Today, our Market Dominance Guys, Chris Beall and Corey Frank, interview Gregory Smith, Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Partnerships at SPARXiQ. Corey introduces Greg as an “M&A whisperer,” which Greg lives up to as he reveals insights gleaned from his work with mergers and acquisitions. How can he tell if a company is going to survive and thrive? Greg says that he begins with two questions: “Does your company’s product or service fill a particular niche? And does your product or service solve a specific problem for customers?” Greg then warns our podcast listeners against being a “one product or service — and done” business. As he explains it, you can occupy a great niche and have a fabulous customer solution, but you need to continue to develop and augment what you’re offering. He illustrates his point with an example from Starbucks’ early days in business and then goes on to tell a cautionary tale of a company that pioneered bacon-infused vodka.
The guys switch over to talking about customer service and how your company’s treatment of customers defines your business more than any product or service ever could. You won’t want to miss this eye-opener and other examples of what can cause businesses to succeed or fail on today’s Market Dominance Guys’ episode, “One and Done Is the Loneliest Number.”
About Our Guest
Gregory Smith is Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Partnerships at SPARXiQ, a business that delivers analytics, training, and software solutions that help companies accelerate performance and profitability.
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The complete transcript of this episode is below:
Today our Market Dominance Guys, Chris Beall and Corey Frank interview Gregory Smith, Vice President of Strategic Accounts and Partnerships at Sparks IQ. Corey introduces Greg as an M&A whisper, which Greg lives up to as he reveals insights gleaned from his work with mergers and acquisitions. How can he tell if a company is going to survive and thrive? Greg says that he begins with two questions.
Does your company's product or service fill a particular niche? And does your product or service solve a specific problem for customers? Greg then warns our podcast listeners against being a one product or service and done business. As he explains it, you can occupy a great niche and have a fabulous customer solution, but you need to continue to develop and augment what you're offering.
He illustrates this point with an example from Starbucks early days in business, and then goes on to tell a cautionary tale of a company that pioneered bacon infused vodka. The guys switched over to talking about customer service and how your company's treatment of customers defines your business more than any product or service ever could.
You won't want to miss this eye-opener and other examples of what can cause businesses to succeed or fail on today's Market Dominance Guys episode, one and done is the loneliest number.
Corey Frank (02:19):
Chris, good afternoon.
Chris Beall (02:23):
Corey, is that you?
Corey Frank (02:26):
Once again. We have a special edition today where this is the... Is this the drinking edition of the Market Dominance Guys? I think it is, right? So Chris, what have you got there in your glass?
Chris Beall (02:35):
This is would be Macallan 12. It's nice and simple. I'm just having it with my favorite accoutrement, air.
Corey Frank (02:41):
Air? Probably a nice soft [bree 00:02:46], okay. As for me, I am drinking a Jocko white pomegranate tea. And if you've noticed, we have a special guest in the other panel here of our discussion. We have Greg Smith. Greg, we're honored to have Greg today.
Corey Frank (03:00):
Greg is an M&A whisperer, a true dirt floor operator. And I think many times, Chris, when we talk about the Market Dominance Guys, we are enamored. We are seduced by people who have taken a lot of these practices and dominated a market. And I think Greg clearly as we uncover and unpack Greg's story, that he's done it again and again.
Corey Frank (03:25):
So he has the unlock code for many entrepreneurs and for many businesses that are just existing and not growing and how to kind of bust out. So Greg welcome, and what's in your glass?
Gregory Smith (03:40):
Thanks guys. It's a pleasure to be here. And I don't know about the unlock code, but I guess if you rate the number of mistakes I've made in my 40 year career, they're pretty extensive. So I guess mistakes sometimes can equate into lessons learned. So yes, I am drinking Don Julio 70 on the rocks and the secret there is two lime wedges and a splash of orange juice, just a splash.
Gregory Smith (04:07):
And I think Don Julio 70 is probably some of the best tequila out there. It's just nice and smooth as Blanco and Silver. So it's just nice and smooth.
Corey Frank (04:16):
Gregory Smith (04:18):
[inaudible 00:04:18] afternoon.
Corey Frank (04:19):
That's right. Well, speaking of nice and smooth, Chris, I know you have a little story about how you kind of ran into Greg and we have very stringent criteria to be a guest on Market Dominant Guys, right? I mean, it's a multi-page questionnaire. And I think there's a blood palette.
