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Podcast Pit Stop: Josh Braun on Customer Engagement for Successful Deals

Customer Engagement for Successful Deals

In episode 101 of Pit Stops to Podium, we sit down with Josh Braun, a former Head of Business Development at Basecamp and the Co-Founder & CEO of Sales DNA. Josh's expertise lies in aiding sales leaders, CEOs, and founders to build systems that consistently secure meetings with qualified buyers. Known for hosting the Inside Selling Podcast and creating the Badass Growth Guide, Josh is a seasoned thought leader in sales strategy.

Throughout this episode, Josh delves into customer engagement for successful deals, exploring pivotal sub-topics that redefine sales tactics. From selling without sounding salesy to deciphering why people buy (and why they don't), he navigates strategies like being a red X in a sea of white circles. With valuable insights on personalization versus relevance, overcoming sales objections, and breaking through the zone of resistance, Josh offers actionable advice to revolutionize sales approaches and drive success.

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


Pitstop Highlights

Enhancing Customer Engagement for Mutual Success

You have to shine a light on a meaningfully different idea about a problem that your prospect doesn't know about.  If not, then your outbound message will get lost in a sea of other messages that are very similar to it.

The 'Red X' Strategy for Product and Service Enhancement

The first step is to understand how a company is currently doing things (what tools they're using) and what problems arise from those particular tools.  Then, you ask a question to shine a light on a possible solution.

The purpose is not to pitch a product or service, but rather to come from a place of inquiry.

Rethinking Objections in Selling

The very nature of outbound sales is resistance because everyone knows that sales people have a vested interest.  But getting a "no" shouldn't be looked at as an objection, or something that needs to be overcome, but rather just the other person telling the truth about something.  They key is that salespeople need to go in expecting to not win over a prospect.

Salespeople need to "drop the sword" and move in harmony with the objections as a normal part of the sales process.

Connect with Josh



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 their companies from high growth to high scale. My name is Brendan Tolleson and I serve as a co-founder and CEO of RevPartners and I'm delighted to have with me today Josh Braun for this episode of Pit Stops to Podium. Welcome, Josh.

Josh:  Thanks for having me.

Brendan:  Well, Josh, this is a fun one. Sharing a little bit with you earlier that I feel like I know you, even though we've never talked before, because I've followed your content for years now and you inspired a lot of how we went to market with RevPartners. So this really is a privilege and a delight to have this conversation. So thanks for coming on board.

Josh:  Appreciate the opportunity.

Brendan:  Well, Josh, for those that may not know who you are, this is a platform for you to share a little about what you do today, and maybe a little bit of the backstory for our audience to know how you got to be, you know, I'll call you a social media influencer, or one that can really speak into the sales process.

Josh:  Yeah, so I had been selling for about seven years, reading all the traditional sales books and thought it was my job to talk people into buying. In 2007, I landed a meeting with one of our whale accounts, which was the Dish Network I was selling for Jellyvision, which was a small boutique digital agency in Chicago. And that meeting went so well that we had subsequent meetings over the course of a month or so, which eventually led us to flying out to Englewood which was Dish's headquarters and actually pitching the executive team, my boss and I, Amanda Lannert. And that pitch, while we were doing it, every executive was like nodding their head. And afterwards, Carol, who headed up Digital Strategy, told us that we knocked it out of the park. And we're like high-fiving each other on the plane on the ride home, thinking that this is gonna be a monster deal. A few weeks later, I reach out to Carol to follow up for next steps, and she doesn't get back to me.  So I call her, don't hear back, call, email, call, email, nothing, nothing. And that deal never closes. And I never find out why until a couple of years later, when I see on LinkedIn that she got a new job, hit her up on the DM, which leads to a phone conversation. And of course on the phone call, I say, hey, what happened to that deal? And in a rather nonchalant matter of fact way, she said, oh, we just did it internally. And then I said, well, how come you didn't let me know?  And I'll never forget what she said to me. She goes, I was afraid of you. I go, afraid of me? I can't even bench 125 pounds. I'm like, what's, what's her to be afraid of? She goes, I was afraid you were gonna try to talk me into going with you. You were kind of persuasive back then. And I thought it would just be easier to just not say anything and disappear. And it was at that moment that I learned that persuasion backfires. That there's a time for it, but it's not at the beginning of a relationship with the prospect. The goal is not to actually talk people into buying at the beginning, it's actually develop trust. Because without trust, you end up being ghosted. Without trust, you end up taking a long time to lose. Without trust, you sort of don't know where you stand. And so I've devoted my entire career starting at that point into how to not persuade people, but how to get them to lower the zone of resistance that people typically have around salespeople, because they know salespeople have a vested interest. And that's what I've devoted my career to since then.

