EPISODE 426: Panzura’s Dan Waldschmidt on Strategies for Ultra High Sales Achievement

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers LIVE sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on October 27, 2021. It featured Panzura CRO Dan Waldschmidt.]

Register for the LIVE IES program featuring Arnold Sanow on November 5, 2021 here.

Find Dan on LinkedIn here.

DAN’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “If you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve got Reminders. If you’ve got Google, you’ve got Google Tasks. Here’s my challenge. Go open up your tasks, create a reminder and in just one line, in a sentence, type in “what do you want?” When you set the date, make that reoccurring daily. Set a time that works for you, I like to pick a number that’s quirky and weird. Take a number, say reoccurring daily every day at that time that’ll pop up an alert on your phone to say, “What do you want?” Often, that little reminder is enough to say, “You know what? I’m doing great” or, “I should go in a different direction.” It’s something that can make an immediate impact in your life and will. You can do it right now.”

This episode is sponsored by Cox. To learn more about the exciting sales careers opportunities available at Cox, visit website here.


Fred Diamond: Dan Waldschmidt is a friend of the Institute. When we were first getting started, you were our third speaker that we ever had. The topic was Edgy Conversations. Your book came out a couple years later, you’ve sold over half a million, probably even more than half a million copies. Good for you, congratulations on your success. You’re doing a lot of interesting things right now, you’re the Chief Revenue Officer at Panzura.

Today we’re going to be talking about high achievement, we’re really going to be talking about pushing the limits going to the next level and we’re going to be talking about three things. How you understand what you really want, what is the activity necessary and then something you’re one of the world experts on, the focus to get there. Now, it’s interesting that we’re bringing you on because you are one of only ten people on the planet to do something that no one else has done. Tell us about that, we’re excited to talk to you. You have a great story and you tell it well so let’s get cranking here.

Dan Waldschmidt: Fred, thanks for having me. It’s pretty crazy, you had hundreds of people years ago who were eager to learn how to sell, and not just sell, but at a level of excellence. I like the word in the title, I make the case we’re all in sales whether that’s your job title or not. But excellent salespeople, boy, do they make a difference. Both for their own personal income, satisfaction of life and just the whole transaction. When you engage with an excellent salesperson, it’s one of the things where you leave going, “That was pretty unique, that was pretty awesome.” What you realize too is you spend a little more money with those people, so there’s something to be said about being excellent in sales.

You asked, “You’re the tenth person in the world to do this.” I accomplished something pretty nerdy and difficult at the same time which is the Everesting challenge. The whole Eversting is mount Everest is the highest mountain of the world, 29,009 ft. and a lot of cyclists will find a mountain and climb 29,000 ft. up and down, do that until they completed it. I happened to be in South Carolina, Hincapie is here, who was the point person for Lance Armstrong, and I saw these cyclists doing it, and I thought, I wonder if I could do that? So I just picked a weekend and I completed this run Everest challenge. I think it took me about 25 hours to run a little over 29,000 ft. and achieve this mark.

Then I realized there were nine other people on the planet who had done this, so now I’m number ten. I imagine maybe one or two people have done this in the year since, who knows? Running straight uphill for 29,009 ft., as you might imagine, there’s all kinds of muscles that might not be made for doing that nonstop. But it’s one of those things where if you just put one foot in front of the other, eventually you get there. I think that’s a bit of what we’re talking about today.

Fred Diamond: Absolutely. I’ve been sitting in this chair for 25 hours and I’ve discovered some muscles. No, but seriously, it’s a remarkable achievement. Your book is called Edgy Conversations and you spoke about that at the IES back in 2012 when we were first getting started. You were one of the first guys to push the envelope with that. A lot of people listen to the podcast, Dan, or they watch the webcast and if they’re going to invest 35 to 40 minutes of their time, that’s a commitment right there. You’re committed to your success.

