Alex McNaughten and his partner Scott Freeman founded #Apprento.io to help salespeople enter the #SalesProfession, get trained well, and placed in good companies with good bosses. Alex and I explore a range of topics from good and bad management, technology, culture, better questioning to developing your people.
Alex's approach is refreshing, inclusive and highly effective because people get to think, grow, be highly engaged. Make sure you follow Alex on LinkedIn. His content is great.
Contact Alex via linkedin.com/in/alexmcnaughten
Phone: +6421955570 (Mobile)
Why are salesmen frequently characterized as entitled and snowflakey?
The absence of a recognized professional designation for sales, along with the promotion of top salespeople into leadership roles without sufficient support, guidance, coaching, and development, and the pressure of unattainable goals, all contribute to the unfavorable actions and results that result in poor customer purchasing experiences.
How can salesmen convince customers to buy from them while avoiding the "magnetism of the status quo"?
In order to overcome a client's resistance to change, salespeople should concentrate on developing trust and credibility as authorities in their particular profession and industry by continual lifelong education, understanding the customer journey, and finding 12x value.
How can salesmen successfully gain the consumers' confidence and credibility?
Salespeople should concentrate on comprehending the customer's journey, figuring out the value they can offer the customer, and mastering their particular field through lifelong learning.
Marcus Cauchi: Hello. And welcome back once again to the Inquisitor Podcast with me, Marcus Cauchi today, I'm genuinely delighted to have, as my guest, Alex McNaughten Alex is a sales coach and advisor based in New Zealand, and he's got some really fresh and interesting ideas in terms of how to build a team his approach to developing other people his approach to selling.
Marcus Cauchi: And I think you'll find today's conversation invigorating if nothing else. But also I want you to get a different perspective a fresh perspective on what might be possible if you think differently. Alex welcome.
Alex McNaughten: Marcus good to have me on. Thank thanks for having
Marcus Cauchi: me. I'm sorry. It is a love lovely intro as well.
Marcus Cauchi: We'll have to let the audience decide whether it's good to have you on, but I suspect it will be based on our previous conversations, but no pressure. Okay. So would you mind giving the audience maybe 60 to 90 seconds on your history?
Alex McNaughten: Sure. At university studying finance accounting for some God, knows reason years and years ago hating life.
Alex McNaughten: And I stumbled into a sales role through an internship at a tech startup. And that's where I got the sales bug. And my first few weeks were cold calling. I was given a list and they said, go speak to construction companies and sell us, sell 'em their your software, sell them software. Then from there.
Alex McNaughten: So I worked there for about a year and a half ended up running a team of 15. Then when I worked at a couple of big, large us corporates, then I did one more startup. And through that journey, I noticed that the Kiwi companies in particular, that I worked for really lacked in terms of how they sold structurally process wise strategy development into teams, how they hired every, like it, they were just really far behind.
Alex McNaughten: So I thought, Hey, let's see what I can do about that. See if we can help, help some Kiwi startups. And I started doing some advisory work and that led to more advisory work and I started working with bigger companies.
Marcus Cauchi: And what were the blind, sorry, what were the blind spots that you've seen along the way then?
Marcus Cauchi: Because you've worked with large companies and startups, and I'm curious, are there any common blind spots across the board?
Alex McNaughten: Definitely. So I've worked across just over 120, nearly 130 companies in the last two and a half years. And the common blind spots
Marcus Cauchi: are HR would never hire you, who wouldn't HR, all that job office.
Alex McNaughten: No, exactly. So the really common ones, there's a few one is companies both small and large. Don't actually understand how to attract and hire sales people. I think that's probably the first one. They really struggle firstly, to know what to look for, and then they really struggle in terms of actually bring those people into the organization and getting their performing quickly.
Alex McNaughten: So time to performance is a massive challenge across all companies. So that hiring like hiring and onboarding that's one sales process. Is probably the second one. A lot of organizations don't have particularly good sales process. And quite often it's not mapped to how their customers actually buy.
Alex McNaughten: That's a big one. You've probably seen that one many times. And then I think the third one and this is a global problem, is that there's really not a career path into professional selling, actually selling isn't really professional. If we're brutally honest, like the same way law or accounting, they, they have professional bodies and you have to do continuing professional development and,
Marcus Cauchi: it should be a profession, but it's the unprofessional
Alex McNaughten: that's right.
Alex McNaughten: And what does that mean? It means that there's this massive disparity between a good sales professional and a not so good sales professional. And it's a very, it's too big a disparity. Like you wouldn't accept it if you had, if you were going to an accountant and they. Pass the didn't have a charter accountancy, you wouldn't accept that you never work with them.
Alex McNaughten: They would never actually exist. We take it for granted that there's a level of professionalism in certain professions, but sales doesn't have that. That's probably the biggest
Marcus Cauchi: one that, that really does get my goat because selling should be the most noble thing that we do. And totally, it's a, if you define sales and selling as the facilitation of buying, helping people to make the best possible decision for themselves now, and in the future, whether it involves buying from you or not.
Marcus Cauchi: And this isn't about trying to make friends it's about doing the right thing. If, especially if you're dealing with complex sales, which might be strategic and material to the future of the business, you have absolutely no right whatsoever to sell them something that's not fit for purpose.
Marcus Cauchi: It isn't a case of caveat. emtor it's ventador emtor seller beware.
Alex McNaughten: I agree. And I think, I think we share a very similar idea of what selling is. It's, I'm gonna find out as much as I can about you. And if you've got some problems I can solve, then I'll help you solve them. And if I don't, if I can't help you solve those I'll point you in the right direction.
Alex McNaughten: And sometimes that means actually saying, you know what, maybe you should go speak to these people over here. Cause they're actually better, better suited to help you solve your specific problem. Yeah. That you're selling in its essence. And unfortunately not everyone has that buying, not everyone has a buying experience like that.
Alex McNaughten: And sales people have, or the sales profession has a bit of a bad name because everyone can relate to a bad buying experience that they've been through.
Marcus Cauchi: The problem there, again, that really frustrates me is that there's just a, almost a total lack of focus and attention of thinking as the customer.
