With every business opportunity, maximizing your yield is a no brainer and that’s where the holistic revenue strategy comes into play. Mary Grothe, the CEO of Sales BQ, joins this episode to dive into the details of how this strategy works. Recognizing that in the world of business nobody is safe from rejection, she gives some important tips and pointers on how to recover and cope. Mary also stresses on the role your mental mindset plays in this and how your actions are connected with your emotional state. Listen in as she talks about what it entails when you become a leader especially during this challenging time and what you can do to bring out the best in the people that follow you.
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The Holistic Revenue Strategy with Mary Grothe
Do you realize that the skills that maybe got your company to $5 million are not the same skills that are going to get it to scale to $50 million? Mary Grothe knows this. She is the Founder and CEO of a company called Sales BQ, which stands for Behavioral Quotient. She and her team just don’t come in and analyze what’s wrong, they also stay with you and fix what’s wrong so you can scale. Enjoy the episode.
Our guest is Mary Grothe. She is a former number one mid-market B2B sales representative who after selling millions in revenue and breaking multiple records had formed Sales BQ. It’s a Denver-based firm of fractional revenue leaders who serve companies nationwide by profitably rebuilding their marketing, sales and customer success departments. They do this by getting to the root of revenue problems, rebuilding infrastructure, developing talent, and holistically growing their revenue at sometimes rapid paces. Mary, welcome to the show. Let’s go into your story of origin, which is always fascinating. You can take us back to childhood, college or wherever you got the concept that, “I’m good at selling or I’m good at figuring out problems.”
I became an expert problem solver in my childhood. I didn’t have the glamorous childhood that some people have. I grew up in the performing arts, which was one cool aspect of how I was raised. My dad was an actor and an opera singer. My mom was a classical pianist and choral director. I grew up in Northwest Indiana. I was on the stage every year in productions and musical theater. I chained triple threat, acting, singing and dancing. There were some neat components in my childhood. There were also some negative points. I had an alcoholic mother and there was a lot of abuse in my family growing up, and it shaped me. I learned how to be a complex problem solver. I have a high EQ, emotional intelligence, and I learned how to navigate through tough situations at a young age. The combination of having to fight for survival many times and figure out how to get myself out of situations. Couple that with the creative childhood that I had being on the stage and wanting to be performing in the lights. It was a unique combination to shape me into the number one salesperson. Who would have guessed?
It was a fourteen-year journey in Indiana and then my parents lost the performing arts school. They ended up filing bankruptcy, running away from a lot of problems. They threw us all in a moving van with little notice and moved us out to Colorado. We started our lives over, but they couldn’t afford to pay for my brother and me. I started working at a young age as a bagger at a grocery store out here called King Soopers. I started my first job on the day that I turned fifteen, which is a couple of months after we moved out to Colorado. By the time I turned sixteen, I was fully supporting myself. I look back at that time, and it was challenging and hard, but let’s talk about the good here.
I have time management skills and I’m fully financially independent. I had a work ethic like nobody’s business. I focused on my academics and ended up with a 4.2 GPA in high school. I continued dancing. Of the three talents, dancing was my strongest. Life has a funny way of happening. I did have a scholarship to CU Boulder to be in their dance program. I got a minor in dance and a major in molecular, cellular and developmental biology. It’s a good thing I ended up not doing that because I can’t even pronounce it, but I went for one semester. I got in a car accident in my senior year of high school. My poor body was damaged and broken from the car accident. I was broken on the inside. Because dance had been my identity, it was a safe place for me and I had great aspirations of being a professional dancer. It was gone and I had to reinvent myself. It’s hard to do that when you’re eighteen and you don’t have a strong family foundation. I was completely on my own at that point and it was scary.
I’m thankful because the world has a crazy way of raising you if you let it. I fell into some dark times and things that weren’t that great that we can fast forward through. When I was 22, I was welcomed into Corporate America. I had come off a few years of interesting part-time jobs. I was able to secure a position as a District Sales Assistant for a mid-market sales team of eight people covering three states. It was for a payroll company called Paychex, which is a big Fortune 1000 company. I went in as the DSA, District Sales Assistant in the Denver office. I happened to be reporting to the number one sales manager in the country and working with the number one sales team. I got put on the fast track for over two years. I had no college degree and no professional experience. I just went all in. I said, “I want to be on the sales team.” They thought I was crazy and they’re like, “Okay, sure.” I fought and fought. I learned the profession. I went out in the field and started taking on responsibility for the salespeople. I had all the hunger and desire to make it happen. I got put on the mid-market team two years in and I became the number one rep in 30 days, and I maintained that.
