In this episode, Chris dives deep into the intricacies and pitfalls of sales tooling, questioning the effectiveness of piling on more tools and the notion of an 'Uber tool.' Chris explores the impedance mismatch between the world of sales tools and the neurodiversity of salespeople, highlighting the challenges faced by salespeople who switch attention frequently and the toll it takes on their productivity. With references to a recent Forrester article, an insight into sales conversations, and a sprinkle of Beall's Laws, Chris delves into the complexities of sales processes, the importance of meaningful conversations, and the hurdles of creating a one-size-fits-all tool. Tune in as Chris discusses the present and future of sales technology, neurodiversity, and the search for an optimal toolset. Join us for this episode, "Decoding the One-Stop Shop Sales Tool."
Full episode transcript below:
In this episode, Chris dives deep into the intricacies and pitfalls of sales tooling, questioning the effectiveness of piling on more [00:00:30] tools and the notion of an über tool. Chris explores the impedance mismatch between the world of sales tools, and the neurodiversity of salespeople. Highlighting the challenges faced by salespeople who switch attention frequently, and the toll it takes on their productivity. With references to a recent Forrester article and insight into sales conversations, and a sprinkle of Beall's laws, Chris delves into the complexities of sales processes and the importance of meaningful conversations. As well as [00:01:00] the hurdles of creating a one-size-fits-all tool. Tune in for a discussion on the present and future of sales technology, neurodiversity, and a search for an optimal tool set. Join us for this episode, Decoding The One-Stop Shop Sales Tool.
Chris Beall (01:23):
Hey everybody. Chris Beall here without Corey Frank. He's probably available, but it's a Tuesday [00:01:30] afternoon raining here in Port Townsend, Washington. I don't know, I was just in a mood to hold forth on something. So here's the something. I read yesterday, it was a LinkedIn post I believe, that pointed to a Forrester analysis that said basically the number of sales tools keeps going up and sales performance keeps going down. And asking the question, "Are they related to each other?" And [00:02:00] I think the answer is yes, but not for precisely the reasons they stated in the article. So the idea in the article was pretty simple. More sales tools means more stuff that the sales person has got to work with, or is tempted to work with. And it's hard to become an expert at anything at all in this world, actually. Let's face it. But it's particularly hard to become an expert in something that you use occasionally and use a little bit.
So the idea is, [00:02:30] hey, you're having to jump around from tool to tool to tool. And the suggestion is a one-stop shop that does everything, is going to get the job done. That is, you want one tool to rule them all. And it's interesting. This to me, reminds me of the whole world of enterprise resource planning as it eventually came to be called. And you grew out of a thing called MRP, Manufacturing Resource Planning. And then MRP 2, which was a subtle twist [00:03:00] on all of that, that actually went and closed the loop between outputs and inputs. That is, you were actually talking about making stuff and ultimately maybe even shipping it. I only know about this because I was a architect designer of an MRP 2 system way back when. Which turned into, with a little bit of help, into a distribution management system to run a big automated warehouse full of all sorts of things. Humans and robots working [00:03:30] together.
And people who know me know I do love my humans and robots working together. Especially if the robots don't have much physical form, if they're just software. That's what we do here at ConnectAndSell, is humans and AI work together to solve the problem of getting a conversation with somebody, which is a positive thing. And getting to ship the right stuff out on an order and not make any mistakes. That was a pretty good one too. So the reason I bring that up is, there was always a dream in the world [00:04:00] of ERP. And that dream has been repeated over, and over, and over in enterprise software land. Folks come up with something and say, "Well it's just ridiculous that we're using general purpose tools." And they will generally point to email and Excel, unless they choose to say it in the other order. And then it's Excel and email.
