EP180: Sales Success in the Age of AI and Emotional Intelligence
In this episode of the Market Dominance Guys, Chris Beall reviews how artificial intelligence and machine learning will impact the future of sales. Beall shares his thoughts on how decision support using AI can make it easier and faster to figure out what to do. He gives an example of a prospective customer who wanted to talk to CEOs of companies using the entrepreneurial operating system popularized in the book "Traction." He was able to use ChatGPT to find the names of CEOs running companies that were probably following EOS. In just a few minutes, he had a list of CEOs, company names, and phone numbers. Chris believes that AI and machine learning will help sales teams be more efficient at finding the folks they want to talk to. They will be able to understand their sales teams better, which will help sales run better. In addition to AI, he covers inbound and outbound marketing strategies and which one is more effective. Finally, he explores the power of negative conversations in driving pipeline and how they can be more effective than positive conversations. Join us for this episode, “Sales Success in the Age of AI and Emotional Intelligence.”
Here are 12 provocative questions answered in this episode:
How do you think the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning will impact the future of sales?
What's your take on the debate between inbound and outbound marketing strategies? Which one do you think is more effective?
Can you share a story about a time when you failed at something in your professional life? How did you bounce back from it?
How do you stay motivated and focused when faced with challenges or setbacks?
What's the biggest mistake you see salespeople make, and how can they avoid it?
How do you think technology changes how sales teams work and collaborate?
What's your opinion on the role of emotional intelligence in sales, and how can salespeople develop this skill?
How do you measure the success of your sales team, and what metrics do you use?
In your experience, what are the most effective strategies for building strong relationships with clients and customers?
How do you ensure that your sales messaging resonates with your target audience?
What advice would you give to someone who is just starting a career in sales?
What are the biggest challenges facing sales leaders today, and how can they overcome them?
Full episode transcript below:
Chris Beall (00:11):
Hey everybody. Chris Beal here, co-host of Market Dominance Guys with another episode of Market Dominance. Guys, I find myself today all alone. I'm here in West Seattle looking out at the water, watching ferries go by water taxis, an occasional harbor seal, hoping for a cruise ship, but haven't seen one yet. And my co-host, Corey Frank, is super busy right now building Branch 49 and servicing customers, and I've got a little time this afternoon, so I thought I'd just do something with, instead of Corey, I'd do something with our friend chat, G p T. So I asked chat G p T to provide 12 provocative questions that a podcast host might ask. Chris Beal, c e o of connect and sell and co-host of the Market Dominance Guys podcast. So chat G P t's going to be kind of our host interviewers so to speak, and I'm going to answer these questions as best I can.
Chris Beall (01:09):
Now, one thing that I thought was pretty impressive was the speed with which chat g p T came up with these 12 questions. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time and it thinks things over might take 10 seconds, 20 seconds. This was like there is your 12, so I thought that was very interesting and we'll just jump right in. So this is Chris Beal, a glass of wine, a beautiful afternoon here in West Seattle and chat G P T asking provocative questions. So provocative question number one, how do you think the rise of artificial intelligence and machine learning is going to impact the future of sales? Now that's what we call a big, big question. So I've got some ideas. I know some of these things are going to seem a little short term and some are kind of long term. The short term ones I'm pretty certain of mostly because I'm already doing them, the long term ones we'll see.
Chris Beall (02:10):
So the short term ones have to do with just making it easier and faster to figure out what to do. I'll call it decision support. So I have an example, I have a prospective customer who would like to talk to CEOs of companies that are using the entrepreneurial operating system as popularized in the book traction. That's a really hard problem to solve with something like ZoomInfo or Apollo or whatever and it's not really solvable with Google. Now you could find folks that had attended an online event or physical event who are into the traction concept, the e o s as it's called. But hey, how about asking chat G P T for the names of CEOs who are running companies that are probably following e o s? Well, I tried it and I'd actually tried it during the time that my prospective customer asked the question and in about, oh, I don't know, three, four minutes, I had first name, last name, I knew the title c e o of a bunch of companies and I had the company names.