Corey Frank (04:36):
I mean, there's all kinds of things, but ultimately Greg passed all those with flying colors. And what are we going to talk about, Chris, with Greg today in the area of market dominance?
Chris Beall (04:44):
Well, we usually are talking to people that are kind of out of the SAS world or the tech sales world or whatever it happens to be. Greg comes out of a different world. And I think sometimes people are skeptical about market dominance being the play, the only safe play when you kind of are not in the world of fast moving technology.
Chris Beall (05:05):
And I think Greg can bring us a perspective on the importance of market dominance in industries that you would think are, I would almost say beyond commodity. The distribution industry might be the most beyond commodity industry around in a way. They're called middlemen for a reason. And generally what one is trying to do with the middleman is to do what the surgeon does with the appendix, cut them out, right?
Chris Beall (05:32):
And so how do you make market dominance happen when people in by and large think of you as an appendix to be cut out? Why is that important and how do you do it? And I think I disagree with Greg about the unlock code itself, or I think he's being a little coy. The unlock code literally is made out of mistakes. You manufacture the unlock code out of errors.
Chris Beall (05:55):
And so I'm really fascinated to hear about the big mistakes and what the learnings are, and then about the application of those learnings to situations where it wasn't obvious a market could be dominated. But in fact, that's what happened.
Corey Frank (06:12):
Exactly. Greg, for you to say you've had many mistakes amongst your four plus different companies that you've taken to maturity and still be there drinking Don Julio versus some rail. It's not real tequila, right? So obviously you fail your way up. You fell upward, you tripped upward. So to Chris's point, let's talk about some of those.
Gregory Smith (06:34):
The reason I'm still here is because I'm drinking Don Julio.
Corey Frank (06:39):
Gregory Smith (06:41):
I look pretty good for 85, don't I?
Corey Frank (06:44):
Chris Beall (06:44):
Damn frisky, as we say in these parts. Damn frisky.
Corey Frank (06:49):
So I'm a manufacturer, I'm a distributor today, Greg and I've been in the business for 15 years, but really I've been in the business one year 15 times. I just can't break out. You're the doctor coming in in the lab coat, what are you diagnosing me for? What are the key levers that from your purview now that you've had these challenges and you've figured it out, what likely am I doing wrong?
Gregory Smith (07:18):
Yeah. So, that's some great questions there. So as I look at what it takes to create market dominance for most industries, right? Most companies, most industries, there's probably about seven or eight or maybe nine, I would say, key attributes to achieving that. And I think it kind of starts with what is your solution, right? And what is your niche?
Gregory Smith (07:47):
And if you can't provide a unique niche in the marketplace or solve a problem or become a solution provider, it becomes really hard to scale your business if you're just amongst the masses. And I have to say, most of my career has been distribution, specifically really in electrical distribution. You can't get much more commoditized than that.
Gregory Smith (08:14):
Yes, there are services that have expanded within that industry over the years to allow for some elasticity, if you will, in the profits. But by and large, you're selling what everybody else sells. So it becomes very difficult to become a differentiator, and services is certainly one of the ways to do that.
Gregory Smith (08:35):
So, I think one of the first things as I mentioned is kind of what is your niche in the marketplace, right? What problem are you solving for a customer? If you can answer one or both of those, you're way more apt to succeed. And frankly, you're way more apt to grab some scalability of your business.
Gregory Smith (08:55):
I talked to a lot of folks, a lot of companies over the years, and I do a bit of consulting on the side and one of the first things I ask them is what is your USP? Or what is it that you're... What problem are you solving or what niche in the marketplace are you looking to kind of hear to? And usually what I get is a lot of blank stares, right?
Gregory Smith (09:20):
Or I get a lot of wordsmithing, but nothing that's really tangible that clients and customers can kind of latch on to. So that's important, right? You have to identify that. And it reminds me of that book, Wide Ocean, right? So if you don't have a niche, you're swimming in wide ocean, and the small guys are nipping at you because they figured out the niche.
Gregory Smith (09:46):
The big guys are nipping at you because they've got scale and volume. Manufacturers are not giving you the full attention that you should have because you don't have the scalability or the volume. You're in that blue ocean. You just churn in and you can, you can make a living. I've seen companies do that.
