Decoding Sales

Episode 36: Scaling Authentic Sales

July 03, 2024 Peter & Alex
Episode 36: Scaling Authentic Sales
Decoding Sales
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Decoding Sales
Episode 36: Scaling Authentic Sales
Jul 03, 2024
Peter & Alex

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Peter and Alex discuss the state of sales at large companies and what it means to scale authentic sales. They explore the following questions and topics:

  • Can startup sales be relevant at large companies?
  • Why sales training isn't working for large sales teams 
  • What Toyota's innovation with building cars has to do with sales
  • What leaders at public companies can do to reimagine what sales means for their growth and brand

Learn more about Peter's bootcamp Sales Sprint and his founder-led sales community, Zero to Hero!

Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

Peter and Alex discuss the state of sales at large companies and what it means to scale authentic sales. They explore the following questions and topics:

  • Can startup sales be relevant at large companies?
  • Why sales training isn't working for large sales teams 
  • What Toyota's innovation with building cars has to do with sales
  • What leaders at public companies can do to reimagine what sales means for their growth and brand

Learn more about Peter's bootcamp Sales Sprint and his founder-led sales community, Zero to Hero!

Episode 36: Sales' Impact Beyond Startups


Alex Allain: Welcome to Decoding Sales, a podcast where an engineer, that's me, Alex, and a salesperson, 

Peter Ahn: that's me, Peter, 

Alex Allain: talk about the art and science of sales as it relates to life.

In this episode, we are going to talk about sales culture, how you create it, how it needs to change across the industry, what Peter's vision is for that change. We're going to talk a little bit about why Peter focuses so much on startups and how he thinks about the potential unlock for sales culture and the entire economy.

If we change the culture of sales, Across the, public company landscape. So, it's a big topic. We're going to dive in today. , because I think this is actually a really important topic. You know, if you look at it, just to set this up for us. Many, many, many companies pay their sales people a lot of money.

Waste a lot of time [00:01:00] mismanaging their efforts to get disappointing results. They're not hitting their numbers, lots of churn, it's stressful, nobody likes the job, it's tough. Peter's approach, on the other hand, is extraordinarily effective, and it works amazingly well for getting startups off the ground from zero revenue to something meaningful, raised around where they can start building a sales team built around his principles of authentic sales.

The problem is, how the heck do you actually scale this? When you're not starting from this perspective. So Peter, that's what I think we should talk about today. 

Peter Ahn: Can't wait. Let's dive into it. 

Alex Allain: So I gave a little bit of framing from my ivory tower perspective. Tell me what you see when you look at the state of sales today across startups, mid market, mid market and public companies.

Peter Ahn: So the way I see this is startups, as you and I discuss, even before we hit the record button, they're malleable, they're flexible, they're founder driven. So being able to change the mentality of a startup is [00:02:00] easier than when you have a scaled out team with a bunch of managers and directors. So, this is why I focus a lot, the, the meat of my coaching on startup founders, because the need is the most.

, impactful, and it's fast change that you can see when you're talking about changing sales strategy. Now, as you start going up market, once you start having delineations of SMB, mid market, enterprise, strategic accounts, the sales team starts to look and feel a little bit like a machine. And oftentimes.

, overly processed, overly feeling like they're factories out there versus authentic sales teams that you're engaging with. And so I think the problem comes back around how do you actually convey an authentic approach when You know, presumably like your revenue generation is repeatable and the business growth from an outsider's perspective is there, but I find a lot of leaders, CEOs down, still worry about their sales [00:03:00] approaches because they're getting feedback that, hey, your sales team isn't listening to me.

Or, sure, yeah, your public numbers are great, but why are we losing sales? So, , how does this materialize for me? I've actually had multiple folks from larger companies also reach out to me, VPs of sales. And we were talking about Alex recently, even the president of a public company. 

, call me and say, Hey, Peter, my sales team needs your help. And of course, the first thing I said was, well, I'm a startup sales coach. Why are you calling me as a public company executive?

And what he said was I have vivid memories of you actually. Leading a sales process , that resonated with me, and that I knew did well in terms of emitting a positive brand when dealing with our strategic customers and so, , this problem is very much there with larger companies too. 

Alex Allain: Yeah, that really resonates. And it's just such a waste, right? So like, I [00:04:00] get, why you're focusing on startups. I guess there's two parts to this conversation that we can really have. Like one is, obviously as a startup, the CEO is setting the direction.

They're doing the early sales. They're learning what's necessary from you so they can hire the right leader. But that team's going to scale up. So one question, we'll start here. How does that person make sure that if they are so lucky as to have a public company in a few years, What do they need to do to maintain that authentic sales brand and approach so that they have an efficient, effective sales team that's really representing the company for them?

