Enticing peoples with your offers through cold calling, email marketing, and other business strategies will take more than just mere persuasion. Instead, much more in-depth and carefully thought outbounding techniques are needed. John Livesay sits down with Skip Miller, the President of M3 Learning, to talk about the ingredients that make up an effective outbounding process. Skip talks about connecting with your target audience through emotions, comparing outbounding to a first date, the power of references, and the importance of tapping above-the-line buyers. He also shares his mission to destroy the term decision-maker and how to let go of your fears.
Listen To The Episode Here:
Outbounding: Win New Customers With Skip Miller
Our guest on the show is Skip Miller, the author of Outbounding. He said, “The best sales call in the world is one where you don’t say much. The secret is to get people to be curious when you’re reaching out to them.” He’s on a mission to destroy the concept of there being decision-makers, find out what he means by that as well as a magical question to ask to determine whether someone’s going to take action right away or not. Enjoy the episode.
Our guest is Skip Miller, the President of M3 Learning, a pro-active sales management and training company based in the heart of Silicon Valley. He’s also the author of Outbounding. As the President of M3 Learning, Skip has provided training to hundreds of companies in over 35 countries. He created M3 Learning to make a salesperson better on each individual call. M3 Learning signature selling methodology ProActive Selling is unique in its high-definition focus on the tactics of selling and proactive sales controls. Skip, welcome to the show.
It’s a pleasure. Thank you for having me.
It’s my pleasure as well. We were having a wonderful chat pre the show talking about our passion for helping salespeople connect better. Before we get into your expertise and the team you’ve created, I love to ask guests their own story of origin. You can go back to childhood, school, wherever you were, along with this concept of, “I like connecting to people or I love sales,” or anything you want to share about your own particular background would be great.Make me curious. Click To Tweet
I’ve got a big family, five brothers and sisters so you can’t avoid people in that situation. In college, I worked part-time at a small sporting goods store in Cleveland, Ohio. My job was to go to school in the mornings. In the afternoon, I’d try to go to high schools and bid on their football uniforms, cheerleading and basketball. We were a small little store about as big as an office. We were small. We were competing against big giant sporting goods stores.
I figured out that junior highs have as much money as high schools. I would go to these junior highs and pick up these orders because it was below the radar of the senior high schools. I had a good time building my little own business that way. When I left college, I became a salesperson and sales manager and stuff. For about twenty years, I was Sales VPs and stuff. The company I was with was a high-tech market research firm called Data Quest got bought by a company on the East Coast. I’m from Cleveland but I’ve been living in California for many years. I didn’t want to go back to the East Coast.
Not an offense to the East Coast people, but I like California. I said, “I might as well as to try to start my own business.” That was many years ago. The second or third month I started my business, I got a good-sized customer and I never looked back. It’s been a fun ride. To your point in the intro, I love walking away. A few years later, out of nowhere, I’ll get an email or a LinkedIn from somebody saying, “Skip, I took your course five years ago and I still use your tools. I want to drop you a note.” It’s hysterical. If you can make somebody a manager or a salesperson better at the point of attack, I feel great. That’s my reward so it’s been fine.
I’m guessing M3 Learning has a story of origin behind it. What does M3 stand for?
John, like you, you start your business and you’ve got to file a form to the states or whatever else saying the name of your business. I know I didn’t want to name it Skip Miller Consulting. It stands for Miller and his three kids. I’ve got three kids. In every one of my books, I call out my kids. When they were in school, they would take their friends to Barnes & Nobles or somebody and show that their name was in my book. They liked it.
You’re a rockstar for that. One of the things that we were talking about is this need to feel seen, heard and appreciated. Kids say that all the time, “Watch me jump in the pool, dad or mom,” or whatever. That need to be seen, heard, acknowledged and appreciated does not go away when we go into our job. It may be subconscious. Let’s talk a little bit about that because that’s something that is unique. You and I both have a big passion for that. An awareness of it having both been in the salespeople’s shoes, in management and see those little acknowledgments as opposed to the once a year.
Let’s stand it on its head. People do need to be heard. They do need to be seen. The best sales call in the world is not where you hang up the phone or you get off the Zoom meeting going, “Nailed that puppy. That was a good call. I was on my game. That was good.” While you’re doing that, the customer is going, “What was that?” The best sales call in the world is where you hang up the phone or you get off the meeting and go, “I didn’t say anything. I didn’t even use a slide.” The customer is going, “They heard me. They feel great.”
