Would a normal person smash on someone's door 50 times a day? Talk Marketing 010 - James Owers

Would a normal person smash on someone’s door 50 times a day? Talk Marketing 010 – James Owers

Martin: Good morning Mr O o Owers, how are you?

James: Good morning Martin, I’m very well, how are you?

Martin: I am fantastically well, thank you.

Thank you so much for agreeing to spend this time with me. I’ve given you a sense already of what’s going on. I’m talking to people about sales and marketing is what I’m doing. I’m talking to you about sales, because you are a sales trainer and I have experienced your training and massively enjoyed your training and I have resold bits of your training when I’ve sold training as The Effective Marketing Company. So I thought if I’m going to speak to somebody about sales training, who am I going to speak to, I’m going to speak to Mr Owers. So here we are.

James: Okay, yeah, thanks for inviting me Martin. Do you want me to introduce myself? What’s the best way of doing this?

Martin: Well you can, well you are going to introduce yourself yes. So the format is really easy. It’s basically how are you qualified to talk to us about sales? How do you feel about sales? Kind of, what you give people when you’re giving them sales training and then what are your recommendations for people in this weird situation that we find ourselves in where everything’s gone through a loop? That’s the formula. Where we start is how you’re qualified, so this is where you get to introduce yourself.

James: Okay I’ll do that, you’ll cut all that bit out?

Martin: No that’ll stay in, and this bit’s staying as well, it’s not like a BBC style production, it’s just, like it’s just a chat with the most interesting sales and marketing people I know.

James: I know, you couldn’t find anyone else and I picked up the phone.

Martin: Seriously, you’re the first person I’ve spoken to about sales. There is somebody else on the list who’s also a sales person, but no man, you were, when I sat down, when I decided to do this and I wrote a list of names, your name was on the list, and if you checked Facebook more often we’d have spoken earlier.

James: I try and avoid it, I try and avoid it.

Martin: Good, okay.

James: I’ll introduce myself so I’m James I’ve worked in sales, I think, for about, maybe, nearly 20 years now. I work for a large Japanese manufacturing company now as their training manager, their sales training manager, and prior to that I had my own business so I tended to develop sales people who sold technical products and services; IT, Telecoms and manufacturing engineering type products. That’s what I’ve been doing and I’ve been working my current role for about six years. I look after a large sales team who are very, very, very, technically strong. That’s a bit about me really. I’ve known Martin for a long time, we worked together at a telecoms company together, 2005 or 2006 I think it was, maybe it was 2005.

Martin: Yes. So almost 20 years you’ve been working in sales.

James: Yeah.

Martin: I’ve been working in sales for 25 years.

James: Yeah, you’re older than me.

Martin: I am older than you yeah. What I’m interested to know is, how, because I think people quite want to be a sales trainer, but I don’t really know how it happens. I would liked to have been a sales trainer, but I was never picked to be a sales trainer. So how do you get to be a sales trainer? I think that’s interesting. Did you have sales experience before you were selected to become a sales trainer?

James: Yes. I was a salesman before I became a sales trainer. I worked for a telecoms company at the time and the way that they were working was changing so that they wanted someone to to design training and help people. It was appointment generation essentially to start with, that’s how I fell into into sales training and I got some good results so it went from there really. Then I learned to do other things and and my role expanded naturally. Really it wasn’t a conscious effort to become a sales trainer, that wasn’t my aim, you know, when I was out of school.

Martin: No. Well, this is interestingly to me because I don’t think anyone says, when they are in school, wants to be a sales anything when they grow up. I only ended up in sales because I had zero plan of what it was that I wanted to do. I literally graduated and then it’s like well people are doing this media sales thing in London. I interviewed for some of those and I got one of those, and then, that’s it, I was in sales.

James: It’s not got a great reputation has it? I mean you talk to someone about what you do and maybe you’re in sales and they say oh what, couldn’t you get a proper job, almost. That’s the thought isn’t it? It’s not got a great reputation. Some of the phrases associated with being a good salesperson are blatant fraud, you know you can sell ice to Eskimos, that’s fraud. Yes it’s not got the best reputation out there. The people I work with are very technically strong and they probably don’t want to be associated with that, you know, label, either. That’s a shame really because it’s got some bad, it’s not good great reputation as a job.

Martin: Yes, yes, and this is where I want to get to. I definitely want to get to here because the tone of what I’m doing, is, you know, I ran The Effective Marketing Company for nine years, I billed a thousand different businesses. When I stopped doing that, when I stopped marketing it, and stopped trying to change the world with it, I realised that nobody really wanted to do marketing, and marketing is a stupid way to make money, it absolutely is. Whilst I’ve got this sense that nobody wants to do marketing, nobody wants to do it, but definitely, what I know for a fact is; I might have a sense that nobody wants to do marketing but absolutely nobody wants to do sales. Nobody wants to do sales. I want to get to that but first I just want to establish your experience. It seems to me that it’s quite difficult, if you’re an amazing sales person then you’re probably not going to earn as much money by being the sales trainer; but if you’re not an amazing sales person then how are you qualified to provide sales training? I was just never sure of that mechanism.

James: So what you’re going back to, the kind of the ethos, I think. If you can’t do teach type of methodology, is that right?

Martin: Yeah, those who can do, those who can’t teach – that’s what they say. And those that can’t teach, teach primary school. You know.

Yeah. I’m not saying exactly that. What I’m saying is that there’s this dichotomy in selecting sales trainers. Because if you if you are doing really well you are probably making much more money than you’re going to make if you are a sales trainer; but then if you’re not doing really well, how are you qualified to tell everyone this is how it works? That’s what I’m kind of interested to understand.

James: Oh I see. Well it, I guess, it depends what you’re motivated by doesn’t it? So I had my own business for seven, I think, seven or eight years. I would imagine, yeah, definitely more then than I do now in terms of what I did there. I think it depends what you’re you’re motivated by and I I get I get a real buzz out of helping others get better at what they do. That could be people or organisations. So, yeah, that’s where I get my satisfaction I guess. Something my daughter says, do you really enjoy what you do, I want a job where I enjoy what I do, and I do. I don’t think any, many people, really enjoy their jobs, but I think to get a sense of satisfaction that’s good. That’s probably my motivation for doing what I do I’d say.

