INSIDE Inside Sales – Episode 8: How Our Perception of Sales Impacts Results

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Carole Mahoney is a Sales rock star who began life as a Marketer because she never wanted to be an icky, pushy sales person. Wait…what?! Carole had a perception of sales that clearly isn’t true, but it dramatically influenced her choices. So, what happened? Why is she now in Sales? Because she eventually realized the truth that your perception becomes your reality. She changed her perception of Sales and is now a top-ranked advisor, speaker, and thought leader in the profession. What’s your perception of yourself, and how is it influencing your results? Listen, as Carole shares her thoughts and offers incredible wisdom that you can implement immediately.


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

Host:  Darryl PraillVanillaSoft

Guest: Carole Mahoney, Unbound Growth

 

Darryl Praill: Thank you, Paul. How you doing, everybody? It’s good to see you again. We just don’t spend enough quality time together, and I’ve got to tell you, I miss you when we’re not talking. But, guess what? We’re talking again. My name’s Darryl Praill, and you are back listening to another episode of INSIDE Inside Sales, where we get down and practical in the weeds, in the real things that affect every sales professional out there, every single day.

Darryl Praill: You will not find a single discussion or iota of management-speak, of strategy. This is just hands-on, practical advice. So, thank you for joining us today. I’m really excited about today’s topic. And now, I say that every week, but this one is cool. Let me explain to you how the process works, right? So, I’ve got this list, this spreadsheet, of course, of hundreds of topics. And often I’m inspired, and I’ll go look at the list, and I’ll say, that’s the topic I want to do, then I seek out the right speaker.

Darryl Praill: Other times, I will see a speaker, and I’ll hear what they’re talking about, and I’ll say, woo, I want to talk with them. This was kind of, version A meets version B. So, our guest today is Carole Mahoney. And she’s the founder of Unbound Growth, a scientific sales development firm that eliminates the guesswork of hiring the right salespeople, and develops sales teams, and she uses this cool science-based data-driven process, and it helps salespeople achieve 130%, 160% of quota, and in less than six months.

Darryl Praill: And she claims, and I fully believe her, because once you get to know this woman, she’s not messing around, a 98% annual customer retention rate. So, I happened to see Carole recently, at the Rev It Up Conference, and Carole and I have had a chance to hang in similar circles, and I was so impassioned with what she was talking about, I’m like, how can we work together?

Darryl Praill: And she came up with the idea that’s very near, and dear, and personal to her, about how our perception of sales, how we perceive sales, impacts our results. And I thought, man, that’s so relevant, right? And it’s a personal thing, whether I perceive myself as a good individual, or a bad individual, an attractive individual, an ugly individual, a funny individual, a not-so-funny individual. All those influences shape who I am, and then they fundamentally become the person I believe I am. I project it, I become it. And that can be good, and that can be bad, and when she said that, I’m like, boom. We’re in.

Darryl Praill: So, with that as the set-up, Carole, welcome to the show.

Carole Mahoney: Thank you so much for having me. I am also excited to be here and talking with you, and everyone else listening.

Darryl Praill: And everybody else in INSIDE Inside Sales life. Okay. Of course, when I called her, she’s like, who are you again? So, it’s just, it hurt. I want you to know that. Okay. So, I’ve got to ask the question, before we even kind of get into the big subject around this. Why is this so near and dear to you? Because there’s a lot of this in the content on the website, it’s somewhat pervasive, there’s a thread here. Why is this so personal for you?

Carole Mahoney: I actually, my first business is, I started a marketing agency. I got my degree in marketing. And the reason behind it was, when people said, well, why don’t you go into sales? You’d be a great salesperson. And my immediate reaction was ew, ick. And I didn’t get into sales because of that perception. And when I opened my marketing agency I was convinced that I could do such awesome marketing, that I would make those icky, pushy, aggressive salespeople completely obsolete. That was kind of my underlining mission.

Carole Mahoney: Of course, I also wanted to help businesses grow, and to create jobs, but underlining it was just this disdain for the idea of sales. And what I found is that, even in today’s information age, we still need salespeople to connect problems to solution, and that we can’t just take marketing leads to the bank. When you’re, especially, talking about complex B2B sales.

