Alex Honnold, one of the most talented mountain climbers in the world – who is the only man to ever successfully summit El Capitan free solo – and that means no ropes - by the way – had a strategy. And his strategy did not reach the top of the mountain. That was his ultimate destination. His strategy was to map the 30 sections – or “pitches” as they are called in climbing parlance - and practice the necessary and wide variety of different skills needed to manage each of these 30 precarious steps. Now as a sales professional, I find it fascinating that climbers call each section of a mountain a pitch…especially because, in this episode of the market dominance guys, Chris talks about strategy in much the same way Alex attacks a mountain…as simply a list of necessary and intermediate destinations leading to the summit or close. And each of these strategies needs to employ the proper tactic – or in this case – the proper pitch. This episode of Market Dominance Guys is “How to Free Solo your Pitch”.
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The complete transcript of this episode is below:
You were saying that we are experts at strangers. We see, sense, can feel the seismic disruption in the force of strangers when they come into our life, albeit via phone or for a conference call or what have you. And so we're pre-wired to know that strangers, these invisible strangers, are inherently never a good thing. And so by understanding that, it's like I've seen the problem in the world and it's me. By starting from that very self aware versus being self-absorbed perspective, I think that's going to step one, chapter one of how a sales rep can have a successful discovery call. And so I think that's what we wanted to chat about today a little bit, is that this breakthrough that I really liked you talking about last time, is that the discovery call is the product, should be a product in and of itself, separate from the product.
And that if your discovery call is all about an inquisition, all about questions that the prospect can see a mile away is only going to be used to box me into a corner with some fancy alternate choice questioning technique, then that's not a successful discovery call because it doesn't lead with value. It doesn't have any value separate from the product itself. And if you do that and you do the example you used with the black widows in the garage with the Raid, it only makes them angry. So you have to have the right repellent or attractant, otherwise you're only going to piss off the person that you were intent on. You can't be like Evel Knievel and jump over discovery into the close, into the product demo. It has to be something that has much more of a nutritional value, much meatier in this case.
So I think that's probably a good place to start for today, is the discovery call. And how it has value, how it doesn't become successful, how you screw it up. Maybe a little bit of the biophysiology of why we need a good discovery call anyway and why it's the surest path, even though it takes a little bit more time and reps want to jump it, they want that Candyland shortcut, but it truly is the best way to get to a sale and then ultimately market dominance.
Chris Beall (04:52):
And number one is that the discovery call is a destination. You're not trying to get to a deal. The destination, and this is true of any strategy, by the way. It's kind of funny, when people talk strategy, so I'll back up into strategy just a little bit. They often are talking about the equivalent of standing at the bottom of the mountain and looking at the summit and saying my strategy is to get to the summit. But that's not a strategy. The strategy would be, looks to me like this crack right here on the northwest ridge is a good place to start. And there's a ledge up there that I see. And from there, it looks like we can traverse 50, 60 feet to the left, and now we can get into this big chimney over there and we can go up.
It's a series of steps. A strategy is in fact, a series of destination and each destination has the quality that it gets us closer to or reduces the cost and risk associated with getting to the next destination. And if we string them all together, we get to our ultimate destination. So people are very confused about strategy in the first place. They think strategic means important or final. And strategic has nothing to do with what's important and nothing to do with what's final. It simply is a list. Strategy is a list of intermediate destinations, each one of which reduces the cost and risk of getting to the next destination on the list. That's it.
If you want to cross a river, you don't want to get in and swim perhaps because you have some issue with that and there's rocks in the river. The strategy is I stand on this rock and then I go to this rock and then I go to this rock. I go to this rock and some of them might appear to be coming back toward the shore I came from, but I can string them all together and arrive at my final destination. But each rock-
Corey Frank (06:33):
But folks would say that those are tactics, but you're saying that there's a whole bunch of little tactics to make the strategy, but the strategy in and of itself is made up of these little stepping stones. And some folks like to skip over all that and just get to the top of the mountain.
Chris Beall (06:51):
Yeah, the tactic is how you execute a strategic step. How I get to that next destination. That's a tactic. So for instance, if my destination is a discovery call, that's my first destination. My tactic could be I call somebody on the phone and I use that breakthrough script. My tactic could be that I send them an email. My tactic could be that I make a presentation to a group of such people and see which ones respond to my presentation and talk to them in person. My tactic could be to put a billboard up outside their office that says, "Hey, we got something cool going on, come learn about it and here's a website or a phone number."
All those are tactics. Tactics are all hows. Strategies are lists of wheres, of destinations. And the first destination is the only one that counts at any given point or the next one is the only one that counts. And so when you begin the process, the safe thing to do is ignore the second rock, the third rock, the fourth rock, the fifth rock, because you've got to jump and land on the first rock. And if you're trying to jump to the second rock while you're trying to land on the first rock, you will land in the river. And that's what happens to most salespeople. They don't see the value, they don't understand the value for the person they're going with. Because they're saying, "Hold hands with me, oh prospect, and we'll jump to this rock here that we call discovery."
