“When you share your life nuggets, you don’t know when it’s going to matter to someone,” observes Elena Hesse, our Market Dominance Guys’ guest and the Vice President of Operations of Thomson Reuters’ tax and accounting professionals in this third of three podcast episodes with our hosts, Chris Beall and Corey Frank. For the past four years, Elena has led the “NoTimeToRead Book Club” for #GirlsClub, an organization dedicated to changing the face of sales leadership by empowering more women to earn roles in management. Corey starts off the conversation by asking Elena to describe what happens in a book club that doesn’t require reading the book. “A book is just a vehicle for a conversation. You never know when something is going to resonate,” she says, as she explains how the subject matter generates ideas and experiences that club members share with each other. And just like the book club participants, Corey, Chris, and Elena share ideas and personal insights of their own, which cover everything from the sales benefits of a live conversation over an emailed message to the trust-creating habit of asking for clarification when you don’t understand something. As Chris says, “The essence of curiosity is embracing our ignorance.” So, get ready to open your mind and heart to embrace what these three experienced salespeople share with each other — and with you — about the essence of this week’s Market Dominance Guys podcast, “Why Conversations Matter.”
About Our Guest
Elena T. Hesse, Vice President, Operations – Tax & Accounting Professionals at Thomson Reuters, has been with this firm for more than 30 years. Elena is also a thought leader for #GirlsClub, leading the book club discussions to support #GirlsClub and its continuing work of changing the face of sales leadership by empowering more women to earn roles in management.
Full episode transcript below:
Corey Frank (01:46):
Elena, one last question for you, maybe a good plug for what we were talking about here towards the end about empowering women leadership, particularly in sales and tech, which you're at the heart of certainly at Thomson. You have a book club, The No Time to Read Book Club. Maybe you can end this with a little plug for the book club, and what you do, and maybe some of the learnings over the years leading that?
Elena Hesse (02:05):
Absolutely. One, the reason that the book club even exists, in a way, is because of Chris Beall. Because Chris, you told Lauren Bailey about me, and she reached out to me for Girls Club, so that all happened.
Elena Hesse (02:22):
So, in the Girls Club organization, which I'm a part of as a thought leader, Lauren and Angela, there's so many great people there, we have this book club. We do it for each cohort. I think this is our third or fourth year. What I really love about the book club is that it's really a time for women. Sometimes there are men too, so this is not just a one gender conversation.
Elena Hesse (02:49):
The first book I pick, the next two, they pick. It tells you where their heads are. Where are they looking for help? Where do they want some insights? And we just talk. We read the book. Sometimes they don't read the book. I'll be honest with you, there's a reason for the title. It's hard to squeeze in book reading sometimes.
Elena Hesse (03:08):
A lot of the women in Girls Club, if I were making a general statement, I would say are women with families. A lot of times you got young kids. Time's precious, so we don't use that as a filter, if you will. So, we have a book club in which reading the book is not necessarily needed, because I always read the book.
Elena Hesse (03:26):
There's always some people that read the book, and we just go through the highlights, and share our personal stories as they relate to the books. I don't know if it's any more magical than that, Corey. It's really people coming together to say, "Never thought about that," or "This how I reacted to it." When you're sharing your life nuggets, you don't know when it's going to matter to somebody.
Elena Hesse (03:48):
I will make a point to our conversation and how it all started, Chris. You flatter me and humble me with remembering a statement that I made many years ago, frankly that I would never have been able to repeat back to you if you asked me, do you remember what you said? I would not have been able to, right?
Elena Hesse (04:07):
You never know when the teacher arrives. The student has to be ready. I'm not saying you're a student in that respect, but you never know when something's going to resonate. You never know. So, anytime you can bring people together with some level of continuity to the conversation, a book, that's just a vehicle for a conversation.
Elena Hesse (04:28):
A good book club, that is just the muse. You could go in lots of different directions and learn about each other, and walk away with something that no one would've thought that one little something would've mattered.
Elena Hesse (04:41):
So, I like to have spontaneous interesting conversations because I never know what I'm going to learn something. God knows I never could have repeated back that quote you told me. I'm very happy that I gave you something that meant something, obviously. I bet you we all have things that resonated with us and the person who delivered it had no idea what they were delivered to you.
Corey Frank (05:01):
Well, Elena, we have almost 200 episodes of this podcast stemming from my purely selfish desire to get inside the head of Chris Beall, so welcome to the club. I think that's a beautiful way to end this episode, especially since you're almost going to make Chris cry again.
