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EPISODE 203: Thomson Reuters Sales Leader Rob Beattie Gives Answers on How to Use Data and Build Skills to Grow Your Centralized Sales Organization
ROB’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Don’t rely on others to motivate you. Take personal responsibility for your own growth and development. That’s bigger than just sales, that’s about building a career. What can you learn that’s new? How do you go out and find something that maybe is that game changer for you?”
Today’s show was recorded in Ann Arbor, Michigan where Thomson Reuters is based. This is the first of two interviews we’ve done with Thomson Reuters sales leaders.
Rob Beattie is the Vice President for Sales and Retention in the Thomson and Reuters Tax Professionals Group.
He was the 2018 American Association of Inside Sales Professionals Executive of the Year.
Find Rob on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us a little more about you that we need to know?
Rob Beattie: I’ve been in sales since 1996, I started as a front line sales rep, worked my way up through various leadership positions and then came to Thomson Reuters, as you said, about 14 years ago. Right now I run a team of about 200 people, we have an obviously significant revenue goal so with that in addition to the retention goals that we have keeps me hopping with that. I’ve been a thought leader within what some people refer to as inside sales (but) I like to call centralized sales, I think sales is sales in today’s world.
Fred Diamond: Tell us what you sell today and tell us what excites you about that.
Rob Beattie: My group in particular sells software and content to tax and accounting professionals. That’s our area, Thomson Reuters is obviously a pretty large sized company, we have a legal division, a corporate’s division and a tax and accounting professionals division and I’m that third one there. What excites me about it is in a lot of ways, product is product. We’re in an industry that doesn’t have high growth but we perform very well in it because we bring an innovative approach. I think we really connect with our customers, got a great team of people that really know the industry and can help them change their game. We’re seeing it’s not just the hard software stuff that you give people today. We’re really helping them change their businesses and their business models and I think that’s the piece that I enjoy the most. I just got back from our Users Conference last week and I’m still buzzing from the energy that brought, it was great.
Fred Diamond: I have a question for you. A lot of people listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast want to know who our guests sell to, but they also want to know the challenges that they face. You just said that the tax professionals industry is changing, is that CPA firm?
Rob Beattie: Yeah, CPA firms.
Fred Diamond: Tell us what some of the big challenges are that that industry is facing.
Rob Beattie: There’s several things that are happening to them. First and foremost is it’s an unprecedented time of regulatory change. You can see that, I know you’re based in Washington, a lot of things come out of Washington that change the game. Last year there was the TCJA – Tax Cutting Jobs Act. Every CPA has to react to that, they have to change how they’re doing tax returns. There’s a goal that’s been stated by the government of getting to a postcard size 10-40 return, that’s going to change what the business that many of these professionals have had for years and where they have made most of their revenue.
They’re looking for new and different ways to innovate how they service their clients in addition to it’s a highly specialized industry. Where do they recruit and retain their staff from? How do they grow their businesses? It’s coming at them from everywhere and that’s one of the most exciting things about working in this particular industry is if you’re a CPA you don’t think, “That’s an exciting group to sell to.” I always say when I meet with new employees I go, “You just signed up to sell to people who are cheap by nature and very good with math, so get ready to negotiate every single thing.”
I ask them, “Who’s excited to sell to CPA’s?” And they’re always like, “Man, I don’t know.” I said, “Alright, who’s excited to sell to entrepreneurs?” and when you really think about small/medium sized accounting firms, they’re really formed by an entrepreneur. They think they have a better way of doing the business, they’re pumped up to do that and they sometimes just need guidance. They’re really good at what they do which is work for people, and sometimes they just need somebody to help inspire them on how to change their business, and that’s where we come in. It’s a lot of fun.
Fred Diamond: My father was actually a CPA for his entire career and I didn’t realize this is what it was, but he’s had a lot of satisfied customers. He was doing it for probably 40, 50 years and he had relationships with business owners that went 30, 40, 50 years and I know he provided a lot of value to them. You’re providing value to him to help him provide more value to his customer.
Rob Beattie: Exactly, no CPA ever retires [laughs]. They threaten it all the time, you’ll hear them say, “I don’t want to make a change to my business, I’m going to retire next year” and I’m like, “Alright, we’ll keep talking because you’ve got at least 9 more years, I know it.”
Fred Diamond: Tell us about how you first got into sales as a career.