As a next step, you can start doing your presentations but if you don’t get that attachment up front, they’ve taken your call, they’re going to take your meeting, they’re going to take your ten seconds of a cold call, whatever else but you want to make them feel like they’ve been heard. That’s a powerful draw. Everybody, managers don’t reward their salespeople enough. They always were telling them what they’re doing wrong and not right. Take what you said about being heard, felt and standing on its head and that’s a powerful drive for when salespeople need to outbound.Consistency wins. Click To Tweet
One of the things I love about your book, Outbounding, is how you talk about certain actions and certain ones are things that only inbound people are doing versus what outbound people are doing. There are a lot of crossovers but there’s a big difference. Would you speak to what the big difference is?
It’s all about the buyer. We spend so much time thinking about ourselves, our approach, presentation, demo and our products. From a buyer standpoint, if you get an inbound lead, data shows they’re about 50%, 55% through their biocycle already. They’ve got an understanding that they got to make a change. They’ve somewhat monetized it. That’s why they’ve approved the budget. They’re about halfway through a sales cycle. They know they have a problem and they have to make a change.
Outbound, it’s like throwing darts. Did we get them at the right time? Is the buy window open? Most of the time an outbound, the buyer doesn’t know they don’t know. Once informed, they’re like, “I know I’ve always had a problem there. I live with it. I didn’t know there was a fix.” The approaches must be different. What we do is wrong. What we tell the outbound people is, “Those inbound templates we’re using are great. Why don’t you use some of those things?”
Let’s go to another three-day class where we could teach them more about our products, features, benefits and competitive advantages so you can use those in your outbounding. I don’t even know I have a problem yet. You’re telling me about your competitor doesn’t do this. Great. I didn’t know I had a problem. The messaging, I’m getting a lot of input regarding we can’t door knock anymore. We can’t walk halls. We can’t go to trade shows. You’re limited to social. You’re limited to email or you’re limited to the phone.
What can we do to get better attention? Change your message, change your cadence and your sequence. John, I went up to a salesperson at a meeting. I said, “You want to learn about outbounding? How has it been going for you?” He goes, “I outbound.” I said, “What have you been doing?” He goes, “I sent two people an email last week and I’m waiting to hear back.” I go, “That’s your outbounding. Good luck with that one.” That’s where we’re at with that. The whole point is inbound and outbound is different. We don’t treat it differently and we don’t have the correct management dashboards to reward the rep correctly. The processes are different.
I hear a lot of people saying that are “inside salespeople” reaching out, trying to get business that they’re measured on how many calls they make as opposed to the quality of the calls or the outcome from the calls. I’m like, “What a bizarre thing to measure? If you don’t make X number of calls in X amount of time, you’re not working hard enough.” It goes back to that old stuff of throw a bunch of spaghetti up against the wall and see what sticks, which is not a strategic way to sell at all.
There are control knobs, John. Companies like Zoom with the pandemic, it’s a numbers game, dial, demands high, low-hanging fruit, whatever we want to call it. For that short timeframe, the pitch is good enough, make contact. In normal business times, you have to control outbound quality with competency. We call them frequencies and competencies. It’s doing a lot or a little bad, good stuff. If the market is in hot demand like when Tableau first came out, the whole market for visual analytics was hot. Dial, get an appointment, throw it over the wall and go and that’s not common. For most of your readers, they’re going to be sitting there going, “I can’t do 100 or 1,000 calls a day.”
Let’s work on quality. There’s a mixture of both in your cadence and sequences. We see people’s quality as poor. It’s all about us, what we do. That’s got to start being worked out but there are control knobs. We see people who do good emails but they’re doing five a week. Can you get it to ten? Can you get it to 100? There are control nubs and that’s a great management dashboard. It’s not about the hike. If I can get a meeting, throw it over the wall, that’s my job. It’s the same ISRs or the same SDRs. I want to get the meeting, talk to both the decision-makers and stuff and then throw it over the wall. It depends on where you’re at in the marketplace but there’s no doubt that quality and quantity are control knobs that managers got to tweak based upon market demand, competition and everything out there.The best sales call in the world is where you say very little. Click To Tweet
My background was in advertising sales and they were always talking about frequency and reach. The same concepts apply. Like a car company when I would call on them to advertise with me, they would say, “We never know when someone is in the market to buy a car. We have to advertise all year long. Hoping that our ad in a magazine or a commercial or on a website happens to catch somebody at that magical moment when they think, “I might go test drive this weekend.” If you have millions and millions of dollars to do that, you can do that. As a salesperson, that strategy is not efficient to say the least because you haven’t qualified someone or created some content that maybe somebody would even be intrigued enough to even start the journey. They don’t even know they have a problem until you point out there is a solution.