Chris Beall (05:16):
It's working, it's working.
Elena Hesse (05:18):
You are not crying, don't tell me that. Are you?
Chris Beall (05:23):
I am, but I won't even hide it very well. Yes, Corey knows me well. The fact is, we all have so much to learn from each other. The essence of curiosity is embracing our ignorance.
Elena Hesse (05:35):
Chris Beall (05:36):
Really being enthusiastic about our ignorance. I love being ignorant. It's my favorite thing in the world. Whenever I think I know something, it makes me nervous.
Elena Hesse (05:46):
Yeah. Like, do you really know it? You've got to be vulnerable to that. I'll be in conversations, and if someone says a word that I don't know, I will say, "Stop, please. Can you tell me that means? Because I don't know what you're saying right now." I'm sure I've looked really ridiculous, but I don't care.
Corey Frank (06:03):
No, just the opposite, Elena. I think that's endearing. I think that for somebody who understands the courage it takes, especially at a manager or director, vice president C-level, to stop and ask a question like that? Hey, an acronym you'd use. Especially in sales, we throw around these all the time.
Elena Hesse (06:19):
Corey Frank (06:20):
I think, to me, there's got to be some Chris Voss, Candyland shortcut, that really engenders trust very, very quickly, like a shortcut if you say, "Stop, what does that mean? I don't understand that". We could you feel the burden on you and the trust part just catalyzes from there.
Elena Hesse (06:40):
Because typically people are saying things that are important, and you want to have the same vocabulary or knowledge so you can move faster, kind of back to our original statements.
Chris Beall (06:49):
Yeah. Well, everybody's an expert on thousands, millions of things, in fact. We just don't know what they are until we have a conversation. We have a little tagline at ConnectAndSell, and I've had branding people talk to me about, "Why don't you change that and make it fresher?" Conversations matter.
Chris Beall (07:06):
It's not that they matter for selling, they just matter. We just can't figure stuff out on our own, because our own experiences take us inside our own experiences. We need to be inside of other people's experiences in order to be able to gain access to what they're an expert at.
Chris Beall (07:28):
Everybody's an expert at millions of things. It's not limited. You think of how long a life is, think about all the years. Years? Try milliseconds. We learn stuff hundreds of times a second. We can't really share it with anybody unless we have a conversation. You have to have that high velocity, 20,000 bits a second, right into the mid brain. Then we have a shot.
Elena Hesse (07:53):
Yeah, and let's absorb it, and be brave enough to maybe change a position if you hear something that makes sense. Don't get too buried in your own belief. Pick your values. But what I believe in, because I'm using those very differently, it could change a little bit because your experience has showed me something I never saw before.
Elena Hesse (08:15):
Now, that's why I think ... I'm not going to get political, I promise. But just generally ... both sides of the aisle, once you pick a position, you got to stay consistent or else you're not considered credible. I want a leader who takes it all in, and makes decisions that are right, not just following a pattern of an echo chamber. So, it's okay to say you're wrong.
Corey Frank (08:41):
Chris Beall (08:42):
Well, Corey's wrong all the time, so.
Corey Frank (08:44):
Yeah, just ask my wife. Right, exactly.
Chris Beall (08:48):
... Into little diamonds.
Elena Hesse (08:52):
Chris Beall (08:52):
This was the best conversation I've had in a long, long time.
Corey Frank (08:54):
Elena Hesse (08:54):
You're sweet. You guys are very flattering. I don't know if you do this for everybody else, but you make people feel good to participate. I was very happy to do so. I've learned things. I've jotted down books and movies.
Corey Frank (09:09):
Chris Beall (09:09):
I keep thinking of Little China. Go watch that one, that's a good movie.
Corey Frank (09:12):
Yeah. My wife knows there's no such thing as a quick conversation with Chris because it's so tangential. You talk about a lot, about a lot of things.
Corey Frank (09:22):
I've known Chris for a long time. I've never heard the primates example, but this is a guy that reads scientific journals for fun all the time. It's the Jiro thing. Jiro the movie, he dreams of sushi because he's such a craftsman that is so entrenched. As they say, "By the work, they shall know the workman."
Elena Hesse (09:45):
Corey Frank (09:45):
So, he's dreaming of sushi. You're like, "Come on, it's just fish. It's a meal. Can't you go drive through somewhere, or go to one of those things in Japan where they go around and grab the sushi?"
Corey Frank (09:54):
It's like, no, you're missing the point. "Well, can't I dial and talk to people? Can't I just email? Isn't it the same." It's going to take a little bit longer, but come on. You're missing the art, and the honor, and the dignity of the profession.
