You may have heard the term “post-pandemic” bandied about in recent months, but there’s nothing “post” about the COVID pandemic yet: We’re still in the thick of it. It’s not all downside, though, as James Thornburg, Enterprise IT Strategist at Bridgepointe Technologies, and our Market Dominance Guys, Chris Beall and Corey Frank will tell you. In their third conversation together, they talk about the upside of the pandemic as it concerns sales. Because what is “post” for most salespeople is that bone-wearying business air travel, and the time-waste of business lunches, and the tedium and expense of that daily commute to and from the company office or to and from the offices of business prospects. The combination of cold calling by phone and discovery meetings by Zoom has made a new and successful world for salespeople, one that doesn’t require leaving home. Yes, you’ve heard of attempts to return sales to the pre-pandemic days, but as Chris predicts in this episode of Market Dominance Guys, “There Is No Going Back.”
About Our Guest James Thornburg is the Enterprise IT Strategist at Bridgepointe Technologies, which offers a service that helps design IT and telecom projects for their clients and includes selecting the right supplier at the right price with no extra cost to their customers.
Full episode transcript below:
Corey Frank (00:47):
Welcome to another episode of the Market Dominance Guys with Corey Frank and the sage of sales, Chris Beall with all things market dominance. I'd be curious to see from a CEO perspective, because a lot of us we've talked certainly several times now about the change in organizations when they're moving remotely and the role in sales, where I have to be around you ... As you say, my three pound brain has to be around in a vicinity of somebody else with a three pound brain and particularly in sales with the collaboration, and the energy, and the activity tracking.
But I'm curious, it would be interesting to explore what that does to the CEO as well, when his whole entire organization is virtual now. Right? You're used to it certainly at ConnectAndSell, you guys have had a head start, but for a lot of CEOs, they're used to having this security blanket of a staff around them to kind of go from meeting to meeting, to meeting, to have this echo chamber, as we called it, of feedback flowing up. And now I wonder if CEOs actually have more time on their hands. And so there's even less of an excuse not to make these type of discovery calls or customer calls to fill those gaps.
Chris Beall (02:08):
Well, they certainly have more time that they're not traveling. I can speak as, maybe I traveled an unusual amount, but I don't think so. I was on the road in business 108 days last year. So, that's a lot of time. Now you could say it's productive of time to read, time to talk to people. I met random people here and there and not a small number of deals get made. I have a certain propensity for picking up deals in bars, so to speak, but still that's a lot of time. Think of each trip, there's the half an hour to an hour to get to the airport. There's an hour and a half to go through all the junk at the airport. There's the occasional missed flight. There's the four hours plus to get to the other end. There's the Uber, there's this, there's that.
That's all waste. That's all pure waste. So, that time has been freed up. By the way, that money's freed up too. So in our company, $40,000 a month of travel is freed up.
Corey Frank (02:08):
Chris Beall (03:05):
$40,000 a month's a lot of money to find ... Talk about change found in the couch cushions, "Oh look, there's 40 grand. I wonder if we could get something with it."
Corey Frank (03:13):
Chris Beall (03:16):
"Let's put it away for a few minutes and then think about that in 10." Right?
Corey Frank (03:19):
Chris Beall (03:20):
So, the time is certainly there and yes, I think one of the things is, there's an egalitarianism of a good kind that shows up in these Zoom meetings. Zoom flattens the meeting. The meeting's no longer in my office, but one thing I always hated when I moved, so to speak up, I never could figure out why they call it up, in organizations, is get the big office.
And I hated the big office. I've always hated the big office. I remember I had a big office at a big-ish company I worked at. Not big by anybody's standards to think, a company had been a billion dollar a year, a company that had kind of moved into being under secular pressure from the internet of $350,000,000 year company. I was hired as the head of innovation.
They gave me this big, big office, big corner office on the eighth floor, overlooking, like a cornfield or something. I'm pretty sure I went in there six times during the year I worked there. And one of them was on the very last day when we sat around drinking some Chinese whiskey, because I had all-Chinese team. The most wonderful team I've ever had in my life. And they were very kind.
So that was one time. So five times to do anything else, but I refused to hold a meeting in there because why do I want to encourage people to lie to me? And that's a terrible thing, the hardest thing to get is the truth. And you might get it at lunch. You might get it at somebody else's desk, but you're not going to get it on your own turf in that big office.
So now nobody has the big office anymore. So maybe there's a little more truth flowing around. There is also who talks. You want your introverts to dominate the conversation over time. They're the most thoughtful people in your company.