I found that, even in today's information age, we still need #SalesPeople to connect problems to solutions, and that we can't just take marketing #leads to the bank. ~ @icarolemahoney Click To Tweet

Carole Mahoney: And what I found in my marketing agency, and my first business is that, it was my perception of sales that also inhibited the growth in my business, because I found myself with clients that, for lack of a better word, were the PITA clients, the big, pain-in-the-you-know-what.

Darryl Praill: I’ve never had them.

Carole Mahoney: … Yeah. I didn’t know if this was the family, PG-rated show. But I’m sure you can fill in what the last-

Darryl Praill: We’re good, man.

Carole Mahoney: … A is there. Yeah. And what I found was just that I had the clients that they were not listening to the advice that I was giving, they weren’t showing up for meetings, they were nickel-and-diming me over invoices. And it was just miserable. And I thought, if this is what being an entrepreneur is all about, I’m all set. And I was at the point where I was trying to decide, do I close down the marketing agency? I mean, it wasn’t that it wasn’t successful, it was just a complete drain on me. And, or, do I go get a job, which was even more disdainful to me.

Carole Mahoney: And so, at the time, I was working with a company called HubSpot, I was one of their partners, and Pete Caputa at HubSpot had started his partner program, and part of the partner program, he started a sales training, because he found that most marketing agency owners, like me, couldn’t sell. Or at least not sell properly. And that it was impacting the growth of their business.

Carole Mahoney: And so, I met several people through Pete, and one of those was a team at Objective Management Group, and I hired a coach, and through that I started to change my perception of sales as this pushy, aggressive, manipulative, sales tactics, and more into the relationship that a doctor has with their patients, where the ask a lot of questions, and they’re consultative, and they’re trying to find out what is the actual symptoms mean, and how do we solve that problem?

Carole Mahoney: And it was when I started to change my perception of sales to one that was more based on helping people, and building relationships, that my results started to change. And I actually started to have fun with it, like the kind of fun that you would have hanging out with your friends, and having a conversation, because it was really about the conversations that I was having, and how those changed, and it was my perception that was preventing me from having that kind of a conversation.

Carole Mahoney: I saw this actually very recently, when, earlier this year, Mark Roberge asked me to come and to coach some of his Harvard Entrepreneurial MBA students, because one of the things that the dean of Harvard had gotten as feedback was that these MBA students wanted to learn how to sell, because that was the one challenge that they had when they went into entrepreneurship, just like I did. And, as one of the things that they did was, they had students, they gave them some information, and they video recorded students having sales conversations with their counterparts.

Carole Mahoney: And what was interesting is that, as I was watching these video replays, you saw the first five minutes or so, they were having a conversation just like they were talking to one another, and it was a normal, everyday, human conversation. And then, as soon as the timer went off for them to enter into the sales conversation, it was like it was two totally different people having that conversation. It was almost as if they had put on some kind of a mask, or a costume of this persona of what they thought sales should be.

Carole Mahoney: And suddenly they were talking faster, they never paused to take a breath to ask a question. It was all about what they wanted, and what their business model was, it was all about them, and it was because this was what their perception of sales was. And it was a horrible sales call. And the results of it were showing that people wouldn’t necessarily buy from someone who had a sales call like that. But you could see it. The perception was a cloak that they wore, just like I did.

Carole Mahoney: And that’s why I’m so passionate about it, because the negative perception of sales, it almost reminds me of what doctors were looked at in the 19th century, where they were seen as witch doctors, and mythical fanatics, and barbarians, because there were no standards in place. The perception of the medical field was very negative, just like it is with sales today. And when they started to use science in the 19th century in the medical field, they started to create those standards, and that ethical and, kind of, respect that the medical professions have today. And I think that’s what we can do for sales, and that’s going towards, how do we change that perception?

Darryl Praill: So, is that why, and I’m noticing some of your messaging on your website, et cetera, you intentionally use the word, a scientific sales development firm.

Carole Mahoney: Yes.