Gregory Smith (10:03):
I see a nice little 10, 15, 20, $30 million companies that have been around for 80 years that haven't really grown and they fill an itch and they're able to survive. And it's what I would call a generational business or kind of family business, right? It generates enough profits for the family and that's all they're looking to do. And that's okay.
Gregory Smith (10:26):
But if companies are looking to grow, they have to kind of go beyond that. And so it also reminds me of a story. I don't know if you guys remember, I actually bought it once and thought it was disgusting. But there's entire company, it was a vodka company probably maybe 10 years ago, eight, nine years ago, created an entire business model around handcrafted bacon infused vodka. Do you guys remember that?
Chris Beall (10:55):
That sounds good though. I'm going to go out for some right now. I'll be back.
Gregory Smith (11:01):
I don't think they're still around. Yeah, they might be, but... And trust me, I love bacon. I love everything bacon. Bacon infused vodka didn't taste all that good. But anyway, they built an entire model out. So the concept was good, right? They wanted to swim in a space where no one was.
Gregory Smith (11:21):
Now what they ended up doing, which I think is unique, is they started the flavor vodka launch if you will, right? This whole phenomenon. Now, if you go to the liquor store, you can have every flavor of vodka you want. Where they dropped the ball was concept was good, the niche was good. However, they didn't expand on it. They did bacon vodka. It kind of failed.
Gregory Smith (11:51):
And instead of taking it and expanding on it, they just went away. So again, it's realizing what does that niche solve a problem? And then if you can do that, expand on it. But if it doesn't quite work, tweak it and keep going. And as I think about another one, it's you got to make sure that you continue to develop your product or your service.
Gregory Smith (12:15):
You can't just be a one and done. You can't have, and I've seen this before and I'm sure you guys have seen this, where you've got a company that beginning up, they hit a million dollars. They're high fiving, that's great. They hit that first milestone. Then they hit five and then they hit 10. They continue to high five. But as you look at that trajectory, they start to level off or they have leveled off for five to 10 years, right?
Gregory Smith (12:42):
So they can't get beyond that. And there's different evolutions within companies that we could certainly talk about, and what you need to do at each level in terms of shoring up the foundation with people and services and products and all that stuff. But you shore up that foundation that allows you then to grow up to the next level, you shore up that foundation, go to the next level, so on and so forth.
Gregory Smith (13:02):
So, just because you have a good idea or one service in the beginning doesn't mean that it possesses that that elasticity, if you will, or scalability to continue to survive, [inaudible 00:13:15] but then continue to grow to get to some sort of market dominance, right? So this is especially true in the wholesale distribution business, because it is such a competitive business to be in.
Gregory Smith (13:27):
So I'm trying to think of an example for this one would be, well, as you think about Starbucks, right? In terms of how they evolved, Starbucks started out selling coffee, pretty much it. [No loss 00:13:40] for flavors and this and that and cappuccinos and all that stuff, but they quickly capped out. If you look at their public statements, they quickly capped out on revenue.
Gregory Smith (13:54):
I mean, they went like this admittedly, right? And then they capped out and shareholders, and I don't care if the shareholder is you guys, me, Joe around the block or stockholders, right? Either case, the shareholders are like, "Yeah, that doesn't work for us." You're trading at a 20x multiple than originally you were doing.
Gregory Smith (14:58):
Now coming from a distribution business and a 5% UBIT, that's pretty nice. So Starbucks also, you can look at their statements. They also obviously made a lot of money on coffee, but did two things that allowed them to continue to grow as well as increased profitability.
Gregory Smith (15:17):
So then I think the third one, which is really interesting that could be good or bad by the way, is what are the external forces that you don't have control over, but that you can adapt to or change with, right? So, external forces, I think is a big one and there's a variety of them. There's social, culture, economics, demographics, science, technology, you guys mentioned technology, right?
Gregory Smith (15:49):
Legal, political, God forbid, right? All these things. So all of these affect your business and market trends and how people buy. Look at the revolution of the e-commerce in all industries to say nothing about the industrial B2B industry, right? So that was struggling to get e-commerce adoption by its customers.
Gregory Smith (16:16):
And over the previous five years on average is about one to 2% of top line sales. That is a 20x, and that took five years. And in one year, it's a 20x increase, right? So this pandemic changed, it was an external force, and changed the marketplace for business. So I've said this in a couple of postings, I think industrial B2B business is in the midst of a black swan profit event.
