Episode 86: Amy Franko – Identifying and Building the Right Relationships as a Modern Seller
Renowned sales leader Amy Franko joins our beloved hosts at Social Sales Link to jump right into the heart of social selling — identifying and building the right relationships as a modern-day seller.
Listen as Amy explains what it takes to become a recognizable sales professional in the marketplace and the importance of being considered as a difference-maker.
Amy Franko 00:00
A modern seller is someone who is really recognized in the marketplace, by their clients, by their prospective clients; is someone who is a difference-maker. You’re a recognized difference-maker. You’re also somebody where the value of the product or service that you sell, you have to be a part of it, it can’t be separated from you.
Bob Woods 00:19
Welcome to the Making Sales Social podcast! Featuring the top voices in sales and marketing. Join hosts Brynne Tillman and Bill McCormick, as they discuss the best tips and strategies they are teaching their clients so you can leverage them for your own virtual and social selling. You can also listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play. Here are your hosts Brynne Tillman and Bill McCormick.
Bill McCormick 00:57
Welcome to Making Sales Social! I’m Bill McCormick.
Brynne Tillman 01:00
I’m Brynne Tillman.
Bill McCormick 00:57
So Brynne, tell us who’s joining us today?
Brynne Tillman 01:03
I am so excited to have Amy Franco joining us. She is definitely one of the top voices in sales. I have been following her for years and years and years. If you don’t know who Amy Franko is, you must be living under a rock or you know, it’s time to like, come out and meet her. I met, in real life, I met Amy at Women Sales Pros’ event. The last probably big, big event that I went to before shutdown, but really excited to have her as a guest today. Amy, welcome to Making Sales Social!
Amy Franko 01:38
Thank you both for having me. I saw this on my calendar today and I was so excited to be here with the two of you.
Brynne Tillman 01:43
Yey! So tell everyone a little bit about you and your kind of, how you became this huge sales personality in the ether world, as well as the real world, like you’re everywhere.
Amy Franko 01:58
You are so kind and when we were talking a little bit on the pre-show, Brynne and I were sharing that like we’ve been in each other’s orbits now for a long time. And we got the opportunity to meet in person and like our friendship and relationship has just taken off. So I’m a huge Brynne Tillman fan, myself.
Just a little bit about me professionally. For the first 10 years of my career, I grew up in tech. So I was a quota-carrying salesperson and I also have some IT in my background as well. So programming, things of that nature, but grew up in tech, worked for IBM, worked for Lenovo as a salesperson. So I called on a mix of different types of corporate and public sector accounts selling personal computing technology.
And then about 15 years ago, I got the entrepreneurial bug, I took the leap into owning my own firm. Took a little bit of a pivot into the learning and development space. And that has just evolved and morphed over the years and what it looks like today, nearly 15 years later, which is hard to believe, is that I work primarily with mid-market-sized organizations and I work with their CEOs and their sales leaders in their teams. And it ranges from things related to sales strategy, just certain things in the business that they’re looking to solve for, and skill development.
So I really focus on helping them grow their organization, grow their people, and it’s all in sales and sales leadership, which I absolutely love.
Brynne Tillman 03:27
It’s awesome and you are known for being brilliant at all of that.
Bill McCormick 03:31
We love to interview salespeople’s salespeople. So you are a salesperson for salespeople. So that’s great. So Amy, we ask every guest the same first question to kick things off, what does making sales social mean to you?
Amy Franko 03:45
Really, for me, as I think about the different types of selling that I’ve done over the years, and this is, it’s kind of the winding road, I guess my career has taken a little bit. I’ve had the opportunity to do corporate enterprise-level selling, I’ve had the opportunity to do what I consider more entrepreneurial selling, which is, you know, all me as the business owner and I’ve also had the opportunity to do professional services selling. And I will say the common thread in all of that, to come back to answer your question, is that it truly does come down to identifying and building the right relationships. And I would also say that it’s really equally as important to make sure that you’re building social capital, whether you’re a sales professional or a sales leader or CEO.