Darryl Praill: And is that where that comes from? Because, with you, it’s sales is scientific. There is a defined process, there is sound research behind the tactics employed to be successful. Is that the premise?

Carole Mahoney: Yes, and the premise is, if you use psychology, and how the educational sciences, and behavioral sciences, and cognitive sciences, and neurosciences, it’s all about human interaction, and human perception. And that is all how we impact our behaviors, and our outcomes. And so, I look at science as a way to cut through the myth. If you think about the sales training industry now, it’s, this is how I did it, these are my five steps, and if you do these five steps, you’ll have success.

Carole Mahoney: But how many people have bought a book, or a listened to someone talk about how they did something, and then they try to apply it in their world, and it doesn’t apply, or it doesn’t scale, or they’re not able to do it? And I looked at it. When I was an entrepreneur in my first business, I read all … I still do. I still read all of the books, and it’s not to say that those don’t have value. But it’s sometimes one person’s perception, and based on their experience that they had, and it’s this limited scope. And there are a lot of variables into whether or not this is going to apply, or ring true, or prove out.

#Sales isn't always as easy as just buying a book 📖, or listening to a podcast 🎧 and applying what you learned to your process...it doesn't always turn out the same way. ~ @icarolemahoney #SalesTips Click To Tweet

Carole Mahoney: So, when I look at, and then I think that you’ve even seen this, too, where you start looking at data that goes in the face of some of the myths and traditional ways of thinking about things. That causes a change in perception, and it also causes people to stop and think, well, maybe not everything I read, or everything I hear, is exactly as it seems. And science is about testing it out. Make the observation, draw a hypothesis, and do the research and the data to see if this is true.

Carole Mahoney: And most people just stop at, well, if so-and-so said it, so it must be true.

Darryl Praill: So, let me ask you a question. For those who are listening, which, by the way, numbers in the hundreds of thousands right now, what … Let’s call it this way. What self-diagnostic question would you propose they ask themselves, to help them determine how they perceive the role of sales?

Carole Mahoney: I think a lot of people have probably heard of Daniel Pink’s book, To Sell Is Human. And in that, he asks … I forget how many people it was. But he asked them, when you hear the word sales, what is your first reaction? What do you think of? And if your first reaction is the pushy, aggressive car salesman that you had to deal with the last time you bought a car, or the telemarketer who is calling you at odd hours of the night, or even the person who’s sending you all of these spam emails, either on LinkedIn, or on your email. If those are your first thoughts, then you probably have a negative perception of sales.

Carole Mahoney: And, as Daniel Pink wrote in his book, nine out of 10 of us do. And the other thing that’s interesting is looking at, have you ever met a salesperson you could trust? Even salespeople, there was a study done by Dave Kurlan, who’s the founder of Objective Management Group, called the Trust Project. And I could even reference Deb Calvert’s book, Stop Selling, Start Leading, where her research showed the same things, where buyers are looking for salespeople who can ask them questions, help them think about things that they hadn’t thought about them in a way before, that know about their business, that answer their questions when they get asked, and that they can actually trust.

Carole Mahoney: And that’s one of the things that is missing. If you were to look at the most untrusted industries or professions, it goes salespeople, lawyers, and politicians at the bottom of the pile. So, to self-diagnose if you have that negative perception of sales is, think of, what do you think sales is? Is it getting someone to buy? Is it convincing someone to do something? Or is it helping them to find a solution for a problem?

If you were to look at the most untrusted industries or professions, it goes #salespeople, lawyers, and politicians at the bottom of the pile. 🤦‍♀️ Click To Tweet

Darryl Praill: All right, so, hold that. We’re going to break. We’re going to come right back after this quick commercial message, and I want to drill down, I want to follow the thread that we’ve started to unravel here. So, don’t go anywhere folks, we’ll be right back.

Darryl Praill: All right, so, I want to explore more of what you were just talking about. You talked about the perception of sales. I love your analogy of, sales, lawyers, politicians, and with the Midterms that have happened in 2018 in the US, there’s lots of reference points there for the trust factor, and our perception. And if that’s third, and sales is one, that’s pretty crazy.

