Ep167: The Power of Childlike Curiosity in the Digital World of Sales
So, what's the biggest challenge in sales? Today, the guys have a special guest, Hitesh Shah, CTO and CPO of ConnectAndSell. As Hitesh puts it, it's the fact that we don't like to be sold to. That's why sales is about helping, not selling. And if you want to succeed in sales, you have to understand who your target audience is and what their business problems are. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up, building relevance and trust with each person you talk to. Hitesh says there are two things, one is always trying to understand what happened. And, when it goes against your instinct - what did you expect it to do? Be open to the possibility that you may have missed something. Corey says that this requires a level of humility that doesn’t exist in high quantities in sales, even though it should.
One of the things these three have learned over the years is that when something starts working when it shouldn't, it can be scary. But in the digital world, everything is deterministic. There are causes and effects, and there's no such thing as waiting or hoping that something fixes itself. As Hitesh puts it, you have to have a childlike curiosity and naivete, especially in the digital world where computers are deterministic. Join us for this episode of Market Dominance Guys, “The Power of Childlike Curiosity in the Digital World of Sales”
Full episode transcript below:
Welcome to another session with the Market Dominance Guys, a program exploring all the high stakes, speed bumps and off-ramps of driving to the top of your market with our host Chris Beall from ConnectAndSell, and Corey Frank from Branch 49.
So what's the biggest challenge in sales? Today the guys have a special guest, Hitesh Shah, CTO and CPO of ConnectAndSell. As Hitesh puts it's the fact that we don't like to be sold to. That's why sales is about helping, not selling. And if you want to succeed in sales, you have to understand who your target audience is and what their business problems are. You have to start at the bottom and work your way up building relevance and trust with each person you talk to. And when things don't go your way, Hitesh says there are two things. One is always try to understand what happened and when it goes against your instinct, what did you expect it to do? Be open to the possibility that you might have missed something.
Corey says that this requires a level of humility that doesn't exist in high quantities in sales, even though it should. One of the things these three have learned over the years is that when something starts working when it shouldn't, it can be scary. But in the digital world, everything is deterministic. There are causes and effects, and there's no such thing as waiting or hoping that something fixes itself. As Hitesh puts it, you have to have a childlike curiosity and naivete, especially in the digital world where computers are deterministic. Join us for this episode of Market Dominance Guys, the power of childlike curiosity in the digital world of sales.
Corey Frank (01:44):
Excellent. Hey, here we are. Welcome to the Market Dominance Guys, with Corey Frank and Chris Beall. Chris, we got a new one for you, right? As we talked about the other day, we have the sage of sales, the prophet of profit, the Hawking of hawking, and the Tom Cruise of outbound calling.
Chris Beall (02:00):
That's so embarrassing.
Corey Frank (02:02):
Well, hey, I said it just like you wrote it, right? The Tom Cruise of outbound calling I think it was. Well, if that's the case, well, it's good to have you, Chris. We have a very special guest, internally inside those four virtual walls of ConnectAndSell, the brains behind all of the effort and engineering and all of your good ideas, the origins of all your good ideas probably over the years, Hitesh Shah, who I would say is maybe not the Tom Cruise, the Amitabh Bachchan of ConnectAndSell of outbound calling.
So welcome, Hitesh. It's long overdue to actually have you here on the Market Dominance Guys podcast.
Hitesh Shah (02:37):
Thank you. Glad to be here, Corey.
Corey Frank (02:39):
I don't think we have any episodes, Chris, one of these days we got poll between the two of you, a legacy version of Clipmedia. Because for ladies and gentlemen in the audience, I am on the phone here, we're on the podcast with Chris Beall and Hitesh, who are the inventors, the co-founders of Clipmedia, an old product that is the precursor to, man, all things Zoom, all things GoToMeeting. If we would've only stuck with that product 15 years ago, holy cats, 20 years ago it's been around.
Chris Beall (03:11):
Yeah, it is.
Corey Frank (03:11):
What do you think, Chris? Can you dust that off? Yeah.
