Episode 145: Jeb Blount – Get Right With Reality
Sales Gravy CEO Jeb Blount joins the Social Sales Link team to talk about how to effectively sell in a crisis.
Listen as he shares the importance of shifting your mindset in preparation for an upcoming crisis and what two qualities in a salesperson would be the most significant in order to withstand a challenging situation.
Jeb also discusses how sales professionals can protect their “turf” in a crisis and maintain both new and existing relationships during an economic downturn.
Visit Jeb’s website at http://jebblount.com. You can also check out his company at http://salesgravy.com/. Don’t forget to connect with Jeb on LinkedIn and follow him on Twitter.
Grab a copy of his book on Amazon: Selling in a Crisis: 55 Ways to Stay Motivated and Increase Sales in Volatile Times
Jeb Blount 00:00
We have to get grounded in reality. One of the phrases that I use in the first part of the book is “Get right with reality.” And I think it’s important that when we look at where we’ve come from, and we look at what you have accomplished, it’s important that you don’t confuse success during a bull market with brains.
Welcome to the Making Sales Social podcast, featuring the top voices in sales, marketing, and business. Join Brynne Tillman and me, Bob Woods, as we each bring you the best tips and strategies our guests are teaching their clients, so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. Enjoy the show.
Brynne Tillman 00:43
I am absolutely beyond thrilled. We have Jeb Blount, who is a globally recognized and beloved sales trainer, co-founder of the Annual Outbound Sales Conference, keynote speaker, and one of the most prolific authors on the topic of sales, including his new brand new best seller, Selling In a Crisis. Jeb and I have had our public debates on his podcast and we’ve created training courses together on his incredible e-learning platform Sales Gravy. Jeb is incredibly passionate about helping better sales teams fast. Jeb, welcome to Making Sales Social. Thanks for joining us today.
Jeb Blount 01:24
Thank you so much for having me on.
Brynne Tillman 01:26
Oh my gosh! I’m so excited. So, you know, I cannot wait, I started reading this book, it is absolute gold. And I’m going to ask you some questions, because I haven’t gone through the whole thing yet. I’m working on it. But actually, before I even ask you questions about the book, what number book is selling in a crisis? How, what is the number you’ve published? (Jeb:fifteen) 15 books? That’s insane. Well, this could not be more timely. And, you know, I think that every salesperson needs to be prepared. And you know, we think right now maybe there’s a little bit of an economic crisis, there’s often something an industry crisis. So even though this is really timely, I also think it’s really evergreen. So what inspired you though, to write the book right now?
Jeb Blount 02:17
looking at the pattern. So if you look at the patterns coming into this year, the book I wrote before this book is called Selling the Price Increase. And then following that, you start reading the Tea Leaves, and you start seeing what’s happening in the marketplace. This, by the way, is a good lesson for sales professionals as well. I read the Wall Street Journal every single morning, look at Bloomberg, and I’m paying attention to what’s happening around me. And I’m a big fan of patterns.
When you start seeing patterns, it tells you that something’s coming, and you want to get ahead of the curve. So more than anything, it’s just thinking about where the sales profession is going and trying to get there before it gets to me, right? So like, you know, Wayne Gretzky used to say, you know, “Go where the puck is gonna be not where it is.” I knew that moving into this downturn, that we’re going to be moving into this period of time or this season, that we’re running into that there’s a lot of salespeople who have never actually been through this, we think the pandemic was, was tough, but the actual economic downturn in the pandemic was about 30 days. Other than that, it’s been pretty smooth sailing.
Most salespeople have thrived over the last two years. And the truth is nobody shoot the messenger, but we always talked about how it was hard selling is. The truth is, over the last two years, if you could show up and fog a mirror, you are probably going to be okay, in your sales job. That’s all about to change. And we’re going to have to get back to the fundamentals and basics of the grind of selling. And I knew that I needed something out there, I needed to get something out there to salespeople who are going to be looking for answers that would be easy for them to consume in this environment, that wouldn’t be overly hard to read, and would also be both motivational and inspirational, as well as giving people some tricks and tools and tips that will help them navigate this difficult time we’re about to enter.
