Whether you’re new to sales or a seasoned cold caller, you no doubt have a go-to way of starting a phone conversation with a prospect. Excellent! But how’s that working for you? Ed Porter, the fractional Chief Revenue Officer of Blue Chip CRO is our Market Dominance Guys' guest. He talks today about scripts, pattern-interrupts, and the art of conversation with our hosts, Chris Beall and Corey Frank. As Chris points out, that first conversation is an ambush call, and nobody likes to be ambushed, especially by an invisible stranger. Ed totally agrees and adds that “Fear prevents us from picking up the phone” — which is true whether you’re the salesperson or the prospect. So, what can generally get both the caller and the prospect past that fear? A well-constructed cold-calling script, but not necessarily one that a salesperson makes up on their own. Ed says it’s got to be architected from a sound plan that includes expertise and advice from both the marketing and customer success teams, which is why we’ve titled today’s Market Dominance Guys’ episode, “The Architecture of a First Conversation.”
Ed Porter is a fractional Chief Revenue Officer for Blue Chip CRO, providing coaching and strategy planning services for executives and startups, and helping them rethink and refocus revenue strategies to accelerate growth. He assists his clients in aligning their revenue teams — marketing, sales, enablement, and customer success — to build accountability at every step of their organization, leading to accelerated and sustainable growth. Ed is also an investor and advisor to startups in the Columbus area.
Full episode transcript below:
Whether you're new to sales or a seasoned cold caller, you no doubt have a go-to way of starting a phone conversation with a prospect. Excellent. But how's that working for you? Ed Porter, The Fractional Chief Revenue Officer of Blue Chip CRO, and Our Market Dominance Guy's guest, talks today about scripts, pattern interrupts, and the art of conversation with our hosts, Chris Beall and Corey Frank. As Chris points out, that first conversation is an ambush call, and nobody likes to be ambushed, especially by an invisible stranger. Ed totally agrees, and adds that, fear prevents us from picking up the phone, which is true, whether you're the salesperson or the prospect. So what can generally get both the caller and the prospect past that fear? A well constructed cold calling script, but not necessarily one that a salesperson makes up on their own. Ed says, "It's got to be architect from a sound plan that includes expertise and advice from both the marketing and customer success teams, which is why we've titled today's Market Dominance Guys episode, The Architecture of a First Conversation."
Corey Frank (01:36):
So Ed, this is the Market Dominance Guys, and we talk about all things sales and marketing and how to dominate your marketing. We believe, certainly both of our organizations Branch49 and ConnectAndSell. And certainly think you believe the same thing, that conversation first strategy has to be at the core of what you're doing to dominate your market. So when you coach your clients and talk to your groups, your teams that you invest in about go to market, what are some of your thoughts on conversation first, and how you do it well and how they're doing it today? And I'm sure you've seen your share of poorly designed scripts in the world. And you've probably heard your share of cringe-worthy cold calls that they're still hanging on from, you can't pry from their cold dead fingers because, every once in a while it does work, but just overall your thoughts on cool calling today.
Ed Porter (02:31):
Again, something I love talking about and something that I think one of the reasons why Chris and I always have familiar ground to speak from, is that architecting a first conversation is in practice, very simple, but conceptually very difficult. You don't have a whole lot of time on a first conversation. I think in most of the markets that we're in, and I do want to talk a little bit about PLG because I think there's a big overlap that is being missed right now with PLG. PLG doesn't mean if you build it, they will come again. We kind of use that same thing. There's still an intervention of a human being in a conversation that needs to happen to move the needle along. So I will always firmly believe in, and I'll say in most B2B, I think there are some very highly transactional products that can very well, if you architect the messaging and the cadence properly, it can work, but purely transactional lower value.
Ed Porter (03:30):
But beyond that, taking all of those butts aside is, architecting the conversation, and the conversation is starting point and not the end point. A lot of times, I think I was on a podcast a few years back talking about this word vomit, is sales people because if you're talking this 88.723% of you're losing against status quo, not to mention the other percentage points you're losing literally other competitors. You know your win rates are very small, but you start looking further back into the funnel and say, your connection rates are very small. So when you do get a connection, you get excited and everything in your brain says, "I got like two minutes to tell Chris everything or else I lose him." So we get into this tangent of, "Oh, you picked up the phone. What do I say?"
