INSIDE Inside Sales – Episode 7: In the Pursuit of Sales Mastery

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Brian Smith Jr recently shared that the biggest mistake he’s ever made in his sales career was trying to master every aspect of selling. Can you relate? Do you find yourself frustrated by your lack of knowledge? Do you think you’re that close to being a sales rockstar if you just knew a little more, or read another book, or watched another video? Perhaps you already know more than you need. Check out Brian’s epiphany and learn how it changed his life. It just might impact you the same way.


Not in the mood to listen? No problem, you can read the transcriptions below.

Host:  Darryl PraillVanillaSoft

Guest: Brian Smith, Jr., AA-ISP

 

Darryl Praill:  Thank you Paul, how you doing folks? This is Darryl Praill coming at you with another episode INSIDE Inside Sales where we get down and dirty with the industry’s innovators. The ones making things happen, the ones who are pragmatic, practical, real as they come on our show and share their expertise with you about how to be a better sales development rep. We cover lots of topics. This week, well this week I just love this topic. Let me tell you a little story how this happened folks and then I’ll introduce my guest. What I was doing is what I normally do, which is I was perusing LinkedIn and there was a time I reached out to Morgan Ingram. If you don’t know Morgan, give him a shout, we’ve done a lot of work with Morgan and he had made reference to me at one point. Listen, you’ve got to follow Brian Smith Jr. So based on Morgan’s referral, I sought out Brian Smith Jr. I saw his post, I saw his stuff, I said that’s cool. Connect, Brian, Morgan said we should talk, boom, send it out. And of course you know minutes later I got the connection request and boom, we’re online. It’s great.

Darryl Praill:  And it wasn’t much long afterwards where I saw the following post shared by Brian. And I’m going to read it and then I’m going to bring Brian on the show. All right, so this is what Brian said. He said, “The biggest mistake I’ve made in my sales career was trying to master every aspect of selling. In my opinion, it’s a recipe for disaster. Some of the best sales professionals I know capitalize on what they do best. Advice to my young sales professionals, master an area independently. Master one area of selling at a time. I realized pretty early that I wasn’t bad on the phone, and I was decent at crafting emails, but where I thrived was prospecting. I had a knack for it. And I began looking at it as a science. Have self-awareness of your strengths and swing for the fences with them.” What I loved about this post was I loved the transparency. I loved the honesty. I loved how real it was. And I loved how valid it was. So really, the theme for today’s show is don’t make this mistake. And joining me today of course is Brian Smith Jr. Brian, how are you doing, sir?

The 1️⃣ biggest mistake I've made in my #sales career was trying to master every aspect of selling. In my opinion, it's a recipe for disaster. ~ @iammrsmith__ #SalesSuccess Click To Tweet

Brian Smith JR:  Good, man, Darryl, thanks for having me on this. This is definitely exciting.

Darryl Praill:  It is exciting. I mean, I’m as excited to jam about this as you are. Now if you guys don’t know Brian, Brian is an interesting cat. He’s actually just made a career change and he’s still of course doing what he always does, but now he’s working as a member services executive with the AA-ISP. And if you don’t know who that is, that’s the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals. His particular focus of course is on growing and expanding the community as well as working with the current members providing assistance to all their needs. So he is not only a practitioner, he is actually there advocating now for you to be better. So this dude is all in. And best of all, Brian shared to me recently because we had to, we had some scheduling conflicts and part of that was because he is a new first-time dad. I understand you have a baby girl named Georgia, is that right?

Brian Smith Jr:  Yes. She’s beautiful man. I absolutely love her. Cannot take my eyes off her, that’s for sure.

Darryl Praill:  That’s just incredible. Now question, I know you’re recording from home today. Is Georgia down the hall? Will we have a little shout out from Georgia during this recording?

Brian Smith JR:  You know, I think she’s unpredictable so we’ll see. If she does, you’ll definitely probably hear it.

Darryl Praill:  How you enjoying the AA-ISP dude? I’ve got to ask you that.

Brian Smith JR:  It’s good man. I’ve been looking for an opportunity the last couple years to give back to the sales community. I did it as a hobby outside of my day to day sales job and so to be able to do it as my actual profession, it’s just amazing. I love sales. I’ve always had a knack for it. And I think if we can somehow make sales peoples Plan A versus their Plan B right, I think the profession will continue to grow. So it’s just been great to join a team of people that have that same vision.