Chris Beall (03:14):
Yeah. Hitesh and I met at a company that a venture capitalist asked me, a very good friend who had actually worked with me at one company back when he was an operator, and he asked me to take a look at this company. Wouldn't tell me what the name was, he gave me an address in Silicon Valley. I was in Iowa at the time. So I came out and I stayed in this secure corporate guest house, this apartment, and I actually walked over to the company and they put me in a room. It was weird. I'm sitting in this room and they bring me coffee and I'm just looking around, it's a conference room. And then these guys all start coming in and I had an immediate impression of one of them, Hitesh, and I said, "If my job here is to make some changes in this company, there's one guy is going to stay, and it's that guy."
[NEW_PARAGRAPH]And it was before he ever opened his mouth. It was just the way he walked into the room, it was dead obvious to me that he was honest and he knew what he was talking about and that he was really smart. And we came to a certain point in the presentation where they asked me what I thought and I said, "Your product's a fake," and I took them to through why it was a fake and everybody else got weird and Hitesh had this, "I told you so," look on his face. And we've been together ever since. That was in 2005, so a little while ago.
Corey Frank (04:29):
Well, if you got that impression before he opened his mouth, holy cats, after he opened his mouth, sounds like you weren't disappointed. So anyway, it's good to have you Hitesh. With our eight listeners, it's good to expand their horizons a little bit on beyond just market dominance, but getting actually into some of the weeds and some of the tactics. That's the fun stuff, certainly for me and Chris and some of the guests that we've had over the years. Right, Chris? And I think right before we were on air, we were talking about one that I found fascinating and maybe the eight other listeners will too, and that's a couple things called jitter. But even before we get to jitter, let's talk a little bit about the conversation you had about everything that in outbound sales and Hitesh get your thoughts on this too, is actually counterintuitive and how you approach it. And maybe set up the conversation that you had and what led to that nugget to that young sales manager.
Chris Beall (05:21):
All yours Hitesh, everything's counterintuitive. Funny thing is Hitesh is so smart, he's the guy to whom it's all intuitive.
Corey Frank (05:30):
He's so far beyond the curvature of the earth, he comes around the other side.
Chris Beall (05:34):
Hitesh Shah (05:35):
Yeah, if you start from the basics story, as you know, us techies especially, we don't like to be sold to. So the number one contrary thing about sales is you shouldn't be selling anything. You should just be trying to help. And if you go down from that path into the world of who you're targeting, the mechanics, the nooks and crannies at the end of the day in terms of what you're trying to actually achieve by calling a list of people, you'd often find that the list of titles that you put together that you think are the ones that are going to end up buying your product, you start calling on them and then you realize the people at the high up who have the money, they don't have the time or an inclination to listen to you on the first go.
So you often have to start at the bottom. You have to tailor your message to what the business problems that company's facing, make it more relevant and then elevate your pitch up to the top. So I often find in our product, especially people go after economic buyers only to burn themselves because they can't hold ... Especially in a cold conversation, it's very hard. Unless you have the gravitas that Chris often brings or you often bring to the table because of your experience in the industry, it's very hard to open a conversation and come across as somebody who's more knowledgeable than you are, and who can literally open your eyes to things that you'll want to do differently for your own business.
Corey Frank (06:57):
Hitesh Shah (06:57):
So that's [inaudible 00:06:58] thing.
Corey Frank (06:59):
As we dive into even, it's incredibly helpful, even a big dumb farm animal like me needs to keep that in mind is helping versus always pitching and selling. But let's take a scenario, Hitesh and Chris about where I think I know my business and I see a blip.
Hitesh Shah (07:15):
Corey Frank (07:15):
And I see a blip either in contact rates or conversation conversion rates that I didn't expect and I can't explain. What's the thought process that typically I would have, and how should I maybe approach that problem? Because otherwise, is it okay just to guess if my board or my senior managers asked me, "Hey listen, why did you hit X amount today? Or Y amount yesterday? Or why did this blip here or why did this blip here?" How do I go about analyzing what the rationale, what the reasons are to deduce can I do it again or is it just the jet stream and I got lucky?
Chris Beall (07:51):
One of the funniest things about business, I'll jump in on this one, is that there are people who see everything as negative. So everything that's unusual that happens as a harbinger of doom. And there are other people who see everything as positive, but then everybody shares this thing when good things are happening, they don't question them. And the key to market dominance is when good things are happening, find out why. You need to be as aggressive and curious about good surprises as about what you think of as negative surprises. Because neither one conforms to your model, which means your model's wrong.
