EPISODE 127: Kaiser Permanente Sales Leader Matt Chubb Knew the First Year of his Sales Career Would be Make or Break so Here’s What He Did to Excel
MATT’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “It’s never crowded going the extra mile. Don’t be afraid of hard work, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile for your customers, prospects or clients.”
Matt Chubb is the Executive Director of Sales at Kaiser Permanente in McLean, Virginia.
Prior to coming to Kaiser Permanente, he was with a third-party administrator that was owned by Blue Cross.
He is a graduate of Virginia Tech.
Find Matt on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: Today we’re interviewing Matt Chubb at a Kaiser Permanente facility in McLean, VA and it’s beautiful. I’ve walked on the way to get to this conference room to do today’s interview past a pharmacy, we passed an optometrist location, there’s a ton of things going on here. Tell us what you sell today and tell us what excites you about that.
Matt Chubb: We sell healthcare solutions to commercial businesses, so any group with two or more employees. It could be a mom and pop shop to a national account, similar to a CVS. We sell any and all of the above, and again you got to walk through our building so how we sell, we are the leading quality provider of healthcare in this marketplace. We enjoy selling every day and bringing people the best product to market.
Fred Diamond: Tell us what excites you about that. What got you into this particular space and what gets you excited about selling healthcare services today?
Matt Chubb: For me, it’s all about competition. It’s a highly competitive marketplace, I am a little bit of a competitive junkie. What that means is I compete on everything I do, I still play indoor soccer at the age of 41, I’m constantly competing. I compete with my wife, I compete with my kids, I’ve always been that way. I grew up playing sports, football, basketball, soccer and just as always been hyper-competitive, so it just fits into what I do because we compete on each and every group with a very highly competitive marketplace with a lot of great competitors. It’s a great fit for me, I get up every day saying it’s my chance to win.
Fred Diamond: We’ll talk about that as we go through the interview today. Take us to the beginning of your career, how did you first get into sales as a career?
Matt Chubb: Again, back at Virginia Tech I took an Intro to Sales class. It was not just about how to sell but about the industry and I got a lot of “make your own schedule”, very flexible, not having to be in an office 8:30 to 5:00. A great chance in terms of increasing your compensation over and above a normal compensation plan, that really got my attention probably my junior year at college. I decided, “I’m going to go marketing and move that way.”
I interviewed at lots of organizations, Virginia Tech was very kind to me to be able to do that and I was able to pick one – New England Financial – where I sold not just healthcare but also pension plans, dental plans, things like that. I had visions of (the movie) Wall Street, Gordon Gekko and so forth. That’s how I got into it and then again fell in love with the competitiveness of it, competing every day.
Fred Diamond: What are some of the key lessons that you took away from some of those first few sales jobs?
Matt Chubb: I would say preparation is key, I learned that pretty quickly. Just going in and winging it is not a successful strategy, I learned that pretty quickly. Two hours for every 30 minutes from a presentation standpoint needs to be put in, make sure researching those companies via Google or whatever search engine you need, make sure you know as much about them as possible, I think that helps. I think hard work does pay off, I learned that as well. I think just going through the motions will not make you successful, I think it does pay off, I think I have shown that. That’s a big lesson I learned, too.
Fred Diamond: Tell us a little bit more about you specifically, tell us a little bit about your area of brilliance. What exactly are you an expert in?
Matt Chubb: What I would say is I learned very quickly I needed to get in front of clients to have a chance to influence them. We sold a very complex product with New England and Great West, both with 401Ks and self-funded medical plans. Without getting in front of clients was very limited chance of selling, you learn that pretty quickly. I think I excel both in getting in front of clients but also once I get in front of them, just being able to influence and help drive the sale. I think I learned that pretty quickly.
Fred Diamond: What are some of your little tips and tricks about ensuring you get enough meetings?
Matt Chubb: We work through a lot of third parties, insurance brokers and consultants, I would come in and say, “Let me mock role play this to show you what I would do. I’m not going to embarrass you.” I would say things like, “I can be your assistant, I can be anybody because again, you deal with 40 different products, I deal with 1, I’m the product expert. Let me come in and do what I do.” What I would do is go through it with them and they would say, “Matt is not going to embarrass me, he’s not going to try to steal a client, he’s not going to go behind my back” and I’m in this for long term. I think I’ve shown that with 19 years now in the business.
