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Podcast Pit Stop: Andy Paul on Selling Without Selling Out

Selling Without Selling Out

In episode 93 of Pit Stops to Podium, we sit down with Andy Paul, an accomplished author, host, and coach, known for his book "Sell Without Selling Out" and the Win Rate Podcast. Our primary focus today is "Selling with Authenticity." Andy passionately discusses the significance of genuine connections and intuition-driven sales, highlighting core values such as curiosity, empathy, and generosity in achieving sales success.

Throughout this conversation, Andy provides insights into how these principles shape his approach to sales, ultimately nurturing long-lasting client relationships.

If you’re ready to learn from one of the best, then buckle up and hold on!


Pitstop Highlights

Humanizing the Vendor Experience

Salespeople have become overly scripted, which results in the appearance of them not being interested in the buyer.  A seller's first words to a buyer should be a question, not a pitch.  The goal should be to find common ground, which will open the door to a further conversation.

The Social Network Theory

There are two types of relationships:  strong ties and weak ties.  As an example, in a work context, strong ties are co-workers (people who spend a lot of time around).  In general, you tend to have the same information and knowledge as your strong ties.

When you're buying, you want to consult weak ties so that you can have a fresh perspective on things, instead of living in an echo chamber.  Self-aware organizations know that they need to talk to salespeople in order to help them make the best decision.

Navigating Buyer Perspectives in Complex Sales

Buyers want sellers to help them better understand what their problems are, and what outcomes they can achieve by addressing them.

Connect with Andy



Full Transcript

Brendan:  Hey everyone, welcome to Pit Stops to Podium, the RevPartners podcast where we talk to execs who have competed and won in taking the companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson. I serve as the co-founder and CEO of Rev Partners, and I'm delighted to have with me today, Andy Paul, for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium. Welcome, Andy.

Andy:  Brendan, thank you for having me.

Brendan:  Well, Andy, I think you hold the distinction of having the easiest full name of any guest I've had on the podcast. So I appreciate that, because I didn't have to worry too much about introducing you. So this is a, it's a big win for me.

Andy:  Well, you'd be surprised how many elementary school teachers screwed it up, so

Brendan:  Well, for those who may not know who Andy is, Andy is a author, he's a host of a podcast, he's also serves as a sales coach. And so a few things that be notable to call out from Andy's perspective from a book, sell without selling out. And then he has become he's a host of a new podcast called win rate, which we're really excited about. And so Andy, I'll give the floor to you to share a little bit about maybe that podcast, but also a little bit of your origin story to write and become a coach.

Andy:  Yes. Yeah, no, thank you, right. And I spent a fair amount of time as a salesperson as a sales leader before starting my own company back in the year 2000. Prior to starting my company, I worked with six different startups, I think. I started with a big company selling computer systems. And before I started my own company, I was selling very large complex satellite communication systems, 7, 8, 9 figure deals type things. And working for startups, and I had this track record and skill set that said, look, there's a way for small companies to compete against really big companies and win big deals. And so I started my consulting company to do that and coach other small companies, startups and yeah, mature startups, how to go out and capture big deals and reached a point about 10 years or so ago where I had this urge to write a book and that was my first book. And now I'm hard at work on my fourth book to come out next spring. And then in 2015 started my podcast. Originally it was called Accelerate with Andy Paul then became the sales enablement podcast after the podcast was acquired. And...Yeah, earlier this year, after 1200 episodes of that podcast, decided that the market was changed and we needed something new out there to help people. And so yeah, we've launched this new podcast called the win rate podcast, subtitled the science and art of great selling. So really focus on how do we create a sellers? How do we focus on things that really help us win a higher fraction of the opportunities that we work on? And change the format up a little bit. So it's, it's no longer an interview podcast, but each episode, at least initially each episode is a round table discussion, me and three other guests talking about issues having to do with sales effectiveness, the buyer experience and ultimately win rate.

Brendan:  Well, I think that's to your point, the market has shifted quite a bit and there is a heightened focus on where the leakage is occurring in the funnel. And so driving that conversion rate is going to be ever so more important. So I will definitely be listening in to that podcast as once it comes out. And 1200 episodes with your original podcast, that is quite a feat. I can't imagine that many episodes. That's a labor of love.