Ed Porter (04:20):
And then second is, now that we're having a conversation, where do I go? And I just need to get all of this stuff off of me because, it's either in my playbook or I need to prequalify before something. And I'm driven by other things other than what really the buyer's saying, except I'm really excited that I'm talking to them. So that whole emotional battle is really important. So having a training to default to, to be able to understand how you're going to carry a conversation from stranger to some familiarity with me, and then some familiarity with me to somehow getting more time on a calendar or a next step going. It's simple in practice or at least in time, it's probably a minute and a half, maybe two minutes at most. But when you start thinking about all of the angles, it can go, how do you get somebody when somebody picks up the phone, what are the chances that they're actually listening to you and not looking at an email on their screen and just kind of half listening.
Ed Porter (05:18):
So how do you get their attention? And we talk a lot about pattern interrupts. You talk a lot about how do you not be the same old, same old. So when it comes down to scripting, I'll say I'm a huge fan of scripts. And I think there's a difference between word-for-word scripts throughout every single conversation, and word-for-word scripts to try and build your next step. And there's a big difference to that. I don't think you can script out a whole sales process. I just don't think it's there, but you can script out certain things to say precisely to get a conversation open or to close for a next step. There are some things that can be scripted out. The very least for everything else is that it's all a plan. So I do go into these to any engagement. Once I get past the whole customer success marketing thing, and we actually start diving into sales, then we start saying, is it a true cold call where they have no idea, or are you calling from a lead?
Ed Porter (06:14):
And if the lead what's happened, so we got to start scripting it at that point. But if we're going to pick up the phone, and we're going to try and get somebody on the phone, and they're not expecting our call, I don't care if they ask us to contact us. And maybe it's five minutes, maybe it's 15 minutes. Whatever that gap in time is, they're still not expecting our call, when we call. We have to understand that. And again, this is something Chris talked about in our meeting. Geez, Chris, I think this was five years ago, maybe six years ago. It's this realization of, when you're calling someone, you are the problem. So you have to de arm them a little bit to try and say, how do you lower that defense mechanism to try and at least get to the next step. You got like seven or eight seconds before somebody makes a decision to click or to keep listening or to inject and say something else.
Ed Porter (07:04):
So when you start thinking about this, you have to build your chess game in these seven or eight second increments. And then how do you ask the question? How do you listen for that? And then how do you pivot? And if you get a Chatty Cathy on the line, great, keep having conversations, but also know you got to be real clear about that next step. You got to be clear to close. And that's where these conversations, I think the art of conversation, maybe this is the book you got to write, Chris is, the Art of Conversation, and parallel that to the art of war, and make this the real understanding of thinking about when people talk to each other and have a conversation. What's the information exchange look like? How do you ask and tell? And how do you walk up to a stranger?
Ed Porter (07:49):
You just got done eating dinner at the short north and you're walking up the street and you're going up to somebody and saying, "I like what you're drinking. How do I get that?" That's still that you have to architect that conversation. And it's tough. And we can talk about fear all day long too. And that prevents us from doing a lot of things. It prevents us from picking up the phone. It prevents us, it rationalizes so that we can find other reasons not to pick up the phone. And it also prevents us from moving on to the next step. So there's my word vomit on that topic because I absolutely love talking about it. There are plenty of people who say, "Oh, I never pick up a cold call." Great. I'm not going to convince you otherwise, but I'm going to say there are plenty of other people, not like you, and I'm not just selling to you.
Ed Porter (08:35):
So why wouldn't I want to make sure that I'm everything to everybody where I can be. So I don't believe that's a reason not to do something. So this is something that involves a lot of thought, a lot of psychology, and the ones who architect it right and properly are seeing huge gains in better connection rates, better conversation rates, better conversation to meeting rates. And you see that whole top end of that funnel really get optimized. Now it's up to the sales people. You really got to know your stuff now because I'm teeing you up a lot of good leads, don't fumble them. That's my thought and alignment on cold calling on scripting on messaging and really understanding the architecture of a first conversation.