Rob Beattie: I’m a child of the 90’s, so I got done with college in 1992 and I had a degree in history, which at that time we would consider a degree in who knows what? So I didn’t really know what I was going to do, spent a couple of years being a Gen X-er, ended up where I’m working in a bakery and I’m delivering bread to a restaurant. This is a true story, ends up getting robbed at the time I’m there, so I’m in this restaurant as a bakery deliver driver and somebody literally holding a gun to my head and all I could think to myself is, “I need a different job.” I left, I called a buddy of mine and said, “Is your brother-in-law still managing sales over at” – it’s a company called New Horizons, it’s computer learning centers. He says, “Yeah” and I said, “Are they hiring salespeople?”
He said, “Can you fog a glass? I said I’m pretty sure I can do that.”
He said. “Alright, go give him a call.” I ended up doing that and it was funny because I always say that literally somebody held a gun to my head to get into sales and it was never something that I had thought of. People had said it to me because they said, “You’ve got a lot of personality, you’d be great at sales” and I find that ironic now that I’ve been in it for so long because the ability to talk is not great for salespeople, it’s the ability to listen. I really found myself surprised that I enjoyed it as much as I did, I did quickly get into some leadership positions, it was a smaller company at the time, that’s really where I found my passion.
Fred Diamond: You made that shift, New Horizons. Did they basically do IT training and leadership training?
Rob Beattie: It was IT training, leadership training, this is 1996 so we were selling computer training as people were making the migration to this amazing new thing called Windows 95. It’s funny because our #1 selling product at that time was 8 hour beginning Windows 95 classes, so just imagine people who are literally learning how to use a mouse. There’s probably many of your listeners that can’t believe that was actually a thing but we made good money doing it, people needed to learn and transform their business, and transform the way they work. It was a lot of fun, it was an emerging market at the time. I remember thinking to myself about three months in because sales is pretty tough and it was emerging, it was growing but it was still a hard game. I remember thinking to myself, “I should take some classes here and I’ll learn how to use Excel and I’ll learn how to be a Microsoft certified systems engineer and I’ll always have a job.” That was my plan, it was my backup plan while I was there. Here I am, twenty some years later and nope. [Laughs]
Fred Diamond: What were some of the key lessons you learned when you had your first few sales jobs?
Rob Beattie: I think the thing for me was I already mentioned it a little bit, but stop talking, start listening. It’s not easy to do sometimes, especially as we become more and more removed from seeing our customers face to face. It’s very challenging when you’re on the phone to allow silence to be there, but I’m a big believer in, “Shut up and let them talk.” That was a big thing that I learned fast because I used to try to talk people into things and I realized you can’t talk somebody into buying something, all you can do is listen to their problems and help them self-discover what they really need to do. That was a big one.
Fred Diamond: Listening comes up not infrequently on the Sales Game Changers podcast, people say you have two ears, one mouth, use them in that order, the 66% solution. What’s something that you would tell your team to do to be better at listening?
Rob Beattie: I’ll tell you what I started doing because I literally had to do that, because I’m one of those people that gets distracted easily, especially in the modern world. I can find myself on a call where I’m clicking somewhere else or I’m picking up my phone and checking text messages or whatever.
Take notes, that’s a big one for me. Get a pen in your hand, have a piece of paper in front of you, don’t do it on your computer because you’ll be banging away and you’ll distract yourself with noise and sound. For me, that’s a simple thing. It’s a little bit old school but write down as they go and there’s nothing more powerful than being able to go back to somebody and say, “I wrote this down, I wanted to circle back to this” and it’s a great way to not forget something and show somebody that you’re physically listening to them.
Fred Diamond: Tell us what you’re an expert in, tell us a little more about your specific area of brilliance.
Rob Beattie: That’s always tough. I’m a pretty humble guy, I think what my team would say is my area of brilliance, if any is that I connect well with everybody. I don’t know that it’s a tremendous skill, it’s just something you do. I’m not afraid to talk to a CEO or a janitor or whoever about whatever, and then I think I focus very hard on creating a great environment as a leader. That’s probably the thing that people would say I intentionally do very well.
I focus on culture, I take it very seriously, I spend a lot of time thinking about it, I spend a lot of time communicating about it, I like to make sure that what we’re doing as an organization is creating that environment for people who are motivated to have a chance to be successful in it. If I had to rank one thing, that’s probably the thing.
