You’re no doubt familiar with the buyer’s journey, but what do you know about the seller’s journey? Dan McClain, Sales Director at ConnectAndSell and today’s guest on Market Dominance Guys, shares his personal journey as a salesperson with our host Chris Beall in this first of a two-part conversation. Starting at the beginning of his career, Dan tells the story of how he got into sales straight out of college, what his early selling experiences were like, and how he cold-called his way to where he is today. Most memorable for him was his first experience using ConnectAndSell Lightning, the cold-calling tool that boosts the number of conversations a salesperson can have with prospects. Pushing that “Go” button and being served one conversation after another changed his life and led to his current job selling Lightning at ConnectAndSell. Helping other salespeople discover this tool is now Dan’s mission. Listen in as Dan and Chris remember the details of their first meeting in today’s Market Dominance Guys’ episode, “The Seller Has a Journey Too.”
About Our Guest
Dan McClain is Sales Director at ConnectAndSell. His life-long dedication to sales has led him to his current goal: helping sales leaders, teams, and individuals connect with their targets at a velocity of 10X by using ConnectAndSell Lightning. Dan is based in the San Diego area and is active in his local chapter of AA-ISP.
Full episode transcript below:
Chris Beall (01:24):
Hey Market Dominance folks, it's Chris Beall and I'm here without Corey Frank, which is a bit of a shock because I lean on Corey pretty hard. He always comes up with the cool questions and he's got the literary references and he's got a tie on, which is nice.
Dan McClain (01:42):
Chris Beall (01:42):
You don't see one on me. I know Dan.
Dan McClain (01:44):
You could have worn a tie. [inaudible 00:01:46]
Chris Beall (01:46):
And instead I'm here today, not instead but normally we'd have Corey, but now I'm all by myself as a host except I've got Dan McClain. Dan McClain, among many other things that he does including things involving surfboards and riding vehicles across sandy terrain that doesn't look safe at all to me.
Dan McClain (02:06):
Chris Beall (02:07):
And shooting the occasional wild boar and eating them. And growing tomatoes in a way that I've never seen another human being grow tomatoes, including naming his tomato plants appropriately.
Dan McClain (02:17):
Chris Beall (02:18):
So Dan is also somebody who works for ConnectAndSell. He sells for ConnectAndSell. I don't know if he properly sells, he'll describe what it's actually like I'm sure. But Dan, welcome to Market Dominance Guys.
Dan McClain (02:30):
Thanks for having me. This is my very first podcast.
Chris Beall (02:34):
Oh my God. I'm excited. No wonder you're wearing white, you're a podcast virgin.
Dan McClain (02:39):
That's right. Absolutely. [inaudible 00:02:41] And my hair too.
Chris Beall (02:42):
Fantastic. And notice that Dan has a Flight School shirt on, I got a Flight School shirt on. We are as twinsy as can be right now. So Dan, just a little background. How did you fall into the world of sales, and especially sales that involved anything resembling software? Is this like your dream when you were a child? Is it something that you got hit in the head once? I know you surf and sometimes you could hit your head surfing I bet.
Dan McClain (03:11):
Chris Beall (03:12):
Dan McClain (03:13):
Well, growing up I always knew I was going to be in sales. My father was in sales but, it was different back then. He was in industrial sales and he covered Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, kind of the Midwest belt, and he would drive his car around and he had an expense account and that seemed kind of cool.
Chris Beall (03:34):
Dan McClain (03:34):
And I'd hear him on the phone every once in a while. And I thought, "That's what I want to do".
Chris Beall (03:38):
Dan McClain (03:38):
Well actually then college, I had to put myself through. And I learned very quickly that the traditional jobs that one can get when you're in college aren't enough to pay for college, even way back in the late '80s, early '90s. And so I had to be creative, and I actually started a couple of my own small little companies. A volleyball business, where we taught leagues and lessons and ran tournaments. And also a valet car parking business at a very cool restaurant in Minneapolis called J.D. Hoyt's. And doing that I kind of learned some entrepreneurial things.
