Paul’s ability to demystify sales and turn it into an understandable, even fun process, has made him a firm favourite at Business of Software and the only speaker who has appeared in every edition of the event.
This time, he turns his attention to resistance. What do you do when a customer – or partner, or funder, or potential employee – says ‘no’? Why is it worth engaging with customers who are saying ‘no’ even when there are many more saying ‘yes’? And why has Paul distributed 450 balloons around the room?
A super, super talk for anyone who ever has to go out and pitch an idea or a product to anyone. Highly recommended
Video & Transcript below
Whenever I hear Paul talk I hear two things:
- Some of the best, most straightforward advice on selling in the software business you’ll ever hear.
- The soothing tones of my native Yorkshire. He makes me homesick.
If you haven’t already, it’s worth checking out part 1 – The art of asking – and part 2 – Hardwiring sales into your organisation – of his trilogy from previous editions of BoS.
Learn how great SaaS & software companies are run
We produce exceptional conferences & content that will help you build better products & companies.
Join our friendly list for event updates, ideas & inspiration.
Okay, good evening just one more session to go. So, I’m going to ask you guys just to stay with me as best you can and I’m going to trying to tell something today, I’m going to trying to do workshop stuff because I appreciate that the last hour of any day can be, it can be hard to concentrate especially when there being so many great speakers I had of this final session.
So, just stick with me now that you’ll also notice the team, the business software team I’m bringing some balloons right down. Can you just make sure that you get one balloon each please, it’s just for a point later on in the presentation but please make sure that you get one, you’ve got one in front of you, and everybody in the room who is a delegate of the program needs to make sure that they get the balloon. Now, coming at the end of the table and they’ll be passed out. Okay, just to preamble let me start the form of it of my presentation.
So, quite a lot of hands went up yesterday. I couldn’t really workout who were the new people and how many or what proportion of the room they were but a lot of hands went up. So, I’m very aware that although I’ve been coming here for quite a long time we may not know me and I actually don’t know you. So, my name is Paul Kenny. I am a salesman which means, by default, there is a degree of evilness and greed in my genetic makeup. I found that coming here for five years has helped me to deal with that in a sort of therapeutic way. I consider myself to be similar in the mission on the evilness and the greed, and stages but I can’t tell you what a privilege is to come back here on year I’m here.
It’s exciting for all sorts of reasons but particularly because you come back and you meet people who had I mean coming by long enough now to meet people who had really small companies in 2008 and they’ve got really quite big companies now. They’re flying. And I see people who’ve taken the leap from coming as an employee who was a “wannapreneur”- to use Patrick’s term- and they’ve taken the leap to become entrepreneurs. And it’s absolutely delightful to see that.
So, if you would indulge me slightly, what I would like to do is to just talk through some observations about the Business of Software as a means of introducing my presentation because when I first came here I’ll be honest, I wasn’t really excited about the gig. I’ve worked with Red Gate for a quite number of years and Neil invited me and I say, “Great. Who is going to be there”? “Well, it’s a bunch of software entrepreneurs”. That sounded great to me. And then when I started to look into what being a software entrepreneur really meant; it actually meant a bunch of developers and a bunch of engineers, and a bunch of product managers, and all the people who, if I’m honest we had the odd running with over the years. The very first one, down at the Sea point 2008, was a little bit like walking into – it was like being a rabbit in the fox’s den- and I was pretty nervous when I came. But actually what I learn very quickly and in the subsequent Business of Software, it is actually, you guys, really get all of this sales stuff. I know this now. But you really get it, you really get it.
So, if you’re an entrepreneur then on – some level- that is synonymous with being a sales person. You get that it is not just about selling to a customer even if you’re a friction free SAS business. You’re selling to your staff. You’re selling to recruiters to send you the best people. You’re selling to your stakeholders. You’re selling for VC. You’re out there trying to persuade people that your vision, your values are worth backing, in some way. And what I’m try to show over the years is that sales skills can be developed even if you don’t consider yourself to be a sales person and that they should be developed.
But when I sit down and reflect on this conference for the past few years, I think there were some themes that run through it. Every conference has its own sort of vibe. But running it over the four years- five conferences –there’ve been some themes developed.
And there is definitely a theme that’s about smart marketing. And I guess Dharmesh -really you know- in 2009 in San Francisco, when inbound marketing came out and at that presentation, it was mind blowing. It was fantastic because it was really hugely practical and set stuff on standing out and being a purple cow. It’s like, don’t do marketing do really great marketing and apply loads of creativity to it.
And the stuff that Dan Norman did and some of Joel’s presentations and many others have been about- you know- being different. Yes, be useful to people and provide real utility but be different as well.
And then another thing that seems to hit every single conference that I’ve been at since 2008 is don’t just chase the cash build for sustainability as well as profit. And that was Jeffrey, the theme of Jeffrey Moore’s presentation back in 2009 and Dharmesh is come back to it time-and-time again, and Scott from Atlassian went over a lot of this stuff as well.
The wining culture thing has just gone from the word ‘go’, and you know, there’ve been some fantastic presentations about culture in this conference. But you know, Tobias’ presentation from the very end of day two this slot and last year I thought was amazing a very different sort of presentation, very reflective, very thoughtful, and really, really very good, And we’ve talked about culture, Ryan a couple of years ago. Fantastic presentations about culture.
I still think that between Jason and Peldi, we’ve kind of got this sense of balance. So there is a human side. It’s not just all about working your backside off and stretching yourself. There is this kind of, you’ve got to stay sane in the middle of this. “Don’t worry be happy,” and all of that sort of stuff is really important and be honest to yourself be honest with your customers all of that. Don’t be distracted from that, Clayton Chistensen equally.