Martin: Okay. I understand that and I’ve also done a lot of training now and it is tremendously, I think, exciting and rewarding, because we’re teaching. I’ve been teaching marketing with some sales, you’re teaching sales, you don’t have to give people very much to make a really big difference. I’m not questioning at all that it’s anything other than a wholly rewarding way to make your money. I was interested in that – it seems to me – this is across roles, in all kinds of management roles; the really good people … I don’t know, we’ll move on from that. What I want to know is were you a really good salesperson? That’s what I want to know. That’s the question; were you a really good salesperson because I’ve got no experience of you selling.

James: All right, yeah, I would say I was a strong salesperson. I hope if I went back into a sales role now I don’t think i’d be that bad at it.

Martin: Right. Because the other thing of course is that training is a pitch. What you’re doing is selling them the ideas and motivating them to put the ideas into practice. I don’t think there’s that much difference. In the broadest terms, sales is, maybe you’ve got a different definition of sales, but sales is just motivating people to do things isn’t it? It’s motivating people to spend money, to buy something, or it’s motivating somebody to get a piece of kit, or book, a course, or change their telecoms provide or whatever it is. Actually, I think, in our lives, in our relationships, we’re constantly doing that, we’re constantly motivating the people around us to kind of do the things that we want them to do. I don’t think sales is the alien thing that you know, when you say that people don’t want to do it, people don’t like it, it’s not an alien thing, it’s something we do all of the time. This is how we get on together.

James: Yeah, yeah. So my, yeah, my job is to help change behaviours, really yeah, slightly, a little bit, to make them more effective. That’s my job. I think a salesperson, I think that’s another thing, that you know, you associate with salespeople is that they are there to push a product or a service that the customer may not have thought about having at that point in time. I think we’ve talked about this before Martin, I think the sales, you know a sales function, should work with marketing. It should find out what customers want, they should feed that data back into the machine. If you’re producing and selling products, for example, that information should feed that market research back into the into the organisation and then produce products that the customer wants to buy.

Martin: Yes.

James: Rather than trying to trying to build something new and then going out and flogging it to someone who’s never seen it before and might not want to buy it. I think that’s, yes, yeah, the function of sales needs to be more with marketing really.

Martin: Yeah, I absolutely think that and I think that sales and marketing, in a business, have the worst reputation of everyone, you know, they’re on the lowest rung. They seem to be, maybe, I don’t know if that’s true but then they’re pitted against each other whereas you you’re what you’re saying is exactly right you should produce products with your marketing team and your sales people, then you go to the market and you get the feedback, and you evolve those products. What you should have a virtuous cycle. But what you’re saying is correct, what I’ve I’ve experienced most of the time is that products and services are developed in a silo and then they’re foisted on the marketing and the sales teams you have to go out and flog them, foist them on to the market who have no, necessarily, need or desire, no need of those things.

James: Maybe, yes, exactly.

Martin: Okay, so now we’re coming around to the how you feel about sales; how do you feel about sales?

James: How do I feel about sales? I think it’s massively important for the success of any business. Without a sales department, or a sales function, then the customers won’t know what you do and you won’t be able to find out from the customer what they want. Unless we can find out what the customer wants, we can’t bring them improvements and so we manufacture products and we won’t know that’s what they want. We won’t know they want to speed things up, or if they want to if they want to make things smaller, or faster, or quicker. Without a sales team you don’t know that, so how are you going to flog your stuff.

Martin: I think it’s more, I think it’s the most important thing, I think it’s the most important thing. If you don’t have sales, if you don’t have customers, if you don’t have money coming into your business, you don’t have a business. I mean you really don’t. So I would say that sales, whether that sales people, or whether that’s sales happening, it doesn’t really make a difference necessarily. You don’t need sales people in 2021, you know, we’ve got e-commerce, we’ve got, you know, we’ve got all of this stuff. But you absolutely have to have a sales function, don’t you? Whether that is, whatever, your shop window, whether it’s a sales person, or whether it’s a website, you have to have a sales function. A sales function and sales have to happen or else you are not in business, it’s as simple as that.

Martin: Okay, so this brings us around then to the answer to the question, how do you feel about sales? Exactly the same as me, it has to happen or actually you are not in business. So why are, and this happens on levels, so why are sales people thought of so badly within businesses? Why are sales people thought so badly of by the general population? Why don’t people like sales people? Why don’t businesses like salespeople? And why doesn’t the market like sales people?

James: Yeah. The wider public don’t like sales people because they associate it with a sales person is someone that’s just sold them a second-hand car or someone has sold them something that they don’t necessarily want, the double glazing type sales personalities that are out there. The general public hate sales people because you’ve got that, they’ve got that association there haven’t you? Of what a sales person is. The association isn’t great in businesses for lots of different reasons. I think sales people tend to be a little bit noisier than other departments; if they’re remote workers there’s the whole them and us thing, you know, they’re always swanning around in their cars. We’re coming to the office every single day, you know, it’s that them and us type of yeah relationship which is not great either. So yeah, there’s a few reasons, I think that’s it. But you know and I know lots of organisations where salespeople are well respected. So I I don’t think that’s all all of the time. I certainly work for a very sales-led company and we don’t tend to have that, but yeah I know in some companies it is, yes.

Martin: If we go back to where you started in sales training, you were talking about self-generated leads, you were helping them, teaching them, how to canvas. I think that’s the training I had from you back in 2005, whenever it was.

James: Yeah, yeah, yeah, well, yeah. When I started getting into it sales training in 2003, I think, yes, I was very good at booking appointments and then they said could you show other people how to do that. It was almost that, yeah, that was. It was an accident really.

Martin: Okay, you’re looking so serious, I’ve never seen you looking this serious.

James: Okay, you’ve got a camera on me and stuff and I’m trying trying to concentrate and you’ve told me I look like Booba, you’ve told me I look like a cartoon character.

Martin: Okay, good, right. This self-generation thing, I think, is also part of the issue. I’m just wondering if we could possibly even get through this in the hour, or whatever we’ve got today, because for me it’s so important, and it’s so screwed up. To me it’s really quite obvious what needs to happen. For example, I think the reason some businesses don’t like sales people is because they can’t necessarily sell the product. The product hasn’t been developed with the customers, or with the market in mind,, it hasn’t been developed to meet a need of the market, it’s typically been developed in a silo and some clever person somehow decided that everyone should want to buy this and then they employ sales people to go and sell it. Then the sales people can’t sell it and then that becomes a mess.
So then you’re in a situation where sales people are seen as bullies, or snakes, or boars or, whatever it is, sharks; that go out there and try and push or bully people into buying things. That’s why people don’t like salespeople, because it feels like they’re trying to sell them something that they don’t want and they don’t.

