What is the biggest problem with sales, and how can it be made easier?
Sales is a complicated business, but it can be made easier if you do three simple things well all the time.
How might a company direct its pricey resources toward tasks that are of more value?
By identifying the precise duties to be completed within the team and utilizing each member's special talents and strengths to automate and outsource unnecessary activities.
How can a sales staff persuade potential clients or business partners of the worth of their goods and services?
The ability to clearly communicate how a product or service may help a customer or partner reach their individual needs and goals is the key to good sales communication. Instead of using glib language or cliched sales pitches, it's critical to take the time to comprehend the underlying causes of the issue and be prepared to offer a solution. Finding the right answer can also benefit from collaboration and feedback from a variety of people.
How can one recognize problems more quickly and effectively, especially in the context of business and sales?
In order to solve issues more successfully, it's critical to determine their underlying causes rather than merely dealing with their symptoms. This entails dissecting the issue and working backwards to comprehend the choices and motives that produced the current state of affairs. To provide a transformational solution, it's also critical to comprehend the customer's goals and demands as well as to question their presumptions.
Marcus Cauchi: Hello and welcome back once again to the Inquisitor Podcast with me, Marcus Cauchi. Today I'm delighted to have as my guest, Ben Hulme. Ben helps people to develop their business within the health innovation space, and he's particular focus is around sales and business development. We've got some very, I, uh, interesting ideas around people, strategy, technology, and focusing on the right end of the problem.
Ben Hulme: Marcus. Thank you. Great to be here. I appreciate the invitation and I particularly appreciate the chance to riff with you about sales, about business development, about solving problems, about asking question, and maybe even about pirate if that comes up. Sometimes does.
Marcus Cauchi: I think piracy may well come up.
Where do you see the interdependencies that are either creating unnecessary and unwelcome friction, or there isn't enough friction in order to slow the process down?
Marcus Cauchi: Favorite theme, help me understand this. If we look at the big picture, take a macro view of what's wrong with sales, [00:01:00] without going into masses of detail, where do you see the interdependencies that are either creating unnecessary and unwelcome friction, or there isn't enough friction in order to slow the process down?
Ben Hulme: That's a huge question. Hang on. We're gonna ask that or picking up to pieces. My knee jerk reaction is to say that sales as a, as a topic, as an industry, as a professional is actually really big and complicated. It's a bit like saying, what do you do? Oh, I'm in medicine. Oh, fantastics, you know about an these aesthetics then? No, not at all.
I'm a podiatrist, but I'm still in medicine. Sales is is kind of a very big, broad, wide church and there are many different disciplines and skills, see the markets and yet, Unlike most other professions when says, oh, we need to get a salesperson in. There's a whole set of assumptions that come with that about the skills, ability to outcomes.
That person [00:02:00] gonna produce and how they're gonna be able to achieve something which to the kind of black magic when it's just really actually not. Sales is really simple. You have to put into the right context. You have to understand the universe you're working in. But sales is just about doing three straightforward things and doing them consistently well, and I think people get lost in the complexity behind it.
Marcus Cauchi: Okay, I'm not gonna ask the joke. How do you keep an idiot in suspense? You'll tell me tomorrow.
So what are those three things?
Marcus Cauchi: So what are those three things?
Ben Hulme: Firmly believe that step number one is you've gotta find out and understand what somebody wants, what they need and why. So understanding what your spread to customer actually needs and why that's important to them.
And then, and only then, step number two is also incredibly simple. It's make sure that you've got an an offer of product service, a solution that actually solves that for them, that gives them what they need rather than what you wanna plug them. And step number [00:03:00] three is you make sure that there's a fair exchange of value.
And that's usually money, but it can be other thing. But if I know really what you need and why you need it and what you can do with it, and I've got someone that's gonna do that for you very well, we agree a fair, a fair price, and that's how we, that's how we can do good business. It is that simple and I dunno why it gets so confused and yet it does.
Both chief fire officer and head arsonist
Marcus Cauchi: Because we do like a bit of complexity in our lives. It gives us cause to go from one fire to another and play both chief fire officer and head arsonist.