And to be hugely customer obsessive understanding the utility that you deliver and making sure that it is something that customer is really want and really value and I think both of Kathy’s presentations – I mean San Francisco and here yesterday- have picked up on that, as have many, as Clayton Christensen particularly last year was like don’t forget it’s the job that your product does. It’s not about features and benefits.
Now, when I look at all of this I’m kind of struck because I was really worried about this being tech conference in 2008. But when you’re looking at the continuing things and you’ll have your own here what do you notice about them? So, it’s a rhetorical question, I’m not expecting the answer don’t worry. [Laughter]
Well, the thing that struck me was that actually this is all about attitude. This is all about the way you approach your business and I’ve seen nothing in the last two days that has changed my view of this. And in fact I’m not even sure this is really the business of software conference is the business of ‘building awesome products that create badass users that create customers that build sustainable business’ conference. The only thing is you are going to need a really big T-Shirt to put that on. So, we’ll stick with the business of software.
I wanted to point out that this is an attitude shift for a very simple reason. This last, this next session that I’m going to do is where attitude is way more important than anymore, anymore particular skill. And I want you bear in minds that, you know, I can spend two days talking about this issue that we’re going to talk about and we’ve got about an hour to do so. And so, I’m going to focus more on the attitude then, but we’ll talk some of the skills as well. For those of you who I don’t know – because again I try to say ‘hello’ to as many people as I can – but I’ve started really to describe myself as a sales coach.
This job, this standing upon stage is not my natural environment; I’ll be really honest with you. I do only few of these things every year. I consider myself to be a coach for sales and sales managers but that’s a really hard thing to tell your kids what you do because all my friends have got proper jobs you know. I have a friend who is a pilot. I have a friend who is a doctor. I have a friend who is a car dealer. I have a friend who sells prosthetic vertebrae. I’ve got a friend who is, several of friends, who are teachers. And you know, they’ve all got proper jobs and their kids know what they do.
When people ask my kids what their dad does they just go, he just goes away a lot and so, you know, they think that’s my job. So, what I try to do, I try to tell to them that being a sales coach is a bit like being a kind of 1960’s international man of mystery. You know, like [Laughter], a kind of like you know, I don’t want to say MI6 sanctioned me arriving here but you know, I’m here for Queen and country. And I try to make out that I can go at a moment’s notice tackle problems head on usually with a great city escape behind me and a good theme tune running.
But in fact the job of sales coach is really about sitting in dark corners with a set of head phones on or sitting in the passenger seat of a car, and going out with people and spending time while they’re spending time with customers. And Cathy has a room named after the Hubspot that’s just amazing, just fantastic. [Applause] I’ve a new ambition in life okay [Laughter] I want a small cupboard at Hubspot [Laughter] I’m going to strive for that for the next, for however long it takes.
So, the job of a sales coach is to listen to a lot and lot and lot of sales calls. And sometimes a sales call is just- kind of- a two minutes thing where it’s more support than sales. And sometimes it’s to sit with people when they’re doing major pitches, two hour presentations, diving into the detail of how you’re going to manage a project for the next five years or whatever. And what I’ve learned -and it’s obligatory to steal at least one slide from another presenter here – and it struck me during Cathy’s presentation- that actually what I do is a lot like sorting chickens. You know. It’s like two chicks one conference, isn’t that value for money? Yeah! So, when you listen to calls and the reason I mentioned is because if you get a take away from this, if you are the guy who is selling or the person who is selling for your business actually I want you to invest on whatever bit of software allows you to take your call and to capture it. And if you’re a managing sales people in your business I want you to start really, really listening very regularly to the interactions that you have with your customers. Don’t put it off make it a positive thing.
If you want to talk to me about how you setup internal coaching and make it a positive experience, and not a fearful experience, I’ll happily talk about that but not in this presentation. And I want you to listen to lots some because just like the guys who sexes the chickens I hope nobody add this in a bad way. Just like the guy who sexes the chicken, when you’re listening to a sales call and when you’re watching a sales call after a while you develop a sense and it’s almost of sixth sense for how well it’s going. You get a sense of whether the customer is becoming more engaged with you or disengaging from the conversation. You get a sense of balance in there because you can feel it when it’s not going right and it’s just somebody pitching someone, and somebody not being that interested. It kind of feels like you’re in a wobbly boat. And so if you get good at this you’ll be able to create a sales culture within your business that reflects all the other stuff that Mikey and Dharmesh have talked about. Because you’ll be able to repeat, you’ll be able to repeat this.
So, that’s what I do for a living, just the phone coach not sexing chickens, and from all the calls I’ve listen too for years and years and years I think there is a few things that good sales people do really well. And that means people who have never saw before if you understand them can get to be good enough and sometimes that’s fine and people who are pretty naturally talented at this stuff can become really, really excellent. And I’ve tried to make sure that every presentation I’ve done has tackled one of these things.
So, that very first presentation back in 2008 was all about ‘get your head around sales’ and ‘get you head around the fact that what the sales person does is create value’. Whether a CEO doing a program of selling your first bit of technology and somewhere, what they do is create value. And they do it by identifying what customers really value and then by finding articulating the value, solving the problem. Being awesome, and that’s what they do. And it is just- I went on about it a bit in 2008 because I felt that it’s not very different from many other parts of the business.