In the UK we’ve experienced that universally. When I was a kid there was an insurance man he would come and he would sit there till one o’clock in the morning and refuse to leave until people had signed the stuff. There was similar stuff happening in the telecoms industry when we were there, people just sit there for hours and hours and hours until they got the deal. So there’s that going on. I think part of this issue then is that.

What I say is the marketing and the sales function, for me, it’s a chronology. You do marketing, marketing generate your leads, basically, they do lots of other things but also they generate your leads and those leads are then work for sales people. I don’t know what you think a lead is, but for me it’s a prospective customer showing a buying signal, some intent, or some interest in this product.

Martin: Very simplified, I think marketing is getting the phone to ring and the sell, sales, is knowing what to say when it rings.

Martin: Exactly, but what happens in lots of organisations is that they employ lots of sales people, they don’t do anywhere near enough marketing, if they’re doing any marketing, the phone’s not ringing. Now you’re sending these sharks, and boars, and snakes, or whatever they are, out into the market to bully their way into people’s lives.

James: You can’t get anyone else, if you’ve got a company that isn’t doing any marketing, and they don’t, they don’t, and they are pushing products onto a customer the only people that you’re going to have work for you as a salesperson are those sharks. Why would a normal person want to smash on someone’s door 50 times a day? That takes a special type of person, to be able to do that, again, and again, and again, and again.

That’s where you get your your bad bad reputation as a sales guy, I think, because it is those people that have to do those jobs.

Martin: Yes and in the worst instance they send them out commission, only if you sell something then you’ll make some money. Now they are triply motivated to actually foist this stuff on people who may not want it, probably don’t want it is the truth.

Yeah. So this is where this is becomes concentrated and it’s so stupid. Why is it like that? Why do people decide I’m gonna employ 30 sales people without any leads. I’m going to send these people out to knock on doors and call people up on the phone and that’s basically it, canvassing.

James: Yeah they’re not money motivated, they just need to pay their bills. If you’re paying someone commission only then they’re not money motivated are they? They just want to pay my rent or I’ve got to pay my mortgage, so yes, this guy is having what I’m selling.

Martin: Okay, yeah, yes, that’s bad. The other guy that I’m going to talk to about sales, but I spoke to you first, the other guy, he does a thing where he says that the word sales; do you know the origin of the word sales?

James: I don’t know if I do.

Martin: He says, yes, okay, so yes he says it comes from a Norwegian, or like a norse word, which is Selje I think it’s spelled s-e-l-j-e, which means to serve. I haven’t corroborated it, I’ve tried and I can’t, it’s in one of my WTF videos.

James: Yeah.

Martin: Now doesn’t that solve this whole issue?

James: Yeah, yeah, because it’s not, it’s not pushing it’s giving the people what they want, isn’t it? You you need to find out what they want so you can serve them.

Martin: Yeah. For me that makes absolutely perfect sense. If you’re selling anything, if you’re selling anything, and you are providing somebody to help your buyers to make the very best decision, then surely people are going to make much better decisions, they’re going to enjoy the product much more, they’re going to get much more value from it, they’re going to talk to their friends about it, potentially they’re going to come back and they’re going to buy from you again. That seems to me, I mean, that is completely the opposite to the way that people perceive sales people. It’s perception isn’t it? You sell a marketing solution to someone and you need to find out what they want and give them what they want, if you don’t then they won’t use you again. If they don’t see the results that they expect from it, and you’ve told them that you they’ll get, they won’t buy anything from you again, and they won’t recommend you to anyone else, and you’ll have to get new customers again, and again, and again.

Martin: Yes and I’m going to have to employ a whole host of sales army to do that and then I’m going to have a shitty reputation but this is what goes on, this is what I’m saying goes on.

James: Bullshit.

Martin: I was talking to you about this the other day where nobody wants to be in sales when they grow up. I kind of get a sense in The States they do, that people might grow up wanting to be sales people.

James: It’s a recognised profession isn’t it? It’s a bit like engineering in this country. In Germany and parts of Europe they have recognised development plans for engineers, in America they have that for sales people, it is a recognised profession.

Yes.

The thing about that is it is typically sales people who end up becoming the MD’s of companies in The States. I know that’s true, is that true?

Yeah. In the UK I wonder is it, I’d say more, accountants when you …..

Martin: Okay, I don’t know, that would be so British.

James: Yeah.

Yes there is usually a sales individual at the top which makes sense, you have the most persuasive, positive, outgoing sort of people at the top of the business.

Martin: The question is then why don’t people want to have careers in sales?

James: I think they do, I just don’t think the perception of it, as people grow up, is great. I think people I’ve worked with in sales have rewarding careers and they enjoy what they do.

Martin: Okay, yeah, that’s what I want to say. I’ve had a sales career. I’ve sold since I graduated, since I was selling media sales. I’ve always sold you know even though I was running a marketing company I had still had to sell the clients.

James: Yeah, they are sales.

Martin: I had some dodgy sales jobs, like that telecom’s job with you, but some of the some of the stuff that I’ve experienced has been phenomenal. I’ve been to Cricket World Cups and stuff, I’ve done amazing hospitality stuff. When I was working in South Africa it was my responsibility to make sure that I got clients on the golf course a couple of times a month do you mean so then I’m walking around in South Africa on a golf course and its my job.

James: When I had my own business we did some recruitment as well. We would do training for people and as a result of that some of them would say well can you find us people as well? So that part of the business grew up. We were finding people. It was interesting, we were finding people that were not, not new graduates, but maybe they’ve had a first or second job. Some of the people going into things like pharmacy, certainly a lot of lab type work, we were looking for technical type people with science-based degrees and some of these people thought that career was going to be for them when they were at school at university. After two or three years stuck in a lab, that’s not what they wanted. So actually we were moving people from those roles into business development roles, selling technical products and and they were much happier.

James: But you don’t think, when you’re at school, that’s what you want to do. I’ll do a science-based degree, I’ll go and work in a lab and then reality hits home you’re sat in front of a petri dish or a cad screen for eight hours a day and that’s not what you thought life would be.

