Nobody likes to be told what to do. But in sales that’s exactly what we do: We tell our prospects what to do. With each cold call or discovery call, we’re basically saying, “Buy this!” No wonder prospects on the receiving end of a sales call feel apprehensive and try to end the call quickly! Matt McCorkle, Manager of Branch Operations for Kaeser Compressors, joins our Market Dominance Guys, Chris Beall and Corey Frank, for a dissection of this sales problem. How do you take a prospect from that state of apprehension, where they fear they’re going to be sold to, and get them to a state of pride, where they are comfortable enough to share their company’s pain and open the door to true discovery? Join Matt, Chris, and Corey as they talk turkey on this Market Dominance Guys’ episode, “Sales and the State of Apprehension."
About Our Guest
Matt McCorkle is Manager of Branch Operations for Kaeser Compressors. He has earned both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering and has now been with Kaeser Compressors for 13 years.
Listen to the next installment of this interview with Matt McCorkle
Corey Frank (01:15): And so Chris and Matt maybe can talk a little bit about that, about how the discovery call is maybe a little bit different than most people think.
Chris Beall (01:23): I'll tell you one thing that's different, is discovery call doesn't have any piece of it that belongs in the cold call or the follow-up call to get a meeting. The psychology of getting a meeting is so radically different from the psychology of having a discovery call with somebody, which is an exploration.
Chris Beall (01:42): I mean, you don't ambush somebody in order to explore something with them. You ambush somebody in order to see whether they'll agree to get past the ambush and have a chat with you about something that could go a little bit deeper and be more legitimately exploratory. And I mean, the mistake we see all the time, I see it all the time is folks going, "Oh, I got the meeting." In fact, I was just listening to one of my own reps the other day. She had the meeting, she had it on the calendar for a date and then started asking questions.
Chris Beall (02:15): The questions that you would ask in discovery. And after the third question, the prospect said, "You know what? I don't think this is for me." Now, I went and looked at that particular company. They could use ConnectAndSell all day long. In fact, Kaeser would be an example of the kind of company that we might have rejected because we'd go, "Well, I don't know, [inaudible 00:02:36] using the phone?" And it'd be, "Well, not really." "How many reps do you have or are using?" How many hours did they blah, blah, blah. Was that kind of question.
Chris Beall (02:45): So believing in the meeting as the only product that you're selling in an ambush conversation or follow up conversation, I believe is a big key, and then believing the potential value of that meeting for the human being you're talking with, even if you're never going to do business with them is the other key.
Chris Beall (03:05): And this is where we've actually learned from some folks like Scott Webb over at HUB International and Cheryl Turner’s picked up these techniques. Scott told me once, he said, when I insist that somebody take the meeting, I feel like I'm pulling them out of the way of a speeding bus. I don't need their permission to save their life. And I think that attitude is super important. And you have that moment where you've gotten enough trust to move into the meet, I'll call it, the middle part of the cold call, where, okay, we get through that, now what? The answer is now what is, we should meet. Not, we should talk more about the meeting.
Chris Beall (03:49): And Cheryl's got another thing she does, which I think is beautiful. And she had a CEO on the phone and I think she mentioned this one. She was on the podcast, he's putting gas in his car and he's standing in the rain. And he says, "Cheryl, I'm putting gas in my car. I'm standing in the rain. Of course, I don't have my calendar available." And she says, "Fantastic. Tell you what, I'm a morning person. I'll shoot you something for next Thursday. We'll move it around if we have to."
Chris Beall (04:12): Because keeping in mind that the prospect's desire is to get off this call with their self-image intact. That's their only desire that never changes. Doesn't matter what they say. That's what they want. And that your view is they're better off if they take the meeting. A lot better off. So I'm going to make sure they take the meeting and I'll use the fact that they want to get off the call. Great. We're in alignment now, let's get this over with and at least get a verbal.
Chris Beall (04:42): I won't go into discovery too far. You know how I do discovery? I mean, I do everything and I believe in sales. We should always do everything based on what we assess as the emotional state of the individual we're talking with and what is the next most useful emotional state they could transition to.
Chris Beall (05:00): I don't believe in next steps. I believe in next state. A next state, because sales is an emotional journey, always a hundred percent of the time. And if the prospect's in an emotional state that is not conducive to further exploration, I want to help them get in an emotional state that is conducive to further exploration because that's where the value is going to be, is in the exploration.
Chris Beall (05:25): So even in discovery, I figure they're starting off in a state of apprehension because they figure they're going to be sold to. What state do I want to get them into? A state of pride, because pride gives you comfort and when you're comfortable, you can speak freely. So I want them to settle in and speak with pride. That's why I ask that question that everybody knows I ask. I always ask, "Where are you in the face of our blue whirling planet right now?" And the reason I ask it is I want us to feel like we're together. Blue whirling planet, see earth at a distance. And I want them to speak with pride to where they live because that emotion now replaces the emotion of apprehension.