My first year’s quota was $150,000. I sold $758,000, more than numbers 2 and 3 combined. In the second year, they cut my territory in half. They doubled my quota and asked me to train reps and managers across the country. I sold $850,000 in my second year. At that point, I said, “I like sales a lot.” I went and took a VP of Sales and Marketing position with one of my clients. It’s a small company at about $125,000 in annual revenue. It’s still in the startup phase. I went on and took their products and services, repackaged them, and put them in a way that the target audience could understand. I took it to the market and the sales and marketing team quadrupled the company’s revenue in seven months.
I set them up and positioned them for investment. I got the heck out of there and said, “I want to do this for a living.” I started my first consulting firm for three years with 36 business owners. It grew all their companies. I wrote a book and that’s funny now that I look back at it because I was 27 and I knew everything. It’s super weird. I wrote this cute little book, Extreme Business Building: From Concept to Profit in 60 Days. I became a starving entrepreneur and I made a lot of rookie mistakes. I didn’t know how to charge for my services, how to delegate, and how to say no. I said yes to everything. I was working with startups and entrepreneurs that wanted to pay me in hope like gift cards, Chipotle or whatever.
Equity is my favorite offer.
I was lucky to get the gift card. They all had the hope of a dream of equity and I fell for it a few times. I met my now-husband in 2013 and I was like, “I’m going to go back and be a top producer again. I’ll make a lot of money, buy a house, get married, have a baby, and then I’ll go be an entrepreneur.” That’s what I did. Three more years at the payroll company, I crushed it and sold millions. In my last year, I finished number seven in the country that I worked nine months out of the year. I had a baby and sold one of the top 10 largest deals in history. I sold it at a full price, no discount and I loved it. I love selling. I love paychecks. I’m thankful for the opportunity I had with them. The training there is tremendous. I turned out to be an amazing salesperson. Now as Sales BQ CEO, we’ve helped over 100 companies reshape their path to revenue. It’s the most beautiful journey I’ve had an opportunity to be on. Thank you for having me here. I know we’ll probably unpack and dig into a lot of that, but I want to tell you the story.You have to get to the root cause of what the insecurity is, or what the fear is behind rejection. It's different for everybody. Click To Tweet
The first point I want to dig into is that your childhood taught you resilience and not being afraid of rejection, which are two of the biggest challenges young people have. We can probably spend the whole show talking about them but we won’t. I know this concept of fear of rejection because you and I have won awards for the best salesperson of the year. Condé Nast for me and you with your success in crushing those quotas. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you have your own podcast called that. This concept of not taking rejection personally because we have to somehow frame that, what I have said is I don’t take it personally from the standpoint of, “I don’t reject myself nor do I reject what I’m selling if somebody says no to me.” My old way was like, “Maybe somebody else could have gotten them to say yes,” or “Maybe they’re right. Maybe this other product or service is better than what I have.” I realized that I’m not a bad salesperson and what I’m selling is not bad. It’s just not a fit for them. How did you handle the fear of rejection? How do you coach people to not be afraid of rejection?
You have to get to the root cause of the insecurity or the fear behind it because it’s different for everybody. When I started in sales, I had that momentous build-up of two years. I got the role and I went to two weeks of corporate training. I’m top of the class and had everything memorized. I could demo the product and have the script memorized. I was a bright young student back then. I get back to my desk and the reality hit. I’m staring at the phone like, “I have to do this thing called sales. I made it to this point. What do you mean I don’t just get the salary and the title? I have to earn it.”