Martin: Okay, so this is interesting. Are we saying that this is a failure of the education system? I don’t think schools know enough about what real roles entail because if you ask an average teacher they wouldn’t know what a salesperson did, who sold a really quite technical solution. They wouldn’t know the ins and outs of that.

No. I wonder how many people are employed as salespeople in the UK. If there’s 30 million people working in the UK are there a million sales people working in the UK?

James: Must be more. I would say more than a 30th of the workforce.

Martin: Because, I often think, I was one of those lairy little kids ….

James: It’s almost half of our organisation. I work for a company in the UK, we have 280 people and there are just under 100 sales people.

Martin: Right, well I’m thinking also there’s some manufacturing left isn’t there? There must be manufacturing companies that employ thousands of people and only one or two sales people.

James: Yeah, yeah, but I think maybe a 30th.

Martin: Let’s google it, anyway …..

James: Yeah, google it.

Martin: It’s a big employer, it’s a large employer, it’s a large employer. I think you’re right, probably teachers don’t have a clue what’s involved in sales or how many of those people are going to end up in sales. I was one of those lairy kids, I was always causing trouble in the classroom, I was quite popular, I was quite funny, I was looking for attention. There should have been somebody in that school who said he should go into sales, they’re should have been, but no one does, do they?

James: I was talking to some old school friends about being a pilot, he’s a pilot for BA, and we were talking about the BBC micro careers test, did you ever do that? It gave you a long list of careers that you might do. They were like, James, what was on yours? Mine was tax collector or gardener, that was what my my choice was. My friend, who’s a pilot, I was like, what was yours? He was like, funny enough, it was pilot and I was like what was your second one because you have to do you’re gonna have to find something else he was like funny enough he might have been gardener. You don’t know, do you, when you’re at school? Your teachers aren’t best placed to maybe advise, because they don’t know, it’s not their fault. If you haven’t got parents that had careers, then how are you going to choose, its difficult. You’re also choosing your career quite early on, you’re doing A levels and then you’re going into a degree at 18. That’s young to decide isn’t it?

Martin: Yeah and especially not to know that this whole sales thing is available to you. What does a sales person, I don’t know, what does a sales person do? A salesperson goes and meets with people and makes friends with them. What I tell people, I’ve done this presentation called I’m in the Mood for Selling, I tell them that sales is simply making friends with people and making it easier for them to buy, that’s the gig. Do you know what I mean? I don’t know.

James: Asking good questions, the ability to ask decent, well-structured questions, to find out what the customer wants, build relationships as well. Also find out what the customer wants and give them what they want in a well-presented way to add some value to what they do.

Martin: Yeah, that’s what they need to be able to do. Yes.

How many jobs are you basically running around making friends with people, finding out what they really need, bringing that into their lives. That’s a great job, so why isn’t there …

James: Well there can’t be a B-Tech in selling, there’s not A Level selling. There’ no career path. Every lairy kid in school should be taken aside and told look, you’re gonna end up in sales so we’re gonna give you …. or prison.

Martin: There is no education, is there? I think that’s kind of insane, why is that? That has to be solved.

James: Also you don’t want just loud people. I’ve worked with some very good salespeople who aren’t that, you know, aren’t the life and soul of the party, they’re not. I don’t think you always need that, you don’t need someone who’s bouncing around all the time. You do need, in a lot of cases, you need someone who’s is able to build relationships, but with multiple people. Not just people that like to hear him speak a lot.

Martin: Yes.

I’m not saying that every lairy person would make a great sales person. I’m saying every lairy kid in school should be channeled towards sales. That’s what makes most sense, if they’re going to be that personality, if they’re going to want that attention, if they’re going to be that outgoing, then they should be given some kind of steer towards sales. There’s not, there’s nowhere in the education system, that I’m aware of, I haven’t been in it for a long time, but there’s nowhere in the education system where they’re saying, even beyond sales, let’s just talk about, you could do marketing A levels, you could do marketing degrees but there’s no yeah there’s no sales option.

I think that’s insane. Sales people make a load of money. If you grow up poor there’s two ways, three ways, probably, to make money. You can steal, those are the people that go into prison. You can become a footballer, or a professional athlete, or you can go into sales. That’s the three ways that you could possibly make a real difference to your life. But there is no formal education for salespeople. If you want to become a highly paid barrister then you go through the education system don’t you?

Yes. You go through your law degree and you sit your bar exams and you go that way, don’t you? To become a highly paid sales individual, that is slightly different, isn’t it? It’s slightly different, you drop out and have no clue what it is that you want to do and then you get lucky. I think. If you think about all the things, my nephew is a financial advisor, he’s basically a salesperson, he’s selling policies and investments and all those kinds of things. Everything is sales, but I’m thinking more broadly now there is no … how many customer service people are employed in the UK? Is there a formal like, you would be a good customer service person? I’m wondering?

James: You need some natural traits don’t you? The rest can be trained, but you definitely need some natural traits to succeed as a salesperson I think. Not everyone can do it, not everybody would want to.

Martin: Yeah, I’m talking a lot, what do you think those traits are?

James: I think you’ve got to do what you say you’re going to do, I think you’re going to be highly conscientious. That gets rid of the old image of salespeople always lying, I think. You have to be able to back that up by saying no you’re not to lie. I think you need to be fairly resilient, the ability to take knocks, I think, is important. And you need to have a naturally curiosity, to think about the world around you, about how it works, and about what makes things tick and what people want, really. I think you need to be able to be naturally curious about about that and generally interested in people, and things, and businesses, because then you’re able to present a solution that’s going to add some value to the customer. You know, to actually give them what they want rather than just you know some product you’re trying to flog.

I think some of those things, yeah, does that make sense?

Martin: I’d say those things, thank you, yes, that makes absolutely perfect sense. But that is the opposite of the sales people that we, or the perception of salespeople, that exists in the world. What you think of, the sharks, and the charlatans that liars, the sell their own grandmother type of salespeople. There’s a lot of this goes on in the UK isn’t there. You get these watchdog programs and they have these people are out selling, what are they selling? They’re good at ripping people off all the time, selling them insurances, or pyramid schemes, or all of that stuff. This honestly never occurred to me, that this was an issue.

I don’t think I knew that sales existed as a function until I graduated and went for an interview.