Corey Frank (05:09):
Chris Beall (05:10):
They're also your best sales people. So your introverts actually didn't like it in the rah, rah, sales floor that you were running. So your best sales people tend to be introverts, your best sales people are really [inaudible 00:05:21] all that banging of the gong, and high fiving and all that stuff, they'll go along with it. But, they have to go relax and get rest afterwards, because that stuff hurts when you're an introvert. It really does. It's like, "Oh man, I have to do that." And yet introverts tend to make the very best sales people. And on your staff, they tend to have the most thoughtful observations. After all they have thinking time, they're introverts. Right?
Corey Frank (05:49):
Chris Beall (05:49):
They get their energy from what's going on inside. So, I think that flattening, I'll call it the Zoom flattening that's occurred, is a good thing in that everybody tends to get to speak. They're all in the same office. It's also in each person's home, which has got an interesting intimacy. Some folks complained, "Oh, the kids walked behind. I had to take a moment." But, that's the good stuff. That's the human stuff. That's where we soften up with regard to each other sufficiently to maybe tell our own little truth or to listen to somebody a little bit differently, because until we're empathetic, we're not much.
And it's hard not to be empathetic with somebody, who's got the same problems that you have, the problems of home. In the big office, I don't have any problems. You come into my office, we hold the staff meeting, you sit there, and you sit there and you sit there. The pecking order is established by all of that. We go in a certain order. The important stuff is first, the dog meets stuff is at the end, and if we run out of time, you don't get to talk. Whoever you happen to be [inaudible 00:06:58] probably the introvert, who had the most valuable thing to say.
Corey Frank (07:01):
Chris Beall (07:01):
So, I think we've gotten a lot of good, not just in the raw productivity, the produce score is measuring, and that Microsoft is measuring in the Microsoft workplace analytics. They measure definite productivity increase in meaningful activity from work from home. That's at the individual level, nobody has come up yet and measured what's happening at the sociocultural level with regard to what I'll call the Zoom egalitarianism or the Zoom flattening. I am going to make a prediction that when somebody does this work, they're going to find out that introverts are making a bigger contribution than they used to, and a bigger contribution than the extroverts.
Chris Beall (09:20):
My big question is when are these chickens going to start to lay again? It's bothering me. Every night, I go to bed thinking, "What's with Thornburg's hens?"
James Thornberg (09:27):
No, it's tough. It really is.
Chris Beall (09:29):
It is. This is the hard part about agriculture.
James Thornberg (09:34):
I still have a bunch of meat in the freezer, so that's holding us up. I saw a bacon and whatnot.
Chris Beall (09:39):
That's good. Well, Helen and I were talking about pigs last night, because I once had a piece of software that the Hormel guys used to do a reverse bill of materials on a pig. Bills of materials normally used to bring things together and manufacture them. But we had this software that was so flexible you could run the bill of materials upside down, and you could take pig and you could manufacture parts out of the pig. And I'll never forget going to the Hormel plant and saying, "So how does this really work?" And they said, "Well, comprehensively", I said, "What does that mean?" And they said, "Well, everything but the squeal." I said, "Okay, everything, but the squeal, that's good." So I told that to Helen last night, and she moved to the other side of the bed.
James Thornberg (10:24):
She's now a vegan. Yes.
Chris Beall (10:27):
She just got further away. It's like, you want to say stuff like everything but the squeal? It's okay, but I'm going to have a moment here.
Corey Frank (10:35):
So James, what kind of spread do you have over there?
James Thornberg (10:37):
I have 23 acres.
Corey Frank (10:39):
23 acres. And then what kind of animals?
James Thornberg (10:43):
Acres. I mean a lot of it is pasture, so it was an old horse farm. It was a pretty big deal back in the day, that the estate was, they had a lot of Arabians and then they would have shows. And if you come to the property we have, it used to be the announcer's booth. It looks almost like a lookout, basically a little kid's fort, or something. The kids use it as a fort now, but the announcer used to be up in there, and then when they would bring out the horses, there was a big kraal and everything.
Corey Frank (11:06):
James Thornberg (11:07):
So, it was a pretty big deal back in the day with the Arabians. And so I have a lot of horse pasture with horse fencing that 50 years ago was probably beautiful. I mean, it would be 150 grand probably to fence this place. It's a little run down, so I've been repairing it.
Corey Frank (11:24):
Is there a name of this estate? Do you call it-
James Thornberg (11:25):
Corey Frank (11:26):
James Thornberg (11:27):
Yeah. Thorn borough farm. I went kind of back to my history. If you have English heritage, you can track your family back pretty easily. And so, I was able to track my family all the way back into the 1300, and I grew up with not a lot of money and it was always kind of a funny thing in the family, on my dad's side, where some of the people in the family ... A lot of people are estranged from one another, but they said that we were royalty, that Thornburg came from royalty.
And there's some truth to that. They were Knights of the Shire. So when the reformation happened and everything, they were Catholics and they basically, they all ended up converting and becoming Quakers. Basically they took all their land. So, traditionally my family is Thorn borough. And then when they came to the US, they changed it to Thornburg with an H at the end and then some took it with just the G.