I’m staring at the phone and sweating bullets like, “What do I do?” I was mortified. It wasn’t to make the call. It was, “What do I do if they pick up? What do I say to them?” I went into my manager’s office and had a funny moment. I’m like, “This is the day that I’ve been fighting for and I’m done.” I can’t move and I’m paralyzed like, “What do I do?” He’s like, “Go call ten of our existing clients with no sales agenda. Just ask them these three questions. Why did you choose the product and service? Number two, what’s the biggest gain since you’ve been here? Give me an ROI statement on what we’ve done for you. How is your life better because we’re in it? Three, why do you remain a client even when the competition is beating down your door? What’s the staying factor for you?” I didn’t get through all ten calls. I just got through a handful and it was everything that I needed. I realized that my fear was letting them down.
Stemming from the way that I was raised as a byproduct of my family situation, I believe in performance-based love. “If I do this well, I can get attention, and then maybe I will feel that glimmer of love that I was looking for in my whole upbringing.” The only way I could get attention in a busy family of four was I had to do something remarkable. I had to outperform everyone else and I was competitive. I was the youngest of four so I had to do something. I had an age disadvantage too and I had to do it better than everybody else. I always wanted to make people’s lives better because I was in it. Oftentimes, I did not earn that. When I did, the addiction to that was amazing. The opposite of that is I had a fear of disappointing people, being a nuisance to them, letting them down, and having them view me as anything other than a value add in their life.
The fear came from, “I’m scared to death that they answer the phone and I can’t deliver a talk track that’s something of value where they would say, ‘I’m glad you called me.’” I backed into it and listened to those Voice of the Customer interviews that I did to hear how our product and service brought value to that type of customer. I simply transitioned my thinking into, “We do great things here. People love us and we made their life better. Who doesn’t want to have that conversation?” My confidence changed and my whole outlook changed. My mental mindset shifted to trigger a positive emotional state and have excitement. I started making these calls and I’m like, “I hope they answer because I can’t wait to learn about these people. I don’t know if they’re fit for us or not but if they are, how much better could their life be?”
It was a complete shift for me. It’s not that telemarketing is my favorite thing to do ever but I removed the fear of it. If they declined my lovely invitation to have a meeting or conversation, I didn’t take it personally. I saw it as an opportunity to say, “When is the right time? When do you normally evaluate this? I’m fine and understanding if you’re set and you’re happy, and that’s great. I’m calling you and you’re not calling me. I would anticipate if it was good, it would have been an inbound email in my inbox, but you’re not. That’s fine and it’s okay today, but when is a more appropriate time for us to be having this conversation?” I’m inviting myself into their world but then connecting with them, learning about them, and genuinely getting to know my prospects and my clients. That’s how I’m getting over the fear of rejection, which is getting to the root cause of what was causing the fear of picking up the phone.
What you’re saying is what I teach when I give talks to sales teams which is, “No now doesn’t mean no forever.” That’s the concise way to say that. That’s a nice takeaway for everybody. How about resilience? Let’s talk about that. This ability to pick ourselves back up. I have studied this when I gave my TEDx Talk, Be The Lifeguard of Your Own Life! When you get laid off, how do you reinvent yourself and get rehired? We’re all dealing with the need for resilience during the disruption of this pandemic. Part of the research I found, and I’d be fascinated to know if this matches your experiences in working with many different companies, is it’s not about, will you get back up? It’s how fast you get back up. There’s been all this research even with real estate agents who lose a big deal, for example. The top performers are the ones that shake it off and go forward. The other people who are struggling to make their numbers keep talking about it for sometimes, months afterwards. They’re not even aware they’re doing it. I wanted to get your insights and tips on how do you help people become more resilient.