And then they might throw in something like, I don't know, Microsoft Word and PowerPoint, or nowadays, some Google tools or other. [00:04:30] And say, "Wouldn't it be great if instead of using this general stuff, we could use specific stuff that was wired together to solve all the problems that are faced by all sellers?" And so these tools come out, first as point solutions doing this, that, and the other thing. And then somebody says, "Hey, let's bring them all together and make something that works for everybody." It sounds marvelous. It really does. It has a problem. [00:05:00] And this I think is one of the problems with tooling in general in the tech space, and much more specifically or in a more profound way, in the sales space. And the reason is, trying to make stuff work together assumes that you know what working is. That is, you know what the inputs are. You know what the outputs are. You know what the transformations are. You know what quality means. You know what it means for [00:05:30] an output to not meet up to standards and have to be sent back for rework.
You know what customer value actually is. That who gets the value of the thing that you're producing at each step, and how do they realize that value. You know all of that stuff supposedly. And then you can make a system that says, "Oh, I'm going to represent these inputs in a database in this way, or put them on a screen so you can see them. I'm going to maybe animate them so that you can [00:06:00] watch them move, and get an idea of what's going on. I'll give you analytics of pictures that show you what's happening. Lines marching up under the right, or whatever it happens to be. Won't it be great?" It sort of ignores a glaring fact of life, which is we actually tend not to know exactly how things work. I was listening to a conversation today with four extremely smart people, who are extremely deep in their business, talking about [00:06:30] just how one thing works, or how it could work. Which was, "What are we going to do with these inbound leads now that we've changed our ideal customer profile?"
Now the keywords there are one historical, what are we going to do with...? And then it talks about something in the past. So the past is the past. You can't do anything about it. So the inbound leads come as they are, however that is. Somebody built some system to take care of them. Somebody [00:07:00] built a process to take care of them. That was all full of all sorts of assumptions. It was tuned by experience. And I bet at some point it involved an Excel spreadsheet, regardless of what they might say. So even if it's just for analyzing the outliers, somebody probably extracts data from that thing every once in a while. Puts it in a spreadsheet, takes it through some manipulations. If they're any good, they do something brilliant with a pivot table. If they're not so good, they probably sort [00:07:30] three or four of the columns and leave the other ones unsorted. But they're happy because nobody ever looks at the data anyway. And then, well, everything's just fine.
The beauty is, the spreadsheet provides a buffer against how things are in the real world, and how you would like them to be or like to report on them. Putting them in different categories, totaling this, that and the other thing. So that buffer is like grease in the machine. It provides lubrication for a [00:08:00] process that is not perfectly well understood. That is, doesn't mesh perfectly. You can never make a machine a physical machine with perfect tolerances. There's always a little scraping going on, a little friction. I used to be a Volkswagen mechanic many, many years ago. And I tell you those things don't run very far, last very long if you run them out of oil. Even though they're pretty precisely manufactured, they're just not that precise. And by the way, when they get hot, they get less precise [00:08:30] because parts swell up. So when you look at processes, and think about them. And think, "Oh, I know exactly what's going on here and therefore I could automate this process." You're probably wrong.
You're probably ending up with your automation needing to be supported by some kind of a buffering mechanism that allows you to take things that aren't quite described perfectly. "Oh, this particular thing works when we're only shipping boxes [00:09:00] of the size, but now it turns out there's a new product on the shelf and it's in a weird shape box. And it doesn't fit in the pallet anymore. And our process assumes everything goes on a palette in a certain way." Or whatever. Anyway, this is where spreadsheets get involved and everybody throws up their hands eventually and says, "We got to stop running on spreadsheets." Well, if that worked, we would've stopped running on spreadsheets a long time ago. So that's kind of thing number one is, it's really hard to describe [00:09:30] a process, even one in the past. And then there's change. And change is the big deal, and sales processes are very, very prone to changing.