Darryl Praill: But some of us understand that maybe we don’t have this good perception, but we try to offset it. You know?

Carole Mahoney: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Darryl Praill: And we think, we use … And you mentioned, just quickly, before our break. I may have the right tools, or techniques, or tactics that I can use. The best, follow these steps, and you will start having some success. And I’m sure, I mean, I’ve seen it firsthand in the teams I’ve managed, and what not, that many people who perhaps are not confident in their own skills, they grab onto some of these tools, and techniques and tactics, thinking that will be the savior.

Darryl Praill: And, ironically, a lot of people will see success with that. So, is that what they should be doing, or not?

Carole Mahoney: I have a lot of people come to me and say, hey, have you ever read The Challenger Sale? Your coaching style really reminds me of that. And, honestly, I’ve never read The Challenger Sale. But I’ve seen its effects. And what happens when you get things like that that come out, that talk about various ways to do something, the latest, the latest tactics, the latest technology, people tend to grasp onto those, and some people are successful with them, and some people aren’t.

Carole Mahoney: So, what separates the two? Why are some, and why aren’t others? And I have found is, if you have certain strengths, certain mindsets, and certain perceptions about sales, then it doesn’t matter what tools or tactics or techniques are thrown at you, you can adapt to those. Versus there are some people who will read The Challenger Sale, and when they try to execute it, they just come off as a jerk who’s not really adding value. Versus someone who can go from Challenger Sale, to solution selling, to spin selling, to question-based selling, to buyer-centric selling, or whatever the next thing is going to be, they’re able to adapt because they have certain strengths.

Carole Mahoney: Things like, they, for example, believe that sales is actually about helping people. Their skillset is not hampered by, for example, asking a lot of questions in sales is important. Asking the right questions in sales, at the right time, is also important. So, things like, do they need the person who they are talking to to like them? Or, do they need their approval? Do they need them to see how smart they are? Are they able to stay in the moment when they’re having a conversation with someone? Do they have control over their emotions? Do they overcome rejection easily? Are they able to talk about money? I mean, and our perception of money could be another whole podcast, in and of itself, but it affects us in sales.

Carole Mahoney: And so, without these strengths, these inner mindsets and attitudes, no matter what tools, or techniques, or tactics we try to use, we’re not going to be successful with them, because we’re trying to Band-Aid something that needs stitches, and deeper work. And I also see some people use the latest tools and tactics as a way to try to opt out of having conversations, or to, for example, how many times have you seen someone, instead of picking up the phone and calling someone, send an email? And then another email. And then another email.

Carole Mahoney: Because, their perception is, nobody wants to talk on the phone anymore. There’s this thing in psychology that’s called the theory of reasoned action, which says that, it’s our beliefs towards a particular action will impact whether or not we do that particular action, which I think we’ve all heard of before. But one of the things that’s interesting is that it also takes into account what we think other people around us would consider normal to do.

Many people, instead of picking up the 📞 and calling someone, send email after email📧...Because, their perception is, nobody wants to talk on the phone. ~ @icarolemahoney Click To Tweet

Carole Mahoney: So, if you’re telling your sales team, for example, that they need to start digging for budget, and getting to decision makers, and going around people, but they were raised to believe that it’s rude to talk about money, and it’s rude to sidestep people, their belief is going to prevent them from doing whatever tactic it is that you’re asking them to do.

Carole Mahoney: Also, if we believe that doing something will lead to a positive outcome, then we’ll have a good attitude towards doing it. But then now, of course, the opposite is true. So, if we think that, for example, cold-calling doesn’t work, then we’re not going to pick up the phone and call. But we can change these behaviors, and I think that’s the thing that people should understand, or take away from this, is that even … If you were to tell me ten years ago that I would be coaching salespeople, I would have asked what you were taking, or drinking, or smoking, or something because there was no way in heck that was going to happen.

If we believe that doing something will lead to a positive outcome, then we'll have a good attitude towards doing it. So, if we think that #ColdCalling doesn't work, then we're not going to pick up the phone and call. Click To Tweet

Carole Mahoney: So, this has changed. Nothing is set in stone.