Darryl Praill:  And it is a good team of people there. I worked with Bob Perkins who founded the organization extensively. Ashley Becker is, of course, runs the whole sales process there. Ashley’s going to be on one of my webinars coming up shortly. If you guys haven’t registered for that, it’s All About Sales Coaching, check it out at vanillasoft.com. But in the meantime, you talked about giving back to the community, I mean you’ve been doing that already. You are the host of The LaunchPad. It’s an online podcast about all things sales if I’m not correct. How’s that going for you?

Brian Smith JR:  Pretty good. I started out just mainly sales and I just realized that kind of turned into a podcast with people just telling their stories of how they’ve found success and I’ve just let it run from there. It’s been a great thing to do.

Darryl Praill:  Nothing more fun and exciting and endearing getting together and jam together with people who are like-minded in the same industry and just sharing. And that’s what we’re going to do today. So again I like the fact that you were so honest about this and it just resonated with me. I mean, I gotta ask the question, what was the catalyst for this post?

Brian Smith JR:  You know, that’s a great question. I was actually getting ready to make the change to work for AA-ISP and you know I was just reflecting on my career and I’m always trying to give back, right? So it just hit me about where I was, what I was capable of now compared to where I first started. And I remember times of being so frustrated because none of the cold calls were going correctly. I couldn’t get the right messaging in an email out there. It just seemed like I couldn’t bring the full circle in my career at the time. And when I realized when I … Eventually, it hit me that hey, certain people are going to respond to certain things, right? So some people are going to respond to email, some people are going to respond to cold call best, some people will respond to social best, right? When I realized that when you focus on that, you realize hey if I just maximize one skill in one area at one time, definitely have much more success.

Eventually, it hit me, 😲 certain people respond to certain things, right? So some people respond to email, some respond to #coldcalling, some respond to #social best, right? Maximize one skill at a time. ~@iammrsmith__ Click To Tweet

Darryl Praill:  So walk me through the process. Like, you know, you had a moment, you had an epiphany moment where you realized that maybe you were trying to do all things to all people. How did you go about recognizing that that was the problem? Was it something that you figured out or did you talk to other trusted advisors in your circle? Like, how did you zero in on, “I’m not good at all these things, but I’m really good here”?

Brian Smith JR:  Honestly, when I started missing quota. I know there’s a bunch of people out there that say, “I crush quota, I made 114%, 115% of my quota.” But, you know how it goes. When I started realizing I was missing quota and you know I was making all the steps that my managers were telling me to do and all the different outreaches they were giving me, I slowly realized that when I was talking to people in certain instances, man it just wasn’t hacking it for me. So I think in this last job at my previous company, the industry was completely different. The type of people and prospects I was reaching out was completely different. And that’s when I realized like okay, this is all phone compared to my first job was all emailing. So I realized really quickly then hey, no one’s responding to my emails, why is that? But I was having much more success on the phone and it was because I had to practice more at the phone, had to more round robin. If you don’t know what round robin is it’s where you do kind of practice calls with your colleagues or your boss or what have you. So it was when I switched jobs and I realized that I had to rely on a different type of message compared to my previous job.

Darryl Praill:  All right. So just to be devils advocate with you-

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah.

Darryl Praill:  I mean, shouldn’t every sales professional work to improve all of their skillsets, not just one?

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah. So tough question, right? So yes and no. Yes from the aspect of you’re going to have to eventually be able to utilize those skills in the long run. But, not at the risk of not meeting quota or losing your job, if that makes sense.

Darryl Praill:  I think that makes sense. So if I’m hearing you right, you’re saying losing your job is bad, just so we’re clear on this.

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah. And maybe let me elaborate on that. So I think we need to maximize on all those skills but at the end of the day, companies care about revenue. They care about you hitting your quota. So if that means that success is solely phone or majority phone, 80/20 phone to email then you better definitely figure out the phone at that time.

Darryl Praill:  So that’s interesting. I would think the natural reaction would be to go okay, where am I weak? So if I hear you right, you were saying you’re strong on the phone. You were less successful on the email and that was affecting your quota attainment. Doesn’t that, isn’t the natural reaction is to say you know, through some self-analysis, and we’ve talked about this before folks on INSIDE Inside Sales, you got to be honest with yourself. Doesn’t that say okay we can email therefore I’m going to do all that I can. I’m going to study, I’m going to A/B test, I’m going to read, I’m going to talk to my peers who are kicking it out of the park who are rock stars on email so I can learn from them. Because it almost feels like you went the other direction. You said okay, I recognize I’m weak here so I’m going to go where I’m strong. And I’m not judging you. It seems to me … My natural reaction would be to try to shore up where I’m weak but I find it so intriguing that that wasn’t necessarily how you went.

