Modern Sales Podcast

Changing Your Perspective on Sales with Mike Simmons of Catalyst Sale

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Mike Simmons of Catalyst Sale talks about the different ways to view each sale, and how to change your perspective.

There are so many different ways to view your sales process and what happens along the way. Mike Simmons of Catalyst Sale joins the show to discuss the different ways he views selling, and how it can change your whole approach to the sales. 

Mike’s website, Catalyst Sale
Connect with Mike on LinkedIn


Changing Your Perspective on Sales with Mike Simmons of Catalyst Sale:

Full Transcript

Mike Simmons
If the way that you operate your business is you don’t work with organizations who have RFP processes, then I would say that’s not the right fit for customer. And if they’re gonna force you through that process in order to work with them, there’s probably going to be other processes that are going to get in the way, that that are gonna frustrate you in this scenario, and you’re gonna have scope creep, and there’s gonna be a number of challenges. So this might be a scenario where you just say no, barring that, let’s say that you believe or you agree that you want to move forward with the discussion, even though there’s an RFP process, then the next thing I do, I would ask is, okay, what does the RFP process look like? And they would probably give some structure then the next question, I want to ask beyond that, after they share that, how can we can or is there a way to add specific questions? If I can add specific questions that are a P, I can ask questions that will, that will help to differentiate my solution, my product, my service, whatever it is, so that the RFP can be written in a way that it would be favorable, there’ll be a favorable outcome to the business where we start to separate ourselves.

Liston Witherill
That’s Mike Simmons of catalyst sail, and he has a perspective on well perspectives. We get too stuck in our ways, thinking the same old things and the same old ways. But that’s not inevitable. Sure, it’s human nature. But when we get stuck in the same patterns, there’s a lot we miss. And what we don’t see can be just as important as what we do see. And the best way to switch up and see things you’re not seeing is to change your perspective. Just think of a coffee mug. If you set it on the desk, it looks different from different angles. You can see the handle from one angle, but it’s invisible from another. You can see a perfectly circular opening if you’re looking down on the mug, but you might think it’s a solid object if you were looking up at it. In this episode of modern sales, I talked to Mike Simmons of catalyst sail, to learn his take on what gets us stuck in our old ways, and how to change perspectives and see things in a totally new light. Welcome to modern sales, a podcast to help agency owners and independent consultants win better clients by understanding how people buy. I’m your host, Liston. Witherill, founder of serve, don’t sell and I dig through academic research, interview people inside and outside of sales, and nerd out on the psychology, economics and neuroscience to figure out how people make decisions. And I am on a mission to make 100 million people, world class communicators so that buying agency services can be as easy as buying a lamp from IKEA. Okay, maybe it won’t be that easy, but at least we have something to aspire to. If you’re listening on Spotify, hit that follow button so that you don’t miss an episode. And if you’re listening on iTunes, or Apple podcasts, please subscribe and leave an honest review. It helps me get the word out for the show so that we can together flip selling on its head and make 100 million people world class ethical communicators. Thank you in advance for your help now to the show. How do we get so stuck in our ways? And what’s the best way to change up our perspective to see things new? That’s coming up in my conversation with Mike Simmons right after this. Hey there, welcome back to modern sales. And today, I am here with Mike Simmons, founder of the catalyst sale to talk about Mike the different lenses through which we sell, which is not something I’ve talked about on this podcast before. So welcome to modern sales. I’m really excited to have you here.

Mike Simmons
I’m excited to be here.

Liston Witherill
Excellent. So in the pre call, one of the things you were mentioning is that a lot of people don’t think about the different lenses through which they sell. And I’ve developed a model for the layers of knowledge that we sort of totally take for granted, when we sell. And when I say it to people, they go oh, yeah, I never thought about it like that. But it is a little bit more complicated than I thought. And it opens their minds to different possibilities and ways of thinking about selling than they had considered before. When it comes to the different lenses. What do you mean by that? How do we how can we view different lenses of selling?

