EP165: The Scarcest Commodity in Corporate Business Today
Revealing the scarcest commodity in corporate business, especially in America today, first requires an understanding of how we got there. Today Barry Trailer, Co-founder of Sales Mastery, joins Chris and Corey. He reviews the four levels of process implementation: the percentage of revenue, the target revenue plan attained, the percentage of reps meeting or beating quota, the outcome of forecast deals, and rep turnover. These are real numbers. But higher levels of relationship and higher levels of process implementation lead to higher levels of performance. And the numbers are just the numbers They continued talking about the turnover. There's a huge contributory factor to the failure to implement significant change on the part of most sales organizations other than the change that a new leader brings in.
What is common is that the new lion, so to speak, the new CRO, the new VP of Sales, comes in and kills the cubs. They attempt to prove that whatever was being done before must not be done anymore. Because I've come in with my new way of doing things and territory must be marked, I was brought in to do something in a new way, and away we go. When the performance isn't there, the CRO or the CSO takes the bullet that the CEO doesn't want to take. But the only reason is that there's been this unholy alliance or this unspoken agreement that as long as we make the numbers, you'll stay out of my sandbox. Listen to this episode to see where your company falls in place in, “The Scarcest Commodity in Corporate Business Today.”
Full episode transcript below:
Welcome to another session with the Market Dominance Guys, a program exploring all the high stakes, speed bumps, and off-ramps of driving to the top of your market, with our hosts, Chris Beall from ConnectAndSell and Corey Frank from Branch 49.
Revealing the scarcest commodity in corporate business, especially in America today, first requires an understanding of how we got here. Today, Barry Trailer, co-founder of Sales Mastery, joins Chris and Corey. He reviews the four levels of process implementation: the percentage of revenue, the target revenue plan attained, the percentage of reps meeting and beating quota, the outcome of forecast deals, and rep turnover. These are real numbers. But higher levels of relationship and higher levels of process implementation led to higher levels of performance, and the numbers are just the numbers.
What's common is that the new lion, so to speak, the new CRO or the new VP of sales, comes in and kills the cubs. They attempt to prove that whatever was being done before must not be done anymore. When the performance isn't there, the CRO or the CSO takes the bullet that the CEO doesn't want to take. But the only reason is that there's been this unholy alliance or this unspoken agreement that as long as we're making the numbers, you'll stay out of my sandbox. Listen to this episode to see where your company falls in place in The Scarcest Commodity in Corporate Business Today.
Corey Frank (01:40):
Here we are once again. Welcome to another episode of The Market Dominance Guys with Corey Frank and, as always, the sage of sales, the profit of profit, the hawking of hawking, Chris Beall. Chris, good to see you once again. How are you?
Chris Beall (01:56):
It gets me every time. I was just reading about a black hole, 600 billion suns, taking a chomp out of something every day, and thinking, "The hawking of hawking." I wish I could-
Corey Frank (02:04):
The hawking of hawking. I'll work on a fourth here. Give me a couple of beers, football games here, and we'll come up with something else. Right now, it'll have to stay at the hawking of hawking. With us today, we have Mr. Barry Trailer. If you don't know Barry and his organization, Sales Mastery, he's been at the epicenter. He's the Kevin Bacon of sales, thought leadership, I think, probably for the last 20 years or so. So, if you don't know Barry, you certainly know the wake that he leaves with his experience as an executive CEO over at Miller Heiman, at GoldMine, at FrontRange Solutions, and of course, CSO Insights, certainly a publication that I've used, Barry, throughout the years to make me sound much smarter than I am, to defend my actions against the board's machinations, to say, "No, no, no, no, hang on. CSO Insights says this is the direction it's going, versus this." That's saved me many quarters. Barry, good to be with you here.
Barry Trailer (02:57):
It's good to be here, and it's really good to hear you using the data in the way it was really intended. Not just because we like running surveys, but to support chief sales officers, chief revenue officers, heads of sales-
Corey Frank (03:12):
They need backup.