Ben Hulme: Yeah, I see that often, and I was inspired some years ago by two experiences in quick succession. Number one, and this was probably 10 years ago now, but I was working in a big, busy corporate environment and everybody was, you know, working internationally and doing lots of funny hours and all that kind of stuff.
And I found myself having this kind of automated response. Hey Ben, how are [00:04:00] you? Oh, yeah, yeah, I'm good. I'm good. Really busy. Busy. Well, busy's good, right? That was what I kept saying. I dunno why I said it. I just did, those are the words coming outta my mouth. And then I heard a podcast radio show, Oliver Burkeman.
Who is a bit of a, a writer and, and does bits on the radio talking about the importance of idleness and why it's valuable for us human beings to sometimes just do nothing and be a bit lazy. Which is a great love radio series. And it led onto a book by a guy called Tony Crabbe and the book was called Busy and it delved right into this, this psychotic glamorization of, of how being and seemingly overly busy makes people think that they're somehow seeming really important and valuable. And it gave me pause. Cause to pause. Yeah. Gave me pause to close my thoughts and I went, oh, okay. I could do that differently. And I started changing my story.
Do less but better
Marcus Cauchi: Very interesting. I mean, I had a similar epiphany a while back, which was crystallized by reading Greg [00:05:00] Mccuen's, fabulous book, essentialism. And the book can be summarized in do less but better. And my flourish to that is on purpose, find ways to be intelligently lazy. So intelligently doesn't mean fucking up the relationship with the customer cuz you're cutting corners.
What it does mean is cutting the friction out of their experience. Can you integrate within their existing system so it's seamless? Can you deliver it 3:00 AM on a Tuesday? And what, what is it that you're doing that is intrinsically more valuable than your competition? And how can you find a way to remove steps?
What can you do to make the expensive bits of your organization focus on higher value work?
Marcus Cauchi: What can you do to make, uh, the expensive bits of your organization focus on higher value work? While the stuff that can either [00:06:00] be de-skilled, systematized, automated, outsourced, can be handed on to somebody else so that people are doing their proper jobs.
Ben Hulme: Yeah, proper jobs is really, is really key. And I go back to that, you know, well, you're a salesperson, therefore I'm assuming you're doing all these different things.
Well, okay, I'm gonna meet the team of salespeople and Marcus, I'm gonna tell you now that they are not one person. They are I've got completely different experiences and backgrounds. Some are good at one thing, some are fantastic at really getting under the skin of understanding what a customer really needs and wants and, and, and, and why it's valuable and, and how to make the relationship work.
Whereas others might be much more technically minded and just be, be an absolute guru on how our product can just solve the thing. And so trying to expect and force both of those people to do both of those roles means that they're not on their A game. Where, uh, some picking that a little bit and taking some of the complexity out and going, what are the jobs to be done here?
How can we best use the skills in the team to get you doing the bit that [00:07:00] you're great at and that you love and me doing the bit that I'm great at and that I love? And you're absolutely right there's a whole bunch of stuff that we can automate and outsource. So I sometimes see that that is a little excuse for another project, and therefore some more complexity to be invented by busy people.
Marcus Cauchi: I'm, I'm with you a hundred percent. The question that you asked is, um, in our preamble is if you could only do one of those things and the others would never get done, which one would you pick? And it, it's kind of like looking for something similar. Because if I get a consensus around certain areas that, for example, customers want.
That informs my product development, if I speak to unhappy customers and find out what really pissed them off, I can speed up my product development cycle by 600%.
Ben Hulme: Yeah, and having those difficult conversations are, are the important ones, aren't they calling up that customer that's always gonna have a chat with you cuz they like you, is nice.
Calling up the one that's [00:08:00] just canceled your contract and finding a way to have just that one really important question, if we could, if we could only know one thing today, it's why have we lost this customer? And I see time and time again I've been sat in those rooms and people are beating themselves up in the room getting, and all the possible reasons that that could have happened.
