Sales Hustle is now Sales Transformation
Nov. 18, 2021

#196 S2 Episode 65 - From Falling into Sales to Helping Teams Recruit Top Sales Talent with Bryan Whittington

This episode of the Sales Transformation Podcast with Collin Mitchell features Bryan Whittington, Founder at ebs/growth. Bryan starts the show by sharing his previous life as a pilot, stumbling upon sales, and falling in love with it.

He shares some of his top strategies, including questioning strategies, and the importance of asking challenging questions to uncover the root cause of the issue you're trying to solve.

Core requirements here for sellers include acting assertively and confidently while navigating these questions and deploying active listening. Another very important piece is to not dismiss prospects who can't afford you.

Some of the best referrals come from prospects who believe in your product or service. Another reason to leave conversations like this on a positive note is that these non-paying clients may very well become paying customers in the future if you provide them with a memorable sales process.

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01:14 Starting as a pilot and loving the sales process

03:25 Sandler Training: Questioning strategies vs pitching

09:01 Mindset: Listen, be curious, and understand from a client's perspective

13:33 Assertiveness is directly proportional to your prospecting activities

18:34 Respect prospects who can't afford you for the qualified referrals

21:57 Using sales development practices in hiring candidates

25:12 Prospecting on LinkedIn is the best channel

26:06 Connect with Bryan


06:14 "It goes to the act of listening. Radical listening skills, I think, is the other reason that we don't do it, is because we don't listen well enough to be able to feed off of what was just said and dig down deeply there."

09:46 "It all comes down to listening, framing that, summing it up, getting that that's right, to then have the permission to jointly move on down the path."

15:44 "Just don't go too quick to pricing and then get them in the pipeline and then chase their tail for the next 6 months trying to get the thing closed because when you're saying yes to doing that, you're saying no to doing other things."

18:13 "What resources will you have? What value can you bring that, when timing is right, you are the person that stood out because they're going to buy you and the sales process that you took them to, more so than your price or even your service offering."

22:55 "What we've found is that sales development is no different than recruiting. It just has different names to it.

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Also, you can join our community by checking out If you're a sales professional looking to take your career to greater heights, please visit us at and set a call with Collin and Chris. 

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[00:00:00] In the world of sales, you either sink or swim or breakthrough to the next level. My name's Colin Mitchell. And this is sales transformation, a new kind of sales show designed to bring you through the epic life-changing moments of elite sellers. So you can experience your own sales transformation.

[00:00:24] All right. Welcome to another episode of sales transformation today. I've got a fantastic guest for you today. I'm going to be talking with Brian Winnington. He's the founder at EBS growth. He's a student of sales with over two decades of sales, sales, management, and leadership, both in the military and entrepreneurial sectors.

[00:00:42] Now leading EBS growth in helping to hire top sales talent. Brian, welcome to. Hey, thanks for having me on calling. I appreciate it. Yeah. I'm excited to have you on and see where it goes. We never know this should be interesting. Full transparency. We did no planning. We don't know what we're going to talk about, but we'll see what happens.

[00:01:01] I know we did a little bit of planning, but not much. Just give us your sales, origin story. Like where did, where did your sales career start? Kind of give us the quick, quick and dirty version of that. Yeah. So the down and dirty of it is, you know, I ended up in sales. I think that's how most people end up into it, which is a massive disappointment because sales is such a great profession.

[00:01:26] Right. You should really drive into it. Yeah. Um, my mother, she was in sales, all of her life, but retail sales. And that's what I thought of sales and started going down that path. And I realized working retail ain't for me to use a Queen's English and ended up becoming a pilot. And as I was flying airplanes, doing real estate on the side.

[00:01:47] And so always in sales, in one form or fashion or the other. Lost my flying career to, to health issues. And then, um, 2008, 2009 to age may have a little bit, uh, market tanked and real estate. And so I ended up finding this little thing called Sandler training and I realized, oh, wait a second. Sales is a profession.

[00:02:08] Sales is a process. And that's whenever I really got involved with sales. So that's the roundabout way of getting into sales, uh, professionally. Wow. Okay. And what, what was it about retail sales that wasn't for you? Huh? Well, the, you know, the nights and weekends, they were really fun, but they kind of tap you out, right?

