EPISODE 266: Tom Snyder’s Six Keys to Thriving in Transition and How Being Proactive is the Key to Them All

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the OPTIMAL SALES MINDSET Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on June 26, 2020. It featured sales expert and President of Funnel Clarity Tom Snyder,]

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EPISODE 266: Tom Snyder’s Six Keys to Thriving in Transition and How Being Proactive is the Key to Them All

TOM’S TIP TO SALES LEADERS: “The more sudden, the more unexpected and the more dramatic the change, the greater is the opportunity to thrive or fail. Survival is not a strategy. Starting today and for the rest of the time that we are adjusting to this new world, I want you to pick a block of time every day on your calendar. You determine whether that’s 10 minutes or 2 hours, I don’t care, but I want that block of time to be something PROACTIVE. Work on your skills, take some training, reach out to people who you don’t know, prospect through LinkedIn. It is the single collective biggest difference between people who are thriving and doing great against quota versus those who are barely getting there.”

Fred Diamond: Tom, your company, Funnel Clarity, works with hundreds of companies around the globe, you’ve personally trained tens of thousands of sales professionals to get better at consultative and professional sales and I’m very excited to learn from you today. Let’s get right to it.

Tom Snyder: Thanks, Fred and thanks, everybody who’s joined us, it is wonderful to be back with you. When Fred and I were discussing how we might put together this particular event, we both commented on the fact that there has been now three months of a continuous drum beat around how to survive. You’ve got this enormous amount of talk around empathy, you’ve got an enormous talk around the blending of home life and work life but I wanted to highlight some things today about how you can actually thrive, not just survive and that’s more than just a clever poetic reference. What we’ve done is we’ve begun a study by looking at people’s calendars and comparing their calendar activities to the degree to which they are on path to exceed quota.

The early results are interesting because what I’m going to be describing is something that is emerging from the research that says the greater the degree of proactivity scheduled in a person’s calendar the more likely they are not just surviving but they are really making an enormous advance. You’d be surprised how many salespeople we have found who are absolutely crushing their quota and in particular, those who are crushing their quota when compared to their colleagues in the same company who are suffering. I want to highlight some of the things we’ve seen thus far, by no means do we have enough data yet to say these are definitive but these are certainly things that look like they directionally will bear out and that you can adopt. There is no reason to think you need all six, no one person we’ve encountered have all six but each of these things appears to make a contribution to this idea of, “Let’s not just hunker down and make it work but let’s really get ourselves in a great position.”

The theme of today is this one, the more sudden, the more unexpected, the more dramatic a change, the greater is the opportunity and that opportunity is to thrive or fail. Deciding that you’re going to survive isn’t really a strategy because survival has with it the connotation of a lack of momentum, it has a connotation of sustainment and I’m not just trying to play a clever use of words here. You really have from what we’ve seen a binary choice, you can seek to grow your business and expand, grow your funnel and expand, become even more intimate with your ongoing clients or someone else will. Before I get any further into these six keys I want to make one caveat, if you’re among the unfortunate few whose companies have shut down temporarily or you’ve been furloughed or things like that, obviously my heart goes out to you and hopefully this will end very soon but this is really for the folks who are still working in our sales profession. I’m going to do a very quick review of what doesn’t work, I’m going to talk a little bit about thriving versus surviving, science is what tells us how to win, part of the science is looking at large data samples, we are doing that, we are looking at calendar activity against performance and that has resulted in our ability to understand what these six keys look like in terms of getting opportunity.

I’m going to periodically pause down, Fred, voice any questions that may have come across. Contrast is usually fairly useful, let me tell you, when we look at this comparison of calendar activity to performance the idea of hunkering down doesn’t really work.

What we’re talking about around hunkering down is being in an entirely reactive posture, going to the company meetings that are on Webex or Zoom, waiting for emails, waiting for things to happen, that is probably the single behavior trait we’ve seen reflected in people’s calendars that is the most dramatic in terms of poor performance against what they want to do. #2, continuing to approach their marketplace and their opportunities the same way they always did and just telling themselves they’re going to work harder.

One of the interesting things is how many times we see people booking lots and lots of check-in calls with existing customers. When you dissect what they mean by check-in calls it’s, “How’s it going?” whatnot without an agenda that really drives something. Incremental change, the world has changed and probably permanently in lots of ways and many of those things we’re not even aware of yet, therefore the person who can respond to the opportunity side of this sudden unanticipated, unusual, once-in-a-generation occurrence is the one who’s really going to win but they’re not going to win by just making minor adjustments. Waiting for the next phase, I was struck by the fact that every state has a different definition and sometimes every city and county have a different definition of what they mean by phase one reopening, phase two. It’s not about a phase, it’s about the fact that many businesses continue to move on. It probably means that you at least have to consciously look at refining your skill sets and it may mean actually learning something new. The other part of it is focusing on the problems rather than brainstorming new ideas and new ways of approaching the market. Fred, anything thus far before I get into the six tactics?

