This episode of the Sales Transformation Podcast with Collin Mitchell features Brent Keltner. Brent will be talking about the excellent sales process and the goal of discovery. He shares success questions that get you to envision a different future.
Brent also discusses the reciprocal process that they co-create and recommend to most teams that do not have it, which they refer to as "path partnership." Mapping your sales process to their buying process.
Brent Keltner, Ph.D. is the founder and President of Winalytics LLC, a go-to-market- and revenue acceleration consultancy. He is also the author of the forthcoming book The Revenue Acceleration Playbook. Winalytics helps clients reach their top growth potential by shifting from product-driven conversations to authentic conversations that anchor on buyer and customer-defined success.
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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] Oh, right. Welcome to another episode of sales transformation. I am very excited today for today's guest. I've got Brent Keltner on, uh, he is the founder and president of win. Alytics a go tomorrow. And revenue acceleration consultancy. He's also the author of the forthcoming book, the revenue acceleration playbook, when Alytics helps clients reach their top growth potential by shifting from product driven conversations, to authentic conversations that author on buyer and customer defined success.
[00:00:57] Brent, welcome to the show. Hey, Colin. Really excited to be here. Yeah. This has been a long time coming. I, uh, been wanting to hang on for a while then. You've been crazy busy going on podcasts with the book coming out and, uh, thanks to you guys. Yeah. So just give us the short version of like, where did Brent's, uh, sales, you know, sales career start?
[00:01:23] I sales career started as a PhD, social scientist. W at the Rand corporation selling, you know, kind of working on grants and government contracts, uh, and honestly, even more, it was selling to commercial leaders, bank executives, telecom executives, insurance, carrier executives, why they should spend time doing qualitative research interviews with me.
[00:01:52] So I was very conscious of I'm an academic. I was raised by educators. I don't really get this culture. How can I be commercial? And so develop this set of practices. Like I would always reach out in what's in it for. Who else am I working with? Who else am I interviewed? Like them social proof. We call about it now.
[00:02:12] Like that peer referencing I would in the calls, I would always reach out by email and call just to reinforce the message right. To keep in front of them in the calls. I do a lot of recapping. This is what I heard you're working on. This is why. Uh, I would always send a followup email if there was another person on their team, I was going to interview, uh, so I made it all about them and what they were trying to accomplish and was very clear on what we were each committing to.
[00:02:38] Um, that's now the method we teach, we call it creating authentic conversations or an authentic buyer journey that anchors on your buyers value. So that's, that's where it started for me long before I was a sales leader. Wow. Okay. So I'm curious, where did you pick that up? Um, well, as I said to you in the pre-show, um, I was not wired for the old world of selling that I came into because the old world is selling was about my product.
[00:03:09] Yeah. About my expertise that I was going to convey to you about what problem we could solve for you. Um, and it was about my process. How am I going to walk you through my band or my, uh, you know, these difference medic or all that? There's 15 different sales methodologies. I was going to walk you through that and close you.
[00:03:31] Yeah. How am I going to get you to, how am I going to check the box and get you to the next stage in my sales cycle? Exactly. I was not wired for any of that. What I was wired for was being a really good listener and problem solving. Uh, and thinking about how can I learn out of each conversation? I can solve your problem, but also people like you, right?
[00:03:51] So I was an active learner and I was also very thought about reciprocity. I'm going to do this after this call. What can I ask you about. Um, and it turns out those characteristics that I just learned as a, this was the way to advance projects and, you know, had a lot of successes, got to like John Reed, the CEO at Citibank at the time.
[00:04:12] And Gary, Greg, who became the CEO of Liberty mutual, involved in our projects and all the major banks in New York and, uh, Chicago involved. And it was just because I would always re communicate the value. Um, you know, so I was good at hearing and communicating the value. And then when I went over to the commercial side in Kaplan, which was a quick year, it wasn't a great cultural fit for me to learn a ton, but went on to edge ventures.
[00:04:37] My first year revenue leadership role, I then just taught my team to sell that way. And it was hugely successful. Yeah. You know, the interesting thing that you, that, uh, I I'm picking up on what you said, right. Is you weren't wired for this old way of selling, but the interesting thing. The old way of selling in a lot of cases, isn't the isn't necessarily an old way of selling and there's still a lot of people selling this way.