Brendan:  Well, yeah, I love this story, the power of storytelling, but also to take that experience and to not only learn from it, but ultimately to help others grow as a result of that. And it's a bit of a paradigm shift to your point, because it feels like most oftentimes what you're told is to be persuasive in sales, and you're saying, you should in fact do the opposite. And I want to unpack that further. That actually gets into our big idea. But before we do that, Josh, I'd like to take a moment to pause, and we do have a tradition here at Pit Stops to Podium and that's to get to know our guests outside of work. So when you're not helping sales reps, how are you spending your time?

Josh:  I like to bike, swim and run. I do these triathlons. I also enjoy playing the guitar and reading, listening to music.

Brendan:  What about the bench press? Have you picked that up yet since that dish network is?

Josh:  You know, it's a problem. It's a problem. You can see I got to work on it. I got to work on it.

Brendan:  Yeah, I feel like with triathlons, that's probably not the best thing to be doing in your spare time as well. So, well, that's fine. Well, Josh, let's transition into what some of the things you were just talking about when you said, hey, what's the right way to approach sales? You talked about how to teach them not to be persuasive. So I really want to park on this whole idea of how to drive customer engagement to ultimately create win-win outcomes. And maybe we should start really around this idea of why do people buy and why they don't buy? Because I think that will set the contextual layer as we move forward in the conversation.

Josh:  Yeah, so the best way that I can do this is by telling a short little story that happens to be true. So several years ago I was in the mall with my wife and I did not need anything. We were just there, she was shopping or returning something. We were going to grab dinner at True Food, which is a restaurant in the town center mall in Boca. And to just kill some time, I walked into a Fit to Run store. So if the store associate said, what brings you in today? What do you think I would have said?

Brendan:  Um, I'm just looking around.

Josh:  I'm just looking around. If she said, can I help you? What do you think I would have said? I'm good. If she said, we just got in these new Brooks sneakers and man, are they lighter than any sneaker Brooks has ever made. Can I show them to you? What do you think I would have said?

Brendan:  Sure.

Josh:  Remember I wasn't needing sneakers. So what do you think I might've said?

Brendan:  No thanks, not interested today.

Josh:  Not interested. But she didn't do any of those things. She looked down at my sneakers. She said, are you a runner? I said, yes. She goes, are you training for any races? And I said, actually I am. Training for my first half marathon. And then she said, you've probably had a running gait test.  And I said, what's that? And moments later, I'm on a treadmill in the store. I could actually send you a video of this if you wanna put it in the show notes. She freezes the frame as I'm running on the treadmill and she zooms in on my ankles. And she goes, notice how your ankles are over pronating when you run. And I said, so? And she goes, well, the problem is if you run in sneakers that are not made for pronated feet, you increase the chances of getting plantar fasciitis and runner's knee, which can sideline you for your race.  Sometimes plantar fasciitis can last anywhere from three months to like a year. If you'd like I could take a look at your sneakers to see if they're made for pronated feet. And about seven minutes later I'm spending 180 dollars on new sneakers and insoles. So from an outbound perspective the moral of the story is no matter what you sell people are running in sneakers today. And so what ends up happening oftentimes when people go to market is they pretend that people don't have sneakers and they're starting to sell their brooks sneakers, which is why they hear all the time, I have a vendor for that, I'm not interested. So the magic superpower here is you have to shine a light on a meaningfully different idea about a problem that your prospect doesn't know about. Otherwise, you're sort of a vanilla scoop in a sea of vanilla scoops, and that's where most outbound go-to-market messages fail, because they're trying to sell faster Brooks sneakers.

Brendan:  Well, I love that story, and I think it's really a powerful way to capture that idea. And oftentimes you talk about that as this whole concept of being a Red X, right? And so how, when you start telling, hey, if I'm a rep or a manager and I'm saying team, we have to know they already have Brooks shoes, right? Or they already have some solution to Brooks, or some solution to the running shoes. How do they, similar to that associate at the store. How do they take that same concept and apply it into their product or service?

Josh:  I'll give you a concrete example. So I have a podcast like you do. Well, let me ask you a question. I don't, we've not talked before this. So let's imagine I'm calling you. Hey, you know, typically I hear that podcasters are using a couple of different tools to edit and promote their podcast. They're usually like a Riverside FM to record their podcast. And maybe they're using like Apple logic or Adobe Audition to edit, and then perhaps they're using something like a headliner or like a rev to sort of make little promo clips and add subtitles. How are you going about editing and promoting your podcast today?  What tools are you using?

Brendan:  Is that a question or are you hypothetical? Yeah, we use Riverside as our tool for recording and then we use, I'm trying to, Igor could probably give me a better answer on the tools we use for clips and promotional purposes, but there are two or three other tools we have in the portfolio.

Josh:  What are those tools, Igor? Specifically.

Igor:  Actually we added it on Premiere, Premiere Pro, and then we add subs using Descript, and that's pretty much it.