They're both telling you the same thing. Your model is wrong. And until you understand the relationship between your model and the world, you can't safely even make the short term predictions that allow you to do sensible things. Hitesh and I have built a lot of stuff together and one of the scariest things is when something works when you think that it shouldn't or it starts working when it didn't used to, and the lay people always do this, it's like, "Well, I guess it didn't work 87% of the time, but now it works 58% of the time."
It's like, "No, we live in a digital world, man." The world that Hitesh and I live in when it comes to technology, I'll tell the audience, I'm embarrassed to say it because I'm not very good at it anymore, but I used to be a fairly serious technologist, but in the digital world, everything's deterministic. Everything's deterministic, and statistics will therefore apply in order to understand stuff that the fact of the matter is that if statement somewhere down inside that computer, it went one way or it went another, it didn't go somewhere in between. And on Tuesdays it does one thing and a Wednesday it does another. There are hardware problems in the world.
Corey Frank (09:47):
Chris Beall (09:47):
In the world of software, everything has a cause.
Corey Frank (09:50):
So for the Pittsburgh Steeler fans out there, what do you mean by deterministic?
Chris Beall (09:53):
I mean there are causes and effects. Say you've got to start your car and your car goes [inaudible 00:10:00] and you think, "Oh, but if I keep trying, it'll start eventually." Well, it could if your car is old enough because maybe there's some physical condition that you're changing by running the starter. But if you have a digital car, like Hitesh has a Tesla and it doesn't start, if you can reboot it, good, but if you can't reboot it trying over and over, it's not like looking at the phase of the moon or something. It's got a state inside of it and that state is stuck. And this is a extremely hard thing for folks to understand, laypeople who don't build it, who deal in the digital world. And Hitesh, you must have spent a lot of your life trying to explain to somebody, "No, it's not a matter of trying or waiting or hoping it fixes itself." We actually have to stop and we have to dig in. And I know it's a disappointment, but we have to stop and we have to dig in.
Hitesh Shah (11:00):
Absolutely. Yeah. Especially coming from a country where there's a temple around the corner on every street, you're always hoping and praying. Talk about counterintuitive Corey, that's another thing that's counterintuitive. But to Chris's point, you almost need a childlike curiosity and naivete. At the end of the day, especially in the digital world, computers are deterministic because they take a specified set of instructions and then they execute them in a specified way and they always produce a consistent outcome. This is why computers and people, people are funny. You never know what reaction a given action will invite. Whereas for computers, it's very different all the time. So if you take the view that my set of beliefs are just that, those are beliefs and they're often validated by their data because your beliefs come from experience, so many of them will actually hold true and they will be confirmed by what you find.
But at the same time, there's always, always, always an element of surprise in pretty much everything from what you expect out of certain call or what you expect a certain list to do or what you expect a certain person to respond. So to Chris's point, Corey, for me it's all about curiosity and naivete. So two things, one is always be trying to understand what happened and when it goes against your instinct or grain in terms of what it did versus what you expected it to do, always be open to this possibility that there is something that you missed or have missed for a very long time versus trying to dismiss it away as an anomaly or something that only happens rarely or whatnot.
Corey Frank (13:28):
That's fascinating. I bet you see that trait of not just trying to understand what happened, but to admit that you probably missed something.
Hitesh Shah (13:28):
Corey Frank (13:39):
That's a level of humility that probably doesn't exist in too much quantities in sales, which is counterintuitive itself because it really should. As you had said, if everything is good, I don't have to do anything. I don't have to analyze anything because everything is good. What do you say to that, Hitesh and Chris, is how do you teach that? As sales reps, it's always the client's problem, or the prospects. That's why they didn't buy or was my data, that's why they didn't pick up and why they didn't convert. Rarely do I have that engineering mindset in sales, but it sounds like it could be really helpful if we did.
Chris Beall (14:10):
Hitesh, you make such a great point about naivete. What's so funny is cultivated naivete is the key to maintaining curiosity in the face of mysteries. You get a mystery and you need to be deliberately naive so that you return to an earlier state where you're not so confident that you understand it and then you go after it. In sales, the issue is it's very difficult to return in public, in front of a prospect, to a naive and curious state because the prospect themselves is on a knife's edge when it comes to having confidence in you. And so we're allowed to ... With each other, Hitesh and I used to commute together in the Bay Area. I'd pick you up every morning at your house.