[00:02:27] You can't, you can't ever make the income that you can, especially in technology sales or enterprise sales. That's just not an opportunity in, in retail sales, because I don't know if you'd agree with this or not calling, but it seems to me that you can get paid directly proportional the size problem that you see.

[00:02:45] And you're not solving that big of an issue whenever you're selling retail for the most part. But whenever you get into enterprise sales or helping entrepreneurs or, uh, hitting massive problems that can help an entrepreneur make tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions of dollars. That's whenever you can start to get paid for it.

[00:03:05] Yeah. And you don't have to work nights or weekends in most cases, in most cases, especially with your gig. Right. You've got all kinds of laid back then. Uh, yeah, I don't work much, uh, just, you know, show up to these podcast recordings and then call it a day. No, I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. Um, all right.

[00:03:22] So, and, and so tell me when you got into, over at Sandler training, uh, what are some big things that happened to you, you know, sort of that molded the work that you do today? Yeah, that was kind of curious. So whenever. Before I got into Sandler training, I fought sales was something that you had to be there much like in retail, you just had to be there.

[00:03:45] And it was all about relationship. And what I came to realize is that sales is a process where you've build trust. Yes, you have to do that, but that's just table stakes. We're getting in, it's really walking them through the process and it's not pitch. It's asking challenging questions to uncover the real root cause of the issue that you're trying to solve for.

[00:04:07] And once I figured out that it's questioning strategies, not pitching, which by the way call, and I don't know about you. I have zero patience for asking questions, right? I'd rather just tell you, Hey, do this because I know the right way. And I failed miserably. I added too many times, so I really had to be a, become a student of the game.

[00:04:28] So to, to learn the questioning strategies, to uncover the why behind the what to drive to action, where it's their idea, not mine. So once I figured that out through Sandler, that really, that really started to transform it. Yeah. Yeah. Why is that so hard for so many sellers where like they, you know, uh, to slow down and ask questions rather than just throw up and pitch features, benefits, logos, and all this crap that you haven't even earned the right to talk about?

[00:04:56] Yeah. I think there's three threefold. One is going to come from it's the fault of the buyer. Right? Cause the buyer is trying to get all of this information, so they, they almost force them. To do that. The second reason is marketing marketing tells you all of these features and benefits and even, or training does features and benefits raining.

[00:05:21] But really it ultimately comes down to our fault because we don't act assertively. We act aggressively to try to close a sale, but we don't act assertively that we truly know the best way in order to buy what we sell. So we need to pull that onto ourselves. So we went out or we go back to the old training, allowing us to follow that of the buyer, or we allow marketing to dictate how.

[00:05:47] Um, yeah, I mean, it's so common that sellers are using marketing language in their conversations with prospects, right. Rather than asking probing questions to learn more about, you know, what their prospects actually care about or what actually is a problem or the impact of those problems. And then crafting what the conversation or framing the conversation around.

[00:06:11] What's learned through that line of. And it goes to the act of listening. You have to be radical listening skills, I think is the other reason that we don't do it is because we don't listen well enough to be able to, um, feed off of what was just said and, and dig down deeply there. So I couldn't agree with you more on what your.

[00:06:31] Yeah. And I think a lot of sellers struggle with the listening piece in some cases, because in a lot of times it's lack of confidence or maybe lack of experience. And it's really easy. And I know that I struggled with this early on too, is like, thinking about, you know, what am I going to pitch next? What am I going to pitch next?

[00:06:48] Or what am I going to say? Or, you know, even in. Thinking of like objections of like, how am I going to handle this objection rather than just thinking of it as it's a question, how am I going to answer that question? Right. Um, and so I think a lot of times sellers are looking for like that silver bullet of, oh, prospect says this.

[00:07:09] I say that, and it just doesn't exist. Conversations are, are way too dynamic and, you know, going into them with more of an open mind and not sort of these presets. Canned responses is the best way to approach it is curious because you brought up so many people that I've worked with. They're scared to ask those questions.