Brynne Tillman 04:31
That’s awesome. I love everything that you put out there. But I want to talk, I want to just start for a second and talking about you have coined the phrase, “The Modern Seller.” You have, incredible book, The Modern Seller. Tell us a little bit about what modern selling means versus the traditional selling.
Amy Franko 04:52
Yeah. So you know I love talking about this question. Because it’s like, well, if I’m not a modern seller, what are my other options, right? So as I think about what modern selling means, I put it into three categories.
A modern seller is someone who is really recognized in the marketplace, by their clients, by their prospective clients; is someone who is a difference-maker. You’re a recognized difference-maker. You’re also somebody where the value of the product or service that you sell, you have to be a part of it, it can’t be separated from you, which means if you’re selling something that’s purely transactional, you can be separated from the sale, in modern selling, I believe that you can’t.
And then the last piece is are you really someone who was seen as sort of a secret weapon for your clients or your prospective clients? They just couldn’t imagine doing business without you. And when you come back to, you know, what makes you know what makes selling social, that whole modern seller definition really ties into that, because that’s one part of what a modern seller has to do.
Bill McCormick 05:57
There’s one word that comes to me when you say all three of those pieces, and it’s credibility. You know, really, if you have credibility, I think it was keen in that said, you know, relationship, having relationships with your clients is great, having credibility is better. Relationships, so go out and have dinner with your go play golf with you but when you have credibility, they’re who you call at two in the morning when they’re having that problem. So I’m curious, you know, when you’re training sales reps, what are some things that you tell them they need to do to start establishing that credibility? To start, you know, being recognized being a value being seen as a secret weapon?
Amy Franko 06:37
Yeah, to kind of pull on that thread. I really liked that differentiation between building a relationship with someone and being a credible expert that they can rely on. I’ve seen too many times where someone says, like, “Oh, yeah, I’m very focused on relationships,” which is important but you can’t just be focused on relationships without having the expertise and the credibility that backs that up because your client, your customer is not going to rely on you just because you have a relationship. You’re not going to win the business, just because you have a relationship. It’s one ingredient.
So coming back to answer your question, when I’m working with my clients, and you’ll find either a virtual or an in-person room of people, and we’re talking about relationship building, the first thing I’m going to ask them is to take a look at their pipeline. So tell me about your pipeline, tell me what opportunities are in your pipeline? And then I’m going to ask you, in each of these opportunities, do you know that you have all the right relationships? Or are you potentially missing some relationships that could lead this opportunity down the wrong path in the pipeline, if you will.
So I would say that that’s getting people focused in on what are the right relationships to be building. Because oftentimes, I find people feel like they’re on a little bit of a relationship-building treadmill. Where do I start? What skills do I need? So I focus people in on their pipeline and their opportunities first to give them a track to run on.
Brynne Tillman 08:06
I love that. So we know that the Challenger customer tells us there are 6.8 decision-makers on every company (Amy: Something like that, yeah.) Right. Like, and that’s what their research told us, right. So what do you recommend? So you’re working with someone on their pipeline, you’re like, okay, you’ve got a couple of relationships here, maybe they’re influencers, like, what are some of the tactical things that you recommend to the salespeople to ensure that they’re talking to the right 6.8? Or whatever their number is?
Amy Franko 08:34
Right? Wherever that .8 person is hanging out? Where do we find them? (Brynne: They were on a really big diet) Where are they? So yeah, so I get them thinking about relationship ecosystems first. For any given client, for any given opportunity, there are, there’s an ecosystem of different relationships. Some are inside the organization and some are outside the organization. So very tactically, what I have been looking at first are what I call the four high-impact relationships.
Those are your decision-makers, your centers of influence, your advocates, and your strategic alliances. Just something very tactical that they could focus in on and can you name people in each of those roles inside that organization or that opportunity? Sometimes the strategic alliances are outside the organization but the whole goal, is can you name roles and name people? And where do you have strengths and where do you have gaps? So that’s very tactically where I’ll point them first.
Brynne Tillman 09:34
Do you use LinkedIn to do a lot of that research?
