand. Well, we'll tell you the quote later, but hey, we missed you on the episode with James Townsend. I was going solo, but some people say it's acceptable, but now we're in the real deal. So, Elena, this is just beyond thrilling to be here with you. This is-
Elena Hesse (02:31):
[crosstalk 00:02:31] Your expectations are kind of low.
Corey Frank (02:35):
No, no, no, no, not at all. Thomson Reuters again is just a beat-in industry. It's been there for a while. Looks like you've had quite a stellar career over there, but I have to ask what kind of rundown gin joint did you stumble into to meet a guy like Chris Beall, for him to lasso you as a guest on the Market Dominance Guys?
Elena Hesse (02:54):
Well, I wish I had a fancy story. I will say that I was walking the aisles of our sales team when Chris was in the office to get us started on ConnectAndSell and got introduced to him there. We just started chatting up, which I love people and Chris is easy to love because he's got a lot of stories to tell.
Elena Hesse (03:13):
I was fascinated with ConnectAndSell and just the whole concept. So one of my good things, bad things, I don't know, I'm super curious and probably asked a million questions is probably my MO is I always like to know how things work. And he explained a lot of that to me, so that's how it all began. We need a gin joint, Chris to meet up.
Chris Beall (03:37):
Well, here's my version of the story. Who is the person running the show that day for us? April, right?
Elena Hesse (03:42):
Chris Beall (03:43):
Elena Hesse (03:43):
Chris Beall (03:44):
So we're in the hands of April, who's just incredible, wonderfully organized. This is one of the cleanest test drives and we do these test drives, right? The full production, full-day, crazy things happen in them. In fact, the biggest one we ever did was actually a Thomson Reuters down in Texas, the day after Christmas, once we did 108 people in a test drive.
Elena Hesse (04:05):
Chris Beall (04:05):
And it was just fly on Christmas day and go down there and have... And it was more fun than is right to have. But this one, here we are, I hide in the conference room because I don't want to disturb the action on the floor. So my people are doing that, I only had one people at that at moment. And so I'm hanging out in the conference room and I'm just doing things, making calls and sending emails and doing whatever and April walks in and says, "Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey," I go, "What?"
Chris Beall (04:29):
She said, "You got to meet Elena. She's the boss! She's the budget holder." I said, "Ah, budget holder. Got it." So I go walk out on the floor and you got to picture this. There are reps on the right or left, kind of depends on how you see in Zoom... And both sides, right, and there's an aisle straight down the middle. So she's walking to me, I'm walking toward her and it's loud. It's like your floor. It's like Branch49. It's loud.
Chris Beall (04:56):
And I'm looking at the numbers and there are 26 meetings that have been set in one hour and 55 minutes. So stuff is happening. So I walk up to Elena and we get about 12 feet apart. And I say, "So Elena, what are your thoughts? And she says, and this is the best quote in the history of business, from my experience, she says, and I have this word for word. I did not forget a word. "Chris, I have no thoughts. I have tears of joy in my eyes. You have turned my silent library into a sales floor."
Corey Frank (05:34):
That is the famous Elena. Okay. You've mentioned that quote several times over the years. Now, I can actually put a name and a face with that quote. Yes. The library, the famous library quote. Yes.
Chris Beall (05:47):
Yes, and I cried.
Chris Beall (05:51):
And I do again... It really... Because we're on this, as you know, this market dominance mission, right? And we're always just doing these test drives, hoping to resonate with a team and a leader that really want to dominate and do it right. I don't mean dominate in a mean way. I mean, what I mean is trust-based, high-velocity, trust-based market dominance. And it was like, holy moly, what she just said was a better way of stating our mission and what we understood we were doing than we had ever said. And that's... We've been at this for years. It's not like we just started, this isn't easy stuff. So I still... Elena I hold that quote in my heart.
Elena Hesse (06:37):
Well, you're very sweet. I appreciate it. I wish I could have told you what I said.
Chris Beall (06:42):
That's my job to remember.
Elena Hesse (06:45):
But unfortunately, I just say a lot of things.
Chris Beall (06:48):
But it's so poetic and it's such a thing. It's like you turned my... It was yours. I loved the proprietary nature of it. You turned my silent library into a sales floor. And I [crosstalk 00:07:03]-
Elena Hesse (07:02):
Well, I mean at the end of the day, right, if we're not talking, if we're not communicating, we're not selling. I will say this, that may be controversial, I have no idea. Right now what we're seeing all over the industry, including Thomson Reuters, and there's positive intent here and there are good things here, but it's the move to digital and trying to get as many eyeballs as possible out on the websites and draw them in and digitally satisfy a buyer or a prospect's needs.