They're also very, very prone to being executed in ways in the field that are significantly different from the way they're drawn up. They're not like NFL plays, they're more like broken plays. That is, you can put the little chalkboard up there and you can draw X's [00:10:00] and O's, and swoopy lines that show where the wide receiver's going to go. And who's going to legally pick off whom. And all that kind of good stuff. But on the real field, in the world of sales, your opponents are not the other folks. Maybe they are. After all, you have a whole bunch of things working against you. You have time working against you. There's no fixed amount of time. There's no real rules of engagement, although people kind of stylize some of them and go, "Oh, we'll have this discovery meeting first [00:10:30] and then we'll do this demo next." And so forth.
Those things are all talked about a lot, but there's no real regularity to what I would call the playing field in the world of sales. And so it's hard to describe it digitally, and we end up kind of having to describe it in various ways that work. And out in the field, the motivated salesperson is always going to find something that works rather than do the thing as prescribed. [00:11:00] So that's part of the problem, there's just variability out there in the field. Lots of things are going on. Folks are doing little things, and big things differently from each other. Another problem is that in sales, the actual play that's being run is not the play that's drawn up. It's more like a real play, like drama. Maybe even a musical. I had the privilege the other night of going to sit with some people who are musical theater folks, and listen to them talk about their craft.
[00:11:30] And I tell you, that is high precision, very athletic stuff. Whose primary principle is, something's going to go wrong, and you the actor, are going to have to adapt to it from your deep knowledge of the story. Well, this is what happens in sales. In every sales conversation, something goes wrong. And by wrong I mean, the other party doesn't quite get what you're talking about, or you speak at the wrong time. Or you say something that kind of makes them bristle a little bit and it wasn't the part where you wanted them to bristle. [00:12:00] Or whatever. You can't predict what the other person's going to do, all you can do is adapt. So while your sales process is trying to figure out ultimately how to get you into a conversation with someone, out of which is going to come a decision. Now, sales does have one beautiful thing going for it.
There's only one thing that's really happening, which is conversations. And each conversation takes place one at a time. That's marvelous. You're not going to hold [00:12:30] three conversations at the same time, I hope. Please don't do that. And out of it comes a simple decision. What is what we call the next step? That is, do we move forward, or do we disengage? So now we're trying to describe all of this action and getting to the conversation and what happens next and all of this, in some sales tech that assumes that it knows how it all goes together.
Susan Finch (12:57):
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Chris Beall (13:46):
And the fact is, it sort of can't. So we end up in a jacket that's so to speak, too tight, it doesn't fit us very well. And that jacket starts to feel like a straight jacket. [00:14:00] And then management gets in the position of saying, "Well, you must do X, Y, and Z. You must put this data in the CRM." By the way, CRMs are notable for two things. One is, they explode with fields. Over time, more and, more and, more fields get added. None of these fields tend to be added, very few of them by professional data modelers. They tend to be added by somebody who's just in a hurry to have a place to put something. It's kind of like you have a place, you're trying to set up a picnic. And you don't have enough room on the table, but there's [00:14:30] this stump over there that's been sawed off. And well, it kind of looks like a little table, and it's sort of a pain to get it over near the table.
But if you sort of roll it over and stand it up, and fiddle with it, you can get it to be kind of like, well, an extension of the table. And you can put potato salad over there, or something like that. So that's what we tend to do with CRMs, is we put stumps and other things around them, extra fields. And even extra, they're called objects or whatever people want to call them, in order to have a place to set [00:15:00] something down so we can come back and get it later. Do we know exactly what it means? We kind of feel like we do, but we don't. And we change our minds over time, and then we change something else. And this is what makes it really hard. We change the players on the field. So the world of sales is kind of like, "Oh, Lipton teabag." They called it flow through. So what's flowing through? People on the sales team tend to be flowing through. They just don't last [00:15:30] long enough that you can really say, "Hey, this person knows exactly how this process works."