One of the things that we’re most proud about at the Institute for Excellence in Sales is that I’ve got some people who are giving us four hours a week because they want to take their sales career to the next level and we appreciate those people. Hopefully, we’ll see a bunch of them live. The first thing you said is you need to understand, to achieve greatness, to keep going, is to really understand what you want. Let’s talk about that a little bit. What’s some of your advice and how do you help people understand that?

Dan Waldschmidt: This is key. What you want – really want – plays out in your actions. Right now, we’re hearing this a lot. Someone will make a mistake and they’ll say, “Oh, that’s not who I am.” Not to be an asshole here, but maybe that is who you are. Maybe that’s not all of who you are, but that’s a part of who you are and we often find these moments of self-reflection where life comes at us. Major life events, unfortunately, often birth or passing of children, it’s marriage or divorce, there’s these moments where you get confronted with an image of yourself, a reflection, and you go, “Oh, wow. That’s me? How did I get here? Where am I going?” You ask yourself these questions.

My challenge to everyone here today is to not wait till a life event happens. Don’t wait to fix your finances until you run out of money, or don’t wait to try to put together a sales plan until it’s the end of the quarter, you have to do those things now. How do you do that? What’s that step of getting really clear on what you want? Now, I’ve been asked by coaches, and I’ve always had coaches, always been involved in organizations like I4ESBD. It’s because I’m looking for that next level. Even if there’s 99 that don’t add value, there’s that one thing that catapults me to that next level. I’m always looking for that next level.

What you want makes a big difference, because it trains your mind, it focuses your sight, your hearing and your being on going and getting it. If you don’t know what that is, then you find yourself all over the place. By the way, if you’re in sales, here’s what that means. You might be a person who if I look at you on LinkedIn, you’re coming up through someone on my hiring team, they put me in front of you and I’m looking at your resume and I realize, he’s been at seven jobs in the last four years. You’ve been nine places in the last 12 years, what’s going on? You may not have taken the time to really figure out what you want.

Now, how do you figure out what you want? Because you’re probably thinking, “Get off this subject, just tell me how to really find out what I want.” It’s really quite simple, and something you have to do by yourself. This is not a public thing, this is a very private thing. You have to take a moment, and it could just be a simple pen and paper. You sit down in a quiet moment, you don’t need a journal, go grab a piece of computer paper out of your printer. You don’t need anything fancy. You take a moment to sit down and write out a few things.

For example, do you want money, or do you want fame? If you’re in sales, those are often competing. Sometimes complementary but competing. There are sales reps who make great commissions but they really care about the atta-boy, “Good job, you did great.” There’s others that don’t care about that. “Stay out of my way, don’t talk to me, don’t loo at me, I just care about my commission checks being maxed out.” So, what do you want? Are you out for the money? Are you out for the growth? What is it?

Take a moment and write it down, because you’ll waste a lot of time doing things other people think you should do or want you to do, which distracts you from your ultimate goals. It’s only when you have these life events that you all of a sudden are confronted with, I don’t like where I’m at. I don’t like what I see. I want something, I want that next level. And instead of waiting for that moment to happen, my challenge is you could do this today or tomorrow. Sit down with a piece of paper and a pen and start writing out what you want.

Fred Diamond: Dan, a couple things come to mind. One is the famous quote, when is the best time to plan a tree? Either 20 years ago or today. What people don’t realize is they really have the power to make a shift. It’s interesting, though, I’m going to ask you a little bit of a twist here and I know you’re a very introspective guy. I went to work for myself in 2002 and I always knew that I wanted to go work for myself, but I worked for corporations for about 17 years. Actually, I had to be forced, the last company I worked at went out of business and I made the decision, “I’m going to go work for myself.”

When people say they eventually want to start their own company, you’re running a company, you’ve been very successful in many, many things that you’ve done. Do you recommend that if you’re newer in your career, we have a lot of people who are junior, to maybe do 10 years at a large company to understand corporate? Maybe work for a small company if you want to be entrepreneurial? It’s interesting too that as we’re doing today’s interview, we’re right smack in the middle of what they’re calling The Great Resignation. The pandemic has forced people to say, “Do you want to sit behind a desk working for a company?”