Josh:  So if I'm using Adobe Premiere Pro, that's how they're currently doing it today. And you mentioned a little bit about Descript, but if I'm selling Descript and someone's not using Descript, maybe they're using a Premiere Pro or a headline or a sub titles, after I learned the current way, I have to have a hypothesis about the terrible, no good, very bad thing that happens if they keep doing it the current way. So if you're using tools like Premiere Pro, typically in order to edit a waveform, and Igor would probably know this, you kind of go into the waveforms if we made a mistake, and you got to edit the waveforms. If you mispronounce a name, you got to re-record the name. It's a rather cumbersome process to remove ums and ahs. If you're using another tool to add subtitles, that's another tool, and that could also take substantial time. And then if you're using another tool to make little promotional clips, like you have to go into Premiere Pro and create separate clips, that's also some time. Now with Descript, all of that goes away. With Descript, you could edit a podcast like a Word doc. So after I find out the current way, I might simply say, have you thought about using a technology that would allow you to edit your podcast like a Word doc?  I'm gonna presuppose that you've actually heard of this thing that I'm selling, but I'm gonna create contrast between what you have and what you wanna stop doing. But to answer your question, I gotta know at a very crispy or detailed level, which is what I was saying, I was naming the tools. Are you using like Riverside? I gotta know the current way and what the problem is with the current way. What's the potential problem? It might not be a problem to the prospect, but I gotta have that hypothesis.  What is the Achilles heel of the current light? And from there, we're gonna simply ask a question to shine a light on what's possible. Hey, you guys have probably considered using Descript and no other tools. Like I'm gonna ask Igor that right now because I'm kind of curious, Igor, why he's using, why he's using, Igor, you've probably considered just using Descript only and not Premiere Pro. Now watch what I'm gonna do. I'm gonna shut my mouth and let Igor answer.

Igor:  Yes, yes I did, but I usually do a little cleaning up on the audio before using Isotope, and sometimes I have to use Audition to edit the audio to do some cuts that we need, and I don't feel that the script allows me to work on the audio with the options that I need.

Josh:  Let's just pause for a second. Look at how much different that is than their traditional sales approach of. The reason that I call is to share this breakthrough tool with you called Descript. It turns out, guess what? Igor is familiar with Descript. Why? Because he edits podcasts. It's the same thing with your prospect, no matter what you're selling, even if it's commission software. Now it's possible that I know something that Igor doesn't know about Descript. Because I might say, hey, Igor, when was the last time you looked at Descript?

Igor:  Today, this morning.

Josh:  So if there's no problem and there's no Delta and we can't solve that problem, there's no reason for Igor to want to switch fully over to Descript. However, sometimes there is that Delta and the person doesn't know what's possible. But in this case, there isn't. So there's nothing to sell here. But notice what I didn't do. I didn't pitch anything. I'm coming from a place of inquiry. I'm thinking like a scientist. I'm going to presuppose and I'm gonna get a lot of information from him.

Brendan:  Ya, Igor is not a moron, so that's good. But yeah, I like the idea that you, to your point, have a hypothesis, you need to understand and know their current, have an opinion and know what the tools are for those specific categories and to be able to shine a light to your point of current state, mays, desired future state or potential problem. And I would imagine that shining that light probably helps from an objection perspective. So in this example, Igor mentioned, hey, I looked at today, so Descript is not necessarily a great tool for me.  But when you're working with clients and you understand what those objections are and you know the future state, you're able to actually attack that in a much more effective fashion.

Josh:  So I don't believe in the word objections. Let me tell you a little bit about why that is because objections is this word that makes you feel like you are a trial lawyer trying to overcome an objection. Salespeople, when they hear that word, there's this visceral reaction of, this is something I have to overcome.  Igor using Descript is not an objection, that's the truth. That's not an objection. When someone says I'm using something for this, I'm using running sneakers, I have Brooks running sneakers, that's not an objection, that's the truth. But what happens is salespeople think, I gotta overcome that. So I like to call this a different word. And again, I'll just tell a short two minute story. Most resistance that you hear on a cold call is what the salesperson is saying before the resistance comes. Because if I were to say to Igor, I got this new product called Descript and it's a breakthrough in editing podcasts, he's gonna say, I'm not interested because he already knows what it is. He's already using it. But if I were to say, hey, Igor, I know most people are using a couple of different tools. What tool are you using? He's gonna answer it like he answered it. He's gonna say, well, I'm using this and that. How's that been going? When was the last time you looked into Descript?  And maybe there's an opening there or not. Here, I'll give you an example, Brendan, of this in a crystal clear way. And we haven't rehearsed this. You just answer it how you wanna answer it. Brendan, the best flavor ice cream in the world, bar none, is pistachio. Don't you agree?

Brendan:  No.