So now you have people who are learning as they go, they're hoping to be able to stay. Or maybe they're already tired of it, and they're looking to get out and go to their next gig. And you're trying to have those people adapt to a system that was built by folks who were basically kind of just trying to make something work in the moment. And so now you have all of this [00:16:00] kind of mismatch going on, but where's the grease? Where's the lubrication? Well, it turns out the lubrication in sales is provided by this oddity called sales compensation by commissions. That, as human beings we'll go to extraordinary steps, extraordinary means, in order to get paid. At least variable pay, they'll do what they need to do. So you have an interesting situation where there's kind of action at the edge.
There's, "Oh, here's the stump, but instead of putting the [00:16:30] potato salad on it, I think what I'm going to do is move the potato salad off of it. And I'm going to put this pie that is not yet cooked on it. Because later on the oven's going to open up and I can put the pie in." In sales, there's a lot of "later on, the oven's going to open up and I can put the pie in". We're almost always waiting for something over in the customer side. And so now our nice fields, our little stumps we put around, get full of all sorts of manner of things. They get pies, and pickles, and brownies and God knows what on them. [00:17:00] And then you don't know what's what. Meanwhile, the salespeople got to get the job done, because time is not their friend. Everything's running kind of quarter, by quarter, by quarter. They're trying to get the job done.
And you get this very interesting conflict between the systems and processes, and the execution itself. I guarantee you over time the execution tends to win. And then there's this pushback by the very organized folks who go, "But why is it so chaotic?" And the reason it's so chaotic is it has to actually be adaptive [00:17:30] to a situation that itself is not smooth, no matter how you draw it out.
So let's add in one more confounding factor. What do salespeople work like on the inside? And I mentioned this before. There's a lot of what would be considered neurological variance, or just the differences among people with how their brains work, how their nervous systems work. Probably their gut microbiome, their biome, their vagus nerve. God knows. We're complex beasts. And some [00:18:00] people are very, very good at calmly reading things and writing them, and so forth. So now I have this system, the sales system, that describes a process. And the way I learn about it is to read about it. And I'm a salesperson, and I don't know if I was the greatest most natural reader. I may have made myself into an okay reader, but it's probably an effort for me to read. And then to pay attention [00:18:30] long enough to what I'm reading to be able to put it into practice, and patiently try whatever I'm supposed to try.
And by the way, have you ever used a digital system that didn't make you go, "Why did they design it like this? I tried this and it doesn't work. I get this stupid error message." Well, we know that that's the case. Because that's why there's tech support, and tech support is always pretty much overwhelmed. So now I've asked a person whose natural variety, their neural diversity [00:19:00] so to speak, might lead to them away from sit, read, and think, and apply patiently and then deal with it. Toward, "I'm just going to figure out how to make this thing work well enough in order to get onto the next step and away I go." So we have sort of a mismatch between this whole world of sales tools, which tend to be read this, do this, read this, do this, read [00:19:30] this, do this. And how real salespeople tend to be constructed. Which is have a conversation with somebody, do this very athletic, delicate set of things in that conversation in order to maximize the probability of making a good decision with regard to the next step.
That's their core skill. And that skill is often exercised with what seems like some... I'll admit it, I'm not being clinical here, but maybe some attentional issues. [00:20:00] People talk about hyperactivity and ADD and this kind of stuff. I don't know about those things. I think people use those terms pretty loosely. But I tell you the ability to switch your attention very quickly, and micro pivot in a sales conversation emotionally with your voice, with the words, with your body language. Being able to do that stuff on the spot and do it really well, but not know exactly that you were going to do it one second before. The ability to do that [00:20:30] can be enhanced quite frankly, by having a neural setup that allows you to pay attention to something new very quickly. That's not true multitasking, but it's kind of like flip-flip-flip tasking while you're maintaining focus on the other person.