Chris Beall (09:17):
I love it. It ties into what you were talking about earlier in a subtle way that I think people often miss, which is, you had mentioned before we got on here, that customer success and the alignment between customer success and marketing is key. And that's where you want to start. Because you're hearing truly the voice of the customer, not at random, but about the problem they're trying to solve and about how you're offering helps them. And you can actually just start there. You can ignore all of the customer complaints. You can actually say, the voice of the customer only consists of the good stuff. Bruce Lee Walt, said this to me the other day. I said, some of our agents get a lot much higher transfer rate than others. He said, "Send me the recordings of two of them that are the best." I said, "What about the worst?"
Chris Beall (10:03):
He said, "You don't learn anything from that." And I thought that was a really good point. You don't actually learn anything from the worst, because there are millions of ways to fail. And there are millions of points in time when you can fail. And if you multiply millions times millions, you get really big numbers. And so what you want to know is not, where are all the places that you can fish out there in Puget sound on this particular bait and not catch any fish, you want to know? Is there a spot out there in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, where it gets a little bit shallow when there's sand and you can put a sand dab down there and catch yourself a big hell of it. That's what you want to know. And by the way you want the guy to bring the hell of it.
Chris Beall (10:44):
If the lady to bring the hell of it over to your house, because well, I can tell you from experience, it's great when they do. So that, starting with the successful experience of the product and then narrowing the focus down in the marketing communication side to, okay, let's talk about how people are finding it something that helps them today. So the math is really interesting, right? My Tesla could do a million things. Whatever the million things are, it could be a door stop. I could hide behind it while people over here are having their Friday night shootouts, whatever it happens to be. But there's something that I am finding is the good bit about my Tesla. I don't have a Tesla by the way. I always have to say this. I use it. I don't have one, I use it as an analogy. Jonty has one, Hitech has one. I don't have a Tesla. Okay. Everybody. I wish I had a Tesla, but the CEO gig, it just actually doesn't pay that much.
Speaker 5 (11:40):
And this portion of the Market Dominance Guys is brought to you by Tesla. Go ahead Chris.
Chris Beall (11:44):
You almost personally asked me to put this stuff on, but if we talked to somebody about it, we talked to 10 folks about their Tesla. What do you love about it? We're going to find a convergence that occurs mathematically among the things they love. Some things will be mentioned a lot of times, some few, if we make our marketing communication, do nothing, no creativity. Just say let's take the number, one thing that people love. And let's go talk about that. Well, who's going to do the talking? [inaudible 00:12:12] Aha. Salespeople. In what context? Well, you can't have a second conversation before you have a first one.
Chris Beall (12:19):
So let's start with the big problem. The first conversation. Okay. Now, within the psychological constraints of the first conversation, which is of the form of an ambush of one human being by another, who is scared of them. So nobody answers the phone going. I sure hope it's Ed, unless they see that it's otherwise.
Ed Porter (12:37):
Well, I can't wait for a cold call.
Chris Beall (12:40):
You cannot. Yeah. I was busy right now, but I was about to go into this meeting and, so when they answer, we know their psychological states. So now what you've done is you've stitched together the two ends of the market perfectly.
Chris Beall (13:49):
One end is constrained by value already being received, codified into what do most of them say they like, not like the most, but what do most of them say they like, what a second, because markets are numerical beasts in that sense. So we're not going to seek the one thing, "Oh, I love my Tesla because every once in a while it has some weird glitch and it does some strange thing I think is really pretty." I love that most, who cares, right? Nobody else mentioned it. Get rid of that crap. And then the other end where the constraint is psychological. So you have a numerical constraint on one side, which is who mentions something the most that they like, you have a psychological constraint on the other side, which is the ambush somebody, and you are now the problem. And if you can make those work together, you will always dominate the market for that thing that is mentioned the most, which happens to be tied to a thing that you're selling, called your product.