Amy Franko 09:37
Oh, yes. LinkedIn I use, for myself, I use Navigator and I use LinkedIn. So every client is a little bit different on what they have access to, but at a minimum, I have them looking at LinkedIn to see how they’re connected, who they’re connected through, and are they connected through people inside their organization? That’s often an untapped source of connectivity, especially in some of the larger organizations that I work with. But yes, the short answer is yes, you can do all of that work.
Brynne Tillman 10:09
I just kinda want to expand on that a little bit, because I think that’s so so very important and you’re right, it’s a very critical piece of the puzzle to make sure that you have built relationships beyond your decision-maker. LinkedIn tells us that there’s a 20% turnover year over year, that means one out of the five of your champions in that pipeline are leaving, right? That’s a lot, right. So we talked about socially surrounding inside of an organization and making sure that you’re deep and wide, and you’re building rapport throughout. And LinkedIn is such a fabulous way to kind of buy your map to find those people and connect.
Amy Franko 10:45
Yeah, and one of the things you just reminded me of something else I’ll often do is when you’re looking at your relationships, are they, do you tend to build relationships with people who are of influence? Or do you tend to build relationships with people who are of decision making authority, you need both. But oftentimes, what I find is that in some of the clients I’m working with, they’re very, they have a lot of influencer type relationships, but not enough higher-level decision making authority, budget authority, decision making authority type relationships.
Brynne Tillman 11:18
So that’s awesome. We, you know, social proximity to our buyers and influencers is really important, right. wWho’s connected to those decision-makers, to those influencers and making sure we leverage our existing relationships, to gain access is, I think essential to making sure that they’re optimizing what you’re teaching.
Amy Franko 11:38
And on your point about the champions are the advocates, I call them advocates. And I think that we probably are talking about the same thing here. (Brynne: Yeah, Yeah.) So it’s all I had that I had this big local client here and a large organization complex, that is very matrix, which probably a lot of our listeners deal with. And so I had one really great advocate, like she introduced me to so many people in the organization, she was one of those people that was always telling me, “Here’s what’s coming around the corner,” “Here are potential opportunities.” Well, she retired, she was she rolled off into the sunset and became an author and she retired. Well, what I realized very quickly was, I needed another one of those, and I only had one and it took me a while to rebuild that type of advocate-champion relationship.
Bill McCormick 12:29
Ends up that you’re almost kind of building that rapport again, you know, all over again, even though you have all this goodwill with the work you’ve done with them before, then the new person doesn’t know that. In fact, one of the things we tell our clients all the time is the watch notifications for people changing jobs because that’s a great time for people coming in new position, that they’re more open to change.
And so for the salespeople listening, that’s a good reason to go wide and go deep in an organization because if you’re only connected to one person, that new person, they’re going to be more apt to change and you don’t want them to do that in that situation. Great point. Great point.
Brynne Tillman 13:08
Yeah and be stuck in that situation, which I think happens to a lot of us. We are actually and we do a pretty good job of deep and wide but we have a really, we had a verbal on a big deal and our decision-maker left, right. And so now we’re like pushed to October. And you know, we are connected to other people in the organization who are willing to have the conversation but you know, it’s always you like, literally, Bill and I were saying earlier today, when do we have the verbal, he’s like March, April, (Amy: Oh, I know it is painful. I can relate.) Yeah. So now we’re, you know, October, November, December, like we’re moving this, you know, it’s almost a year in before you’re rebuilding and establishing that credibility.
Amy Franko 13:51
It’s a really great example of how all those relationships are interconnected, and the movement and change that we’re seeing in general in the marketplace, in people just having more opportunity to move around, how those types of changes can set any opportunity back a quarter, two quarters even longer. So just a good reminder for all of us to keep our awareness level up of where people are, key people are moving around to.
Bill McCormick 14:16
Yeah and that’s kind of what we’re where I wanted to go was to talk about. What we’re seeing is the sales cycle, especially for more complex sales, it’s always been long. To me, it seems like it’s getting longer. I’m not sure if it’s COVID or if it’s just, you know, we’re just coming out of the summer. So what are some things that you would recommend that salespeople do to kind of keep the deal alive, to keep in communication, when you know, it’s going to be a long sales cycle?