Barry Trailer (03:13):
... their asks or their actions. So, yes, I-
Corey Frank (03:16):
Oh, of course. Of course. As we've said many times in this podcast, right, Chris, I haven't had an original thought since 1998, so anytime something like CSO Insights comes out and I can claim those ideas with the defense of all the research that your fine team did over the years. Now, CSO Insights, that also got purchased by, I think it was Korn Ferry, correct? So, over time.
Barry Trailer (03:36):
Yeah, it's an interesting deal. So, Miller Heiman acquired us in 2015. We had a two year earnout. That went well. Everybody did what they said they were going to. And then in 2019... Well, and Jim and I went off and started Sales Mastery in 2018 when our gig was up there. 2019, Korn Ferry bought Miller Heiman and by extension CSO Insights, and over the next year, year and a half proceeded to lay off or have all the analysts quit. And so I got in touch with them and with Byron Matthews. He was still there. And we entered into a joint research agreement where Korn Ferry was gathering the data, Jim and I would do the analysis and write up commentary, and then we would jointly release reports. And we did one on virtual selling. We did a buyer's study and we also did their world class study.
I think the last one was in, I'm going to say 2021. They're a big outfit. They don't move particularly quickly. It took longer than we felt it should take to get stuff out. And they didn't know exactly. They have the Korn Ferry Research Institute, but it's mostly around HR and talent and comp. I don't think CSO insights really fit into their wheelhouse. So, we agreed to part ways and I had actually asked them to sell CSO Insights back to us and they said instead they were just going to basically shelve it. And so if you search csoinsights.com today, you get 404 error.
Corey Frank (05:19):
Oh, that's too bad.
Barry Trailer (05:20):
And I think they're also letting the Miller Heiman brand basically fade away as well. So, it's disappointing, but it's the way it goes.
Corey Frank (05:29):
Well, you can take Barry out of the lab, but you can't take the lab out of Barry, it seems. You're still doing all kinds of research with your team. In fact, the Sales Performance Scorecard I think came out just recently that was published by Harvard Business Review. So, congrats to that.
Barry Trailer (05:29):
Corey Frank (05:42):
That's a great wealth of information if any of the sales professionals listening have not reviewed that. But Chris, obviously you cast a pretty big shadow yourself as you know, from [inaudible 00:05:51].
Chris Beall (05:51):
Four ways didn't win.
Corey Frank (05:51):
Yeah. Four ways didn't win. So, how did you and Barry get together and what kind of bribe or check do we have to cash to get him? Because he showed up at this podcast with our seven listeners here, so I need to know.
Chris Beall (06:07):
Barry texted me. He texted me and we talked, and it was just yesterday. I was just so pleased to hear from him. We've had so many great conversations over the years, but often punctuated by long silences while we're off doing our own various things. Actually, I owe Barry and Jim Dickie for this. One of my neighbors here in [inaudible 00:06:24] and very good friend is Pat Lynch, and he was the CSO Insights rep who signed me up as a subscriber for the first time and discovered that I'm pretty picky about data, but I kept on, as a subscriber. Actually CSO Insights was the only information source about sales that I have ever remained subscribed to from one end of its independent existence in-
Corey Frank (06:49):
Chris Beall (06:49):
... my experience to the other. And the reason for that was, I'm very skeptical of survey-oriented data work, as you know, Corey. I like data that comes directly out of machines and has no opinions associated with it. But CSO Insights did such a remarkable job of coming to meaningful conclusions with data that fundamentally at the individual data point level is a little squirrelly. It moves around from under you, but they did the real statistical work and the insight work in order to turn it into something that I could apply and that I could also recommend to others, which is in a way more important to me because as you know, I'm not capable of doing what other people tell me to do.
No one's ever figured that one out yet, including myself. Like, "Hey Chris," I say to myself, "let's have two eggs for breakfast," and then I find myself with the oatmeal 10 minutes later. But the ability to actually confidently say, "Hey, look at this." The thing that struck me is still there, it's there today in the work that Sales Mastery is doing, is the stuff is not way up here, and it's not down here at the level of tiny tactics. This is really important, and if you don't do it, you're dead. And here's how to think about it and the kinds of things to do, and it comes from data. And I don't think anybody else has that. I think it's unique.