I’m curious. Do you make that decision and then jump-shift or do you make the decision and then put a plan in place?

Dan Waldschmidt: It’s a loaded question. Let me answer it from my perspective, how I’ve done it. I’ve always had three goals, three things which are my lens. My lens is I want to do things that are world-changing, big, audacious, that challenge me, not just run-of-the-mill stuff. That’s my own goal. Number two, I want to be surrounded by people smarter than me. My partners, my VPs on my current team right now who report up to me are just some of the smartest people in the world, 25, 30 years of experience from really amazing companies that are way smarter than I am.

That nurtures me because every time I engage with them, Fred, I go, “Oh, wow, I just learned something, that’s pretty incredible.” It makes me smile knowing how smart and accomplished these individuals are. The third thing I challenge myself on, does it nurture my soul? A bit of a vague a target, I’ll admit, in specific times but how does it make me feel? Am I feeling burnt out? Am I grinding out my talent for somebody else?

Now, one of the things that’s important to know as you build your plan around what you want is understanding that you could achieve anything. You can do anything. If you want to start your own company now, do it. If you want to work at a big company your whole life, do that. You can do anything. You’ll do nothing that you’re really proud of unless you take the time to know and specify and kind of declare to the universe what you want.

Let me give you my observation on this, and I know this might sound a little hokey, but it’s helped me generate billions of dollars, buying into the premise that I’m not puling your leg. There’s something special about being really radically clear about what you want. “I want to make $20 million by the time I’m 42.5 because here’s what I want to do with it.” That’s sort of specificity. And in my spiritual life or financial life or emotional life, here are all the things I want to do. Pick a category, fill it in, start working towards that goal.

By specifying that, there’s something about putting that out to the universe that it brings you those things. It’s like when you go to the car dealership and you look at the red car and you like the red car and you get back in your old dumpy car and start driving down the road. You realize, “Gosh, there’s a lot of red cars around me.” Your brain started thinking about this beautiful, wonderful red car and now you notice that red color and the red cars all around.

You wanting that red car didn’t cause everyone with a red car to hop on the road, they were already there. But by you knowing what you want, every part of your being is now focused on, “Oh, my gosh, it’s over here and it’s over here.” You can now go find those things. If you’re not happy with your finances, specify what you’d like. If you’re not happy with your relationships, take a second. What sort of partner do you want to be with? What sort of relationship do you want to be in?

One quick example. A lot of the individuals I hired, I recruited away from really big companies. Dell, HPE, DXC, SAP, really, really big brands. One company that’s IPO-ing this year, I was able to grab a senior level VP to come join me. Even though he gave up equity, shares in a company that’s about ready to IPO, simply because he valued being heard. He valued being part of a team, doing something together, not just having someone on a pedestal saying, “Do this, do this, do this.” That’s what he valued. He saw the opportunity when I presented it that he will have real interaction, real growth opportunity, real opportunity to make a difference, and he jumped into it.

If you know that you want that, “I want to be a part of a team, I want to lead…” Here’s another one. I want to be a CRO someday, I want to be a CEO someday, I want to have my own business one day. Okay, great. What are you doing to get there? Obviously, if you’re watching this, you’re growing these parts of your life but what else can you do? Again, I’m going to sound like I’m scolding, but I’m shocked by the number of people who spend less on coaching and mentoring than they do on their cellphone plan.

They’ll tell you they want to grow, they want to go big, they want to do big things and yet they can’t spend a hundred bucks a month or a thousand bucks a year on a mentor. “I just don’t have it in the budget.” No, you have it in the budget. One, you just don’t know what you want and because you don’t know what you want, it’s not impacting the rest of your life.