Darryl Praill: So, I’ve seen people have a lot of success with every single one of those selling methodologies, and tools that you reference. And, I think for some, it gives them a framework that they can build upon, and develop themselves. I think for others, the framework is so foreign to them, for all the reasons you just explained.  If was raised, it was rude to challenge anybody, or to ask about money, then I’m just not going to do it, even though the framework says to do that.

Darryl Praill: So, I’ve seen both work. For those listening, should they try the tools and tactics? Or, I guess, maybe the point is, at what point do they say this is or this isn’t working for me? How do they measure whether it’s been effective? How do they change their own behavior, to perhaps overcome some of their own perceptions of the role of sales, and how it’s influencing their actual success outcomes?

Carole Mahoney: I often to explain it to people this way, when I was in college, I was taking my business major, and a marketing minor, and I was forced into taking accounting. And accounting is my least favorite thing in the world to do, by the way. And so, I went into the accounting class, I fully expected that we were going to be opening QuickBooks, and we were going to be going through and showing, and learning how to do this. No. She actually just had us doing ledger, like, paper and pencil, debit column, credit column, outcome column, and we had to write it out. We had to understand everything that went into it before we were allowed to get our hands on the technology.

Carole Mahoney: And I asked her, I said, well, why are you doing it this way? It seems so redundant, we’re never going to use this, we’re going to be using the technology to do it. And what she said stuck with me, and I repeated in every technology company I’ve worked in or worked with. And that is, if you don’t understand the premise underneath it, then the technology will never be able to really help you. You’ll never understand why you need to do things a certain way, or even where the technology can ultimately help you.

Carole Mahoney: So, for example, if you’re not really good at asking discovery questions, and opening a call, and building a rapport, and building a relationship, then when you go to create, let’s just say you create an email sequences, for when people do certain things, the content of that, the message of that, and how to execute that will come off as, well, like all of the emails and things that we see, that are spam, and sales-y, and yucky, and we don’t want to answer any of them, because the person who sent it has never really learned how to, and practiced how to have a real conversation to know, where does this technology, or tactic, or latest tool fit into they way I have conversations?

Darryl Praill: So, how does an individual rep, I guess, self-medicate, for lack of a better word, to figure out what’s right for them? To figure out that they have their own issues, and these are the issues, and this is how I change?

Carole Mahoney: So, I mean, individual reps, this is the thing about being a salesperson that I love, and maybe it’s because I’m also an entrepreneur, but sales is one of those professions that it is completely within your hands. Yes, you work for a company, and that company should make it easier to support you, and there are some out there that do. But ultimately, it’s not up to your company to help you be successful with your book of business, if you are a real, true salesperson who is going to be proactive, and take control of your destiny.

This is the thing about being a #salesperson that I love, maybe it's because I'm also an entrepreneur, but #sales is one of those professions that it is completely within your hands. 🙌 ~ @icarolemahoney Click To Tweet

Carole Mahoney: Isn’t that why salespeople love sales, is because we get the direct results from our own outcomes, and that is in our hands? So, let’s take it in our hands. So, to change any behavior, first you have to become aware of what they are. And the challenge here is becoming aware of what our behaviors and our attitudes are objectively. Because science also has this thing that’s called cognitive bias. And, cognitive biases will cause us to not exactly see reality as it actually is.

Carole Mahoney: And especially in newer salespeople, we tend to, the less experience there that we have with something, the more skilled we tend to think we are at it. It’s the ones that have more experience at something that they actually start to see that this is where I need to improve, and this is where I need to improve. So, if you’re a salesperson who’s just coming into sales, there are some tools out there. There’s some that I use that you can start to objectively see, what are your biases, and your skillsets, and your beliefs, and create that kind of an awareness.

Carole Mahoney: And that, what science also calls a cognitive dissonance, is where we are here, in this place, we’re at point A, we want to get to point B, and there’s a gap in between. It’s identifying that gap in between that gets in the way. The other thing that they can do is, every company I ever partnered with has a quota. And they hand their quota to their salespeople. And I often say to the salespeople that I work with, reaching your quota is like getting up in the morning and being excited about paying your taxes. It’s just not motivating. It’s what you have to do to keep your job.