Fred Diamond: I want to follow up on that. Again, your title is the VP of sales and retention. I think you’re the first guest we’ve ever had who actually has the word ‘retention’ in his title, but one of the key themes that has come up from the Sales Game Changers podcast is that the #1 challenge is hiring, retaining and motivating top tier talent. You just mentioned culture, so talk about specifically how culture plays in retention and what do you think a great culture is for sales professionals who would want to stay with a company?
Rob Beattie: Great question. I will say when it comes to retention in my title, it’s about keeping customers but I do take it very seriously about the employees, too. It’s a great observation that you caught on, I use that word specifically when I talk about my title for those, it’s got that nice double entendre. For me, to create that culture, to have that culture first and foremost I think you’ve got to be communicating all the time. I was watching an HBO special, they were interviewing Herm Edwards, the coach of Arizona State and he says you can’t lead from your seat, you’ve got to lead from your feet. I try to spend as much time in the cubes talking to reps, talking to people on the team, I need to learn what’s going on in our business not so much even for our customers but for our people internally.
I think that’s important and if you’re looking for a place that has great culture, how often do you see the sales leadership? How connected are you with the sales leadership hearing their vision and their mission and that kind of thing? We will run every Wednesday what we call a scrum which is an all-hands meeting, so I’ll have all 200 people in my group actually combined with another sales floor here in Ann Arbor that we have. We’ll have about 300 people and we’ll do a stand up in our sales area and talk about where we’re at for the month, what are we trying to achieve, anything important that they’re trying to do and then we’ll reward and recognize. We do that on a weekly basis to keep people motivated. You’re not going to win every month, you’re not going to make every month – I would love that to be the case, but it’s not. I’m not in an industry that grows at a rate where that’s very easy to do. We have growth goals that are 8, 10, 15 times what our industry grows at.
You’ve got to keep people excited and we do our best to do that. I know I spend a lot of time doing that, and if I’m a sales professional that’s one of the key things. The other big one for me is learning. Are you getting opportunities provided by the company to learn? You should be doing that on your own, peak performers take responsibility for their own knowledge, but at the same time if it’s not a culture that is constantly giving you learning and opportunities to grow and stretch yourself, that’s something you want to be looking for because that’s a place that has your long term interest at heart.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us about an impactful sales career mentor or two and how they impacted your career?
Rob Beattie: Fred, I’ve had individual people, I’ve had managers, the person who was the VP of Sales that hired me here, his name is Rick Kursik, was a tremendous mentor of mine in a lot of ways around leadership. When I really think about my career, I happen to be in sales but I think my career is in leadership. I also think a lot of the principles that you would learn from leadership are applicable to a sales career because in a lot of ways you’re trying to lead your customer somewhere. I’m a big believer in studying great minds as it relates to leadership.
Rick was a great mentor of mine, but strangely enough there’s another arena that I found to be very helpful for me which is I did a little bit of football coaching. History major, played Division III football so a lot of people thought, “You should be a teacher and coach” and I always said, “I don’t know, that doesn’t pay a lot.” Instead, I was a bakery driver which doesn’t pay anything strangely enough, but one of my close friends is a very successful high school football coach. His name is Clint Alexander, he was actually in the Virginia are for a while, he’s now back in Michigan. That mentorship that I get there is tremendous because it’s somebody who approaches problems from a different mindset. He’s dealing with 15, 16, 17 year old kids, but a lot of what they deal with are the same thing as what my newer employees are like. They’re not that far generationally, they may have experienced college but it’s a great opportunity to talk through how do you do that? How do you demonstrate leadership in that way? Because in a lot of ways we are playing a game, like you said, Sales Game Changers podcast, it’s a game.
Fred Diamond: Absolutely.
Rob Beattie: Why not turn to coaches and other things? I try to study the philosophies of leadership as much as I do anything else so I gain a lot from that. One of his great advice to me and to anybody is always make sure that leadership comes from a place of love. How do you show that love to your team all the time? Back to the culture question, I think that’s one of the tenets that I hold pretty dear. If you’re going to have these people on your team, how do you come at it from a place of love? What does love mean? It’s taking care of somebody, it means making sure that they’re in a position to be successful, all those kind of things. Not to get all mushy, but that’s one of the things I think a lot about.