And then the salesperson, as they're about to take off says, "Well, really, really, really though, there's this other one. I think I can almost get to it. Let's just jump over there." And then splash, you both go in the river and it's not so great. You can only accomplish one strategic step at a time. You need to focus on it. You need to treat it as a destination. You have to maximize the odds of getting there with the person you want to get there with. And then you need to consider, do I take the next step or not? Because one thing that's true in sales strategies, all sales strategies have intermediate qualification. That is at some point, you find out that it doesn't make sense right now to move to the next step. So each one has that special quality that not only are you going there for an independent purpose, independent value, that's going to be delivered to the person who's going there with you. But one of the outcomes that's okay, is you say, "Let's not move forward together."
And that's the other thing that salespeople have such a hard time with in their heads, is they don't think it's okay to go to the first step with somebody that they're not sure is going to go to the second step. But it's in the first step, discovery, where you discover if you should go to the second step. So presuming anything about whether they should go to the second step, that is beyond discovery to a demo, to a test drive, to a POC, wherever it is your next step might be, having any assumption about that whatsoever, again, pulls you off course and makes it harder to sell the first step on its own as independent value.
The core belief that's needed for a salesperson in the top of the funnel conversation, whether it's a cold call or whether it's a follow-up call, a second conversation, third conversation or whatever. The core belief that they need to have really deep inside is they need to believe in the value of the meeting that they're offering, the discovery meeting. For the person they're talking to, not their company, but that human being. In the case, which they would consider the downside case, where there will never be any business done between your company and their company. That's the core belief.
If a person believes that, they can use almost any tactics at the top of the funnel. Then it's just a question of efficiency. How much time do they have in order to get the job done? And recalling always, the job is market dominance. The job isn't to make the sale, the job is to exhaust the market of possibilities so that when your competitor comes along, basically it is scorched earth. You've talked with everybody in a sensible way, everybody who's relevant before they talk to anybody. That's the ultimate winning approach. It's above a strategy. It's an approach. It's a paradigm for going to market. And it says basically if I work my way all the way back through, the only safe position is dominance. All nondominant companies go out of business. It's just a matter of time.
So I've got to seek safety. I need to find the high ground of dominance. To find the high ground of dominance, I need to have something to dominate. We call that a market. In order to be able to dominate that market, I need to condition the market in my favor and against all competitors, current and future. The most reliable way to do that is to establish trust with every relevant person in that market. The only way to do that is to have conversations with every relevant person in that market, because it takes about 600,000 bits of information going back and forth to establish trust. And I can't do that with digital means. I can't do that with emails that have 5,000 bits of information each. How can I get somebody to read 120 emails before we ever speak? That doesn't happen.
I can't do it with social, which is even worse. Social communication is shorter than email. I might have to have 7 or 800 social communications before somebody begins to trust me. And then I'm in a noisy environment where others are being mistrustful and not trustworthy. And so that environment is a tough environment for me to operate in. Have conversations in a private environment, where somebody can choose to begin to trust me based on just the information I'm providing, not all the noise that everybody else is providing that's trying to counter, confuse, mess with what I'm trying to do here, which is to be a person to another person.
Corey Frank (12:12):
Chris Beall (12:12):
So I'm kind of stuck, right? If I want to have a business that stays in business, I must dominate a market. To dominate a market, I need to talk to everybody in the market who's relevant. I need to talk to them in a way that is meaningful to all of them. The only product that I can sell to every single person in that market is a discovery conversation that educates them with regard to something I know that's of potential value to them that they probably don't know and it's okay that they don't know it. That's the other key. It has to be okay for them not to know it. It has to be safe. It has to be-
Corey Frank (12:46):
For them to admit that I don't know this.
Chris Beall (12:48):
Exactly. And the beauty is, as the vendor, I always know what the customer doesn't because I'm a specialist. They're a specialist in their business, I'm a specialist in my business. A specialist can always teach a generalist. So the information that I have as a specialist is okay for you as a generalist to say, I want to learn this. You don't have to do anything to your self image, except I'm a learner. Whereas other, if I'd say to you, "Gosh, Corey, I believe we've discovered a breakthrough system that allows you to make coffee in the morning." And you'd say, "Well, I'm set."
And you're thinking, what kind of idiot does this guy think I am? He thinks that I don't even know how to make coffee and that's an important thing to do? That's the standard opening pitch. "Hey, Corey, let me tell you about a category of product that every competent person in your position has already considered in order to solve a problem they have." Otherwise, I wouldn't be calling you and telling you.
Corey Frank (13:47):
But is that laziness, Chris? Or do some companies just don't have that thought, what problem in the world does your product solve? But if I'm a sales rep working for an established company, it seems like that is a violation of the rules of nature, if I throw out some broad based ubiquitous benefit that insults the prospect in the first 30 seconds of the call, either due to laziness, it's not thinking about their product in the right way. It seems like that's so prevalent in the world, is that sales reps won't spring off their first step and have something that is more of a specialist benefit. And instead, "Hey, we have a better, faster way to do X and Y and Z. Like to take a few minutes of your time and maybe schedule a demo and talk to you about that."