Mike Simmons
Yeah, I think it’s why this is one of those things where people come to the sales challenge with their own individual bias and that bias may be driven by Hey, I was successful individual contributor, or I am I was successful in leading an entire team or maybe I’ve got a marketing background. Whatever that bias is that you bring to the table. You tend to look at the sales challenge through That your specific lens or your specific bias. So as a rep, I might think, hey, when I sell this is the way I go about executing. And for me, the approach that I would suggest and I talked about there is you identify the person or persons that you want to meet with you engage with those people, you establish objectives, you clarify next steps, you call them to action and loop back to engagement, it’s just a looping process, you’re going to kind of wash, rinse, repeat that cycle over and over again, kind of like the game of Monopoly, you’re going to go around the board, it might take you 10 times to go around the board before you win deal or close business, it might take you four times around the board, but it’s a, it’s a repeatable process that you’re going through over and over again. And that would be let’s say, I’m really good at as an individual contributor. And then I start leading a team, and I want people to sell the way that I do. So I start talking about, here’s what needs to happen in each of those calls. And this is the progression that things need to go through the, if I’m come from a marketing background, I might be really into buyer personas and customer journey. And when I think of this, I think at the game of life, if you remember the board game game of life, along the path, you’re constantly picking up chips, you never really go backwards, you might meander, but you don’t. I mean, some people can forget things, but you don’t go, you don’t lose an experience. So as you’re going through the game of life, you continue to meander around this journey and work toward the end the success, which ideally is, hey, I’ve solved the problem, I’m really excited I went from I didn’t even realize I had a problem to Oh, wow, I’ve got a problem too. Now I’ve solved the problem, too. Now I want to go and tell everybody else about it. And there’s this journey that you go through and decision making process. And again, I think about that the game of life. And then in the middle there, there’s kind of the your traditional sales process stuff, sales stages that you might use for forecasting, but they all three of those solve four different problems, yet they all directly relate to each other when thinking about generating revenue or going to market and generating money inside your business.

Liston Witherill
So one thing I think about when it comes to selling is there’s always this sort of real push to thread the needle, right? So, you know, I think about this in marketing all the time. But for sales, essentially, it’s, I want something, my company wants something, and my customer wants something. And I have to operate in a way that satisfies all of those parties, right? It’s got to be a win for everybody, or at least it should. You and I have talked separately about ethics and selling. So it should be a win for everybody. How do you think about looking through each of those lenses? And then coming up with an approach that’s compatible for each?

Mike Simmons
Yeah, really good question. And another way to kind of look at this is think about an aircraft carrier. So an aircraft carrier is floating on an ocean, it’s getting pushed by current and might be moving so it moves based on its propulsion, or how it propels itself through the water. There’s current, there’s wind, and then there’s this airplane that needs to land on it. And it’s how do you get all of those things that kind of coordinate together? Well, when looking at customer decision making process, sales process from a forecasting perspective and sales rep approach, you should be able to understand where do each of these connection points in our interactions take place. And when I think of sales, I think of it, I would define it as connecting the dots between a problem that is known or unknown, and a solution that is known or unknown, and accelerating the path between those dots between problem and solution and getting compensated for that generating revenue for that. So in order to do that you’ve got to and this gets into the ethics piece, you shouldn’t be creating problems for your customers, you might be revealing problems or identifying those customers who have these problems for the questions that you ask. If at any point in time, you are creating more problems for your customer, either because you’re making you’re forcing them to go through your process. Let’s say I’m going to force you through some kind of BANT oriented qualification process, budget authority need diamond, is that for you? Or is that for your customer? Why does it matter? If I asked them, How do I have the authority? or How can I justify asking them? If they have the budget for something if I’ve not really gone through the process of really understanding the challenges that happened inside their organization? And why am I gonna waste their time asking them a bunch of questions about the challenges inside their organization? If I’m not take the taking the time to understand how do they operate as a business? How do they make money where do they make money? How do others in their space operate? So the connection points I think are really important that you understand the couple Customers moving through the process of making a decision because they need to solve a problem that exists inside their business, they may or may not have had that experience that indicates that they know that they have the problem. If I smacked my head on a door, I may need some aspirin. If someone slams the door in my face, I may also need some aspirin. One of them is an experience that’s created for me. The other one is just because I was clumsy. If we’re in situations where we’re slamming doors and customer spaces, just to go out and sell aspirin, I would challenge you on whether or not you’re doing good for the world and making a positive impact on the world.