Josh:  Okay, now watch this. That's what a salesperson will call that an objection. They're disagreeing. Now watch this. Brendan, I know that the most popular flavor ice creams are vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. What's your favorite flavor?

Brendan:  Chocolate.

Josh:  Very difficult for Brendan to say no.  And what salespeople do is they come at prospects with statements like that all the time. So resistance often happens because of what the salesperson is saying. Look, resistance is also a natural part of the sales process. Look, if I go to the dog park, I have a little dog and I expect there to be no poop in the lawn at the dog park. I am going to be very disappointed because the nature of a dog park is poop.  If I go to a family friendly restaurant and I expect to have a romantic dinner, I'm gonna be disappointed because the nature of a family friendly restaurant is loud kids running around and parents ignoring them. The nature of sales, especially outbound is resistance because it's a salesperson and everyone knows salespeople have a vested interest. The nature of sales is prospects ghosting you. The nature of sales is you're going to lose deals that prospects said you would win.  If we go into sales not expecting those things, that's like going to a dog park, not expecting there to be poop. But if we go into sales thinking, my objective is to not only serve, but to move in harmony with the nature of sales, it changes everything. Surfers don't look at waves and say, that wave was rejecting me. Good and bad waves are all part of the same experience. We just kind of take it as it comes. And when you have that mindset and intent, prospects can feel it. They don't feel the push. I call it dropping the sword. Because salespeople come and they bring a sword and they try to overcome objections. I mean, if you're selling an iPod in 2011, the people that are running with portable music, they're already using portable music players. So if someone says, I'm using a diamond Rio 300, the traditional sales approach is, I understand how you feel.  Most people that were using a diamond Rio felt the same way. But what they found was when they moved to an iPod, it was so much better. And that's gonna create resistance versus I'm using a diamond Rio 300. Smart move. Those guys pretty much were first to market in the portable music space. They kind of invented the wheel that makes it easy to skip songs. What's been your experience with the Rio?  How's it been going for you? And then you might simply say, hey, I know when that device came out, it has 32 megs of memory, which means it holds about 30 minutes of music. How are you dealing with that when you go on your longer two hour runs? Are you like listening to the same songs over and over again or are you changing them out like once a week?  You've probably looked into the iPod.  Well, I have and it wasn't for me. Oh, it sounds like the value wasn't there for you. Or what's the iPod? You see it's a different approach. You're thinking like a scientist. You're sort of moving with the ocean versus fighting it.

Brendan:  Yeah, there's a lot of impact there. I like the challenge on the idea of objections and thinking of it more as resistance, I think is the way that you would turn that. Putting the sword down and really coming, walking alongside the prospect. And to your point, the scientific method, whatever you want to use, but just a way of showing curiosity and trying to help them see the problem as opposed to telling them there's a problem. It allows for that.  I would call it more of a dialogue versus a monologue. And you ultimately have that ability to help spotlight it and ultimately help them see a better future state because you've earned their trust to your original point.

Josh:  But I wanna make one subtle difference, and this was really beautifully illustrated with Igor. When you think it's your intent to talk everyone into buying, what ends up happening is I would try to convince Igor to get rid of all those tools and just use Descript. If there's no problem, your solution has no value. So the idea here is it's not your job to talk everyone into buying. Your job is to shine a light on a potential problem, to see if that problem resonates with the prospect, and then to be curious about how they're responding without actually attaching yourself to any desired outcome. It's almost like you're sort of, there's like an indifference about it. I mean, I'll sort of illustrate this, you know, one more time. So this is, so for my business, I'm a sales trainer and coach. Hey, Josh, and I get calls like this all the time. We'd love for you to come out and train our team.  The traditional approach is, let me tell you about myself. I've been in sales for 25 years. I've worked with companies like Snowflake and HubSpot and Zendesk. I've written a book, I got a podcast, and I can surely help your team. That sort of traditional approach is, let me tell you how great I am. If you're indifferent, you might simply say something like this. What's motivating you to wanna look at a trainer now?  And then you might say, you guys have been individual contributors. It looks like you sell into HR, specifically benefits directors. Wouldn't it be easier and less expensive for you guys to train them versus bringing someone like me in? I'm expensive.  Right? It's sort of like it's an indifference. You're not so needy. You're kind of an equal stature. You're gonna make them work for it a little bit versus the traditional sales approach, which is I better not sell you on me.

Brendan:  Yeah, I like that a lot. Well, Josh, I could listen to you all day. I really appreciate you coming on the podcast for our, in your best indifferent approach. What's the next step our audience can take if they wanna learn more about you, your coaching training, or just some of the content that you put out?

Josh:  LinkedIn's good and then my website

Brendan:  All right, Josh, really do appreciate the time, like I said. Let's definitely stay in touch, and our audience, I'm sure, will be reaching out to learn more from you.

Josh:  Thanks, Brendan.

Brendan:  Thank you. 

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