Chris Beall (14:46):
That formula is powerful and you are bringing that formula in a practical way as you call it a fractional CRO, but it's actually a revenue system designer starting from the two. In my opinion, your business is starting from the two big constraints. One of them is a numerical constraint, and one of them is a psychological constraint and you are causing those to come together in a place that, a hundred monkeys given scalpels in the room are not going to accidentally discover heart surgery, right? They're just, it's got to be a bloody mess.
Chris Beall (15:22):
So you're going to come in and go, no, first we got to put the patient to sleep. So they don't move quite so much. Then, by the way, did you know, there are hearts in this part of their body? Now here's what we're going to do, right? You're going to start there. You're going to calm it down and start way over here on the customer's side. But I don't know anybody else who ties it all the way back to the true hard, you cannot escape it. I don't care how much you want to psychological constraint of the ambush that is required to have a first conversation. And I think that's fascinating. Does that resonate with you? Or am I just saying that Columbus is a great place?
Ed Porter (16:04):
No, it definitely does. And I think that's going on, a lot of these analogies really show, everybody who's done it knows that, selling is hard. And it's hard because sometimes we make it harder on ourselves. Sometimes the company makes it harder on us, sometimes the customers, prospects, whatever. It's hard, it's a numbers game, like you said, and part psychological. So the part that really resonates here is when you start thinking through this. And a lot of it just starts with thought and brainstorming and starting to understand why people do things that they do. So this now you're morphing into the psychological part, and the ones who understand it. There's a lot of psychology and marketing, where there's a lot of psychology in sales too. There's a ton of psychology in customer support. Now, whether or not you actually do anything with that is a second debate, but there's psychology in talking to humans.
Ed Porter (16:57):
And that's exactly what is here, there. And when you start getting into this form of figuring out emotions and defense mechanisms, and how do you break through it? Are we just going to accept it, and just accept that every 100 calls we make, we're only going to talk to maybe a half a person, and are we just going to accept it, and just now it's a numbers game and we do a math formula and say, we need a hundred salespeople to go generate $2 million a year. So you start figuring out that to say, it's either accepted or we're going to improve. And if others are doing it, now, you've got, well, how are you able to do it? Now we get down this path of, oh, you're not manually picking up a handset and dialing nine one, blah, blah. Oh, you're using this clickable app?
Ed Porter (17:44):
And so now that's a step towards making a little bit more efficiency. And now we've got the technology again, Corey, to this point of, we've got this technology that allows us to go faster. But if I got this technology that allows me to go faster, and have eight to 10 conversations in an hour. If I don't know what the heck I'm going to say, then all I'm doing is accelerating suck. So all I'm doing is having eight to 10 conversations an hour with people who I'm offending upsetting, and I'm not coming from the point of them being the problem. And how do I have a good successful conversation? And how do I really invest in the follow-up? That's where the money is, right? It's all in the follow-up. So that's this whole architecting of a conversation to say, technology, doesn't matter how fast you can go. If you're not saying the right things that are resonating with the people that you're talking to, then all you're doing is just whether it's a marketing spend or whether it's a sales spend, either way it's money out the window.
Corey Frank (18:38):
Yeah. Amplify suck. Chris has saved me several times, not soon enough. I must tell you in the audience here, but several times I have had a large inside sales organization. I say, Chris, let's just ramp it up. Let's everybody, like the scene from the professional, bring everyone to the forefront of ConnectAndSell, all 150 of them. And Chris is like, "Well, I'm not sure." You stay out of this. You have the technology, everyone. Well, let's just say about five figures a day for several weeks, Chris is sitting at the corner saying, no, I told you, so you got to have the right bone structure first, otherwise, again, I epitomized several times. I don't learn them but degenerate gambler, the amplify suck comment, I think was meant for me. So Ed, when you think about some of the, Chris talks about deep truths and no sales ambush call, right?
Corey Frank (19:32):
No one's going to reveal a deep truth in a sales ambush call. So stop trying to make it something that it wasn't designed to be, the Tesla's not designed to be a doorstop, at an intro cold outreach call is not designed to be a deep truth discovery call. So stop trying to make it what it is. But when you look at your practice, the years of experience that you had, the companies that you advised and guided, what are some of the controversial truths that are maybe a little bit counter-cultural, that you present to your clients, to your VPs of sales, to your sales managers, that you advise that at first they're a little bit like, 'Hey, burn the witch." All right? Or they're, "We can't do that here." Or, "We've tried that." Do you have a few of them that come to mind?