Great sales people also -and this was couple of years ago in the presentation- are fantastic at working out what people value because they’re very good in creating a dialog. And I mean, there is a difference between standard, crappy sales which is where everybody knows you got to question the client. And at a standard, crappy sale what happens is people ring you up, they ask you three questions all of which are designed to find something that they can sell you on. I’m going to give you an example and this is not a reflection of Saleforces as a company I’m going to give you one example. I’ve a client who I recommended to them that because of their systems were so ancient, their CRM system, they had three different systems feeding in it, that the sales directors were working without any kind of dashboard or any kind of data. And I recommended Salesforce. I said you know, you should at least start there. Even if you don’t want Salesforce, you should start that because it’s a kind of the thing you should compare other things against. And I rang them and they agree to do a presentation. And there was this one guy and I’ve many conversations with Salesforce over the years and it’s not typical but there was this one guy and he stuck in my mind. And he was in Dublin with his colleague who was the technical expert and we had two sales directors, a managing director and myself in Scotland, listening to the call. And he asked the kind of questions that I call selfish questions, you know: “So, how important is it for you to have a dashboard?” and we said, “Of course we want a dashboard for…” “Well, the great thing about Salesforce…”. And every question was followed by “The great thing about…” you know. And that’s not actually creating a dialog. That’s trying to create opportunities to push stuff at a customer. It’s not authentic. What great sales people do – and I had equally good examples from Salesforce, I’m not having a down on them – is they try and build the dialog based around everything is going on so that we can uncover real problems that we might be able to find a solution to. And if we can, great, and if we can’t, we learn something that we can then take on into Product Development or just client choice or whatever.
So, it was all about dialog, then we had Sharing Stories and that’s about making the way that you articulate your sales, your sales by making it resonate with the customer, and having the right stories and there is a real art to selecting the right stories and then last year I took my closing and I dressed it up as the art of commitment because I was a bit worried about calling a closing in front of you lot but we took closing and we said if we don’t ask – the purpose of a call if you remember me saying -the purpose of a business is to create customers if you’re not creating customers then you’re not really a business, you’re playing at it and one of the ways you create customers is you have a buy now button or you ask people if they want to, if they want to commit and all of those things when you listen to lots of calls and you spend time doing it you start to notice when people are doing them really well or when they’re doing them not so well or they’re not doing them.
The final thing that we’re going to talk about is managing resistance.
Now, I’m going to try and explain what I mean by this using this random sci fi slide but resistance – how many people here demo as part of your job a great many of you I’d imagine alright so, you know when you do those demos where before you do the demo you talk to everybody and they’re like “Yeah, we’re really keen to see a demo and so you go great and we’re really keen to demo for you” and you go with that and then you start the demo and everyone is really nice and then there is key you get about halfway through and their language goes from ‘well that’s great, that’s fantastic, that’s wonderful’ to ‘yeah, so, hmm’.
And maybe you start to get a sense that something is happening here and when you say: “So what you think?” “Well, not sure if we’ve got the budget this year or I may have to take this to the exec level” or you get all of those sorts of thing and you just start to get the sense that everything is pulling away or you’ve gone from being super keen to sort of wading through treacle to get anywhere. You’ve all had that experience at least once yeah?
Okay, okay it’s like therapy I told you. So that sense that you get is resistance and it happens for all sorts of reasons. Now it’s funny we’ve all been doing superman poses for the last couple of days when I was in sales we used to, if we had a really bad day and we were having a drink we used to say what would be your sale super power? You know, if you could do anything? And I used to say I want, I want I’d like a gun that’s built into my hand like a zapper and every time somebody starts to lose interest or to raise a critical question or to tell me that they’re not going to buy for me after I’ve demo the product or I’ve done a pitch or whatever? I said if I could zap people so the synapses fizz a little bit and they forget that they didn’t really like something. Kind of like an Obi-Wan moment – very much you know,’ these are not the droids you are looking for’ that kind of thing.
We can’t do that in real life but if you stick with me for the rest of this presentation I’ll try and show you a few sales Jedi mind tricks, or at least from your own point of view, these might prove useful.
So, resistance is when customer start to say no, when they start to hold back and it’s frustrating, and it’s time consuming, and you don’t, and it’s a bit depressing as well when you’ve invested lots of stuff, lots of time in your product. It feels like a brick wall, that’s hit you and you don’t know where to go with it? And if you had that feeling where, it was so promising 10 minutes ago, or five days ago and suddenly nothing is happening and this could be when you’re pitching you know, somebody to come into business with you, and you’re working with VC’s, it could be working all sorts of situations and resistance kicks in.
So, we know what we’re talking about and what I want to show you is that you should think and worry about this stuff and your approach to it because it will define what type of business you are, at least in terms of your sales.
So, this is what we get to do balloon stuff, but the resistance effects people in lots of different ways do you any of you remember last year when Dharmesh asked that question he said “Do we need people to sell?” Does anybody remember that in Dharmesh’s presentation? I had this, when he asked this, I had this picture in my head of like 60 sales guys at Hubspot all sitting around the live stream with bated breath waiting to see [Laughter] what he was going to say? But thankfully he said “Well, yes of course we do, but we don’t need them for everything” when we need sales people when we need sales people is when something is new, or when it’s complex, or when the price gets above a certain value, then actually the sales is less straightforward then people want support, and they want to talk to real people, and they want to ask questions, and they want to know the company, and they want their hand holding, and all of those sort of things.
So, you might be down here at the kind of friction free bit in your business, you’re like Amazon, or whatever and it’s just people will buy, or they won’t, or whatever? Or you might be more kind of service provider level where, the second two phases for a retail service provider, where, people just have kind of little problems that you got to deal with quickly in order to push through that. Or you might be right up at the other end on a big consulting projects or, you know, a big piece of enterprise software, where, if somebody says no that’s a year of work down the toilet. So it’s different, it comes out in lots of different ways.