Corey Frank (12:20):
James Thornberg (12:21):
Corey Frank (12:21):
So truly you are derived from Rontos. You are in essence the king once removed.
James Thornberg (12:27):
Corey Frank (12:29):
Of cool calling. I love that name-
Chris Beall (12:30):
And raising chickens can be a royal pain. I've done it. It's royalty all the way around.
James Thornberg (12:35):
Yes. I enjoy it. I'm getting more into the kind of the butchering side and getting into that and we'll see kind of where that leads me.
Corey Frank (12:44):
And what's the biggest city closest to you?
James Thornberg (12:47):
Corey Frank (12:47):
What's the biggest city closest to you?
James Thornberg (12:49):
Biggest city would be Kalamazoo, I'm in between Kalamazoo and Grand Rapids.
Corey Frank (12:54):
James Thornberg (12:56):
Kalamazoo is probably only, it might be 70,000 I think. And then Grand rapids is probably maybe half a million somewhere around there. So, I was working for single path. I wanted to get out of Chicago. They said, "Go ahead." And I was a little bit concerned because there's not a lot of businesses around here, and up until the pandemic, some people were adverse to doing business with somebody that wasn't local, that completely changed with the pandemic.
So it fell into exactly what I was doing, which is just on the phones. And so it's amazing to me how much I can get done with making the dials in the morning, and then running all these meetings in the afternoon. The thought of even going to a meeting, now is so unproductive to me, the thought of it.
Chris Beall (13:42):
It is, isn't I?. It's like folks ask me to lunch all the time. Chris, you can attest this. People have no idea how expensive it is to go to lunch. Virtually, if I were to ask somebody to go to lunch, it's not like it was in the days. It's just, you don't have time for that.
It's the meet of the day. You think about the flow state that's interrupted. You think about the non-productive time, their back, the small talk for first 15, 20 minutes. All that stuff that just gets in the way that distractions. And I wonder if that's changing even more so since the pandemic. What do you think?
Corey Frank (14:17):
I think it's massive. That's a great story, James. We got to edit that one into a little thing. Because we did a whole episode, back in April of 2020, on the death of the commute, and the injection of what I still think is about a trillion dollars a year into the economy, terms of the time and flexibility.
Like you're doing your business James in a way that would've been possible, but somewhat challenging before the pandemic. And then now it's in the absolute mainstream that this is how we do business. And people who think we're going back, they all flunked math.
James Thornberg (14:55):
Yeah. It's huge. I don't have it in front of me, but I think I've closed deals in like 20 different states since I started. Never would've happened before.
Corey Frank (15:02):
Chris Beall (15:03):
I haven't traveled on business since March. Well, we went to one conference. So, Helen and I went to a conference in Texas and spoke, and got one big opportunity out of it. Really big, huge and a great friendship. So, that was interesting. That's the only business travel I've done since March 12th of 2020.
Corey Frank (15:26):
Chris Beall (15:26):
And we do business all over the world, personally, I close deals everywhere.
James Thornberg (15:31):
Chris Beall (15:33):
When people bitch about Zoom fatigue and all that. I think, "How much did you used to travel? You want to see some fatigue? Go through an airport."
Corey Frank (16:27):
Oh, look at Mark Hunter. All Mark Hunter's videos were done in the airport. Remember that?
James Thornberg (16:31):
Yeah, they are.
Chris Beall (16:31):
James Thornberg (16:32):
I never traveled. I mean, I only traveled to a commute to drive to somebody's business in Chicago in the suburbs. That's it.
Chris Beall (16:40):
Yeah. But now you reach out to the world. Right? So I was on the road because the nature of every business I've ever done an average of 107 days a year for most of the past 42 years. And sometimes more than that, for four years, it was commuting from Denver area, from Boulder out to the Bay Area. Every Monday, back Friday. I did that every week for 52 weeks in a row for four years. This is pretty nice to be able to just talk to people.
Corey Frank (17:14):
Yeah. Went to the next room. James, do you do zoom presentations or do you do phone calls on your illumination discovery?
James Thornberg (17:21):
I do all zoom.
Corey Frank (17:23):
You do all zoom?
James Thornberg (17:23):
Corey Frank (17:23):
So, you cold call them and then they have a chance to actually see you, talk with you, see the nuances of your nonverbal communication, et cetera?
James Thornberg (17:33):
Corey Frank (17:33):
James Thornberg (17:33):
I run the 30 minute meetings, typically it's on zoom. I always have my video on, they may or may not. It just depends on the individual.