Hitesh Shah (15:04):
Chris Beall (15:04):
In my little Chevy Volt. We'd drive the long road up to 280 and all that stuff up to San Mateo, and we'd work all the way up. And it was very freeing because we were going through the world looking in the same direction and questioning everything. That's really what you do when you build technology, is you question everything. You can't quite do that with a prospect because it does have a predictable result with regard to the prospect's confidence in you. So it's a bigger challenge in sales than it is in technology. The technology doesn't care. I remember I had a meeting very early on at ConnectAndSell where our engineering team had gone to do something else, and a board member asked me, "Well, what are you going to do when the system goes down?" And I say, "It's not a dog, it's inanimate."
It's not going to whine by the front door and wonder when it's masters coming home. You just restart it. It has no feelings. But when you're in sales, the other person does have feelings, and in fact, their feelings are the primary input and output of the entire sales process, and you're just a processor of their feelings.
Corey Frank (16:11):
Yeah, I love that.
Chris Beall (16:12):
It's more delicate, and I think the top salespeople in the world take Hitesh's cultivated naivete and pull it off in front of the prospect in real time in a way that enhances confidence. And if you can do that, you can sell anything. Of course, you will only sell stuff you sincerely believe it, but for the same reason. I don't know, what do you think about that, Hitesh? Is that a boundary that between the inanimate, you and I don't have to give a damn about what the system thinks about us because it doesn't think about us, but we have to care about what the prospect thinks about us, but still be curious.
Hitesh Shah (16:50):
Absolutely. Absolutely. And in fact, so Corey, interestingly, for the first time that Chris brought up the idea of ConnectAndSell, you go, "It's a no-brainer." You 10X somebody's conversations, you'll get 10X the output. And sure enough, to Chris's point, we always notice this CT as a classic ABC. The A players, they immediately realize that something that's coming at you so fast, you have to adapt. You may not have the time to research, you may not have the time to understand who you're talking to. You pick up the conversation from, "Hi, how's your day going?" Or, "Happy Tuesday," or, "Happy Friday," or whatever, to the point of engaging you with what you are, discovering that during the call and then layering in your expertise and how you can help. Then you have the B players where they get the call to a point where the call isn't awkward, but then really it's not a sales call, it's all about just back foot.
I got somebody on the phone, let me try to talk to them and see where the conversation goes. And then of course, we have the C players where it's deer in headlights, the stage fright. So talk about counterintuitive, for me to discover that for ConnectAndSell to be effective and as powerful as it's meant to be you needed good list, you needed good reps, and more importantly, you needed reps who could easily be put up on the stage in front of an audience impromptu and improve upon their pitch and skill or whatever, the conversation talk track or whatever. So I think that is key. There's another thing that I wanted to mention to you, Corey, in terms of we learn these things more often than you would like. As smart people like to think we figured things out and we know it all.
So typically you have a product and you have a personal in mind. You are selling it to a CTO or a VP of sales or VP of marketing, or what have you. There are often these instances that we discovered few years into the business where the person at the other end really is not a stable title. And SMBs, this is a great example for SMBs, who picks up the phone is typically not the decision maker. You have to ask for the decision maker, and that becomes your contact. So you're essentially always asking for referral query.
So in that case, your perfect list is not the list of people that you thought that you want to target. It's anybody that can pick up that form and then you have to rely on your skill to understand who the decision maker for your particular offering or product is, and then talk to them. And that becomes your real list. So there's almost this notion of a first order list that's not a real list that gets you the actual list that you create. And in that case, your targeting and everything is very different. So that's an example I wanted to bring up.
Corey Frank (19:40):
So from an analysis perspective, I think we talked about this the other day when we had met, is this concept of what your list is trying to tell you, bingo. When I look at that, your dialer, I may see residue, Hitesh, that says that, "Well, my dial to contact rate is doing really well and my conversation conversion rate is doing really well." But if I'm not ultimately talking to the right person, then I'm going to get pipeline bloat and I'm going to think it's the sales reps problem when it really probably originated maybe in my list. Is that what you're talking about when what you're dialing looks like [inaudible 00:20:22]?