And the marketing with each of those guesses, and not none of them picked up the phone and ran the customers said, I'm really excited to see you go. We wanna try and get better at what we do. You know, please, would you just share with us what was it that, that that was most disappointing for you? Or what was it that we weren't doing that was most important to you.
Goes back to if we understand what we needed and we didn't give it them, then we've, we've not deserved to retain their business. And sometimes that customer says, oh no, nothing at all. Things have just changed at my end, right? We've had a change of circumstances, but people locking themselves and beating themselves up, it's definitely not, not helpful in, in understanding what's going on in customer land.
So, I, I, I [00:09:00] challenge, um, anybody. Whoever hears that phrase. Oh yeah, yeah. I'm really good, really busy to come up with a different answer. Um, and I tried this emphasized and it was great fun. I started saying, oh, hey, how are you, Ben? Yeah, I'm good. How are you? Oh, yeah, I'm very busy. I go, really? That's interesting. I said, I've stopped being busy.
And they'd look at me. I said, yeah, I've, um, I've decided to stop being busy and instead I'm making more time for reflection and thinking and prioritization. And it turned out, um, you know, it's maybe more productive than ever before and people are kind of surprised and go, oh my God. How, how, how did you do that?
How did you get permission to stop setting up for those meetings or ignore all those emails that weren't not important?
Marcus Cauchi: Well, I suspect ignoring them helped.
Ben Hulme: Well, I wouldn't know. I didn't read them. I mean, , what can I, what can I tell you? I'm sure that sure somebody somewhere was cross about something, but I'm also sure somebody somewhere was spending their time doing that [00:10:00] one most important job of the day and that whole prioritization question Marcus, for me.
You know when people are busy and stressed and doing work, which in itself has complexity. You know, delivering really, really intricate solutions for complicated customer needs, there is a need of complexity there. But the process of organizing ourselves doesn't need to be. And so if there's a hundred jobs to be done and they're all screaming, urgent, and, and causing panic, that question about, okay, well if you could line all these up, and actually, if you could only get one of these done and the rest had to go in the bin and never get done, which would be the one thing that would be the most important thing to get done?
Usually pretty quickly, people can say, well, actually that is top of the list. Great, so we'll do that now and then, and then what would you do next? If you could do two or three more of these things, no, two or three more, what would you do next? And people will very quickly say, well, actually, that and that, and that will follow.
Great everything else. Let's put [00:11:00] that on the later list. And all of a sudden you've gone from having a hundred jobs to be done, which may still only be doing to having one problem to solve and really focus on. We'll do this now, and I've got an idea of the two or three things gonna do next. So the back of my brain could start working on those in the background.
But actually I'm gonna do the now task, and it might change my view, right? It might change my opinion of the thing to be done next. What I need to do now, I need to call customer. Next, I need to send them an email following the call. But if I call them and they're not around, my next task all of a sudden doesn't need to be done next, and I can retake things.
But making it simple, just divide everything into now, next and later I found, uh, revolutionized my approach to planning and list making and worrying.
Focuses on new logo acquisition rather than the longevity and lifetime profitability of a customer
Marcus Cauchi: Again, this speaks to another common mistake that I see, uh, happening, which is the, the least experienced people are being given the most important [00:12:00] job in terms of building the list.
It, it strikes me that we've forgotten or we've come up with heuristics to convince ourselves that what we are doing makes sense. I look at the least experienced people generating the prospect list is crazy. I look at all the effort and expense that goes into building a cold pipeline versus selling hot or selling through the nurtured future pipeline.
I look at the bodies littered all over the sales floor. The burnout, the turnover, the low percentage of people hitting quota. Uh, 85% of AE is not even getting 75% of their quota at the moment. Now that's partly down to unrealistic expectations, I'm sure. But for a lot of them, they're just doing the wrong things and selling appallingly and they dunno any better.
[00:13:00] Throwing money at training and measuring the retention level. Instead of whether the needle moved, a compensation system that focuses on new logo acquisition rather than the l uh, the longevity and lifetime profitability of a customer.