How do they embed that DNA? Not just at the beginning, but kind of keep it through that growth. 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, I think a lot of it is through internal storytelling around how certain deals were done, how using an authentic approach, even going down to the call level and being like, hey, listen to this call recording where conventional sales wisdom would have told you to do X, but we did Y because it was a lot more truthful and transparent and we [00:05:00] won.

The biggest deal in company history. I think those types of tangible examples are really important. It's also really important to get the sales team to continue to speak to customers. And I know that sounds obvious, but post sales, , you should be working with your early champions. You know, bringing them to your sales kickoffs to say, what was it that actually resonated with you during the sales process?

And if you do it the right way, I bet you they'll say, well, it was the most truthful, honest, non salesy sales approach I've ever been a part of. And so that in and of itself continues to, , feed this virtual life cycle of salespeople wanting to do that, ? Wanting to emulate the early magic that a startup has.

So those are a couple of things, internal storytelling. , , , external consistency and meeting with customers who are bought into that magic early on. And then the last thing is you still do have to train your sales force, right? There has to be some sort of regular cadence of, Hey, now we're going to put you through the framework of why our sales is great, and I think that's where there's a [00:06:00] huge opportunity because most of the sales kickoffs that I've observed have been a part of, , resort to.

, support systems like BANT or MEDIC or, you know, name another, Glenn Gary, Glenn Ross. I feel like he's referenced more than like 80 percent of the time in sales teams. And obviously sometimes it's referenced as a joke, but I also think people, , gravitate towards that type of sale as well, right?

There's some amount of, , mystique and prestige to that as well, I think. And so what I would say is instead of using those examples, because I think Glengarry Glen Ross is obviously a bad example of sales, and instead of going back to frameworks, even Sandler, where we talk about strip lining was, I think, invented in the 1960s.

, and these were all like frameworks that were. Invented by older white dudes, right? So like the diversity of thought hasn't been there, but we still resort to those frameworks because for sales leaders , I think in a lot of ways it is comforting to lean on something. [00:07:00] But My calling to public company CEOs, startup CEOs, mid market CEOs, and sales leaders is to really start to think about changing that.

It's time for a change in terms of how we administer sales training and what we talk about in sales kickoffs. It's not going to happen overnight, which is why I think it does need to be a top down initiative even at the largest companies. 

Alex Allain: And just to push on this a little bit, , like let's be real, organizations respond to incentives and One incentive is if you don't hit your number, that's real bad.

And at the same time, when you're learning something new and putting something new into place, it takes time to get it right. So when you're working with a startup, you have luxury, Peter. You're getting to coach the CEO. You're teaching them how to be incredibly effective. They know that they're learning for the first time.

So they're not holding themselves accountable to a fake number. They're holding themselves accountable to themselves because they want to win. 

Peter Ahn: Sure. 

, , and so that embeds that from the beginning. But, like, as soon as they start bringing on a team, even, and that [00:08:00] team maybe misses the number, right? Like, it's gonna be so natural to fall back on, well, this stuff worked when we were small, but we need to scale.

Alex Allain: We need to look at all those other companies out there. You know, probably, frankly, just cargo called some stuff. We see this all the time, right? People think that what other people are doing is what's working, even when it's not. That's stupid. It's just a flaw in our information processing. So I want you to help us, you know, how do we inoculate against that?

Peter Ahn: Yeah. So I think, , one thing that is true for big or small companies is that, you know, , leaders at the companies, the CEOs at the top, the board, they're always fighting for differentiation, ? Any company that's successful, they're always like, Well, we're different from everybody else because, , we have a moat because.

And I think a lot of companies, unfortunately, haven't thought of their sales teams as a moat or a differentiator. Right. And so I think there's actually a [00:09:00] very tangible benefit for investing in this type of sale at the largest company levels. It's not just about falling back on things that I've worked across other companies because that's just boring and not differentiated.

I think it's time to look at your sales team and say, okay, if you have 6, 000 person sales. You have 6, 000 marketers and evangelists, and if they're all saying the same thing as 6, 000 people at your competitor's sales team, then you've missed out on an opportunity to eke out whatever differentiated approach and therefore revenue you can gain from that outward signal that, hey, we're a different type of sales force.

Right? I like that. . . It makes me 

Alex Allain: think a little bit about like company culture. Like everyone says like, I don't know, take like Amazon with customer centricity or whatever, you know, the corporate phrase du jour is. I guess what you're saying is like, if you really are a company that believes in that, you should be viewing your sales team as part of that strategy.

And the authentic sales approach is how you actually show that you respect. 