Amy Franko 14:42
Yeah, and before I answer that question, I will tell you my longest COVID deal was 565 days. So it just dragged a lot of things out. But it was also the power of perseverance and keeping in touch and knowing that, obviously don’t put all of your eggs in one basket, but you know that some of this stuff is going to come back around eventually. And it did. And it was a, it’s been a very great opportunity to work with this client. But I would say something really tactical, that’s kind of my productivity hack for keeping things moving, is to always have something on the calendar that’s next with that client, something that’s in the calendar.
So every time I have ignored my own advice around this, I have regretted it because it can take months to get back on the calendar. So if I’m with a client, so I was just with the client last week, I was with a CEO and a chief growth officer. And so we were actually in person, the three of us met together. And before we left that meeting, so we decided, “Hey, we do need to talk about this again. Let’s bring some ideas together.” We put the next meeting on the calendar right then and there. That has saved me hours of frustration and emails and things slowing down.
Bill McCormick 15:55
Yeah, we’ve put that into practice, too. And just like you, I’ll sometimes forget and as soon as I get off the call or the zoom call, I’m like, “Oh, no.” And then you email and then it’s like three weeks later, no (Amy: Yep, yeah, yeah.)
Brynne Tillman 16:09
You know, and this, I learned a long time ago, I was a sales trainer who worked with Lisa Peskin, who used to say it’s one of my favorite things she would say all the time, which is you need to have a defined next step at the end of every step. And that just stuck in my head, not just a loosey goosey next step, and not even just in the calendar but this is why we’re in the calendar, this is exactly what we’re going to cover on this meeting and even potentially, the consequences of putting it off. So you know, there’s a reason we have this time on the meeting. And you know, for you to make the goal that you said you want to reach, it’s important that we handle this at this time.
She also used to do, which I love, which is the backwards timeline. You know, I don’t know if you, yet, where you start with, okay, if you want to get to here at this date, here are all the things we have to do. And then there were very specific, you know, we have to do this by this date, or we’re not going to make your timeline that you told me you had so… (Amy: I love that. Urgency) The urgency. Yeah.
Bill McCormick 17:09
So what would your thoughts Amy, be about a recap email after the meeting to say, “Okay, here’s what we covered, this is the next steps…” to kind of keep that communication going.
Amy Franko 17:19
I love the recap email. I’ve had a lot of success with it and I tend that I find to have even more success with it when I do it the same day. If I will take down all the action items, what we’re going to do next, “Brynne, I love that idea, here’s what we’re going to accomplish and the consequences of it not getting accomplished.” But if I do it, same day, I think it does a couple of things, it goes back to that whole credibility piece that we were just talking about that you know, we really walk our talk. We can control the sales process better and we help them keep things straight. I can’t tell you how many times where somebody says, “Thank you so much for sending that recap email. It was just concise, and to the point and it got everything. And now I can go back to this one place and see what we have going on next.”
Bill McCormick 18:07
(Brynne: I love that.) Yeah, yeah, that’s great stuff. I heard that on a podcast this morning. I’m like, I’m gonna…
Brynne Tillman 18:13
I’m not sure we do a great job with that. That might be our next like, “Hey, let’s up our game.”
Bill McCormick 18:18
Yeah. Are you leveraging video at all? And if so, in what way?
Amy Franko 18:23
Yes.Yes.Yes. I love video, I actually have been, I’ve been on this kind of quest to outfit my office with, you know, better sound and video. It’s been one of my projects but I do use video a lot and I will use it. I use it all throughout the sales process. I use it in LinkedIn, I send videos straight through LinkedIn, Messenger. I send them via email. And so I’ll share this quick story on there’s a client that I have, I’ve been working with this client for probably four or five years now on a number of different initiatives. And they recently hired a chief growth officer of the firm and they’re a big firm, and it’s someone that I know, but I only know him kind of in my outer network ecosystem. I don’t know him real well just yet.
So I actually sent him a video message, just did it through email, and sent him a video message. And he responded back and he said, I think this is the first video email that I’ve ever gotten. And he’s like, I have to tell you that I will always remember that you sent this video email because it reminds me like I’m gonna date myself. It reminds me of when we first started sending email and how new and innovative and different it is. So I’ll always remember that you sent this video and I thought that was so cool.