Fred Diamond: Matt, we’ve had a lot of Sales Game Changers that we’ve interviewed for the podcast that come from technology, professional services, hospitality, media. You’re one of the first guys that we’ve interviewed that have been in the healthcare space. Can you tell us a little bit about selling in this particular space? You mentioned it’s competitive, obviously people listening are probably using some type of health plan, if you will, the listeners around the globe. What is it about selling this, what are some of the unique things about selling healthcare systems or solutions that we need to know about?
Matt Chubb: I would say the complexity of it. We not only go out and sell, but we build the plans for the groups. If you’re using a plan through your employer, it’s been built by a sales executive at some point or another or account manager. We essentially build the plans that are sold, so the co-pays, the deductibles, the out-of-pockets, all that fun stuff that none of us really like to talk about, we live in and deal with it day to day. We eat, drink, sleep it so I’m all of that. What I would say is it’s just highly complex, like I said, the market is so competitive especially here in the mid-Atlantic, really great competitors that will challenge you to be the best that you can be to be successful.
Fred Diamond: You mentioned 19 years in this space. Who’s an impactful sales career mentor? I’m sure you’ve had a couple along the way, tell us about one or two and tell us how they impacted your career.
Matt Chubb: First and foremost, my first boss at New England who recruited me into New England. What I would say is just constant role playing was the secret to my success which led to being able to get in front of clients. I would say every day there was a different role play, so by the time I got into market it was easy, because it was so hard internal and the ability to come back after those early meetings and say, “This happened and this happened and I didn’t get this.”
Just being able to run ideas off and get some feedback was great, that first year is so important for a sales executive. Your first 12 months, I think it’s make or break so the person decides, “I can do this” or, “I can’t.” I think at that point in time I said, “I can do this. I can accomplish the goals I want to accomplish, be the best in the market, work where I want to work, do what I need to do, make the money I need to make” because of that.
I’d say also more recently here at Kaiser, I’ve had a leader that has really pushed me to be better. I had hit a spot in my career where I said, “I’ve got it. I know everything there is to know in my head.” I was the man and I tell this story a lot, but I said, “I think I’m ready for the next step” and the person said, “I’m not sure you are” which is not the feedback you always want to hear, you have two choices. You can either accept that and leave or you can accept that and get better. I chose to accept that and get better, when it came down to it there was 21 points I had to get better on, so we worked on all 21 of those points. What I would say is being able to develop and have difficult discussions with my leadership has really helped me get better.
Fred Diamond: That’s powerful, we’ve heard that story a couple times along the way of the Sales Game Changers podcast where someone thought they were ready to take it to the next level but then someone who really cared about them and their career said, “You need to focus on this, this and this. Let’s take a year and figure that out and then you’ll be prepared to even further accelerate your career.”
I have a question, you brought up role play a couple times. As the Sales Game Changers listening around the world, probably some of them are like, “Ugh, role play” but look how much it’s impacted your career. Tell us a little bit about that, tell us a best practice in role playing, when should you do it? Where should you do it? Give us some ideas on how you could really optimize role playing.
Matt Chubb: For us, we did all of the training, consultative selling skills, all of the programs. I was lucky enough to get into a company that hired right out of school and then built into what they wanted, which was great. Role playing was essential, and what I would say is also taped role play. We were videotaped in almost everything we did, and we would role play for five minutes so it might be just one topic. You’d role play five minutes every week and then at the end of your 8 weeks or 10 weeks you would then role through the whole thing. I think that’s the only way to simulate what you’re going to get which is each client is different, so we would have different scenarios. It wasn’t the directors, the management at the time, we would just make it up. It would be things they had seen and how you deal with it.
For me it was huge and I think I get it, my reps right now are going through it so yesterday in this room that you’re sitting in, we taped 5 of our sales reps to walk through a current proposal that they’re working on. I got to play either the broker, the third party or the leader, so the CEO, CFO, whoever the decision maker was that they were working on.