Chris Beall (20:19):
Saying in Columbus we barbecue the witch, by the way we don't. [inaudible 00:20:23] We're good. We barbecue the witch.
Corey Frank (20:26):
Yeah. It's called impossible witch. They also have impossible [inaudible 00:20:30]
Ed Porter (20:29):
Corey Frank (20:33):
Tastes just like [inaudible 00:20:35]
Ed Porter (20:34):
There's certainly a few. I think a lot of the deer and headlights reactions are when I start talking about cold outreach. And it's more about, well, we try to warm it up a little bit. We try to make somebody not completely cold. And then we start having the conversation about, well, even if somebody knows who your company is, they don't know who you are. And they certainly aren't ready to have a conversation with you at the time that you want to have a conversation. And let's not just look at this on the phone. Let's look at the same thing on email. I may know, obviously, I know Nike as a brand. If I get an email from Nike, because I know the brand, is that going to make me more likely or less likely to read the email?
Ed Porter (21:16):
There's a couple schools of thought there one is, it's just another newsletter I'm just done with this stuff and delete. So I see something from a Nike, delete. So that's one school of thought. The other school of thought is, yeah, of course it's Nike. I'm going to listen. So there's still that unpredictability, but at some point you're relying, you're resting your laurels on, let's build a brand, and then once our brand is known, we're going to have a lot easier time having conversations.
Ed Porter (21:43):
And that just doesn't happen. And it's a fallacy. And a lot of people that when I start talking about that is less about your brand and more about that interaction, then my follow up question is, do you know how many calls it takes to get a conversation right now? I don't care where the source of the lead comes from. I don't care if it's responding to some kind of contact me. I don't care what it is, but do you know what the rough ratio is? And it's shocking that most don't, and it's like, okay, well let's start looking and let's see how much activity is happening in order to [inaudible 00:22:16]
Corey Frank (22:16):
And you're talking about their math of sales, a lot of sales leaderships today, aren't sure of their top of funnel ratios for their math of sales. That's what right.
Ed Porter (22:27):
Yeah, exactly. Making those steps. They probably have a good idea on conversion rates, more than likely of, yeah opportunities closed one. We get that. And maybe there's an understanding of MQLS and SQLS, but even we go into the path of, your MQLS, probably aren't all treated equal either. So yes. Now we're getting into the real top of funnel of activities to net outcomes of conversations, or we can go email reply rates, but let's stick to the phone. So calls to conversations, conversations to meetings. And what that meeting is another, what is that first meeting? So you have a conversation and somebody's booking time on a calendar. What is that? What is that next? Is that a true discovery call or is it not going that deep? Is it an hour-long call, or is it a 15-minute call? What are you trying to get and is understanding why do you do it that way?
Ed Porter (23:17):
If you're trying to call somebody cold, and book time on a calendar for an hour discovery call, how did you pick that as the time limit? And those are the things where we start getting into a lot more questions that are being raised. When then I go back to kind of proving my point of, we need to architect the cold outreach so that you're highly optimized on the front end. And that's going to involve a certain amount of outbound activity. Most importantly, in this is you're going to have to know what to say. And then in that know what to say, is what's your next step? And how do you understand that hill? And then come right back down, and however sharp it is, great, but you got to be able to do that. And when we start getting into this philosophical discussion about what your sales team say, when somebody picks up the phone, what's their opening. And some people know Sandler, and some people go with the pattern interrupt, and that's fine.
Ed Porter (24:13):
At least you have something. Others are just like, what we're trying to get the decision-maker. And then we're trying to ask them who you're using for their payroll system. Okay. That, Hey, it's a way, but let's start getting better there. But when we start talking cold outreach, that becomes a little bit more of the eyebrow-raising as we're trying not to do that, or we don't really know the success rate. And I tend to go a little deeper into that arena, and then parlay that right into, who's making those calls? Is it a full cycle sales rep? You have a dedicated BDR SDR team. How are they comped? And that's a whole other thing that we can debate about, because I start talking about comp plans and unrelated to closed deals. And sometimes that's, oh, we would never do that. Why would we comp somebody if a deal doesn't close?