James: No, not until I was at university. I did a land management type degree at university and part of that was a marketing lady, lady/man, we had a marketing lecturer of some sort and they they grabbed a few of us afterwards and said have you thought about going into sales. I didn’t know what that meant really. That was when it first occurred to me.

Martin: I don’t think I knew it existed until I went to interview for those kinds of jobs in London. I mean, I knew it existed, like, you know, that retail sales people exist, or that there’s the insurance salesman I suppose. I don’t know if I understood, I don’t know. That’s nuts isn’t it?

Yes, okay. So what I’m interested in then is, I suppose this is different because you’re working with established sales teams and the people who come to you have decided they want to be sales people already.

James: Yeah.

Martin: What I want to know is, what kind of challenges, what kind of behaviours are you trying to instil in these people to make them more effective? That’s what I’m interested to know.

James: Okay, so yeah. Most of the people I’m working with are technically very, very strong. We sell a technical solution. My job is to sharpen their commercial skills so, the ability to ask those good questions. We do a lot of market research with the customer, but it’s it’s how do you present that value to the customer and if you’re happy talking to people.

Now it’s changed hasn’t it? We don’t just have to talk to one person in the business, like we used to. Before it would just be the the technical purchaser, or the purchaser, that you’d be going to talk to. Now we’re having to talk to multiple people in the business, and they all have very different needs. A lot of them couldn’t give a rats ares what we do but actually we can present the value in a different way and salespeople need to be able to do that. Most of the time that’s what I’m working with our sales team on is how do we prove value to other people in the business, not just our one point of contact. That happens with larger decisions, more people need to get involved and that’s hard.

Martin: Do they call this organisational selling? Has this got a name?

James: We call it value selling. We want to prove value and the challenge we’ve got is that we need to be able to do that across across departments. Not just one purchasing department, there’s other elements of that value chain, the sales function of a company, the engineering function, the service function. We need to be able to talk to all of those functions so they all say yes to us, that’s the tricky bit.

Martin: Okay that makes sense. Is it like you need cross-department support to buy a solution or you’re looking to sell the same solution into separate departments?

James: It’s one solution, but we we need them all to be able to recognise that it’s a good way to go. It’s a technical product but we want to be able to get agreement from other departments within the business, that it’s a good thing to do.

Okay yeah. If you’re selling your marketing solution to a company you’d probably go and speak to a marketing department or a business owner, maybe you’d speak to the business owner.

Martin: Typically yeah. You might speak to a marketing department, they might just be looking to our source part of their functioning or their role.

James: But you would you need to, why do you need to speak to the business owner?

Martin: Well it would depend on the scale of the business. A lot of what I was doing was working with small businesses so then it would always be the business owner, but come on man, you’re a salesperson, you know that shit flows down much easier than it flows up.

James: It does exactly, exactly.

Martin: So you need to be in those conversations don’t you?

James: That’s why a lot of what I do is work with our sales team, really supporting them to have those conversations with those other people. How do you do that? How do you get to speak to someone like that? When we sell a technical solution, why does he want to speak to us? It’s yes helping them develop those conversations really, so that we can give the customer what they want to all of those people, what they all want.

Martin: So your guys are networking in your customers businesses, looking to to build more relationships, that’s the way it’s working?

James: Yeah, that’s better, yeah, networking in their customers.

Martin: Okay, good. I had a role when I had to do that. I was selling big IT solutions in South Africa. I asked this guy what was going on around him, who the people were and he sat down and he drew me like an organisational chart.

James: Nice, family tree for you, a family tree.

Martin: Yeah, but it was all based on when people were retiring and who was likely to get promoted into their roles, this sort of stuff. It was amazing this guy was institutionalised, this was a big South African bank and he was completely institutionalised. So I’ve been in that situation. I would say that is coming around again to, not lead generation, but kind of marketing.

Martin: Kind of, I suppose, it is networking, it is kind of canvassing within their businesses. So these guys are doing a little bit of their own marketing as well?

James: Yeah, and finding out what different departments want so our marketing team can send them targeted information that they’re going to find useful. Because we’re also a technical product and that’ll have a benefit to a to a sales guy selling something but it will also have a benefit to a production guy who who’s putting that thing together, the same product. But it will have very different benefits to those different individuals, so we need to be able to know what they want.

Martin: Okay, that makes perfect sense. What you’re describing here for me is the the virtuous cycle; you have a product; you get it into customer sites; you get the feedback from the customers; they give you ideas of how it could evolve or how it could be different, bigger, smaller, faster, yellow, or whatever it is.

James: Yeah, and we feel like that’s probably the product development cycle.

Martin: That is a virtuous circle where it’s just getting easier, and easier, and easier for the sales people, and for the marketing people, and for the product, and for the customer. It’s getting easier for everyone, that for me is the ideal, that absolutely is the ideal.

What are the challenges that, not necessarily in your role now, I’m interested because you said that you were great at setting appointments, which is notoriously difficult, so what other attitudes, maybe not in your current role but when people come? Is it that everyone you’ve ever trained always decided already they’re gonna be a sales person? That’s what I’m interested to know.

James: No, definitely not. I think most of the sales teams we are working with are technical sales teams. I’ve been working here for a while but when I had my own business, certainly, my customers were mainly selling technical solutions, most of their sales team. One of them joked that they were they were in sales because they were the last team to find chairs to sit down. They’re all just engineers but we couldn’t find a chair in time, so we’re not designers, we’re sales people. A lot of the sales teams I worked with did other things first and the sales element of their job came later. There’s not many that wanted to, like we said before, left school thinking I’m going to be a sales person. They probably thought I’ve got an IT degree I want to go and do something with computers, or I’ve got a mechanical design degree, I’ll design products, I want to be the next James Dyson. Then they sat in front of a CAD screen for eight hours thinking maybe this isn’t great.

Martin: Right.

James: I want to go and talk to people, then if they start to think what’s a job where I could do this and maybe use my social skills as well and sales, that’s sales. I don’t want to do this so I’ll just ask the question because it’s 50/50, so it’s going to be fine.

Martin: Do they see themselves as failed engineers or do they see themselves as … whatever the opposite of a failed engineer?

James: Yeah, it’s a bit like your question like why do you why aren’t you a salesperson James? Why do you train people in sales, because you could earn more money if you were selling a high-value product? and become a sales person. It’s the same question to that designer, or that guy working, that person working in a lab testing some new drug or whatever, they they train for that role but it doesn’t give them the satisfaction that they want so they want to go and do something else.