Marcus Cauchi: You think about the customer, what you can do to them. And this is where I have a real issue now with a lot of sales training because of the emphasis on technique, instead of really thinking as the customer and building the technique from the customer out because the technique has to be fit for purpose.
Marcus Cauchi: And I see most people using technique as a sword, not a shield. It's not something that helps protect both sides to reach the right decision, to find common ground, to build bridges it's used as a way to manipulate and force and funnel people into making a decision that favors you. Now that to me is the antithesis of service.
Marcus Cauchi: That's self-service that's self-serving and as a customer, when a salesperson behaves like that shows up like that, my defense walls naturally go up. I can't help it. I've got 300 million years of evolutionary hardwiring predators
Alex McNaughten: that's right. And is that my phone or yours going off?
Alex McNaughten: Sorry.
Marcus Cauchi: I think it's mine. I down too stupid to know how to turn it off.
Alex McNaughten: No thought for a second. I hadn't put my phone on quiet. Look, I think one of the simplest ways you can get sales people performing better is just to instill a natural sense of cure. To actually bring up their natural sense of curiosity.
Alex McNaughten: Like human beings are curious creatures. So when you know, one of the first things. We do. And we are teaching, young or inexperienced people who, how to sell. Cause that's what we're all about. We, I've got a company called a Apprento and our mission is every salesperson, professionally educated and performing.
Alex McNaughten: We create pathways into the profession and then we ramp up the performance of existing sales teams through, through ongoing education. Wow. And what, a lot of the folks, we were developing a young, they straight out of uni or maybe they never went to uni. And one of the, one of the first things we do is instill a sense of curiosity and teach them how to ask questions.
Alex McNaughten: And just by doing that alone, their performance increases just by learning how to ask questions and listen. That has a marked improvement on sales performance. Crazy.
Marcus Cauchi: The simplest stuff makes the greatest amount of difference. I, if you create the conditions where people want to come to work, where they feel valued, where they feel, their opinion matters, where they feel like they're being developed and they have an opportunity to grow where they feel like their boss, their their peers have their back.
Marcus Cauchi: They're not looking for them to fail. They're not finding reasons for things to be different. They're not creating the conditions that are forcing people to act in ways that are, that feel unnatural to. So putting people under pressure in order to make a deal happen in order to meet valuation target that serves the interest of finance years and senior leadership, but doesn't serve the interest of the customer.
Marcus Cauchi: even though you might be bribing them with an 80% discount, it's not right for them. And it feels in Congress for the seller. What, why do we have to create these conditions? I don't think it's unreasonable for any salesperson to choose, to turn up to a company, knowing that their boss has their best interests at heart and is looking for them to thrive and become their best selves to coach them for the employer to create a condition, the conditions where they can feel safe at work without feeling threatened, without feeling marginalized, without feeling These are not unreasonable expectations. So why is it that's described as being entitled? And snowflakey,
Alex McNaughten: that's a really tough question. And I think a few reasons I'll try let me try and unpack. Cause I've thought about this a lot. I think it starts with there not being a profe with sales, not being a profession. I think that's where it starts is because there's no, because it's not professional.
Alex McNaughten: Anyone gets into, it's kinda like the wild west. So I think that's where it starts. I think then the second problem is what we do is we promote our top sales people into sales, leadership positions, and then give them absolutely no support, guidance, coaching development, nothing. And we just expect them to know what to do.
Alex McNaughten: And then on top of that, then we then we throw a lot of pressure on top of that with sometimes somewhat outrageous targets. And that kind of pressure cooker environment then creates these bad behaviors, bad outcomes that you mentioned that ultimately lead to less than pleasant buying experiences for the.
Marcus Cauchi: I have a challenge if you are a salesperson being promoted into management, and you've seen the destructive forces at work when your salespeople are put under enormous pressure to bring deals forward to close stuff, that's premature to just double down on stupid, make more dials contact people too frequently send out more emails, pack out more noise and content and all of that in the selfish pursuit of evaluation target, or hitting a quota a as opposed to the customer's best interest.
Marcus Cauchi: And I think what we really have to do is we've gotta start looking at. A bigger picture. We need to see sales as part of a continuum. It's not a discrete part of the customer's experience. It's just part of their buying journey. The sale marketing is part of the buying journey. The first use is part of the buying journey.
Marcus Cauchi: Ongoing use is part of the buying journey and sales people really do need to get to grips with the fact that the customer does not think about you, your company, your products, or your services that doesn't give them any thought, unless they're not working. If they're not working, that's when you have their attention.
Marcus Cauchi: But most sales people are then running for the Hills avoiding the difficult conversations you should run to the sound of gunfire. You should go looking for hard problems, and you should go looking for unhappy customers but sales people. Don't why
Alex McNaughten: fear probably. And not knowing what they don't know. I think a lot of these problems come down to poor sales enablement and a lack of coaching, here's the traditional attitude towards developing sales people. It's oh, we've got our annual training budget.
Alex McNaughten: Let's just throw on a three day sales workshop. That's us for 2022. And the Box's
Marcus Cauchi: all
Alex McNaughten: done. Yeah. Tick exactly. Tick the box they're trained. The problem with that is maybe three to three to 10% of that training will be remembered in the next six months. And by, another six months later it's completely forgotten.
Alex McNaughten: It just doesn't work. But then what, we're putting an enormous amount of pressure on sales professionals, because they're the people who ultimately keep the lights on. They're the ones who are bringing in the business, they're bringing the customers.
Marcus Cauchi: I've just wonderful analogy. If any of you are parents of teenage children let me put it this way.
Marcus Cauchi: Would you be comfortable letting your teenage child maybe 15, 16 years old? Because let's face it, most of your sales team haven't evolved beyond that age. Would you let them be happy giving them three days of, classroom training on driving and then letting them loose on the roads? I
Alex McNaughten: really hope not.
Marcus Cauchi: That's pretty much the equivalent of what you're doing with sales people at the moment that's right.
Alex McNaughten: Terrify. And what we found is, of our, uh, coaching is 12 months. It's on, it's actually, it starts at 12 months, it's ongoing and it's amazing the results that we've seen when we take green people who have zero experience.
Alex McNaughten: And we assess everyone using a piece of technology through our software partner to assess their kind of inherent preferences. So what are they like doing? What are they not like doing? And, when we are putting people in sales roles we put people who have the inherent preferences that suit an SDR.