John, consistency wins. One of the best people out there we’ve seen, they have a salesperson who does a regular sales job and takes a list of 25 people, puts them in a 12-touch 2-week cadence. At the end of the two weeks, they take that 25 out, take the ones out that didn’t respond or who do respond to write out and put that aside. You take a second 25 for a 2-week 12-touch cadence, take that out. They have three 25-touch cadences. I’m going to touch you for two weeks then I’m off for four and then I come back for two. They have a rotating carousel of three 25-touch cadences. It takes a good outbound salesperson who’s always busy an hour a day. If you get the system down and get your messaging down and stop outbounding like you want to get married, “I’m Skip Miller. We have the best product. I’m the representative for seven. You have to see ours. It’s our first day.” Treat it like the first day. Make me curious. Don’t tell me who you are.
I talk about that in terms of going from invisible to irresistible and if it rungs on a ladder like in dating. He’s where I see a lot of people get stuck and I would love to hear how you help them is in the middle of invisible to irresistible is the interesting. Wrong. In the dating world, maybe you say something to somebody and they like, “I’m interested to keep talking to you. I’m not agreeing to fly with you yet.” Salespeople get all excited and they tell their boss, “They were interested. They asked me to send them information,” and then it’s crickets. They’re stuck in the friend zone at work. They don’t know how to get out of it. I tell people storytelling is one way to get out of the interesting friend zone at work. I know from your book and your expertise, you’ve seen this happen all the time, yes?
Yeah, without a doubt. The best way to get ahold of somebody is to reference a person. You know somebody, I know somebody and that’s going to be instant rapport. That’s going to be hard to break. After that, it ties to your interesting comment. I come up with the big five. Here are the five things that you should look at if you’re going to outbound to try to get somebody’s attention. The top of the list, without a doubt, to you is curiosity. Make me curious about my title, about my industry, about things that my company’s doing.
“I’m going to do some homework on Debbie because I’m going to go after Debbie there and find out about Debbie.” That’s a rifle shot. Good luck with that. It can work but also Debbie’s curious about people at her level in other companies. Debbie is curious about other companies that are in her industry. Make me curious, give me a little dab. Don’t give me, “Here are five attachments.” Curiosity to your interesting level makes me go, “Let’s talk some more.” Same with that interesting wrong so make me curious, the great theme for those outbounding touches.
One of the things that you touched on is this concept of emotions at the start of the Inc. article. I am a big believer that people buy emotionally, even back it up with logic, even if it’s a big purchase or a corporate purchase. You talk about greed, fear and pride. A lot of people overlook the unspoken fear buyers have that if I make the wrong decision or pay too much, I’m going to get in trouble and I’m even fired. That concept of fear, uncertainty and doubt has been around since the ‘80s when IBM used it if you bought anything that wasn’t their product. It broke, they would point the finger at the other vendors that were dealing with that. I wanted to get your take on curiosity is certainly in that world of, “We’re out of people’s heads.” How important is emotion in getting people engaged?
Emotion is going to drive energy. I’m a huge energy person. I believe that a sale, it’s like a rollercoaster. You get to the top of the roller coaster and it’s losing energy and then the deal goes dark. It goes south. It goes quiet. It’s not getting energy at the top of the hill trying to push it over. You should have gotten energy earlier in the sales call. That earlier energy is emotion. It’s not so much what we call pleasure emotion. It’s more away from pain. We all want to look for pain points. A classic question is what’s the size of the problem? If you don’t understand a problem, they’re not going to have to change.