Fred Diamond: You really have to be honest with yourself and a lot of people just aren’t quite there yet, that’s why they don’t make the commitment. I like what you just said there, we talk about coaching a lot. As a matter of fact, we actually did three shows recently in the last month on the concept of coaching because I’m a big believer that you have blind spots, you need to get motivated and you need a little bit of a push. You also need somebody to come back and say, “What are you committed to? If you said you’re committed to this, are we doing the right thing?”

One thing we want to talk about next is the activity and the effort to achieve those goals. You kind of made this a science, you’ve brought this together in almost a scientific form. We’re talking today about really taking not just your sales level, Dan, but taking your life to the next level. The first thing we talked about is really understanding, being honest with yourself, and Dan, we could talk about that for five hours.

Dan Waldschmidt: We could [laughs].

Fred Diamond: At the IES we service a lot of companies that are members and sponsors. If you’re working for Amazon, Salesforce, Oracle or those companies, what you really want better be related to reaching your number and exceeding it, it better be pursuing a new marketplace, it better be getting this customer to double their investment with you. I always tell this to people, if you are an employee of a company, you better be committed to helping that company achieve its goals because that is really the function of the organization.

Let’s presume that people made this decision. Now, let’s talk about activity. Again, you’ve made it a science, let’s spend the next few minutes talking about

Dan Waldschmidt: Once you know what you want – and again, we’re all going to do this or if we haven’t done it recently, we’re all going to go do this. Now we have to go do something about it. Often whether I’m CEO in my previous job or now CRO in a capacity, I have lots of people coming up to me. One of the things that’ll happen in an interaction is they’ll say, “Dan, I did this and this and this, and this doesn’t work.” Perhaps some of you have listened in on an episode or two of one of these trainings and you’re like, “Oh, Fred, this doesn’t work. I’ve tried it, doesn’t work.”

My response back now is, and I wrote a little bit about this in Edgy Conversations, nothing works if you don’t work. When you think about work, think about it in three ways. Let’s set the premise right up front. Most things worth accomplishing, most goals – those things are all on the what you want. If you’re honest and really put down what you want, it’s going to take a lot of work. Know that going into this, it’s always going to take more work than what you think of it now. That’s okay, don’t be bothered, don’t stop to question that.

Just know that effort is going to be the great equalizer. The difference between you and the person you want to be is what you’re willing to do to get there. I know that sounds overly cliché and something you put on TikTok, Instagram or Snapchat or whatever tools we’re using today, but really, the difference between where you are and where you want to be is what you’re willing to do about it. What are you willing to do about it?

Let’s talk to my newbie. If you’re a newbie and you’re listening, I’ve got hope for you. The fastest way for you to grow is to put in massive amounts of effort. I am sorry, but there is no other antidote to ignorance and naivete and lack of experience besides getting it. Experience is what you get just after you need it. Let’s just talk about this, you’re going to need to fail, have someone teach you and then now you know how to do it. How do I sell? How do I close? How do I engage, how do I prospect, how do I communicate up and out? How do I do all of these things? “I don’t know what to do and I wish I knew what to do.”

It’s okay, because you’re going to do the best you can and you’re not going to not work. You’re going to put in the work and then you’re going to use what worked or didn’t work to help you do it better. I just have to be candid, most of us aren’t putting in enough work. We say, “Dan, you don’t understand, I’m not just 9 to 5, I’m like 8 to 6.” I’m sorry if you’re new, that’s not good enough. It’s not good enough if you have big goals for what you want. If you have mediocre goals, you want to make $100,000 a year, you want to do that forever and always, you’ll be fine. But if you really have goals about greatness and something that you leave a flag planted in the ground, you’ve got to be prepared to work from 7 a.m. till midnight.