Corey Frank (08:16):
With that regard, is there anything that comes to mind, Barry, over the years, put on the spot here, from a perspective of just bad advice? Or just because more people believe that there's a flat earth and then empirically the data that you and Jim and your team put together definitively snuffed that out and said, "No, this is not the way it is. It's this versus that." When you talk about sales methodologies or you talk about maybe approaches, is there anything that comes to mind over the years that is so inherently bad advice that it needed somebody with the voice of CSO Insights to say, "Barry, come down the mountain with two tablets. This is how it should be"?
Barry Trailer (08:56):
I don't know that it was inherently bad. I think sales, historically or inherently, was instinctual, tactical, gut reaction to things. And I think that sales execs and sales reps prided themselves on that history of being instinctual tactical animals. And-
Corey Frank (09:23):
I can wing it. I'll let my personality shine.
Barry Trailer (09:26):
Well, I think not necessarily just winning personality, but we're going to be in the moment. And I don't know that they always called it winging it, but I think in large part that would describe what often happened and still happens. And we have been doing, Jim started this back in '94, started doing surveys and CSO Insights, we've now been doing it for 20 years. And I think it's still true that people are not acting in a data-driven way. And increasingly you hear boards and executives talking about being data-driven, but I think that means different things to different people for sure. And I think a lot of people who are saying that don't know what it means.
It's the current thing that they're saying. Chris was saying our data was squirrelly. We never said it was squirrelly, but we always admitted that it was squishy because it was self-reported and they were, in most cases, educated guesses. People don't really know what their cycle times are. They don't really know what their conversion rates are from one stage to the next to the next. But when you have several hundred or a thousand responses that normalizes, and in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. We had better data than anybody, and it was consistent over time. And I think that was one of our hallmarks. And the other thing Chris was saying that I think we made it accessible and had some real boots-on-the-ground perspective and still had a management lean to things.
The thing that we brought to the party, brought to the table in 2007, and it stood up over the years, and you mentioned the Sales Performance Scorecard. What preceded that was the Sales Relationship Process Matrix, the SRP Matrix, and I had defined five levels of relationship back in '94. Jim wrote an article for Forbes in 2000 defining four levels of process implementation. And our joke was it only took us seven more years to figure out we could make a five-by-four matrix out of it. But I had guys tell me after presentations I'd done or trainings or anything, they would come up and they just loved that model. People understood it. It just went on like an old shoe.
We'll be back in a moment after a quick break. ConnectAndSell. Welcome to the end of dialing as you know it. ConnectAndSell's patented technology loads your best sales folks up with eight to 10 times more live, qualified conversations every day. And when we say qualified, we're talking about really qualified, like knowing what kind of cheese they like on their Impossible Whopper kind of qualified. Learn more at connectandsell.com. And we're back with Corey and Chris.
Barry Trailer (12:27):
And the thing that was great about it was that we had four metrics that we tracked, and those were metrics that people were not guessing at. So, the percentage of revenue, target revenue plan attained, the percentage of reps meeting beating quota, the outcome of forecast deals, not pipeline, but forecast deals, won, lost or no decision, and rep turnover, voluntary and involuntary. So, total rep turnover. Those are numbers that people had. Those were real numbers. And the SRP tracked those. And what we saw over time, I don't know if this says it was the biggest mistake, but higher levels of relationship and higher levels of process implementation led to higher levels of performance. And the numbers just were the numbers. And they stood up again over 15 years.
We're now, instead of SRP, we're calling it the SPS, the Sales Performance Scorecard, is now a five-by-five matrix. We've redefined, and relabeled three of the levels of relationship. Instead of approved vendor, we're now calling it transactional vendor. And then we have preferred supplier and solution consultant. And then instead of strategic contributor, we have strategic collaborator. And the highest level instead of trusted partner or trusted advisor, we're now calling it trusted co-creator. And it's not just wordsmithing. We think those words actually reflect the change in the balance of power, buyers and sellers, and culturally what's been going on in the marketplace for at least the last five years.
Corey Frank (14:10):
Well, I think you talk about that in one of your trainings is even the term moving from persuasion to collaboration.
Barry Trailer (14:16):
That's correct. Yeah.