Peter Ahn: Exactly. [00:10:00] I mean, imagine this, right? Right now, Oracle, Microsoft, Salesforce, they're all synonymous with boring sales teams. Unfortunately, I'm sorry if you're a sales person in those organizations, but even when I talked to friends who work at those organizations.

They're like, Oh yeah, it's very cookie cutter. Right. There's nothing like crazy about what we're doing. It's what you would expect. 

Alex Allain: And by the way, everyone hates those companies. 

Peter Ahn: . Yeah. Unfortunately, right. Their technology is not seen as innovative because they've won the market and have chosen, chosen not to innovate by virtue of winning the market, right.

Which is a huge missed opportunity in my opinion. But imagine if one of those large companies were to change. The approach of their sales process, , it would reverberate and it would be very noticeable with first of all, their customers, their leads, and also other salespeople. They'll be like, Oh yeah, sure.

Oracle was a sales team that was very cookie cutter. And you would talk about them in a way where you would say they have a process that's super boring to [00:11:00] follow. And you basically don't have to think to be successful there as a seller, but now they're changing the game. They're actually trying to make.

Smaller startup hubs of their sales team and they're cultivating personality and authenticity and empathy. I bet you if we were to actually hear that or see that, there'd be a huge material impact on their lead flow, their revenue, their brand reputation, their marketing, everything. 

Alex Allain: Are you sort of saying, Peter, like if we take um, imagine Detroit in the 1950s or 60s, Kind of that like manufacturing era that then, uh, the rise of, you know, Japan, like Toyota, folks like that, where they really like empowered the frontline assembly workers to do, , you know, like Tizen, the Toyota production system, all that work that improved the quality of the product and just like blew away GM and Ford and Chrysler and all those other companies.

Do you have sort of like a similar vision here that There's a [00:12:00] much better way to do sales that empowers the salesperson that same way That we saw like just the factory worker be empowered maybe a couple generations back and in production 

Peter Ahn: I didn't think about that analogy, but I think it's perfect.

Yes, like the way you've described that it's exactly what I'm saying I think we should give the power back to the individual seller to really truly be themselves and to Sell in the way that they think is correct and from first principles And values that you set as an organization, obviously, honesty, transparency, authenticity, like whatever else you have, um, hard work, grit, hunger, growth mindset, you know, we've all heard these company values, right?

Of course, you have to have some guardrails and guidelines, but if you truly try and unlock the individual seller's potential, the collective, I think, becomes a lot more powerful, ? And the organization, I think, becomes a lot more Noticed and, and fast moving and, , much more human. 

Alex Allain: I [00:13:00] like that. Yeah. I mean, if let's, let's pull on this thread a little bit, you know, one of the, I think, fundamental tenants of the Toyota production system is this notion of enabling bureaucracy that like it's, you standardize, not because you want to force everyone to do the same thing, but because you want to share the best practices that work.

And I feel like that's really important in authentic sales because. You know, if you're having everybody follow a cookie cutter approach they don't believe in, they're going to be pretty flat. I mean, it might work, but you're sort of getting limit. You're going to hit your limits. Whereas if you're saying, this is the best practices we know of, but make it your own and then feed that back.

Now you've suddenly empowered people. You've made it feel like something where they Can own it. And if it feels to me, it's very similar, actually, that sense of ownership over the process is also really important because you want them to feel ownership over the whole customer experience. Because it's them, right?

And , they're putting their reputation a little bit on the line as well, along with the company. Whereas if you're just following a cookie cutter process, well, you know, whatever. It's just what Microsoft had me [00:14:00] do. 

Peter Ahn: Yeah. And this dynamic of like, Oh, let's put in process. Let's put in something that the adults can really be proud of.

Right. When you're transitioning from startup to series A to series B to series B, um, is. One of the primary reasons why new VPs of sales fail, I think, it's not just because they don't understand the dynamics of the business or they come from a different industry or because they were too far down the path of like experience and they can't sell.

It's also because I think culturally they don't understand how to unlock the magic of why the startup sales team in the first place, or the founder in the first place, gained the confidence to get to like 1, million, right? And so that friction, you could see, at play today, , ask your friends or any of your investor friends, if the first VP of sales, after there was this magical, leap to one to two to three millions, [00:15:00] have they worked out?

And almost a hundred percent of the time they don't. Why? Because they're talking about BAM, MEDIC. They're talking about , Sales training, figuring out the pain and in a way where they don't truly try to understand the authentic, the truly unique angles of the sales process that got the company to that place in the first place.

Alex Allain: They're missing all the important details of like what actually matters about the product and the vision and what technology change is driving the need. 