I’m on both sides of this because I’ve had a couple of deals and situations that have knocked me back bad and is not typical for Mary Grothe. Those have knocked me out of the game for a little period of time more so than usual. I have a good bounce-back factor. I’m human and I’m real. Everybody reading this, there are going to be some circumstances that are going to hurt worse than others, but it’s meeting that problem head-on and identifying it. Let me explain this to salespeople specifically. An abundance mentality will help. If you are in desperation and justification mode, you’re holding on to a deal that you don’t even have anyway. You’re holding on to it and you’re looking at your pipeline. All of your eggs are in this basket and you’re saying, “I’m connected to the outcome of this.” It’s the wrong way to go about a sale. As a high performing salesperson, you should have many qualified deals in your pipeline and this abundance mindset that, “Even if I lose this one, I’m going to get more. There’s more coming to me.”There are going to be some circumstances that are going to hurt worse than others, but it's meeting that problem head-on and identifying it. Click To Tweet
There’s a whole way of approaching a glass half full and a glass half empty. It’s your perspective. Resilience comes from your mindset. An abundance mindset helps us not get emotionally triggered in a negative state that will hurt our actions. I’m going to jump in here. BQ is Behavioral Quotient. If you imagine a wheel right now, at the top is the mental mindset. Your mental mindset triggers your emotional state, and your actions stem from how you are, emotionally. If you’re down because you lost a deal and you’re discouraged, upset, and you’re in this funk, what actions come out of that? Not good ones. You’re not in a mentality or in an optimistic and encouraging state that good things come out of that. You’re manifesting worse because you’re in a funk. When you’re in the mental mindset stage, you have a piece of information that enters your mind. When that happens, we tell ourselves a story. We’re human. We put out our frame of reference and we interpret the information that went into our mind. We start telling ourselves a story and that’s going to trigger an emotion. It could be positive and it could be negative.
Based on that is where the action stemmed from, and actions yield your performance. Your resilience and being able to bounce back from something is one, you have to separate stories from the facts. Yes, you lost a deal. The story may all of a sudden be, “I needed this deal. I’m already behind you. I don’t know how I’m going to get back after this. This is awful.” You start blaming other people. “If only so and so had done that. That guy screwed over my demo. I can’t believe that they brought in the IT guy into the meeting. You’re so negative. You discredited everything and threw me off.” You start making excuses and you go down a path. It is very woe is me.
It’s all about everybody else that’s out to get you and you get in this funk. You can’t create good from that. You have to go back to the top, change the mental mindset, change the attitude, and rework the emotional state to have strong resilience or bounce back factor. Going back to my comment about having an abundance mindset and a lot of deals in your pipeline. That will help you at the top because if a piece of information comes into your head that, “I lost the deal,” immediately, your frame of reference and story behind it can be, “I’ve got eight other deals that are slated to close this month.” You avoid everything that you went through. It’s a big cycle. It’s a big wheel. You just have to start at the top. It’s the quote, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.”
One of the tweets we’re going to make is, “Abundance mindset allows you to be resilient.” Behind the mindset is not being attached to anyone outcome. It gives you such a sense of freedom. The other one I like is, “Don’t play the blame game,” which we’re going to make another tweet from what you said. There’s a lot of value here and this concept of calling clients up like, “Why’d you hire us? What do you like? Why do you stay?” When I was giving a talk to Jaguar Land Rover salespeople, you think, “They’re selling luxury cars. How hard could that be?” They still deal with rejection or another dealership is stealing their deal or whatever it is.
I said, “You’ve got to cleanse your palate like in a meal base sometimes between courses. The way to best cleanse your palate so the next phone call or the next person that walks in, you’re not negative, is to call up an existing person that bought a car from you and say, “How’s it going? What do you like most about the car?” Remember that feeling and be in that mindset. You’re not trying to sell them anything. Sometimes, they might even give a referral. Who knows? At least you’re resetting your own mindset that way. You and I are so much in sync on this. It’s fantastic. Let’s talk about your big clients. You work with companies that have grown from maybe getting to $5 million. The skills that got them there are not the skills that will keep them there. That’s another great quote. Enter Sales BQ. Tell us what is it you’re able to do for these companies who are stuck and probably coming from a place of fear that if they don’t figure this out, the board of directors might replace them.
There are a lot of different areas that they could be fearful of. It’s a fun conversation for us to have with the CEOs right out of the gate. When I first meet a CEO, there are two parts of the conversation. One is I’m doing my due diligence and asking myself, “Is this somebody we can work with, will enjoy working with and can drive great results?” On the other side, I’m listening to what they’re telling me but I’m trying to read between the lines to identify the root cause of the problem. One thing that we are experts in is identifying the root cause of the revenue problems and not trying to solve surface-level problems.