Chris Beall (06:03): You can't have two contradictory emotions at once. Our old brain is too primitive for that. It doesn't know how to do that. It makes a choice. How am I going to feel right now? And the choice is actually made for it, so to speak. And that emotion is all there is, everything else is irrelevant. The question is, is it a useful one for doing the work that needs to be done or not?
Chris Beall (06:28): I was talking to a guy today who's used to be a minor league ballplayer. And I said, "If you put you and me out at the plate, facing a major league pitcher, your emotional state will be very different from mine. Mine will be apprehension, bordering on actual rank fear. And no matter what that ball does, I'm bailing out. I'm out of there. Whereas you, your emotional state's different." Maybe I have the ability to hit that baseball. Maybe not, who knows? We'll never find out because I've got to get into an emotional state where I'm capable of performing.
Chris Beall (07:05): I think that's what we do, primarily in sales, is we help people go from the emotional state they're into one that would be more conducive to getting to an exploration of possibilities. And when we think of it differently, I think we get in trouble.
Matt McCorkle (07:23): Yeah, I really like that analogy of being on the phone with somebody and the value of the meeting is saving them from an oncoming train or a bus or whatever you're saying. What we say is, if this one isn't nearly as impactful, but when we're training we say, you are giving the person you're talking to a hundred dollars. Are you going to be excited and happy to give this person a hundred dollars because you're saving them that money simply by showing up and showing them some of the knowledge that we have at Kaeser for their operation? Absolutely. You're not taking a hundred bucks from them. You're not wasting their time, you're giving them a hundred dollars and here's the dollars of value you're giving them. That's the one we use, pretend like you got a hundred dollars in your pocket and you're just walking up to somebody and say, "Here you go. No strings attached, here's a hundred bucks." Helps with that confidence, because you're absolutely right, Corey, we run into [crosstalk 00:08:12].
Corey Frank (08:12): Well, that's what I'm getting at, is your target audience mainly engineers, mainly highly technical folks. Maybe on the shop floor, maybe foreman, et cetera, correct?
Matt McCorkle (08:24): Yes, absolutely.
Corey Frank (08:25): So Chris, from my perspective as a sales guy, do I have to change my tone knowing I'm not talking to an IT person or a marketing person or we're all just humans and the tone is the tone, is the tone and it doesn't matter if I'm talking to left brain, right brain. Do you coach a company like Kaeser and do you help Matt coach his team any differently than you would coach, if I'm selling marketing software, if I'm selling jets for Boeing, et cetera?
Chris Beall (08:53): Cold call's a cold call. You've ambushed a human being. You've frightened them. You need to help them go from that state of fear to a state of trust. You have seven seconds to do it. When I'm ambushed, just like anybody else, you ever been in this unfamiliar city, street lights aren't any too good, you're walking by yourself. You walk around the corner and something is going on there that suddenly makes the adrenaline pump. You've just been ambushed. You've just ambushed yourself by walking around that corner.
Chris Beall (09:25): You're just another person at that point. You're just another scared person. I don't care what you do for a living. You can be a damn cop for all I care. That moment is that moment. We have seven seconds to help somebody come out of that ambush situation, that fear they have of the invisible stranger and to help them get to a state of trust by showing them we see the world through their eyes and by demonstrating to them that we can solve a problem they have right now, the reason the cold call is awkward is, were the problem, we don't want to be the problem, but we are the problem. And when we accept the power of being the problem, cold calls become very, very easy.
Chris Beall (10:39): The rest of it is nothing more than curiosity. And yes, it's a little easier when you're selling meetings to engineers, because engineers, by their nature are more curious than other people. That's why they went into engineering. I'm marrying a mechanical engineer. She's a very curious person. That's why it was barely straightforward to go from, "Helen, I think it's going to take you 1,872 lifetimes to find a guy the way you're going about it." Only an engineer would want to break it down like that. We had a fulsome discussion about that. And she considers it a proposition, I consider it a proposal, but we are getting married.
Chris Beall (11:19): So the journey is always an emotional journey. And until you get into the content of the products themselves, you're really just dealing with human beings. You know me, Corey, I learned to sell by learning how to put a bridle on a horse when I was seven years old, by myself, I guarantee you, prospects and horses are identical. They're big, they're fast and they can kick you on the way out. That's it. They're identical. The only way you can get a horse to agree to be bridled when you're a little person, and we're all little compared to horses, is curiosity. It's the only emotion that consistently moves somebody. Curiosity moves all animals.