Peter Ahn: Yes, and I get text messages all the time, Alex, from first go to market hires. You know, because I end up naturally mentoring the founder, then to the first salesperson who joins, because maybe they haven't had leadership experience, so I'm helping them.

And then, once the new VP is hired, I get all these messages. Being like, hey, Peter, can you believe this guy? Like, look at the types of messages he's sending me. And they're all about all [00:16:00] these sales concepts that are tried and true. But why do people come to me and vent? It's because. These leaders are missing the point.

It's not about BAN or MEDIC. It's about, , are you going to lean in to understand what's special about our company or technology? And by the way, are you going to lean in as a new sales leader to get to know me? You know, I was telling one of the founders, like, Hey, if you hire a VP of sales, I would look at whether or not within the first one to two weeks, that person flies out to meet your top.


And you don't, you shouldn't be telling that person that, but that person should have the wherewithal and the awareness and the want and the intention. This is not something you read out of a playbook, it's just a human kind of quality you have to have as a leader, is like, you better go out and fly to wherever your Top seller is, and to get to know that person and what got that person to the level of sales that that person got to [00:17:00] without the formal training of like band medic or Zandler or whatever else, like, you know, winning by design, whatever , they might've had access to if they're at a public company, but it just doesn't happen.

Same thing with public companies. It's just not a. , consistently talked about thing that you put your people first and you put the authentic differentiators of your team first. It's all about how do we actually like, , have an insurance policy to say, okay, if the sales team doesn't do well after I join, at least I trained them on.


Alex Allain: I love that. 

So, okay, I have a spicy question. 

Peter Ahn: Awesome. 

Alex Allain: What would you say to this?

One of the reasons your approach works is because you're dealing with the top Percentile, Founders. I mean, you're dealing with founders. So they're usually going to be pretty talented, pretty multidimensional. They're going to be able to absorb this stuff. You're dealing with folks who are hungry, smart, go getter, like early go to market employees at these kinds of companies, again, like [00:18:00] talented folks.

I gotta admit, like, when I think about the average, , salesperson working at, like, Oracle or Microsoft, what comes to mind is not, , world's most talented winner, it's somebody who couldn't figure out what to do with their life. And that's probably unfair. 

Peter Ahn: But, 

Alex Allain: like, What do you say to this challenge that, , we have a lot of salespeople, obviously a lot of them are not good at their job.

Now, whether that's because they're in a bad environment or because of a lack of skill,, I'm not gonna actually judge, but I'm just saying, like, your canonical image is not, like, Oh, somebody who's just gonna immediately turn around and win authentic sales, like using an authentic sales process.


Peter Ahn: hmm. Yeah. 

Alex Allain: What do you say to that? 

Peter Ahn: What I would say is, like, first of all, there's definitely amazingly talented people at Oracle, Salesforce, all these places, but their lifespan at those companies is very short. If you don't focus on, , this authentic selling approach, or this approach that really pushes them to have, , authority and ownership over their sales [00:19:00] process, right?

So, , I think, like, it actually raises the bar for sales quite a bit. Because there's no reason why an Oracle or a Salesforce or Microsoft, companies that have amazing products, or products that have been dominant in the space, maybe they're not amazing anymore because of an innovation shift I'd said they didn't have, , but, um, the point is, there's no reason why those companies shouldn't feel like they have the best startup sellers at their companies.

Thanks. It's, it's because the culture isn't set up in a way to let those people flourish that we've all just resigned to the fact that, oh, okay, big company, boring sales, but it really doesn't have to be like that. It's just because from the top down, they've structured it in a way that that is the only option for these large companies.

But I do think there's a way to still unlock magic from large companies. I'm going to 

Alex Allain: challenge, I'm going to challenge you. Um, And, you know, I have some ideas for how you might [00:20:00] answer this, but I'm curious what you're going to say. So, okay, cool. You're right. It's raising the bar. You know what happens when you raise the bar?

Fewer people can jump over it. You know what you need to scale? A lot of people. 

Peter Ahn: Yep. 

Alex Allain: How, how do you square that? Are you like, are you just saying that this is an opportunity for the first mover? Like if one of the big players makes this move, they can suck up all the talent in the market and everyone else gets left with like mediocre salespeople, or do you think that like, I think the really exciting thing, frankly, would be if we, raise the bar, but also raise.

The standard for everyone in a way that brings them up too. , and so I, I want to hear you, you know, which side of that line are you on? 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, I think it's a great question. I think first of all, initially there are probably, this might be very controversial, but, , I want to be very transparent with my response is there are probably going to be people who just can't meet the bar no matter what you do.

No matter how much enablement you give them, they might not have the hunger, they might not have the curiosity, or the drive, right? , so initially there might be a [00:21:00] downsizing at these companies, being like, okay, like, you actually don't jive with this method, and you really were wanting to come here to be a coin operated machine, ?