So, this is our workshop event. What I want you to do is to take your balloon, first of all, hold your balloon up so I can see you’ve got it. No one is allowed to duck out of this exercise. If you’re truly balloon-o-phobic, because often one is in the group this size, then I’ll let you off but otherwise I want you to do this. Now what I want you to do is I want you to think of a client, I want you to think of a situation, where it can be a customer, client, a channel partner, a deal that you want to get done of some sort that has slowed down. It could be current, it could be in the past. You can even think outside of work life, you know, personal life or whatever if that helps but I want you to think of one and I want you to – this is where it gets all therapy stuff okay – I want you to kind of take a deep breath focus on that person and I want you to get all the angst and all that sort of frustration that you feel out of here and into the balloon. Okay?
Kathy will tell you this is another way of raising testosterone and cortisol. I promise you. She won’t – she never said that, I’m a salesman and [Laughter]. So, I’m doing this for a very specific reason I want you to have a look why people saying no. So, I want you to create something you can look at.
So come on, think of a person, fill the balloon. It could be any deal this kind of frustration. I want you to pick it up, blow it up, and if it’s really frustrating blow it up, I mean really it blow up. You can do it <balloon bursts> Wow! We might need another balloon – and when you’ve got it look around okay and when you got it I need to tie a knock in there please. Do you know what <another balloon bursts> wow, do you know what you guys look like? Okay, so, please keep all keep balloons safe right this is the workshop bit I want you to take your balloon, your person – fantastic – well, take your balloon and I want you to turn to somebody near you and I want you to introduce them to your problem. I want to say right this is Bill that we’ve been talking to for a year the guy is a real pain we’ve demoed him three times he is asked for eight proposals and we’re still no closer. So give him a name and I want you to tell somebody near you, you can do in twos or threes or whatever but I want you to tell somebody I want you to imagine this resistance. [Laughter]
Okay, okay it has to be quick I’m afraid, it has to be quick it’s the end of the day. Your attention spans won’t last much longer. So, okay so now what we’ve done is we’ve taken this kind of weird sticky horrible feeling when things aren’t happening and we’ve made it real, we got something we can look at and address and talk about during the rest of the presentation. So, keep hold of your balloon treasure it, treasure your resistance okay.
So, I think it’s really important that we just talk about – very quickly – why you have to, as businesses, talk about what you do when the customer says no and how you respond. Because that reflects your culture, it reflects what you think about your customer, and there is a whole bunch of reasons why you need to have a response to this and you need to know what your response is and how you’re going to do this?
The first thing is there is just no such thing as a perfect product. Now, with a couple of comments I think Dharmesh yesterday said “You know, rather than spending money on marketing, why don’t we spend money on decrapifying the product” and that that’s really good, really good advice, that’s really good advice.
There is a slight worry because that sort of suggests that as long you’ve decrapify the product the customer will get how you’ve decrapify the product and will understand that, and they may not. It will certainly help and will make a big difference and again with Peldi today you know, “let’s make the software work”, yeah, before we start worrying about fancy marketing and again that sort of pre-supposes so so long as you have the perfect product people will come running to you.
Does anybody here have a 100% conversion on their downloads? “I wish” yeah does anybody here have more than 50% conversion on the downloads? Wow, fantastic – you can do next years slot.
You know, the difference is if they were perfect products, if they were perfect, and if I had time – I used to do this at sales conferences years ago, I used to give people 20 minutes to go and imagine, even in the world of imagination, go and make up the perfect product and people will come back with things like face cream for guys that if you rub it in makes you look like George Clooney and and it really works!
And even in the world of imagination you know, some of the guys were responding “I don’t want to look like George Clooney I think I’m already better looking than George Clooney you know”, [Laughter] I know and so there is no such thing. If there was such a thing as a perfect product you know, if there was such a things of prefect product they would have a 100% market share. Everybody would go and buy them and there would be no competition, we’d all be doing something different.
So, you’ve to know how to respond to clients saying no because even if you build a fabulous product a big chunk of your clients will go no, not now, it’s not right for me appreciate everybody else is buying but not for me.
The other reason you’ve got to do it and think about your response is, do you remember geography lessons when you learn about the path of least resistance and when the water comes of the mountains it finds the softest rock. Then you got these meandering rivers, it’s because the water is cut its way through the softest rock. Now, I’ve been training sales people for about 15 years okay. Who would like to hazard it to guess because this is very like, this very like a lot of sales cultures that I come across where people kind of chase the easiest deal. What kinds of companies are worst in dealing with resistance broadly, it’s not a rule, but broadly did you find?
You can shout if you answer. Speaker 2: [Inaudible] Paul Kenny: Well, actually no because it usually a bunch of guys who are absolutely terrified of loosing that I say they try and plan for everything. The thing is that usually the people who’re awesome marketers are often very bad at dealing with nos and the reason is if you can generate 20,000 downloads across the year and you’ve three people in a cupboard somewhere trying to sell to these guys and convert them. If the client goes no you go, “okay fine move on to the next one” and then you end up with this kind of meandering river style things.
Now, the only thing I mentioned is this that you can create huge islands almost of opportunity, missed opportunity that are there, and what’s more, and I’ve done this as a consultant when somebody is number 2, number 3, number 4 in the market and they go “How do we go ahead?” I often say go to all the people who have said no to the main player start with them.