Liston Witherill
So one of the things you mentioned a second ago was the sort of rinse repeat, right, I show up, I have a meeting, we go we talk about whatever we’re going to talk about. And that’s why I would say we need goals for our meetings in order to make sure we’re achieving what we need to achieve. But then you mentioned something that’s near and dear to my heart, which is next steps, right. So always having a way to move the sale forward is really critical because we know how to sell our services. And or at least we should know how to sell our services, because our buyers may not know how to buy them. How do you think about piecing together next steps are? What are some common next steps that you coach your clients to really take and coach their buyers on?

Mike Simmons
Yeah, the big one for me. And it’s and I’m very question oriented, and the approach that I take just a lot of questions. And these questions all circulate around? Who, what, why, where, when, and how. So from a next step perspective, we’re talking about buying one of the questions I like to ask, after we’ve made it through the process of saying, hey, it looks like it might make sense for us to work with each other meaning we’ve identified a problem, a challenge that exists inside the organization, it’s something that we can solve for as an organization, or inside our ideal customer profile, all of those things have kind of we’re hitting on each of those marks. And I’ll ask the question, I’ll say, when you purchase something like this before, how have you done it? And that gives me a couple of pieces of information? If they are unable to answer that question, then the end they’re unable to make to answer the question because they’ve not purchased that kind of this kind of service before this kind of product before, then my approach has got to be a little bit different. If they are unable to answer the question, because they’ve not been involved in that process before, then that’s going to be a little bit different. If they’re very clear about how they’ve gone through the purchasing process, then that’s going to tell me something a little bit different. So asking that how question, how has someone purchased this thing before can be a pretty good indicator. then beyond that, from a guiding perspective, let’s say I find out that they don’t have the background information. It might go through and say something to the effect of when I’ve worked with organizations like you, this is the path that things have usually gone on. And here’s where things have failed. And it’s important to let them know where things fail, because we have an idea of where the barriers are going to be what are the monsters, the ugly things, the you know, the the challenges are going to come up so that we can prepare them for each of those as they move through the process. So for me, my approach on this lesson is to is to just ask a couple of questions, and then guide based on experience.

Liston Witherill
Yeah, so this harkens to something that you mentioned in our pre call that I think we need to address now which is planning, right? So in order to help the customer or client or whatever you call the people who buy from you, in order to help them effectively. We also need to understand what are some of those obstacles that they may experience? What are tripping points? Where do things go awry, not only for us, but also for the client, if someone doesn’t have a solid understanding of what to do in that area now in terms of putting together a plan for your sale overall, what are some of the first steps that you recommend they do?

Mike Simmons
Now, it goes back to asking the questions. And sometimes those questions might be of the prospect that you’re working with, and they may not be able to answer them. So let’s go with the instance where they’re not able to answer those answer those questions. And maybe this is the first time you’re actually selling in this kind of environment. Then the next piece that you want to that I would want to do in that scenario is go back to others inside the organization who have navigated through these sales cycles, navigated through these sales cycles, not only with a customer, but a customer that closely aligns with the type of customer that we’re working with. And ask those questions. Remember you’ve got access to to information both through your internal team and the customer that you’re selling. But also to customers that you’ve worked with previously. So leverage the resources, the pieces of information available to you ask some questions about, what does that process look like. So when we when procurement is introduced into the discussion, when do they usually get introduced into the discussion? At what stage? Do they get introduced in discussion? When procurement is introduced into discussion? How are they actually how is their success measure? What’s their role is? What’s their process? Do they have a very structured process that requires that they have three different bids from similar vendors? What happens if you’re a sole source vendor where you’re the only one who’s able to provide this, there’s so many different layers of complexity that get that can be added to it. And that’s why it’s important to learn from others that are in your market. others that are that are your customers, others who have gone through the path before, once you get that piece of information, then you can start to design for your approach going going forward. So comes back to asking asking questions. And I like drawing things out, like I like getting the whiteboard out. And kind of drawing things out not in the same way that someone would put together a Visio diagram and you get all of these workflows in there, I’ll get the remedial version of this, which is I just want to put together a couple of circles and some lines and maybe some dotted lines and see how each of these things connect and see where they might overlap and what I might miss. So I like to say a picture’s worth 1000 words, drawing something up on a whiteboard or on a note card or on the back of a napkin can really help in this process as well.