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah, so I think any sales position that you’re in, most of the time the rhetoric is right now. So hey we need deals right now. We need revenue right now. And that’s why I mentioned earlier if you’re weak at email, you probably need to work on that outside of work. I wouldn’t try to be maximizing and adjusting things during the work hours necessarily, right? Because again your ultimate goal as a sales professional is to bring in revenue right now. So at the end of the day, I think most managers will say, “Whatever’s working that brings in the money, do that.” So while maintaining that and working on the other different things outside of that day to day, then you can implement that once you get ahold of that.

Your ultimate goal as a #sales professional is to bring in #revenue right now. You must be self-aware to meet your quota. 📈 Click To Tweet

Darryl Praill:  So when you had this epiphany, did you talk to anybody in your circle just to see am I off base, am I on? Did you go to your boss and say here’s an observation? Or is this all just self-managed, just you?

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah, so I think there’s two things to that so I’m a very self-aware person, I just always have been. It’s just something that came to me naturally. But I am always, my inner circle, you know guys like Morgan Ingram, another buddy of mine Chris Fago, he’s been mentoring me since I moved to Atlanta. I’m always, you know, verifying with them like hey, this is how I feel, this is what I’m thinking, this is what I’ve experienced. Am I crazy? And most of the time they’ll say no, I think that’s spot on. Then with that obviously I always take a note you know whether it’s journaling for myself, this is what I figured out. That’s typically why I will post something on LinkedIn. Once I went through and experienced it, shared it, make sure I’m not crazy.

Darryl Praill:  I love that. All right. So what we’ve learned out of this first half of today’s episode is fundamentally, it’s what we said before. It’s just be self-aware folks. Be honest with yourself. Be introspective. You know, scrutinize your own successes. You know, it’s black and white. It’s okay to recognize you’re not going to be all things for all people. You’re going to have weaknesses just like Brian did here because that’s the sign of a true professional. And once you understand the issue, then you can fix it. And that’s what we’re going to talk about when we come back, right after this.

Darryl Praill:  All right. So we’re going to talk about how to actually tackle the issue once we’ve recognized it. In your case, you recognized you were better at prospecting at the phone than you were at email so you recognize that your advice to sales professionals was that they should master one area of selling at a time. How do you suggest they approach that? How did you approach it? How do you know which area to focus on first?

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah, great question. So I think it’s being aware of the industry you’re in, right? So for me with my first job, I’ve had a couple different jobs in sales now, but for my first job it was targeting CEOs in the tech industry. Realizing that most CEOs in the tech industry tend to be younger people. They’re not really picking up the phone. They are emailing. They’re on social a lot building a brand. And that’s definitely a big thing. So when I realized that again having that self-awareness, that’s what I figured out okay, let me do everything I can to figure out the emailing part. And the prospecting right? I think prospecting you can get down to a science.

Darryl Praill:  So how did you go about doing that? Let me ask you that, you know, candidly? Did you set tasks for yourself? Like first, I’m going to do this. Like, how did you know that you were achieving what you wanted to do? That you were making forward progress?

Brian Smith JR:  Great question, okay. I think the amount of response, again with any team you’ve got people around you. I just had a much higher response so the way I went about it was I measured myself up amongst my teammates of the response rates they had, the amount of emails they were sending out, the types of responses they were getting. I literally built out a worksheet that had every single type of response whether it was negative, positive, the time of response, the amount of response on each day. I recorded everything. Again, because I needed the data to prove that hey, this is the perfect steps in order to get to where you need to be with this type of outreach.

I literally built out a worksheet 📋 that had every single type of response whether it was negative, positive...I recorded everything...I needed data to prove the perfect steps. ~ @iammrsmith__ #SalesStrategy Click To Tweet

Darryl Praill:  So that’s very interesting because so you did this almost on yourself. It wasn’t a matter … You weren’t relying on a piece of software to do the analysis for you per say, you were doing your own personal audit of your progress.

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah. And I had to. I started out in a startup so a little bit more challenging when you don’t have the funds to necessarily buy those types of resources.

Darryl Praill:  That’s true. It’s very true. And a lot of startups start exactly that way. Okay so now when you did that, did you have any pushback from your sales management? Did they want to say, “Hey dude, we need you to do everything, not just one task really, really well?” Like, how supportive was your sales leadership or not as you went down this road?