Brynne Tillman 04:04
And I love that we’re doing this like we’re looking at where the puck is going to be. I think that that is absolutely essential because we don’t want to start selling out of desperation. We want to be prepared. We want to make sure that we’re positioned to do a good job all the way through. So this is a gift to salespeople right now, right? It’s so important. So this book starts out with mindset. And you’ve devoted 13 chapters to this topic. Share with us why mindset is so important. And a few ways to start shifting your mindset to be prepared for the upcoming crisis.
Jeb Blount 04:45
If you think about any type of a crisis, any type of disruption in your marketplace, any type of change, anything that is causing buyers to push back on you, anything that is changing the way that you have to sell. If you just think about that from this standpoint of being a human being, we just don’t change very well. So it’s really easy to get your mindset turned upside down. Add to that the fact that it’s been relatively easy over the last 18 months to make a living in sales. And that’s about to change, we have to get grounded in reality.
One of the phrases that I use in the first part of the book is “get right with reality.” And I think it’s important that when we look at where we’ve come from, and we look at maybe even you as an individual, what have you accomplished, it’s important that you don’t confuse success during a bull market with brains. What you are doing during the bull market wasn’t because of you. That was because of the marketplace. And a great example of this is you take the real estate agent that, eight months ago, had listed a house and 24 hours later had 10,13 different offers on the house. And those offers were all above asking price, and there was a bidding war.
Well, today, those buyers aren’t there, we’re down eight months in a row in housing sales in that particular sector. So now you got to get back to doing a good open house, and you got to go set the house up, and you’ve got to do your marketing around the home. And you’ve got to deal with your homeowner who is thinking that their house is worth, you know, a million dollars when really it’s only worth $600,000.
So everything around that changes. So if you’re in that situation, it’s really easy to get down on yourself. It’s really easy to say, “Well, it was me.” it’s really easy to as I say, you know, “climb into a bucket with crabs” it’s really easy to start complaining. And it’s really easy to start focusing on the path or the past rather than focusing on what you can do right now for a sales professional going into this crisis. We have to begin with mindset, one of the core mindsets, and I totally stole this from Anthony Iannarino, is the mindset of “Rain barrel versus Rainmaker.”
So rain barrels, and by the way, it’s really been easy to be a rain barrel during the last 18 months. Rain barrels basically sit around the backyard, and they have their mouth of the sky, and they just wait for leads to fall in rain makers are going out and figuring out how to make it happen. So the rainmaker mentality says, “Yep, this crisis is happening. Yep, there’s an economic downturn. Yep, winter is coming. There’s a storm coming. I’m going to charge into the storm, I’m going to do it on my feet, nothing’s gonna knock me down. And I’m going to find a way” because the Rainmaker believes that persistence finds a way to win, that taking action finds a way to win, and that getting back to the basics and fundamentals of selling finds a way to win.
So part of the mindset shift is going to be, “Am I going to be a rain barrel, waiting for something to happen to me, or I’m going to be a rainmaker and charge into the storm.” And if you are in sales, and you look around in your company, look around in your office, look around at your sales floor, look around and pick out the rain barrels, here’s my guarantee, at the end of this cycle of scarcity at the end of this recessionary cycle, those people will not be there.
In fact, I’ll make a guarantee that at least one-half to a third of the people that you currently work with will not make it through this cycle because they won’t be able to protect their mindset long enough to do the hard work that they have to do to grind it out in order to not only just survive but to increase their sales and sell even more during the down cycle.
Brynne Tillman 08:28
Yeah. Oh, absolutely. I love that love that. We’ve got lots of comments and questions, tons and tons. What number one and two qualities in a sales professional will be most important in this environment with the right with a great mindset shift?
Jeb Blount 08:48
Yeah, so I think number one would be this idea of being a rainmaker being persistent. So number one quality in this environment is you’re gonna have to go out and hunt. If you just think about it, you know, go back to the winter of last year, people are calling you, and in a lot of cases, it didn’t feel like it, but you had more buyers, and you had the ability to service or supply. So people were calling you right now you got to go focus on prospecting, fill up the pipeline. The pipe is life we talked about in the book about being a squirrel, but you know, the squirrels are relentless and unstoppable creatures that are just going after in any way they possibly can. So you’ve got to be all of the above Prospector, you’ve got to use everything from LinkedIn to picking up the telephone to go knock on doors. If you have to do that. You smoke signals carrier pigeons. It doesn’t make a difference what it is, but you have to get in front of them. That’s number one.