Bill McCormick 19:44
And video is one of those things that will differentiate you from everyone. It’s instant. I wouldn’t say it’s instant credibility but it does give that instant (Brynne: Connection.) connection because you’re able to look at the person. So we love video, we love sending video messages on Messenger. We do that a lot.
Brynne Tillman 20:03
So one thing I noticed Amy and a lot of your content, you’re calling out Prezi as your content. What is it about Prezi that you love so much.
Amy Franko 20:12
So Prezi had actually reached out to me, gosh, maybe a year or so ago to do some video work through them and Prezi has this whole community, and contributors community, I guess it’d be a good way to describe it. All different kinds of topics, not just related to business, because what they want to do is, you know, bring people to their community, people watch videos on different topics that are of interest to them.
So they reached out to me to create a series of videos, I think I did a sales kickoff video, I did a couple of other series. And it’s just a different type of presentation platform. A more interactive, I guess, really amping up PowerPoint, if you will. So it’s just experimenting with this different unique platform to be able to share content. And I guess I’d call it a bit more of an interactive way.
Brynne Tillman 21:07
Yeah, I mean, I love these videos that you put out. One of my favorites was a few months ago on influencers and decision-makers. So similar to a conversation that we had today, and I watched it and it’s so professionally shot, like it’s so amazing. And so you think do you think salespeople could get a lot of value from this too (crosstalk) (Amy: I do. Yeah.)
Amy Franko 21:27
I do. And I think it’s a mix. I’d be curious on your opinions on this too. I think there’s a mix, there’s this great authenticity to doing an imperfect video where it’s like, you know, it’s a minute, so the video that I mentioned to the chief growth officer, you know, it was not perfect. It was just me basically having a one-way conversation and I just recorded it in Zoom. That’s one way. (Brynne: Like a video voicemail.) Basically, yeah, yeah, you got it.
And then the Prezi piece is definitely something that’s more polished, it’s, you can use it with, in more, I guess, more formal presentation situations. But I find that that type of tool, just something creative and different that you can up your game and then you can also share all of that socially.
Bill McCormick 22:09
Yeah, and I think there’s a place for both of those, you know, I think there’s a place for the unpolished, “Look, I’m just doing this on my phone because I thought of you” and that’s that more personal relationship and connection but now, okay, I’m in a formal area of presentation, I’m gonna do that. I’m going to kind of up my game and make it more valuable and differentiate myself. So I think there’s a place for that.
Brynne Tillman 22:34
And we talk a lot about there’s like kind of these three, there’s one too many, which is sort of these presentations. There’s one too few, where we’re getting something into the inbox, maybe of just the CEOs, like specifically very targeted, and then one to one, which is what you talked about, which is that video voicemail. So I love that. I love what everything you’re doing. I know that we’re going to wrap this up but I want to start by saying, follow Amy Franko. Engage on her content, it will absolutely transform the way you sell.
Bill McCormick 23:07
Yeah and so speaking of it, Amy, how can folks get a hold of you? I know they can find you on LinkedIn but what other ways can they connect with you?
Amy Franko 23:14
Yeah, so LinkedIn for sure. And then secondarily, amyfranko.com, you can engage with other content out there, you can opt in for e-books on mailing list. So that’s the second place I would recommend people go.
Brynne Tillman 23:26
And go buy the book, The Modern Seller.
Amy Franko 23:28
On Amazon. Thank you, Brynne. My hype woman, I appreciate it.
Bill McCormick 23:32
Wonderful. Well, Amy Franko, thank you so much for being on this episode of Making Sales Social! Thank you all for listening and don’t forget as you’re out and about this week, don’t forget to make your sales social. Bye-bye, everyone.
Bob Woods 23:45
Thanks for watching, and join us again for more special guest instructors bringing you marketing, sales, training, and social selling strategy that will set you apart. Hit the subscribe button below to get the latest episodes from the Making Sales Social podcast. Give this video a thumbs up and comment down below on what you want to hear from us next. You can also listen to us on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, and Google Play. Visit our website socialsaleslink.com for more information.