So it's very interesting how great salespeople work. They focus strongly on the other person, but they move very nimbly with regard to what might happen next. What might be discussed next. And they're very firm in their desire [00:21:00] or their intention, and their willingness to work toward a good outcome, which is making a good decision as to a next step. So now we give them more tools. So each one of those tools requires switching attention. Hey, that sounds pretty good for somebody who switches attention a lot. But switching attention to something that isn't that easy, which is reading and understanding and being reminded, "Oh yes, at this point, this is the required field. Oh yes, at this point, at this exception in our sales process, I'm supposed to send this to so-and-so instead [00:21:30] so-and-so. Oh, I need to fill out this here, basically a form." It feels like you're filling one out in a doctor's office or something in order to be allowed to go to the next step.
These things don't line up that well with how salespeople work. And I'm in the business of sales technology, so it's a challenge for us every day. How else are you going to put up the instructions, except by saying read them? So we try to simplify it down to, "Once you've done this once or twice, what do you do? You click on [00:22:00] a list, you click on a button that says sell, and you talk to somebody." At least you're in your element, you're talking to them. But a lot of sales process now works through, "I've got to write an email. I've got to do this. I've got to adapt and text. And I've got to read a lot." And frankly, it's tiring and it doesn't produce results much faster. Who it satisfies are the folks who want to see a very uniform, a very clean description [00:22:30] of a system. And get a lot of clean data out of it that tells them what's going on.
So there's this mismatch, and in some circles it would be called an impedance mismatch. And therefore the more tools we pile on, the harder it is for somebody to switch among them. And I think this is what the Forrester article was saying is, it's harder to switch among them. And then when we do switch among them, well, it's kind of harder to keep track of what we did. And then it's hard to make them [00:23:00] work together. And we go back and we tend to do rework that's about the tools themselves, and then we run out of time and energy. And that's one conversation, or two conversations, that we could have had that we didn't have. And that drives down the sales results. Because frankly, sales results are driven in time by a flow rate of conversations that are with relevant people, held by skilled people who are trying to honestly determine, "Hey, does it [00:23:30] make sense for us to move forward or not?"
That is, shall we make a decision of the next step that's either to do something next together, or explore further, or close a deal or whatever. Or back up and disengage. And maybe wait, come back together in some future time. So sales tooling, the more the worse. And I'm not sure that putting it all into one big package solves the problem. Because having one big package actually [00:24:00] solve all the problems, so you don't have to go to your ancillary tools. Your Excels and your emails. Doing that is really hard too, because whatever the big design is for the big one-stop shop tool, probably doesn't fit your people and your process, and what you're selling and your history perfectly. And so it's just a tough area, and people argue about it a lot. And they invest billions of dollars in companies that [00:24:30] have the next thing.
There are thousands and thousands of sales tools, even just for B2B that have been created. Now, we've been doing our thing for 17 years. So I don't know if that means it works. Or I don't know what conversations, I guess maybe do matter. But it's a pretty tough thing to actually solve either at the level of one big thing, because that one big thing is going to be too rigid. And if it's not too rigid, by the way, it's programmable. And if it's programmable, it may as well be a spreadsheet. Or [00:25:00] a whole bunch of little things working together which scramble the attention of the rep. They have to keep learning stuff. And it actually causes them to go get another job faster, and to underperform in the meantime. So those are my thoughts on this topic. That Forrester article, I thought was excellent, but I think it didn't quite get to the whole thing.
It basically got to one part, which is, "Hey, the complexity, the switching cost, the paying attention is tough." But it didn't really get to [00:25:30] sort of the other thing. It sort of suggested, "Hey, if we had one big über tool, then it'd be great because people don't have to switch around." It didn't address the fact that that thing's going to have to be programmable in some sense. And I have a law, I don't know which of my laws it is. Beall's Law, there's a ton of them. Remember my first law, the smartest person in the room gets to fix the other person's network. That's the first law. But this law goes something like this. As soon as something is [00:26:00] sufficiently configurable to solve a problem that you didn't anticipate, it is sufficiently programmable that you'll spend all your time debugging it. And very little of your time using it. So with that Chris Beall, Market Dominance Guys, and happy hunting out there.
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