Ben Hulme: Yeah, I, I dream of one day introducing an incentive scheme in a sales team that has some alternative measures on there, and I would love to have part of the incentive scheme tied to how much fun are you having at work?
Or, or you know, how genuinely happy is your customer with, with our products, you're in sales, you did not make the product, but how genuinely happy is our customer, the product,
Some really brutally honest feedback
Marcus Cauchi: Our pal Chris Williamson is developing an app called Ask him, cause he's from Yorkshire, and you send it to them by the customer before you arrive. And then they rate you on the basis of [00:14:00] your performance and their experience as a seller.
Ben Hulme: Yeah, that's really, um, it's really scary to ask somebody for that brutal feedback on, on the bit of your job, but you don't want your boss to see, right. Which goes in sales meeting you can mess it up, you stumble, you mumble, you get the name wrong, you still put the wrong building and they don't buy it, uh, or whatever it might be.
Which does say, Hey can you gimme some feedback? We've met, we've had a 45 minutes together. Look, how was it for you? How did I do if I could have done this better what, you know, what, what, what could I change? You can't ask that. Nobody's allowed to ask that. But when you do, it's wonderful. Cause you get some, hopefully some really brutally honest feedback, right?
Marcus Cauchi: That's the idea. There's no question there. Uh, the objective is to get that brutal, honest feedback so that you can improve. I've learned that that's a lot less painful than fucking up consistently over many years.
Ben Hulme: Yeah, I mean, [00:15:00] the short term gratification in not being told why your crap is tempting, but the long term gratification in not being crap, hopefully is, is more attractive when we have time to pause and reflect and get over ourselves and, you know, put the egos away.
On average, how many touches and dial attempts does it take to get through to one senior decision maker?
Marcus Cauchi: Thi this is a useful thought experiment for anyone. On average, how many touches and dial attempts does it take to get through to one senior decision maker?
Ben Hulme: Uh, I think you answer, you're probably into triple figures by now already, aren't you? Really?
Marcus Cauchi: Well to, to get, to get through to somebody is around 33 dial attempts, unless it's a senior exec in IT, in which case it's 46.
Ben Hulme: Hmm.
Now outta 14, how many do you reckon effectives convert into first meetings?
Marcus Cauchi: Now outta 14, how many do you reckon effectives convert into first meetings?
Ben Hulme: I think you've led me with a question how many outta 14, which is quite a specific number, so I'm [00:16:00] gonna, I'm gonna guess that the answer might be one, but I dunno. Cause you've got the date and I haven't.
Marcus Cauchi: Okay, so now you're talking 33 times 14 or 46 times 40.
Ben Hulme: Yeah. Give about 500, give or take, isn't it?
Marcus Cauchi: Right. That's just to secure the first meeting on average, one in eight, first meetings. Only one in eight first meetings result in a second. So 88%, seven out of eight did not. So you spent 500 times eight, which is 4,000 calls and seven out of eight those times that you actually physically in front of a customer, you fuck it up to the point where they don't invite you back.
Now surely it would make more sense for me to focus my attention on how do I convert that one in eight to two in eight to three in eight to four in eight.
Ben Hulme: Yeah. And definitely the one that does come through, how do I make sure that that second meeting turned into business? I Marcus, I, [00:17:00] I hear a lot of, of founders of business leaders, of sales leaders that come to me and say, look, how can we, how can we get in front of more customers?
Right? How can we get more pipeline? And it's this kind of notion that well just get us more leads, right? Make some more calls, do some intros. Let's find some
Marcus Cauchi: Double, double down on stupid I call it.
Ben Hulme: Yeah, there is definitely a place and the need for new fresh outreach to start new conversations, but that is just step one and spending all our energy trying to get better at that definitely misses the real opportunity to convert good into better.
Which of those four are you most likely to buy from?
Marcus Cauchi: Even that I would have to challenge. You've got four types of opportunity, ways to open it. One is you and I have been working together for 9, 10 years. We've been on holiday together. We have done a shitload of business together, and I bring you someone. [00:18:00] because I've heard you complain about a particular problem that you can't fix, and I've worked with this other person and I make the introduction because I believe it's a good fit.