Don’t go to the people who love the main player and try and sell them, go to all the people who aren’t using them, who have tried it. Then try to work out what they didn’t like about it and then make that your point of difference. So, it’s really important that at you’re at least trying to talk to these people, closely tied into this is that often when we try and response to people when we decide it’s okay to be a little bit pushy (that’s a small ‘p’ pushy) and to question it. Often you that find loads of this stuff can be fixed really quickly, like the client says “I’m not sure if fits with our current system.” Well, you know, when somebody says that to an engineer it’s like happy days isn’t it? You know: ”Great! Tell us how to get into your system, lets have a look at the API, let’s get stuck in there.
Or people prefer another product we can often, we can often do side-by-side testing we can show them logically and clearly. So, a lot of the stuff: “Our boss says no.” okay let’s fix that let’s get your boss around the table let’s get to the demo, let’s sort it out. You’ll be surprised how many opportunities are missed from people who don’t take this issue of resistance seriously. They just get wasted and just get frittered away.
So, don’t tell me that you’ve got awesome marketing and then we squander the effects of those markets because just it’s really not good enough. We really need to make sure that we can deal with those.
Does everybody remember Rory Sutherland from last year those who’ve seen it on the Livestream here? Portly posh Englishman [Laughter] has a bit of a problem with the French, you know, you remember him? Big on behavioral economics and he used this term lizard brain. I think he’s right and that when somebody comes up with something that is new and disruptive it’s our lizard brain not our logical brain that kicks in. So, I come along and say look at your stock management systems relying on four different systems two of which don’t talk to each other and you’re running on the creaky mini computers 10 years old and it’s all going to fall apart and really you can put all this in the cloud and have one system that everybody can get at, and it’s a no brainer that you should do it, the first thing that I think is not wow that’s going to change my life, the first thing is like “Oh! God that’s going to be busy, that’s going to be hard work and this may be a crappy system but it’s my crappy system you know, I’ve been building it for years and I know every nook and cranny and nut and bolt to have a go at.
So, a lot of the stuff that we’ve to deal with is perfectly natural, perfectly natural for people to want to say no before they get close to saying a yes. And one of the ways that manifests itself, another reason for a no, is that often people are saying no to you, not because they don’t want to do business with you but because they want to test your faith and your stamina.
The hardest presentation I ever did – I can still remember this guy. This guy is called Joe Putnam he worked at a company called London Transport Advertising. So, if you’ve ever been in London you look across the Tube and there’s big posters on that and posters on the buses. And they used to, long ago, I think Clear Channel or someone does it now, but years ago they used to do the advertising. And Joe was 60 years old and I was 26 years old setting up my first media training organisation and they were our one chance of getting a big deal, a big stable contract. And he sat me down in his very grand office, across a big wooden, big sort of, mahogany desk and he just went threw one reason after another: that you guys are too young, you don’t know our market well enough and you don’t know the data behind it and I don’t know anybody who see you train and he went through all of these, over and over and over again. And I was there about two hours and I even had a little break and I even sent my partner in to take over we were tag selling. Years later Joe told me he said: “I knew I was going to book, you know, I was going to hire you guys because I’ve been told that you’re good guys” and he said “I knew you could do it because I’d heard feedback from other people. But I just wanted to see if I could work with you.”
And your clients will do this to you a lot they’ll go no and they’ll throw the problems up not because they think your software is suspect but they might think your organisation is a bit suspect and what they want to see is, now if you back down, if they say here’s these problems and that’s why we’re not going to use you and you go “okay, plenty more fish in the sea”. See what have you just done? You’ve validated these thoughts about you. If you’re a genuine pioneer, a genuine evangelist that is your opportunity to show it. Clients often times just have nag, a nagging doubt but they can’t articulate it. And when you’ve a nagging doubt about something which you cannot articulate you get this I don’t know what the word is that I guess it’s dissonance or something where you kind of torn two ways. But because you can’t articulate your problem your most likely default solution is “we’ll leave it this time, thanks.” Or they’ll make up an excuse not to do it. By having a response and pushing back and challenging your customers you actually get a chance to help them articulate that problem. And when they articulate it you can do something about it.
This is a slide from last year when – if anyone was awake at this time last year. Here we say when you talking to a client or to the guys who raise objections, who raise problems they’re the customers who you will learn the most about, they’re actually the customers you’ve got the best chance of turning into bad ass users because they’re the ones who are questioning the whole time and that the ones who are feeding back. The guys who just love you and buy – well they’re kind of trying to turn themselves into bad ass users. These are the people where you can get a chance to make a genuine difference to the business.
The other, the last two reasons that you should think about pushing back on clients and challenging clients and not thinking that they’re always right. Does anyone recognize the film? Force Ten from Navarone, well done! It’s not a great film but it’s a story of how Indiana Jones and the Apollo Creed won the war okay [Laughter] and well something like that but the two kind of heroes were this stiff upper lipped British major, played by Robert Shaw, and Harrison Ford who is a kind of you know, the tough guy American marine and they’ve got to blow up a dam. And the story goes that they end up in the middle of the dam, they go down into the middle of the dam and they got all the charges and all sorts of dreadful things have been happening for them to get there. And they realize when they get in the middle of the dam that they haven’t got enough fuse to give enough time to get out. Because the Edward Fox at the front there, who was the ammunition expert, he send them in without enough fuse.
So they decided,rather bravely, that they were going to give their lives to blowing up the dam. So, they lit the thing and they walked off together these two guys it’s a touching moment. And there is an explosion and then as the dust clears the dam hasn’t blown up and these two guys are barely hurt. So, they get up and they run for it and they get out to Edward Fox and they’re like “You stupid” and Harrison Ford doing this stupid limey thing you know, and Edward Fox is your total sort of, Cambridge geek actually. He says “oh just wait, I didn’t mean to blow the whole thing up, I just meant to let the water in” and as he is saying it – I hope this isn’t a spoiler for you guys [Laughter] as he is saying it the water get into the cracks and the cracks break and everything goes.