Andy:  Well, thank you. Yeah. And this is well, it, it's, yeah, we got very fortunate. Yeah. And that gun, the podcast was acquired three plus years ago. Um, and yeah, it was just, to your point, as you talked earlier in the episodes, you really focused on practical, actionable tips for people. And that's really what I was trying to do. And I just talked to authors and thought leaders and practitioners and just trying to get as many voices as possible, right? As many different perspectives as possible for people listening. Because too much we operate in an echo chamber in this business, especially in the tech side. And I think we lost, we lost focus. We've lost the recipe to some degree. And this is why I wrote my last book, sell without selling out is, is all the data points to the fact that despite the advantages of all the great technologies that exist within sales these days, that arguably we're getting worse at selling, not better. And definitely shouldn't be that way. And I think it's cause again, we sort of fell in love with process and technologies and sort of strayed from saying, look, this is still a human business and the data shows that decisions are made primarily based on the buyer's experience with the sellers. You know, Gartner came out with their latest report on this a few weeks ago at their conference. You know, the nine they gave out. I don't know if you saw the chart. The nine primary factors that influence the buyer selection of a vendor. And I was, I put it up, I speak into a sales group last week and I put that slide up. I said, so tell me what's missing on this list. And people looked at and said, oh, the product's not on that list. Yep, product's not on the list. Price is not on that list. Yep, price is not on that list. It was trust. It was the seller selling in a way that adapts to the way the buyer wants to buy. It was, you know, understanding the buyer's situation, business situation, as knowledge of the customer's industry. It's experience, right? It's not the product. Yeah, the product and price are our table stakes these days. You know, you must have a good product at a good price, competitive product, competitive price. That's the buyer expects that. But that's generally not what moves the needle with their decision. It's how they experience working with you and your company. And this is the big shift that we're trying to address. And I think what's really, the inability in general for sellers to have this perspective and be supported in this perspective is probably the reason that we see win rates so low.

Brendan:  Well, I want to dive into that topic, but before we do, we do have a tradition here at Fist Offs podium and that's getting to know our guests outside of work. So we talked a little about your experience and what inspired you to start writing and ultimately have the podcast. But what are those passions, hobbies you have outside of work?

Andy:  Well, family for one. So yeah, between my wife and I, second marriage for both of us, we've got four kids, adult children, starting families of their own at this point, which is all very exciting. And yeah, my wife and I are avid bicyclists, exercise, swim, walk. So I could be outside a lot, staying fit and travel. I mean, we're now, last couple of years, like a lot of people have been traveling more and more again. And actually we're just heading off to Scotland for two weeks here. Just another day after we record this. 

Brendan:  Oh, that's great. Well, I hope you guys have a great trip. And yeah, I just started on Netflix. They have a Tour de France documentary on if you started that. Okay. I am right now. I'm like on, yeah, I think I'm on episode six. I just got really into it. And I was just really fascinated by, like I've never really watched the tour, but just to see, I mean, one, the endurance and like the grit of the writers, but also the team dynamics is really, really interesting. And I didn't understand how much of a team-based concept that race really is.

Andy:  The thing in the first episode that was striking as I was watching that last night, I was in bed getting ready to go to sleep. And suddenly go, oh, and they showed the crash of Fabio Jacobson. It's like, a, why is he still alive? And, and be the fact he's out doing it again, racing again, and that those tight quarters, because you have to not split up people listening, but you have to, he got maneuvered into a place where there's no more room to go forward. And he just took off in flight and was in ICU for a period of time. So yeah, that's a great documentary.

Brendan:  Yeah, I see them going down these mountains in the later, I guess, middle stages. And it's just like, they're going so fast and there's very little margin for error. And then I also saw like, you know, the clips back in the day, like back in the day, like 20 years ago, maybe, and they're not even wearing helmets. And it's like, what are you guys doing?

Andy:  No helmets. Oh yeah. Yeah. I was a convert back in the day before helmets came popular. I was riding and had a bad accident without a helmet and yeah, bowed. Yeah. Never again.  You know, even like bike share programs in the city and like in city bike in New York city, it's like, yeah, I won't get on unless I have a helmet.