Martin: Okay, I never asked you why you would want to be a salesperson as opposed to sales trainer, we got that completely wrong.

James: Yeah, but that’s fine.

Martin: What I’m asking is, is it self-determined or is it the fact that they haven’t made the grade as engineers and so now they are falling back on sales? That’s what I’m interested to know, they haven’t become James Dyson, they haven’t invented the new whatever it is and thought oh god I’m never going to be the best at this what else can I do?

James: I don’t know, I don’t think so, no. I don’t think so. Certainly the people that I’ve interviewed that have come from those roles have never said I’m never going to be perfect at that so I’m not going to do it anymore. They’ve always said something else, they’ve always been quite genuine, I don’t want to do that anymore, I can’t see myself doing that for the next 30 years, I want to do something else and this is what I’ve thought about, what do you think?

Martin: Good. You remember when I put this cable tie on to make this whole situation better.

James: Yeah, did it work?

Martin: I didn’t cut the end off the cable tie so it doesn’t look good does it?

James: I’ve got some clips, I’ve got some snips if you want?

Martin: Pass them through.

What I’m interested in then, is there, because you are moulding their behaviour, that’s what you’re saying, that’s not the way you put it, but yeah, you want to alter their behaviour, you want to see some behavioural change to help them improve.

James: Yeah, okay.

Martin: Is there resistance to that or are they all coming excited about being sales engineers?

James: No. There’s some resistance to that. I think you’ve got a selection of people. We sometimes call them rocks or sponges with sales people. People that, if you’re a sponge you’re looking to soak up new things and develop, whereas you do get some individuals that want to stay with what they’re doing, and don’t want to do anything different. I think you have that in any industry really, any profession. People that don’t want to improve so don’t tend to work very much, there’s no point working with those people because they’re happy with doing what they’re doing.

Martin: Yes, okay. I’m smiling now because I’m just remembering we did that NLP course together and that’s kind of what I’m interested in. I don’t know if I got it from you, there’s like a need because thing, have you heard this?

James: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. We did the compliance trigger, the need/because thing.

Martin: Yes. So that’s interesting. What I think is that you don’t have to give sales people very much to make them much better and for me it is about changing this outlook. When I train people in sales I tell them this is what the world thinks of sales people and if you don’t want the world to think this of you then you have to do it very differently. I tell them all the things that we’re saying now, build strong relationships, make it easy for people to buy, do what you say you’re going to do, sell people the right thing, and they’ll like you, and they’ll refer you, and you’ll be a successful salesperson.

It does seem to me that it’s attitude or behaviour that needs to change. I’m going to say 60% attitude.

James: Yeah, yeah, I think so, I think so. I think when a salesperson is in front of a customer they’ll use their normal personality won’t they? Usually? But that doesn’t always work and when that doesn’t work, it’s because they may not be selling to someone who they they they would naturally get on with. That’s when training becomes really important, I think then you’ve got to think, okay what what should I be doing now? What questions do I need to ask to find information out from this person? Because if you’re not naturally similar, that’s when it becomes more challenging, I think.

Because you don’t always get on well with your customer but I don’t think you need to. I think as long as you can find out about them, and find out what they want, like you said, make it easy to buy from you, then they’ll they will buy from you.

Martin: Yes. I don’t think that they have to you have to get on but I think it makes it so much easier if you do.

I think if we break this down, if we’re putting silly numbers on these things, which is what I like to do, I think it’s like 80% rapport.

James: Yeah, the whole people buy from people thing. I think it is important, I think they will do, as long as the values the same. If you can prove more value then then you’re going to blow your competition out of the water, even if they’re their best mates. Because you can demonstrate that value across multiple departments in a company, your relationship with one individual is not going to help you.

Martin: No, okay. That is exactly right so we’re competing with you?

James: No you take that guy to golf, you take that guy to the world cup or whatever, that becomes completely irrelevant now because your competition has got relationships and is proving value across five or six departments. The fact that you’ve gone to golf with some guy doesn’t make a difference anymore, well unless it’s the very top guy.

Okay, so yeah, maybe.You’ve got a whole load of other very influential people that have worked for him, and if they’ve got a relationship with your competitor, and if you’re the MD saying I think we should go with company B and everyone else is saying yeah we can do, but that’s going to cost us a lot of money, and actually company A looks much better. He’s under pressure.

Martin: I’m with you, if you’ve got too good a rapport with one person then that could actually be counter productive because then you could create jealousies etc etc.

James: Yeah and you definitely don’t want that to happen. Relationship is important but what I’m saying is, if you can prove value across departments then I think it’s not as important it limits the importance of it.

Martin: Okay, in terms of delivering value, to what extent is the salesperson contributing to that value?

James: They need to be able to identify the value, or monetise it really. They need to be able to understand what their product or service provides that that customer will value and how does that equate to a money, or a time saving, that is going to give that customer value. What’s it going to do for them?

Yes, yeah, because you’ve got the old thing about features and benefits. The seat belt saves the person’s life and that’s the benefit but actually all seat belts do the same thing now don’t they? The thing is that we make, and our competition makes, similar things. It’s the value, the effect, that that has on the individual customer and the individual that’s important.

Martin: Yes. I’m imagining that they’ve got criteria, they’re going to buy this thing, they’ve got criteria, it does x, y and z, so there’s a function criteria, there’s a price criteria, there’s a delivery criteria, but there’s not necessarily a sales person criteria or a relationship criteria.

James: Yeah.

Martin: But at some point, if you’re saying okay, if it meets the price criteria, the function criteria, the deliverability criteria, and the guy’s a great guy, and he’s always been available to us and blah blah blah blah – he is going to contribute to that value part.

James: It’s the free money isn’t it?

Martin: What the customers free money?

James: They’re going to get it, they’ll get the price, and delivery, that is that’s ticked off for them. The reputation of the business is fine, but what’s the free money that they’re going to get as well as that, what’s that going to deliver for them. What’s it going to do? Is it going to help them sell more of the things that they’re producing? Is it, what’s it going to do for them?

Martin: You’re talking about the added value.

James: Yeah, yeah, because everything does the same thing doesn’t it? There’ll be lots of jokes about cheap Skodas and things like that, but if you buy a Skoda now and you put the key in the ignition, you expect that thing to go. There’s no assumption that it won’t go anymore, there’s no assumptions, it’s the same car as an AudI A4. The Skoda, whatever it is, exactly the same car, but the Audi costs more. A lot more, why is that?