Gregory Smith (16:49):
And here's what I mean by that. So you look at the convergence today, right? Of we're nearing the end of the pandemic, again, "hopefully", right? If there's not a variant that comes out that doesn't work with the vaccine or is vaccine resistant, then obviously that's a problem. There's some caveats here, but let's assume that we're nearing the end of this.
Gregory Smith (17:15):
By June, I don't know, 200 million out of 330 million people in the US, 200 million will be vaccinated. There's probably another 75 or 80 million that have already had it and didn't even know it, right? So we're going to get to that. Got a herd immunity phase and businesses are already starting to pick up, right? So we're nearing the end of the pandemic.
Gregory Smith (17:39):
The economy is picking up. Look at the numbers yesterday on unemployment claims, right? There are pre-pandemic levels and commodity prices are on the increase. Now, again, that could be considered good and bad, it depends on where it goes and how much longer it goes. But currently today, if you look within distribution, most distributors are seeing price increases weekly.
Gregory Smith (18:06):
And in some cases, manufacturers, now here we are April, mid April, manufacturers have given distributors, if not one price increase by now, which is pretty standard. Now they're on their second, and then some manufacturers on their third, combined with supply chain issues where you can't get products, right? So all of these things equate to a black swan profit event for distributors if they manage it correctly.
Gregory Smith (18:40):
That's the key, if they manage it correctly. And so that's just one example, I think of external force that can help a business. And obviously, there's external forces that hinder your business. If you're all bricks and mortar and you're not doing any e-commerce site and you're selling, I don't know, paperclips. Yeah, you're not going to be around much longer, right?
Corey Frank (19:02):
Greg, you go back to your example about the bacon infused vodka, right? And Chris, you and I have spoken a lot about this with Market Dominance, is that the number one... And it's interesting to hear your examples in the manufacturing distribution industry, Greg, because again, what Chris and I in our experience in what we've seen from market dominance on the SAS side, certainly expand to others as we've talked about.
Corey Frank (19:28):
But the number one mistake that we say in Market Dominance is that people don't go and get the meetings or the feedback before they build a product, right? Chris, you talked a lot about this as the... It's literally the proverbial cart before the horse problem that is disastrous because the cart ultimately leads the horse off of a cliff, right?
Corey Frank (19:52):
And then we tie into the famous chasm and we've done a number of episodes, Chris, on the chasm, Geoffrey Moore's chasm, because then you go down to that chasm and there is no revenue down there. And clearly there's no... There's loads of broken bacon infused vodka bottles, that's about it, that's down there, but here's no revenue.
Corey Frank (20:14):
So, Chris, what do you say just listening to Greg here is that those parallel is about they didn't test the market that built the product and didn't get any feedback loops? They thought it was a good idea in their own minds, but that was about where it stopped.
Chris Beall (20:29):
Well, I mean, the most common problem in solving problems is finding out whether there's a problem and then finding out whether you can solve it. And then finding out whether you can restrict those that you decide to solve it for in a way that allows them to identify with each other and say, oh, if it worked for Corey, it'll work for me.
Chris Beall (20:49):
That's the trifecta business. People talk about product market fit like it comes magically out of a bacon infused vodka bottle, right? Oh, well, now that we have product market fit, it's like, what in the world does that even mean? It's not some mystery. You go talk to folks and you say, thinking about doing this and you listen carefully to what they have to say and make sure that you don't tweak the message on everyone.
Chris Beall (21:17):
It's called thrash. Fish thrash nicely on the decks of boats after they've been brought up. You don't want to be that fish. It's not a path to dominance. You have to actually take your product as words to the market and then to a hypothetical market. And then let that experience tell you first is this hypothetical market even a market? That is what they talk to each other.
Chris Beall (21:41):
Think about that question that's never asked, which is, hey, I just talked to to Mary and if Mary were to embrace what we're doing, would that actually make it easier for you to take a look at it? It's a good question to ask. That's the ultimate question of referenceability. That is you don't want to solve a problem that if you solved it you'd realize you'd done nothing of value.
Chris Beall (22:03):
So why go into what you think is a market, which is defined as an inter referenceable set of folks that is if one buys it makes it instantly cheaper and lower risk for everybody else to buy instantly because of that first reference, right? That's what it means to cross the chasm. You get that reference. And then use that one to get another and another and another, but your market has to be in a referencing, but that's a hypothesis.