Chris Beall (12:01): Oren Klaff teaches squirrel theory. It's a theory that says curiosity and apprehension are in opposition to each other. And the animal eventually has to decide to look in the basket. But if you open the basket too soon and dump it out, sorry that doesn't work. We're all human. And I think that gives us great power when we're selling, to know that. But it also means we need to learn and be very objective about how human beings like ourselves, work.
Corey Frank (12:30): It's almost as if we make it, Chris, we've talked about this and Matt, what do you think? We make it so complex. So even though the product that you're selling, Matt, at Kaeser probably take pages just to cover all the patents that are listed and you probably keep your patent attorneys, you have dozens of them probably on staff, just keeping them busy. So it's a very complex, nuanced product. And to sell that, sometimes I may make the error in my ways that to cold call, to get appointments, to fill my needs for market dominance, I may think I have to be just as technical and I have to be maybe just as potentially dry as the prospects that I may think I'm approaching. But Chris, it's not that way at all.
Corey Frank (13:14): I think one of the earlier episodes you referred to, I think that's one of our first 10 or 12 episodes, certainly I sort of encourage the listeners to go back to that one about the horse and putting the bridle on. I think that's very appropriate, but Matt, what do you think about that? When you hire and when you coach, I imagine you probably have a lot of engineers who are attracted to Kaiser and they want to be in the pre-sale side and maybe they start on the front or the BDR side. How do you kind of have them coach them and teach them these techniques to kind of unlearn a lot of the things that they may have as assumption?
Matt McCorkle (13:49): It can be difficult. I mean, you've really kind of pinpointed the problem. I mean, when I approach sales and really even how taught sales at Kaiser for many years, was from a technical approach. And we were very successful at it at the time. But sales is evolving and what might have worked 10 years or 20 years ago, doesn't work as much now. Also competition always gets better. So when you're exploiting something, they're going to figure that out and get and closer to remove that differentiation, that P-ship that you have.
Matt McCorkle (14:19): But yes, so salesperson comes on board and the first thing they're going to think about is, I need to know all about your product. I need to know what makes it different. I need to know how it works. I need to be able to describe this to a customer and definitely engineers approach it that way. That's how I even approached it. And the thing is, this also is what happens in sales. You can be successful doing that. And then you can think, "Well, that's the best way to do it because I've been successful at it or I've been successful enough at it." But it's not actually true.
Matt McCorkle (14:47): You need to know enough about the technical to be able to ask the right questions, that's all you need to know. You don't need to actually know the specifics of how the machine works or anything really about that. You just need to know how is the customer using it? What do they actually need in their application? Those are really some relatively basic technical things. So as we've used ConnectAndSell and had more discovery, we have gotten less technical. We have gotten more about, what are the real business challenges that this customer is facing?
Matt McCorkle (15:17): We actually had to develop new collateral that didn't have anything to do with products, that we had never conceived of that before. We always wanted to go in and say, "Well, our brand color is yellow and black." And so there would be a lot of yellow and black. Well, now we have things that don't even highlight those differences. So yes, training people on the discovery call is not about the product. It's not about technical differentiation. It's about partnering with a company that can deliver better business results that understands you as a company, how you work your key metrics of reliability, productivity.
Matt McCorkle (15:51): And I think as Chris is talking about, what I realized as we were hiring different people, getting them to do things differently, I'm realizing that those salespeople that okay, have enough technical aptitude, but then are confident leaving the customer in a state where they say, "I trust this person can deliver on what they're promising. This person understands me." Those are the ones that are really the most successful in the end. And I think it absolutely gets down to emotion. It certainly gets to trust. And that's a lot of what we coach now, is related to those things much less so on the product and the technical details side.
Corey Frank (16:31): Sure. And you coach and train all of your folks and across all these branches, correct?
Matt McCorkle (16:38): That's correct. Yes.
Corey Frank (16:40): When you look at your own evolution as a sales professional, Matt, would you mind sharing what it is that you are working on, on your sales process in November of 2021? Is there an aspect that as you watch your game film and listen to your own calls, that you kind of catch yourself to say, I haven't quite got the yips out of that particular aspect of my process yet.
Matt McCorkle (17:07): Absolutely. So Chris, you talk about the pipeline, ConnectAndSell, it really expands that funnel. So you're getting more appointments in, okay, now you have more discovery calls. So then from the discovery, you are creating opportunities. So then once you have opportunities, how do you close them? And so our stage we've been working with ConnectAndSell, I think, what's this? More than two years now. And we've, as an organization, worked through those discovery pieces, how do we do that? We practice as an organization. How can we get better at those discovery calls? And now what we're looking at is we're looking at a playbook, essentially. So you have an opportunity. How do you win that game against the competition? What are the strategies that you use in terms of your conversation and in terms of your solution?