Dan McClain (04:16):
And then towards the tail end of college, a friend of mine had a sister who married an entrepreneur that ran a company called Skyline Displays, they make trade show exhibits. And he saw what I was doing and he thought, "I'd like to hire this guy and send him off to California" to do what they called "R&D sales". Because what they used to do is they'd come up with something new, they'd release it to the field before it was ready, and then it was very expensive to make a change because it was on such a grand scale. So they thought, "Why don't we just have one person go try to sell some new stuff". And I just kind of fell into it. I moved out to California pretty much the day after I graduated from college. And that was a very interesting move. December 5th, 1995, very cold Minnesota day. I drove out to Newport Beach and it was one of the happiest days of my life.
Chris Beall (05:04):
That's what they call a selling point.
Dan McClain (05:10):
Absolutely. And when I went out there on the recruiting trip, they were very smart. They flew me into the Orange County Airport, and when you walk out of the Orange County Airport you see green grass and Palm trees. So I told myself, "I hope it's a good job because I'm taking it". And I think like most people in sales I was young, started off, struggled, and it took me a while to hit my stride to kind of figure out what I wanted to do. And then I had a roommate who was a recruiter. He goes, "Hey you're in sales, but you're kind of struggling. I got this customer that's looking for [inaudible 00:05:43] and they're a software company. Do you know anything about software"? I said, "No", but it paid more money so I took that job.
Dan McClain (05:50):
And then I was in software for 10, 15 years. And then my company did a ConnectAndSell test drive. I was one of the test subjects using the weapon and it was interesting. I didn't know what I was getting into. And when you use ConnectAndSell, turn it on, you hit that green go button. Well when it was time to hit that green go button, president of the company standing here, the VP of sales is standing here, these are big verbose gentlemen. They're like, "Turn it on"! All of a sudden my hands started shaking, my brain went blank, and I hit the go button. And the first conversation came fast, 30, 40 seconds. I don't know what I said. It wasn't intelligent or legible. The person hung up. And they yelled, "Do it again"! Did it again. Then the second conversation came fast, and it was, "Hey, yeah call me next week. I think I want to talk to you". And the third guy picks up the phone, I schedule a demo, a meeting, boss and the president leave me alone rest of the day. I think I scheduled two more meetings on my very first day and it was awesome.
Dan McClain (06:53):
And then I used almost every day. This was back in the days when people traveled, I was covering 10 states. And I was Account Executive, didn't do a whole bunch of prospecting, but I used it very specifically to call my [inaudible 00:07:07] task list and sales force. And it worked so incredibly well for me because I was calling the CIO or the VP of IT of a billion dollar company that ran SAP. And I was selling very expensive software to bolt onto that to make it run better, faster, stronger. And used it for two or three years and got to the point where every time I'd turn it on a little voice inside my head would tell me, "Dan, you should go sell ConnectAndSell". So I got to know you, called up you. I think I sent you some referrals, tried to get in somehow. I told you I wanted to join the team, we had a couple conversations over a couple months and you introduced me to Jonti McLaren, our SVP of sales. Went up and met him and been a happy member of the team now for five, almost six years. That might be more information than you're asking for, but that's how I got into sales from then up until now.
Chris Beall (07:57):
Wow. That's really good. Thank you. That was really tight. Yeah, I remember talking to you. I remember that call when you called me. I was walking down Santa Cruz Avenue, Los Gatos, California. I was just about to go to the Great Bear Coffee shop and get myself I think it was an early afternoon latte. And I think we talked for quite a while. I think we talked for quite a while actually, and I was impressed that you would call me and that you actually used ConnectAndSell. And so I was pretty sure that you were going to do something here one way or another. You know it is kind of funny how many of our really, really top people in the company are former ConnectAndSell customers and users. And so James Townsend used to use ConnectAndSell, and he also ran part of a company called Halogen and did right things there. Donny Crawford, I was just talking to Donny as our Chief Flight Instructor. He used to go in and do job interviews when he was a rep. And he'd take them all the way through and they'd make him an offer and he'd go, "Oh by the way, I'm not working for you unless you get me ConnectAndSell. That was his thing. And you know Donny pretty well, it's kind of hard to imagine him doing something like that.
Dan McClain (09:03):
Yeah. It's interesting.