Fred Diamond: No, I’m excited. I liked all of those of course but I’m excited to see how people can move forward. Everyone’s business has changed, your plan that you had in January is gone, it’s totally invalid and the same thing is true with your customer and your customer’s customer, and your customer’s customer’s customer. The successful sales professionals that we’ve seen, Tom, are the ones who aren’t thinking about implementing January’s plan even incrementally like you talked about, it’s about rethinking how they’re bringing value to their customer. It’s interesting because you and I have talked about value so many times over the years and you have helped companies understand that sales is about continually creating value for their customers. Value is a word that got pushed away a little bit over the last couple of months because people have been adjusting to working from home and getting used to the meetings over Zoom and homeschooling and all those things. I’m interested to see how value purveys the conversation as we move forward but it’s almost been put on the shelf there for a little bit because everyone’s had to be responsive to all the new circumstance.

Tom Snyder: I would definitely echo that, I would say that the definition of value for everyone both on the selling and the buying side of every business to business transaction was a bit hazy for a while. It is beginning to emerge in a very clear way, you’ll see that reflected in these tactics but the other part I wanted to mention, remember, we’re looking at hundreds of calendars on a weekly basis looking at the activities and then measuring that against performance. One of the startling things is that for the highest performers there is a stark difference between what their calendar looked like even through mid-February and what it looks like today. In some cases it has fewer appointments but it’s interesting how those appointments are directed in different areas. Let me give you quickly what the six tactics are.

One, really active in finding new relationships be that on LinkedIn, be that in professional chat rooms, wherever. #2, using technology for what it is intended. We’re all familiar now with Zoom, Zoom fatigue, Webex fatigue, I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about available technology that can briefly enhance the efficiency and effectiveness you have in dealing with folks. Digital marketing efforts have become ever more critical whether that’s on a personal level or a company level. Inside sales skills, I don’t think this should be a big surprise but maybe we haven’t thought about it. It’s phenomenal the degree to which these people who are most successful – let’s call it the top 5% – what began to emerge in their calendar was this idea of, “I’m now an inside sales rep whether I like it or not. I’m not going anywhere, I’m not visiting clients, I’m not setting face-to-face meetings, I’m an inside salesperson.”

Whether you call that digital sales or inside sales it is a different skill set, it is not the same skill set even when you are on camera, it is a different skill set in terms of selling on inside. Re-framing your solutions, obviously this is something that’s been quite startling. I’ll give you an example when we get there but really thinking through what are the problems that your solutions address against the context of today’s world? One of the things that’s really important is something we call brainstorming which is not the same thing most people think it is. There is a science to brainstorming but these three things, brainstorm, listen and be relentless, I think are also emerging from these things. I’m going to walk through each of these six so Fred, unless you have something, why don’t we go to the first one?

Fred Diamond: Yep.

Tom Snyder: The idea here I want to emphasize is proactive versus reactive, I could sum up everything I’m going to tell you by saying that if you look at the calendars of people who are doing extraordinarily well against quota versus those who are not, it’s actually those who are average. If you compare excellent and average you get much closer to excellent than when you compare excellent to poor. You will see a much higher percentage of proactivity as opposed to the meetings I’m forced to go to or the things I’m forced to submit, etcetera. Establishing new relationships, assemble at least 10 new targets a week, that isn’t that difficult. If you are doing LinkedIn Boolean searches, you pull out the key words and reach out to people. Remember, you’re reaching out to them with a personalized note, you’re not just hitting the ‘send an invitation’ button.

It’s amazing how many people in the top performers are adding a lot of new individuals every week, that means putting the time to do it in the calendar. Doing research on who among your client base may actually be doing very well and why they’re doing well. That’s important because it gives you an insight into who else you might reach out to because you look for those characteristics that say, “This is why they’re thriving.” More about that in a moment. The sweet spot of opportunity – if you think about a Venn diagram and that Venn diagram is one circle is the solutions you offer, one circle is the solutions that your competitors offer and that’s got a little overlap, and then the third is the circle of problems that a customer needs solved. Everybody’s tendency in this world is to look at the intersection of all three circles, that little thing in the middle that looks like a rounded triangle, that’s the land of commoditized selling.