Brendan:  Yeah, well, I'm sure it only takes one time for you to make sure that you don't do that again. So, well, I appreciate you sharing a little bit about kind of your family and some of the hobbies that you do have, and I hope it's a great trip to Scotland. Well, let's go back, let's zoom back into one of the things you were talking about. So you mentioned a little bit of inspiration around selling without selling out and talking through the win rates, you have the art and science, and we probably over indexed your point on the science side of systems process and technology. And like, how do we bring back in the human element to drive the experience? Because that's ultimately what differentiates one vendor from the next. So let's unpack how we can improve that experience. And so I love to start with this concept of really authenticity to drive trust, because that seems to be at the epicenter of how to ultimately win the favor of that vendor to drive that relationship and ultimately to drive the transaction.

Andy:  I mean, I've seen this transition over decades being in this business where from where, certainly when I started in sales, I was encouraged to, you know, we had process and frameworks to sell them. But, you know, I work for people that said, how do I help you become the best version of you? And I think that's morphed over time where it's, hey, we want to use the technology, have you become the best version of perhaps somebody else, right? We're gonna listen to recorded phone calls, we're gonna use our technology, we're gonna track what you're doing.  And hey, try to, yeah, try to be like Mike. And the technologies are used, unfortunately in the wrong hands, they're used to say, look, here's the best example, be like that, as opposed to saying, what can you do, what can you take from this, integrate into what you're doing, and become the best version of you. And so the result is people are sort of showing up in a couple of different ways. One is they're overly scripted, and when they're overly scripted, they're not demonstrating an interest in the buyer and buyers sense that and I think this is one of the real Sort of you have to start at the beginning somewhere where it's something we've changed. It's it's that's you know we teach people to show up and pitch instead of being interested in what's of interest to the buyer and It just starts the relationship and the connection off on the wrong foot and so you know for sellers if you think about is your first words out your mouth should be a question to the buyer, not a pitch. You don't have to ask you, you have a question like, yeah, why are you calling or, yeah, what are you selling? The response should be a question, right? Because you want to start connecting with them. You want to start demonstrating interest in them, because the way you make yourself interesting to other people is to be interested in them. So if you've done some level of preparation on any interaction you have with the buyer, let alone the first one, the goal is to be able to find some sort of common ground that you can start talking about that will open the door to a further conversation.

Brendan:  Yeah, I think that's a good reminder for a lot of folks because, you know, you're kind of alluding to the whole idea of imposter syndrome of being able to do or replicate what somebody else has done. Uh, and that's a really hard space to, to live in. Um, and I think when you talk about having the best version of yourself, it's, um, really how do you leverage what's working for others and incorporate it into how you're wired that kind of breeds into that authenticity that you're describing of bring your natural self and these are these are tools and assets not to replace but to enhance What you have at the foundation?

Andy:  Yeah, and that's really the centerpiece of sell without selling out is this idea. I create this framework, the paradigm is you're either selling out, which is, you know, you're a seller that's the sort of pro-typical salesy salesperson that's all about you and what you need compared with selling in, which is based around these four core innate human skills or attributes that we all have, which is the ability to connect with someone, connection, curiosity, understanding, and generosity. And you know, we connect with people in order to build trust with them. You know, there's a number one thing on Gartner's list, the single biggest influencing factor for buyers is the trustworthiness of the seller. And people, you hear people or you see people read people these days, you know, LinkedIn and other places, going to great lengths to try to say, we don't need this connection with the buyers. They have enough friends. They don't need another relationship. So it's like, yeah, you're missing the point, right? We're just not becoming friends. We're connecting with someone on a human level. We're opening the door to a conversation. And without that connection, you can't build trust. In the absence of trust, you're never gonna win. I mean, I shouldn't say never, because sure, I'm sure there's an exception, a small fraction of exceptions, but by and large, just not going to win. So... Right. So, let me go back to trust for a second, because trust enables curiosity. I mean, it's one you can ask good questions, but...

