As the author of two award-winning books, Zero-Time Selling and Amp Up Your Sales and the host of two podcasts, one of which boasts 2 million downloads to date, and was on INC Magazine’s list of the top leadership podcasts, it’s safe to say that Andy Paul is one of the most highly regarded thought leaders in the sales enablement space. In fact, nearly 200K people follow him on LinkedIn for sales advice and commentary, making him #8 on the platform’s list of the Top 50 Global Sales Experts.
I sat down with Andy a couple months back for an episode of his podcast, where we discussed the science behind microlearning for knowledge retention and behavior change and why this efficient and powerful form of learning is making waves in sales enablement. I encourage you to listen to the episode if you haven’t had a chance.
Having piqued each other’s interest, we began discussing how Qstream could help readers of his latest book, Sell Without Selling Out: A Guide to Success on Your Own Terms, get the most out of the content – retaining the information and putting into practice the key concepts shared. It was immediately clear that such a partnership is a no-brainer and I have zero doubts that Qstream will be a huge value-add for his readers.
Instead of Andy interviewing me as he did on his podcast, I put him in the hot seat to learn more about his background, his latest book and his take on the current and future state of sales enablement. And of course, how microlearning fits in.
As sales professionals, we are always learning and growing our skills and I highly recommend making Andy’s book part of your toolkit. For me personally, it shed a bright light on some of the things I wanted to be doing as a salesperson that might have taken the back burner over the years. Selling without Selling Out is a candid reminder for all of us to be the types of reps our customers want to work with. Click here to get your copy and free access to the Qstream for reinforcement on the key concepts shared.
1. You had a very successful sales career, what led you to being more of a mentor to others and creating a name for yourself in the sales enablement space? Are there parts of the direct sales role that you miss?
I’ve been at the leading edge of the sales profession for four decades. I spent the first half of my career mostly selling and leading sales teams for a variety of tech start-ups. I was fortunate to have some incredible experiences traveling the world to sell 7 and 8 figure complex communications systems to large enterprises. I closed orders on every continent but Antarctica. I then started my own company to teach smaller companies how to compete with bigger companies for large orders.
This particular chapter of my career started when I published my first book in 2012 (Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps To Accelerate Every Company’s Sales.) Since them I’ve published two more bestselling books (Sell Without Selling Out: A Guide to Success on Your Own Terms and Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies That Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions) and have produced 1,100 episodes of my podcast, Sales Enablement with Andy Paul.
With regards to your question about missing selling, well, I’m a business owner. And have been since 2000. So, I’m literally selling everyday.
3. You talk quite a bit about the importance of adding value in every customer interaction, is that a top miss you are seeing in sellers these days?
Yes, it is. Sellers have to be very intentional about how they interact with buyers. Every action they take has to be justified. By that I mean, there is a tacit agreement that buyers strike with sellers. This agreement is that the buyer will invest their time and attention in a seller and in return they must receive something of value that enables them to make progress toward making their decision. In other words, sellers have to provide the buyer a return on the investment of their time and attention in every sales interaction. If there are too many interactions with a seller that do not generate an ROI on their time and attention then buyers will do the rational thing and stop giving their time and attention to a seller. Operating with the level of intention will enable sellers to bring their A game to every interaction with a buyer.
4. The pandemic flipped everything on its head and was particularly disruptive to sales which was always a very in-person and personal experience. We seem to be in this hybrid world that we are still figuring out – how has sales changed and what has not changed?
First of all, the act of selling hasn’t changed at all. The job of a seller is, and always has been, very simple (though not to be confused with being easy.) A seller’s job is to listen to their buyers, and understand what are the most important things to them (in terms of the challenges they face and the business outcomes they want to achieve by addressing those challenges) and then, help them get that. The only thing that the pandemic affected was the media through which selling and buying took place.
One thing that most commentators about selling overlook is that the overwhelming majority of B2B selling was conducted virtually prior to the pandemic. For most B2B sellers the day had long passed when the majority of their interactions with buyers took place in person. Phone calls, video calls, voice mail, email, texting, LinkedIn. These were all communications media that sellers were using prior to engage with buyers prior the pandemic.
There are some industries, like pharma, where historically there was a lot of in-person selling. But there are also industries like software, where the growth of the inside sales model and the SaaS business model, had reshaped the process of selling toward virtual selling long before the pandemic.