Chris Beall (09:05):
He was consistent on it. It's true. A lot of people. Jonti McLaren was our SVP of Sales and Marketing. Everybody thinks that Jonti joined the company because his dad is the Exec Chairman, was the CEO back in the day. But in fact that's not why at all. Jonti built his first company on top of ConnectAndSell and he sold it and did pretty well, right? His Tesla looks better than our Subaru I guess [inaudible 00:09:28]
Dan McClain (09:28):
Yeah. And wasn't his use case a little bit different? Was he the CEO of the company or the Chief something, and he was using it to find business but also to gauge the market interest in what he had?
Chris Beall (09:40):
Yeah. Yeah. It's interesting to me, you said your first sales job where you had a real sales job was like, "Go do it", was actually a market exploration job. And that's a pretty unusual sales job, especially for somebody whose kind of new to it. Think about it. It's like, "Why am I going to trust this new guy to go off and bring me a signal back from the market"? Somebody had a lot of faith in you. This job right now is kind of like that though, right? There's something about ConnectAndSell, you always feel like you're selling something new. Do you have any idea why that is? I mean it's kind of funny, right? Because I can describe it. I was talking to a potential investor today, and I can describe it in like two sentences and they get it. It's really hard to get business people on the phone in order to explore business to business. Right? It's just hard. ConnectAndSell lets you do that by pushing a button and waiting a few minutes, talking to somebody. That's it. That's what it does. And yet.
Dan McClain (10:28):
Chris Beall (10:28):
And yet. It's what is the factor that you see? Because this is about market dominance, right? So we're always talking about, okay you can use a human voice to dominate a market. You go right into somebody's midbrain, right in through their ear. Email gets blocked by all sorts of things. It doesn't get to you in spam. It sits there and annoys you. If you open it, you don't read it very much but it's only got 500 bits information in it or 5,000 bits to start with. Here you are inside of somebody's head. You know when you sit at a restaurant and it's quiet and you're trying to focus on something, I don't know you're reading your email or whatever. And the person next to you is chewing in a way that's just horrible. It's just obnoxious, right? You can't turn that off.
Chris Beall (12:00):
You can't make yourself not hear it. You're stuck, right? So when you cold call somebody, cold conversation them, you're inside their brain just like that chewing, but you better be doing a better job of whatever.
Dan McClain (12:11):
Chris Beall (12:12):
Some people get it, some people don't. What is it that you see that divides the sheep from the goats? Or as we say, the pigs from the weasels?
Dan McClain (12:20):
That's interesting. And I was on a very interesting blitz and coach session with a customer today. And we were listening. I think the one really huge thing is just the confidence in the voice. Am I talking to someone right out of college that's reading whatever they're saying off this piece of paper? Or do they sound like a peer that I may want to engage with? We had one of the reps and we said, "Hey, it sounds like you're reading off the script. And you have to stress the word I believe and sound like an expert". Very next call, we're listening. He goes, "I believe". He really stressed it, like overstressed it, and you could tell he got the person's attention. And he wasn't smooth, but he at least had added confidence to his pitch. Scheduled a meeting.
Chris Beall (13:10):
That's fascinating. So how did that happen with you? I mean the first time you pushed the button, you got a president standing over one shoulder, you got a vice president standing over the other, they're yelling at you. It's like having big Matt Forbes yell at and tell you to hit the button. Which [inaudible 00:13:25] used to do [inaudible 00:13:26]
Dan McClain (13:25):
Yeah. These were intimidating guys.
Chris Beall (13:30):
So you hit the button and it was confusing at first. When in that process, you got a couple meetings that day, did you get comfortable on the first day of ambushing people?
Dan McClain (13:39):
Absolutely. I got comfortable actually after the second conversation where the guy said, "Hey, busy. Call me next week". Because I knew he was interested. I knew he actually wanted to talk to me. The challenge was it was the CIO of a billion-dollar company. And it was that moment where internally I think I switched gears. And then when I had that third conversation, I didn't feel nervous anymore. I felt confident. And then it was just a natural conversation where I didn't sound like some young person that doesn't know what they're doing so they have to read something off a piece of paper. I sounded like a peer that maybe he actually wanted to engage with. And he had also expressed interest in what we did. Company was Suncor Energy, it was the CIO and they had said, "Yeah. We want to put Redwood Software", the company I worked for, "We want to put them as a line item on a 300 million process improvement project". So in the SAP space, we were on the bill of materials. We were one line item.