Alex McNaughten: In an SDR role. And if they have more of a customer success kind of inherent preferences, we'll put them in that kind of role cause they're gonna be happier there. So that's the starting point is if you take people who have the DNA for that role, they're more likely to perform in that role.
Marcus Cauchi: There is a really simple rule. Your strengths are your development areas. Your weaknesses are not. And putting me in a room and training me on Excel for two weeks will result in me still being shit at Excel.
Alex McNaughten: Ultimately you don't like it. Now my view on this is maybe slightly different to yours is that you can learn how to use.
Alex McNaughten: But you are never going to love it. No, and you're not gonna wanna do it every day for the next 10 years ever. So exactly. So why would I put you in an Excel role? And that's our philosophy when it comes to sales professionals is, when I talk about creating career pathways, it's an education process because a lot of people don't even know what a sales career even is, what it looks like.
Alex McNaughten: So part of that process is actually educating people as to whether they really want to get into a sales role. What is it, what are you gonna be doing every day? Is, does that sound good? And then we, we have a pretty rigorous assessment process. Using the software as part of it.
Alex McNaughten: So then we put these people in organizations, then we wrap ongoing training and development around them intensively for their first three months, and then ongoing beyond that one to get them to speed quickly, but two to keep them developing and growing. And what we've seen has been really was been really amazing actually.
Alex McNaughten: And it's actually how the training part of our business started is because these reps that we were putting in these organizations were significantly outperforming the people who were already in the company. There's this one kid who he placed at a company called Eve called Chad. He came in there and in three months did more than his two counterparts had done who he was sitting next, who had done in five and six up months respectfully.
Alex McNaughten: He did it in three in his first three. And.
Marcus Cauchi: Beginners luck it's, I bet they were fine to try and take his accounts and steal his territory as well. Do you know, what's
Alex McNaughten: funny, do you know, what's funny, you could pass up as beginners luck, then we just placed another guy in there recently he's been there two and a half months and he's just beaten.
Alex McNaughten: Chad's record. Okay. Now, this is the thing, and this is how the training side of how business started. Cause we had lots of examples like this, where companies decided to us actually, can you put can you put Aaron on the training as well please? Because we want him, we want him to be performing like Chad so really lifelong education leads to and support because it's not just the education, it's actually the support of environment.
Alex McNaughten: That's what leads to, to better success.
Marcus Cauchi: This is one of the really interesting things because. You almost never get push back when you say coaching, enhances performance and what you do get push back on is finding the time. And I think part of the problem is that most traditional coaching, if you wanna call it, that is based on the grow model, which is fantastic.
Marcus Cauchi: If you can make the time for it. And for the 1% executive executives who get executive coaching, it's fabulous. It's not very practical for trying to coach on the job in the moment. So you need something more like a, an operational coaching style of management, which is very much inquiry led and managers need to learn how to ask questions in the moment on the job and coach what they see.
Marcus Cauchi: And then they need to be able to create scenarios where those their people can practice those moments. In somewhere safe environment outta the glare of the spotlight so that they can then master those skills. Now that's really powerful. And when you start doing that, you start seeing entire teams improve and the managers, the fundamental part on that.
Alex McNaughten: Yeah. It's it's it's so I've done a lot of executive coaching. It's actually where I started, funnily enough, I did it backwards, but that's where I started was coaching founders of tech companies and senior sales leaders on how they can get the Mo know, how can they set up sales teams, for scale, get the most out of their sales teams, how they can become coaches to their sales teams.
Alex McNaughten: And organizations are usually quite happy to invest in that kind of coaching for senior folk, but Arguably the youngsters, the people coming in at the SDR level, right at the start of their sales cruise even up until intermediate, you actually get more bang for your buck. Yeah. If you invest not necessarily the same amount, but a, but invest in coaching for them.
Alex McNaughten: When we set up a printer, our kind of, part of it is how do we take this idea of like executive coaching and make it scalable and affordable enough where an organization can justify it on more junior junior sales reps, because you're absolutely right. And the problem is most leaders don't actually know how to coach their sales teams, or they don't have the time because they're caught up in admin and doing a million other things that maybe you could question they should or shouldn't be doing.
Alex McNaughten: But that's the reality at the moment. Now that begs the question. Okay. Why is that the reality? But that's probably another can of worm. We can open up in a moment. So because of that's where we've, we, that's why we've existed is because organizations don't have the time expertise or know how as to how to coach their teams.
Alex McNaughten: A lot of the time
Marcus Cauchi: I think it's down to ignorance and then they blame the time. They dunno how to, and then they say that they're too busy, more often than not, they're too busy because they're not coaching. That's the irony.
Alex McNaughten: I massively agree with you there. Because I've, like I said, I've done quite a lot of executive coaching and I've coached a lot of sales leaders on exactly that and the funny thing is when they make more time for coaching.
Alex McNaughten: They actually free up hours in their day because they're not dealing with people asking them the same name questions they've been asking for the last six months.
Marcus Cauchi: I'll give you the evidence on this as well. One of, one of the companies I'm CRO for a company called notion provides a means to transform the behavior of hundreds or thousands of middle managers simultaneously to move them from command and control to an inquiry led.
Marcus Cauchi: Operational coaching management style and the London school of economics is conducting a study on this, the interim report. That's been produced in conjunction with the B E I S, which is the business enterprise industry and strategy department of the UK government that sponsored this project. It was 62 companies.
Marcus Cauchi: The average ROI was 74 X by changing the management style. Now, what was interesting was the speed with which they got ROI was typically within four weeks across the board. And the, one of the biggest areas of return on investment was the 20%, the day, a week that manages on average recovered a full day every week.
Marcus Cauchi: That's 48 days a year. That's two and a quarter months. Of management time that can now be redeployed on higher value management activity instead of supervising and doing, they now have time to spend it on leadership on strategy, on planning, on ride alongs on coaching heaven forbid. Yeah. On working on pipeline rehearsal, debriefing, training, developing themselves that's two and a half months that they can spend every year on that.
Marcus Cauchi: Now imagine the impact, if you couple that, or you lead with that. And then you implement training with coaching and reinforcement that's
Alex McNaughten: power. It is. And it's awesome to hear that data actually cause I've seen it through the work I've done, but it's great to see. Actual data reporting that, a whole day, a week that's actually mind blowing.