Carole Mahoney: So, for salespeople who want to improve, and want to change their behaviors, you’ve got to start with what your why is. What is your why? What is your personal goals, whether that’s an intrinsic goal of wanting to be the best in your company, and master your craft, or an extrinsic goal of establishing a lifestyle and providing your family. Both can be equally quantifiable. And if you start setting your goals, and then looking at your company, and your company’s quota, as the means to the end of your personal goals, that will cause you to start to look at, what are the things that are standing in my way? This is you taking your life into your hands.

Carole Mahoney: The other things that salespeople can do, is, not just create the goals, but create an action plan for those goals. Almost think of your sales career as your own business. And if you were to have your own business, you would not only have your goals, and have those goals broken down by how many customers do I need to get in order to reach my particular goals, financially and otherwise.

Carole Mahoney: And then you start to develop a plan for that, of, who am I going to contact? Who is in my network? Who can I talk to about reaching the people that I need to talk to? And so, now you have the start and the beginning of a prospecting plan. And in that prospecting plan are the people that you know and the people that know the people that you want to know, and coming up with, what’s the approach going to be? What is the message going to be? And how many of those people am I going to reach out on Monday, and on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, and on Thursday, and so that you start to develop plans with behaviors and activities in them that you need to improve on.

Carole Mahoney: There’s technology tools that also can help to create awareness, like call-recording technology. And listening to your own sales calls is an awesome way to get that awareness of what’s going on in your perceptions and behaviors. Because if you can be strong enough, and brave enough to listen to yourself, you’ll start to hear those things, like, oh, I should have asked this questions. Or, I missed it when he said this, and I should have gone back and said that.

Carole Mahoney: And you can take those things to your manager, or whomever it is that you’re working with to improve in sales, and say, this is what I did on my last sales call. I know I needed to do it this way. Can you help me practice this conversation so that I can do it over again, on my next call. And even asking them, I’m thinking about taking this approach to ask this question that I didn’t ask on the call. How would you react to that?

Carole Mahoney: I actually had one salesperson recently that I was coaching, who was trying to reach a CEO of a very large company. And he was getting all of this pushback from the large company, that this huge deal, that was going to be the largest deal in my client’s company’s history, and I said, do you think that the CEO of your company knows that this is a big deal for you, and he’s maybe just waiting you out, to see if you’ll give him a discount? He’s like, no, they would never do that. I’m like, okay, go to your CEO, and ask him if he’s ever done that. And he did. And his CEO was like, yeah, this happens all the time. I mean, I can wait them out. It’s not a big deal.

Carole Mahoney: And so, it was just that perception that he’s like, no, they would never do that. I’m like, okay, well then let’s see. So, as a salesperson, if you want to get the perception of your buyer, and you have people inside of your company who have the role of VP, or CEO, or CFO, or whoever the decision maker is, have a conversation with them. How would you react to this kind of approach? What would you think if this was said? And you can start to get some awareness, not just of yourself, but also of the other person you’re trying to talk to.

Darryl Praill: That is gold. We’re out of time. We’re going to stop it there. If you like what she said, and I loved what she said, check out her website, UnboundGrowth.com. A couple cool things there when you’re there, all right? She’s got this Mindset Matters guide that’ll help you self-identify how your mindset will influence your skillset, exactly as she was talking about, in the self-diagnosis. The other part is, she has a weekly sales lab, guys. She does this for free. Go there, check it out. Follow her on LinkedIn, linkedin.com/in/carolemahoney/, C-A-R-O-L-E, M-A-H-O-N-E-Y. Love her Twitter handle, iCaroleMahoney.

Darryl Praill: So, there you go. That’s all you need to know about her. With that, we’re going to wrap it up. Carole, thank you for your time today.

Carole Mahoney: Thank you.

Darryl Praill: I had fun. And hopefully everybody, you did too. We’ll talk to you soon. Take care.