Chris Beall (03:19):
I ran them through our list enrich process and voila, I had a list of folks that could be called on the best phone number known for them from actual experience and it was really, really straightforward. So artificial intelligence in this case with a whole bunch of knowledge built in because chat g p T's got this immense amount of knowledge, mind you only up to September, 2021, but still things don't change that fast gave me a great answer and so it did something that I'll say was not practical to do some other way and it got us into a calling state and in a calling state, as soon as you're calling the list you learn an awful lot and you learn it really fast. In the long run, I think a bunch of other things are going to happen and I think mostly they're going to be around being able to be more efficient at finding the folks you want to talk with.
Chris Beall (04:15):
So there's the whole idea of intent. Now I'm a little, I don't know, I'm not a hundred percent bullish on what most people call high intent. I think it's a little strange competitively to choose to dive into a red ocean, highly competitive red ocean with everybody else who has the same intent signals and think that you're getting an advantage. I think sometimes folks forget that it's always competitive in sales and I'm thinking B2B sales, but it could be any sales, but B2B especially, it's a zero sum game. Nobody's choosing you and your competitor to solve the same problem. Why would you want to be late? I don't know. Artificial intelligence and machine learning is going to help us be earlier. I also think it's going to help us understand our sales teams better. It's very, very difficult and it's kind of subtle to figure out what's really going on with your sales team before you've spent an awful lot of money finding out what's going on with your sales team, being able to understand what's actually happening, ask questions of your data in a way that you can understand as a sales leader or a business leader, I think is going to be a big, big impact or have a big impact on sales that as sales will run better because you'll have teams that consist of folks who are doing better because you can ask questions to find out who's really doing better and it's not just who made their number last quarter or last year.
Chris Beall (05:42):
Okay, number two, what's your take on the debate between inbound and outbound marketing strategies? Which one do you think is more effective? This podcast is called Market Dominance Guys and anything could
Chris Beall (05:56):
Be used to dominate markets, but I think it's a question of timing. So in most markets, at least as a market hypothesis, you have an idea of who you'd like to talk to. Well, it's a lot easier and faster just to go talk to people that you'd like to talk to and get information back from them as to what they think of your offering, of your concept, of your product of you than it is to wait for people to come to your website because you did some advertising. So by the way, outbound is also very powerful. Marketing is not just an outbound sales. When you talk to somebody, they're very likely to go to your website on the spot that makes your outbound calling into inbound response. And so you get a response of somebody coming inbound and then by the way, they answer the phone because you called them to get them to come inbound and then you go back outbound.
Chris Beall (06:53):
One thing that's not obvious to most of us until we look at the numbers and we have to look at them back from backwards, from the opportunities back to the conversations that preceded them is negative conversations or negative outcome. Conversations are actually more powerful in driving pipeline and positive conversations. Positive conversations are great, you get a meeting or you get a follow up and you move forward. But interestingly, once somebody's within that safety, that zone of it's okay, I'm not on that call anymore to do what they want to do. Often what they want to do since you interrupted them is they want to complete looking at your website, which you got them to go take a look at. So which is more effective? It's really a question to me of which goes first. You want to do outbound first because you can make a list, which is your market hypothesis, go talk to the subset of that list that answers the phone, get information back sooner, adjust your hypothesis, adjust your message, which is your product at that point and tune faster and more cheaply than you can in AB testing a bunch of messaging on inbound.
Chris Beall (08:06):
So at some point, however you get to the folks who don't answer the phone, fortunately if you use a conversation first strategy, you've already dominated that market and the inbounds come to you because you're the standard. All right, number three, can you share a story about a time where you failed at something in your professional life? How did you bounce back from it? Oh my goodness, I have so many of these. So there's one that comes to mind. I don't know if I bounced back exactly, I suppose I did. I went off into another industry once and tried to run a software style, I'll call it business in a services business that was heavier. It involved floor finishing. It was high tech but not as high tech as software and it was, it's not as light software software businesses are very, very lightweight and you're not carrying equipment, you're not carrying leases, you're not carrying offices.