For example, I’m a huge fan of sales training. We do some sales training at Sales BQ. I got hired for great sales training engagements and I have great respect for sales trainers. Sales training is one component of the revenue ecosystem. You can train a rep and teach them something fantastic, but you put them back into their old environment where the marketing department sends over terrible leads. They’re on an old outdated CRM, don’t have any automation, they have to manually send emails, and the company doesn’t invest in a prospect database. Why are we training up a sales team? We have to solve the ecosystem problems first, then you train the salespeople to be these sales ninjas. You put them back in a high-performing environment, then you watch what they can do.
I listen to what they’re thinking the problem is, and then we have to dig into that so far to figure it out. For us, our process is we have a 30-day build phase. The first week is our kickoff and our observing shadow week, which could be anywhere between 20 to 40 hours worth of meetings. We are deep diving and learning the company’s product and service, their competition, and also who they sell to their ICP, Ideal Client Profile. We’re trying to understand the construct of the revenue flow through the organization based on the buyer and customer journey, and then we see how revenue is aligned with sales and into customer success. The underlying technology layer, which we call RevOps, Revenue Operations, is a combination of marketing ops, sales ops and customer ops.Your mental mindset triggers your emotional state and your actions stem from how you are emotionally. Click To Tweet
We look at the whole flow through. We try not to silo separate like, “Let’s solve your marketing problem. That’s great. We inject a whole bunch of leads, and then the salespeople can’t convert them. That’s bad or we’ll change the salespeople first, but we didn’t fix the other problems.” You get the point. We go in with a holistic approach. We identify from all attraction methods for marketing through how we’re servicing a customer, seeking to grow our retention, have revenue expansion opportunities, upsell, renewal, etc., and everything in between. We identify all the core problems of why they’re not growing, and then we come back with this gap analysis. It’s a three-hour presentation. It makes people’s heads spin, but we do come through and say, “Here are the 27 different areas. Not the one you thought it was,” and then we have a plan of action that we deliver two weeks later.
The cool part about our team is we’re not consultants. We build a plan. We’re like, “Good luck. Make it happen.” If they were able to make it happen, they would have done it by now on their own. These teams are busy. They’re reactive to the needs of the business. They’re in the wits. They are present in the day-to-day, but they can’t pull themselves out of that to do things like build infrastructure to implement new technologies, build a training curriculum, and do talent development strategies. Also, to re-innovate how they’re doing marketing and go from an outbound funnel to a targeted inbound marketing methodology. They love those things like, “We were talking about that two years ago.” I’m like, “Did you do it?” “No, we don’t have anyone to help us with that.” Our team does the work and we become an extension of their team members and work side by side for five months after that delivery.
It sounds like your unique selling proposition is you don’t just point out what the problems are and leave. You point out what the problems are and stay to fix them.
We only exist to grow their revenue and that’s it. We don’t expect them to be revenue ninjas. We want to come in here, fix it and do right by them.
Any last thoughts or quotes you want to leave us with?
I do have a couple of favorite quotes. One stems from, “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” We’re in a challenging time and you look at what you’re bringing into the workplace because the tone that you set is the tone that will be followed. I’m noticing that with a lot of executives, no matter what size your company is, you’re the leader and they look up to you. Granted this works better in theory if you have more than yourself working for the company. Even though this could be stressful, or you’re looking at how to get to the next level, or you’re recovering from shut down that’s happened with the pandemic, or trying to reinvent yourself, or whatever it is, how you show up is the way that people will create perception around you and that becomes their own BQ.
The way you articulate, present yourself and set the tone becomes a piece of information that goes into their head that then they tell a story about, that triggers their emotional state, that dictates their actions and yields performance, so it does start at the top. If you’re looking at building that high performing team, it’s how you show up and how you are with your people. Don’t expect them to do anything other than what is a reflection of what you’re putting out there. If you and I want to have an excellent team, you have to put out excellence and be able to model that for them, be an incredible communicator, and lead with love, grace, kindness, support, autonomy, and empowerment of your people in doing a great job. I love that quote, “Attitudes are contagious. Is yours worth catching?” Remember that how you’re showing up is what is going to be caught by other people. If you expect excellence, be excellent. If you expect kindness and grace, be those things. They’ll see that as a reflection of you. From one leader to another, that’s the greatest recommendation I can make.
What a great way to end. Thanks for being on the show, Mary.
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