Alex McNaughten: When you think about it that's a eight hours. Imagine what you could do with an additional eight hours every week as a sales leader. So imagine if you'd have it's exciting.
Marcus Cauchi: Imagine you had 20% more managers, all of whom were competent. That's. What you're
Alex McNaughten: exactly. And, some of the value in having that time as a leader is so you can actually work on yourself.
Alex McNaughten: Because that's the other thing, is a lot of sales leaders don't have enough time or they say they don't, they don't make enough. They don't feel like they have enough time for themselves but you're right. They don't make it. And one thing I've been really big on when I've, whenever I've coached sales leaders is you need to book in some time for yourself a week where you don't take calls where you don't.
Alex McNaughten: And it could only be 10 minutes a day or 20 minutes a day, but you need that time. So you can actually think a bit bigger picture. You can think about the future and not just be reactive all the time. And I actually think that's the same, whether you're a leader, business owner or whatever.
Alex McNaughten: It was advice I was given not too long ago and my business partner and I implemented it where we have 20 minutes a day where we don't talk about anything that's happening right now. And we talk about the future and we talk about, blue sky thinking time we implemented that in, I think it was May, 2021, and it's incredible the progress we made and it's that incremental bit better, getting a bit clearer com compounding interest that we were talking about before we start our recording.
Alex McNaughten: It's amazing what that does, and it really is. It's 20 minutes today.
Marcus Cauchi: So what impact can you point to in your business from 20 minutes a day of the founders getting their heads together and thinking big picture, the meta level
Alex McNaughten: the business has changed significantly from when we launched our vision has changed and I think it's actually, the vision is actually the biggest thing that's changed is we've got clearer on that vision.
Alex McNaughten: I think when we first started, so my business partner, Scott, he has a recruitment background building, running, recruit, large recruitment sales teams, and then having his own recruitment company with a number of business partners. Then I have more of a advisory and sales coaching background. And we joined forces and thought, Hey, you are good at that.
Alex McNaughten: I'm good at that. Let's bring that together and see what happens. But that was probably about the much thinking we did
Marcus Cauchi: it's intersectional moment, which we will touch on in a moment.
Alex McNaughten: And it was, and it's, and it was great. And we had customers and it was all going well, but we never had this clarity of vision.
Alex McNaughten: And that's when we got this advice from one of our advisors just about a year ago. And, then we suddenly got clear about actually, what are we all about? What are we trying to actually achieve here? And then we got clearer as, okay, we're trying to professionalize selling.
Alex McNaughten: We wanna create pathways into the profession and we wanna professionalize it ultimately, so that buying experiences are better. And then when we got that clarity, then suddenly because we knew where we were going, all these other opportunities just started to present themselves and almost you attract them.
Alex McNaughten: It's really weird. It's hard to describe, but they you attract them to you. So now we're, developing a professional certification in New Zealand. So it's gonna be new Zealand's first qualification for selling and other similar opportunities, partnership, opportunities like that.
Alex McNaughten: And all of that.
Marcus Cauchi: Are you looking to partner
Marcus Cauchi: universities?
Alex McNaughten: Correct. So we've started, we've got one in New Zealand where we're literally rebuilding the curriculum at the moment. But long term yes, it's the short answer is we think that this is something that should be everywhere.
Marcus Cauchi: Excellent. Okay. We should definitely have a chat about that offline, cuz then there's some really interesting things that I'm involved in there as well.
Marcus Cauchi: Okay. great book that I know you'll appreciate. It's called The Road Less Stupid by Keith Cunningham. And one of the title already, I know you, can't not read it after that title. And at the end of every chapter, there are some really awkward, wonderfully uncomfortable questions.
Marcus Cauchi: But his advice is 45 minutes a week. You a legal pad, a pen and no interruptions. And you start out with one question and all you do is you write to answer that question and you end up with a flurry of other questions. That's the real output. It's not the answers, it's better questions. And the re one of the real reasons why I love what you're talking about with you and Scott working together like this is that it's that synthesis that's really powerful.
Marcus Cauchi: You get far better outcomes when you have many eyes looking at the same problem with different perspectives, you with your coaching and advisory background, Scott, with his recruitment background that's two different perspectives, but it starts getting really interesting when you start looking at your wider ecosystem that's right.
Marcus Cauchi: And you start bringing in people who might be specialists in top of the funnel or in marketing or in communications or whatever. And you start all of you looking at the customer's problem together. Now that starts to get some really exciting possibilities. So I'm curious, what are you are you already doing this?
Marcus Cauchi: Or is this something on your
Alex McNaughten: radar? Short answer is yes, we're already doing that. So massively agree with you. So that's how we started, right? It's two guys came together. We met during the very first COVID lockdown and we hashed out a business over zoom without ever meeting each other that sort of the Genesis of how power all kicked off.
Marcus Cauchi: Okay. Keep going. Sorry. This is making my day.
Alex McNaughten: It was Amus by the time we met we'd actually we'd, we'd got the share holding agreement, drafted, it was one of those kind of situations. Then since then it's, we've really we went and spoked. God, countless sales leaders.
Alex McNaughten: We spoke to VCs, we spoke to the, you mentioned the ecosystem, that's what, that's, who we spoke to universities, government, everyone. It's predominantly in New Zealand to start with. And then we started talking to Australia and then the us and the UK as well. And trying to paint a picture of what's the problem, or what are the underlying problems that we are seeing in the space.
Alex McNaughten: And, from there, our solution evolved because our initial idea was X, but then after actually understanding the problems better, it actually changes your solution. And then you're not even selling I don't even feel like we sell that much, which is the funny thing. We've because the problem, especially right now in, in the recruitment side of what we do, because the problem is so severe, we never sell, we have people saying, Hey, it's almost order taking.
Alex McNaughten: And yeah, and I think that was because we were able to articulate the problem so well, cause we've done the
Marcus Cauchi: homework and this is the. And Einstein said it better than neither of us, which is given an hour to solve a problem. I'll take 95% of the time to understand the problem and only 5% to develop the solution.