And number two, you have to be a master of the sales process. So where you could take some shortcuts in the past because it was easy, and they would the buyers would keep calling you. You could ignore follow-up. You could do things that were late. For example, you could do shallow discovery, you can get away with that, in a crisis where buyers are much more risk-averse. You have to be excellent at every step in the sales process, that means that you got to get back to those fundamentals and basics. It means you have to hone your skills and your techniques in the sales process. It means that you have to be better than you ever were before. So in the book, I say sell better, but you have to sell better. And there’s been a lot of bad selling over the last two years because salespeople could get away with it. You can’t get away with it anymore.
Brynne Tillman 10:22
Fabulous answer. I love this. We had an anonymous LinkedIn user, “How do you predict the buyers behavior will change when winter hits?” which is “Winter is Coming,” I think is the first epilogue, I believe, of your book. Objective understanding can help us adjust our approach.
Jeb Blount 10:48
Buyer behavior is already changing in certain marketplaces. So you may be in a marketplace where you’re not having that happen right now. And it’s not going to be everything’s gonna hit us all at once. If you’re in some markets, you’re already seeing those buyer behavior changes. The number one, guess what, there’s two, two main changes that you have to look out for.
One of the changes is that decision making authority is going to shift upward inside of organizations. And there’s not going to be a clue that this is happening, they’re not going to send you a manual and say, “Okay, now buyers are shifting their authority into the C suite versus at middle management” it’s going to happen slowly and in some cases, it’s going to happen when you’re in the middle of a deal. You just have to be aware, and paying attention through your qualifying questions through people’s behavior that they either have lost authority to buy, they don’t know that they’ve lost authority to buy, or they’re willing to have conversations with you, but they’re not willing to advocate for you to the people who have authority to buy because they feel like it’s risky for them.
Number two is that buyers are going to become much more risk averse, which means that in sales conversations, they’re going to be much more focused on your business case. So you have to prove to them the value that you are delivering. When I say prove to them, get your calculator out, what they want to see is the ROI because they cannot afford to make a mistake when there is a downturn because it could be damaging both of their career and to their company. You have to build a much better business case and you have to present it to the people that can actually buy from you.
So a couple of tips here. Number one is get really good at identifying decision makers. And I’ll give you some tips inside the book for doing that. This is going to become an almost an art form, you got to make sure that you’re talking to decision makers. And let me explain why, before you’re in a crisis, you can deal with people who are not necessarily decision makers, and still close deals, that is a reality in the real world, as we move into a crisis, if the person is not the decision maker, they’re probably not going to help you do business, they’re not going to advocate for you, they’re not gonna, they’re not going to work for you that I can go take it to the boss, because they’re going to be afraid.
So during a crisis, you must deal with decision makers. So you want to focus on that. And then as you know, as you’re inside these organizations, you got to qualify, qualify, qualify qualify qualify, because the most expensive use of your time during a crisis is spending it on the wrong accounts because you just don’t have that time to waste. So you’ve just got to get really, really, really good and adept at qualifying and focusing on the right decision makers or the right people, so that you’re standing in front of decision makers, so you can get more of your deals closed.
Brynne Tillman 13:36
Fabulous. Okay, next.
Jeb Blount 13:39
Eighteen, which a crisis budget are tighter so you need to increase the follow up. Okay. Yeah, so really not so much the follow up. It’s more than micro commitments. When you’re in a crisis, whether the budget is tight or not, what you have to think about is, people are overwhelmed, they are consumed with not making mistakes, that’s human. So in that environment, you have to upfront and I put a video up on LinkedIn this morning about this upfront. You need to get an agreement on what the timeline is going to be, the timeframe is going to be, we need to make a decision by this point. And just get agreement on that. That doesn’t mean that buyers will always stick to their agreement, but at least you have some set of rails to run on.
And then you have to map out what are all the micro commitments that you need them to jump through and commit to, and then make sure that you never ever leave a meeting without getting that micro commitment. Because in a crisis, because of those reasons. People are risk averse. They’re afraid of change, they want to make mistakes, and they’re overwhelmed. So they’ll put off making decisions. If a deal stalls, it’s a dead deal. You’re not going to revive it, there’s no CPR, that’s going to get it back. So don’t let your deal stall out. Make sure that you are getting to the next step, getting to the next step, getting to the next step and don’t put yourself in a position where you’re having to do follow up because that means that you’re chasing the deal, and you’re chasing the stakeholder and if you’re chasing a deal and a stakeholder in a crisis, you are going to lose
Brynne Tillman 15:00
Really great insight. Okay, how do you retain clients who are thinking of jumping ship?