[00:05:03] Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I've, I've gotten in a habit of saying we're in the second inning, maybe the third of this new approach and I'm not, we're not the only people pushing it. I mean, there's others that are, you know, lot focused on value based or value driven or thinking about an integrated go to market journey.
[00:05:19] I mean, the idea of a sales methodology. Because sales sits in the context of marketing, prospecting and customer success. So salespeople are thinking about, this is what I do. That's a problem because that's a problem for your buyer because your buyer couldn't care where you sit in the organization. What they care about is the continuity of the experience around delivering value.
[00:05:40] So it is very much. The w a lot of the market is still stuck on their product and we get it all the time. Uh, they, the new way is what, what does it help you solve? What is the buyer problem above my product that I can help you solve? Um, I did a revenue leader interview with a woman named RO Saccone at planet just went public and her comment was often the buyer problem is two levels above our.
[00:06:10] Right. They, they solve for problems. Like they have a satellite, they have hundreds of satellites. I think it's 300. I'm getting the number wrong, covering all of the earth. Uh, and they help companies solve like things like crop yields, right. Or management of, uh, emergency response resources. Right. Or our land use forestry right.
[00:06:35] Based on environmental, but they're only going to sell that if somebody has a problem around forest management and they currently don't have good data or good visual imagery, if they go in and say, Hey, we're going to give you all this great data. It's like, so what that data? I mean, I've got a bunch of people in a lab that will love that data and they'll crunch that data on the love it.
[00:06:58] But if you don't make the business case, So the CFO or the program manager, you're going to go nowhere. So in this environment with people busy, overwhelmed, ton of things, they could focus on, you got to connect your product to a buyer problem, uh, that is meaningful to them. And so how does a seller go about doing that?
[00:07:20] Like what are some, what are some things that you can share and maybe some of this might be covered in the book, right? Um, of how they. Dig deep enough to, to find a business problem. And, and then let's take it from there. And I have some other question. Yeah. So what we say often, this is more of a marketing job, right?
[00:07:42] A building. We call them the value plays, but what any seller can do all good sellers, as we know, they have reference clients. That I've had a lot of success with their product that I'm going to go back to when I need somebody to refer to my next customer. Right. Act as a reference for me. If you asked them, like, how did they, what did change for you?
[00:08:06] Um, tell, tell me that. Um, and just write it down. You can build your kind of business outcomes. So, uh, let's take an example of NPCI, which develops energy solutions for manufacturers. They sell pumps and valves and fans, but at the end of the day, they solve a lot of maintenance problems, um, planned maintenance, production throughput, and the manufacturing shops.
[00:08:32] So when I think of, um, YSA Sidiki, uh, and just this idea of, I could ask the buyer about their problems. Has a maintenance conversation and then has a conversation with a plant manager like, okay, we can fix that pump problem, but what's the bigger problem that could solve for you? Well, I got a big throughput problem.
[00:08:51] Every time I have to do maintenance, I got to shut down the plant for three days. Right. And if we could do more plan maintenance, it would save me a bunch of money. And if I had more reliability in my, um, shifts, that would be a good thing. Right. So the client, isn't going to say, Hey, uh, you know, he's going to say, thanks for the pump, but they're not going to say the pump got me a new pump.
[00:09:17] They're gonna say the pump got me something else. Right? Yeah. And, and another example that I like, um, is. And as for a SAS product, right? Like competitive product, maybe. Um, and you know, in discovery you find out, well, every time we reach out to support, you know, it takes a long time to get issues resolved or they're not very responsive and.
[00:09:45] Average seller is going to say great. We, you know, have fast response times and you know, you're going to have less tickets and this, that, and the other, where if you dig a little deeper, well, why are you always reaching out to support? And that's a bigger problem. The product isn't working and it's costing us X amount of dollars.
[00:10:03] Every time it's down for three or four hours, uh, or it breaks, you know, APIs break and these other things stop working and we have to manually input all, you know, it just, you can, a seller takes that surface level information that they get. And if you don't get deeper, there's no ability to tie it to a business problem.