So, there's that. Um, now, on the flip side, there probably are, even more people that you could really target. Tap on to come in and learn a type of sales that sure. Initially, you're going to need to train them and help support them, enable them and invest in them. But I think the dividends from that are going to be far greater than if you were to just keep throwing bodies at a problem that I think Doesn't get solved with just throwing bodies at it.

And I think this is a critical, perfect moment too. Cause with AI and a lot of the new enablement technology that's out there for salespeople, , I think there's a big opportunity to just like reassess the makeup of your team too. Not only like, how can you reduce the time to do a specific task using AI, but how can you relook at the personnel that you, and I think the personnel that you need to be looking for, the folks who really get excited about, okay, I am part of the brand.

I [00:22:00] am part of the. Approach. I am a product in and of myself as well, beyond kind of the technology I'm selling. 

Alex Allain: Mm. Yeah, I love that. So I want, you know, I'm going to go back to the Toyota production system analogy again, because I just love it. Um, now that we've Yeah, so do I 

Peter Ahn: actually. I want to study it more, because I don't think I've looked at it as in depth as you might have.

Alex Allain: , you know, one of the things that I think is really great about that style of approach is the way it empowers And so, one answer that you might give to me is actually, you know what, yeah, there are a lot of mediocre salespeople at Oracle and Salesforce or whatever, Microsoft. And yeah, I'm sure some of them can't make the bar, but a lot of them probably Are actually, you know, hungry for a little bit more empowerment and a little bit more, like, if you actually give them another way, they will, they will, they will flourish.

Like, I, I mean, I don't know, I haven't met all of them, but there is like a human potential thing here. Like, I think it, you know, the job can feel like less bullshit, 

Peter Ahn: you know? 

Alex Allain: The job can feel a little bit more authentic and real if it's done the [00:23:00] right way. 

Peter Ahn: Totally, yeah. And like, imagine all the resources at an Oracle or Microsoft, right?

You have huge engineering teams, talented engineering teams, you have product teams, you have marketing. All the things that you don't traditionally have at a startup, right? At scale. And so, there might be some really high potential, high ceiling people who just aren't creating the bridge to your engineering team because they're just jaded.

And they're like, you know what? , I know I'm really good at sales, but I'm not going to go the extra mile for Oracle because they don't care about me. You know, they just care about their earnings report or, you know, the new CRO they brought in. I know it's not going to be great, but you know, here we go again, right?

So yeah, I completely agree. I think there's a huge tangible opportunity to unlock with the people who just need a little bit of nudge and inspiration to actually Leverage the resources that you have because you've been so successful as a public company.[00:24:00] 

Alex Allain: To keep a culture as a startup, that seems like so much easier than changing a big company. , but, it's your vision. How would you do it? 

Peter Ahn: If I were to change the vision of a company? Yeah, say the CEO of a public 

Alex Allain: company comes to you and says, Peter, , I listened to this episode, it was incredible.

By the way, your co host is fantastic. Yeah. Really sharp guy, uh, also. Um, you know. And I want to implement this. I want to make this real. , just tell me what to do. What's the playbook? 

Peter Ahn: Great question. So the first thing is bringing you and me over to their sales kickoff and having a fireside chat or like a motivational speech, you know, , with the sales team.

Alex Allain: That doesn't change anything. Although I'm willing to charge them for it. 

Peter Ahn: Um, yeah, no, but I mean, honestly. I feel like it'd be really fun, but, um, and I think something along those lines is actually going to be my response, which is you have to make a concerted effort as a CEO to [00:25:00] say, Hey, we're going to change the way sales is done here, here, all the things that were misses over the last five to 10 years, or even over the last two to three years, and here is our new mission.

Here's our new value system that we're going to start to actually incorporate into various parts of the sales process. And you can't do it overnight, obviously you can't change the process overnight. So this is an exercise in change management too, but I think, you know, you could start with, Hey, like, let's start with the first call.

Let's start with how we reach out to leads. You know, this quarter we're just gonna focus on outbound and making that more authentic. Next quarter it's gonna be about the pitch deck, and we're gonna put some resources towards that. And by the way, every single sales kickoff, , is gonna look nothing like any other sales kickoff you've been to.

Um, and so I think the CEO needs to trumpet that and message that pretty clearly. And then, like I said, it's a matter of , how much time do you give yourself to do that and execute on that plan, because nobody's going to believe that it's [00:26:00] going to happen over a quarter, but people will believe you if you have a plan over the next one to two years and an outcome that you're measuring success against too.