[00:07:29] And they're, they're worried about what the buyer was say or what the prospective buyer is going to say in that pushback. Especially whenever you're talking about buyers that are the really good drivers of the organization, they don't have a lot of patients. So there, they might be a little bit curd or try to cut you off.

[00:07:46] And so I think a lot of salespeople do get scared. Um, and if we're not actively listening and have that confidence to have the. That dead silence right there, which we shouldn't do on a podcast. But that, that silence right there, most salespeople get scared. I think there was a study and I can't give them credit.

[00:08:05] It was either the creators of spin or maybe it was Miller Heiman that did a study that the stereotypical salesperson can only handle 0.3 seconds of silence. And then they start, they'll just throw up all over again. The word vomiting, right? Yeah. Yeah. Or, I mean, that's one piece. I definitely know that.

[00:08:25] You know, sellers want to try to, you know, fill in that silence, right. With stuff that they, you probably shouldn't even be saying. Um, but, but also not having all the answers, you know, like you don't have to, if you're a seller, you don't have to have all the answers right now. Um, you can acknowledge what your prospect is saying and, you know, Say, Hey, I'm not quite sure on that.

[00:08:48] And, and let me chew on that and get back to you. Um, but when you, you know, I think so many sellers are so quick to just want to have a response for everything, and it's just not necessary a hundred percent. And if we can get skeptically curious, all right, well, that's, that's curious. Talk to me about how is that impactful here or what's important about that and just digging down more deeply and more deeply.

[00:09:14] So you can truly understand, because I think we do our jobs best whenever we're in sales mode, whenever we truly understand from their perspective and let's steal a line from Chris Voss, whenever we can unpack that label it right to where they say that. That's whenever they truly know that we've listened and we understand their perspective.

[00:09:35] So they now trust us and feel more comfortable moving ahead with us. So the, all of those small little nuances, no matter whether it's spin or Chris Voss or Josh Braun or Sandler, whoever you're doing it all comes down to listening. Framing that, summing it up, getting them that's right. To then have the permission to jointly move on down the.

[00:09:57] Yeah. Yeah. Let's talk about the importance of, of like mirroring it and reframing it and getting to that sort of confirmation. Cause I think this is a big miss for a lot of sellers because they're so quick to just move to the next. You know, next question or next, you know, point or next, you know, thing that they're, you know, is in their toolkit.

[00:10:14] Um, and a lot of times sellers can make assumptions based on what they think they heard or they didn't, you know, dig deeper, ask better questions for clarification. And can you just talk to me a little bit about some strategies that can help sellers out in that area? Yeah. So let's, let's go back to the mindset.

[00:10:31] The mindset that we have whenever we're getting into these conversations, if the mindset is, oh, I hope this person doesn't find out that I don't have all the answers you're in trouble and you'll have to be able to unpack that. So it's being very comfortable and not knowing, uh, I, I think the other thing that we, we would have to do in that act of listening standpoint to uncover those questions is that skeptical curiosity, Hey, listen, I want to.

[00:10:56] I know why I would do this, but I'm not 100% sure why you would want to do this. Can you unpack me, unpack this for me a little bit, because doing nothing is oftentimes the easiest thing. Why are you looking to make changes here? Why are you looking to spend political capital and that skeptical curiosity of why they're going to take action?

[00:11:14] And I think the third part, and I absolutely got this from Sandler and I love this is try to disqualify. If you try them too, if you drive them to a no. If you try to disqualify the opportunity, there's zero pressure. Listen, Colin. I'm not a hundred percent sure. I mean, I think it might work, but what's your sense?

[00:11:34] Why are you doing a, why do you even think that you should do this? Why not just skip it and now they're going to fight you on all the reasons why they should do. Okay. All right. That, that makes sense. So what should we do from here starts to be the question and you can guide them into logical next steps, as opposed to pushing them to a close.

[00:11:54] So I think if you take that mindset of going for the, no, that mindset of I'm skeptically curious in that mindset of, Hmm, that's interesting. Why is that important? Let's unpack that a little bit shorter to make sure I understand it. If we can do those approaches, I think that we really help them and help us.

