Sales Hustle is now Sales Transformation
March 25, 2022

#272 S2 Episode 141 - PIPELINE IS LIFE! How "Building a Pipeline for Life" creates long lasting business relationships with Josh Wagner

From just a sales intern selling radio ads in the early 2000s, to selling specialized consulting to Fortune 500 companies, Josh Wagner is a man with a whopping 20 years experience in B2B Sales. Collin welcomes him in this episode of Sales Transformation, where Josh will be sharing his “build a pipeline for life” mentality.

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  • How Josh started in sales
  • Josh’s first business
  • Learning business on-the-fly
  • The Focus on Digital Transformation
  • Josh on Sales Leadership


Josh: “There's a compounding effect. If you just treat people the right way, no matter if they're a fit for you or not. How often those people come around, and you'll see deals five years later that you completely forgot about just coming out of nowhere.”

Josh: “Nobody really gives a shit about what you sell. Like, focus on them, focus on their business, how they make money, and then figure out if what you sell is the right fit. And be honest about it.”

Josh: “Executives are looking for a perspective. So if you take the time to go experience it yourself, experience their product and bring them back your findings and your learnings and a solution, dude, anyone would get excited about that.”

Josh: “As a seller, I evolved, like I went from volume and velocity like product based services. Now it's more of a consultative sale. There's more services we can wrap around this, how do we expand and then all of a sudden, we're playing with bigger companies.”

Collin: “It takes a lot of discipline to know, and not just take that path, because I think sellers think you gotta know when you're ready, and you gotta know like if you’re built for it? Like not everybody wants that? For sure. And top performing, high performing reps don't make great sales leaders.”

Collin: “The problem with a lot of top performers is they think everybody should sound like them. This is how I get the job done. Why can't you get the job done? And why can't you get the job done the way I get the job done? And that is a recipe for disaster rather than managing a team of people.”

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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.

[00:00:29] Hey, before we start today's episode, I wanted to bring you in on the best kept secret in B2B sales. If you're serious about social selling and your only strategy is cold, the M's through LinkedIn. You're missing the mark big time. Learn how I fully manage revenue generating podcast can change your life and your

[00:00:55] All right. Welcome to another episode of sales transformation today. I've got Josh Wagner. He's got 20 years in B2B sales, starting as a sales intern, selling radio ads in the early two thousands to selling specialized consulting to fortune 500 companies. Josh attributes his success as a seller to building a pipeline for life mentality.

[00:01:17] Josh, welcome to the show. How are you doing call? And I'm doing great. Thank you for having me. Appreciate it. Building a pipeline for life, huh? Yeah. That's more of my taglines. I think that, uh, so many sellers and sales leaders focus so much on the month, the quarter of the year that it gets in their way to a certain extent for creating good relationships and building good relationships that you never know how those things could pay off in the long run.

[00:01:40] Even if it's not a deal today or tomorrow. Yeah. Yeah. I mean, nothing solves all your sales problems, but a big fat, healthy pipeline. Yeah. I mean, obviously it requires a lot of conversations to always be building pipeline, but you'll find that there's a compounding effect. If you just treat people the right way, no matter if they're a fit for you or not, how often those people come around and you'll see.

[00:02:04] Deals five years later that you completely forgot about just come out of nowhere. Yeah. So take us back here. Where did your sales journey start? Yeah, it's interesting. You know, I went to broadcast school at Arizona state and, you know, I always had this dream of being behind the microphone, kind of like I am now.

[00:02:23] It might be one of the reasons why I do podcasts, but, um, I remember one of the professors pulled me aside and he said, listen, You know, you've got some talent for this, but you don't strike me as the type of guy who wants to work nights and weekends and really make no money. So have you ever thought about sales?

[00:02:42] And I was like, well, yeah, sure. I I've thought about it. He goes, I got a buddy. Who's a GM at a small radio station. Why don't you just go work for him? Get your internship knocked out and just get a little experience under your belt. Like, yeah, sure. So I literally walk into this guy's office. He goes, Hey, nice to meet you.

[00:02:58] Norm speaks very high. Welcome on board. Uh, here's the white pages. Here's your desk. Here's a phone have addict kid. And I'm like, yeah, no, not what I expected. I'm just like, oh wow. I'm really screwed. So, uh, at that point I take a step back. Okay. I start thinking. All right. So I start obviously calling people in the white pages, which is a, is a dead end, right?

[00:03:25] So I take this whole exercise. I walk into the traffic office and I'm like, Hey, listen, who advertises at this station right now? I'm like, ah, you know, basically golf courses and little boutique shops. Okay. Cool. So, you know, give me the list. I get the list of advertisers and kind of look around. So now, you know, if you remember the white pages from back in the day, there were categories, right.