Elena Hesse (07:33):
My personal opinion is that's great, but at the end of the day, I don't think I'm any different than most of the buyers and prospects. I want to talk to a person when I want to figure out the nuances of what's going on and that matters. In a world that's going heavy digital, I want us to have really quality conversations and if people are responding to the tool sets that you have, certainly that gets them in the door. Then I think sales reps, really good ones, get it done. So thank you, because I know we still use... That was a few years ago and ConnectAndSell is still being used today, so that's a big testament to you guys.
Corey Frank (08:15):
Chris Beall (08:16):
But you went through a lot of changes. You guys have [reorged 00:08:18] a lot of ways. There has been a lot that has gone on. Robert Beaty once said to me when he was taking me to the airport somewhere in San Diego. And he said, "Do you realize our COO's office has a whiteboard?" We're doing this big reorg and the only words on the whiteboard are "intelligent cross-sell using ConnectAndSell". And he said those words have sat there for months and months and months.
Chris Beall (08:40):
Because to me, what was so exciting about your organization, in particular, was it was the classic cross-sell opportunity because you're coming in with my pay, and here's something that could be sold a lot of different ways. You could go sell it direct, you could do all manner of things, but you also have this big tax and accounting organization and the idea of channelizing through those customers and doing that as an upsell... And it's a very modern upsell because ultimately it comes down to the usage.
Chris Beall (09:15):
It's not just here's a transaction, now we got your money. Right?
Corey Frank (09:18):
Chris Beall (09:19):
It's very, very modern. It's like what my fiance Helen does. She runs customer success for those Microsoft products that you think are Microsoft products, right? And including the power apps and stuff like that. Ultimately, customer success is all about helping folks succeed and the economics come through the usage. And this cross-sell play, post-MNA, nobody cross-sells.
Chris Beall (09:42):
They say they're going to, it's in the docs, right? It's like, why did we buy this company? Why did we merge? Wow, we're going to do this cross-sell. And I was hard over on that at Thomson Reuters, because I saw this company that had done a divestiture and after a divestiture you always have, I'll call them... There are organizational stresses that occur after a divestiture and you can never get rid of the overhead as fast as you got rid of the revenue. That's the main [crosstalk 00:10:07].
Elena Hesse (10:07):
Chris Beall (10:09):
Right? So you loosed a wolf in your house. So then it's like, "Oh, do I have to feed you?" This is interesting. And so I thought, "Wow, this is the best I've ever seen." Because it's also a really, really cleanly run company to promote the idea of cross-sell without cross-training.
Chris Beall (10:26):
Where you disaggregate the first conversation from the expertise and then put them back together in order to get the customer to be able to trust and move forward. And so it's still my number one example of all time of modern, conversation-enabled... Cross-sell still goes on every day I look every day at the numbers and listen to conversations and it's my entertainment. As I said, there's no work to be done. I'm a CEO, right. It's like, what do you do?
Elena Hesse (10:52):
Yeah, for sure.
Chris Beall (10:53):
We have a delightful relationship. It took five years to create, I don't know if you ever heard the story Elena of how it went down, but I was at a conference and every year I would ask the executive retreat, AA-ISP, and every year I'd ask Rob, I'd go by him on the way to something at the end of the conference and say, "Can you make your next year's number without ConnectAndSell?" And every year he would say yes. And then in 2017, I think it was... Or '18. I said, can you make... I think it was '17. I said, "Can you make 2018 without ConnectAndSell?" I'm on my way to the dessert bar. And he says, "Nope." And I said, "Okay, test drive next Tuesday." And he said, "Got it."
Elena Hesse (11:31):
Chris Beall (11:32):
And it took five years.
Elena Hesse (11:34):
Yeah. Yeah. It's always funny when people ask how long is the sales cycle? Like it all depends on any product, on anything it's so hard to do that.
Corey Frank (11:44):
Well, the sales cycle is, to your point, Elena, the sales cycle is digital. It may take a little bit longer than conversations... You had just said a few minutes ago, right, that this trend in the digital world away from conversation, certainly, right. Chris and I have talked a lot about that over the years. And we still see that. I mean, there are great tools out there, the outreaches of the world that have nurtured. But Chris, you were on a podcast just recently and somebody aired this infographic from the residue of your brain and do you want to talk about this because Elena, I don't know if you've heard Chris' dissertation on the math of why conversations matter more so than just digital.
Elena Hesse (12:27):
No, I have not. Is there a summary you can share with me?