[00:12:13] Yeah. In a lot of ways, especially with, you know, building good, healthy pipeline. Right. Which is, which is a struggle for a lot of sellers. We've all heard the numbers, you know, I think like 60 plus percent of sellers aren't hitting quota. Right. And, and I think the underlying thing there is it's because of.

[00:12:32] They're filling their pipeline with a bunch of crap that shouldn't be in there in the first place. Um, you know, and it's mainly in a lot of cases to appease their managers, like, Hey, I got to have a certain amount of meetings, got, have a certain amount of pipe there. It is a lot of, it's not going to close it's there, you know?

[00:12:51] Yeah, I was just going to say, I apologize. The thing that I was going to say on top of that is you were sucking on hopium, right? We're sucking on hopium that this stuff is going to close and we get so busy and following up with opportunities that we'll never close instead of driving them to a closed loss temporarily, until we can pull it back around again.

[00:13:11] But I think you bring up a really good point calling. If I'm a sales leader, I'm a sales manager. Let's making me feel better. This bloated pipeline that is absolutely not going to have anything coming through the funnel. It's all green and nasty and mildewy because it has no movement whatsoever. Where do I keep that thing clean and flowing and know that I have these pipeline opportunities.

[00:13:33] And for the seller out there, your sales ability, your assertiveness, as opposed to aggressiveness, is going to be directly proportional to your prospecting active. Right. If you don't have solid prospecting activities where we're driving to these opportunities, then we won't be as strong on the sales calls as we otherwise ought to be, to have that really clean pipeline.

[00:13:54] So that's my soap box. Sorry. I think I cut you off. No, they're calling. Yeah, no, I, I, and it's a great point, right? Is, you know, good, good quality pipeline that's going to close is, is, is a better thing than. You know, quantity, lots of pipeline. That's not going to close. Right. And I think it goes back to the point that you were making Brian is, is, you know, being, you know, skeptically curious with your prospects.

[00:14:21] Like, I don't know if I'm a right fit for you. I don't know if we should move forward, you know? And, and, and if you can do. And actually guard your pipeline, like a, like a, like a guard dog, you know, like I only let stuff in my pipe that I know is going to close. I'm not sending you a proposal until I know it's a good fit and you're on board.

[00:14:41] You know, sometimes I think sellers can get scared to slow their prospects down. You know, we all want to get the close and you know, it happens so often and it's easy to, you know, for a seller to fall for it. Is prospects asking for pricing? Brian there. They're asking for pricing there. They're qualified, they're qualified.

[00:15:01] They want price. I get them in the pipe and sometimes, you know, you got to slow them down. Hey, I'm not, we're not ready for that yet. I can give you a, and you know, it's not like pricing as this mysterious thing that like, I'm not going to tell you because it's a secret, you know, Be okay with giving them a range or a ballpark, like, Hey, our typical engagements range from, you know, X to X, right.

[00:15:29] Or, you know, our starting off point is this, you know, I don't know what I'm going to recommend for you, unless we, until we. You know, talk a little bit more and follow these steps. Um, and then based on that information, you know, I can put some recommendations together, um, but just, don't go quick to pricing and then get them in the pipeline and then chase their tail for the next six months, trying to get the thing to close.

[00:15:51] Because when you're saying yes to doing, when you're saying yes to doing that, you're saying no to doing other things, like fill, filling it with good quality pipeline or having time to process. Yeah, cause you, uh, my hope is you don't have some magical fairy, you know, pro or, uh, you know, proposal ferry walking around there.

[00:16:10] These things take some time and effort and they really have. Earned the right for you to spend that time and doing it. And, and I like your point about giving the range. If you give a range anchoring high, then you can use that as a disqualification or rather a qualification. Right. So, Hey, listen, typically speaking, it goes from X to X to X plus Y um, I don't know, is that even, is that a showstopper or should we unpack that a little bit, but absolutely have that conversation and if they're not okay.

[00:16:41] Then close it down until it's a better time. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Um, you know, dis disqualify early when you can. Right. And if you can be helpful and maybe give them some resources or point them in the right direction, um, you know, do that because you want to make sure that you're giving people a good experience, you know, a prospect doesn't feel good when you dismiss them immediately because.