Chris Beall (14:43):
Dan McClain (14:43):
Yeah. And after that third call, I actually put my feet up on the desk and I realized that ConnectAndSell was doing the worst part of my day. Sales Force, dial, voicemail, reschedule. Sales Force, dial, talk to that mean gatekeeper, voicemail. It did all that for me.
Chris Beall (15:02):
Dan McClain (15:03):
Chris Beall (15:03):
It's interesting. So you got it like that, and now you sell it. So you get to watch people getting it or not getting it. And so you pointed out somebody sounds like they're reading because they are reading, or they haven't been coached to use their voice appropriately and they can get a little bit stuck. Do you have a point of view about the order in which things ought to happen? Like what we do today is we'll hold a test drive. And a test drive for those of you listen to this don't know what it is, it's a full day of production with ConnectAndSell.
Chris Beall (15:37):
Tony Safoian who was CEO over at SADA, I was on his podcast and I asked him, "Didn't you guys make some money during that test drive at ConnectAndSell?" And he laughed. And Billy Franz, whose his VP of Inside Sales at the time, said something along the lines of "Chris, we made tens of millions dollars pipeline that day". And that was in three hours, right? So you would kind of think, "Well, okay. No brainer. No brainer". But that's how we sell, and it works pretty well but sometimes people they won't even listen to you to take a test drive. Right?
Dan McClain (16:13):
Chris Beall (16:13):
Have you broken that down in your mind as to why? I shouldn't say it's irrational, but we offer test drives for free. The test drive is always educational. It's always fun. I've never had one that wasn't fun. I've been associated with God knows how many of these things. 1800 of them or something like that. They're always fun. So you got something that's fun, your reps are going to like it, it's educational, it's going to reveal the truth about what they're saying.
Dan McClain (16:40):
Chris Beall (16:40):
Oh my God. That'll be interesting. And yet folks often go, "Yeah, I don't know about that. I don't want to take that test drive". What do you think is going on inside those people? What do you do about it? If anything?
Dan McClain (16:53):
This is something that has baffled me that I've been pondering for years. I have no idea. And it's such an interesting thought, because when I came and joined the ConnectAndSell team I really thought it would be as easy as, "Hey, you're a VP of Sales? You want your people talking to 10 times more people? Let's do a free test drive. Free". I really thought it was that easy. And then when I flew up and met with you and with Jonti, we went out for sushi. It was big Matt Forbes and Sean McLaren. Sean McLaren left, and then it was just me and Matt Forbes and he goes, "Hey, listen. Hey, listen buddy. This job is not easy. It's really hard". And I thought, "Nah". He really impressed upon me how hard it would be. And then actually a day before my official start date, I came up to that... There was an AA-ISP trade show in Dallas. And I'm thinking to myself, "I know how to use ConnectAndSell. I don't really understand this whole breakthrough framework we have". But I had it printed out and I'm thinking, "I better show Chris and Jonti that I'm not afraid and I better get on and use. And I better do it in front of them". That was a little bit scary. But I think I've kind of veered from your question. I don't know the answer to that question.
Chris Beall (18:13):
I don't either. I don't either. I always think it's like somebody says, "Okay, so here's the deal. Now mind you, it's only going to be one day but we're going to fly you and the kids to Disney World. And you're going to get to spend a whole day at Disney world and you're going to get to have nice meals at the restaurants and it's going to all be nice. Unfortunately, the sad part is it's only one day and you're going to have to fly home, but at least you'll know what Disney World's like. You'll know whether you and the kids like it". Right?
Dan McClain (18:40):
Chris Beall (18:41):
And I bet if you made that offer to some folks they'd go, "Ah, I don't know about that. That doesn't sound quite right to me". I don't know what it is though, but it's a very similar offer I think. There's got to be something hiding in there that neither you and nor I have figured out yet.