Matt McCorkle (17:59): So those are really the two pieces that we heavily look at. That's really what drives our sales. Obviously you have a technical solution and then you have, how do you present it? Or how do you handle that conversation? So we're developing a playbook right now, and this is something was reiterated at outbound, a number of different ways. And that's what we're looking at in terms of, how do you marry technical solution with the conversation to increase your close rate from, say it's 25% and increase it to 40%, maybe even 50%. And that's really, I think the state of the market right now. Things are very, very, very, very strong. I think everybody's seeing that across the economy, with what's going on. So the question is how can you win a greater percentage of these opportunities that you find?
Corey Frank (18:50): That's right. Well, I know one thing Chris does and certainly I do as CEOs of our company, is we sell. And Chris has taught me that from a long time, is that Henry Ford's definition of sales manager is best damn salesperson in the place. And Chris certainly has preached many times in this podcast that if you're a CEO, if you're an executive and you are not out front selling, cold calling, learning, you're missing out. And you're certainly not on the fast track to market dominance.
Corey Frank (19:20): So, Chris, I haven't asked you this in a while, certainly in a public forum like this, but as a CEO of a company. You guys are doing quite well, but I know you, you're a mathematician, you're breaking down your formulas. Is there a nuance of your sales process as you listen to the calls or as Danny or Cheryl, or even Sean, when they listen to you pitch they be like, "There's an aspect I just got to get rid of, or I got to get better at."
Chris Beall (19:45): Well, for me personally, I just would probably need to do more. I'm finding myself getting more efficient at getting folks in first conversations to agree to a test drive. I had one just the other day that I realized that was kind of a breakthrough. I didn't do it on Zoom, I just happened to call the person in an industry we've had no success in, but he said some intriguing things. So I started the clock and it was nine minutes from first word to agreement to take a test drive. And I realized even I've been falling into the habit of wanting to show a little bit more than is needed rather than just establishing sufficient reason to move to the next bit.
Chris Beall (20:30): I learn over and over and over that there's two things that we all do wrong. We do them wrong and have to keep finding them. We do things in the wrong order and we get impatient and skip steps. We just do. We skip the steps as individuals. And we skip the steps also in processes. We often ask, how can I get there in fewer steps rather than how can I get there more surefootedly.
Chris Beall (20:54): It's a funny thing, and when you look at it from the other side, from the empathy side and ask, how hard would it be for me to take this step if I were being asked to do so by somebody who is telling me about the, say ConnectAndSell thing? We often don't really think about how hard that would be, what would keep me from doing it? We often think, well, I know this, why don't you know it? You idiot. Why don't you just come along with me? We got the best air compressors. We're going to help you the most. We're the guys who actually understand how to put this thing into production the fastest and get you the cleanest results. We know how to save you money. What's wrong with you?
Chris Beall (21:34): I find myself in that mindset and I have to go and be more naive, find more naivete inside myself and more ability to be empathetic with this person because I'm asking them to do something. Nobody likes to be asked to do something, that's just simple. Nobody wants to be asked by another human being to do something. We all have psychological reactance to being asked or told to do something. I think we've seen this in the national political scale in the US.
Chris Beall (22:06): Now there's a relatively larger amount of societal transparency because of social media and immediacy. A lot of people just don't like to be told what to do. That would be all of us, actually. And when we're in sales, we're trying to tell somebody what to do. So we're kind of up against that and we need to get better at it.
Chris Beall (22:26): Our organization itself, we've learned some things from some people who we're working with, an amazing thing. The insistence closed for a meeting, it's so powerful. And yet, as a company we haven't adopted it. We're still struggling with it because it makes us feel funny. It's like, well, what if they don't show for the meeting, blah, blah, blah. We know what that means, mathematically. It's great. They don't show up for the meeting. Isn't that fantastic. The Sheryl Turner, [inaudible 00:22:57], the math works out, but we're reluctant to adopt and try what hasn't been proven or we can say hasn't been proven.
Chris Beall (23:07): I believe most of us could look at our sales processes and ask this question. Are there steps that we have put in place? Which provide us with false assurance of progress, where now that we've gotten trust, we could trust the prospect to do their job. And we could do those steps in another order or eliminate a step that we're using as an internal insurance policy for ourselves. And that we're telling ourselves a just so story about that if we make the customer do X, Y and Z, then they're more likely to do the thing we want them to do. If you were that person, would that be what it takes? Or is it just something that was put in place at one point to make you feel better?
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