Fred Diamond: Actually, it’s not mushy at all. I will say that’s probably the first time someone on the podcast has said leadership comes from love. I’m a big believer that the purpose of life is to love and to be loved. I have a question for you, again, football coach, do you use a lot of football metaphors in your day to day leadership of your team?
Rob Beattie: [Laughs] I would say my team says too many.
Fred Diamond: What’s your favorite, what’s your go-to?
Rob Beattie: There was an article that this coach, many people might have heard of him, his name is Belichick, he pushes the line a little bit. When you think about culture and football these days, you do think of the Patriots. There’s some who think they cheat and some who think they push the line and some who think they do everything they can to win, but at the end of the day whatever it is, it’s culture. He had this quote one in an ESPN magazine article where somebody says, “Do you find yourself to be different in your personal life than your professional life?” and I’ll sum it up where his response was, “Yes, I think so, there’s a real difference between who I am outside of business and who I am in the business. We go to camp with 75 people, we’ve got to get down to 53 so no matter what, I know I have to fire 22 people. That’s nothing I like but it’s something I have to do, it’s part of the job, I don’t love it but I accept it.”
In a lot of ways, I think of that a lot. When I talk about loving everybody, sometimes you love them enough that you need to go help them find a new opportunity. Not getting so much there where you’re like, “This person is so important to me, I can’t lose them, they’re performing really badly but maybe I can keep them, maybe I can fix them.” There’s sometimes you just can’t and I think that is love, too in a lot of ways is saying, “How do I find a way to helps somebody go find something that they can be successful at?”
Fred Diamond: Speaking on the love theme, do your sales performers love their customers? That’s kind of a loaded question, but since we’re on the thing and I got to say one quick thing, again, this is the Sales Game Changers podcast, we’re actually doing it in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Speaking of your buddy Bill Belichick, he’s also been quite fortuitous to have a guy not too far from here, didn’t perform a whole lot in college, of course talking about Tom Brady.
Rob Beattie: You know what’s funny about him? Old Tom, they wanted to run out of here. U of M was like, “That guy’s no good, get him out of here.” It’s a fascinating life lesson for new people who are starting off. Just because you start somewhere doesn’t mean that you can’t find success later on, especially great success. You’ve just got to find the right situation, it’s the magic, you’ve got the right coach, the right situation, the right team, everything worked out. When he was in Michigan people were like, “This guy’s a bum, get him out of here, he’s the worst.”
The alumni and Michigan fan base has changed their tune greatly over the last 20 years, now they’re like, “Tom’s the greatest U of M player of all time” and I’m thinking, “You guys don’t remember what you were like back then.” For those of you who are new in your career listening to this, think about the story of Tom Brady. He really did overcome a ton to be successful and it’s persistence and all that stuff. Sorry, I didn’t mean to go off.
Fred Diamond: That’s cool, but also I’ve got a question for you. You mentioned sometimes when you love your people that you love them enough to tell them, “This really isn’t the place for you.” Tom had an innate ability, of course an innate brilliance. Do you seek that? I’m going to go a different route here because of your background, hiring, assessing, what do you look for?
Rob Beattie: That’s a tough one. Bringing people in is always risk, you’re looking at somebody’s resume, you’re never really 100% sure. You also in a lot of times and especially in a sales leadership position, you’re hiring salespeople. If they can’t convince you that they’re very good in an interview, you’ve got a problem but you also have to be aware of the fact that they might really convince you. I’ve made those mistakes, there’s been people I’ve interviewed and what I look for a lot, what I try to find is tangible things that they can describe that they did. If they give a lot of ‘we’ or ‘I sort of’ or this kind of thing, a little wishy washy-ness, there’s a difference between wishy washy and humble. I don’t want somebody who’s a big ego, “I am the greatest of all time, I closed multiple deals.”
That’s usually a little bit of a red flag for me, but at the same time somebody comes in and says, “We as a team did some things and I kind of contributed a little bit”, that person is never going to be confident enough to connect with somebody. I look for that a little bit. I haven’t used a lot of assessments for people and I think that’s actually something that we should be much better at. I think the world is becoming far more data enabled and I think that’s going to help us. There’s been times where I’ve tried to use assessments and what I actually found often is the people who are best don’t fit a profile and when you go to try to profile uniqueness, you miss. I bet I tend to give people more the benefit of the doubt at hiring but I will tell you, I try to be pretty ruthless once I figure out that somebody’s not a great fit.