Chris Beall (22:29):
So until you get your hypothesis validated and the cheapest way to validate it is through talk. That's why bars are actually pretty good. That's why if you want to do this really well, find truth serum of some sort. Now, we talk about this all the time that the lie serum, the anti truth serum is the cold call. You will not tell me the truth in the cold call except about one thing.
Chris Beall (22:52):
And you won't even tell me the truth about it, except in your actions. Your strong desire to get off the call with your self image intact. When I cold call you, I know what the truth is. So why don't we just get that one done with and get to a meeting? Because the first truth serum is the voluntary nature of coming to a meeting with somebody.
Chris Beall (23:12):
I had a meeting today with the CFO of a company in the plywood industry. Now you might be asking, what the heck is Chris Beall doing meeting with the CFO of a big company in the plywood industry? And the answer is I wanted to find out whether a solution, which is our flight school packaged and thought of in a certain way, would be interesting to a CFO of a big company.
Chris Beall (23:40):
Because I had advice from somebody that said you should go get that information as a potential market, right? The entry point into the market. So I talked to said CFO. It was an eight minute conversation, eight minutes and 49 seconds. In fact, super conversation. And he said the following, "We have more demand than we can satisfy and probably will for the next 18 months.
Chris Beall (24:04):
So while I see that your product might have been interesting to me at one time and might be interesting in the future, we're not in that situation." Which lets me immediately do a little product market fit work, which is to say, ah, I'm going to take that information and make a list of a subset of the companies I want to talk to whose experts say are in trouble with demand because of the pandemic, great.
Chris Beall (24:32):
So I didn't find out it's not good to talk to CFOs. And by the way, that conversation costs me literally eight minutes and 49 seconds. That was the total cost. That was it. No dollars, no nothing. My time's worth nothing as everybody in the earth knows. CEO's time is the most fungible commodity in the world, and the beauty is that the numerator is zero.
Chris Beall (24:52):
You multiply it out and you get the same number all the time. CEOs like to say they're worth a lot, but their time actually at the margin has always cost zero. It's probably worth zero. So it's a good example right there. Plywood, right? Would you have guessed? You might have that a plywood company right now would be facing a year to two of capacity shortage.
Chris Beall (25:14):
I didn't know that. I learned it. So that brings me to a fourth point, which is go-to-market is more about learning than it is about selling, but the only way we can learn is to sell. And this is the conundrum that faces everybody in go-to-market is well, I have to have something to sell. You've got a problem.
Chris Beall (25:34):
You need to learn, and the only way to learn is to sell. Because until you're in that meeting, that scheduled meeting where they came to you... Because that CFO told me the truth, right? On a cold call, here's what he told Cheryl. He told Cheryl Turner this. Because she said, "I'll send you a meeting invite and we'll reschedule."
Chris Beall (25:55):
He came to the meeting. He said, "I have no idea what this meeting's about." You know what I said, Corey? Fantastic, right? Because we're going to learn together. So I think people tend to skip the learning step because most of the risk of failure hides inside of learning.
Chris Beall (26:13):
And we're not confident in our ability to learn deliberately, and so we skip that step and we would rather plunge into the chasm and be licking up the dry vodka hoping that the bacon flavor is bacon. Dealing with the glass cuts on our tongues and eventually becoming bones like those behind Greg there.
Chris Beall (26:33):
And we do that happily because learning as a deliberate process is so frightening that most entrepreneurs will turn down the opportunity to learn in favor of their urge to act.
Gregory Smith (26:48):
By the way, if I could just add two things to that. So, the first one is that you're absolutely correct, right? This communication to really understand the market that you want to create a product for a solution for, right? The challenge is some of that work actually does get done.
Gregory Smith (27:09):
However, it gets done by the people who are trying to create the niche or identify the niche or solve the problem. We all know we have biases on our belief systems, right? So my philosophy has always been hire other people to do that investigative work, right? That sales work that you call it, to ask the questions, to help identify and/or support your belief.
Gregory Smith (27:37):
But hire others to do it that don't have a stake in the game. And by doing that, you get a lot more information. Because again, talking with companies, talking with startups and helping startups get from point A to point B, to your point, you guys, that's one of the first questions I ask is, have you done some market studies research? Show me what you've done, blah, blah, blah.