Now, I think it’s the same with a client. When the client says no even if they’re saying no I’m not going to do business with you and that’s the end of the conversation, if you stood up to them I mean if you’ve questioned the reasoning, if you got to the heart of it, if you had a real dialog about it, sometimes you just put a little doubt in their mind and it wheedles away. And often they preferred supplier you know, if you got 10 clients who you lose two will have preferred suppliers who are going to screw up. If you put enough cracks in their doubt you often find that the simplest sales just come right back to you they bounce right back to you.
The final reason you should take this stuff seriously is that a sales conversation with no resistance usually ends up in no sales. It’s old, old cliche. If somebody doesn’t bother to raise doubts it usually means they’re not interested they’re being polite and you’ve all being in those demos where they go: “umm-hmm, yeah, great, fine, alright, okay, yeah click out, yeah fine, oh database, oh cloud, yeah, great!” And you go right the way through and you just know, and you just know, don’t you, and then they look at each other and go “well, it’s not really my job to buy software for this company you know” [Laughter].
And you just know – in my old advertising days we used to say if it’s too easy they’re not going to pay. You know, they had no intention of paying.
But we have to, not just challenge the guy we’ve to think very carefully about how we challenge the client because they’re saying no they’re in the process of disengaging from you and ego comes into play.
Now, I thought that Adii did a great presentation – where is Adii? Is he still here? Okay, don’t matter. I thought he did a great presentation but I’m going to take him to task when I see him. That very heartfelt compliment he gave his wife was absolutely touching, is absolutely lovely, but it now means that I can never let my wife see that presentation. Because the moment she does, she is going to go back through the, back through the other videos that I’ve done, and I’ve done four of them and she’s going to be “I don’t remember you telling everybody at Business of Software how lovely I was!” and it’s going to be a awkward conversation. We’ve been together 26 years and what we’ve learned is that this whole load of stuff but you really shouldn’t do together. Ikea furniture is one, cooking is another you know, there are things that you just shouldn’t, you shouldn’t do because once we do it you get into: “well you should have put the bolts in first” and then even though you know you should have out the bolts in first, are you going to pull the bolts in first? There is no way – you’re going to build it in,you know, an entirely awkward way, because the ego, the lizard brain has kicked in.
Learn how great SaaS & software companies are run
We produce exceptional conferences & content that will help you build better products & companies.
Join our friendly list for event updates, ideas & inspiration.
So, you must push back on customers but you can’t do it in a pushy way because then you’ll lose customers, this is an old cliche if you win the argument you’ll lose the sale. So, let’s have quick look at how and why customers say no? It comes out in three ways, it comes out as objections which are the reason I’m not going to buy from you, it comes out as sticker shock or price query how much? And it comes out as – ooh – the one I hate. “Leave it with me, I’ll think about it”, and that’s awful.
There are two types of objection that you get, you get very logical objections if you’re selling to Jason Cohen and you go in with a you know, a new piece of software that’s going to sort something out for WP Engine. You can pretty much be sure that he will have done his homework, and he will go “I’m a bit concerned about the following” and he’ll have a list. I don’t know Jason that well, but I’m kind of you know, stereotyping, sorry Jason, and those objections will be down to a lack of information, there will be down to a deficit of information, or a misunderstanding that exists, that requires clearing up.
And then you get those things are emotional. I just hate the UX you know, I hate the color you should have gone two shades lighter on your blue, damn you. So, if you’re selling a new shirt to Mark Littlewood and he says you know, “Come on stripey and muted color shirts are really not me” you know, it’s an emotion thing, there is no logical reason for that, it’s an emotional objection. The sticker shock thing we’ll talk about later, it always comes up.
And then there’s the delayed reaction and this is a really nasty one because how many of you have that thing where the guy says “I want to think about it” and you never speak to him again? You can’t get hold of him. Now, everybody who says I want to think about it you must challenge to find out what they’re thinking about. I’ll tell you about that in a moment.
So, there are three responses, in fact, that generally should be happening you should, if you’re sending sales people out you should listen for these and if you’re doing the sales you should be wary. There’s two traditional responses and there’s an effective response to dealing with any kind of resistance.
The first traditional response is to attack. You know, somebody says I pretty much think your UX is poor “We spent seven years building a UX and we’ve got three designers each of whom have worked for Apple, Facebook” and you kind of go on the attack, and it’s predicated on the assumption, or the belief that the client is an idiot. Or, at best, misinformed. Or that’s the way it comes it comes across.
Do you know who some of the worst peoples for this are? [Laughter] Engineers, Founders, Builders, Experts. Because I know everything and I’m frustrated that you didn’t get it first time around. Yeah? But the problem is when you go on the attack, we’re back to Kate and I trying to build an Ikea wardrobe. It’s never going to end, it’s never going to end happily.
So, the other problem, and this is a real problem I’ve found in some of the software companies I work with, is where actually they go: “they don’t want it? Fair enough.” And that’s it. So the clients say: “you know what guys I don’t think this is the right thing for me.” And they go “fair enough”. White flag. And it usually comes from companies who say “We’re not a pushy sales organization, we don’t want to be pushy. We’re quite happy to let our customers down, let them carry on with crappy software from another supplier” you know, but “we don’t want to be pushy, we want to be pure and pure”. Okay [Laughter] And neither those is particularly great.
What the top sales people that I’ve worked with over the years do, is they treat it all as a huge game and what they are is explorers. They understand that the resistance that is coming up is a natural and necessary part of the sales process, of the deal process. No real deal will be done unless there are some points of friction that are in there. And what they do is they seek to explore it.