Chris Beall (14:44):
Yeah, so I don't think it's laziness. I think it's actually a misunderstanding of the situation. The problem is this, if I'm going to speak to you narrowly about something that's special and I'm going to do it before we're in a discovery conversation. So I'm trying to get you into the discovery conversation first, and I'm going to speak narrowly, the chance of me hitting your current problem, which by the way I can't do anyway, because your problem is me in the first conversation. But say as a lucky guess I could hit problem number two, one that's in the back of your mind. You just turned away from that problem to answer the phone. So the narrower my targeting of what I'd have on offer, the lower probability of me hitting your problem, because the narrow problem is something that's had by a smaller number of people right now.
So I have a problem at the very, very top of the funnel. And again, this goes all the way back to the peculiarity of the times we live in. This problem was not worth solving 20 years ago. It simply wasn't. There were very few companies that were bottle necked above the top of their funnel 20 years ago. They were bottle necked on delivery and on innovation. So delivery and innovation, I can't deliver more of the stuff that I'm selling. I've got channel issues, I have delivery channel issues. I've got all this stuff. And oh, by the way, I got to keep up with whatever's going on in the market. I got innovation issues. Now it's flipped around. Everybody can innovate. Everybody can deliver. And nobody has enough people to talk to.
So we have a new problem that's worth solving, which is, how do we just breakthrough above the top of the funnel? Which is a universal problem for all B2B businesses now. And in so doing, what universal factor or situation or fact can we use in order to make every single conversation at just above the top of the funnel? That's a prospecting or lead generation kind of conversation. Make everyone stand on reliable ground. A guess as to somebody's business problem is not reliable ground, because the narrower my guess, that is the more value I bring, the lower the probability of actually hitting the target. And I've got to dominate the market by talking to everybody in discovery.
My problem is I need for a market of 10,000, I need 2,000 discovery calls in the first year. So that by the time I'm through with the third year, I have 6,000 discovery calls and I've hit more than half the market. And anybody comes in now, three out of five times at random, they run into somebody I've already spoken with. So I'm conditioning the market for all time against all competitors by having discovery conversations rapidly enough. Therefore, my discovery conversation needs to be an independently sellable product. I'm going to sell it for time. You give me 15 minutes, I'll teach you something. And I need to know what I'm likely to teach them.
Corey Frank (17:24):
Because information is so readily available today versus 20 years ago, you as a salesperson, you were the necessary evil because I needed you for more than the price. You were going to give me information that wasn't available because you had access to catalogs and trade shows and manifests and scenarios and case studies. I couldn't pull up a white paper as easily as I can today and know more about your three or four competitors in the first 30, 90, 60 seconds of that phone call. Do you have any competition? Well, no, we don't have any competition. Well, according to the research I did in the last 60 seconds, this and this and this and this.
So it seems like the salesperson hasn't evolved past the point where all they're good for today is just figuring out if I can get a lower price than what I can available, what it says on your website. And if I don't evolve to be more of someone who provides value, insight that I can't readily find anywhere else, then I'm going to go the way of the dinosaur.
Chris Beall (18:36):
Yeah, exactly. And the insight is not insight that I can just bring to the meeting because I haven't heard from the prospect, then the true nature of their situation. Their situation is always embedded in something. It's always peculiar, as my mother would say. So it's idiosyncratic. They have their boss, not somebody else's boss. They have their budgetary process, not somebody else's. They have their history of other tools, techniques, and approaches they're using to address this problem. Not someone else's. None of that stuff is publicly available. It's so precise and it's so unique to this individual that offering anything generic as an insight, doesn't make sense.
The insight needs to evolve out of the conversation. That's why it's a discovery meeting, not a discovery presentation. And it has to involve true discovery and what are you trying to discover? You're trying to discover the nature of their situation, such that you can use your expertise and evaluate whether it makes sense to take one more step down this road. That's really all you're doing in discovery. You're not designing a solution. You're not looking to figure out what the ROI would be. You're not doing any of those things. You're not digging into the product details or features. You're simply asking a bunch of questions and they're asking a bunch of questions. You're having an actual conversation to figure out if by and large, in a risk adjusted sense, given the cost of the next step and the risks associated with failure for the next step, does it make sense to take the next step?
That next step could be simple. It could be a demo. It could be more complex, proof of concept. It could be a visit to the site. It could be a decision to bring more people into the process, which is expensive. Whatever it happens to be, we don't know that we should take that step together until we've had a conversation in which the prospect confesses the truth of their situation. So it's really of the form of a confession, not an interrogation.
Corey Frank (20:41):
It seems now that a sales mind person like myself, the answer to, does it make sense to take the next step? Does it make sense to move forward? 100 times out of 100 when I ask that question, my intent is that of course it makes sense from my perspective.
Chris Beall (21:01):
Corey Frank (21:02):
But I didn't do a thorough job of getting them to confess their problem to establish trust and so every problem is a nail and I'm the hammer. And every prospect is the same. And if they would only take my product for a test run, if they'd only just see the demo in their mind, they don't even have to elaborate it. I know they're going to process silently that, ah, this is a fit. And that's what I'm hoping for as a salesperson, versus getting them to elocute and talk about what the specific issue is. And so if I don't have that trust, I'm not going to give that to you in a good discovery call, no matter how good your call.
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