Elena Hesse (10:06):
Yeah, I love those last few things you just said, the art, and the honor, and the dignity of our profession.
Chris Beall (10:14):
I think we would do well to spend more time with our sales teams on these topics.
Elena Hesse (10:23):
Chris Beall (10:24):
People will say, "Well, sales is an honorable profession," all that kind of stuff. I don't think most people selling in the innovation economy even get what they're doing, why they're so important.
Chris Beall (11:29):
We tend to, I think sadly, by leaving the coin operated comp plans in place, we actually insult our salespeople by saying ... This is a Japanese thing. I spent a lot of time in Japan at one point in my life doing a big joint venture with Mitsui, so dealing with board level people there. They're very happy to let you be yourself, but if you're open, they're happy to teach you about what it's like to be them, which is really kind of interesting.
Chris Beall (12:02):
The thing that characterized Japanese society more than anything else was that it's insulting to tip somebody, and yet we pay our sales people by tipping them. The commission is a tip, right? The implication in Japan, the thing that's so insulting, is you're saying to them, "I don't believe you would've done your job with excellence unless I gave you this additional financial incentive."
Chris Beall (12:30):
That's an absolute insult to a Japanese person to say, "You did it for the money." You went the extra mile not because of who you are and your commitment to the excellence of what you're doing and the joy of serving somebody. You did it because you're trying to get 20% instead of 18%. It's the deepest insult.
Chris Beall (12:53):
I think that we have a hangover in our society from sales at the crossroads where a commission would make sense. Because basically I trick you into buying and I should be rewarded for it. That's kind of what it was.
Chris Beall (13:08):
Now, here we are, we're actually in partnership with people we have not yet met. That's the essence of the modern sales person, is your tribe includes people you have not yet met that you're going to help, that you're going to be curious about, and you're going to help. Yet we base our compensation schemes on the notion that you wouldn't really do it unless there was something in it for you.
Elena Hesse (13:31):
So, I'm curious. I will say this, when I first started in sales and probably the reason that I was willing to go into a sales position, because I'm a CPA, so that part of my brain was like, "What? commissions?" I don't want to put anything at risk.
Elena Hesse (13:47):
But when I started at Creative Solutions, they did not have commissions. It was straight salary, there was no anything. But kind of to your point, we looked at reports all the time to see who was selling the most. That was driving behavior, but it wasn't paying based on that behavior.
Elena Hesse (14:07):
So, my question to you Chris, since you've had a lot of exposure here, how do the Japanese companies pay their sales reps? Is it strictly a salary? Is there no differentiation for excellence? They just don't use money for that? What do you see?
Chris Beall (14:22):
Well, in their sales world, God knows what they do. I never got into that. That was not part of what I was ... It's funny, I never felt in these long relationships that we were putting together that anybody was working me for a commission. I never felt that, not even for a minute.
Chris Beall (14:40):
I never also felt, I have no instances to counter this, that a handshake wasn't as good as a contract. Never, not once. There was no like, "Here's a word here. We could do this," or whatever. You didn't do deals other than on an achievement of mutual understanding of what you were going to do next. That was the deal itself. There was no other deal. I don't know if I recognize these people-
Elena Hesse (15:06):
A lot of trust.
Chris Beall (15:07):
... but I do know that every time I would go to leave Narita Airport in Tokyo, there's a yellow line that you cross and you're no longer in Japan when you cross that line. I would stop at that line.
Elena Hesse (15:27):
And like have [inaudible 00:15:29]?
Chris Beall (15:29):
I would stop, because I felt like I was leaving civilization. We have examples there. We don't need to have this corrupting system, where I have to grease your palm a little bit before you'll carry my suitcase. We don't have that everywhere. We have salaried positions. We trust our engineers to work without tipping them for a line of code, or giving a commission.
Chris Beall (15:52):
Can you imagine? "You wrote 26 lines of code today, $55, yay." No, we would actually be concerned, like "Oh my God, this stuff's got to work. That could be sloppy." I want it to be right. What do they get? They get their stock options, and they get their opportunity for promotion, and they get their career, which is actually worth more than all that put together.
Chris Beall (16:13):
You get your reputation, you get your career, you get the fact that you can walk out the door without taking a single step. You get all of that. I think we still have got a cultural hangover. We got untrapped from the office, and we can now choose to use the office. But we've never gotten untrapped from the coin-operated notion of a salesperson.