Chris Beall (12:31):
Well, this is... The summary is pretty simple and it's what you said as a buyer, you need to talk to a human being to get through the nuances and I'll make a claim. You also need to talk to them to de-risk the situation. That is if you were to go do the research all by yourself, you're taking the risk that you're not an expert and somebody else is, right. The seller is always the expert. You're always the generalist as the buyer. There's career risk, right? You're a very, very... You're a deeply embedded player at Thomson Reuters, but even you, if you screwed up and bought the wrong thing and it hurt the company, it would hurt your career.
Elena Hesse (13:09):
Chris Beall (13:09):
Elena Hesse (13:10):
And 1 So you're collecting that information to offer up to a final decision-maker. You're right on the career more so... If I'm an owner and I'm doing that to myself, well then I'm doing that to myself. But many people are serving that up to their bosses, right. To make a recommendation. And that is a reflection. And really right before this conversation, I was in need of a chat with a colleague just as an example.
Elena Hesse (13:43):
There were emails that went back and forth that I wanted to have a conversation about because I knew that if we continued the emails or the teams chat, that one, we'd be doing it forever. And two, you lose really the background intangibles as to what we needed to discuss that you can't always capture in a word, especially without facial expression and body language. I think that's super important still to this day. But I will say this, there's a place for digital, absolutely. I think we were in a world that was all sales rep, personal touch, if I didn't dial you didn't know about me. And now we're trying to get to this digital play where you can buy without talking to someone. Neither one of those is the answer.
Elena Hesse (15:30):
It's here. It's here somewhere here in the science and the art of where that pendulum that needs to swing is something we are still figuring out. And the good news is we're trying to figure it out, right?
Chris Beall (15:43):
I agree deeply.
Elena Hesse (15:44):
[crosstalk 00:15:44] be perfect.
Chris Beall (15:44):
So what this is about, by the way, Elena is super simple, which is the trust piece of the relationship-building is something that requires a huge amount of information. That's not the information about the product. The first-order question is, do I trust you enough that I would put my career in your hands?
Elena Hesse (16:02):
Chris Beall (16:03):
That's the real question, right? When we're buying for ourselves, I always make this comparison. If I buy a Tesla and I spend $70,000 on a Tesla, because I want a good one, right? It's like a mid-range Tesla. I buy it and I bring it home and I discover after driving it for a couple of days that unbeknownst to me, no doctors ever told me this, I'm allergic to electricity, and being close to electricity gives me hives. It's like, oh my God, right? So I got to dump this Tesla and I got to get it out of my life.
Chris Beall (16:34):
And so I dump the Tesla and I'm out $10,000. So now I'm out $10,000, and as you said, but I'm the owner of my own life, right? So I bought the Tesla for me. Now I buy that same Tesla for the company and it's going to fulfill a very important mission in our, say supply chain. So our company... I don't know we do something with eggs and we got to have a vehicle to transport eggs. Then I get this Tesla and it electrocutes the eggs and makes them unusable. The Tesla salesperson, I never talked to them, right? I just went online and I went click, click, click. I didn't realize, oh, there was something the salesperson could have told me which is, don't use this thing to transport eggs. By the way, folks, I just made that up.
Chris Beall (17:19):
Teslas are fine for transporting eggs and you cannot get hives from them. Elon, I'm sorry I said all of that, but you're a funny dude too so I can say stuff and get away with it. I will not tweet any of that. I guarantee you. So anyway, the point is we need to get trust as the seller and trust... And this is what Chris Vos taught me. So Mr. Never Split the Difference, I asked him one night, "How long do we have to get trust in a cold call?" And he said, "Seven seconds." And I said, "Seven seconds. Wow."
Chris Beall (17:53):
Our research says eight seconds. And he said, "Your research is wrong. It's seven seconds." Oh, got it. Okay. So what do we have to do in those seven seconds? He says, "Oh that's easy. All we have to do is show the other party we see the world through their eyes. We call it tactical empathy and demonstrate to them we are competent to solve a problem they have right now." And I said, "Well, isn't the problem they have right now, me?" And he said, "Bingo, that's why you're in control. You own the cold call because you are the problem. And therefore you can offer to solve the problem. And if you say the right things in the right tone, you'll get trust."
Chris Beall (18:30):
And I asked him, "How long will that trust last?" And he said, "A lifetime, as long as you don't blow it." And when you think about the problem of B2B, the top of the top of the top of the top of the top of the top of the funnel is that seven seconds to get trust and I asked him what happens after eight seconds. He says, "No chance, you're done." We have to replace you as the seller. You fail to get trust. You will never be trusted. So when you think about it from that perspective, which is what this 130-episode podcast is about. This is the book Corey wanted me to write and it's like, wow. So digital is great then as long as we have trust. So how many bits of information does it take to get trust? Well, it takes about 600,000 bits of information to really get trust. To get-
Elena Hesse (19:15):
To get trust without a person? Is that what you're saying?