Gregory Smith (28:00):
And 50% of them say yes, and here's the data. And we made these calls, we did this and we did that. And half of them were leading questions, right? And none of them are really done, I think, correctly, because now they're in this box where they've spent $1 million, they generated 20,000 revenue. And they're wondering why this thing is stalling out, right?
Gregory Smith (28:22):
And so they didn't really get an understanding of the marketplace and what their product or service was going to solve or the niche that they were going to be in that there really wasn't a need for. So completely agree with you. Then I would take it to the next level, which is communicating with your customer on an ongoing basis, right?
Gregory Smith (28:45):
Creating those conversations with your customers, not just in the beginning, but throughout really your company life cycle. So I used to do these things called customer councils and they were kind of unique, and you had to be a member of the customer council in order to come. We did them once a year.
Gregory Smith (29:06):
It was full blown dinner, steaks, nice restaurant, all they got, hats, t-shirts, jackets. They got some really nice swag stuff for attending. And the deal was that I was there as a leader, but their immediate, their sales team couldn't be there. Their regionals couldn't be there. Branch managers couldn't be there.
Gregory Smith (29:29):
Nobody that they deal with on a day-to-day basis couldn't be there, because I wanted that kind of open and honesty. And so the deal was there was a eight page questionnaire, which took them 10 minutes to fill out. We had a 45 minute conversation, open conversations with everybody in the room about what's working, what isn't working. If you were the CEO of this company, what would be the first thing you would do?
Gregory Smith (29:59):
How can we get better? What problems you need us to solve? And we got so much valuable information out of those customer councils. But I just use that as one example. There's a lot of different ways you can do that, but you got to constantly check the pulse of the customer and get that honest feedback to make sure that you continue. It may have worked in the beginning.
Gregory Smith (30:26):
Five years later, external forces change, customers change, customers needs change. All of those things change, so you've got to keep doing those gut checks to be able to do that. And there's a guy that I really like that I follow a fair amount. And this guy, Simon Sinek, do you guys know Simon?
Corey Frank (30:46):
Chris Beall (30:46):
Gregory Smith (30:47):
Good guy, right? One of the first things I fell in love with is getting to why, right? What is your USP? Why? Whatever it happens to be, but I found that extremely valuable. And I think it's true. I think as companies are able to identify the why and then get employees to understand the why and buy into it, and then equally as important, getting the customer to understand the why, right?
Gregory Smith (31:16):
Why did the customer buy from you? Customers have options to buy the same product from 100 different people. Actually, no, thousands of different people, right? Why did they buy from you? And that's what you really have to understand. If you can understand that, and if you can get customers to buy into that, then you start talking about exponential growth opportunity because it just starts... It's compounding, right? And it just starts building.
Corey Frank (31:45):
That product market fit, Greg and Chris that you guys are talking about, right? That's why, right? Get to the cynics. Why does somebody want my product? I mean, the number one reason that startup companies fail or they run out of money rather is they end up building a product that they think the market wants and the market doesn't want, right?
Corey Frank (32:06):
And again, we call this product market fit and everybody talks about it endlessly, as Chris was saying, and they put the cart before the horse. But what do you guys say to that from a messaging perspective, right? It seems like the message is the product and the why about what problem does this solve is the product.
Corey Frank (32:29):
And getting to that discovery process, that flywheel of feedback seems to be the key in to your market. So you can kind of have a relatively fail safe way, but it's a process, right? Is that what you're finding with a lot of your companies that maybe they're stumbling into this and they don't know that this is a concerted process, this flywheel attempt? Or they're kind of Forrest Gumping themselves into product market fit, so to speak.
Gregory Smith (33:00):
Kind of both, right? But I don't think it's ever about products. I really don't. Unless you're doing something specific like the bacon vodka, right? Unless you're doing something really specific to the marketplace, it's never... Think about Apple, right? People pay 10 times more for an Apple phone than they do any other phone. Why, right?
Gregory Smith (33:22):
Its features and benefits are the same when you buy a Google phone, an Apple phone, or I don't know. I don't know who's out there because I have an Apple. But people pay a lot of money because of the Apple products. And so why, right? Well, Because it's cool. It's this, it's that. Young people did it, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Gregory Smith (33:39):
All that stuff that generates that demand, but people didn't buy it because it was the best phone in the marketplace. They bought it because of Apple. And so what you sell is never your product. It's always you and your services and your people and the solution and the niche and all those things. Products are secondary.