So, while the pandemic put a stop to in-person interactions, and many companies have adapted well to selling fully virtual, it is still an open question whether in-person interactions enhance a seller’s ability to help their buyers make a decision. In other words, is there a demonstrable benefit to being able to meet in-person with buyers. There is a lot of noise on both sides of this debate but very little hard data to support either position. Personally I believe that if I have a chance to meet with a buyer in person then that will work to my advantage.
5. The buyer’s journey has also changed – people are doing more research on their own thanks to the proliferation of information on the internet – how has the role of sales changed, or not?
How a seller does their job is always evolving. However, that has more to do with their own use of technology as opposed to buyers being able to do more research on their own.
Look, as I said before, the job of a seller hasn’t changed. A seller’s job is to listen to their buyers, and understand what are the most important things to them (in terms of the challenges they face and the business outcomes they want to achieve by addressing those challenges) and then, help them get that.
Everyone has probably heard of survey results that say buyers don’t want to talk with sellers anymore. I believe that really misrepresents what buyers need.
Undoubtedly there is a growing range of B2B products that buyers can purchase on a self-service basis. However, for many products, the self-aware buyer knows that they need the help of sellers to ask them insightful questions to help them more fully define the scope of their challenges and share insights to enable them to more fully understand the impact of making a decision to change (or not to change.)
What buyers need from sellers hasn’t really changed. They need sellers who can help them quickly gather and make sense of the information they need to make an informed decision with the least investment of their time, attention and resources possible.
What has changed over the past 10-15 years is an increase in the buyer’s ability to make decisions on their own if sellers aren’t prepared to give them the assistance they need.
6. What are the people that are successfully selling today doing that others are not?
The top sellers understand that the majority of a buyer’s purchase decision is based on their experience with them, the individual seller. In competitive markets, the actual and perceived differences between products are very slim in the eyes of the buyers.
The tie-breaker is often the experience of the buyer with the seller.
Successful sellers learn that it is the human side of selling that sets them apart. It is their ability to connect with buyers, to build the credibility and trust that enables them to ask and get answers to insightful questions, to truly understand what is most important to the buyer and to give value that enables buyers to make their decision with the least possible investment of their time and attention.
Contrary to what some believe, the role of the human in B2B selling is becoming more important, not less. When all else is equal, it’s the human seller who makes the difference.
7. Where does sales enablement fall short?
There are two areas that really need more focus from enablement.
One is, as I mentioned before, the human side of selling. People buy from people. Enablement does a good job of training humans how to be sellers. Now they need to do a better job of training sellers how to be human.
The other is the enablement of front line sales managers. Research shows that Front Line Managers are the single biggest influence on the success of the sellers that work for them. In particular the less experienced sellers. Sellers look to managers for coaching, personal development, guidance and leadership. A greater percentage of enablement budgets should be devoted to training and developing this critical middle management resource.
An Army colonel was quoted as saying “Success isn’t defined by the generals making decisions; it’s off the sergeants’ back who always find a way to get the job done. Strong sergeants create strong Soldiers.” So it is with sales. Success isn’t defined by the CRO making decisions; it’s off the front line manager’s back who find a way to get the job done. Strong managers create strong sellers.
9. What sparked your interest in partnering with Qstream?
It was the idea of making Sell Without Selling Out an even more valuable resource for readers by providing an easy method for helping them retain and put to use the ideas and best practices in the book.
10. Your latest book focuses quite a bit on behaving as a human and eliminating salesy behavior. Do you see the opportunity for future Qstreams to help with that behavioral adjustment?
Absolutely! My book (Sell Without Selling Out) is full of new perspectives and practical methods for taking control of how you sell. I think we’ve just scratched the surface with this first Qstream for Sell Without Selling Out.
11. What advice would you give to someone starting out or considering a career in sales today?
A couple things come to mind. First, never stop learning. Read widely. Listen to podcasts. Devote time every day to reading about business, the markets, selling, buying, human psychology, decision making. Stay current with what is happening around the world. Scan world news. One of my favorite quotes about what you should set as a goal is to: “Try to learn something about everything and everything about something.” Be a generalist and a specialist.
Second, stay curious. The questions you ask will have far more value to your buyers than any fact, feature, or data you tell them.