Let’s just stop for a second because I know what I’m saying. You might be thinking, “This is crazy, I’m going to get burned out.” A flame doesn’t burn out, a flame never burns out, a fire never burns out. A fire goes out because it loses fuel. Follow me with this for a second, you don’t burn out, you just stop fueling your dream. Which is why point number one matters so much, what is your dream? What is your goal? What is your expectation? What is your finish line? For me, Everesting was 29,009 and a half feet. Getting one inch beyond 29,009. That was my finish goal. What is your goal? What is it that you want? The basic expectation for you to achieve that goal is you’re going to put in lots of work.

I want to clear this up, there’s nothing wrong with hard work. Hard work earns you the right to expect smart work. You often talk to someone who’s a little bit more senior and sometimes I fall into this trap myself now at 42 and having run businesses for the last two decades. I’ll say, “We need to work smart.” I have to stop myself and go, “No, stop.” That person’s 27, that person’s 28, that person’s 22, that person’s in their early 30s. They don’t know how to work smart.

They will when they’re 40, 50 and by the way, everyone says it gets better the older you get and I’m experiencing that. I just screw up less, that’s amazing. My screw ups can be a lot bigger too [laughs] that’s also a problem, but you learn and you grow. You should expect you’re not going to work smart until you’ve worked hard, but once you’ve put in enough time, now you know here’s what I need to do in order to achieve success. The second level is working smart.

Then once you’ve worked hard and you’ve got all that experience, now you’re saying, “Okay, I made this mistake three times, I should do this a different way and work smart.” One of the ways you can work smart is to have coaches and coaching programs and training programs so you’re like, “Okay, I don’t need to run into the brick wall, I should stop before I get to the brick wall, go around, over, under it. I should figure this out by someone instructing me.” The third level.

Fred Diamond: The critical point too there is that once you do enough stuff, and people always say activity isn’t enough, you need to do the right activity. We hear that from sales managers all the time, just making 50 phone calls doesn’t mean anything if you’re calling the wrong person or you don’t have the right script. You’ve got to do a lot of this stuff to see what sticks and things change, too.

I’ll give you an example. At the IES, we’ve wanted this Women in Sales program for a long time. We first had the notion in 2012, we started it in 2015 and we’ve been through three iterations before we finally hit on the right thing. We have this vision to help 1,000 women in sales take their leadership skills to the next level, it’s one of the proudest things that we do but this is the fourth iteration. Gina Stracuzzi, who runs the program, has done a great job figuring it out and we’ve been through three different iterations before this that really didn’t work. But you know what, man? I was looking through our records, we’ve done a lot of stuff and we had a lot of help and things finally hit right.

The third thing that we want to talk about is focus, and that’s something that we spend a lot of time talking about. Number one, you’ve got to decide really what you want, I love that get honest with yourself. Then put the plan in place, figure out the right activities, the right activities also mean coaching, what do you want to get involved with? What training are you going to hire? Who are you going to ask for help? Dan, we did a great session a while ago on just the concept of asking for support. We had a bunch of people who said, “I don’t want to seem weak so I’m going to figure it out myself.” You’re in your 20s, go ask the guys who are 40 and 50 for some advice.

The last thing we’re going to talk about, focus. You’re one of the kings at getting crisp, focused, removing distraction, help us understand how we focus, how we really get honed in because it’s great. What do they say? If you have an idea but no plan, it’s just a hope and hope is not a strategy. Get us focused, help us understand what we need to do to really be crisp and focused.

Dan Waldschmidt: The way to get focused is to eliminate distractions. The way your brain works, the way you’re wired – and neuroscientists tell us this – it’s not about trying to manage more, it is working within the operating system your brain was created and wired to do. There’s a reason why you meditate with your eyes shut, and maybe some earplugs in your ears because it’s not about trying to manage the universe, it’s about trying to eliminate distractions so you can find where you want to go. Focus matters. The way you focus is by eliminating distractions.