Marcus Cauchi: Now that's paraphrasing, but it's bloody good advice because the more eyes you have on the problem, and the more time you spend on understanding the problem, the more elegant and sustainable the solution, because you have different perspectives on it. Now I have one of the big bug bears that I have at the moment is the number of vendors and the amount of money being thrown at symptoms.
Marcus Cauchi: With one or two dimensional solutions that are trying to tackle multifaceted interdependent, complex, intertwined multiple multiple stakeholder rules, changing type of problems because these are messy, gnarly perennial, wicked problems, and they cannot be solved by addressing them with the, from the same perspective that created them.
Marcus Cauchi: And the things that created them was this shallow thinking this lazy leadership and management and these blind spots because they are not spending enough time thinking about their own problem, which is why is it that we are not selling? The reason you're not selling is cuz you're not timely.
Marcus Cauchi: You're not relevant and you're not delivering value to your customers cuz you're being a bunch of selfish ourselves. That's the truth. Am I being unfair
Alex McNaughten: perhaps but also in some ways yes. In some ways, no. And it depends what company and what sales professionals to talk about. Actually I would say, I agree with you for sales people, but there are sales professionals out there who don't act like that think hundred difference. But for in general terms, yeah you make a good point.
Alex McNaughten: The buying experience is not pleasant a lot of the time and I've, and I know that as having. Seeing so many organizations, how they structure their sales process initially or lack thereof. But then also when I've been buying software for my businesses, I'm going through and I'm not, I won't name names, and I'm going through a few software purchases at the moment that are fundamental to how we run our business going forward.
Alex McNaughten: And some of them are painstaking, like I'm three hours in and I haven't even spoken to a salesperson yet, and I haven't even seen the product and I've been through multiple useless discovery call after discovery call that was asking the same questions as the first one. And then the sales reps decide to resign and we've gotta start all over again.
Alex McNaughten: And it's just, it shouldn't be that hard and it shouldn't, and it doesn't have to be it really doesn't have to be there is a better.
Marcus Cauchi: I'm minded of an old cartoon of Christopher, Robin walking down the stairs, carrying Winnie the poo behind him by one arm dragging or by one leg, dragging him, banging his head as he went, bumpy, bumpy, bump down the stairs.
Marcus Cauchi: And that's exactly what its is like. It's, it feels so painful to buy nowadays from so many organizations because qualification is selfish. BANT is total bollocks. It's set up so that selfish sellers can selfishly qualify to see whether or not someone is fit to transact with them. As a buyer, I can tell you now, if someone approaches me like that, I have little or no incentive to spend my money with them.
Alex McNaughten: I'm gonna challenge you on that. I know the sentiment. I know where you're coming from. I don't think the problem's the framework. I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with bent or ramp or medic or any of the frameworks? I don't think that's the problem. It's how they're applied is the problem.
Alex McNaughten: Most people don't apply the, they apply it from a me perspective, not a you perspective and that's the actual problem. That's fair. Yeah. Conversational guidelines, templates, scripts, whatever we wanna call them can be massively helpful frameworks massively helpful, but they have to be applied in the right way.
Alex McNaughten: And it's the application that's usually where people go wrong. How you that's. Like I could ban to you in a very customer centric way and you don't feel like you've been just taken through a list of By seller centric questions. You can do it in a very conversational, excuse me, natural way, where you feel like you might have learned something about yourself and like that's the difference.
Marcus Cauchi: And there therein lies the issue because if you're not delivering value to the customer, why would they invite you back now on average seven out of eight first meetings did not result in a second. Now that is terrifying because you've just spent thousands of dials, thousands of emails, thousands of bits of content to get to that one point and you blow it seven out of eight times.
Marcus Cauchi: We, we need to start asking much better questions in management and leadership, which is how can we actually achieve the outcome and still deliver great service and outcomes for the customer. The problem is that it's so selfishly orientated and it's one sided and that's where it goes horribly wrong.
Marcus Cauchi: And that's where the technique is used as a a weapon. And where, frameworks like BANT MEDDICC and so on are used to selfishly qualify. The customer needs to feel that interaction is valuable to them first and foremost, or they are not going to invite you back. They might ask you for more information, but they're not gonna buy from you because you have not built any intimacy.
Marcus Cauchi: You haven't built any credibility and you haven't built any. And your orientation is selfish.
Alex McNaughten: Yeah, that's right. It's the selfish orientation, I think is the, one of the bigger, biggest problems in the sales experience, the buying, selling experience. But actually the framework can be very useful.
Alex McNaughten: I'll give you an example. So I was selling not too long ago to it, to a large corporate large global corporate. They wanted some advisory and leadership coaching for their corporate team. And they invited me into a closed RFP with two large global management consultants. He's in a large Kiwi consulting firm.
Alex McNaughten: And I rock up with a backpack on thinking, what the hell am I doing there? And I actually said that to them. I said, what am I doing here? Are you sure you want me in this process? Like you do realize it's just me. Yeah. But anyway, fast forward a bit. And I just asked that a lot of questions. That's all I did was I probably spoke for 30% of every interaction we had.
Alex McNaughten: And then when it came down to. They decided to go with me. And I said what made you choose me? And they said you were the only one who asked us what our budget was, the only one who understood our problem. And we actually don't care that you haven't got a team of consultants because we actually never met any of the consultants from the other organizations, never brought them.
Alex McNaughten: We'd rather work with you. And I kept digging and I found out the real reasons. And one of the organizations who I was competing against had gone in and priced it four times the budget and the other two organizations had priced it, 50% of the budget, I priced 120% and then procurement not be down to a hundred percent.
Alex McNaughten: And it was just one of these re it was just one of these realized it was like one of those moments where you're like, ah, okay, so you can do this. And I their head of corporate said to me's I wish I want my salespeople to sell like that. And that was an example of just how being.
Alex McNaughten: Cus like genuinely interested in your customer's world in their problems in, in, and not just the one person who brought me into the conversation, but every single stakeholder getting to know. Okay. And these are the questions people don't ask is how does you personally,
Marcus Cauchi: how many people did you cover?
Alex McNaughten: There were six, I believe from four initially. And then another two. Six. Yeah. And then the average since then another three before in, in subsequent pieces of work. Okay.