Jeb Blount 15:06
Oh, that’s a good question. So there’s an entire section in the book around protecting your turf. And so this begins with getting a good look at your account base. So if you’ve got an account base, what I want you to do is I want you to pull all your accounts together. And then, I want you to separate them out by your biggest accounts, your medium account, your smallest account. So the ones that if you lose these, you’re at the highest risk of getting hurt pretty badly. The ones the small accounts, if I lose that, I won’t like it, but it’s not going to break the company. Start with the highest priority accounts that you have. And then, let’s start taking a look at those accounts. And you want to then put those counts into red, yellow, and green buckets.
Green is we’re safe, we’ve got a great relationship, they’re not going to go anywhere, our contracts are solid, are you know, everything is right. Yellow, this could be a problem, red, we need to get on this right now. And this will help you prioritize, because if you’re looking at your entire account base, really, really, really hard to consume all of it at one time, then get ahead of the curve. So if you’ve got accounts that are in the red, now this can be in the red because you don’t have a contract in place, or it could be in the red because you’ve got a bad relationship with them, or you don’t have a solid relationship or you have been providing some bad service, or they have a lot of alternatives to you, they can go other places, including just not using your service at all. You want to get in there way ahead of the curve, you want to see what you need to do to make a change so that you can hold on to that customer.
Don’t let them come to you thinking about jumping ship, go to them first. And say there’s a tough economic storm coming, I know that there are some issues over here, we want to make some adjustments to make this easier for you at all cost, you want to hold the account, even if you have to take a little bit of hit on the volume, even if you have to do a little bit special things for them hold on to the account because when this cycle is over, and the cycle will be over, there’s going to be we’re going to get to the end of this, if you’ve held on to the customer, it’s a lot easier to add product back on to increase their rates to sign new contracts to do new services.
If you lose that customer during this down cycle to a competitor, getting it back is the same amount of effort that it takes to go back and get a new logo. So it’s likely that they’ve signed new agreements that they’ve got new relationships. So it’s going to be really, really, really difficult to go get those customers back. And you’ve probably experienced some of this. So some of the salespeople that you lost customers during say March and April in May of 2020, some of those customers have never come back to you, you lost touch with them, they went and started working with one of your competitors, they built new relationships. And so that revenue is gone forever. So make sure that right now you define, get your list of your account base, segmented out by highest priority, medium priority, low priority in each of those segments, segmented out by highest risk to lowest risk of losing it, and then get super proactive at getting in and protecting your turf from your competitors. And oh, by the way, your smart competitors, they’re going after you right now, because they recognize that in the economic downturn, that there is a weakness in your system, you’ve been taking your customer for granted that you have been raising your prices and you’ve been gouging them and you haven’t been in there with them providing value. you’ve been leaving them alone, because there’s no fires, they are going to eat your lunch if you don’t get ahead of the curve.
Brynne Tillman 18:43
So there’s actually a whole section on how to protect your turf in Selling In a Crisis. So if that’s something you’re concerned about, I think that the book can really help you to solidify those relationships. So I love that. We got a couple more questions coming in here, and Geber, “Did not know you were a magician” because this is a question from you. Oh, that’s your son. Yeah, love it. So he’s asking you, how can salespeople build a better network of referrals to prep for the crisis? Great question.
Jeb Blount 19:19
It’s a really good question. And Brynne, you may actually have some advice on this as well. So one of the things that I think is important, especially here on LinkedIn, is that you are looking at your entire network and you’re beginning to get more active and you are building your personal brand and creating a lot more awareness that you are out there. I think number two is, and this is a little bit of a post-pandemic, shake it off kind of thing. You gotta get out there and have real conversations with real people.
So, you know, go out and see your customers, go have conversations with them. Go to, you know, I think they used to call them like lead meetings but get up in the morning, go have breakfast with a lead group. Think about, locally, the Civic Clubs that you can be involved in. This is a little bit different. I mean, if you’re selling at the national level, you know, having a relationship with your local Rotary, Rotary Clubs probably going to help you very much. But most salespeople are local at some extent.