[00:03:45] You can kind of go to the index and find category. So I go through and start to create my little own ideal customer profile. I categories categorize as little things and I build two stories. I build a boutique shop story, and I build a golf course story. I create a three slide PowerPoint deck with one slide difference for you.

[00:04:04] And I start calling these people. I'm like, Hey, I'm in your area next week. Talk about what we're doing for XYZ. We help them see whatever can I come in? Yeah, sure. So, you know, one days a meeting of boutique shops one day to meeting a golf courses. I spend two days in the office, two days in the field and I wound up beating everybody, including the tenured salespeople that they have.

[00:04:26] Um, I get offered a job and I'm like, hell no, I'm not selling ads for this freaking place. Long-term I got my internship out of the way. You know, I dunno, 500 bucks and I'm on my way. And, uh, after that, I wound up starting my own company instead of getting a job out of college. But that was my first exposure to real, real sales, real commission-based sales.

[00:04:48] Wow. Well, it sounds like you made the best out of, uh, not what you expected. I want to say not great, but not what you expected situation. Funny thing. My, uh, first sales job, wasn't far off from that. It was like, here's the script. Here's a list of numbers and there's the phone and don't use the CRM because it doesn't work well.

[00:05:10] That's cool. You got a script. I didn't even get that. Oh, yeah, the script was not good. I'm sure I can imagine it was, but Hey, you know, like if, if this is the, I don't want to say the chosen path, it does give you that opportunity to build relationships with people in a shorter amount of time. And I think that's the big takeaway from any of those early experiences for those like you and me who just kind of get thrusted into it is you kind of got, gotta find a ways to build rapport and build relationship, uh, in an instant.

[00:05:42] So I'm curious, um, sounds like you weren't half bad at it, even, you know, just finding your way and, you know, uh, building your ICP and putting these presentations and actually doing well. Why not just continue doing that? Yeah. You know, it's funny. After college, it was one of those things where they offered me a job.

[00:06:05] I didn't see work in there. I didn't really know what the traditional sales paths were because, you know, that's not something that gets really presented to you in college, right? There's no one like, oh, here's the top sales jobs, you know? Right. So I was like, my dad was an entrepreneur. Yeah. Maybe one day who knows my, my dad's an entrepreneur and I'm going to, I'm going to be an entrepreneur.

[00:06:27] So I call my buddy. I'm like, Hey, let's, let's start a business. He's like, well, what are we going to do? I said, well, we're going to do what you do. Cause he had been a, he got kind of pulled out of college early to go work for this big production company. And he's like, well, you don't know anything about what I do.

[00:06:40] I'm like, yeah, that's true. But. And he hung up the phone on me. Right. So then two weeks later I get a call back from him. He's like, all right, I'm coming back to Arizona. Let's do it. So, you know, the two of us start a company, the, the complete recipe for success, right? No contact, no experience, no money fire up a company.

[00:07:00] That's, that's usually how those things work. Right. But we did. Okay. You know, with your backs against the wall and you have to perform right, you got nothing. You got nothing to lose. Exactly. Right. And at that time, right. I'm 22 years old. I've got no kids. I've got no family. I bought a small house. So I, my nut is small and you can just take those risks.

[00:07:21] Right. And we kind of figured it out. I found a couple of decent sized contracts that could keep us busy for the most part. And that was the problem. Right? We ran it for four or five years. I would say we were moderately successful, but the biggest learning was we didn't build a business. We built jobs for ourselves, you know, and if the two of us weren't grind in and out, there was no real scalability to it.

[00:07:42] So we decided to part ways and go learn some new things. Um, but what I will say from that experience was, and what I think has translated the most in my sales career is I learned about profit and loss. I learned about. You know, CapEx, OPEX. I learned about employee management. I learned about the leverage you and a pole and a business to make it work.

[00:08:04] And those are the conversations I have with people now selling consulting. Right. And I think those are the conversations. People, all salespeople should be having, no matter what you're selling, because nobody really gives a shit about what you sell. Right? Like, Focus on them, focus on their business, how they make money and then figure out if what you sell is the right fit and be honest about it.

[00:08:25] And, you know, that's just kinda what I took away from that. And just having business conversations with business people, I think that's a, it's an important lesson. Yeah. I mean, but it's, it's tough for like say a sales person who maybe hasn't experienced entrepreneurship, right. To be able to talk about those things confidently, um, because something.