Brendan:  So let's, you mentioned some of those other core values. So you talk about connection with trust, but there's also, you'd mentioned core values, you have curiosity, understanding and generosity. So what role do they play in that sales process?

Andy:  What you're trying to do is you're trying to get the answers to the questions. And you have to earn the right to get the answers to the questions that you're asking. You have to earn the right to be a little bit nosy, right? To stick your nose into somebody's business, have them feel comfortable giving you information that you need. That's beyond the superficial. You know, unfortunately we train most customers by superficial discovery. We ask superficial questions. We had superficial answers.  So we've gathered data, but it doesn't help us really understand what's really important to the buyer unless we are able to dig deeper so Trust enables curiosity and enables you to get the answers that you need to be able to start to understand them and then again, so much of our Standards are discovery routines we see in playbooks sales playbooks There's about gathering information, but they're lacking context, right?  I mean, how do I understand what's really most important to the buyer? 100 a stand. How do I understand what's really driving the decision? And we sort of set sellers up for failure in this regard. Cause yeah, I'm sure you've heard this is like, Hey, you know, we've got these stages, these linear stages we go through in sales and Oh, we're exiting. The discovery stage. We never exit discovery. I mean, every time you interact with the buyer, one of your goals has to be as to deepen your understanding and deepen your discovery of what's motivating them, what's driving them to make a change. And so when we put it in a box like that, we really put sellers at a disadvantage because they say, oh, okay, I'm done. But you really don't understand, right? You just gathered information. And I'm sure you've had this experience. I certainly have this experience where I've won deals on the basis of the buyer telling me after the fact, well, because I'm so mystified. I know we're a small company competing against big companies, and they said, well, you're the only one that made us feel understood. And that's has so much value to a buyer. And I think even in this age of AI that we're entering into becomes even more critical. Because, you know, one things we do that's sort of a real disservice to sellers, as we sort of teach them say, look, yeah, go into account and we're gonna give them some social proof. So hey, we've worked with dozens of companies just like yours to solve this problem, and what the buyer hears is, We've worked with kind of started like years, but you're not really listening to me. Yes, I get that you work to other companies But we're not like every other company. We've got our own way of doing business. We've got our own perspective, you know, it's like if someone's Sick with the disease and yeah, there could be a hundred thousand people have the same disease But they say well no one feels my pain the same way right? No one's uncomfortable like I am and so we have to get beyond this idea of just sort of as a gathering information, and really make sure we really understand what's the customer's unique perspective they're caring about their business, and how's that mesh with what they're really trying to accomplish in their business. If we understand those things, then as a seller, it gives us this differentiation in the eyes of the buyer because we understand, and they appreciate the fact we made the effort to understand them.

Brendan:  Yeah, I think that whole point of understanding earns the right to be heard. Where does, and then how about generosity? Where does that come into play as that kind of wrapper to this idea of core values?

Andy:  Well, it's about being deliberate and helping the buyer make a decision. So deliberate in terms of understanding what you need to be able to give them at any one point in time to enable them to make progress toward making their decision. So in the book, I define what value is in the eyes of buyers and because it's a term we toss around all the time in sales, right? Create value, deliver value, add value, blah, blah. Value is just progress, right? If I as a result of you interacting with me, you're now closer to making a decision. You've made progress or make a decision. Doesn't matter big or small, but you've made progress or making that decision. That has value for you as a buyer. And that's the bottom line. As a result of any interaction we have with a buyer in which they're investing their time and their intention in us, have we enabled them to move closer toward making their decision? If we can't know that ahead of time that we're going to do that, then we're not only wasting their time, we're wasting our time as well.

Brendan:  I like that. And final lap question for you, I guess, there are really two, but the first one would be, you know, for our audience listening and says, hey, I'm totally bought in on that concept. Like we have over indexed. We need to get more into the experience and kind of art, if you will, of the buyer journey of empowering the rep to be that authentic human self to drive trust through understanding and what not.  How do we make sure that we don't go all the way on that side and say, well, hey, these scripts do have value. This technology does have value. The process that we put in place is informed by the buyer's journey. And to your earlier point about the podcast to help drive win rates. So how do you, how do you merit, how do you create the right in marriage between. You know, the art and the science.