Corey Frank (17:40):
Chris Beall (17:42):
It's an amazing world that we've been pushed into. I think what we learned is we had the tech to do it for a long time, but we didn't have ... Like the old fax machine problem, it takes two to tango. And suddenly everybody was two. So it's interesting. And there's all this talk about going back. There is no going back. I mean it's crazy. It's like saying, "Well, let's go back and ride horses instead of cars." So like, "It sounds good, I like horses just ain't going to happen."
James Thornberg (18:13):
Yeah. A lot of people are trying to introduce the hybrid.
Chris Beall (18:17):
James Thornberg (18:17):
Where people are in and out, or who needs to be at the office will be at the office. We'll see
Chris Beall (18:22):
The math on that is impossible. It's just crazy. In fact, a number of people ... There was a company that the company that I'd know pretty well, they gave up going back to the office. They were kind of doing it in a hybrid fashion, but it's like, "I don't know who is going to be there." So if I don't know, who's going to be there, then this is like, "Well, you got to be there when I'm going to be there." And then somebody will change their plans, because they're used to the flexibility. It's like, "Oh, you stood me up?" "I stood you guys up today for 30 minutes, and all I had to do was commute from that room over there, into this room. And I didn't even stop for the traditional bottle of McAllen. So I could actually be calm enough to have this event here."
James Thornberg (19:03):
Let me ask you guys this question. Are we good on the podcast? Did it turn out all right? It's all bad, because I kind of got distracted when Corey was asking me for my words of wisdom.
Corey Frank (19:12):
It was better. That's classic Market Dominance Guys.
Chris Beall (19:18):
Yeah. Because it just started out ... Like you James, I would just call Chris, on the road or when I'm stuck. Chris is famous for saying that the best business breakthroughs that are worth a damn are when you are stuck, not when you are in flow. And too often you get too cocky in flow to work in the business versus on the business.
And so we said, let's just put it on the zoom and take some notes, and just one thing led to another and then the pandemic happened and we shifted ... Because it's interesting. Think about if the pandemic happened five years previous, how do people communicate? Okay. You have a really crappy version of WebEx.
James Thornberg (20:02):
Chris Beall (20:04):
Maybe a couple of download iLink players where you have an agent in the ... Let's say it was 10 years previous-
Corey Frank (20:11):
That's really the key. [crosstalk 00:20:14] before this zoom product existed, I know because I blew it. Five years ago. I was sitting there, in a room, with Dave Berman and he is showing me this thing by walking into the next room and saying, "This works on mobile from in there to here." And by the way, we both turned off our wifi. And here we are having this meeting. And he says, "I want you to integrate this into ConnectAndSell."
And they were customers and he was a customer. And I'm like five years ago, we're running in the hard version of second gear, 8,000 RPMs. It's not going very fast, but the motor's screaming, no cash, no gas in the tank, I'm trying to do deals to make the company go forward.
So, I'm trying to get a deal with them and my imagination shrunk to the size of a pea pod, and I couldn't figure out really ... I walked out of that meeting going, "There has to be some way to do this. I love this product. There's got to be some way to do it. Oh, now I got to get a deal with the guy."
How hard would it have been for me to open my mind and go, "You know when you set a meeting in ConnectAndSell, it'd be really cool." If it actually defaulted to being in this zoom thing and sent an invitation out of zoom to everybody. Well, I would've made us an extra a hundred million bucks, but totally missed it. So we had the tech, but we didn't have ... And we even had the zeitgeist, it would've worked. Right?
Chris Beall (21:44):
Corey Frank (21:44):
It would've worked. We wouldn't have had these vaccines, the mRNA technology was not even remotely close. It was nowhere close.
Chris Beall (21:55):
I mean you had clip media 10 years ago, I mean, that's the default tool to communicate via email.
Corey Frank (22:04):
Chris Beall (22:04):
But it's really sobering to think that if this thing would've happened 10, 15 years ago, what would it would've done to our country? What would it have done to the economy? What would've it done to business, homes, et cetera, without technology like this?
Corey Frank (22:21):
This was hard enough. I mean, the fact is we have a cell service, mobile that has been the other big deal. Because it's not just what we do at our homes, it's the fact that we can get texted with that SOS, or the fact that I can run the rest of my business life around my personal life, not just on a computer, but also on a mobile device that really works. It's that combination that's making this work. I think if my math was right. I think it's a trillion dollars a year into the economy.
Chris Beall (22:55):
You have to look at that. I think we missed a zero or an item there, but it was close, or something like that.
Corey Frank (23:00):
But I think we missed some categories too. We were doing a simple cost savings on the commute and time freed up for the individuals. I think we missed the big synergy plays that are going on. And if you want to see where the money went, look at the stock market. Everybody predicted we were going to get a crash. We didn't get a crash. We got the opposite. And that's where the money ... The value always goes somewhere. It went into stock market and you're watching it and it's like, "Look at that thing."
Chris Beall (23:26):
Yeah, and Bitcoin and NFTs.
Corey Frank (23:26):
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