So, you know, Jeb, Jr. Over here is selling in a local marketplace. So getting to know businesses, hanging out with the Chamber of Commerce, going out, and being very intentional about meeting people. And this is, I think, super important for networking right now. It’s you want to build some goodwill in the bank accounts. And that means that as you’re networking, don’t go into networking events with your hands out, saying, “Help me, I’m desperate, I need help.” Go into those networking events with a servant’s heart. What can I do to help you and give as much as you possibly can, within reason, to build out that goodwill? But more important than anything is this something that called do this and fanatical prospecting we call the Law of familiarity, which is, the more people are familiar with you, the more they’re going to like you and trust you, and the more they like you and trust you, the more likely there’ll be willing to give you a referral or introduce you to a friend. So this is true for LinkedIn, be there and let them see your face, add value there, and then in the real world, the physical world, add value there.
Brynne Tillman 21:23
So I just have to jump in really quickly with a couple of quick things. Build relationships with your clients, other vendors that are noncompetitors because if they’re in that account, they’re probably in a lot more accounts like them. So make sure that you are meeting the other vendors that are selling into your clients. And you can feel comfortable introducing them into your network if your client loves them, they’ve been vetted by a client.
Number two, search your connections’ connections on LinkedIn. Build a list of who they know, don’t ask them for an introduction to all of them, but run the names by your clients and your referral partners and ask them do you think this would be a good fit for me? And half of them, three-quarters of them, they won’t know. But three or four may come to the surface as a really good referral. So I apologize. I know this is about you, but I had to throw it in.
Jeb Blount 22:17
Take just a second and talk about how and this is just how you can use social proximity on LinkedIn in order to think about networking.
Brynne Tillman 22:26
So social proximity is, you know, regular proximity is “how close am I to the grocery store?” Social proximity is “how close am I to the buyer or the influencer?” Am I already connected to a buyer or an influencer inside an account? Am I one degree away so that you know who in my network might be able to introduce me to the right buyers and influencers? And you know, really mapping out particularly if you’re going after large accounts.
Mapping out your social proximity and how you’re going to get as high and warm as you possibly can is critical for coming in at a high level of credibility, right? You know, and when you leverage your connections for introductions, they rarely even vet you beyond that they rarely even ask for other quotes from other vendors, because you are the one that was already brought in by a mutual connection that vouched for you essentially.
We have a couple more questions coming in, “In a crisis period. Do you think customer retention is better than prospecting for new?” That’s a great question for new prospects.
Jeb Blount 23:39
You have to do both. Don’t shoot the messenger, right? So you think I need to go focus on customer retention. The problem with putting all of your attention in customer retention is that your customer base is shrinking a little bit at a time. So you will be dying. Because some people are going to go out of business, no matter how good you are, you’re probably going to lose a few customers to your competitors. There may be situations where the customer says “If you can do this, I’ll stay around with you.” But you can’t make a profit at it, and you’re a profitable business. So you have to let the customer go. So if you put all of your time and attention on retaining customers rather than going out and building new logos, you lose, so you have to do both.
Now, the other thing I want you to think about is what your great competitors are going to be doing. At the end of the book, I have a chapter on acceleration. One of the analogies that I use in this chapter is how hard it is to take market share during regular times. So in regular times, let’s just say that you’ve got a competitor out there that you’re chasing, and you want to take their market share.
Let’s just say they’re doing 70 miles an hour, and you’re putting the hammer down and you’re at 65 miles an hour because they’re just maybe a little bit better and a little bit faster than you. Well, if you’re five miles behind them. We won’t do the high school math. I don’t want to go into equations here, but if you’re five miles behind them, it’s going to take you a really, really, really, really long time to ever catch up. And even if you speed up, like if you’re, if you’re 65, or 70, you’re always going to be behind. If you speed up to 75, it’ll be years before you catch up. But if you’re in a crisis, and your competitor pulls over and waits it out, the pulls over and protects themselves, I’m gonna to pull over and protect my accounts is what I’m going to do, you’re going to pass them just like that, because they’re stationary.