Elena Hesse (16:36):
It's a very distracting part of the business, because if you don't have the coin-operated machine well oiled, highly tuned, with all the variations, it's like a pinball machine, as I pull it back, I'm trying to hit as many things as I possibly can. If I hit them and didn't get paid, now my focus as a salesperson is, "System's not working. How much do I need to get paid?" I'm in the back of my mind, at the very least. That's distracting me from my relationships.
Corey Frank (17:10):
Well, the social contract, they're going to feel is broken.
Elena Hesse (17:14):
Corey Frank (17:15):
"You hired me, and you're going to spend all this money on all these MarTech back tools. I follow your playbook, I should have six figures, and I should hit my quota." When I don't, it's tough to look introspectively, I've got to look at probably the leads, my boss, my manager, my comp plan, my commute, whatever it is that's natural.
Corey Frank (17:37):
Actually, in the movie, in Jiro they talk about that other concept we've heard, Kaizen, that continuous improvement, that main kind of principle. But the piece that they talk about in Jiro, [foreign language 00:17:48], a incredible book from the 17th Century about the Samurai way and the Japanese. They call it ikigai. It's finding one's central satisfaction and meaning in life. It's the reason for being.
Elena Hesse (18:02):
For your personal reason for being?
Corey Frank (18:05):
Your own personal reason for being. That's one of the Japanese philosophies that they have, is that it describes your value and your own worth, to you. It's your life, and your purpose. When you, like Chris, you go around Tokyo, the cabs are impeccably cleaned. They're like 1986 Maximas. The cab drivers are impeccably dressed and they wear white gloves.
Elena Hesse (18:29):
Corey Frank (18:31):
Chris Beall (18:31):
And they smell good, the cabs smell good, they smell great. They all smell the same, they all smell great.
Corey Frank (18:37):
I think that pride starts at home. That pride of ... If I cared about my title, I'd be a banker. But if I'm a salesperson, the only thing I have to show, I can't have really my title, I got to have my stuff, my currency, which is [inaudible 00:18:52].
Elena Hesse (18:51):
Yeah. I never thought about it that way, but yeah.
Corey Frank (18:54):
Other currency, which is learning, curiosity, being supportive, group, et cetera. But anyway.
Chris Beall (19:00):
I think the lock-in comes from the market. We pay our salespeople commission because the lock-in comes from the market. The lock-in to the office came from the market, and then the market blew up because it turned out it was better to work from home than to die. But that's what it took. It actually took-
Elena Hesse (19:18):
Chris Beall (19:19):
"Otherwise we're going to die." The fact that we commuted for an insane amount of ... Truly, if you just think about it, we did an episode on this, the hundreds of billions of dollars in the hours spent just commuting makes no sense, once you figured out how to do something remotely.
Chris Beall (19:39):
You can't go back and find them and go, "We were so good when we were together, that it was worth two things." One is all the commuting, and two is having our entire talent pool be within 50 miles of us instead of everybody on earth. Those things were incredibly valuable. They weren't incredibly valuable, they were locked in.
Elena Hesse (19:56):
So, I have a point. I know you got to leave in a minute and I'm going to respect that. But I will say this onto return to work. I believe in everything you just said. There's a lot of was in commuting. However, I can't accidentally bump into anyone on a video call. I can't do it.
Elena Hesse (20:16):
My learnings come from accidentally bumping into the world I live in. If I'm not at least coming into a central place where other people that I want to bump into are there periodically, I'm talking about hybrid, like two days a week, then I lose. The company loses. But it's a really hard message to get across to people who are so used to now working from home all the time. Because it's hard to argue your productivity comment. I am probably more productive-
Chris Beall (20:43):
Or the rest of your life. It's like, who are you working for? Are you working for the man, so to speak? By the way, my one minute may come here.
Chris Beall (20:53):
I think what we're going to see on this topic is we're going to see the market play out. The market is now for top talent. The top talent is simply, they're going to call the game. The rest of us who hire top talent, we're in the thrall of those people. They are our customers, and that's it.
Chris Beall (21:16):
It's not a very subtle game at this point. It's simply, what do they want? If they want to bump into people, well, maybe they'll bump into people. Here's where I think they'll end up going. Corey knows I'm a mathematician by background, and that I've never lost that hideous nature. The math says that we should get together, but less frequently and more intensely.
Chris Beall (21:38):
So, where the conferences used to be to meet customers, we will start having conferences to be with each other, and to actually take that time truly away from other things, and not just bump into each other, but bump into each other with a little intentionality, but still bump into each other.