Liston Witherill
could even be worth $1,000, or more than that. One thing I want to pick up on, that you just said is about RFPs never talked about it on the podcast, because I’m allergic to them. And I’ve learned that from experience I used to sell to the government and to, you know, big construction firms. And you know, we often had to go through an RFP process. Let’s start broadly, do you have any advice on if I’m targeting a client, and I really want to work with them, but they only hire through an RFP process?

Mike Simmons
If that is part of the requirement, one of the questions I would ask is, like, why is that the case? So okay, we we only hire through an RFP process, okay? If the way that you operate your business is you don’t work with organizations who have RFP processes, then I would say that’s not the right fit, if a customer, and if they’re gonna force you through that process, in order to work with them, there’s probably going to be other processes that are gonna get in the way, that that are gonna frustrate you in this scenario, and you’re gonna have scope creep, and there’s gonna be a number of challenges. So this might be a scenario where you just say no, barring that, let’s say that you believe or you agree that you want to move forward with the discussion, even though there’s an RFP process, then the next thing I do, I would ask is, okay, what does the RFP process look like? And they would probably give some structure, then the next question, I want to ask beyond that, after they share that, how can we influence it can? Or is there a way to add specific questions? If I can add specific questions that are a P, I can ask questions that will, that will help to differentiate my solution, my product or service, whatever it is, so that the RFP can be written in a way that it would be favorable, there’ll be a favorable outcome to the business where we start to separate ourselves. If for whatever reason, they’re asking you to be involved in the RFP process, you have no influence on the questions, then you are just getting yourself into some kind of a Bake Off. And if you listen to the the episode of the podcast where listing was on, we talk about baking cookies. I’m not a baker, I don’t want to get into a Bake Off. That’s exciting to me, I could waste so much freakin time on that. So I would challenge I would challenge whether or not that aligns with what you’re, what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and if that’s really the right customer for you, but that would be that would be my approach to start.

Liston Witherill
Yeah. And generally, I recommend my clients avoid RFPs unless they’re in a market that they can’t sell to without doing them. So, you know, if you’re in government, if you’re in health care, government obviously being the big one where they have to buy under certain circumstances, because it’s written into their bylaws. And, you know, one time there was clear evidence of nepotism. And so we had to set these rules forever to prevent that from ever happening again. So generally, my feeling about RFPs is if you can avoid them, please do. But I agree with you one of the tactics that we would take. And I was more adamant about this than I think my bosses were sometimes comfortable with was when we would get an RFP and sometimes they’d be given to us directly and not just like we found them on the internet. But we’d go challenge the entity or the organization and Say, do we really need to do this? or Why did you write it this way? Where did this come from? What are you really looking for? You’re saying what? What the outputs are. But what is your goal? Like? What value would this bring for you to accomplish this. And that can be kind of an alternative approach, which sometimes got us work. But our kind of back of the napkin rule was only about one in three RFPs were truly competitive. And only one and three were truly open to people being open to hiring new vendors. So anyway, keep that in mind. And beware of the RFP. So last thing, last place, maybe we go since we talked about planning a little bit is call planning. I’ve had Andy Paul on the podcast before from the sales enablement show or podcast, I forget what he calls it. But Andy, Paul, and he talked a little bit about call planning, what are some of the kind of core ideas that you have in your mind for an effective call plan? What needs to go into it? And secondly, how formal Do I need to be about it, because I think some people here call planning and think, man, I don’t have time for that I barely have time for the damn call in the first place.