[00:17:09] Maybe they can't afford you. Um, you know, and so make sure that you do it in a tactful way where you're giving it, you're still giving them a good experience. Maybe giving them some resources, you know, maybe pointing them in the right direction are all, some good ways to sort of end on a high note rather than just like, oh, you don't have budget.

[00:17:26] See, you got to go. And you know, you bring up a, an outstanding point here, and this is why I wouldn't necessarily recommend bands. Right. Because. A lot of times, whenever you're doing this, especially if you're an SDR BDR or a prospecting AAE, you're in the marketing territory, right? These are, these are MQL SQL kind of things.

[00:17:47] And so that, that blend of sales and marketing is critical. And if it's a no, if it's an , I want a K N O w but it bringing in my marketing blend, I want to have a good experience for them. So whenever the time is right. That it can go from that MQL to an SQL, to an opportunity that they think that I've brought value.

[00:18:09] And I can't encourage people enough to do exactly what Colin said. There is. What resources will you have? What value you can you bring that when timing is right, you were the person that stood out because they're going to buy you in the sales process that you took them to more so than, than your price, or even your, a service offering, because that can be ripped off and really commoditized for the most part.

[00:18:30] These. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, that's so true. And you know, I personally come across many conversations where people do need what I do, but can't afford us. And, you know, I try to leave them off in better place than when we first met and give them as many resources and, and add value as much as I can in. You know, some of those people have them become my best referral sources.

[00:18:58] You know, they're the people that when they come across somebody that needs what you have on social media, they tag you, or they go to another role where they do have bigger budget and they reach out to you. Or, you know, in some cases, you know, just through their. You know, networking, if you added enough value to them, uh, they want to send you business.

[00:19:19] So, you know, don't underestimate the person who doesn't have budget or isn't the perfect fit in a lot of cases, the best, most elite sellers that I know, they know how to play the long game and they know how to, how valuable building relationships and a high quality network is. And that's another piece too.

[00:19:37] Too often us salespeople, especially whenever you're brand new, you're looking at a daily, weekly basis. Whenever you get a little bit more experience, you might be, um, bi-weekly or monthly, you're trying to make the month, and then you move out to quarterly and then you're right. And people think too short term.

[00:19:54] And so I'm doing price discounts to try to hit my months are priced astounds to hit my quarter. And then I have to work three times as long. I've undervalued now. Oh crap. The only way that I can sell this crap is by pricing it at X. So now I start to cut margins and it's it's, it's just an endless bad cycle.

[00:20:12] So get out of that. Offer value, have a belief in what you sell and run a good effective. Yeah. Yeah. Don't get me started on discounts, man. I'm not opposed to discounts. I have nothing against discounts. Heck I even liked discounts when I buy, but, uh, you know, I think sellers are so quick to discount early and for no reason, right.

[00:20:35] Don't discount for no reason. You know, if you're going to give a concession. You know, haven't asked in there that's like actually worth something rather than other than just like getting it signed off on, you know, um, whether it's a case study, whether it's, you know, uh, some referrals, whether it's, you know, a revised scope, um, whatever the case is.

[00:20:57] So many sellers are just so quick to discount for no reason other than to just get the deal closed. Yeah. And going back to my old, uh, so I used to do a lot of real estate investing. And so back to my real estate days, you can buy on terms. Or you can buy on price, right? So if you buy, if you're a cash buyer, you're going to get reduced pricing.

[00:21:15] If you're buying on terms to sweeten the opportunity, while you're going to pay a higher price. So find out from them, what are, what are the terms and what is the price, and then figure out how to work that solution together. And once again, it's listening and problem solving. So you can, co-create the solution because if it's their idea, That you helped them to create through your amazing questioning strategies.

[00:21:38] And then you're like, that's a pretty good idea of what should we do? I guess we sign it up, but not today. Yeah. Today. Yeah. Yeah. So let's, let's fast forward a little bit. We kinda, we got, we kinda started riffing out in, in, in geeking, out on sales here for a second. So let's, uh, you know, after your, your stint at Sandler, talk me through a little bit, like, you know, what was next.