Fred Diamond: What are the two biggest challenges you face as a sales leader?
Rob Beattie: Hiring is obviously one of them. Talent is always a challenge, especially when you’re in a centralized sales force, you pretty much get to recruit from who’s around you. That’s a really big one, how do I make sure that happens, what can I do to potentially expand my reach? We’ve done a lot with colleges and recruiting through there, getting veteran people and just trying to onboard them greatly. That’s an area we innovated, let some innovation in a couple years ago where we went from ‘sales manager hires somebody and onboards them’ to a centralized hiring team. I think that really helps us get somebody on board, on board them into the culture and keeps them together, get some sort of a hiring class which for the modern American worker, especially the millennials is really important, somebody they can connect with. Having a friend at work is very important.
The other big challenge is it’s tough because I’m seeing all kinds of data these days about how less than 50% of sales reps are hitting their quotas. Some people say that’s a sales performance issue and I say sometimes it’s a quota setting issue, and sometimes it’s between the both. One of the big challenges I see is when you have great growth expectations – which you should – how do you get there? How do you make sure you can innovate enough? I guess what I would sum it up is what’s the right amount of innovation? When do you change something? The speed of change has accelerated greatly. What would probably have been okay 10 years ago to stick with something for a couple years, now you’re like, “I’m six months in, I better change something up.”
That’s a big challenge for me, that speed of innovation, speed of change, new technologies coming out all the time. Some of my veteran sales reps really do struggle in that area. You’re asking about customers, the people who probably connect with and love their customers the most have such a status quo of the way they work that as goals become greater for them individually, it becomes very hard for them to attain them because they won’t change their status quo. I see this arch of performance now where somebody will rise, rise, rise, rise and fall. What it typically is, is they just didn’t innovate, they didn’t change something about how they approach the sales game. To your Game Changers, that’s important, those words are really important. You’re in the game, sometimes you’ve got to change the game as you go and you’ve got to be open minded for that kind of thing. I try to tell many of my sales reps, “Check yourself, are you using this new technology enough? Are you trying a new approach? What are you doing differently today that’s different than what you were doing six months ago?” I think those that I see do that tend to survive and sometimes thrive and those I see don’t, it’s a matter of time and it’s tough.
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you take us back to your #1 sale success or win from your career that you’re most proud of?
Rob Beattie: It’s funny, it probably still to this day is maybe my first big sale. When I started at New Horizons we had basically a three month ramp up where you didn’t have much quota of any kind and then suddenly you had a quota. At the time it was a straight commission job, you had a base for the first couple of months and then went to full commission. As a history major, former bakery truck driver that was pretty scary. I’m like, “Straight commission is freaking me out” and I just remember talking to this firm at the time, a business at the time. It was that moment where I realized I got to get far more consultative about what I was doing.
I was kind of scripting, I was too script, I was like, “We can do this, and we can do this, and we can do this.” I’m sure it came across very robotic to that business and the guy on the other line says, “Yeah, we’re kind of struggling in this area over here.” It wasn’t part of the script and I said, “Tell me more about that.” What he was struggling with was recruiting, he wasn’t getting enough new people and I said, “How are you recruiting today? What are you doing and how do you describe your business?” I just started asking questions and what it came down to was he wasn’t feeling like he was technology enabled and it was very different from an area that probably seems obvious at the time. The technology at that time would have made a big difference but I said, “You guys got to figure out a way to become more high tech” and the guy says, “Yeah, I’m just not sure how to do that.”
I said, “Well, I got a solution for you, you could put 20 people into this class and maybe they become better at using Microsoft, Excel and Power Point and that kind of stuff” and the guy goes, “Hey, that’s a great idea” and I’m like, “Alright.” I remember that first moment I said, “Okay, you know what? This is actually something I can do.” It was also a huge lesson of script is important or framework is important, but don’t be afraid to move off quick. If you go into a different spot to have a conversation, have that conversation and what my agenda is in a sales call doesn’t matter at all. It’s everything about uncovering what is the issue that person is having at the time.
Fred Diamond: Did you ever say to yourself along the way, “You know what? Sales is too hard, it’s just not for me”?