[00:10:26] I love that. We think about three levels of discovery. Right. The number one is, Hey, what are you working on? Right. Number two is what's your pain around that? And the number three is what's the payoff to solving that problem. So let's take your example is somebody who's just like, oh, you're reaching out to support a lot.
[00:10:46] So you want to reduce the amount of time you have to reach out to support. Well, what's the problem? Well, the, the, the problem, the software constantly fails. And it goes offline or my people have to go off whatever tasks they're working on to redo the workflow. It's very cumbersome and manual. And why is that a problem for you?
[00:11:06] Well, it impacts my staff productivity. It impacts my customer satisfaction, right? It is. So why get to the why? Why is that a pain for you and what's it worth to solve? Your instinct to go deeper on the product problem. If people serve as is exactly. Yeah. Yeah. Can we keep asking the why? The why, why, why are you talking to me?
[00:11:30] What problem haven't you solved that we might be able to solve? What would it be worth to solve that for you? All? That is just great. And I think a lot of sellers, I think have two concerns. Right? Which is what ma maybe one, they just don't know. They haven't been taught. Right. If we give them the benefit of the doubt that, but I think a common thing with sellers amongst sellers is that, um, they.
[00:11:55] There, you know, they want to take what they get and, and check that box and get to the next stage. Right. Like we talked about, but then there's also, you know, what if their big problem has nothing to do with my product. Right. And so they're kind of scared to ask and dig deeper because if the bigger problem doesn't tie back to their product, then what are they left with?
[00:12:16] Yeah. And so, um, you know, what happens there and that we had a headache. Great. Success story here recently with ready education, which sells a platform, a communication platform for campuses. Right? I said, multi-channel so you can communicate not just around email, but texting, et cetera. And exactly that like the, um, sellers weren't using the last 10 minutes to qualify, what's the win for my buyer and what is my buyer willing to do about it?
[00:12:48] So they're just a little bit afraid that they wouldn't hear. The answer they wanted. Right. We always talk about, use those last 10 minutes and build your decision roadmap. So when we started working with them and they did that, guess what? Their deal velocity collapsed literally by 40%, they closed deals 40% faster.
[00:13:07] Wow. Why two reasons. One is you rigorously qualified the people that were, and weren't. Right. So I could spend time on the folks that actually were committed because people, you know, they'll string you along for calls. And then it's like, oops, couldn't get budget or oops. You know, it's like, so-and-so it said no.
[00:13:29] So if the good news is, if you rigorously qualify, you know, what deals to focus on. And also if you're asking people about their purchasing process, why they want to work with you and how they would buy, you can then build a roadmap together. You don't stall. Between steps. So a lot of times people are afraid of the answer, our experiences.
[00:13:50] If you ask directly you become a lot more productive. Yeah. And basically what I'm hearing there is that it's more about filling your pipeline. Highly qualified good quality deals than a quantity of deals, right? So you want to close 40% more deals that might mean less deals, but you'll have more deals that, you know, you can focus your attention of that have a higher likelihood of closing in the first place, because I mean, we've all heard the numbers, right?
[00:14:20] I mean, I think it's 60 plus percent of sellers are consistently not hitting. Yup. Yup. And I would just say one thing, uh, what you said is exactly right. We want a lot of opportunities, right? At the beginning, a good discovery call to see who's align what folks then, you know, a lot of their mid stage pipeline is really a drift mode.
[00:14:44] Cause they've never asked their buyer to do anything. And it's those that, okay. If you didn't get a good first call, they aren't willing to commit to anything. Great. Put them in a drip campaign. But don't keep going. Rev cycles. Hey, let me do another demo. Let me write a proposal for you. Cause you're just going to spend time on drift.
[00:15:04] Yeah. Yeah. And I think something else that you touch on there that a lot of sellers are, are, are scared to do. And I'd love to hear more of your thoughts on it is, uh, Creating the journey together with your buyer, you know, um, I think sellers have, and it starts with the sales leadership, right? This is our sales process.
[00:15:25] This is how we do things and we need to get our buyers to align with that. And what you're saying is you need. Buying is, you know, there's some, there's some, uh, things that are going to be consistent, especially if you're working with like, you know, same types of roles and industries and, you know, in a niche.