Hitesh Shah (20:22):
Exactly. In fact, Chris might be able to ... Chris, the breakthrough script, you probably should walk Corey through what that did for us and why. And I think that's a phenomenal example, Corey, of just the opening tactic that can make a world of difference. And we have data point after data point after data point to illustrate that.
Chris Beall (20:41):
Well, yeah, the whole breakthrough script thing actually was an accidental discovery. We had a rep in Denver, who the dataset, he was doing better than everybody else, but everybody's intuition said that that can't possibly be the case. So call it, what happens when you walk into a room and the family dog is juggling three balls? What do you say to yourself, that you don't understand juggling, or is that a dog? It's a difficult problem. And so one of our people, Chad Burmeister, who was running that outfit at the time, had a brilliant idea. He said, "I'm going to put this guy in one room. I'm going to put the second best guy in terms of numbers in another room and just do a natural experiment. Let people listen to them and then see how those people behave." I don't think I ever would've thought this one up, by the way, because it wasn't mechanistic enough.
It was like, "Let's just see what happens and gather some more data." And what happened was one of the people in the room with the guy who was doing really well started saying a different thing at the beginning of the conversation and all of his results, not the rest of the conversation, but all the way through, all the way to closing of the deal, everything was better. And I was like, "How could that be?" Well, that's where you have to question yourself. I didn't know dogs could juggle. Is this dog or do I not know what juggling is? How could it be that the first seven seconds of the conversation could condition the close six weeks later? It seems impossible. In fact, this entire podcast is about that fact. The fact that the first seven seconds of the conversation will actually condition the entire relationship.
And we didn't know why, but we went with it. And I think that's another part of being really good at anything where you don't know very much. And I think the key to all this is you just have to admit you don't know very much, is when you find a fact of some kind or a correlation of some kind, stay open to the possibilities of what might be the cause and what might be the effect. But go ahead and push on it so you generate more data, but don't just accept it. So this took about two and a half years before I stumbled onto part two of the breakthrough script, which was a person who is a CEO who wanted to hire salespeople. And I will never allow a CEO who doesn't know how to hire salespeople to do it. I just say, "What are we going to learn? We're going to learn that you don't know how to hire a salesperson, but we already know that. So let's not do that. How about if you sell yourself?"
[NEW_PARAGRAPH]"What do you mean?" "Well, you do the cold calling yourself." "Well, oh, I can't do that." So I forced this poor guy to do his own cold calling using ConnectAndSell, and he said, "I need a script." I said, "I don't know anything about scripts." And he said, "Well, I do. I write scripts for other people's TED talks." And we spent four and a half hours on a Saturday morning writing the second part of the breakthrough script, not for the world, but for one guy who needed a script, and he happened to be a script expert. Those two things came together, five sentences came out of it. I wrote a relatively well received article called Five Sentences That'll Change Your Life. And then it was another two years later when Chris Voss told me why it worked. Now that's the kind of patience it takes. It's ironic, you're in a world where things move really fast. The cold call, boom, boom, boom. To learn about stuff that's happening fast. You have to be patient because it's going to be slow.
It always takes a long time to learn about fast stuff. It just does because it goes by, and it worked or didn't work. Well, what really happened? Who knows. You need better instrumentation. It's a funny thing, and it's very similar to what we do, ConnectAndSell or Hitesh and I and others who put together this system as a realtime system. Things happen in it really, really fast, billion times a second stuff's going on in there. Performance is everything if you want smoothness. And so it's fundamentally a system that is very slow for us to understand. Today we have something going on. Today suddenly connect rates for two days in our own shop with our own people are twice what we've seen before. We don't know what that means.
Corey Frank (25:07):
But that's a good thing. That's great.
Chris Beall (25:08):
No, it's a bad thing. It's a bad thing. It's really good in that we set 48 meetings today, our average has been 22 meetings, and recently since we introduced fast phone numbers has bumped up to about 30, but 48. So it's a good thing that it's happening, but it's a bad thing to accept it and just blindly move on.
Corey Frank (25:31):
The dog knows how to juggle, just deal with it.
Chris Beall (25:33):
Well, the dog's [inaudible 00:25:36].
Corey Frank (25:36):
When you were at work, the dog was learning to juggle. That's what happened. Some things are out of your control.