The part that matters most is the part where the problems your customer base is trying to solve intersect with the solutions you have and the competitor doesn’t do it. This is a really important time to be thinking that through because in many worlds today, how you sell is more important than what you’re selling meaning how can you help the potential customer or the current customer understand their own business better? How can you help them anticipate problems they don’t see? It’s now a super critical thing to do, that means allocate time every single day to these two things, put it in the calendar. If you want to know the single biggest thing about what happens with the highly effective versus the average folks in this pandemic is they are scheduling time in their calendar for these proactive things and one little hint, they also leave themselves enough time between these obligations that life can happen.

One of the things that we always say is this idea in sales is creating value with every interaction rather than trying to communicate value, creating value is a skill set, creating value takes discovery on the part of the customer, not just discovery on the part of the seller. That means planning on how you’re going to do that in every case and one of the things everybody is hungry for these days are data. All of these prospects out there that are still functioning are looking for some sort of data-driven insight. One of the things that drives me crazy is how many people on LinkedIn and how many people on webinars claim to know a lot of things about how to deal with this pandemic and I say, “Nonsense.” I think it’s assumptive, I think it’s a joke, if you don’t have data you don’t really know and the person who can bring data is the person who is king. Fred, anything you want to ask me there?

Fred Diamond: I’m reminded of a number of things that you’ve taught the Institute for Excellence in Sales over the years and the science behind selling is obviously something that you’ve been a leader in. We have a question here, the question comes from Martin, “Should I be prospecting for new business?” You mentioned here assemble at least 10 new targets a week so let’s talk about that for a little bit. There’s been a lot of conversation, Tom, about going back to your existing clients and optimizing those, you’re one of the world leading experts on prospecting. Prior to the pandemic happening we talked all the time about new business strategies, prospecting, bringing value, bringing them data, should people be prospecting for brand new logos today? Give us some of your insights into why they should.

Tom Snyder: I can talk about this for three hours but I’m going to sum it up in a couple of things. #1, the last thing I’m telling you is to ignore your existing clients, that’s not the point. Of course you should be prospecting, change is the engine of opportunity. What did I say in the beginning? Every bit of science says the more dramatic, the more sudden, the more unexpected the change the greater is the opportunity to thrive or fail and I promise you, your competitors are doing nothing to reach out to new business. That doesn’t necessarily mean the folks out there that aren’t your clients are getting great service from their current provider no one has quite figured that out yet so it is the perfect time to be prospecting. #2, assemble 10 new targets means 10 new relationships, it doesn’t necessarily mean 10 new prospects, it means 10 new relationships. We can talk another time about how some of those may convert, but this is one of the things that if you look at people who are doing extremely well, they’re building their network of professional contacts. They are also prospecting but it’s a bigger story than that.

Fred Diamond: Lisa says, “Right on, right on, right on!”

Tom Snyder: I want you to forget what’s always worked. Again, what’s always worked is a nice history lesson, we can all sit back and say, “Remember the day so long ago in late 2019 when X, Y, Z?” Forget it, you’re going to write a new script, you’re going to write a new plan and that’s what it’s about. I want to talk briefly about technology, I don’t want to sound like I’m shilling for these technologies but what I’m using is examples. I don’t know if you’ve seen LinkedSelling, this is not the same company as LinkedIn, LinkedSelling Connect 365, a very interesting way of being highly efficient and seeking new contacts. ZoomInfo or – although it’s gobbling up all of its competitors – any of its competitors as a source for how to get in contact with people. Outreach.io on how to have an automated cadence of reaching out to people in a very efficient way to try to be memorable and contact them. SalesLoft, things like that, I’m not saying those technologies, I’m saying think about the technologies that you have in resident, are you utilizing them as much as you can?

Think about the technologies you maybe want to consider to take on. Part of your problem is that every bit of research will tell you that the volume of email has gone up between 200% and 400% that the average business person is receiving. The volume of voicemails has gone up equally at large so your challenge of getting in contact with people is twice to four times as difficult, therefore being memorable, being able to rise above it, that’s something you really want to look at so when you look at the excellent people in that calendar thing, one of the things you notice is they have refined and/or really leveraged the technology stack available to them.

Fred Diamond: You actually did talk in the very beginning about Zoom and technologies like that and GoToMeeting. One thing that we’re advising people on is become an expert on all those technologies. For example, I just learned last week that you can send handouts via GoToMeeting so you could always email them ahead of time but you can use GoToMeeting, you can use Zoom, you can use GoToWebinar to do things like distributing handouts. One thing I also learned last week was we shifted our video from 4:3 to 16:9, we actually did that a couple days ago with one of our webcast guests, become experts on this. Tom, in the very beginning people were getting used to using the dot and just communicating, now some of the companies that we’re working with are spending time on getting their people to be better at selling now because we’re going to be at home at least through the summer. Some companies said they’re not going to be bringing people back to the office until January potentially so people are looking for better ways to use this.