Uh, and you asked a really good question around like, Hey, this all sounds nice, but you know, what about the actual results, right? Because it's, it can, it does have the risk of sounding super fluffy and , Too much focus on human empowerment versus business results. So I think that there has to be like tangible numbers tied to the progression of change too, right?

And by the way, it's not that we're not going to look at numbers every quarter because we're doing this, we're actually going to look at them even more closely and see how things change up or down based off of this change in approach. And if we don't see a positive change in two quarters, you're going to hear about it and we're going to talk about why.

And we're going to decide whether or not we want to continue down this path, or if we want to go back to what we've done in the past. But I think you need to have a plan both for ejecting out of the plan and also executing on the plan.

Alex Allain: Don't you think that if you only give yourself two [00:27:00] quarters, that's going to be not that much time to see, like, change filter all the way through the system, and so make people pretty skeptical that it's going to change it all, and make people not want to invest in that? 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, I think the entire transformation definitely cannot take two quarters, especially if you're a big company.

But I think that you can be very strategic about leading indicators. Right? And I think one of the things that can be very telling in two quarters is how's your sales team feeling, right? What are the stories that they're telling about how things are going now? What's the quality of the leads coming in because we've changed our outbound approach?

So I, I do think there are leading indicators. I agree that two quarters of seeing massive change , on the top line. Of revenue is probably not realistic, but I think it is realistic to say, Hey, we're on the right path 

Alex Allain: yeah. I mean, so I like that.

I like that. So you're saying you should start to see the cultural change. Maybe you're sort of seeing your top line revenue is. Holding steady [00:28:00] ish, you know, probably you're, look, if you're going to make any kind of big change, you're going to take a hit, say it, say it. 

Peter Ahn: That's true too. Yeah. That's probably , more of the likely short term effect.

Alex Allain: So you have to believe and be willing to put up with some percentages, some percentage there for some period of time. But see the leading indicators are positive to keep going. . Um, I want to talk about sort of tools for changing the culture here. I mean, I love the CEO being involved. I love the idea of like sort of starting with different parts of the process. 

What, what else? Like, 

Peter Ahn: is 

Alex Allain: that, is that really going to get it done? 

Peter Ahn: No, I think with anything else, um, you know, I do believe that outside speakers or outside influencers, motivators is very important because oftentimes what happens is if you're just hearing from internal people, you tend not to believe their thoughts as much as you would an outsider who's had amazing success doing what you're trying to do.

[00:29:00] So, what I would do is seek out people , who have had success With this type of sales motion, , seek out people your sales team would be motivated to hear from, right? And by the way, they don't have to just be traditional salespeople. Sales, I think, is pretty ubiquitous of a motion, you know, like they can be other business owners that have grown their brand.

It could be, you know, recruiting is also a form of sales, right? I would kind of holistically look at who can actually, um, Inspire your team from the outside looking in too. So I, I think that's another powerful thing that folks should leverage is outside help too,

Alex Allain: I like that.

What, what about, I mean, the obvious one to me would be finding people who are really internally, like. Doing it well and, you know, celebrating that and having them kind of be the part of the face of the change. 

Peter Ahn: Yeah. This is where I think looking tactically, even at the call is good. I would probably create a space in all hands every week.

Or [00:30:00] if you don't do it every week, however often you do all hands, to showcase somebody who embodies the shift that you're trying to get to. So that it becomes very tangible and real to be like, oh okay, I see how we're trying to do this because our president, CEO, is saying this is the gold standard of how we should be doing sales.

And by the way, as you do that, you should also , Provide context as to how that's different from what you've done in the past, right? Oh yeah, I like 

Alex Allain: that. 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, in the past we might have said this was actually a bad sales call, but today it's a great sales call because, right? It used to be war 

Alex Allain: with Eurasia, now we're at war with, uh, whichever the other one is.

Peter Ahn: Yeah, yeah, exactly. It's like, hey, we used to say sell the roadmap at all costs. You know, and get the deal done. But now we're saying, , don't oversell the roadmap. Be honest about our capabilities because we know that'll create happy customers. And here's an example of that. So like, that's a very tangible example I can think of that.

I'm sure a lot of sales teams are dealing with, with high pressure to close, [00:31:00] close, close. , without thinking about the implications of the customer. 

Alex Allain: Yeah, I mean, actually, I, I joke a little bit with my 1984 reference there about, like, you know, companies just going back and forth on things, but I actually think it's a great idea.

, I love that sort of calling out what we did now that's different and celebrating that. Yeah. That's a great teaching tool. I think that's pretty brilliant, actually. 

Peter Ahn: Yeah. And just do it in a way where it doesn't look reactive, right. Where it doesn't look like you're just flip flopping, but you're doing it with intention and, you know, a long time horizon.