Gregory Smith (34:07):
And I think if companies think about that differently, then your go-to-market strategy is different, right? Your talent acquisition is different. Think about all the folks that have been out of work in the last year, all your bartenders and waiters and waitresses. And I feel bad for those folks who are restaurant owners, all that stuff. Think about how those people work every day to solve customer problems.
Gregory Smith (34:38):
If I was a customer service company hiring people in customer service, I would have made the biggest bang and the biggest push to go out and find the best waiters and waitresses and bartenders I could find. Because they're the people that get it. They understand it. They live it every single day, right? So your talent acquisition is different.
Gregory Smith (35:02):
All these things are different than trying to sell features and benefits. Features and benefits selling really has never worked, and certainly doesn't work today, in my opinion. I don't know, Chris, do you feel differently?
Chris Beall (35:13):
I agree 100%. I've got a good example on that customer service solving problems thing. So we were out, my fiance, Helen and I were out at what's called The Grill here in Quail Creek two nights ago. And it was a pretty lazy move. It was end of a long day. I didn't want to cook. I normally cook.
Chris Beall (35:35):
She didn't want to cook. And so we went out and we sat down in the wind and we ordered our food, and the waitress seemed really good. She was very attentive. She was quick. She didn't interrupt the conversation. My least favorite thing for a wait staff to do is to come over and start talking in the middle of a conversation, which with me is all the time. So, it was wonderful.
Chris Beall (36:00):
Then suddenly it went weird and we're looking at each other going, where's the silverware? We have nothing to eat with. We have food, nothing to eat with. Where's my margarita? It hasn't showed up. I don't think it takes them 10 minutes to make a margarita and bring it over. I know I asked for the good tequila, but that's just like you open the bottle and you do the thing.
Chris Beall (36:20):
And so, was that a bad waitress or a good waitress? This is where I think talent management really is interesting. Getting to the underlying truth about somebody in service is challenging and gold. So I determined that that waitress who disappeared and left us high and dry for 10 minutes was fantastic.
Chris Beall (36:41):
And here's how. When she came back and she had put somebody else in charge and that person kind of dropped the ball. When she came back, she said, "I'm so sorry. There was a snake right over there. And I caught it and I decided to take it out in the desert and let it go, and it took me a little while to get over there and back."
Chris Beall (37:03):
Now, here's where she kind of screwed up as a customer service person. She said with emotion, "You want to see it?" And she reached into her apron pocket. Not good. Don't ever say, do you want to see a snake and reach into your pocket, especially not with my fiance at the table, because she is not exactly pro-snake, I would say.
Chris Beall (37:21):
So I said, "Yeah, show it to me." And I knew it was a video. So she showed me the video of the little snake, little rat snake, crawling all over her hands. But do I want that person on my team? Is the point to Greg's point. And the answer is yes, because that's somebody who takes the situation and situational awareness and realizes, I may leave this couple here for a bit, but that snake crawling around them in the feet of the table at 10 over here, that's a disaster for our business.
Chris Beall (37:50):
And she made the decision and took an action that had no immediate pat on the back from anybody and did it for the true good of the situation. And these people are everywhere if you go find them. And I agree, customer service is the most amazing of the commodities. I'm wearing my favorite shirt, right? You've seen this before, Corey.
Chris Beall (38:15):
This is from the AA-ISP executive retreat. And I wear the shirt because, rather proudly and I'm not proud of that many things, our company has won the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals Service Provider of the Year for seven years in a row. And we never intend to lose it, and it's the most important thing about our company.
Chris Beall (38:36):
And when we hire somebody, that's what we're looking for. But the best part is, I get four or five times a week, some CEO or VP of sales have called me up and say, I just have got to tell you, your people are different. Your people are different. They're not only experts, but I feel like they're more on our team than we are on our team.
Chris Beall (39:00):
They're more insistent on our success than we knew we should be. And that's where I think you get the big differentiator. It [isn't 00:39:10] product. And by the way, we have a very unique product. I mean, very unique as an oxymoron or an idiot redundancy or some stupid grammatical thing like that. But I'll repeat it anyway, we have a very unique product.
Chris Beall (39:21):
One of a kind, the only one in the world. But that's not what's interesting. What's interesting is that our people by and large will be on your team more than your own team's on your team.
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