Fred Diamond: One of the other themes that we constantly hear on the Sales Game Changers podcast is the people that we’re interviewing – leaders, top of their game sales professionals – have viewed it as a profession and every profession you need to practice. You need to be out there, we talked about some things you mentioned before about having to prepare and all the hard work. Of course, that goes into it but the practice, practicing on the day to day stuff, on how you’re going to be interacting with the customer. Not just like one time winging it in your car on your way to the appointment, but taking the time to devote the energy to truly practice so that you can take your profession to the next level. Matt, what are the two biggest challenges you face today as a sales leader?
Matt Chubb: For me, #1 is – I had mentioned this already, so not to continue on it, but – competition in this market. It’s amazing what we deal with every day and how great the competitors are. Off of that, I think the second biggest challenge has been around talent. How do I bring new talent into the sales industry? It has not been something that people have lined up to be in. As time has gone on, we’ve gotten less and less what I would say is qualified candidates or people that really want to be in sales, really are going to put in the effort, call it a profession as you had mentioned before. I think that’s been a challenge for me, is where do I go moving now? It’s been challenging, it’s only going to continue to be how do I build my organization moving forward?
Fred Diamond: What are some of the things that you all are trying to do to find good talent out there?
Matt Chubb: We created in terms of a program, I call it the Sales Assistant program. We’ve hired right out of college, a lot of us went through what they call “group school” where they essentially send you away for weeks at a time with the role plays, and you get immersed in the products. That doesn’t exist anymore, I think the cost prohibitive nature of it. We’ve created a position where they can come in, a person that maybe doesn’t know if they want to be in sales yet. They do a lot of what I say the “dirty work”, some of the paperwork, they work with the reps, they do what I call “pipeline outreach”, both with our third parties and with the groups directly, they do some cold calling, they get a little bit of everything.
Then we can move them into a position that we feel is best, it could be on the account management side, it could be on the new business side, it could be on our small group team, it could be in the individual market. Then they’re immersed in it, they use our sales force software that we use, they’re in it every day, it just becomes part of what they do. We can teach them all the right habits. That’s happening right now, so I think we’re on our fifth or sixth sales assistant. We have two going at any one time and they’ve all moved up within the organization. That’s the goal is to build our own, somewhat like a group school. For me, it’s all about being able to bring the right talent in the organization.
Fred Diamond: Matt, take us back to the #1 specific sale success or win from your career that you’re most proud of. Take us back to that moment.
Matt Chubb: I’d say the first sale. My first sale at New England Financial was Hi-Tech Fasteners, not a really big group. I’d say about 70 employees but I still have the plaque in my office 19 years after the date that I got it just because of the work that was put in, the role plays that we did on it and then just being able to go in and execute and getting the yes. For me, that’s why I think I do it. It’s the competitiveness and then you get the yes, you get that rush and I’ll always remember that first rush essentially from Hi-Tech Fasteners for 70 live group. We’ve sold big groups, MGM Casino, some of the other ones that we’ve sold and they’ve been great sales but nothing compares to that first yes when you’ve never had one before.
Fred Diamond: Matt, did you ever question being in sales? Again, you came right out of college. Was there ever a moment you thought to yourself, “It’s too hard, it’s just not for me”?
Matt Chubb: I’d say yes and no. There was a few moments of doubt early on because it was like, “This is really hard.” It wasn’t as you think you’re going to come in and light it on fire, you’re 22 years old right out of college, you’re a marketing major, you got it. I think to have to go through and role play everything, just the amount of work and coming in off a couple of no’s was tough for me.
When you’re that hyper-competitive any loss is a bad loss. You think about it more than the win, that first loss is tough. I remember I came in and my boss said, “Your tie is disheveled, you look like you got beaten up. You’re going to have a lot of these, even our best reps will lose 18 out of 20 times for us and that’s our best reps. You have to learn how to lose and get better at each one so that maybe you only lose 17 out of 20 times.”
Fred Diamond: Even with such a big brand name as Kaiser Permanente you still lose 18 out of 20?
Matt Chubb: Yes.
Fred Diamond: This is a competitive space.
Matt Chubb: It’s a highly competitive space [laughs].
Fred Diamond: Matt, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the junior selling professionals listening to today’s podcast to help them improve their careers?