In a crisis, you want to accelerate. If you are the company, who pulls over and says, I’m going to spend all of my time putting up the fences, and we’re going to put walls around, and we’re gonna, we’re gonna wait this out, and we’re going to hold on to it, I’m going to eat your lunch, because I’m putting the hammer down, I’m putting the accelerator down, I’m going to, I’m going to take more risks, I’m going to work harder, I’m going to chase more logos, I’m going to win those accounts because for the same reason, if you lose an account during a recession, on the other side, if you don’t have that account very, very hard to get them back, if I take that account during recession, at the end of the recession, I’m going to be able to make that account way more profitable, because I took it out of your back pocket.
So you have to do both, you can’t do one or the other. You have to be relentless about going out and getting new logos and you have to be absolutely driven to make sure that you’re protecting your accounts. Let me say this again, in normal times, your competitor, I got the math, look around but in a competitive normal times, if you’re doing say 70, your competitors doing 65, and you’re five miles behind, you’re trying to catch up, takes a really long to catch up, really long time to catch up. In a crisis, when that competitor pulls over, you just went past them standing still, and you’re going to own them on the other side, accelerate, push harder, and don’t be the company that you know circles the wagons and just decides to hunker down. Hunkering down is a really bad strategy during a recession.
Brynne Tillman 26:54
Interesting. It’s like the turtle in the hair a little bit. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Okay, so when there is an average of six DMS per decision makers, I’m thinking direct message, decision-makers per organization, what’s the best practice for getting everyone on board?
Jeb Blount 27:14
Okay, so let’s start off with Stephen’s stupid statistic, okay, the average of six people is just a stupid statistic, every group is going to have a different array of stakeholders, and the array of stakeholders is going to shrink as the risk lowers and it’s going to expand as the risk increases. So if you’re selling something really big that puts the individual stakeholders individually for making decisions at risk, should you fail them, you’re going to end up with more people.
I recently did a deal, there were 28 stakeholders that were involved in that deal. 28, I did another deal. There’s one. Now the 28 is a pretty big deal in terms of what it was going to do with the organization because it was training and another one where it was a keynote. I mean, a keynote is pretty easy. It’s a transactional sell. Whereas training is cultural to the organization. So let’s don’t get hung up on this average of six. It’s a stupid statistic, folks quit saying it, it’s going to depend on every account.
What you need to know is who they are. So when you’re working on an account, begin with assuming that there are more people than one that are going to be involved. And you want to do everything possible not to single silo yourself inside of a complex deal. Now there is an awareness that if what you’re selling is transactional, and it’s you know, you’re selling to a small business, the only stakeholder that matters may be the business owner.
If you’re in a fortune 500 company, and you’re doing, you know, a million-dollar deal, you can pretty much assume that there’s going to be a lot of people there and depending on how many departments and places that’s going to impact, there may be a lot more people than six because you’re talking about six people that might be on a buying committee, but you’re negating the fact that there are amplifiers out there.
These are people who use your service or might be involved in it, or they might, if you’re selling software, for example, they might be using the seats on the software, those individuals matter. And there’s a lot of them out there, and they have some influence in terms of pushing up their concerns or paying their aspirations to a stakeholder group.
So when you’re in those situations, I begin with assuming there are more people, begin there. As we move into a crisis though you also have to recognize that decision making authority is going to move up in the organization. So I know this sounds a little bit strange, so just stick with me on this. Let’s say that before the crisis before the recession, you had a buying committee for a particular service or product, that buying committee carried a lot of influence. There’s always someone who is saying yes, who’s checking the box, signing a contract. There’s usually a buyer that’s funding the contract, those people are there, but the committee is essentially saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” And those decision makers are typically going to take the committee’s word and they’re going to take their recommendation.
As the economy starts to tighten, as the downturn starts to tighten, those committees are going to have a lot less juice than they did before. So if you are selling something, and there is a decision-making authority that is vested in another individual, and you’re not talking to that individual, there’s a very high chance that your deal will stall and die because even though you’ve got a committee making a recommendation, the ultimate decision making authority, the person who has that ability to say “yes” to you, is not necessarily involved in it, and is feeling a lot of need to mitigate risk and to defer any type of decisions, and will typically push that off.