Chris Beall (09:03):
This particular story, we got up to 22 offices open around the country in nine months. We were growing at 30% a month and we had a product failure across our entire portfolio and I had not raised enough money to buffer ourselves against that product failure. We managed to resolve it in a few days, but a few days wasn't fast enough. We ended up selling the company and how did I bounce back from it? I wasn't feeling very good. It wasn't feeling very good about myself. A dear friend of mine said, reach out to somebody that you know can help and once they accept your help, you'll feel better. So I did that. Somebody happened to be a very dear friend of mine who's a venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, and what do you know, a few days later I was in Silicon Valley talking to some folks at a company about their product.
Chris Beall (09:55):
I kind of gave a very firm criticism of the product. I think I said it was a fake and next thing I was running product at that company. I was the E V P of product and I went from being deep in the hole personally and probably feeling that way professionally to having a job, didn't have a car, rode the bicycle to in the dark in the mornings over to light rail and that was all great adventure actually and just kind of grounded out and came back out of that hole and that company actually, we ended up kind of spinning another company off and then the VC in question, they decided to shut it down. I just bounced back from that by going to do some things for some of their other companies and just kind of keeping on how do you stay motivated and focused when faced with challenges or setbacks?
Chris Beall (10:54):
Now this is an interesting question. I've never had a motivation problem. I don't know why. I don't know if I have a focus problem or not. I probably do a lot of different things interest me, but I've never had a motivation problem. So to me, I actually like having the wolf at the doors. I call it, I don't know why. I've always felt more comfortable when I felt like I was under some kind of either time pressure or financial pressure. Both, thank goodness, those things just naturally show up. You don't have to work very hard to bring time, pressure and financial pressure into your life. They will show up. So your life is like a racehorse that eats while you sleep and the wolf will come to your door. The wolf has an incredibly good nose for where there's things that need to be paid attention to.
Chris Beall (11:47):
But I don't know, I've just always been the kind of person who goes, Hey, there's people to help and problems to solve and I'm still alive. So give it a whirl. What is the biggest mistake you see salespeople make? This is question number five and how can they avoid it? Now I'm reading a very good book right now that I highly recommend called the Jolt Effect, I think is what it's called, or Jolt Impact or something like that. It's by the challenger sales folks. And I think it points out this huge mistake that salespeople make and we all make it, which is when somebody is indecisive, when the prospect of inde is indecisive, there's an assumption that they just need to hear more from you. You need to make it more obvious that your solution has value that they're going to miss out. If they don't take that value, maybe throw a little fear, uncertainty and doubt in there.
Chris Beall (12:38):
And I think not recognizing that what you need to do is recognize that this person has a hard time making a decision right now, de-risk the decision for them in some way. Can you take some of that pressure off in order to let them stop backing away from you into an indecisive mode? And that's difficult to do because as salespeople, we all want the deal. So how do we stay sincere and on the other person's side when we want the deal? And then how do we not waste our time? If sales was easy, everybody would be doing it well, but most people don't do it well. But the big mistake I see is exactly that. I call a version of this. I have a whole episode on it called the Dog and the Bone and the Chainlink Fence. And it salespeople often act like a dog who's trying to get to a juicy bone on the other side of a chainlink fence and instead of recognizing that the path to the bone is to go 10 feet to the right and through the gate, they just keep pushing their nose into the fence.
Chris Beall (13:45):
They get so close to what feels like success that they can't back up and see that there might be another path. And that path often has to do with the emotions of the other person. So it's something to think about. Okay, so number six. How do you think technology is changing the way sales teams work and collaborate? Two different questions. There's work and there's collaborate. I think collaborate technology is doing a little better at than work. I think technology often makes sales teams do more work because much technology, software technology, CRMs a good example, says like Audrey, the mediating plant at Little Shop of Horrors feed me. And you feel like you're feeding the technology data all the time. And then the question is, what's it doing for you? And yo lafa notice when management is frustrated with their view of what's going on in sales, they demand that more data be put in the C R M.
Chris Beall (14:54):
So how does it work for you? Not quite so obvious. So I actually don't think technology tends to change the way sales teams work in a way that reduces work would be, which would be great. I think it is useful for collaboration mostly in ways that we don't recognize the ability to share a document with somebody else, send it to them, have them make some comments on it and bring it back. In particular, collaborating with buyers I think is easier now with technology. And imagine if you had to go to somebody's shop and take that big binder out or that folder, remembrance, I don't know. Most of you probably don't, when slides were something you put up on an overhead and you drew on. I know technology has just made it a lot easier to have conversations now using whatever support you need in terms of images and in terms of data than you could have before.