Rob Beattie: Probably every day [Laughs] there’s a lot of jobs out there where you show up and there’s a lot of times I’ll watch somebody literally working on something outside the window of my office and I’ll just be like, “Man, that guy looks like he’s just so happy.” [Laughs] I think about it all the time and it’s a challenge because sales has the number and when you carry the number, when you carry the quota that comes with responsibility and performance judgement. Last week I was talking with some people about our sales performance in October and they’re coming to me to ask me those questions, so there’s, “How’d you do? What happened? What went wrong, what went well?” You have that responsibility when you’re in sales and I think that can weigh on a lot of people.
To answer your question, yes, I think about it all the time. It’s a very hard game but at the end of the day it’s also great, you keep score every day. I know if I did well today, I know if I won the day, I know if I won the last hour and that challenge to me, that’s what keeps you coming back. I always tell people that in sales they don’t pay you for what you’re going to do, they pay you to stick around because they know how hard it is. You’ll get a lot of people who think, “Sales is overpaid, sales makes too much money” and I’m like, “Yeah, it’s because you hear no so often.” I always tell people, I had this interaction with somebody who’s in a support role and at one point he goes, “Why do they pay salespeople so much?” I go, “How would you like to hear ‘no’ 95% of the time?” “I’d hate that.” I go, “Exactly, that’s what you deal with when you’re in sales.”
Fred Diamond: And actually there wouldn’t be any need for support if there weren’t people selling the services.
Rob Beattie: Right [Laughs]
Fred Diamond: Rob, what’s the most important thing you want to get across to the selling professionals listening around the globe to help them take their careers to the next level?
Rob Beattie: I said it a little bit earlier, but taking responsibility. Some people call it accountability, responsibility, whatever you want. You’re responsible for your leads, you’re responsible for picking up the phone, you’re the one who makes that decision, nobody else does it for you and that to me is the most important thing for somebody who’s thinking about, “How do I become successful?” Truly at anything, but especially in sales you’ve got to bring effort.
I always say when I talk about leadership and how you create an environment where the motivated can be successful, as a sales manager I can help you get to quota. I can help you if you have pipeline, I can help you if you have opportunities, I can help coach you up, I can get you to club but I can’t help you pick up the phone. That’s something you need to do. Effort is between you and you, so that to me is probably the most important thing. If you find yourself looking around and blaming other people, stop, extreme ownership, you own it for yourself.
Fred Diamond: Tell us about a selling habit that you deploy to continue your success.
Rob Beattie: There’s probably a bunch. First and foremost is keep score throughout the day, set yourself a goal early in the day. “By 10 o’clock I want to have 10 calls in, by noon I want to be at 15, I need to sell something every day.” I coach my people a lot where I talk about you’ve got to sell something every day, you’ve got to put somebody in a seminar – which is really, in a way of saying, a prospect every single day. Then you’ve got to start fast and stay strong. I think those are the simple things that somebody can do, that I try to do, I try to do it in my current job and say, “Alright, I know I need to get this stuff done by this time of the day, I need to weather check myself throughout the day to make sure I’m getting there.”
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us about a major initiative you’re working on today to ensure your continued success?
Rob Beattie: Really working on our tech stack. That to me is something that is an area of improvement and it’s not just the gathering of technology for salespeople, it’s the adoption of technology for salespeople. Again, I mentioned it earlier, I was talking about status quo and how comfortable people get in the status quo. The status quo is always your enemy, most people today are not selling something where it’s a pure white space. In our world for sure it’s not like there are accounting firms that are cropping up going, “I never knew there was software.” Every single sale is a takeaway, every single sale is there’s a competitor in place and you have to disrupt that competitor so you’re always fighting somebody’s status quo.
If there’s one thing we know about human beings, they love the status quo. I always say, if we didn’t love the status quo so much I’d eventually stop eating cake and I’d be a nice, thin man and that’s not necessarily the case. We tend to just flow back to it so to me, technology and the use of technology in the sales process is a way that I think people can start to disrupt themselves and continue to get more and more effective. As data, AI and those things are starting to come in, I find it interesting how many sales reps will fight against data. If I come to them and say, “Hey, based on some data we have, this firm should be a good fit for this particular solution.” It’s amazing how often sales reps will say, “I don’t think so, I know that firm really well.”
This is a big challenge and I’m working through it today, I don’t have the answers today but I’m hoping to get them at some point. How do I get sales reps to believe that data is stronger than their intuition? Then apply technology is one of the ways I see is an end around because if I can deploy technology to get a firm, a business to say, “I am kind of interested in this”, maybe that will get the sales reps to believe in it rather than me coming to the sales rep and saying, “Hey, here’s this profile and this thing, you should give them a call.”