[00:08:44] And within entrepreneurship, like you just have to experience, nobody can tell you like, Hey, here's the straight line, silver bullet to entrepreneurship. And, you know, having a successful path, like part of entrepreneurship is like falling on your face, making mistakes and like learning what not to do, uh, in a painful way.

[00:09:02] Yeah, it is. But at the same time, Think about sales training, that's in the marketplace, right? If you, if you look at the B2B SAS world or whatever, right, is typically product training, right? You need to be an expert in our project. Feet features, benefits, whatnot, whereas not entrepreneurship, but if we said any business said, listen, these are our best fit company, co customers.

[00:09:25] These are the, this is how they make. Right. These are the things that fail on their business. These are the things that work well in their business when they're in trouble, this is how they cut costs when they're doing well. This is where they spend like that kind of training coming in the door before product training ever happens would probably up level.

[00:09:48] And even out that bell curve a little bit, just because people would be more competent and confident. Yeah. I mean, getting to know. More just getting more business acumen as a seller, getting to know your customers, you know, in a deeper level would serve any seller. Well, I dunno why more sellers don't spend more time on that or why more sales training isn't built around that.

[00:10:13] Yeah. It w what let's brainstorm a little bit calling, like, if you were a new rap and you're in your twenties, right. And the first part of your sales training was to. Go open up a, an Amazon shop. Right. And you sell like a really cheap, low cost thing. Right. But it's your job to manage the shop right. And make it profitable in 90 days or whatever, like, think about the education you'd get from just that buy in as, you know, getting product.

[00:10:46] Inventory tracking, Amazon does most of the heavy lift, but you got to figure out how it works, right? Yeah. You know, so just, if you're in the game, somehow you can create little businesses do that. You know, my, one of my buddies, he freaking creates a business out of everything. Oh, sports cards are hot right now.

[00:11:00] Cool. I'm going to go buy a fricking ton of sports cards inventory. I'm going to find all the different channels where you can buy and sell it and validate it. And you know, now. Again, another thing you don't get taught worst case scenario. I have a tax write-off right. You're a W2 fricking sales person.

[00:11:17] And you get a bunch of high commission checks while you're fucked. Right. You're going to pay taxes out the rear end. So, you know, learning about business and the tax benefits of business, how you can do, like all those things are going to benefit so much in the long run. Well, there's even, I dunno. Kurt of this book.

[00:11:34] Have you heard of naked sales before? Oh yeah. I've read it. Yeah. So, I mean, like even a layer deeper, right? Like get to know your customers, but get to know your customer's customers, right. Experience. Uh, I love the Greyhound story, right? The book starts with the greatest story where, you know, as a big, uh, Salesforce rep, trying to break into Greyhound forever, um, and had what he thought they needed based on conversations that they had in this.

[00:12:04] Took the design thinking, you know, frame approach into trying to win the deal, but by just, you know, going on a trip on their account from, uh, from San Francisco to LA and back, and got to see some of the problems with these particular things of the drivers and the customers and how they interact with these, um, very manual processes and created a whole other solution that the executives.

[00:12:28] I didn't even know they had, they didn't, they didn't, you know, brought a problem to the table that they didn't even know existed by taking that sort of framework into the relationship. It's huge because you know, anyone in any business, you and me included, right? Like at some point you're there and you're in it so deep, you can't see the forest through the trees and.

[00:12:48] Executives, especially are looking for a perspective. So if you take the time to go experience it yourself, experience their product and bring them back your findings and your learnings and a solution. Dude, anyone would get excited about that. Nobody's doing that. I mean, I know they're not, but it's, it's a bad-ass approach though, right?

[00:13:06] Yeah. I mean, there's very, I mean, there's so many. People sellers specifically trying to get the attention of these executives or these buyers or these, um, and you got to stand out in a big way. And the only way you can do that is by taking a very different approach that nobody else. Yeah, there's so much noise.

[00:13:26] And that's what, you know, you're fighting as a seller. If you're, you know, what channels the best is it phone? Is it email? Is it social? Is it whatever, there's just so much noise across all of them. It, any of them will work if you tailor your approach, right? Just like you said, look with the Greyhound story.

[00:13:43] I mean, And the thing is, is yes, there is a lot of noise of people trying to tell you, do this ever do this, you know, like never use video on the first touch, never send a LinkedIn connection request without a personalized, never hold these things that people say not to do. Never, I love testing all the things that people say never to do, of course, trying to get them to work.

[00:14:05] I know, you know, uh, which I've done a few times, but, uh, uh, the thing is, is it's so. There's just so many variables, right? Of even just the fact of dealing with other human beings, dealing with human beings like that. So many variables in there for somebody to say that this works and this doesn't in sales, you've got to have your own experience with things, right?