Martin: Brand.

James: Yeah, because you feel good driving one, and you feel good with it on your driveway, and that actually, that’s the free money, isn’t it? That’s what you’re paying for.

Martin: Okay. I’ve not heard this concept free money before.

James: Yeah, what’s the free money? What is it the customer is going to get?

Martin: Yeah, so it’s value really, that’s value.

James: Yeah, it’s what value they’re going to see.

Martin: Yeah, that’s what it is, it’s that, it’s that thing that they get on top of what they’re paying for.

Okay, so what I was asking you something slightly different, I was just asking what part of the value pie does the actual relationship with the salesperson contribute? You’re saying less because you’re selling to different people, in different departments and so the value proposition has to be the strong thing because that’s the thing that will translate and the relationship won’t necessarily translate. I think you’ve answered the question, relationships are important, I think.

James: But yeah, we need to … I think it’s important to build across across the organisation yes.

Martin: Yeah, I was always a relationship sales person. I would never talk about … I would always talk about their families, their football team, their holidays, their whatever and then typically in the last five minutes they’ll say okay and we need xxx, okay we’ll sort that out. A client meeting would go, how’s everything, how’s what we’re doing, it’s all good, okay, great, How are you? How’s the family? How’s the thing? Cups of tea, biscuits, whatever, round of golf, okay, and Martin we need xxx, yeah, yeah, that’s good, that’s good.

James: I’ve seen, certainly, with sales people that I’ve worked with, you can tell when it’s going really well because you’re in a business and they seem to know everyone in that business. As you walk through they’re saying hello to them before you meet them, you know, you’re meeting several people before you go and meet the actual person that we’re supposed to be meeting. You think actually, this is, yeah this is going to go well. You’re taking away the risk of something going wrong, because so many people are saying yeah, I think we should go for this company. It’s not been a career risk to choose a different supplier because the supplier seems to be well it well accepted I think. Didn’t IBM used to have that right? You won’t get fired for buying IBM?

Martin: Yes, that phrase, but that was the strength of their brand again.

James: Yeah, yeah, something about buying blue it was.

Martin: I was selling against IBM, when I was selling IT against IBM, it was ridiculous we were against IBM, being compared to them, whenever we would be pitching up against IBM solutions and stuff. That’s what I’ve always thought, and that’s what I’ve always told people, there’s typically only one person in a target business that can say yes, but everybody can say, everyone can say no.

James: Yeah

Martin: Exactly, they’ve got better relationship than you have, because you are just outside, so they don’t have to throw down much resistance. This is why, like we were talking earlier on, about appointment setting and stuff. People would shout at receptionists if they were trying to get appointments, or lie to them, or do whatever.

James: Yeah.

Martin: Why would you bother to do that because the best thing that’s going to happen is that you’re going to get invited into that business and then when you turn up the receptionist is going to go oh there’s that dick who lied to me about such and such. Attacks you, you’ve got no chance, do you know what I mean.

James: Or it’s not even a receptionist, there’s so many businesses that don’t have them, people just pick up the phone, they don’t know who they are, it’s not like a 1970s anymore is it?

Martin: Okay. Part of this little journey that I’m on, your number 10, it would have been better oh …

James: Good, double digits.

Martin: Yeah, it would be better if you were 007 because that would go with the O O Owers thing is I started out with this preconceived idea that with this idea that everyone hates marketers and nobody knows what they’re doing; and everybody hates sales people and sales people don’t know what they’re doing; and marketing and sales is the thing that will make you successful in your business, it’s the only thing that will make you successful in your business, but nobody wants to do it. But I’m not finding that at all. Everyone I talk to, okay they are marketing providers, you’re a sales trainer, but it seems to me now that the practice, the good practice, is not only known, people are doing it, it’s in practice.

I’m becoming more confused now about why people don’t value this stuff.

James: Yeah, yeah, yeah most people I work with are are generally good, do a good job and want to do it well.

Martin: Yes.

James: I’ve caused you more confusion now Martin?

Martin: Yeah, not just you, all of you, like the other nine people as well, do you know what I mean? What’s the answer then? Is the answer then that its just the reputation is so entrenched, and people’s perceptions are so entrenched, that these are the attitudes or is it …

James: I haven’t asked, I’ll ask, I should ask my I’ve got teenage children now, I should ask them because they must be getting some career advice at school.

Martin: Yes. Do you want to hear about the career advice I got at school? What was yours, was it gardener and tax collector? This is the only careers I’ve had in my entire lifeI, think I was at sixth form already. When I was a kid I was always involved in the drama department at school. I was always involved with the plays, although there was a lot of strikes going on so not many plays happened. I auditioned for a BBC production of Oliver Twist one time, but they told me my cheeks were too fat, so I didn’t get the part. I was doing Theater Studies at A Level in Sixth Form. So when they sat me down and said okay what do you want to do, I’m like, well I’d like to work in television. What they said to me is, well they make televisions on the industrial estate so maybe you should go there and then maybe you could work yourself up to be actually on television. This is when there were only three or four channels.

James: Really? So make the televisions? We live in a town where we make cars, so if you say I want to be a racing car driver, they could probably say a similar thing – they make cars down the road there so why don’t you build them.

Martin: Yes. And then one day, one day …. This is absurd, because you think of the jobs that people are doing now that they could not have had a clue about 20 years ago; that these jobs were going to exist. Who knew that people were going to be web developers, or social media managers, or, I don’t know, artificial intelligence, or computer programmers, who knew that there were going to be computer programmers 30 years ago? Literally 30 years ago, maybe not 30 years ago, but who knew who knew that there were going to be YouTubers? How can they know? What they definitely knew is that there were going to be sales people, sales people are conventional, at least in the last 30 years. People existed before sales, people exist now, so sales people will probably always need to exist, there’s no channel for salespeople.

James: I will ask, I’ll ask my team, I’ve asked my teenagers, I’ll ask them.

Martin: Ask them, yeah.

James: I have no idea what they want to do, my youngest definitely wanted to be a giraffe but she’s decided that that’s not possible anymore, she’s 10, so she can’t be a giraffe.

Martin: When did she stop believing that she could be a giraffe?

James: I think about five-ish, something like that.

Is it because she is tall, what are you six four?

James: I’m six two, six one, two.