One of the people we had on the Sales Game Changers webcast a couple days ago said she has an edict, no more T-shirts when your camera is on even for internal meetings. You are now to wear buttoned down shirts or as if you’re coming to work so we’ve seen a lot of people getting more skilled on using the dot not just to communicate but to sell from as well.

Tom Snyder: There’s a wealth of things here. Again, each of these topics we could spend a great deal of time on but I think it’s a great set of points, Fred, and let me just march on here. I do also want to emphasize that anyone who is not using LinkedIn Navigator, I realize it can be pricey, it is a gigantic leg-up in this world of remote working in sales. Engage with digital marketing, what do we mean by that? Find real SEO expertise if you’re at a manager/senior/executive level, the world is full of people who claim to have SEO expertise. It’s like marriage counseling, anybody can claim they have it. Google changes the algorithm 700 times a month so somebody is going to be an SEO expert they need to understand how to keep pace with the changes that are going on real time all the time. It’s the perfect time to explore online advertising particularly on the forms of LinkedIn, perhaps on Facebook, that kind of thing.

Most people have also not realized that website optimization requires quite a number of things, we’ve been surprised at how many people have not realized that the Google crawlers aren’t even available to them, they aren’t even noticing their website, there’s a lot of behind-the-wall things that are going on. Innovative video – it’s funny, again if you’re a LinkedIn user you’ve noticed that over the course of the last year there’s just been this flood of videos, everybody’s doing video. What’s interesting is the degree of detail that people are putting into the production of those things when they have scheduled them in the calendar to really be thinking about them instead of doing them ad hoc. There’s a wealth of things you could do to set the background, as Fred said, to do things you can do and make those videos innovative, I think particularly the technologies that allow you to embed a video in an email without having the spam filter of the receiver catch it out. Fred, I’m going to continue to move ahead here a little bit just because I want to make sure I get through all this, it’s important stuff so let me have you hold questions for just a moment.

Inside or digital sale skills. The fact of the matter is that if we are reaching out to new people, our #1 job is to generate curiosity. We don’t do that by talking about ourselves, we do that by demonstrating that we know something about them they’ll be surprised that we know. We find that all over the place, that can be in news feeds, LinkedIn, Google, whatever. #2, effective listening, when I do get someone on the phone effective listening is not silence. Silence on the phone or on a Zoom call is awkward, effective listening is done by the things that you say, that means acknowledging by summarization, acknowledging by testing your understanding, things like that.

There is a new emergent aversion of objection handling, it is a modification of the one that’s always been taught. It has three components: acknowledge, empathize, inquire. Acknowledge, summarize what the person has just said, empathize without being saccharine and then inquire about details, inquire about clarification. There’s also an interesting thing that emerges from these calendar studies about the amount of time that these high performers are spending planning every single call. Most of the time that is done obviously mentally, people don’t have to write out everything but it appears to us – and we’re not sure of this yet, we’re taking a look at it – as though people who are high performing are really spending a lot of time. One thing I can tell you is they’re having less scheduled calls than a lot of the people who are not performing well. When you get behind that, the schedule and the calendar calls are mostly outreach calls for the people that are under-performing and those calls appear to have no planning. Again, more on that as we get the study done.

The key is to remember that professional sales is about guidance, not description. Professional sales is about coaching a decision that’s good for both you and the buyer, it’s not about describing how great what you have is going to be and when you’re doing this over digital as opposed to anything you were able to do before it becomes an even higher bar to climb over, it’s worth spending time on developing those skills. You influence, it’s good to remember, through inquiry, not description. The questions you ask, if all they are is to uncover information you need you’re not really hitting the high marks of what digital sales require, you should often be asking questions that you already know the answer to but that will cause the potential buyer or your customer to think more deeply.

I want you to be thinking about these things from the standpoint of ask yourself, “Am I sure that each of these things I can do as effectively if I might if I revisited them a bit?” Fred, have anything?

Fred Diamond: Why don’t we go through your remaining slides? Questions are coming in, we’ll take them after you go through so we don’t miss all the content.