Okay, so that's option one. Option two is someone that you've been nurturing for the last 3 to 18 months. You know, a dozen people in the organization. You understand where they are, how they got there, what they're trying next, and what after that. You've spent your time just being helpful, providing them with useful content, links, insight, and they moved from passive to active looking.
That's your second type. Hmm. The third type is Ben, I've done a load of work with this chap, Fred, and I believe that uhm he can help you or something like that. The other way around, which is [00:19:00] Ben, I've been chatting to Fred and he suggested I give you a call. Okay? So that's the third type, and the fourth type is, hi Ben, are you the person responsible for buying hardware?
Which of those four are you most likely to buy from?
Ben Hulme: Well, look, number four, you've called me, so I'm, I'm kind of hoping you'd know. Number three, I'm curious. Let's, let's, okay, I'm prepared to this conversation. Number two, where we've been nurturing and learning about each of the, for 18 months. If there's business to be done and you deeply know what I need and you can definitely show me how you can solve it, then I'm up for that.
But there's an if there, right? Clearly top of the top of the tree. If somebody that knows and trusts you can see you've got a problem and say let me introduce you to my guy they would help to fix that. Because nobody likes to make a bad referral. Nobody's ever gonna say to you, oh [00:20:00] hey, what's that? You got a bad knee?
You should see my physio. Any good? No, she's bloody awful. But you know, I'll give you a number. That doesn't often happen, does it? But people do like to say, you got a bad knee. Oh, I had a terrible knee. Do you know what my physio is brilliant. Fix it good finally. Lemme give you a number cuz I feel good sharing that with you. And plus you're a friend, I'm gonna solve your problem and, and I know how much a bad any hurts so I kinda care. So yeah, referrals, instructions to networking is clearly always, always gonna be the prime and best route. And yet today with particularly pay chain amount of pressure, amount of trusting businesses, so much going on, sadly, most of the companies I talk to and, and, and work with don't have enough of that available to them.
To capture the market opportunity that they're nearly consult for.
What do you mean they don't have enough available to them? They don't have enough clients to start with?
Marcus Cauchi: What do you mean they don't have enough available to them? They don't have enough clients to start with?
Ben Hulme: No, no, no. So you'd look at, okay, we've, we've brought something new, innovative, and different into universe [00:21:00] of ya, which is solving a problem that people have been putting up with for a long time.
May not even be aware of as being a problem. Certainly didn't even realize that there could be a solution to it. Going into that market, you've got a whole other world to go out. But existing network of referrals, instructions, and recommendations might only scratch the surface to the small part of that market. I agree.
We should go there first, and we also need to can find a way to get next part.
How can you get there fastest and most reliably?
Marcus Cauchi: How can you get there fastest and most reliably?
Ben Hulme: So I would go back to number one, finding out what people really want and really need. So putting a lot more thought into actually what's a good customer look like for us.
Because if I'm gonna sell to, I dunno, acute hospital trusts in the NHS, there's a couple of hundred of them, but they are not all the same.
Marcus Cauchi: But ha given, given that you've gotta do 33 dials just to connect with one person,
Ben Hulme: Another tune that I'm gonna dial everybody. I'd like, I [00:22:00] hope we can be a little bit more selective.
And work out which of those are most likely to have the problem that we think we can solve for.
Marcus Cauchi: Okay. What if there was a way that you could shortcut all of that hard work?
Ben Hulme: Oh, I'd buy you a hand up. Of course I would. And if you've got that golden ticket I do,
Marcus Cauchi: I'm going, I'm gonna tell you exactly what it is.
Ben Hulme: Go on, hit me.
Marcus Cauchi: The, the thing is you will say, oh, sounds like a lot of work.
Ben Hulme: You don't mind work if, if it's the work that's top of our priority list, it's gonna get the biggest impact, ie. finding those customers is problems we can really solve for. And by the way, in healthcare, that's worth doing because when we do solve their problems, it makes the world a slightly bad place as well.