If it isn’t broke, I’m not fixing it. Something broke and what’s the size of the gap? Those are great mission statements to be on. I started writing the book and I was probably about 2, 3 weeks into it and I scrapped it and started over. Attitude is important as you outbound. It’s not, “I hope they take my call. I hope I can make my pitch.” A good outbounder believes, especially in a B2B world, they’re making their company money. They’re losing money daily by me not being able to talk to them about their issues and challenges. You’ve got to have that emotional passion to go out. You also got to try to find that emotional passion. It’s great when you get somebody on the phone or on Zoom or they go now that’s the problem.To get the attention of many, changing your message, cadence, and sequence is important. Click To Tweet
That’s where you want to get to but if you don’t have that same emotion, that same energy, you’re not going to find it. Great outbounders are looking for emotion in themselves because they’re the top people. The ones who can speak the most or the biggest alpha dog, they’re on a mission to help the customers. My job is to have you listen to ten minutes of me and if it doesn’t fit any problems or challenges you have, no harm, no foul. The buy window is not open. I’ll call you in six months but you owe me ten minutes because I’ve done some homework on your company.
I was talking at a speech a couple of years ago to about 100 CEOs. I asked them why they would take a sales call and they said they wouldn’t. At the bar, I asked them, “Why would you take a sales call?” A bunch of them sat back and said, “The problem with salespeople calling us is they’re a solution hunting for a problem.” One of the first things they say is, “We can help.” You don’t even know what my problem is and you’re telling me you can help me.
You got to come up with a passion and my job is to listen to your story, to what you’re up to quickly. Maybe we can help or not but you can’t sit back and say, “I’m here to help. My mission is to help you,” but my first step has got to be, “I don’t know if I help or not.” I get a sales call and the guy calls in and says, “We want to train our salespeople. Can you help?” What’s your problem?” We can help in certain areas in certain areas we don’t. That mission has got to be emotional. The passion has got to be from the salesperson as well as their mission to go tap into that energy for the prospect they’re talking to.
There’s a myth that people think, “I lost the sale in the closing.” What I’m hearing you say is you probably lost it at the beginning because you didn’t bring enough energy and passion.
That’s one of the things we don’t teach is closing skills because the close started happening back at Stage 2. If you’re selling proposals, “John, we have a quick technology sales cycle, initial interest discovery, proposal harass,” that’s what we typically do here. It’s, “I want a presentation. Here’s the demo. Here’s the proposal. Buy now and I’ll give you ten points off if you’d make it by the end of the month.” It’s ridiculous. There’s no energy, no emotion, no anything. You’ve got to get over that.
You talk about that there are two decisions in a business-to-business sale, one above the line and one below the line. I like that formula. First teaching people to identify who’s who and there are meetings that happen after the meeting. This awareness that you’re creating and giving people some skills because they hear a bunch of proposals, a lot of presentations and then the decision-makers, “Now what do we all think?” Let’s talk about the ATL, the Above The Line, the Below The Line and what their needs are and how a rep can start to zoom in on that.
I was into buyer’s personas. You’ve got the user buyer, the fiscal buyer, the technical buyer, the executive buyer. There are too many buyers out there. One day I said, “There are three types of buyers, the user buyer, the fiscal buyer and the executive buyer. The user buyer is a feature function. The fiscal buyers create value for me, the executive buyers, market share, market size and still was messed up. I said, “Why don’t we name this?” We’ll call the user buyer Spaniards, the middle buyers Russians, the top people Greeks. You’ve got Spaniards, Russians and Greeks.
If you have a meeting with three Spaniards and a Russian, what language should you speak? The obvious answer is Russian because they’re the top person. That worked well. People were getting a little like, “Why are the Spaniards on the bottom?” We did some work for a company where the entire senior management team was from Russia. They want to know why the Greeks were ahead of them because they’re broken. It’s a metaphor.Treat outbounding as a first date. Make the other person curious. Click To Tweet
Finally, our friends at Google said, “It’s not politically correct and stuff.” We came up with this above and below the line. John, I am on a mission to destroy the term decision-maker. There are two, the below the line buyer is one who says, “I’m responsible for making this work, the support. If we’re going to bring this on, I want these features. I want this security package. I want this. I want that. That’s their job.” The above the line buyer says, “As I look at 2021, our new product is probably got to generate $50 million. I probably got $20 million in the bank. I’m missing $30 million. If we could do something that can make a dent in that $30 million gap, what was the name of that again? Buy one of those things. I don’t care what features and benefits it has. As long as below the line buyer’s above the line buyers where you’re going to find energy. The above the line buyer is the one who says, “I got a gap. Bob, here’s the $50,000 budget. Go find something to make a dent in my $30 million problem.” I don’t care per se. The above the line buyer does care if they’ve been heard.