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah, I’m going to go against the grain here and I’ll probably catch some flack but I think any time the minority, so the small instance that speaks up to say hey, this is working better than what we’re doing, I think there’s always going to be pushback. So definitely had some pushback at first. My first boss, she was a great sales leader, she was great at teaching how to manage phone calls. Again, I was great at prospecting. My first job I was not good at cold calling so definitely got some pushback from her.

Darryl Praill:  And so how did you, how did you approach those conversations? Was there any techniques or tactics you can share that worked for you?

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah, that’s always tough, right? So if you’re … I got a couple different things. If your boss is receptive I think you bring the data to prove it. Data always works. And if they’re not receptive, I think you have to do what any good old salesperson does, the numbers have to show and you have to show it physically, right? So if there are competitions that you have with your sales team, you need to be at the top of the list. And when you are, that’s when you speak up and say, hey, this is what I’ve been doing. This is why we need to change this or this is why this works.

Darryl Praill:  So there’s two important things you said there. One is the data. So the data shows that you know I may not be at the top of my game yet, I may not be winning all those competitions yet, but I am making a positive change in the right direction relative to where I’ve been historically. So, therefore, I’m on to something and I should keep on going down this road and that buys you some time with your manager. You can say here’s the data, the data speaks for itself. But then that builds to some actual victories. I’m winning the contests, I’m hitting my quota, so even though maybe I didn’t go about it the way that you Mr. Manager, Mr. VP wanted me to go about it, you know in the end you probably only care about outcomes and results and look at these outcomes and results I’m having. So you gave me the time, I was able to figure it out and now look where I’m at. And both those cases speaks volumes, right? It’s so easy to have a conversation when you have the data and ultimately, eventually, you have the results to back that up. So that must have made you feel substantially better about the direction you were going in once that started to happen for you.

Brian Smith JR:  Absolutely. My career right then and there, that taught me to prevent any and all subjectivity in my job. I don’t want anything to be subjective at all. I want it all to be objective so when I bring it, it’s like this is why, here’s the facts.

Darryl Praill:  It’s funny. I think we all had these a-ha moments in our careers and it sounds like that was one for you, right? You finally figured it out and you go a-ha and that’s data, that’s facts. I remember for me and I’m a marketing guy by trade. I had an, my first time marketing manager and I had a boss. Great guy, really great guy. But it gave me zero direction and would touch in with me like once a month. And I was so frustrated because I didn’t know what to do. And finally, I was on the verge of leaving because I felt like I was just lost. And I said, “screw it” and had that a-ha moment. Screw it. I’m just going to do what I think needs to be done regardless of what he says needs to be done and if I’m right we’ll have results and if I’m wrong well I’ll carry my head high as I walk out the door. And that was the best thing for my career because I did get the results, just like you did. Because we knew what needed to be done and we had the data and we had the processes and then the boss came back and rewarded me substantially.

Darryl Praill:  So every career is defined with that a-ha moment. It sounds like that’s exactly what you had. So with that, how would you coach other individuals who are in your shoes? Other sales development reps right now who are maybe not hitting their quota to go and do an honest assessment of their strengths. Is it something they just look inwardly or do they need to seek the inputs from their management from their peers or do they go online on LinkedIn and say help? Like, how do they figure that out if they’re not sure?

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah, that’s a great question. I always believe in when it’s trying to figure out self-awareness and evaluate where you are, I think you’ve got to one, be honest with yourself. Realize what’s working, what you’re doing and what’s not. I think you always need to seek wise counsel. So find someone that’s close to you, someone that you may have access to be honest with you, I had that very early on, Chris Fago was one of those guys that was very honest with me. So I think you got to do both of those in that aspect and then self-education online, finding leaders and I don’t really like this work but thought leaders, people who are kind of pushing the agenda of what’s going on with sales. I think you’ve got to find that, you’ve got to take all of that in and then find and A/B test what works for you.

Realize what's working, what's not. I think you always need to seek wise counsel. ~ @iammrsmith__ #Sales #SalesSuccess Click To Tweet

Darryl Praill:  I love it. We always go back to the A/B test. It’s so, so true. You think you might be on to something and A/B test will prove it pretty fast. Now you mentioned find some thought leaders, I’m assuming you mean LinkedIn and what not, Twitter perhaps.

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah.

Darryl Praill:  You mentioned Fago… Are there any other thought leaders that come to mind that were influential for you?