Marcus Cauchi: So the, a, the average rep will probably speak to between one and two people in a company of over a thousand.
Marcus Cauchi: I think it's about 1.6, five, according to the SRC study. And interestingly enough, the 500 to a thousand mark, they speak to 1.9. So they speak to more in the mid-market than they do in the enterprise space. And without that, cause it's easier because it's easier and it's easier. And what you just defined there was how you built trust because you were credible, which means that you did what you said you were going to do.
Marcus Cauchi: You were reliable, you did what you said when you said you were going to do it in the manner. You said you would. To the budget
Alex McNaughten: and the other thing, actually, that's really important that I did that. I learned from a guy called Todd Capponi who wrote an amazing book called The Transparency Sale. love Todd mad, fantastic mad props to Todd.
Alex McNaughten: Yeah. That and I owned my flaws or, like I didn't try and be something I wasn't, I came in, I was like, look, it's just me. Yep. And I even said to them at the time, I'd never worked with a corporate before. And I said, look, I've never worked with a corporate before my expertise has been in startups.
Alex McNaughten: Yep. In the kind of zero to 10 million space. So I'll put that on the table first and that kind of pure sheer transparency. If more sales people, sale professionals sold in that way, one, it makes selling so much easier, but two, it means the actual delivery portion of things is so much easier. Two because no one's surprised.
Alex McNaughten: There's no horrible surprise later on.
Marcus Cauchi: Let me ask you this. How close do you feel to those customers?
Alex McNaughten: I've worked with them and I still do very like in all I see. Very close.
Marcus Cauchi: So if, would you describe it as intimacy?
Alex McNaughten: There's a level of intimacy there. Professional intimacy? Yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: Okay. So the formula for trust, the trust equation is trust equals credibility, plus reliability, plus intimacy over self orientation.
Marcus Cauchi: You just defined in your behavior. Exactly why they trusted you and trust based selling. Is another fantastic book by Charles H. Green and must read for any salesperson, because it's all about how do you establish and maintain trust. And whilst people don't have to, like you, they do have to believe that you, they have, you have their back and that's right.
Marcus Cauchi: It's and in corporate, they are not gonna make a decision on their own. The emotion drives it, but ultimately there are checks and balances and processes to protect the organization from people like us. And our job is to help fit within their buying process and meet them where they are not try and squeeze them into our selling.
Marcus Cauchi: System's just because, they're not at the budget step yet. Doesn't mean that we have to then push them there. We have to make sure that we bring them along. We have to draw them to us, not at force them. And there's
Alex McNaughten: a few things I don't, that I, and I've coached hundreds and hundreds of reps now, and there's a few things I don't see enough of.
Alex McNaughten: And it's a really important distinction is there's always multiple sales within, especially a complex sale. There's multiple sales, you've got the business sale, but then you've also got the individual stakeholders you are, you're settling to as well. And, questions that I think are really powerful is just how does this impact you personally?
Alex McNaughten: Yeah. Like that, to me is a very obvious question that we should be asking in a sale is how is this going to impact, how is whatever's going on right now impacting you personally? And how would things be different or how would you like things to be different?
Marcus Cauchi: When you've earned the right another great question is what do you fear.
Marcus Cauchi: It's a perfectly legitimate and reasonable question because it's real for them. If you don't understand what their, what they fear, what their hopes are, what their aspirations are, you've got no business selling to them.
Alex McNaughten: Exactly. And then just on questioning, I think sometimes people have a fear of being nosy or pry or they have a fear that they, they don't ask questions cause they don't think they're gonna get an answer.
Alex McNaughten: They don't think they'll get an honest answer. And I think that's one of these things that salespeople really need to reorientate themselves on that. It's how you ask the question and you need to have your own brain and mindset, right? If you want people to answer you, when you ask them a question, if I ask a question to someone I genuinely I'm confident I'm gonna get an answer.
Alex McNaughten: Because I've, and that takes a bit of time maybe to get to that level of confidence where you can ask anyone a question and kind of most of the time, get the answer or get a relatively honest answer. But it is a mindset shift that I think sales salespeople, or anyone selling One
Marcus Cauchi: of the things that I really do feel grateful for my last 16 years with Sandler was understanding TA transactional analysis, and the concept of having adult to adult interactions at the beginning and end which again, I think Sandra was genius bringing this in.
Marcus Cauchi: However, one thing I do disagree with him slightly is that you should leave your child in the car. Now. I think actually, if you listen to some of the other sound rules, the child needs to be in the sale. The it's the the natural child who is curious autonomous in their learning.
Alex McNaughten: What do you think Sandler meant?
Alex McNaughten: When, what do you think he meant when he. Said, leave the child in the car.
Marcus Cauchi: You've gotta you, when you turn up you need to make sure that you are operating from the nurturing parent and the adult that's Sandler's premise. However, I find the natural child is where my best questions come from because the natural child is curious autonomous and self directed in their learning.
Marcus Cauchi: There is a sense of fun. So they do need to be under adult supervision because you can ask one too many questions or you can just say something that will get you in trouble. So it needs to be under that control. However I think what he was really talking about is do the rehearsal, do the preparation, do the planning.
Marcus Cauchi: So you thought through what your customer has the journey they've gone through, where they are at the moment where they're trying to get to and think about your questions in advance and rehearse them, practice them, think about how the customer is likely to respond, what your next response will be, so that you've lived it all beforehand so that you can stay fully present when you're in front of the customer.
Marcus Cauchi: And then you can let your natural child go wild. Because all of a sudden you've done all the preparations. You've got all the fundamental questions lined up, but now what you're doing is you're feeding off the prospect's responses and that's a really exciting place to have the child involved because all of a sudden they start asking the most basic, simple questions that you probably overlooked because you made it too complicated.
Marcus Cauchi: and that's the beauty of having the child there.
Alex McNaughten: Yeah. I like that. It's a nice analogy actually. If you prepare enough, then you can let your, let the child, let your inner child actually absolutely run a bit freer. How much preparation do you think? Cause this is, it is an interesting one.
Alex McNaughten: This idea of preparation. I think, this idea you can never prepare too much, but there's also a time value of money element to how much preparation you can realistically do. What does good preparation look like for you?