Chris Beall (15:50):
Now, does this always make sales go faster? Probably not, but sometimes it does. And I think in a collaboration sense with the potential customer, I think we collaborate a little better or easier I guess with technology seven, what's your opinion on the role of emotional intelligence in sales and how can salespeople develop the skill? Read Jeb Blunt's book Sales eq. That's my recommend recommendation. Anybody listening to this, he wrote a whole book on the subject, emotional intelligence is the number one thing you need in sales. It's probably number two and probably number three also, again, I'll go back to this jolt effect or jolt impact. If I remember the name of the book, I wouldn't be, well maybe I'll ask chat g p t what the name of the book has. Anyway, when I go to look at that, well, the first thing in jolt is J, which is judging whether the difficulty somebody's having making a decision is because they love the status quo or because they're indecisive.
Chris Beall (16:55):
Well, this requires a lot of emotional intelligence to read the cues, to read those T leaves. And it requires a lot of emotional intelligence to tell if somebody is concerned that you're not going to deliver or concerned that you're not on their side or worried that perhaps they're going to look bad by making a decision with you because you're not the preferred number one. Everybody goes with that kind of stuff, requires emotional intelligence. And the sooner you can detect what's going on with the other person emotionally, the better reading the room is another situation. I've been in lots and lots of meetings in my life where it took a fair amount of emotional intelligence to recognize that person. Almost always a guy in that back left corner who didn't say anything. That's the one who's going to ask at the end of this presentation that's going to feel like a spear being chucked into my chest, right?
Chris Beall (17:54):
They've got something that they're going to try to kill me with. And having the emotional intelligence to recognize that and then kind of arrange so that the room is on your side before that happens or so that person realizes it's a bad idea to expose themselves through that question, that those are high skills. That's where the deals are made or not made, failed in the big enterprises. So developing the skill, mostly it requires that you look at yourself, you look at your own behavior probably with somebody else helping you and figure out where is it that you get bound up inside yourself that you can't feel free about noticing how somebody else feels and being able to label those feelings. Learning to label your own feelings, which is something Chris Vo talks about and label the situation and the feelings of somebody else is really key.
Chris Beall (18:55):
Until you can label emotions, you probably can't reason about them. And if you can't reason about 'em, you're not going to be able to use emotional intelligence. Number eight, how do you measure the success of your sales team and what metrics do you use? Well, the most obvious one is are they making the number? But I mean you didn't need chat G p T to ask this question to me, right? Everybody wants to know are you making the number? What I'm particularly interested in from a metrics perspective are flow rates. So I'm interested in the flow rate of conversations with relevant people and those are first conversations, they're follow up conversations and then they're scheduled meetings. If those flow rates are not continuing for at least smoothly or growing because your business plan calls for them to growth, you got problems. And so right now, for instance, I am thrilled that the flow rate of test drives at connect and sell.
Chris Beall (19:53):
We do a thing called intensive test drive. It's a full day of production of our system. It's mind blowing. People love it. It's not a demo, it's like full production. They're talking to real people, they're setting meetings, they're learning stuff from the feedback from prospects, and they're building pipeline. So you know what? What's not to like? Well, I don't know, everything's got friction and getting somebody to like it enough to do it. And we took some friction out of our way of selling these free test drives and voila, we suddenly had twice as many coming in per day or at least being signed. So that's a good thing and that's one of the ways I measured. I like to look at sales as though it's manufacturing. That is you're moving something through a system and you're processing it along the way at different stations, just like manufacturing workstations.
Chris Beall (20:47):
So I want to know where is the bottleneck right now? So one of the metrics I use is where's inventory building up? We increase the flow rates of test drives that have been signed. Well, does that mean there's now a bottleneck right in front of test drives that are being delivered? Probably. I mean, after all, why would we have had twice the capacity for delivery in advance? It's normally the case that if you increase the flow rate of something upstream in a process, you'll move the bottleneck downstream. So the metrics I'm using, there are the backlog of test drives pretty simple, but then you've got to really dig into the data and make sure you're not just accepting glibly what some report says. You've got to make sure that whatever the distinctions are that are made in the report, they're actually correct that they're distinctions based on real data.