Alex Allain: Yeah. I know, honestly, that seems like a great way to kind of roll it out too, where you're sort of talking about like, this is what we did before, this is how we want to change and we get it. Like, that's what we told you to do before. , Not mad at anybody. You know, I gotta, I gotta imagine that this kind of role is going to have resistance from the top performing salespeople who are happy with status quo.

And I gotta assume that those people have clout in their organization because they're the rainmakers. [00:32:00] What do you do about that? 

, there's a couple of thoughts there. One is figure out who those folks are, interview them and try and get them bought into the vision first because they have outsized influence.

Peter Ahn: , and chances are a lot of those folks are probably already doing what organizationally isn't being coached. And if that's the case, you know, it's telling them, Hey, we're not actually changing how you do sales. We're actually trying to scale how you do so well, being the top performer to other folks.

Right? And if you still get resistance there and they don't want to help others, then you probably have a culture problem, to be honest, with this particular individual, and they might not stay very long. Um, and it's also an opportunity for you to iterate on how you roll this out, because just because you have the high level thoughts on wanting to, , empower individuals and, you know, You know, put authenticity at the top.

It can also backfire if you don't [00:33:00] do it in the right way, right? If you don't do it with input from your top sellers and leaders, people are not going to believe you, right? So if you don't have belief from the top sellers who, already maybe have a secret that they're leveraging.

And you don't bring them along for the ride, then they might also leave too, regardless of what you're trying to preach. So that's what I would say. You try and partner with those folks. Yeah. If you are getting resistance, probably not the top level, , strategy that you're getting resistance on. It's probably the way you're executing the strategy.

Alex Allain: Yeah, I really love that. . 

Peter Ahn: And by the way, , the other side of it is you could have top performers who are just getting a free ride, right? That are just like getting lucky, maybe. Great territory or whatever that is. And for those top performers, I think you should, you know, manage them out because it's not their skill that's getting them success.

It's their luck. And so, there might be a reason why they're actually defensive of the change because they realize it's actually going to get them from top performer to lowest performer. And so, , there's also that nuance, like [00:34:00] just because somebody is a top performer, it doesn't mean they should be at your organization.

Alex Allain: Yeah. Well, good luck convincing any managers. To do that. Um, 

yeah. You're gonna have to wait for them to miss their number. I think before you, 

Peter Ahn: yeah. Or show them, Hey, this is what the alternative could be because you could create double the revenue because this guy's actually just working from 10 to two and is your top rep.

So imagine if somebody was working, you know, nine to five. What could that person's number be, right? 

Alex Allain: Yeah. Hey, how do I get this 10 to two job? Uh, sounds nice. Um, okay. I like this. I like this. So, so far we've talked about, I mean, look, this is like a, a pretty broad vision for the industry, for sales, for to work.

I mean, we're not, we're talking about something that's like pretty radical, honestly, like to the level of rethinking how American sales, American business, inner businesses interface with each other, which is actually really cool to be like in a certain way, if you think like the, take this global [00:35:00] perspective of like, you know, companies in the U S like interacting with each other, ideally, they would work very efficiently to choose the right products.

That they need for their services. And , I think , the, the authentic sales model is about doing that. And the belief is like the best products will win. And we have all this noise and all this fluff and this overhead and this frankly bullshit is generated by not doing an effective matching. So like, I think it's actually a huge unlock.

I think that's one of the things that's really, , exciting for me. , when we're talking about this kind of stuff, it's like, I'm at, it's the same thing, like go back to that, you know, Continuous Improvement Kaizen style approach to manufacturing that changed everything in manufacturing the quality of everything went up dramatically and that's great that consumer surplus benefits everyone So I think it's really interesting to think about This idea and how to not just start it not just have it be Startups that are pulling it off, but then scale that up and make that a system wide change.

And think about what that could do for the [00:36:00] economy, for like U. S. competitiveness, for like the effectiveness of businesses, and also just like better working environments for people, like more human and more authentic. Like that's what we're talking about here. 

Peter Ahn: Totally. Totally. Yeah. Imagine if our top companies in the U.

S. actually had top sales teams is what we're trying to actually think about. Exactly. And it's kind of crazy to think that you can't actually confidently say that today. You can't say the top companies in the U. S. have the best sales teams, right? , I just can't say that with confidence because we all know who those people are and we've seen, interacted and it's talked about in recruiting circles, ?

There's a reason why Oracle is used as the risky candidate if you're looking at somebody with experience. Across the nation are talking about this, recruiting agencies. Yeah. But imagine if that was flipped on its head. And it's actually, I think, I won't say it's easy, but I think it's easier than people think it is.