[00:14:28] Like what works for me may not work for you and things that work for you might not work for me, but depending on you know, how confident I am even delivering it. Right. Yeah. I mean, how, you know, who I'm reaching out to, you know, what the messaging is, all these other things, like, you know, you love the people that are like, oh, video prospecting, doesn't work.

[00:14:47] It's like, well, how many videos have you sent? I say, 20 customized videos. And it took me all day and you know, it got zero meetings, blitzes, you know, it's like, who are you targeting? You know, what were you saying? You know, there's just so many things that matter for you to determine whether it works or not.

[00:15:04] But, um, I'm curious to know a little bit more about like what you do today and you know, how you transitioned into like, you know, consulting and then let's kind of go from there. Yeah. So today I work for a professional services consulting firm, you know, we're really focused on digital transformation and we're focused in the mid-market and enterprise.

[00:15:24] So, you know, digital transformation was always one of those things that. Was a good idea, right? Executive team's like, oh yeah, we know we need to do that, but it didn't have that like urgency behind it. And you notice the companies that really fully embrace it in everyone uses Amazon or Netflix or whatever, as the, as the gold standard.

[00:15:46] Sure. But. You know, the packaging company that's been around for 200 years and their leadership is, you know, fifth generation brother running the company. Like they're not eager to embrace digital transformation and experience that way. The good thing for folks in our spaces, COVID accelerated the need for digital transformation, right?

[00:16:10] You had to figure out ways to develop experience, develop relationships with your customers as good, if not better, better digitally, as you did by bringing them on shaking their hand and, and whatever it may be. So. That became an accelerant to digital transformation. And we just happened to be well positioned for that.

[00:16:29] Um, how I got into it was really interesting. I was, I was running sales and marketing for an e-learning company. For about six, seven years. And I had actually hired where the by boss for where I work now hired him to help me implement early days marketing automation. So he was like customer number 19 of Marquetto and had such a bad onboarding experience that he.

[00:16:55] Spun up a professional services company to implement Marquetto for, for organizations. And we went and caught up on LinkedIn. We have lunch and he starts feeding me these alerts from Marquetto like, Hey, you visited my webpage. You clicked on my email. And you know, that stuff was groundbreaking in 2008, 2009.

[00:17:12] Right? Yeah. And I'm like, oh, this is really cool. So I hired him to help me implement Marquetto and Salesforce. I was like a power user for four or five years. And I get a text from him one day. He's like, all right, my company is. Gaining some traction. Now I need someone who understands this stuff to go sell it.

[00:17:28] You want to come on board? And I did so in our, in our early days of lead MD, which is now shift paradigm, all we did was Marketo professional services, right? It was implementation optimization, staff augmentation, like it was it three products. That was it. And we, we ran our services business, like a SAS company, right?

[00:17:48] As much recurring revenue as possible volume of losses. Go go, go. And then as the company matured and we onboarded a lot of customers, like we did have that SAS model where it was acquisition, acquisition, acquisition. We learned that the surrounding services around the technology, like the technology plugging it in by itself, isn't that isn't, what's going to make it successful for that customer.

[00:18:12] It is the process design, the strategy, the personas, the account segmentation, you know, all that upfront consulting work that makes it bigger. So we started building up our chops and as a seller, I evolved, right? Like I went from volume and velocity, like product. Services to, well, now it's more of a consultative sale.

[00:18:33] Like there's, there's more services we can wrap around this. How do we expand? And then all of a sudden we're playing with bigger companies and now we're like really focused on digital transformation. So my sales career went from almost SMB volume and velocity into enterprise sales organically within one company.

[00:18:54] Right. It wasn't like a series of promotions or this or that. I gradually went up market. My commission checks got bigger. My deals got bigger. My sales cycles got longer. That happened organically within our business and it grew with our business, but that could happen in the marketplace too. If you're a seller and you know, you're looking for maybe sales leadership, isn't the right path for me.

[00:19:15] How can I advance myself as a seller? There are ways to do that. Hm. Wow. Okay. So it sounds like it's been a bit of a wild ride. It is. And you know, that takes a little bit. You got to have a little bit of a cowboy mentality to work in that environment and, you know, considered a startup environment that works great for me.

[00:19:33] Like, I don't need a lot of process. I don't need a lot of people telling me what to do. I'm internally motivated. I'm just going to go like, say something and I'm going to go. Um, so that's gotta be the right fit for you, but that's the beautiful thing about sales. There are literally every type of environment that's going to fit your personality out there for you.