Marcus Cauchi: To, to me, if you're working on enterprise deals, I would suggest for every hour in front of the prospect, that leads three hours of prep.
Marcus Cauchi: Yep. And there's a good reason for this that three hours of prep is gonna save you about 500 hours of prospecting to get to that point. Yeah. Do the three hours of fucking prep. Seriously rehearse plan do dress rehearsals, have a red team meeting, especially for any key ones where everyone else picks apart your deal.
Marcus Cauchi: And it's nothing should be as hard as that red team meeting anything in front of the customer, walk in the park by comparison. And when I've done this with clients, they've literally walked in and word for word an entire hour and a half has gone. Exactly. As we've rehearsed. Now we've done a lot more rehearsal than the hour and a half.
Marcus Cauchi: So we've got, they've lived it all, but word for word. And the beauty is everything is then predictable. And the nuance then came because they were able to just relax into the sale. They had no agenda, they weren't there trying to pressure people. They were simply there trying to get answers to these questions, which are fundamental to the customer's outcome.
Marcus Cauchi: And that's really
Alex McNaughten: powerful. Yeah, look, I think that's a nice kind of rule of thumb, if you've got an hour in front of the prospect three hours of prep for a complex deal or bigger deal. Yeah. Yeah. I, I'd tend to agree with you there. What about in the kinda smaller end of town though in the more, more transactional SME environment
Marcus Cauchi: again, what I would still do is I'd still do a lot of research, but I would research around the subject.
Marcus Cauchi: Most sales people focus just on exclusively trying to transact and make a deal happen. Customers don't buy an isolation. They buy as part of a journey and that journey is multifaceted. Let me understand how they got here. What is it that caused 'em to think about making a change now?
Marcus Cauchi: What, what is going to cause them to actually make that change? Because the magnetism of the status quo is massive. So how do I find 12 X the value as table stakes, just to start. Cause if I can't find that they're not gonna change, cuz 60% of the time you lose to the status quo
Alex McNaughten: looks like you were saying earlier about building trust and credibility and you need to be an expert.
Alex McNaughten: And I think sometimes get a bit scared of that word expert. Like how can I know more and how can I be the expert when I'm speaking to the CEO of a big company, and I'm a 20 year old kid and in his sixties and has more experience. But I think people think about it wrong. It's not that you need to be an expert in everything.
Alex McNaughten: All you need to be an expert in is your vertical, your field, your area. And I think that's, you know what you've just said, there is good advice, especially for those selling more transactional type selling is you probably won't be able to do three hours of research on every single customer, but.
Alex McNaughten: Learn your market, learn what's going on in that space and under, and stay current and keep it, it
Alex McNaughten: get passionate about this, but ongoing lifelong education is the key to success in professional selling like that is the key. It's not, I'm gonna do a training course. And now I'm a seller it's ongoing, it's lifelong. You can always improve little bit by bit. And whether that's, whether you're improving your soft skills, whether you're improving your market, understanding, whether you are practicing, you should always make sure you have the time to do that.
Alex McNaughten: Whether your company's paying for it or not. Cause if they're not paying for it, plenty of books out there, podcasts, read practice with your colleagues. There's always something you can be doing.
Marcus Cauchi: And if they're not paying for it, you will. That's the other thing. Yeah, don't think that the company owes you training, if they don't train you then more fool them.
Marcus Cauchi: Because you are a personal services corporation selling your expertise for money. What you are however tasked to do is help customers solve their problems. And if you get smart at doing this and you are always looking at the bigger picture, then as a seller into the SME, you can still bring value.
Marcus Cauchi: Even when you have nothing to sell by referring stuff in, you can act as an introducer. You can make money off that if you want to. Personally, I don't. Because I believe that the moment I introduce a financial reward for me, That taints, the introduction I'm making the introduction, cuz it's the right thing to do.
Marcus Cauchi: And it comes back because my ecosystem feeds my pipeline. There is reciprocity. I haven't, I have not done a single cold call since 2004. I've not needed to because I've built a referral partnership network. I've built strategic alliances and now I'm building
Alex McNaughten: ecosystems. Yeah. It's really interesting.
Alex McNaughten: You said that cuz when I first decided to go out and be self-employed, I did a lot of that cold calling outreach to get my early customers, but then all throughout I was very focused. Just like you said on building that ecosystem, building the kind of, and not even necessarily formal partnerships, but building, like understanding who else is in the space alliances.
Alex McNaughten: That's a better word because then. And I've, I'm a bit younger than you and I haven't been going quite as long, two and a half years on. And almost everything is now inbound in this country. Anyway, in New Zealand it's almost all inbound. But a lot of people don't but it takes a lot of hard work.
Alex McNaughten: It takes about 12 months. For that kind of work, for that machine to start working. And and it takes a lot of effort, continual effort to keep it working long term
Marcus Cauchi: as well. And so again, when you are creating that machine, that machine has to deliver value to your audience. So you always have to stay relevant.
Marcus Cauchi: You've got to be thinking as your customer, as your audience, as your partners. And this again is really interesting because what I'm seeing is a shift in what top sales people, what we should be looking for in top sales people, which is our people who play nicely with others. They're not low walls.
Marcus Cauchi: They are people who are fantastic at generating discretionary effort internally and externally. They are people who have low self orientation, so their emphasis is on other people.
Alex McNaughten: Oh, I think you muted that.
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah. Sorry. There was noise in the background. Where was I?
Alex McNaughten: Orientation. Okay.
Marcus Cauchi: So you know they have a low self orientation. Their emphasis is on being long-term selfish. So they, they understand that for now their obsession is the customer, getting the customers, the outcome that they want helping them achieve their goals.
Marcus Cauchi: And it doesn't mean that they're not self orientated, but their self orientation is low. It comes later because they understand that in order to get their needs met to quote six Italy, you have to help other people get their needs met. First.
Alex McNaughten: I love the idea of long term selfish. I have two examples of how that's played out.
Alex McNaughten: My two biggest ever individual sales deals. That I did in my companies came from exactly what you just described. One was I helped and I just gave some advice. I had a quick chat virtual coffee, and then I had a follow up coffee with the founder and head editor of a business publication here in New Zealand.