Tom Snyder: Reframe your solutions. Change is an engine of opportunity but it’s an engine for the opportunities at the potential customer and existing customer also. I’ll give you an example, we have found a number of folks who sell IT services of one form or another to banks and credit unions, what happened when the government began the stimulus programs – payroll protection plan, the EIDL loans – and people could no longer or were no longer willing to go to the branch bank? The criminals had a heyday and things like online account takeover and theft of stimulus checks, this was a huge immediate and instant problem for banks, many of the folks who sell the fraud protection software were too slow to react, the sellers and the companies who were may have been making a fortune. That means you brainstorm, what is brainstorming? The brain does not do a good job of bouncing back and forth between creative ideas and judgement.

If you’re going to brainstorm you need to set a time, maybe it’s 3 minutes, maybe it’s 5 minutes and just let your brain stay on the creative side, no judgement. Write down any idea just as it comes to you, then when the bell goes off look back and strike out the 80% that were ridiculous or impractical, that way at the end of the week you’ll have a couple of really good ideas. One of the things I think and I mentioned this earlier, the really effective folks are working in bursts as opposed to scheduling a whole day or as opposed to scheduling even three or four hours at a time. They’re scheduling small increments so some of the things we talked about, they may only do for 20 minutes and then they have a break for 30 or they may only do it for 15 and they have a break for 15 because life happens and when you’re in this world that we’re in it’s good to be able to work in concentrated bursts. Also, there’s a really interesting trend in the day that we’re not certain of yet about calling not just existing customers but calling the folks that you know are big time fans of your solution and explore with them, brainstorm with them what new solutions, new problems you may be able to address.

Then this idea of not just looking at the industries you call on, reach across industries, talk to people who are in sales and other disciplines that maybe sell into the same customer. Really begin to look at intel as an important thing now that we’re all working at home and then this idea of “what if” thinking. I want to be careful there – not the, “What if the world fails?” or, “What if the pandemic continues?” It’s, “What if this could happen, what if we could perform this way?” Again, it’s an aspect of brainstorming. Then everyone is looking for the insights data can provide so any data that your marketing team has at your disposal, any kind of data you can find in industry studies, data from research organizations, that is all something people are hungry for. One thing you’ll notice in these folks that are performing well is they’re really falling back on using those data to drive value and create value for their customers and their prospects by giving them insights.

Mindset. If you know about the book Can’t Hurt Me, it was written by a guy named David Goggins who was considered the fittest man in the world, he’s the only person that ever was a navy SEAL and a US army ranger and a pararescue for the air force. One of the things that science tells these people who perform at an incredible level is that most of us only really use 40% of our capacity. This is not about the brain, this is not about the myth – which is a total myth – that we only use 10% of our brainpower, forget it, the science has proven that’s false. I’m talking about energy and focus, we usually only use 40% of it. This thing is here, spending time worrying about it is not going to solve anything, you’ve got to change and move. The fact is there aren’t any saviors, you are your own savior, you can think in terms of, “What am I going to do to hit a point of twice my own quota?” You have everything you need, you are smart, you are experienced, it’s a different world. Don’t just survive, I want you to thrive. Fred, questions.

Fred Diamond: Tom, thank you so much for the great insights. Someone asked here, Tom, “Should I be using Zoom or just use the phone?” You analyze thousands of sales organizations, we talked about that before. What’s your advice on that right now? Again, we talked about some skills for using Zoom for existing customers but from a prospecting perspective again we’re all home, we’re all in front of our computers. Should people be using Zoom to prospect or should they go back to the safety of the phone?

Tom Snyder: I’m going to answer this quickly, there’s a couple of different aspects to it. #1, there is an undertone, a hum of loneliness, not just loneliness about your social world but people are used to working in concert with others and therefore this isolation, the more I can see you, the more engaging it is. It’s difficult to prospect with Zoom, it’s difficult to reach out to clients with any sort of even Skype or any of the things like that but it’s not difficult if the call is scheduled. You can put yourself on camera, you don’t have to have necessarily them on camera. The more they see you, the science says the greater will be the responsiveness and the faster you form rapport.

Fred Diamond: Once again I want to thank Tom Snyder for the great insights today, I want to thank you all for watching today’s webcast. Tom, at the Institute for Excellence in Sales we like to give people an action they can do today and you’ve given us so many great ideas that people should be implementing. Give us an action step that the watchers of today’s webcast and the listeners of today’s podcast must do today to take their sales career to the next level.

Tom Snyder: Starting today and for the rest of the time that we are adjusting to this new world, whether the world opens up again tomorrow or in 2 years, I want you to pick a block of time every day on your calendar. You determine whether that’s 10 minutes or 2 hours, I don’t care, but I want that block of time to be something proactive. Work on your skills, take some training, reach out to people who you don’t know, prospect through LinkedIn, take something proactive. It is the single collective biggest difference between people who are thriving and doing great against quota versus those who are barely getting there.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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