So suddenly, this whole question about “how do I get all these people talking together and find them” that doesn’t mean nearly as much as it did before. Therefore, it puts you in a position where you’ve got to do a much better job at qualifying. That means you need to ask better questions about how decisions are being made and who is making those decisions, and the question that you’re not going to ask is, “Who’s the decision maker?” Stop asking that question, you’re not going to get a straight answer to that. But you’re going to have to work and work and work and work at it. And you’re going to have to keep your antennas up throughout the entire sales process for paying attention to signs that the people that you’re dealing with do not have that authority.
One of the things that will happen is you’ll be asking for micro-commitments, and they won’t follow through, or they won’t keep their commitments, or they won’t match your effort rather than focusing on an average of six or what have you, focus on who are all the people that matter? How are those people impacted by what I do? And how do I get access to those individuals? And how do I find the ultimate decision-making authority and concentrate my effort and focus at that point? Before the crisis, I would tell you, “Hey, in the real world, you know what, you don’t always have to deal with a decision maker, you can deal with all the stakeholders, and you can win deals every single day and at least in business services and b2b” During a crisis, I’m going to tell you that if you’re not dealing with decision makers, then your probability of winning deals goes down exponentially regardless of how many people are on the committee.
Brynne Tillman 32:21
Yeah, I think it’s like 6.8 was the study of how many influencers, but I really love the idea of don’t go in with a predetermined number, do your homework, do your research, the website, LinkedIn, they’ll tell, you know, who is typically involved in that sale, right?
Jeb Blount 32:42
[inaudible] I both insulted you and enlightened you. I’ve never been accused of not being direct.
Brynne Tillman 32:49
That’s awesome. Steve’s awesome, actually, Joe had asked a question about is this a really good time to partner with your competitors, you know, we’re potential with maybe a non exact overlap but…
Jeb Blount 33:04
You know, before I say anything, I would say, first of all, depending on your industry and the size of your company, you might want to go have a conversation with the FTC before you start partnering with your competitors. So I might be careful with that. I think that it may be a good time to build some partnerships, and in a lot of cases, especially during economic downturns, you’ll see that there are more mergers and more acquisitions as some companies begin to falter and aren’t able to be viable on their own, but they have assets and people that another company wants or customer bases other companies want. So it could be a time to do that.
There may be situations when you have a complimentary service to your competitor to pull those things together, but outside of knowing a very specific situation, it would be irresponsible for me to say, “Yes, this would be a good time for that” because I don’t really know what you’re dealing with, you know, my focus and I’m just maybe a little bit brutal here, but my focus during a downturn is to try to take my competitors out of the marketplace.
My goal is to take as much market share as I possibly can. I prepare way in advance for these types of downturns, and I make sure that I’ve got a lot of dry gunpowder so that when this happens, and I start seeing that there’s faltering that I’m speeding up, I’m doing more in the marketplace and I have the financial ability to outlast and also the you know, the mindset and the desire to grind but I can outlast you in the marketplace. That’s just a different way of looking at things, but I’m also highly competitive.
Brynne Tillman 34:38
Yeah, so I’ll go back to I would not necessarily say partner with your competitor, but finding the other vendors that are not competitors that are selling into the companies are probably a great place to go.
I’m gonna wrap this up with where you wrap up the book, which is managing your reputation, right? What inspired you to put so much focus on protecting your career?
Jeb Blount 35:01
Think about it in a recession, what happens? The company says, “Hmm, we need to cut costs.” The biggest cost for any company is people. So what are they going to do? They’re going to start looking around, and they’re going to figure out who’s producing and who’s not producing. And when a ship is sinking, there is no mercy for anchors. So you have to be producing, you have to be indispensable to the organization so that they don’t get rid of you.
Now we’re in a weird situation in our economy right now, where we have high employment and, you know, there’s not a lot of unemployment. So we’ve got, I guess, very low unemployment, and we have high inflation. So we’re doing price increases, we bring this down here. So we’re in my book, we’re doing, we’re doing price increases, And we’re recession all at the same time. So a lot of people probably don’t feel that there’s, they’re necessarily in trouble. But as the cycle begins, and as industries begin being impacted, there’s going to be a desire to offload payroll, you cannot be the person that the boss looks at and says, “Yep, I could do without Jeb, I can do something else, that’ll be fine. We can make it, you know, it’ll be okay.”