Because you just need somebody to get up there and say, Hey, are you all asking questions this way? As [00:37:00] like one of the ways you would change this. Like, are you asking your client, what's your budget? Or, you know, there are big synergies here and the discount expires tomorrow when you just sent the proposal yesterday.

Like, these are things that are happening that can change actually pretty quickly. You know, with somebody just saying, hey, , don't employ these, uh, dubious tactics, right? Don't say things as if you're a robot or as if you're reading a script. And I think that just needs to, that conversation needs to start happening at sales kickoffs across companies here.

Alex Allain: I do think there's one challenge to this, which is like, let's take this big picture view. It does mean companies need to step up their game and innovate, right? You can't, if you have the, the authentic version of selling Oracle or, you know, Microsoft is like, look, we have you over a barrel. We're going to give you a, this software that's not as good as this other software.

You know, we're going to sell you teams instead of Slack. We're going to kick out your Slack by giving you a discount. We know you have it over a barrel [00:38:00] and we're going to jack up prices.

And we just need somebody to go out and be the enforcer, you know, to, to do that. Right? Like,

what do you, what do you say to that? 

Peter Ahn: Yeah. I think it's a, it's a good opportunity for that to happen. Actually. I think it's going to be painful for a lot of these large companies who have hidden beneath their incumbency versus like technical innovation. So I'm actually very excited for that, , and I think it'll also force them to reimagine pricing and packaging, which is, , long overdue.

A lot of procurement officers who I have worked with, you know, talked about that Microsoft model and it creates a lot of anxiety and pain for them just talking about it, right? So , they are going to have to probably change some things around that. , Materially, but again, I think that is for the long run going to be a lot better for these brands and they're not going to be surprised by large customers [00:39:00] churning because they've been unhappy about the packaging over the last five years.

And they've just been waiting for the right opportunity. So I think it also helps companies be more proactive and look ahead. 

Alex Allain: so what you're saying is, Hey, watch out. The new wave is coming with better sales and better products. 

Peter Ahn: Yeah, and better packaging. Exactly. So , you might as well try and rip the band aid off.

Like, all the things your customers hate about you, try and fix those things. And sales is, you know, one of them, actually. It's not all of them. And imagine if you were to take that approach, and startups are forced to do that, obviously, because, you know, word of mouth is everything. You know, the ecosystem that they're playing and they can't afford to have even like one or two, angry customers, but you know, it's gotten to a stage where a lot of these big companies get by with having angry customers.

Like look at like Cloudflare, like just type in Cloudflare Sales and look at all the news about that sales team, right? And [00:40:00] that's like public examples of sales teams actually being skewered in news articles, right? And I'm sure it's had an impact on their business as well. Whether or not it's looked at intentionally or not, I don't know.

I have a feeling that a lot of the folks are just like, ah, this is sales, right? But imagine if you were to look at it and say, actually, we have a big problem here. We need to revamp the entire culture. I bet you in the long term, they would do a lot better. And it would, I think it would trickle over to product.

Like I said, packaging. Recruiting everything. 

Alex Allain: Yeah. I mean, another way you look at this again, like the, I'm going to go back once more to the manufacturing example, Toyota production system, that sort of thing, it's like, yeah, sometimes the car breaks down, it doesn't last as long. That's just cars. And it's like, no, Toyota was like, no, the Corolla is going to last a lot longer because our practices are better.

Yeah. So like these companies can either change or they can, you know, become less relevant. 

Peter Ahn: Exactly, exactly. I think [00:41:00] that's a great way to put it. Yeah, there's no reason why sales should be a bad word in corporate America, and it is too often right now. 

Alex Allain: Well, I think this is actually a great place to leave it.

I mean, this is a fascinating conversation. I don't know what our founders are going to do with it, frankly, other than see that they have an interesting edge, and hopefully this gives them some motivation for keeping that edge. Rather than letting it dull over time. , I'm going to make a call to action for our audiences.

Our third episode, we are, , as we mentioned, getting back into it. We want to hear from you. So, , again, we're not going to ask you to. Like and subscribe. We just want you to email us. Send a note to podcasters at DecodingSalesPodcast. com, , or if you know me or Peter, , personally, like, just drop us a message on email, LinkedIn, whatever your favorite messaging app is.

, we'd love to hear from you. Was this kind of the content you want? More of this? Less of this? Is this gonna inspire you? And, by the way, if you want that, , fireside chat with [00:42:00] your sales team, , we'll give you, um, exorbitant pricing, um, but that will benefit your organization even more than that exorbitant pricing.

, so reach out to us and we'll work out something that is a win win for everyone. , and, , that's it. Yeah. , thanks for joining us on another episode of Decoding Sales.