When we were mapping this for a client, we were trying to build some competencies for a client we found out some stuff that you can do. It’s not a great slide, I apologize. But there is some stuff that you can do which is really easy to do. You can train sales technique and you can train sales awareness and teach them about customers. You can train some stuff about the market knowledge you can create wikis for them and you can and should and probably do lots of product training for your sales guys. And that’s actually all easy – it’s a no brainer and you should be doing it because they won’t be able to push back against the resistance unless you got these things.
What is much harder to develop is the stuff you should be recruiting for. So, you know, Mike said this morning, he said “We get somebody in, we get them to bring in some leads and we go: “So, I want to see if you can actually have the stones to pickup the phone and call customer because if you can’t do that – congratulations Jody by the way and your presentation on overcoming your fear of sales – but if you can’t do that then you got an issue. And I would say that’s great, and push it further because actually what you should do, as you should stick some resistance into the sale. You should tell people why you’re thinking of not hiring them. And you just see how they deal with it? And you should give them all your product data, weeks before, and you should get them doing sales to people, not the recruiters, to people they don’t know, and you should be pushing back on them the whole time.
They don’t necessarily have to be superb, their answers. What they have to have is the attitude where they’re thinking on the feet the whole time. They’re looking for the best way to articulate the benefits. They’re very good at you know, do you know about people ‘staying on side’ this is the argument thing? There are some people who just always end up in an argument you know, they attack folk. There is an art to staying on side with a customer, there is an art to… instead of it being somebody going “I really hate the UX” and they chuck it and the person catches it and they actually go: “yeah, well it’s been really well designed and the other clients like it” and they chuck it back. And they go “Well, I don’t, and I don’t think my clients will like it” and they check it back.
And you end with this kind of sales volleyball that goes on. And the guy with the money is always going to win that game, he is always going to win that game you never ever going to be, you never going to beat it. But if someone can actually go: “wow that’s really interesting, that’s really interesting and what is it that makes you feel that way?” and to start to naturally explore it. If someone’s instincts are to do that. IE to take their ego out of it and look at it objectively and workout a game plan for it then you know you got somebody who is probably going to do a great sales job for you.
They’re also naturally persistant. I’m going to tell you just a story of a guy I was recruiting. A sales guy for the client and this guy came along and he was just too young for the job. And he didn’t have enough experience although we really liked him but we only had one position and we gave it to a more experienced person. And this guy met me next day and he said “I’m really disappointed that I didn’t get that, can you tell me why” and I respond the main thing really was we needed somebody with more experience. “How much more experience would I have needed in order to you know, in order to have got the job?” And I say well, I’m not really sure but you know, this guy been in the market you know, 10 years. “Yeah but he’s been in the market for 10 years, are you saying I need 10 years experience because if that’s the case and I need to go and workout how I go and get that? Or do I need two or three years,did the guy who got the job did he have two or three years experience, two or three times over?” And that got me really thinking – my god he is right actually you know, the job is not so complicated that you need 10 years to be able to do it. And he just kind of left me thinking, you know, he’d set the bomb off, in my mind.
Three months later the guy we hired he was all experienced, he did that thing that I hate? Got a better job! Got up, walked out. And he announced it on his LinkedIn. This guy has been smart enough to LinkedIn with the guy who got the job as soon as he saw the announcement I got a call. “Are you still looking for experience, will three more months experience do?” [Laughter] [Applause] Every time I tell that story people sidle up to me and go “So, what was his name?” [Laughter] Not telling, not telling okay.
So, what they do, the general principles are we don’t attack problems, we understand problems, we ask questions, everything I said in that dialog presentation we go back to.
And the one question we never ask is why?
Why do we never ask ‘Why’? Well, the word ‘Why’ that it’s called and if you talk to an English teacher it’s called the simple interrogative. “No, we think we’re going to use someone else” ‘WHY?’ It puts people on their back foot. “What made you make that decision? What factors did you consider? How did you arrive with that? Who else did you consider?”These are things that people will happily answer for you. Get on side we’ve talked about.
Respond and reframe.
Do you know what I mean by reframe? Have you come across this term. You can either solve it, if it’s a logical objection you can handle it by data, you can say look you know, Jason you’re right but here is some more data for you to mull over and I can show why we’re better and we’ll get you better response so whatever? But reframing is changing the problem.
Let’s give you one other example that stuck in my mind for nearly 20 years. I went out with a guy on a sales trip, he was from a local newspaper and he was selling advertising and I have to go and watch. And he went to see a travel agency and he’d sold them a half page advert and he went in and this half page advert was a couple of thousand pounds. And we went in there and the guy said “I’m not advertising with you ever again.” Okay, that’s the one of the tough situations – when people have tried your products and then said no, that’s a really tough one to deal with. And he said “Why?” Well you know, he probably didn’t say “why?” he said “What concerns do you have” or something but I can’t remember. Anyway he probed into it and the guy said “Well, I only sold three holidays” – they were selling city breaks – “I make about 200 commission out of each one, it’s just not worth it. And this guy explored away and he asked “Who’re your customers?” And he dug and he dug and he dug, and what it turned out was that this guy sold specialist holidays, weekend breaks, couples and empty nesters, if you know what I mean by that. And he prided himself on being a really great company and the people that would go on three or four holidays a year with him because they loved him so much and they’ll stick around for 10 years and this guy got him talking about it and he said “I know you’re disappointed I really I know you’re disappointed he get him inside I’m as disappointed as you are, we’ll try and work on that, but don’t think of it like you just got three sales” he said “What you did, what you won, was you just got three customers. You converted three customers and if those customers are going three holidays a year or three vacation weekend vacations a year and you can keep them for five years, does the ad pay for itself?”