Matt Chubb: I would say it’s not always about being the smartest, it is really about hard work, preparation and ability to influence. I think we get caught up in the science of it, but there is an art to it of being able to influence people that will trust you and purchase from you. I think that still happens today, I know that the sales process has sped up significantly, I saw a stat the other day that 50% of groups are making decisions even before they see a sales rep. How does that work? From what I see from my industry when I’m going out in market, it’s still ability to influence and people in our market and the healthcare space, it’s generally their second largest expense. It’s very important, they have got to trust that you’re going to bring the right solution to them, which is probably similar to a lot of organizations but I think it’s so big in healthcare. If they don’t trust you, you’re not getting it.
Fred Diamond: What are some of the things you do to sharpen your saw and stay fresh?
Matt Chubb: A couple of things, I read a lot but I read really industry specific stuff like what is everyone doing, especially in the healthcare space. I just read an article in modern healthcare on how the new CEOs will have to be different than they are currently because the market is changing, so they’re going to have to look for disruptors in the CEO world. That was an interesting article, those are the type of things I’ll do.
What I will say too, for me, I really love being in the field. That’s how I came up, was just being in market so I will go in market. I’m going to be in market at 3 o’clock today so I’ll be able to see what’s going on with a big purchaser, what they’re thinking, what’s happening, what’s changing. I think that allows me to stay sharp.
Fred Diamond: What’s a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Matt Chubb: I’d say again back to my sales assistant program, I think that’s going to help me continue to develop my sales organization. I can train them, build them into the sales execs that we not only want but need here at Kaiser, and they become part of our culture. Every day they walk through this building and see the healthcare we deliver from an integrated standpoint and can say, “This is the best healthcare.” When you believe in a product, funny how you can sell it.
Fred Diamond: Absolutely, you’ve got to believe in the product. We’re talking today with Matt Chubb. Matt, we talked about this a little bit but sales is hard. You just mentioned before you lose 18 out of 20 deals, that’s incredible. Why have you continued? What is it about sales as a career that keeps you going?
Matt Chubb: It’s the competition. I love to try to push that from losing 18 out of 20, can I only lose 16 out of 20 and I get those 4? I think that really pushes me and motivates me. I think the ability to be the best is also part of my DNA. I know a lot of people talk about that, but my goal is not just to be the best in healthcare, not just the best in mid-Atlantic but the best in the country at selling. I always think you’re never there, you’re never satisfied, there’s always somebody out there that’s better than you so how do you continue to get better? I think that’s what we’re about here at Kaiser.
Fred Diamond: Matt, before I ask you one final question I just want to follow up on that statistic that even your best guys are losing 18 out of 20 deals. One of the constant themes in sales and through the Sales Game Changers podcast is the whole notion that you’re going to be facing a lot of rejection, you’ve got to be tough-skinned, you’ve got to be resilient, etcetera but those are pretty startling numbers. How do you motivate your team to push through when you’re losing and only winning 1 out of 10 deals?
Matt Chubb: For us, we have a 20 minute rule. You have 20 minutes to grieve, after that you’ve got to be working on the next thing. The other thing is what did you learn from that? It’s not just a loss, it’s a learning opportunity, so what did you learn? What could we have done better? Was there anything I could have done, is there anything that the team could have done? Is there anything you could have done? There is some accountability to it. Obviously, they didn’t buy and there is a reason to that so what can you get out of that to get better to eliminate it? Like I said, if you can go from losing 18 to 17 per month in a year, you’ve had a record year.
Fred Diamond: I was going to say that’s a monster year. Why don’t you give us one final thought to inspire the listeners of today’s podcast?
Matt Chubb: Our philosophy here at Kaiser is it’s never crowded on the extra mile. We have 8,000 employees here just in the mid-Atlantic. When you look at if everybody gave one extra mile a day, the amount of extra miles at the end of the 200 work days in a year would do for our clients, for our potential customers, for our prospects. As we go to 1.3 million medical members just in mid-Atlantic, 20 million nation-wide, it’s going to take a lot of extra miles. For us, that’s what it’s all about. What I’d say is don’t be afraid of hard work, don’t be afraid to go the extra mile for your groups.