Chris Beall (18:56):
I have a bit of a thesis. It's got two parts. One is the too good to be true thing. That's too good to be true. Well in a way, rationally, what does it matter? But I don't want to waste my time. But I think the other thing is it kind of sounds like something that could be a bit of exposure for you if you're a sales leader.
Dan McClain (19:19):
Chris Beall (19:20):
And a little bit of exposure can go a long ways if you're not comfortable with it, and a long ways in a negative direction. And that may well be. That kind of speaks to market dominance. We talk about on this show, the only safe position to be in a market is a dominant position. Otherwise, someone else by definition is in the dominant position. And if they're in the dominant position, then you're working at their discretion. They can choose whether you live or die. The dominant player can always come undercut you on price, overspend you on whatever, out raise you on capital, attract better talent, have a snowball effect from better customers who then are willing to reference other customers. You name it. There's a book called The Gorilla Game that's about this very thing.
Dan McClain (20:08):
Chris Beall (20:09):
As Geoffrey Moore wrote it back after he wrote Crossing the Chasm. And The Gorilla Game basically says this: In innovation anyway, and tech especially, all the chips go to the dominant player. The dominant player rakes in 90 plus percent of all the profits that will ever be achieved in that category. They take them all. And everybody else kind of serves them, whether they know it or not. They can think they're competing, but they don't know.
Chris Beall (20:34):
Sometimes I wonder whether folks... I don't say want it or not, but whether it's an uncomfortable idea trying to go after that dominant position rather than, "Well, at least this is the devil I know. And I'm kind of getting along. Why rock the boat, right? Why throw the grenade? Roll it down the hall and see what happens"? Do you ever feel that, or am I just kind of in a crazy place here?
Dan McClain (21:01):
Well I always try to look at things in the most simple manner. And when I think about that, I think what is the average tenure now of a VP of Sales? Is it 11 months? Is that still?
Chris Beall (21:16):
Well it's 17 months end to end. So if you're selling to him, you're catching them eight and a half months from their departure on average.
Dan McClain (21:25):
Yeah. I think if you catch them right in the middle, they're in a good spot. But if they're too new, they're too new. They're over their head swimming. Or if they've been there and they know they're on their way out, maybe there's apathy or maybe they're concentrating on where they're going to land next. It's certainly interesting. And it's also interesting the VP of Sales today is certainly not the VP of Sales even four or five years ago.
Chris Beall (21:51):
Hmm. How's that?
Dan McClain (21:53):
From what I see, they're not in control of as much budget. Or they just don't have as much decision-making authority. I'm seeing marketing departments have more, or just the CEO being more involved in those decisions.
Chris Beall (22:07):
Got it. Well we've always said, I've always said here, one of the challenges... And this is a market dominance challenge people got to think about is, marketing has budget for money, sales has budget for heads.
Dan McClain (22:18):
Chris Beall (22:19):
That's the tradition. And so sales leaders, their first order of execution is to make sure they got enough heads for next year. That's your number one job, right? It's your capital source.
Dan McClain (22:30):
Chris Beall (22:31):
So if you're an entrepreneur, you raise money in order to have enough capital to go to market and spend what you've got to spend to get the market you want and then also have a buffer against the unknown. And I think the way a VP of Sales might think about things is, "Hey, so it's November. My big problem is making sure I don't have 62 people, but that I've got 73 people. Because that's going to be my buffer". And now when we're assigning quota and we assign straight up, when some things happen say my top person walks out on day one of the fiscal, and now I'm going to face it. Because I don't think everybody really knows this, but you're going to pay about one times quota to replace your top rep if they walk out on the first day of the fiscal. If you do the math, it's going to be about their whole quota. Million-dollar rep is going to cost you a million dollars.
Dan McClain (23:23):
Wow. That's interesting.
Chris Beall (23:24):
Helen and I were talking about it. She was talking about a hundred-million-dollar rep. Imagine them leaving on the first day of the fiscal.
Dan McClain (23:31):
Chris Beall (23:32):
That happens, right? I mean these are big, big numbers that are crawling around here.
Dan McClain (23:35):
That can be devastating. And I can't tell you how many times in the last six months I've heard it's really easy to go hire someone, it's really hard to go buy ConnectAndSell.
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