Corey Frank (14:17):
And just how we identify with that as a sales training organization. I'm curious for Chris too, Chris and Barry, is when you think about the organizations that know those numbers, their attrition rate, their forecast rate, their conversion rate, et cetera, is it more or less a can't or a won't? Is it stemmed from the CRO, the VP of sales down? Does it come from enablement? Does it come from the board level down? If you have a good board that is going to have these really tight controls over the aspects of the KPIs of the business, does that trickle to sales? What are you guys seeing? Because if I have a squishy board or a squishy CEO or a product-driven CEO or board, I may not necessarily have the rigor that comes down from on high to want to put this type of thing in place.
Chris Beall (15:06):
Well, this is a hell of a topic. I think there's a huge contributory factor to the failure to implement significant change on the part of most sales organizations other than the change that is brought in by a new leader. So, the pattern that I'm seeing a lot of, and I get to see maybe more of this than most because of the way our business works, we're too much change already. Let's go from not talking to people, to talking to people and then getting good at it and then actually tracking that all the way through to how much money you're making. That's a lot of change. That first one, especially. Let's go from not talking to people to talking to people and getting good at it is all of mine. What we often see, almost always see, is that the new lion, so to speak, the new CRO, the new VP of sales comes in and kills the cubs.
Whatever was being done before must not be done anymore, because I've come in with my new way of doing things, and territory must be marked. And I was brought in to do something in a new way, and away we go. The challenge I see in folks getting that stuff to stick and work, even if it's correct, even if it's backed up by data and makes sense and then you got a shot, is the average tenure at departure is 17 months now for top sales leaders. And there are not very many things you can do in an organization in 17 months. There just are not. You have more drag, more friction than you're aware of, and then everybody's looking for you to leave anyway, right? I've often said CROs are people who are brought in to take the bullet that the CEO would prefer not to take, so they get one chance. That's actually why the C was put in front of it.
Barry Trailer (16:50):
Well, I'm going to jump in. Because two things. I now have the answer to the question you asked earlier, Corey, but the other thing is, I agree with you that when the performance isn't there, the CRO or the CSO takes the bullet that the CEO doesn't want to take. But the only reason is because there's been this unholy alliance or this unspoken agreement that as long as we are making the numbers, you'll stay out of my sandbox. And because of that, the sales organization for far too long has been this black box that the board looks at and puts money in and hopes way more money comes out. And as long as that's happening, everybody's cool with it. And if that stops happening or they don't get as much money out as they expected, then this thing you're talking about taking the bullet or falling on this sword or however you want to describe it happens and it happens over and over again.
I think the biggest mistake, Corey, the answer to your question and the big lie, and I have been saying this for a long time now, and I mean it as much today as I have ever meant, is the big lie that is told to reps. And I remember when I first said this at Oracle, the entire audience cracked up. You are not your number. You are not your number. And the audience at Oracle laughed me out of the room. Your number is a reflection of what you do and how well you do it, but it's not you. And this whole thing about good number, good rep, bad number, no donut is crap. And people who buy this lie, I consider this the big lie, is you are your number. It's just not so. And where I've seen that go all the way telegraphed clear to the top, a friend of mine became a new CSO, and he was a big believer.
He came out of Oracle. He was a big believer in process. And when he got his new job, I said, "Danny, this is the time. Bring us in now." And his comment was, "I want to bring you in, but first I have to make my number." And I said, "As soon as you do that, they're just going to turn around and say, 'Do it again. And do it again. You don't need process. Just do it again.'" And I think this notion and the other part of this, it's funny, I wrote this up for an HBR article that did not get published, but I did use it in a presentation, it's November, and the executive committee is in QBR, and the VP of sales stands up and says, "We're 20% behind plan, and I don't know how we're going to make it up by the end of the year."
And the head of HR and the head of legal are both sitting there thinking to themselves, "Man, I'm glad I don't have to give that report." And they're all thinking it's sales number. It's all their number. Everybody should be sitting there thinking, "Is there anything we could do in legal to help simplify or speed things? Is there anything we could do in HR or with talent to help out or to improve things?" And I think this goes all the way back, Chris, to where I interrupted you. When sales is always saying, "Hey, if we're making our numbers, stay out of our sandbox," that's great. Then when we're not making our number, everybody's like, "Too bad, pal. It's your sandbox." I think that's a huge mistake. I think everybody thinking, "It's sales number," and sales thinking, "I am my number," I think all of that is serving nobody well.