You’ve got to be a person that is getting it done. That’s being there for the organization, that’s protecting your organization that’s loyal but you got to show up early, you got to stay late, you got to volunteer to help the boss out with things, you got to volunteer to help other people. You need to be a light in the middle of all the darkness that says, “hey, we can do this.” You’ve got to be a person other people want to work with, you got to get along with other people. You know, there’s a lot of people in your organization that are going to start blocking you, and they’re going to start pushing back and anytime there’s a downturn, salespeople complain about tightening up credit and tightening up contract terms and the accounting department is getting in the way of them being able to do deals, the no sales department as Mike Weinberg likes to say all of that is going to be true, you gotta go get along with those folks because you got to be a person, when they look at they say,”we have to keep that person.”
Think about this for a salesperson and this is not all doom and gloom. If you lose your job during a recession, and you’re a good salesperson, you’ll land someplace else, this shouldn’t be, you’re gonna go lose your house, and you’re gonna starve to death, there are certain professions, and there are certain industries where if you lose your job, during a recession, you might starve to death, but not in sales, they’ll always be a place for you to go. The problem is, is that in a recession, when you go get that other job, the probability is much higher that you’ll be working for a company that you don’t like, or you’ll be selling something that you don’t like to sell, or you’ll be making a lower commission, or you’ll be making a lower salary. So you may end up with another job, but it’s not going to be what you were doing before. So don’t put yourself in a position where you have to make those decisions. So protect your reputation, protect your job, protect the people around you, and protect your company more than anything.
And one more thing, when we hit a recessionary period or an economic downturn, you may be in a situation where just because the market shifted, at least temporarily, you’re not able to hit the same numbers you were hitting before. And you’re gonna feel a lot of stress, and there’s gonna be a lot of pressure on you, hit your quota, hit the quota, hit the quota, hit the quota, and you’re struggling to get there, if you’re doing the activity, if you’re making the calls, if you’re having the conversations, if you’re putting deals into your pipeline, and which all of that, by the way, is tangible and the organization can see that you’re working hard, you’re probably going to be safe.
If you’re not making your number and then they go look at what you’re doing and you’re not doing anything. You’re sitting around like a rain barrel, waiting for something to happen to you, you’re not going to be okay. Do the activity, do the work, and Brynne, one of the things that’s happening right now in the SAAS world, and this is not happening in mass, but there is a ripple that is rolling across SAAS. SAAS companies are beginning to take out their SDR teams because they’re looking at STRS and AES, and they’re saying to themselves, at least you know the board of directors is, “why in the world are we paying two people to do the same job.” So that’s an example of things starting to contract, companies start looking around, and they say, “You know what, these AEs, they can pick up the phone, and they can call people just as good as the STRs.” So it doesn’t mean you might lose all the STRs, but they’re probably going to pull that back, and they’re going to expect everyone else to do more. If you’re the AE and they come to you and say you got a prospect and you start complaining. You may be, you know, getting cut and moving on to the next role.
Brynne Tillman 39:43
Yeah, that’s a great insight. I can’t thank you enough for joining us. I am so excited about this book, as well as many of your other books. It’s so fun when I go into a client, and I see a big box of books, and this has happened multiple times, and I’m like… and there were books they didn’t even know you authored where big box of books. And I say, you know, is Jeb speaking? No, we have a book club, a Jeb Blount book club. Every month we read one of his books as a sales team. I’m like, “This is awesome, because I know him.” But anyway. So it’s way fun. You are just an incredible energy in the sales world. I can’t appreciate you enough for just how you are really impacting better sales fast. So I thank you for being here.
Guys. Make sure to invest, buy the book, and be prepared. So you are not the competitor that pulls over. You’re the one that knows how to put the accelerator on the right way. This is the time before it hits to be prepared. Jeb. Thank you so much. I’m so excited for you in this book and all the wonderful things you’re doing. And any last words or how you want to leave everyone with?
Jeb Blount 41:07
This was a blast. I got to do another one of these things with you. This was fantastic. I always loved spending time with your Brynne. We had the best conversations, you know, and even you know, the training programs that we built together there, you know, people love those. It’s just there’s an energy that we’ve figured out over the years of spending time with each other, but this was a blast. I thank you for having me on. Thanks for all the questions, everybody. Y’all are amazing. Love to do this again.
Brynne Tillman 41:31
Oh, absolutely anytime.
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