And off course what he’d done is he reframed the reference. So, look for people who can do that sort of stuff because I tell you it’s quite rare amongst most sales people. So, when you hear that all this stuff, when you’re doing you’re listening – focus on it. Hire it. And stick it in the middle of your sales flow because then it starts to spread.
Closing. Closing we’ve talked about last time. I haven’t got the time to go into it.
So, logical and emotional we’ve talked about a little bit. Price objections, this is a good time for me to mention that the second edition of Neil Davidson’s book ‘Don’t just roll the dice’ is available today. And when Neil did his presentation in San Francisco in 2009 there were lots of kittens I remember in there. It’s like how many kittens is an iPod worth and of those sorts of things. Which reminds us that every price objection that you’ll come across is an objection of relative value.
Or it’s a smoke screen. You don’t want to do something then your friends try to persuade you to go to the match or go out and you really don’t want to do it because they’re a bit boring and you know, you don’t want to be associated with them anymore then you know. What you don’t want to tell them is, you know, you’re boring and you smell a bit and I don’t want to be seen with you. What you actually saying to them is “I haven’t got the money you know, right I can’t afford it right now, I’ve got other things to spend the money on”, it’s an easy excuse to make.
So, really what can we do? Well the first thing we can do whenever somebody says “Look this is too expensive”, is to largely ignore it. Okay let’s look the way you’re getting for the money before we decided it’s too expensive and dig in: “what do you want? What did you expect to get for the money?”
The other side of it is that you can always ask this question, and this is one of those Jedi questions, “in comparison to what? At $200 a month for our software?” “well, I’m spending nothing!” “but in comparison to how you would value your time? Every time you’ve to fix that Excel spreadsheet that really isn’t holding together your entire CRM” And then when you start to think about it like that it’s a different matter. So, those four little words – “in comparison to what” are really, really valuable
And this final thing “I really want to think about it”. Thiss is really kind of an issue because the moment somebody says “I’m thinking” it’s really hard to then go back to it because if you go back to them you’ve been pushy and you get those testy responses I said I would think about it and I’ll let you know when I thought about it [Laughter] and you’ve been in situation, it’s awful, nobody likes it not even the hardened sales people like doing that to people.
So, when people say I’ve got to think about it, to stop them disappearing off the sales radar, what you need to work out is, do they really mean it? And they’ve got something to think about or actually it’s not, and that’s the end of the sale call and it’s done and there is nothing we can do and we can move on to other leads. So, you won’t waste your time or theirs. And if you don’t deal with it what you get is that this is the graph is that you know, as you’re talking to somebody the desire as you explain the benefits and you tell your story it should be going up and then they go to think about it and then the left you’re leave them to think about it and they’re go into what I call the dip of doubt well, they sit there and they go “Oh! It’s quite expensive” and there is no one that to say “in comparison to what?” And they go “I’m not sure whether they work with our API”, and there is no one that say “Well, let’s have a look at the specification” and when you say I want to think about it that it’s almost always goes down after thinking.
But if you get somebody to tell you what they’re going to think about? “Okay, how will you judge the criteria? What are the decision criteria?” If you can get them to articulate them, even if you can’t sell it at that particular time. What you can do then is you can send them an email today –‘ I just thought you might want to see this schema that we’ve done’ or ‘here is a reference from another client that might help you understand who is using it’ or ‘here is the great presentation from Sequel and the City that is done by one of the guys who is using this product’ and you can give them stuff that help some get over to dip of doubt, you can maintain it. If you let it go you bottled it as we say in Yorkshire.
So, I had to whizz through this because but what I want you to do is take two or three key things first of all I want you talk to whoever selling in your company and I want you have a serious conversation about what our response is? And I want you to have a serious conversation about how far it’s okay to challenge the clients? And you need to challenge them just as far as the challenge is serving them – does that make sense? Yeah, it’s making them think differently and I want you to know what that is, it’s a conversation that you should have because I can’t tell you what that point is, it’s the different for everyone of your companies and I want you to build into your sales culture and then say well how do we build into our sales culture, a positive challenge to customers.
So, when you see the resistance when you’re looking at your balloon you go hey Bill you know, actually I’m talking your balloon is probably not a good idea for staff moral but if you holding it and have a look at look at it, you’ve got an idea that actually you gain nothing by putting the while flag up or going to war on some point of ego because you build the software. You gain nothing, you only gain something from asking really cool, really interesting questions. And the other thing I took away from Cathy’s talk yesterday was that, if you record calls, if you listen to people and if you every few days, every time you got the chances to sit down, you play it back and back and you got that immediate feedback loop and you go what would we do slightly different next time and let’s do again and again and again. We get into that learning loop that Cathy talks about and it’s still the most effective way to switch a sales habit that I’ve ever come across, so it’s nice to see validation from another source.
So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to end the presentation by tackling; we’re going to tackle our resistance head on. So, this the last time, can I ask everybody to stand up and hold that resistance up here. Okay, I want you to look at this – these are all of the reasons why people are going to say no to you? And I want you to know that in the face of a committed, a passionate, a sales savvy entrepreneur, all that resistance is entirely futile. So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to get rid it together I would like to put you on the seat behind you please and just want you to squat down so you’re resting very gently on it okay very gently altogether please, altogether everybody okay and after three we’re going to squash the resistance okay, one, two, three [balloons burst everywhere][Applause],
We’re done. Thank you.
Learn how great SaaS & software companies are run
We produce exceptional conferences & content that will help you build better products & companies.
Join our friendly list for event updates, ideas & inspiration.