Ed Porter (24:58):
Well, who's working on what? And that's where you, do you comp marketing when deals close or do you comp marketing on their NQO rate? And now we get into this whole, what's the objective of these particular sales team members? How responsible are they in the whole sales cycle? And if they're not responsible or partaking or owning a certain cycle, then don't rest the laurels on the comp there. So we start getting that into net and then compensation becomes a little bit more of an eyebrow raise. And there's actually a lot of discussion out there, which I'm really interested in learning more about. I've got probably very infant knowledge on no sales commissions being offered, and kind of looking at the behaviors that instill as a result of sales conversations. There's a demoing philosophy on, no sales commissions. And then a couple people I've heard talk about no sales commissions, one being Erol Toker, founder of Truly. Heard him on a podcast, not too long ago, that he doesn't believe in sales commissions and does more harm than good.
Ed Porter (26:07):
And I think these are again, schools of thought, but where I start to think about this is, ultimately it says, what are you compensated for? And how are you measuring success? So going through the analogy Chris used about, don't tell me the 70, 80% of the ocean that doesn't work for fishing. Tell me the parts that do work, and let me go there. I don't want to listen to the bad calls. I don't care about dissecting all of the things that are bad. Again, it's in the spirit of trying to fix it, but let's look at the good ones. Let's figure out what works, and then go replicate that. Give me two good ones. That's easy to consume instead of 15 bad ones. I don't want to listen to 15 bad calls, especially if they're hour-long discovery calls. I'm not have to listen to 15 of those. I'd rather listen to two, and start marking what works.
Ed Porter (26:52):
What's starting to fuel good conversations. So there's a lot of theories there, but that compensation part is, how is your sales team aligned? What are they really responsible for? Do they have goals that can be tracked back to even daily goals, and are those goals or inputs what their compensation plan is based off of, or are they only compensated on the output? So those are two areas when we start talking with clients about understanding our cold outreach, kind of diffusing the whole, if you build it, they will come and really standing behind. You got to have a good message. You got to understand the time that you're reaching out to somebody and how you're garnering that next step. And then we go into understanding the outputs, but then also building the inputs and how that relates to sales compensation.
Ed Porter (27:39):
Those tend to be some things that raise some eyebrows, at least initially, as we start to have conversations and start to work through it. Beyond that, I would say a third thing that, we kind of talked about earlier is, and I just had a client last year. That was this way, they were very set on, they have a sales problem, their salespeople need to be better at architecting discovery. And then their next step in the conversation was a needs analysis. And then they went to a demo and maybe it went into a second or third or fourth demo. So they needed to lock down this process. And again, it wound up being when we started to dive into, it is who are the customers you're serving? What problems are they experiencing? How are you able to solve them? Have you figured this out?
Ed Porter (28:26):
And then it's like, "Well, we don't really have that documented somewhere." Well, okay, well let's go document it. So then I went over to customer success that we wanted. So again, somebody who had a real finite problem, we couldn't solve for that because we didn't get the other layers deeper. So I had to go into customer success and spend a lot of time there. And then I had to look at marketing and say, what is marketing talking about? And then how are we using marketing messaging in the sales process to better architect, the first conversation, the first meeting, the first discovery call, the first demo, let's architect these key milestones. And the only way I can know how to architect those, is if I understand this question journey that I want to be able to take the prospect through to be able to understand, does it even make sense for us to talk now?
Ed Porter (29:13):
Or do you have a problem big enough, that you're even willing to solve. There may be a problem that they have, that I got to figure out. I got employees leaving left and right, I got to figure out how to retain them. What have you done to change that? Well, nothing. Okay. Well maybe it's not big enough to want to solve, so maybe I can't help you. So that becomes kind of the third thing is, when clients have the sales problem and it's often not, and it's often you need to go get some information on customer success, take it back to marketing, and then make sure that everybody's singing the same tune. And that's usually a little bit more of uphill battle when they want me fixated on one thing.
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