Mike Simmons
It’s one of those things for which there’s a saying out there. I think Tim Ferriss has said this a number of times, but it’s basically the, if you don’t have 10 minutes to meditate, you need two hours or something to that effect. It just, if you’re going, you’re just going through the motions over and over and over again, and really going through the call to get to the next call, and not even the next call with that customer, you’re going through the call to get to the next call that you have with the next customer, and you’re just on this kind of hamster wheel, then I would challenge you and just say, take a step, give yourself five minutes before each call and just do a quick call plan. And I’ve got a diagram up above my right shoulder here and give it the the letter stand for at the top who who is going to be in the room on one side of that square their square rectangle. Not great with shapes. But on one side, it’s what are their objectives? So what do I anticipate are their objectives? On the opposite side, it’s what are our objectives? Like? What do we want to accomplish out of the call, and then at the bottom, it’s what are our desired next steps. This is like ultimately, when we end the call, when we say, Okay, here are the next steps we agree to you’re going to do XYZ, I’m going to do X and Y or I’m going to do X, Y, Z, you’re going to do X and Y, or a and b, these are the things that should come out of the call plan, or excuse me, the call this is this the outcomes that we’re expecting out of the call, as follow up. If I can do those things, just those four simple things, my likelihood of success on each of those calls increases significantly. Not only does my likelihood of success increase, but I actually have a framework that I can use for my follow up email that I send out saying, here’s what I heard, here’s why we’re excited about it. Here’s what our next steps are who’s accountable to those, I can take that same information and drop it into my CRM, and that those can be my call notes. It just taking that little bit of time to ask yourself those questions, who’s gonna be there? What are what do I anticipate are their objectives? What are my objectives or our objectives? What are our desired next steps can just save a significant amount of time, create a lot of focus. And the other thing I would challenge folks to do, when it comes to call planning these, you can plan out multiple calls. Most of us as we go through our sales process and the engagement that we have with customers, we know that the first call is going to be something similar to discovery, where we gather information, it’s all about the customers, what do we learn about them, and then the next call is going to be something about probably something about capabilities, here’s what we do and how we do it, who we do it for. And ideally through that there’s some kind of interest and excitement and additional engagement. And now then we go into let’s talk about the structure of what that might look like. or we move to trial or whatever the whatever the four step or seven step or 250 step processes that you work on, should be able to have a call plan that you can assign to each of those stages, and reuse those. From a next step perspective. The thing that’s critical is that we have different objectives, because the objectives for them or their objectives that specific customers objectives, what do we anticipate them they are, and on our side, there are objectives. And if you notice, there’s a dashed line on that diagram. If I don’t have a desired next steps, if I don’t have that, then that shape can’t hold water. And there’s risk that that that I’m that I might not be able to execute on that call. So if you want to de risk your calls, improve outcomes, go through the process and put together a plan and don’t make it overly complicated. This is not you’re not winning any prizes for the most amazing comp plan in the world. Don’t worry about that stuff. Just do the prep, do the work and let it play out.

Liston Witherill
Well Maybe that’s something you can initiate is the best call plan in the world prize. One thing I think about Mike, as you’re saying that is, you know, what’s definitely true, and I’ve seen this with a lot of my clients is when they start to formalize, or maybe change up and think through their sales process more, one of the things that they start to encounter is that their objectives for each individual call, as well as what are the next steps, those are all related to kind of a map of what needs to happen throughout the sale in order for a sale to be successful. And so if you’re listening to this, and you’re not sure, what should your particular objectives be, say, in column number one versus column number five, if your deals go That long? What I would say is you really, really need to think through what are all of the things that need to happen in an ideal sale, map those out and figure out, you know, what is called one what is called two what is called three? Because, you know, one of the things that I tell people in my training, Mike, is they need to have an agenda and next steps for every call, which is pretty much what you’re saying here, right? We need to know what our objectives are. And we need to know where we’re going to go after this. Because if we don’t know those things, we’re never going to be as successful in our selling as we want to be. And that obviously, my friends and dear listener is a problem. So Mike, you’ve been very generous with your time. If people want to follow up with you or learn more about you, what do they do?

Mike Simmons
best place to go is catalystsell.com. If you go to catalystsell.com you’ll see links to Twitter, LinkedIn, catalyst sell.com is the best place to go. And you’ll also see a link to the podcast and you can check out the episode that Liston was on.

Liston Witherill
Little shameless cross promotion there. Thank you, Mike, for having me on your podcast. And thank you so much for being here. Of course, all of those links you mentioned are available in the notes. Mike, thanks for being here and have a great day.

Mike Simmons
Thank you.

 

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