Chris Beall (21:58):
The other flip is, when you do that, it's like opening a digital relationship with a conversation. When you get together, immediately, and I do mean immediately and I've charted this stuff, you start interacting differently with the people you were just with physically when you're texting them, so it's a catalyst for that future.
Chris Beall (22:21):
But two days a week, I think, might be a little much. But two days a month all getting together, maybe not at the office but somewhere else where ... Because the flights are cheap. The hotel venues or whatever, conference venues, are cheap. When people get away, they focus with each other, and you can have fun. Fun is the other thing. People got to have fun together.
Elena Hesse (22:48):
Yeah. I think your point is right on, and I think that's one of the reasons that we successfully lifted and shifted in COVID, is because we already had the tapestry of trust within physical contact with my team. Then we were able to go and continue that.
Elena Hesse (23:05):
The problem is, as we were hiring people remotely, we don't have that physical connection, that meeting up with each other. I don't know the 100% remote people as well. I just don't. We got to create situations. We can talk all day.
Chris Beall (23:21):
I'll make one more point. You have a 20,000-bit-per-second channel into somebody's mid-brain in a conversation, and I don't think we pick up the phone enough. I talked for 42 minutes this morning with one of my reps, that I had no reason whatsoever to speak with when I woke up this morning.
Chris Beall (23:38):
Mark and I now have got this 42 minutes. That's 42 minutes, times 60 seconds a minute, times 20,000 bits of emotion-laden information even though we don't think of it that way. What were we talking about? Friction in our sales process. We were getting down into the nuances of, "If you do it in this order, there's friction. But this order, there's no friction. So, are you willing to try it in this order instead of the traditional order?"
Chris Beall (24:07):
It was bumping into each other. Why? Because there was a conversation, that somebody who sets meetings for me, had with somebody that Mark's going to do a test drive with. I wanted those two to talk in a debriefed sense. So, I sent a text to both of them. Then mark said, "You sent me a text," and he called me, and we bumped into each other.
Elena Hesse (24:28):
Chris Beall (24:29):
The key, I think, is to get away from the damned email and thinking that you're communicating when you're sending email, because you aren't.
Elena Hesse (24:39):
Yeah. That's one of the reasons I like Teams Chat. It's the closest thing to bumping into somebody I can do, because I can spontaneously say, "Do you got two minutes, because I need to pick your brain."
Chris Beall (24:53):
Yeah. Well, Helen sells that stuff, so I'll tell you how much value. That's Teams Chat.
Chris Beall (24:59):
By the way, I've been listening conversations at Microsoft about what they want their customers to do, because she's now customer success. The only word I heard yesterday, and I heard it over and over, is phone, which is really, really interesting.
Chris Beall (25:14):
She has people working for her in customer success who actually are spontaneously asking, "Can we do some cold calling? I want to talk to people outside of the IT people we're talking with."
Elena Hesse (25:25):
Chris Beall (25:26):
Customer success is the new sales, and thank God we don't pay them commissions. That's where I'm going to end this. Elena, I tell you what, next chance we have, let's get together somewhere.
Elena Hesse (25:39):
Chris Beall (25:41):
This was a great get together though.
Elena Hesse (25:43):
Yeah, this was awesome. I very much appreciate it. Nice to meet you Corey, and nice to get to know you more, Chris Beall. Congratulations on your upcoming wedding.
Chris Beall (25:51):
Elena Hesse (25:52):
Helen sounds fantastic, if she could have captured the heart and the mind of Chris.
Chris Beall (25:58):
She wins. No, I win. I'm the lucky one.
Elena Hesse (26:01):
Oh, you're sweet.
Chris Beall (26:02):
I'm just a lucky old beast. Corey calls himself a big dumb farm animal. I'm just a lucky beast that wandered into the right corral.
Corey Frank (26:09):
Well, Elena, it's been a absolute pleasure. Thank you for finally saying yes to this, which I'm sure was Chris's frequent torments to you to "Come on the show, come on the show." So, thank you for finally saying yes.
Corey Frank (26:21):
So, another episode in the books, Chris, with one of the best yet, with one of the brightest yet. So, with Cory Frank coming in for our Chris Beall, the Sage of Sales, the profit of profit. Elena, you're now the Curator of Curiosity, how about that?
Elena Hesse (26:34):
I'll take it.
Corey Frank (26:36):
We [inaudible 00:26:37] in the title, it looks great.
Chris Beall (26:37):
I love it.
Corey Frank (26:38):
Until next time, this is the Market Dominance Guys.
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