[00:15:42] Uh, but you know, not every organization does things the same way and sort of mapping your sales process. What I think you were saying with their buying process and more of a collaborative way is going to get more deals in the wind column. You got it. I love the way you just articulated it. It's not about our process.
[00:16:02] It's about a reciprocal process that we co-develop, and there's one play that we recommend always the most teams don't have, which we call it a path to partnership. And you use it in a mid stage deal where you're working with a group of stakeholders and it literally has one slot. That just shows the steps, that map your sales process to their buying process.
[00:16:26] Right now we're doing stakeholder evaluation, right? The next step would be to prioritize all the goals that we've talked about. What's number one, what's number two. Let's build that plan. Next step would be then to get a proposal. Agree on it and pricing, right? The next step would be procurement legal kickoff.
[00:16:44] So we're working backwards. Some people call it a work backwards plan. We call it a path of partnership. There's a bunch of names for it, but literally if you put a slide, you have to have a champion and a group that's leaned in. You wouldn't do it for people if they are bought in, but it's what you just said.
[00:16:58] Hey, let's together map our steps, who needs to be all involved on your side and what's our target. For accomplishing that. And we work through it together because what often people do is, oh, here we see this all the time. Companies have a closed plan. Yeah. That's internal, they're working their close plan and the buyer's not bought in.
[00:17:23] Yeah. They're working their own. They're working their own work in their own plan, but putting it in front of them and agreeing, as you said, we're going to build this thing together. Now it's a reciprocal process. If you had to guess how many people, how many sales organizations are actually doing it that way?
[00:17:41] Uh, with a path to partnership. Yeah, 10%. I mean, we haven't done those a hundred times. I've done a dozens of times, you know, 50 or 60. I don't know that I ever walked into, you know, maybe one or two situations where they have that mid stage path to partnership or a closed plan. Usually they have a sales process.
[00:18:04] Right. And it just says, okay, these are our stages. And sometimes they have the buyer, uh, what the buyer does, which is great that's progress. But what you said, which is exactly right, is we got to develop it together. Yeah. Until we have developed together and I take all the assumptions out, I really don't know how strong my deals are.
[00:18:26] Yeah. And, and so when you approach it that way, You must really stand out to the buyer in a big way cause nobody else is doing that. Yeah. Are very few, very few, very few. Yeah. So let's exactly. Um, what, what you just said. I mean, the beauty of the way that we're talking about selling anchoring on the buyer value is you completely differentiate yourself.
[00:18:56] Right because most, uh, we're working with a company called activator dealer solutions and they sell a marketing automation software into car dealers. That's majority of sellers in that environment show up and they just pitch their product at you. And then they send you a proposal and they ask you to close.
[00:19:18] Yeah, right. And then just, and then, and then it's a million, uh, just following up emails. And, and then it said a million following up emails and calls. And I love a story. There's a guy named John Stott. Who's been doing this for 30 or 40 years. And when I first started working with him, uh, it was like, Hey, I've been doing this for 30 or 40 years.
[00:19:36] I know the seven ways that my buyer. Uh, what problems we can solve. And it's just been awesome to see him kind of flip, uh, and think about, let me ask, right. There are seven ways. Let me ask the buyer, which one they want to solve together and see him like, start to think about what's the buyer's business case.
[00:19:58] Right. Is this about more service requisitions? Is this about more sales requisitions? It is about getting more of your service customers into your sales process. Is it about building efficiencies? And can I quantify that for the buyer? So they see my just so see him shift to this is about my expertise to, this is really about me learning what problem I can solve for the buyer.
[00:20:22] And co-developing a process. With them totally differentiates the selling at very quick progress, by the way that with the team, I mean that market's coming out of a pandemic, but it's just been interesting, even at the end of the pandemic to see that team just gather momentum as they differentiate their selling around anchoring on buyer value.
[00:20:41] Wow. Wow. Uh, And, and all right, so I want to go back to a couple, uh, things here. Uh, one thing that you, you mentioned early on that, that, that we did, I want to touch back on is you said there's sort of three, three, uh, phases or stages of discovery. Tell me a little bit more about. Yeah. I mean, w we think of three levels of discovery.