Chris Beall (19:15):
To get trust at all, right? Your brain has to consume a huge amount of information before you go, "You know, I think we're going to let these Vikings into the village," right? It's like you got to know a lot about them Vikings before you're going to do it or you got to meet a Viking that you trust, right? One or the other. I mean, that's how it works. So it's like, "Hmm, I have an issue if I try to go digital first because oddly it doesn't have enough information."
Chris Beall (19:44):
So an email contains a few thousand bits, right? 5,000 bits in an email. So I've got to get you to read 120 emails in a focused way to get to 600,000 bits, which is a 32nd human conversation. That to me is the core of the problem is our brains are wired for involuntary trust and it takes a huge amount of information and we don't have enough time in digital land to do it. Who's going to read 120 emails? I mean, it's not going to happen, but a lot of people will listen to seven seconds of a conversation and then let you go ahead with the next 27 seconds. And then you have a relationship, now send them the email.
Elena Hesse (20:24):
Right. Great point. Great point. I mean, I read a book once called The Speed of Trust. Are you familiar with that?
Chris Beall (20:31):
I love that book. Oh my...
Elena Hesse (20:32):
Yeah. I love it too. And I think it's the essence of how good business is done. I can get a lot farther, faster when I trust who I'm dealing with and in a world of over-information, misguided information on every aspect, not just buying something, but the news, everything.
Elena Hesse (20:53):
When you know that we're in a space where trusting data is not guaranteed because even the source is at question. I want to be able to trust that information and that's based on the person that I can look straight in the eye and say, "Hey, I'm listening. I believe in what you're saying, tell me the truth. And then if you do boom, we can go," right? So yeah, I think it's more important today than it was 10 years ago.
Chris Beall (21:21):
I think it's everything. And I think that folks don't get it because I call it Gresham's love of business communications. So Gresham's law of money says bad money or counterfeit money drives out good money. Because when the bad money is in circulation, well the good money goes and hides because you can use the bad money, right?
Elena Hesse (21:36):
Right. Right. Right.
Chris Beall (21:39):
Bad digital communication because it's cheap, it's counterfeit in a fundamental way, which is with money, with coin back in the day. What was interesting about counterfeits was the cost of goods was low. You made them out of cheap metal and then you passed them off as the good stuff. Well, digital is always cheap. It's not cheap to design. It's cheap to disseminate so you can flood the market. If I can send you one email, I can send you two.
Chris Beall (22:05):
If I can send you one, I can send you and Corey the same one. If I can have a bot that goes in and says Elena and Corey, I can pretend I'm personalizing. If I can have that bot look up on LinkedIn something and say, "Hey, I see that someone,"... I got one yesterday. "I love your volunteer work at Live Earth Farm." It's like, what? Now, I don't trust you. You were there when you [crosstalk 00:22:29] the sheep. I don't trust you.
Elena Hesse (22:30):
Yeah. Yeah. It's a deal. It's real. And it goes beyond [crosstalk 00:22:36] selling. And I know this is about selling, but I think that comment just goes beyond selling. Unfortunately, for salespeople or organizations, we suffer at the hands of the larger digital play being untrustworthy because already salespeople, let's face it have to overcome, you're just trying to sell me something, right? Communication is powerful. It's powerful. And how we use it is how we're going to get something out of it. Be careful for what you use and how you use it, right.
Chris Beall (23:07):
Well, and I think sequence really counts. It's ironic that these cadence and sequence tools actually promote something that is called a sequence or a cadence, which is true, it is do this, then do this, then do this, wait this long, blah, blah, blah. But there's a funny thing about it, which is that the sequence of operations in the sequence, the easier one is start with an email. But the only one that's known to work is start with a conversation. And none of the sequence tools have built into them, start with a conversation.
Chris Beall (23:36):
They have start with a dial. But a dial is like a breeze blowing through the woods. It means nothing. A dial is like I walk by... Say I was interested in Helen back in the day, right. I'm still very interested in her and we plan to get married and stuff. But you know, say that was my goal, right. I know a bar that she frequents and she likes to drink Manhattans. But instead of going in and talking to her, I just walk by. That's like a dial. I walk by on the outside. I didn't talk to her, but I go, oh, activity it was that touch. That's what we call the irony of the whole digital thing is we send something to somebody that they ignore and we call it a touch. Right? And it's...