Martin: Okay good so how long have we been going? Do you know what time it is?

James: A while, hour? I’ve got to go soon.

Martin: Okay, cool, all right. The only other thing I am asking people is about is recommendations in this weird pandemic, recession, situation. What is your recommendation for people who are looking to to thrive, grow their businesses, maybe survive in this weird situation? I think I know what you’re going to say. What do people need to do?

Yes. Like businesses sales teams, marketing teams, business owners?

Martin: Yes.

James: Adapt, adapt. Yeah we’ve had to certainly do a lot, a lot, of that. The way you talk to customers, how we communicate with customers is changing now. We’re doing it like this, Zoom is something we’re doing and there’s a lot more of this. I haven’t been into the office since last year, we’re we’re doing okay. It’s the way we communicate with customers and colleagues needs to change and find out what works. People are pretty adaptable to this type of communication. Change, I think.

Martin: Yes.

Yeah well the thing is, I suppose, it’s kind of enforced so have you put together particular processes? Because I was thinking about doing this, a Zoom sales conversation training or something?

James: Yeah, yeah, we’ve we’ve been working with the sales team over the last year and how we can communicate better with the customer. How would you how you do a factory tour? How do we get someone to do that, because we want people around our facilities, but how do you do that without it being really corporate? Video? We’ve looked at ways of actually getting a virtual tour, get people around our facility virtually? How do we get product in front of someone when we’re not allowed on site? There’s restrictions there. So yeah, I think it’s about adapting how you communicate with customers.

Martin: So how do you speak to them? How do you meet them? How do you get in front of them and find out what they want, really? It is a bit of a changing world isn’t it?

James: Yeah. I think it has forced people to become creative which is refreshing really.

Martin: I suppose it is refreshing and it is a reset but you’re, I understand, that you’re kind of in medical in some way shape or form, you are a, what are they calling it now a crucial business, vital business?

James: Yeah. We provide components into lots of industries, a lot of food and medical industries, so yeah, the factory has to stay open. I think it’s called an essential service or something like that.

Martin: Yeah, yes, yes, yeah. Those are businesses that are probably not affected by this in the way that other businesses are I think?

James: Some are, it depends, yeah some are. Some people that are building things can’t open, they’re not getting orders. Some

Martin: I think, consistent with what you were saying before, and this is kind of what I mean, I’m late to this, I’m not really in the business anymore. I look after my clients, I’m not as engaged with the market, but in these conversations, I think that the most positive thing I’ve heard is where people continue to be talking to their customers because irrespective of what you’re selling their situation has changed. It might be that you just have to adapt the way you engage with those people, but their situation has changed, their needs have changed. This is more, this situation, is more proof of what you’re saying, which is be close to your customer and understand exactly what their needs are.

Martin: Yeah, I think the temptation has, or would have been, for lots of businesses to not want to be selling to people; not understanding that sales is just about understanding their situation and their needs.

James: I think you have to yeah, because people, to start with were saying oh we’ll just do lots of these Zoom types of calls and actually you’ve got to respect other people’s privacy because they’re working from home. They might not want you in their house. We’ve been working on how do you do that then? You can’t just expect that everyone’s going to jump on video calls and and be happy with that, I don’t think everyone is. You have to vary how you communicate with customers. How do they like to communicate with you?

Martin: Yes, yeah. This is something that I’ve always thought, I’ve seen sales trainers teach a selling cycle, selling steps, selling process or a sales process.

James: Yeah.

Martin: Here’s our sales process, what I have always thought, and what I’ve always done is work really hard to understand their buying process, because I can bend my selling process to meet their buying process. It hadn’t occurred to me that people wouldn’t want to, necessarily, be happy to take video calls into their homes. Of course yeah, that makes absolute sense. They don’t want to see you in their office. If you go back to lead generation, when you’re trying to book an appointment to go and see someone, there’s a bit of resistance there; but now you’re saying I want to have an appointment in your front room.

James: Yes. For some people that’s not that’s not comfortable, they’re sharing their space with you, their home. Over here we have homeschooling, schools are closed at the moment, it’s crazy, dogs and cats running around everywhere. My kids come when I’m doing an online meeting or something, I’ve got the kids at home and they know that that’s the best time to come and get money from me. They’re savvy, they’re savvy, they’re like you know can I have three pounds please, don’t come in and ask for a tenner.

Martin: What do they need money for, they’re not allowed to leave the house?

James: Ah well, you can go to essential shops and I live next door to a corner shop that sells sweets Martin.

Martin: Aaaaah that is essential.

James: Absolutely that’s essential.

Martin: Yeah.

All right, cool, so what is the overarching message of this?

James: I think the overarching message is that people have to sell, if you’re in business, you have to be selling; there’s a good way to do it that will benefit you and your customer.

Martin: I don’t know if we’ve resolved anything, I thought we were going to resolve this whole issue but the thing is both of us are saying exactly the same thing; there’s no contention get close to your customers, listen to what your customers need, develop solutions that meet those needs, that’s the job, that’s the gig.

I think it’s a great job and the only thing that’s kind of surprised me in this conversation is that there is channel for people who are clearly equipped to do that in schools, or there’s no career path, is there? There’s a career path for a surgeon, there’s a career path for an accountant, or a barrister, or a nurse, or a designer, or an engineer. There’s a career path if you want to work in your local butchers, you could go out at 14 and get a Saturday job in your local butchers.

James: Instagram influencers, you could probably Google that there’s a career path there.

Martin: Yeah yeah maybe now okay that’s interesting is there anything else you wanted to say I think that’s it no thank you very much for inviting me to talk Martin it’s good to see you again in your sunny location thank you very much I’m a little bit red today I was in the surf this morning

James: I’m happy this week because it’s reaching seven degrees, you know, ridiculous.

Martin: Well let me see I can’t quite, I think it’s still 29 degrees here and it’s 9 o’clock in the evening.

James: Bastard.

Martin: Yeah.

James, thank you so much for this, it has been really cool. I will let you know.

James: Yeah it’s been really cool, thanks buddy.

Martin Henley

Martin Henley

Martin has built a reputation for having a no nonsense approach to sales and marketing and for motivating audiences with his wit, energy, enthusiasm and his own brand of audience participation.

Martin’s original content is based on his very current experience of running effective marketing initiatives for his customers and the feedback from Effective Marketing’s successful and popular marketing workshops.

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