As you prospect and outbound of the buyer, the goal is not to give them your below-the-line pitch. They don’t speak Spanish. Go above the line and find out what are their initiatives for the next 3, 6, 9 months? What gaps do they have on those initiatives? We call them trains at the train station. Why is the train in the station? If you can make a dent in 2 or 3 of their trains, you don’t have to fix the whole train. Make a dent in 2 or 3, watch how much energy your deal has. Most salespeople go below the line. They want to talk about us. We want to talk about us. We all talk about us but when you go above the line, I’ll give you an executive overview of all the stuff we’ve been talking to below the line on.
It’s different. We’ve got to understand what an above the line buyer wants. What they want is to be able to mitigate risk. They want to be able to make a dent in their problems, on their initiatives or trains that they have in the train station. It’s two different ways of looking at a sale. Overall sales cycles usually are cut in half when this happens because the above the line buyer goes, “We’ve got to get this. We got it. Let’s go. We’ve got to do this now.” Rather than Bob has taken his time, he’s doing a two-month evaluation. Bob’s got the whole thing going. Sales cycles get shorter when you do it.
We’ve turned your book, Outbounding, into a course. I know one of the lesson sessions is about handling objections. I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask you to touch on how you’re helping people handle objections.
John, objections are always fun because what we hear as you all know, not all the time right now, “Now’s not a good time. We’re fine. We don’t need anything,” those typical objections. What happens is your body’s chemistry wants to go into defense mode, the fight or flight. You’re wrong and here’s why you’re wrong. We have a tool in there called Flow of the River. It’s a martial arts term. Martial arts teaches not to block energy but the flow of energy. When you hear an objection like, “Now’s not the right time,” agree with it, “John, you’re right.” A lot of companies we talked to say, “This is not the right time. However, if you give me ten minutes of your time, you may see where it could be a good time.” I’m asking for ten minutes, John. If you block me, you’re wrong. You’ve got my guard up. If you agree with me, I’m going to let my guard down.
Call Verizon and AT&T up, “I got a problem with my phone. I can see you’re right. It takes the winds out of your sales and now you’re ready for a conversation. I’m mad. My thing has been out for three hours. What’s your problem? You have a good right to be mad. Thank you.” It puts them defenseless. A good way to think of objection handling right up front is the bottom line is to make sure you think to agree with it and then direct where you want it to take it.
It reminds me of the old statement I heard years ago, “Do you want to be right? Do you want to be happy?”
Let’s put that stake in the ground. That’s not a good stake in the ground.
We’ve got some training classes. John, I hate writing books. I don’t know about you, but I hate it. It’s 4:00 in the morning stuff for me. It’s Miller time at 5:00 PM. When I see a problem, in 2019, all the low-hanging fruit was going away. People had to start outbounding. You talk to salespeople, “I’d get to 80% of my number. I’m going to have to do a little outbounding.” They wait until November. By that time, it’s late. People were hurting because they’re so fearful of outbounding, fear of rejection, fear of the word no, I got to get six noes before I get a seventh yes. I hate getting noes. Who wants that rejection? I took it as a challenge to try to help the individual salespeople come up.
Don’t be fearful about this. It’s not a big fear thing. Do A, B and C, be on a mission to help your prospects, your customers and managers start measuring the right stuff. You’re measuring old-school stuff. If you want to measure good outbounding practices, given that we’ve got numerous channels, we have mail, social media, direct emails. There are numerous starts putting better dashboards together than the ones you like, “How many calls you make now?” which is hysterically archaic. It’s good but archaic. There are new ways. That’s why I wrote the book, help managers out, help salespeople out. If people want to read it, great. If they’re doing fine, if they don’t have a problem, there’s no reason.
Thanks, Skip, for sharing your knowledge and your insights. I love this concept of being on a mission to destroy decision-makers.
I’m on a mission to destroy the decision-maker because there are two. There’s not one.
That’s a great concept of how to look at all of that and how to reframe it. As you said, “Let go of the fear.” We will let everybody know how to become better at outbounding. Even if your job is not sales, we all have to sell ourselves all the time. There are some real tidbits in that book that will help everyone get over that fear of “the cold call.”
For me, I hate returning things. I go to Target or somewhere and I go, “Did you use this? I’m sorry.” I hate rejection as much as anybody. If I had to overcome it, people will read the book too.
John, thank you for your time.
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