Your phone might have an option to turn the screen black and white, to eliminate the pop-ups. For me, I dropped all social media. I’m on LinkedIn but I’m not on Facebook, I’m not on Twitter, I’m not on any other channels even though I had a million followers on Facebook. In think there’s still a page or a group somewhere, a million plus people, it was a distraction. I couldn’t keep creating, I was just giving and giving and it wasn’t my best work. I wasn’t creating anything that I could be proud of so for me, this is my decision, I had to eliminate that distraction.

It might be you need to eliminate the distraction of sell a vehicle, sell a boat or get out of a relationship or change your job, something. As basic as this, Fred, it might be you need to go on to your Google schedule and you put 15 minutes in for meditation at 2 p.m. every day, and you block off two hours a week to work on personal growth and training like at the I4ESBD. There are things that you can do that are free, easy and immediate to help you stay focused. If you know what you want and then put in effort, the real secret sauce, the one thing that gets you across the finish line is just focusing on that every day.

Fred Diamond: Dan, before I ask you for your final action step, I want to touch on something you just said. We’re talking here about greatness, we’re talking about the next level. You said you may need to get rid of a relationship. How much sacrifice do you think people need to give? You climbed 29,000 ft., there’s a lot of sacrifice there. Your body and your time and everything. Again, we could talk about this for hours, I’m only going to give you a minute. How committed do you need to be to these goals to give up a relationship?

Dan Waldschmidt: I’ll say it this way. It’s not what you’re willing to do ultimately that will make you successful, and perhaps listeners have said or even you have heard someone say, “I’ll do anything.” But the hardest thing you might have to do is to eliminate something from your life. It’s not what you’re willing to do, it’s what you’re willing to do without. Are you willing to do without the next generation iPhone that costs $1,000? Are you willing to do without that next latest and greatest thing to be successful?

The bigger your goal, the more the sacrifice. I tell my sales teams every day when we do these stand-up meetings in our leadership, I say this. If you’re not willing to sacrifice for what you want, what you want becomes a sacrifice. Think about that. If you’re not willing to sacrifice for $20 million, your sacrifice someday will be that you do not have $20 million. What did you trade that for? A new iPhone, a new computer, time scrolling around, watching TV shows, catching up the whole Netflix thing? You sacrifice what you really deserve to have, what you really want, for a pain-free or painless sort of existence. That’s just not a world that for most of us, if we’re really honest, that we’d really want to live in.

Fred Diamond: And again, if you devoted the last 30 minutes to this conversation and if you’re not willing to take that level of detail to achieving your goals, then we thank you for your time. Dan, I want to acknowledge you for the tens of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of sales professionals and business owners, people who work for companies that you have influenced and you have motivated and pushed them into areas they typically wouldn’t go.

Again, Edgy Conversations was a book that hadn’t been written, nothing like that had been written before. We had you speak at the IES in 2012 a year or two before the book came out, you were workshopping the idea and it really achieved a lot of value for a lot of people. Kudos to you, congratulations and best of luck again at Panzura. We like to end every Sales Game Changers webcast and podcast with an action step. You’ve given us like 15, 20, 30 great ideas. Dan Waldschmidt, give us one specific action step people should do right now after listening to this podcast or watching the webcast to take their sales career to the next level.

Dan Waldschmidt: If you’ve got your phone, which all of us do have one or two within reach, if you’ve got an iPhone, you’ve got Reminders. If you’ve got Google, you’ve got Google Tasks. Here’s my challenge. Go open up your tasks, create a reminder and in just one line, in a sentence, what do you want? When you set the date, make that reoccurring daily. Set a time that works for you, I like to pick a number that’s quirky and weird. Take a number, say reoccurring daily every day at that time that’ll pop up an alert on your phone to say, “What do you want?” Often, that little reminder is enough to say, “You know what? I’m doing great” or, “I should go in a different direction.” It’s something that can make an immediate impact in your life and will. You can do it right now.

Fred Diamond: Dan, that’s a fantastic idea. Thank you so much for your time. For everybody who watched today’s webcast or listened to today’s Sales Game Changers podcast, thank you very much.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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