Fred Diamond: Speaking about sports, though, we talked about football and obviously baseball, I’m a big baseball fan and analytics have taken over baseball as we know. They’re beginning to talk about how do you mix intuition and baseball skills and 50 years of career with the analytics that there’s so much of today? You also said a second ago that you have data, you go to the sales reps and say, “Here’s data about why this customer will be a good prospect” and you get pushed back. With all your background in sports – again, we talked about football and other related things – is that a major priority of yours? Is that something that you could start using, the sports analogies, to get people to shift?
Rob Beattie: I think there’s definitely something to that but even beyond that, I think the proof is in the pudding side point but also giving them that belief of, “Hey, look I looked in these other industries” and then helping them see, “Yeah, it did work here, I can see why they did that and this team was successful.” There’s a lot of talk. If you have money ball for sales, you hear money ball for sales all the time, people really think about it in terms of hiring but it is also in how you approach your territory, how you approach your data base. I’m a big believer in looking at whatever your territory is and looking for the best opportunities, and then focusing on those best opportunities with a plan.
Not ignore the rest, and again that’s where I think technology can help sales reps is if I can have something over here that’s nurturing this other stuff and I can really focus on the 10 or 15 high impact activities – which is something I learned from a book called Cracking the Sales Management Code by Jason Jordan, it’s a tremendous read. These high impact activities, I’m going to call in these 15 firms with this particular message, and that’s what I’m going to go and do. That’s a way that you can approach your territory with data and with analytics but it’s believing that when somebody comes to you and says, “Here’s the best opportunity” you can do it. Again, it’s a challenge I’m working on, it’s a great idea on some of the sports stuff, I’m going to think more about how we can do that.
Fred Diamond: That’s also a great book, too. Obviously you have a love of sales and we’ve used the word ‘love’ more in this podcast than we have in the past, which is actually very cool to be honest with you. What is it about sales as a career that has kept you going?
Rob Beattie: I alluded to it before, you’re playing a game, I’m keeping score. That part is challenging but I have this tradition. When a month wraps up, I go home and I have a drink mixed with some ginger ale, no matter how we did, I always do that. If we make the month, I’ll go home, walk my dog and I’ll smoke a cigar. I know it’s weird, but that feeling of walking through my neighborhood smoking that cigar and just being able to think about what we did to be successful that day or that month, that’s a great feeling and that chance to win brings you back. It’s strange, but that connection you have when you’re walking around and I’m walking through my neighborhood feeling totally confident and nobody has any idea why I’m walking and smoking a cigar, but I feel like somehow they’re walking by and they recognize, “Something happened good today for that guy.”
That feeling of pride you take in winning, that’s the thing that’s kept me in it for as long as I have. It isn’t easy and I don’t recommend sales to the faint of heart. If you’re only in it to chase the paycheck you’ll fail.
Fred Diamond: We’re doing this podcast in November of 2019 and you said you had just come back from your user conference, your user group and you said you’re still high from that experience. Knowing that you’re providing value, knowing that you’re helping, you said 1700 somewhat people achieve their goals and grow their business. Rob, give us one final thought to inspire the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe today.
Rob Beattie: I mentioned it earlier about not relying on others to motivate you, taking personal responsibility for your own growth and development. I think at the end of the day what I would say is always be curious. There’s the old ABC’s of sales, right? Always Be Closing, mine is Always Be Curious and I think that’s bigger than just sales, that’s about building a career. What can you learn that’s new? How do you go out and find something that maybe is that game changer for you?
A tactical way to approach that because we’re so busy and it can be so hard, and when you’re carrying quota, the quota sleeps with you, the quota is with you, you breathe it, you feel it, you wake up every single day, quota, quota, quota. One of the things I did several years ago is I blocked an hour on Tuesday as my research time, I actually called it ‘social hour’ because at the time there was this new thing called ‘social selling’ which nobody had ever heard of. I was researching social selling so I called it social hour, so I blocked this hour and I would use that time to hold meetings with people who had products that I might find interesting or go read articles or learn stuff. I put it in the middle of the day and I was sacred about making sure I kept that time, and it was all about ensuring that I got better. At least I knew for one hour a week I was doing something to make myself better.