Chris Beall (21:38):
And you've got to make sure you don't fall into what I call the counting problem where it's like, oh, I have five of these, but are they all equal sized? So you have counting and then you have measuring, and they're two different things and it's easy to get them kind of confused with each other. So those are some metrics and the others are productivity metrics that I expect and want to have running pretty smoothly. And if they don't run smoothly, then something's up. So for instance, how many meetings are being set per hour per rep when they're prospecting? So our S D R team prospects at just about 0.51 hours per rep per or meetings per rep hour. And I look at that every day and in fact, I'm going to look at it right now, you can't see this, but hey, take my word for it.
Chris Beall (22:30):
So here we are on the 10th of May, 2023, and I can go into my connect and sell system and I can click a couple of buttons and I can get an answer to that question. So the team has set 25 meetings today on 403 conversations, and those conversations took a total of 55 hours and four minutes and 18 seconds, and in order to get those conversations, it took 7,562 dials, which by the way, the team didn't do. So what are the meetings per rep hour today? They're at 0.45. That's a little bit off. So then I ask myself the question, what is it off due to? Is it off? Because the conversations per rep hour is low, it's 7.32 today. That seems reasonable to me. Is it the conversion rate? Now the conversion rate is down a tiny bit today it's 6.20. This team tends to convert in sort of the mid seven range, seven plus percent.
Chris Beall (23:30):
It could be that we've unleashed some new lists on them and they're very cold or cold, less convert at a lower level than less efficiently than follow up lists. It could be that their wait times are a little, and in fact they are, they're four minutes today. So then I can look into, well, who is that true? For one of the reps, it's 11 minutes and 12 seconds. For the rest it's around three. What's going on with that rep? You see where this goes, right? The metric leads you toward root causes if you have the data. I like data that tells me how many units of something are being produced per hour because all we have at the end of the day is the day and the day only has so many hours. So that's what I prefer and kind of what I look at every day.
Chris Beall (24:21):
I frankly don't know how CEOs run companies who don't have access to this kind of information, but apparently they do. But I think they're kind of stuck looking at trailing indicators. I like looking at leading indicators. In your experience, what are the most effective strategies for building strong relationships with clients and customers? Number one, be on their side. It's so easy in customer situations, client situations to say, well, I represent my company so I've got to be on our side, and everything's got to be very transactional. Get all this kind of talk when you come right down to it, to me anyway, if you want to have a strong relationship with somebody and you're the expert in what they're buying and they're the expert in what they're doing, you need to be generous with your expertise. And so it means going that extra mile, that little bit farther with regard to providing help and you always can provide more help.
Chris Beall (25:26):
It's one of the reasons I prefer not to have lots of paid professional services in my company. Some people love that, but I think kind of it gets you in a position of saying, well, you're transacting for every hour of our time and we're not going to give you anything at the margin. The fact is there's a lot of unknown in any complex relationship. You're trying to accomplish difficult things together. You're going to run into unknowns. Who's going to step up and try to learn what that unknown is and how to resolve it first? I think that as the seller, it's smart to be first to step up, first to go toward the problem rather than conserving or hours in your resources. Now obviously you have to make money and you have to figure out what is okay to give. And if somebody's using you and I'll use that word, then you've got to stop letting them use you.
Chris Beall (26:28):
But that's not the normal problem that we run into. The normal problem is clients and customers over time start to feel transacted. They start to feel used, and if they're feeling used, they're going to look around for somebody who's going to help them without using them. Alright, so here's an easy one for me. We have episodes on this in market dominance guys. Number 10. How do you ensure that your sales messaging is resonating with your target audience? It's actually pretty simple. Your sales messaging, first and foremost, as got to set meetings, it needs to compel the best and repel the rest. A meeting setting rate of about 5% on cold calls tells you that for that particular audience, for that particular target audience, you're doing okay, you're above threshold. You can run 5% on cold calls and eight, nine, 10% on follow-up calls and make sure you have rescheduled meeting calls because meetings get blown and you're doing all right.