[00:21:05] Um, a lot of discovery everybody's heard of, uh, value centric selling or customer centric selling or solution selling. So most sellers will show up and ask questions. Um, and what they don't really ask. Good questions about is trying to drive towards the buyer success statement. Why is the buyer talking?
[00:21:27] And what would get them out of their day. We think about, can you think about your sales conversations as an opportunity, really, to elevate somebody out of their day, to help them think about a different future. They're doing things one way right now. Can you help them see a different future? That's going to get them excited because of partnering with you.
[00:21:49] That's your end point for discovery and at the end of a call, you should be able to. I hear them articulate that or help them articulate that. Um, right. So if we go back to the activator example, it's not, Hey, we're going to give you a bunch more clean leads. We will do that. We'll clean up your email database.
[00:22:10] But because of that, uh, it sounds like we're going to be able to engage. The right people that still own those cars and help you get, you have a goal of 50% improvement in your number of service visits. You know, if we could close that gap by giving you the right buyers to go after and spend your time on, would that get you excited?
[00:22:33] You know, would you that make you more interested in working with us? So it's getting to that buyer. Why, and usually if you think about, let's hear what they're working on. Yeah. Let's hear what the pain point, the goal question. What are you working on? Is it service? Is it sales efficiency? What's keeping you from getting there.
[00:22:50] Is it, you don't have clean data or you're not going with targeted messaging or you don't have a multi-channel approach. What's your biggest pain in terms of getting there. And if we could solve that together, what would get you excited? What would your touchdown dance be? What would make you a hero to your boss?
[00:23:07] So those success questions that get you to envision a different future. That's the goal of discovery. Where are you now? What's keeping you from getting where you want to go and what would get you excited about, uh, uh, you know, a future, a different future, a world? Yeah. Yeah, this is so good. All right. So let's, uh, let's transition a little.
[00:23:29] Tell us about the book, uh, you know, why you did the book? What can people expect in the book and then where can they find it? Yeah. So I have lived this transition that we're talking about from, I grew up, you know, first revenue leader roles. It was about how much, you know, volume and product. I had a different way of doing things that focus on being a buyer problem, solving.
[00:23:54] Um, really being an active learner in terms of how could I solve problems quicker and reciprocal process. And we have now a ton of proof. I did it as a revenue leader. I've done it in client engagement after client engagement, people that adopt these principles, uh, dramatic growth gains. You know, we've had a couple of early stage growth companies just moving to kind of unicorn mode, 250% growth.
[00:24:18] A lot of companies that see a 30 to 40% growth, uh, shift, I want to help more people be successful and shifting from the old way to the new way, because the old way, I mean, honestly, sellers that are selling the old way are not successful anymore because the environment we're in is just too much information.
[00:24:37] People are overwhelmed. If you don't get quick. To what's in it for them. You get, you might get a lot of first meetings cause your activity. You're not going to get a lot of second meetings and follow up meetings. Yeah. Yeah. So, and, and so where what's, uh, where can people find the book? Yeah. So it's ready for pre-order on amazon.com to search for revenue acceleration, play.
[00:25:02] Or if you want to get a free chapter of the book, you can go to the forward by David Meerman Scott, a bunch of great endorsements in there. Um, first chapter you can go to authenticity wins.com website. You guys helped us set up. You can download a, the forward first chapter for free. Um, and what I, the other thing I would say is, you know, there are more than 25 plays in the revenue acceleration playbook, but what we find with teams is just pick one or two.
[00:25:30] Yeah, just pick one or two, every single play you shift to being organized around buyer value, you will see an immediate impact and be more successful. Love it. We'll drop the link. In the show notes. This was, uh, I was glad we've we finally got you on and really enjoyed the conversation. We'll drop the links there in the show notes for you to get that free chapter.
[00:25:52] We'll give you the link so you can, pre-order it. I saw you recently just post a picture of holding your copy there. I can't wait to get my hands on my own copy. I was telling you I have a reserved spot on my shelf over here for the book. So very exciting. Uh, Brent, thanks so much for coming on. If you enjoy today's episode, please write a review.
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