[00:19:51] It's your job. You know, we talk about product market fit for technology or for, for things there should be seller market fit. Right? I think there's paths for people to be successful. If you find the right fit, the right stage company, the product or service you care about. Uh, it fits your personality, like think of selling, you know, selling marketing to marketers.

[00:20:13] That's kind of like the marketing automation thing or even in, in my world, but Twilio, right? Like that's a highly technical sale. If you're an engineer, you can go sell Twilio. Right. You don't have to be a traditional, like the perceived view of a sales person. There's all sorts of different pads out there.

[00:20:27] If you find the right fit, man, you can, you can make it sing. Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, how does a seller pick the right path? Like, you know, do they go into enterprise sales? Do they go into sales leadership? Like how to, what, you know, you've kind of stayed in your role and I'm sure you've had some options of maybe to go different places as things have evolved.

[00:20:50] Um, how does a seller pick, like, Hey, what's next? Yeah, I think one of the things that it takes and it's harder for some than others, but his actual some self-awareness and who you are. What you care about and what motivates you. Right? Like those things are super important. So I did have an opportunity even with this organization, I know CEO tapped you on the shoulder.

[00:21:16] All right. It's time. You've been crushing. You need to take over the sales team, your VP of sales of a, a man, you know, your ego starts inflating. Like, oh man, I got the title. I've arrived. Like this is going to be freaking awesome. I'm in the seat for a year and I'm miserable, right? Like. I feel like I have no voice.

[00:21:35] I don't know which way is up. I I'm trying to manage my boss, but then manage this small team. What am I doing? Who am I responding? Like, you know? And it's like, all right, time out. I'm not making as much money. Right. So it's a timeout and, you know, luckily we have a good relationship and I was just like, I, I think I could be more valuable to you and I can be happier if I go back into an individual contributor role and that's the route I took.

[00:21:59] But again, it goes back to that that's me. That doesn't mean that's the right path for someone who really wants to go team first develop people cares about. Not just growing their own little personal empire, but growing something, a lot of this is a $5 million company. I want to get it to 20. I can build the process.

[00:22:23] I can build out the. If that feels good to you, then your sales leader, right? Like there's just different. You just have to be self-aware of what you care about. And that evolves, right? Like what you care about at 25 is different from what you care about at 35, which is different than what you care about at 45.

[00:22:40] Like, you know, I know you just had a kid, right. Calling number four, right? So your responsibilities now are way different than they were 10 years ago. Right. So like when I started my company, I didn't care. Great. If we fail, we fail. Well now shoot. I know what my book of business looks like. I know how much new I need to add on top to make a nice living and with three kids about ready to go to private school college.

[00:23:12] I can't afford to jump into a leadership position. That's going to pay me less and with the hope of an IPO or an equity events that pays me a big bonus. I just can't afford that. So that's not the path for me right now. You know, maybe when I get a couple in school, maybe it will be, I don't know. Yeah. I mean, it takes a lot of discipline to know and not just take that path right.

[00:23:34] Because yeah. I think sellers think you gotta know when you're ready. Yeah. Right. And you got to know like, are you built for it? Like not everybody wants that for sure. Um, and you know, top performing high performing reps don't make great sales leaders. They don't, a lot of times they don't sometimes a lot of times, and unfortunately, a lot of the sales.

[00:23:56] We're top performers that have been promoted sales leaders. Uh, and you know, I know I got, when he got into sales leadership before I was ready, I was a top performer. I was told I was going to get to manage a team. I get a team. So I left went somewhere else, took a VP of sales position. And then I was learning on learning on how to lead a team on the job.

[00:24:15] Exactly. You know? Um, and in a lot of the problem with a lot of top performers is they think everybody should sell like them. This is how I get the job. Why can't you get the job done and why can't you get the job done? The way I get the job done. And that is a recipe for disaster. They'll managing a team of people.

[00:24:34] It's like Wayne, Gretzky, coach. The greatest hockey player of all time. Now he's a coach. Well, why can't you do what I did? Well, you were the greatest of all time. I don't, I don't know. Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Well, this has been, this has been a lot of fun. Um, thanks so much for coming on. Where can people connect with you?

[00:24:52] Where can they find your, your podcast? Um, all that good stuff. Yeah. The best place to find me is love selling hate That's the name of my. It's my website has got links to my LinkedIn, my email, my phone. So love selling hate Pretty simple. Awesome. We will drop the link in the show notes for you so you can get connected with a Josh.

[00:25:11] Make sure you check out his podcast. Um, the link there will be on the website as well. If you enjoy today's episode, please write us a review, share the show with your friends. It really does help us out. And as always, I'm listening for your feedback. You can go to sales, transformation dot F M drop me a voice DM, and I will get back to.

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