Chris Beall (27:33):
Now your conversion rate of downstream activities is a little bit different. And at every level you've got to check, one of the things you should be looking for I look for is across the team, are the conversion rates similar? If they're highly variable, then we have a hidden variable somewhere. There's something we need to go in and figure out. It's not the messaging obviously, maybe it's how it's being delivered. Maybe there's a subtlety in somebody's voice or in how they respond to questions or how they ask questions in discovery. So that's where you're getting down to using performance issues around what's not messaging, because the messaging is locked. Using those performance issues to find out where you could be doing better. Because wherever you have those gaps, those are opportunities to learn to do better. Number 11, what advice would you give to somebody who's just starting their career in sales?
Chris Beall (28:31):
If you can sell something you believe in, because when you don't believe in something, you acquire very, very bad habits. In sales. I mean, sales is not a profession that should best be built, unprofessional, lying or tricks or manipulation. What you're really doing is you're becoming an expert in something so that you can help somebody else understand whether the solution that your company offers is the one that you would recommend as an expert. So it's very difficult to get yourself in the position, the strong position of simply saying, Hey, based on what you've said so far, what we've discovered together, my strong recommendation is that you do X. That's the ultimate thing to be able to say in sales. You want to be able to say that frankly every single time. By the way, X could be that you don't do anything at this time or that you don't work with us.
Chris Beall (29:30):
But if you're representing something that you believe in and your qualification process has any chops at all, you're going to more often than not be able to honestly recommend that they take a next step that makes sense, that includes working with you and your company and moving forward. So choose carefully because if you choose to represent a product that you don't believe in or that you anti believe in, you'll acquire acquire very quickly. All of the worst habits of a salesperson and your career in sales will end up struggling as you're dealing with two things. One is the ineffectiveness of tricks. Sales is not a bag of tricks. Two is your own feelings about your profession. You may rightly or wrongly start to feel like you're not being straight up with people. And so pick carefully. And by the way, one of the reasons that buyers in B2B especially tend to go with who they think is the best salesperson is they believe that the best salesperson has their pick of the products and therefore they pick the best product.
Chris Beall (30:41):
So it works the other way around. Pick a product you believe in and then don't worry so much at the very beginning about how much you're being paid. Be concerned with how you can learn to be an expert on something that allows you to be helpful. Well, as Anthony Ior Reno says, staying one up, that is knowing more than the other party. Number 12, what are the biggest challenges facing sales leaders today and how can they overcome them? Well, Helen Fucci has been on this podcast a couple of times, and she wrote a book called Love Your Team, A Survival Guide for Sales Managers in a Hybrid World. So I'm going to map this question about leaders on the managers, and here's the issue, it's today, it's tomorrow, and it's forever. Your success depends on your team's performance and your team's performance actually depends mostly on whether you support them, whether you support them, and by the way, as a team.
Chris Beall (31:43):
So if you have somebody on the team that's underperforming, you owe the team really, really good performance management of that person and you owe that person and yourself an open mind with regard to what's going to happen as a result of that performance management. So becoming a great performance manager is a huge challenge. Very few sales leaders are capable of doing great performance management, but if you don't do it, the rest of your team will feel like, Hey, apparently we don't hold ourselves to high standards here. Somebody is able to do whatever and kind of get away with it. And so it's stuff like that. It is, how can you get to the point quickly where your team, which is now going to be hybrid and quite capable of moving on, your best performers can move to another company and sell another product in a heartbeat.
Chris Beall (32:37):
So how can you keep your team intact? How can you keep them being effective? And how can you do it without manipulating them? Well, I advise that you read Helen's book and it doesn't matter what kind of manager you are, and think about this, that love your team is the answer to the big challenge. And the challenge is these days the talent can walk out the door without taking a single step. And always as a sales leader or a sales manager, the performance of the team determines your success. So those are my 12 questions. I thank chat g p t for so quickly writing them up. I hope that my answers are of some value to the audience here. And had we had Corey Frank around on this, he would've done a much better job than I did of asking these questions. But on the other hand, hey, Corey, coming up with great questions is one of the things that you do and chat g p t, not as subtle as you, not as many fantastic historical and literary references, and I know your poetry is much better, but hey, not bad. Not bad. So until next time, for Corey Frank, this is Chris Beal, market dominance. Guys, go out and dominate.
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