Elena Hesse (24:16):
That doesn't make any sense.
Chris Beall (24:16):
It doesn't make sense, but it's the core of the entire sequencing revolution. We teach people something that when they do it, they go, oh my digital is 14 times better. And what really is 14 times better which is just start with a conversation. Pretty easy, right? Except, of course, you got to get conversations, it's our business. But start with a conversation of voila that here's the magic subject line that changes everything about email. Thank you for our conversation today.
Elena Hesse (24:45):
Chris Beall (24:46):
Elena Hesse (24:47):
Right. I agree with you. I don't think any one particular digital play is bad. It's just how we are... Let's figure out the best way to use them. You know? I mean a hammer looks stupid when you have a screw. So, I mean [crosstalk 00:25:04]-
Corey Frank (25:04):
All you have is a hammer.
Chris Beall (25:05):
Yeah, or trying to drink a cup of coffee out of a hammer too. It really works better, just drip, drip, drip, all over the place. Elena, you have thoughts. What are your thoughts?
Corey Frank (25:15):
You know, I'm curious, you've been at Thomson for a long time, right? Thomson is known as... It's a top-shelf sales organization, has been for years, right. Recruits the best talent and acquired all these companies over the years. You've probably had a front-row seat to see ridiculous amounts of talent, particularly in the inside sales teams, all the different divisions from the Thomson learning to the taxation and the other great subsidies.
Corey Frank (25:41):
What do you see makes an uncommonly great salesperson that maybe they don't have the pedigree or the LinkedIn, but a fisherman knows another fisherman. You know that this person... Because you're a mentor over there at Thomson, right? Certainly in the leadership role that you play. So what are those that residue, maybe unseen by the common person that you know this person is going to ascend to higher ranks? What are those traits that you look for, the inside sales, specifically?
Elena Hesse (26:12):
Sure. This is going to sound like I've been prepared for this question. I did not know you were going to ask me this question, but I actually have an acronym that I've used for years. And if you'd like, I'm happy to share it and I've tweaked it a little bit over the years, but I honestly believe this acronym is true for a salesperson. It's true for any professional, but I will focus on sales, if I could. So I call it the ACE sales rep, A-C-E. So it's an acronym and there are two words for each letter. So if you would, don't mind me going here. I know acronyms can get old, but it helps me. So for A, I think a great salesperson has a wonderful attitude, not an attitude that's only good when I'm winning, but an attitude that's there when I'm losing and knowing I have to bounce back.
Elena Hesse (27:03):
So actually what I'm going to do is I'll list out the names of the things. And then I'll come back to how I look at it. So attitude is one. Accountability is the second A. Okay, I'm going to skip over C and go to E, effort, effectiveness. And I consider those rotating on the axis of the C in two ways, consistency and curiosity. So when I say that, back to my attitude and accountability, if you're not consistently having a more positive attitude than not, then you're going to fail because we hear nos more than we hear yeses. You've got to be self-regulated to understand that both things are going to happen and stay steady. Okay. Accountability is simple. If you're going to say it, do it. It's on you. Your quote is yours. Yes, someone gives you the quota, but it's done with reasonableness like 95% of the time. You'd need to be able to own that, right?
Elena Hesse (28:07):
Let's go to effort in regards to consistency. In the world that I came from... In the beginning of my life, I started as a sales rep at Thomson Reuters. It used to be called Creative Solutions. The same thing that holds true, then that holds true today in effort, for us, it was all about dialing, right. Making the calls, making the calls, but effort is seen in lots of things. It's how much are you there? Are you leaning in? Are you being here now? Are you showing effort in what you're doing? Or are you coming up with excuses? And then effectiveness, so that ties to effort in a way, because we would have people that would say, "I made 50 dials," right? But if you're making 50 dials and you're not selling, then you're not effective. So how are you figuring out how to make that effort pay off?
Elena Hesse (28:53):
All of those things are on this access of consistency. At the end of the day, if I had to pick one of those as my number one, it would be curiosity. If you are not curious, you're not going to be a good sales rep. Sorry, you need to be curious enough to know what someone else's problems are and to figure out if you can solve it. You can't be speaking more than you're listening. You have to be a discovery person and you have to be uniquely and authentically interested. I think I'm very curious. And certainly, when I was a sales rep, I had my successes, but I think curiosity has helped me through all of my different phases in life, personally and professionally. So yeah, if I meet somebody that I'll make a statement and if they don't ask me why, what, how, they don't want to know more, then why are you going to do that with a sales opportunity? Probably a long-winded answer...
Chris Beall (29:48):
Gosh, that was a good answer.
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