Corey Frank (20:31):
Where does that come from? Does it come from the tunnel, the stove pipe architecture that a lot of organizations came from where there's always going to be an everlasting amount of money? These larger organizations where there's lack of accountability at the individual level? When you see these large layoffs, Goldman 3,200, Salesforce 10,000, where does that fall at the feet of? Are people walking around saying, "Well, if sales only would've closed more dollars," or, "If HR wouldn't have spent so much on recruiting," or, "If product wouldn't have spent so much on a email system that no one's using"? Where do you think stems from, that whole, "Not me. I mean, I'm glad I'm not that guy"?
Barry Trailer (21:12):
Frank Cespedes is a name you might know. He's been an adjunct at Harvard, and he and I were presenting years ago at a conference. And he started by asking, "What is the scarcest commodity in corporate business or in American business today? What is the scarcest commodity in American business today?" And his answer was, "Accountability." And I guess I would add to that, transparency and maybe flexibility or authenticity or something. When sales are good Steve Heiman used to say, "Rising sales hides all sins." And it's just, I think that the notion that when the sun's shining, let's make hay and everybody's great and we're killers. And I think the answer to your question really, Corey, is it's just ego or hubris or something. And why'd we get the deal? Good selling? Why'd we lose the deal? Bad pricing, bad product.
Corey Frank (22:13):
I would've said pride myself. The scarcest commodity is pride. I know starting with me, right? Because it's such-
Barry Trailer (22:19):
I don't think there's any [inaudible 00:22:21]. If there's a lack of pride in sales, I missed it.
Corey Frank (22:26):
Yeah, exactly. No. No, it should be. But Chris and I talk a lot about the punditry class that exists in our profession because there's no barriers to entry. I didn't have to take a GMAT or an LSAT or get into Harvard, et cetera, to be in our profession. I just had an aunt when I was at my graduation party who picked your cheeks and says, "You've got a great personality. You should be in sales." And before you know it, you're in sales and you're selling plastics, right? So, because of that, I think that there's no understanding of science and physics and gravity, even though it exists.
And I think that's one thing, Chris, right? You've talked about certainly in educating me on market dominance, that there are forces, whether you believe it or not, gravity exists. Gravity believes in you. And what you've certainly done so well for our community is, Barry, is the CSO Insights is the data. It was like these are the celestial forces that are making you believe that you are a killer. You yourself are not a killer. You're crushing it. It's because of these celestial mathematics. And you have to understand those. Am I being too melodramatic or so about our profession?
Barry Trailer (23:37):
Well, perhaps. But before we got started here, I was talking about the SEF, the Sales Education Foundation. And Howard Stevens started that I think 20 years ago. And if people aren't familiar with it, I'll give you a link to their site. And they have their annual magazine coming out here in a couple of months. But Howard always started his talks with, "What do you call the person who graduated last in their class at medical school? Doctor."
Corey Frank (24:07):
Barry Trailer (24:09):
And the reason is because they passed. In his opening salvo following that was, "For professionalism you need standardization, certification and specialization." And in sales, we don't have much of any of that. And so anybody can say they're in sales. And that could be somebody who just got their first job out of college and is a BDR or an SDR, and they're working hard to get into it, and it could be a strategic account executive that has been there for 25 years. They're both in sales. And you know what? I think that's okay. There's a lot about this that I think is great. My background was civil engineering.
I'm a registered civil engineer in California. Not everybody who graduates in engineering gets to say that. I can say that. So, I get it with professional ethics and canon and registration and all of that. And I also think that one of the things that's marvelous about sales is that you don't have any of that, and you can still get in and you can still do great. What I think is missing is the feeling that it is a great profession. And by the way, I think it continues to be supplanted by, "Man, get in this. You can make a shit ton of money, man."
Corey Frank (25:32):
Yeah, for sure.
Barry Trailer (25:33):
And I think that that's selling our profession way short. I think that's a crying shame. I really do. And I think sales is such an awesome profession. I don't even want to say responsibility. I think it's just an awesome way to make a living and connect folks.