[00:22:04] Yeah. So it was Sandler. Um, whenever I was at Sandler, one of the things that my clients always asked me to do is how in the world do I hire really good salespeople? Because even bad salespeople tend to look right on a resume and interview. Well, um, and you're right. And you finally hire them. You think that you hire the rock on Friday and Pee-wee Herman shows up on Monday.

[00:22:21] You're like, what just happened here? Right? So. Uh, but, uh, hiring is, is so time consuming and recruiting is so time consuming. So all we all, what we started DBS growth as is a, uh, uh, a group that hires really talented salespeople and managers that can lead those salespeople. Right. So we don't do directors, VPs or anything along those lines.

[00:22:45] It's just strictly those front end salespeople. So, uh, what I've been doing since Sandler is really figuring. How do you do this? And it's been kind of curious, calling what we've found is that sales development is no different than recruiting. It just has different names to it. So that's what we've been up to since, uh, since I left.

[00:23:08] Mm. Okay. And so tell me a little bit about, and it's like a done for you service, right? Like you guys do the search for them and all of that precisely. So we break it into two tronches. One is the candidate, uh, the candidate sourcing because in the old days, in the old days, it might've been like, uh, 20 months ago.

[00:23:27] You would post something on indeed, you would post something out on a job board and then the people would come, well, that's not the case anymore. And so right now, what we've done is we've taken our sales development practices that we, that we employ. And we use that for candidate. So we for every single candidate.

[00:23:45] So if you're hiring for salespeople, now take this and utilize it. Get a hundred names. Of ideal instead of ICP, ideal customer profiles, get that ideal candidate profile, get a hundred names and then proactively, like you wouldn't have sales development role going out and develop these, these, uh, engagements through telephone, email, LinkedIn, any other channel that you can engage them.

[00:24:10] And then once you have that, then we take them through our pipeline or opportunity management. And that's a seven step vetting process. So that's the way that we take them through. There is that second step is really vetting them on behalf of our clients. Because like I said, if you don't know how to vet salespeople and that's the problem, I can't hire, um, technology people don't ask me how to hire a coder.

[00:24:33] Don't ask me to hire a UX UI designer. I can't do that. I can hire salespeople. So that's all we do. And we're able to vet them because that's all we do. So, um, take that and run with it. Get people that are talented in that specific niche and get them to do that for you. Yeah. I love the approach. It's like a.

[00:24:55] Just to say it's like a sales motion for, for candidates. Um, and so it's like, you know, get the here here's the hit list. The dream 100 dream, 100 of candidates get, get prospecting on all channels. Um, I'm I'm curious what channel performs the west of the best when, uh, prospecting candidates phone, LinkedIn.

[00:25:20] Tell me it's been LinkedIn, so, uh, believe it or not. And I just did a survey on this. LinkedIn is ahead. Now it was on the LinkedIn pool so that, you know, you got to give some bias there. Um, but because so many sales and marketing people are on LinkedIn for our unique hiring, that is the best. But then also the, uh, other channels like, um, rev genius or sales hackers, or some of those other, um, professional organizations.

[00:25:46] That's another that's I would say the second leading area to go to, so it start with LinkedIn, then it goes to different, uh, professional communities. And then lastly jobs. Got it. Got it. Okay. Interesting. All right. Well, thanks so much for coming on today. Uh, I appreciated the conversation and learn a little bit more about you.

[00:26:06] What's the best place for people to connect with you or learn more, or if they needed, um, your help with searching for their third dream 100 candidate. Yeah, absolutely. Reach out to me on LinkedIn. So it's just Brian spelled incorrectly with a Y uh, Whittington, w H I T T I N G T. NC can look me up. Or you can look up at me or look us up through EBS growth.

[00:26:28] We're constantly, uh, putting out content, hiring, uh, tactics, interviewing tactics, sales tactics, so anything to help communities thrive through entrepreneurship. One good sales hire at a time. That's what we're putting out there. So take advantage of those reasons. Awesome. Love it. We will post those links in the show notes so that the listeners can, can connect with you.

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