Alex McNaughten: And I just gave him some advice cuz he was looking to sell into more corporates. And as I suppose a thank you for that, he then gave me a column in that's cool in really cool. And that's how I won my largest ever corporate client and that paid for my house or the deposit on my house anyway.
Alex McNaughten: And then the second one was a conversation I had with a guy I met on LinkedIn. We had a really nice, just like value, add conversation, got to know him. And then about three months later, Without, I didn't even realize he'd recommended me to a government agency here in New Zealand that does a lot of work in the tech and startup ecosystem.
Alex McNaughten: And he put me forward to a guy he knew there who was looking for experts in my field. And that was just from one 30 minute conversation where I didn't try and sell or cause I quickly established this guy was never gonna be a customer, but we just had a really good conversation and he remembered it and then decided to refer me into something.
Alex McNaughten: And that's, I think, long term selfish right there.
Marcus Cauchi: And again, being ready to tell people that you are the wrong person to help them is really powerful. I remember I did this once and I got 12 referrals off the back of it. Yeah. And they were really heartfelt referrals cuz he made the effort to introduce me to each one personally, now you don't get that by trying to transact with people.
Marcus Cauchi: You don't get that by pushing and we have to no rethink because if you look at the what's coming. We are now headed for the toughest trading conditions that any of us are likely to face in our working lives. And they're gonna persist for quite some time. So we have a choice either we can double down on stupid and do what we've always done, which at the moment is 97 to 99% ineffective.
Marcus Cauchi: Or we can start thinking there are better ways and asking questions around how do we generate business in ways that give us reach and cloud that we couldn't possibly have had on our own. How do we as small businesses club together and work in tandem with one another in order to help our customers achieve outcomes that they possibly couldn't if they were going to corporates, cuz corporates are thinking is limited.
Marcus Cauchi: In my experience because they've got products to sell. I remember last year I was working with a cyber client and one of our big partners actually worked against us on several deals because their commission plan, so they killed four deals. We wasted two and a half million dollars worth of opportunities.
Marcus Cauchi: Partnering with these people. They're not good partners and it's wrong because we were an SME and we could have helped these customers, but instead they selfishly tried to pedal in their stuff and they've actually alienated two major investment banks. It's insane.
Alex McNaughten: Poor behavior. Yeah. You know that it's and it's really what we've spoken about this whole time. It's that seller centric behavior. Yeah. It's gotta not in the, not in a good way at all.
Marcus Cauchi: Alex, this has been really interesting. And I'd love to have you back.
Marcus Cauchi: Unfortunately, we've hit the top of the hour. Tell me this what's your what's your best mistake ever? The one that you learned the most from?
Alex McNaughten: Oh, there's been so many. I'm always making mistakes. No, look, one, one of the best ones. I made young was chasing money. So I, when I, early on in my career, I just, that's, all I cared about was just earn lots chase money.
Alex McNaughten: And it was a massive mistake and I took jobs. I shouldn't have as a result of that. And anyway, it was a long story there and I won't go into it, but but I did learn quickly and if I had it all to do again, the thing I'd really focus on is learning. Just learn as much as possible. Don't cash your chips in too soon, just focus on the learning and the experience and getting better and better because that hasn't exponentially greater impact on your bank account than anything, if it will.
Alex McNaughten: If that's what you motivate you, but now it's, now that doesn't actually motivate me now it's more around actually impact, it's like the mission, was like, what's that? Sorry, the mission. The mission. Exactly. That's now what it's all about is the mission. So yeah, that's probably the biggest mistake I made early, but I'm glad I made it when I was young and I, blew most of it.
Alex McNaughten: Cause I was a dumb kid. I blew on silly cars and other things. But yeah, that was probably the biggest
Marcus Cauchi: mistake. Excellent. Okay. What would you recommend people read what to listen to at the moment?
Alex McNaughten: So the two books that have probably had the most impact on my selling career or my career in sales, I should say was Todd Capone is the transparency sale, which I mentioned already.
Alex McNaughten: And this one, it's not strictly a sales book, but I love it is never split the difference by Chris Ross. Vos with a V Some of the techniques and the emphasis on questioning and active listening in that in that book I found very illuminating. And
Marcus Cauchi: have you read, just listened by Mark Goldston?
Alex McNaughten: I haven't, but you're the second person to recommend me yet.
Marcus Cauchi: It's the first book I always recommend along with Ingham the road, stupid and Essentialism by Greg McEwen.
Alex McNaughten: Very. Okay. I'm gonna, I'm gonna get you to send me those after this. Cause I haven't got, I haven't been noting them now. But yeah, those blows are probably the two I really enjoy.
Alex McNaughten: And then look, other than that I love history. So I read, I'm currently reading the Gula Acapella, which is very different to the host. But also, a fascinating read for other reasons.
Marcus Cauchi: Ha have you read oh, Ray Dalio's latest book, understand Making Sense Of The Changing World Order.
Marcus Cauchi: That's really very interesting, so builds on principles. But he's looking at the meta trends, the me the macro trends and the micro trends and how they run in cycles. And when they run in parallel and they all come together, you're on the ascendant, like China is at the moment and when they're all going in the opposite direction, like the US's so the end of empire and looking back at the history of China the Dutch empire the British empire, the impact on the having the Gilda the pound, and now the dollar as the reserve currency all this kind of stuff.
Marcus Cauchi: Really very interesting stuff.
Alex McNaughten: Sounds that sounds fascinating.
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah. Worth a read. Alex, how can people get hold of you?
Alex McNaughten: Best place is LinkedIn. Alex. McNaughten you can find me on there. We've also got a podcast as well, which Marcus you've kindly appeared on the Rev Up Sales podcast.
Alex McNaughten: You can find on major podcast platforms and yeah, other than that, LinkedIn or apprento.io is our company's website.
Marcus Cauchi: Brilliant Alex McNaughten thank
Alex McNaughten: you. Thank you, Marcus. Thanks for having me.
Marcus Cauchi: So this is Marcus Cauchi signing off once again from The Inquisitor Podcast. If you found this useful and insightful, then please like comment, share and tag someone who might find it useful too.
Marcus Cauchi: And if you feel the urge, leave us an honest review. 1, 2, 3, 4, or five stars on apple podcast in the meantime, stay safe and happy sell it. Bye-bye