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah, absolutely. Probably number one is John Barrows definitely was a heavy influence on me. I mean, the guy was so real straightforward. He kind of has a no BS, no subjectivity with sales. I think another person that truly helped me from a … Even though I wasn’t a manager just yet, but Trish Bertuzzi really I feel like gave me the thoughts of how my manager was probably thinking about my role. She was definitely another influence on me. Obviously, Morgan Ingram, when I connected with him, him and I were kind of connected in a partnership but the more I was around him the more I downloaded his content. He was definitely an influence on me. I’m trying to think of one more.

Darryl Praill:  You mentioned, while you think about that one more, you mentioned Trish. Did you talk to Trish or just follow her, or you just reading her books or you’re following her posts? What about it … Because I love what you said there. It allowed you to kind of view yourself through your bosses eyes if I’m understanding what she was posting. That was a very unique point of view.

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah, so actually long story short, so Chris Fago, which again it goes back to having those people around you to be able to keep you in check, right? Keep you honest. He gave me the book. Read the book, connected with Trish online, told her I loved her book, and funny you asked. A couple weeks ago in Boston I actually got to meet up with Trish and just said, “Hey, look. I just really want to quick say thank you so much for what you’ve provided. It is great. Keep doing it. Keep doing what you’re doing for the sales development community.” But I’ve been connecting with her since so-

Darryl Praill:  She’s a legend in this space. Now which book was it? Was it the Playbook?

Brian Smith JR:  Sales Development Playbook. Yeah, it was a game changer.

Darryl Praill:  Sales Development Playbook. Yep.

Brian Smith JR:  Game changer for me.

Darryl Praill:  Well that’s fantastic. I will give her a shutout on the post for this so she will know how much of a game changer it was and Morgan and John Barrows both great guys. We’ve had them both on our shows, they’re fantastic so you can’t go wrong with that. And of course, you must have made an impression because Morgan was the one who told me to connect with you. So there you go guys. I guess we can circle back full you know where we began. It was all about being honest and not to make this mistake so what’s the first step anybody listening right now, who thinks they can identify with you. They’re in that situation. What’s the first step they should do to start down this same path to get to the same end game that you did that you got to?

Brian Smith JR:  I think first it’s you got to figure out what’s not working for you. I think you take every type of skillset you’re doing in sales whether it’s cold email, cold outreach, social, you figure out what is not working for you. So you’ve got to be attentive and do all of them at first, right? Figure out which one is not working and again it’s going back to writing down all that data. Okay, out of how many calls you’re making, which ones are converting, how many are converting, and all the emails you’re sending, which ones are getting responses, and on social is anyone involved with your posts? Are they messaging back? Did you put all that data in a spreadsheet, right? And you start from there. That’s the first step. Second step I would say is bring it to someone who can keep you accountable. I wouldn’t advise the boss necessarily just because your boss wants you working and they want you to bring in revenue right then and there. I would find a mentor, right? A Morgan Ingram, a Chis Ago, a John Barrows or whomever and then let them know what you’re doing and have them give you input.

📧📞🌐 I think you take every type of skillset you're doing in #sales whether it's cold email, cold outreach, social, you figure out what is not working for you. ~ @iammrsmith__ #SalesStrategy Click To Tweet

Brian Smith JR:  So you don’t know what you don’t know. So educate yourself on that with those mentors. And then third, I think you just got to jump in like any good salesperson jump in deep with whatever you’re committing to, do it.

Darryl Praill:  All right. So there you have it. Don’t make this mistake, learn from me. As per Brian Smith Jr, host of The LaunchPad, rockstar at AA-ISP, Co-GM at the Atlanta Enterprise Sales forum, a man who lives, breathes and dies all for sales. He is a true practitioner in the truest sense of the word. And I am so delighted that we had time to spend with you today, Sir. If you don’t follow Brian on LinkedIn or Twitter, don’t hesitate. Get off your behind and do it now just like I did all because Morgan told me to. He is a wise, wise man. If you don’t follow Morgan, you should do that too. If you haven’t read Trish’s book, do it. As you can see, it’s a bestseller for a reason. And what you’ll love about Trish’s book is it’s just pragmatic. It’s just really down to earth and it really just makes sense. So with that, Brian, thank you so much for your time today and for being transparent and for being honest.

Brian Smith JR:  Yeah absolutely man, I appreciate this. Let’s do it again.

Darryl Praill:  We shall do it again. In the meantime, this is it for another episode of INSIDE Inside Sales. You take care folks, we’ll talk to you real soon. Bye-bye.