Andy:  Well, track your results in that regard, right? I mean, ask the buyer. This is where it starts. And yeah, one of the sponsors of our podcasts the win rate podcast is closed a company that does win-loss analyses That platform for that so you can you know do self-serve as well as have in-depth qualitative interviews That's that's where you have to start as a company is if you don't understand what your buyers Experiences with you then it's gonna be really hard-pressed to improve that experience so you have to have to have established baselines, so Even take it to the extent if you're a hiring manager you really should have this perspective that if you're feeling that the jobs to be done theory is I think buyers quote unquote hire sellers to help them make a decision. And in that case, you're sort of like a consultant to them. And we all often talk about this consultant of selling, but we all really are. So what do they need you to be to help them make that decision? 

Brendan:  That reminds me of, you know, we work with a company called Storybrand and their whole framework is the customer is the hero. And you, your role as the part, like your guide, that kind of speaks into what you're describing is what our role is in that engagement is to be that guide to give them clarity of current state, future state and help that customer experience that desired outcome.

Andy:  Yeah, years ago, maybe 50 years ago at this point, sociologists developed this theory called the social network theory, which said that we serve two types of relationships in the world. We've got strong ties, weak ties, strong ties being, you know, friends, but in a work context, it's your co workers, people you spend substantial amount of time with. And what they found is that people that have strong ties acquire what they call redundant knowledge, meaning they all know the same stuff. So when you're looking as a company, you're looking to make a change in your business, well, you need people that you have weak ties with, salespeople, to come in and ask you questions that you don't know to ask yourself because you all know the same information. And so you see that self-aware organizations say, yeah, it's not that they want to talk to salespeople, they need to talk to salespeople in order to make sure that they're gonna make the best decision.

Brendan:  Yeah, I think that speaks to the echo chamber you talked about earlier of having outside voices to speak into whatever may be to understand you have blind spots. And so to have that third party come in and give you that clarity and perspective that you otherwise wouldn't have. I think it's a really good way to think through the role and the value of a salesperson. Because oftentimes it can be a very negative connotation, but this is a way to elevate that profession.

Andy:  Right, well, yeah. Well, I mean, yes. Yeah, certain things. It's like we recreate the wheel every generation of new sellers that come in. But yeah, it starts with the buyer. But I think it's one thing that we do at the service of sellers is we get all this data out there that says, look, buyers are 75% of the way through their buying process. Before they talk to sellers the first time. Everybody's heard that stat. And I think probably it's, nothing can be further from truth probably. In the sense that yes, they've done the investigation, but what they're asking sellers to do is help them figure out what, not two things really, help them better understand what the problems they are, they have that they're facing, and what the outcomes are they can achieve by addressing their problems. If they knew those things, well then there'd be no need at all to talk to salespeople. And, but I think that, you know, anything with, uh, not all products, obviously, but products with any degree of complexity. Buyers need this help from sellers. They look for this help from sellers. This is part of the experience is can you help me better understand what it is we're trying to accomplish? And this is a little bit of a challenge or sale type situation because they have their own perspectives, but they're looking for you to help them better understand things. And yeah, if you get sellers that think, look, oh, they're 75% of the way through, then my job is just to pitch them to make sure they buy my product as opposed to, hey, let me shape their sort of vision of what it is they're trying to accomplish.

Brendan:  Yeah, and by that paradigm shift actually achieves a desired outcome, which is ultimately for them to leverage your product or services. So both parties win in that scenario. Well, Andy, as we wrap up, if our audience wants to engage with you either from a coaching perspective or they want to read one of your books or even listen to the new podcast, what's a step they can take?

Andy:  Sure. Well, connect with me on LinkedIn. Um, very easy to find all over LinkedIn. I can visit my website andy and yeah, my books are available on Amazon, any place you buy books. And I said, the podcast will be on new podcasts, be it iTunes, Spotify, usual platforms, just like yours.

Brendan:  Well, I'm looking forward to this podcast launching. I know it's gonna be a lot of value to our community and I really appreciate you stopping by.

Andy:  Hey Brendan, thank you for having me.

Brendan:  Alrighty, I'll talk to you.

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