Who sells to the same people or same target market that you do and already has hot relationships with your cold?
Marcus Cauchi: So who, who sells to the same people or same target market that you do and already has hot relationships with your cold?
Ben Hulme: Yeah, so it's gonna be a whole range. And again, it [00:23:00] depends which customers I'm working with, but there's gonna be a whole range of either tech providers or consultancies or service firms that are doing good, good work with, with these customers already.
Now, if they introduce you to their most coveted customers and you do a great job, that means from that moment on, you'll be selling home?
Marcus Cauchi: Okay? Now, if they introduce you to their most coveted customers and you do a great job, that means from that moment on, you'll be selling home?
Ben Hulme: Yeah, I can see that. Finding a way to engineer those instructions. Is that, are we engineering instructions there? Are we, are we that cynical or are we doing something a bit more
Marcus Cauchi: Fend? We might actually work towards establishing common ground and building a, a true alliance. You know, how, how do we work better together than we can on our right?
Ben Hulme: That's a much better question to ask. Okay, so let's put ourselves in the boots of, say, a relatively small startup company, few years old, um, but do been really [00:24:00] clever.
And our customers are big organizations, either global pharma or big healthcare system, something like that. Who those customers, big tech firms definitely in there.
At the same job titles who commission or do the due diligence on their product?
Marcus Cauchi: Mm-hmm. At the same job titles who commission or do the due diligence on their product?
Ben Hulme: Ah, that's an interesting point. So, yeah, probably not. Actually you've probably got different people in a different, at different points. Okay,
So who sells to them? How can you identify which of those individuals are most likely to have a good human to human connection and be willing to take a call from a salesperson?
Marcus Cauchi: So who sells to them? How can you identify which of those individuals are most likely to have a good human to human connection and be willing to take a call from a salesperson?
Ben Hulme: Yeah. And so oftentimes, certainly in in, in the worlds that some of my customers are working in now, that's quite likely to be the likes of consultants. Who have that trusted relationship and will [00:25:00] either see a huge amount of value in these, these, these, these tech services that can help them deliver their consulting outcomes or a massive amount of threat from them.
Because actually, if you buy their tools, you don't, you know, you can realize that I'm just billing hours here. Um, or you might not need much of my stuff as a consultant. That a risk goal.
Marcus Cauchi: There's always that risk and reward.
Ben Hulme: But it's overlap isn't there?
Marcus Cauchi: So first of all, you need to be disarmingly honest, and you need to tell them that that is your fear, and it may be a reason for you not to take the conversation any further.
Or they can see it. They can see it as an opportunity. An opportunity in the future or an opportunity missed. The opportunity missed is you've just passed up the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage in your crowded market and stand apart from all the other commodity providers. [00:26:00] And ultimately potentially create a waiting list, demand, whatever you choose to from the market, as long as it's fair value.
Ben Hulme: Yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: Or you can carry on the road you're going and you get what you've always got. So my job is to help you make that intellectual shortcut and help your partners make that intellectual shortcut. In order to do that, I need to understand why they are doing what they are doing.
How much downstream revenue can I help you hold onto grow or acquire, because you put my stuff in that work together?
Marcus Cauchi: I need to understand, because you are in business for Ben Hughes's reasons, not mine. And as a vendor, I'm just one moving part amongst your entire range in portfolio products and services. So the question I have to really answer is, how much downstream revenue can I help you hold onto grow or acquire, because you put my stuff in that work together?
Ben Hulme: That's [00:27:00] really industry market. Cause I think what you're, you're circling on there is a theme that keeps coming up in, in my universe where I'm working with. With sales teams in particular who are trying to crack into, into a market and where they are dealing directly with the customer. Well, actually it applies equally here where we're looking at indirect channel sales, partnerships, alliances, those types of things, which is they're banging on about, you know, the features and the benefits.
But what you were talking about there is how does this help you get to where you need to get to. That long term thing that's valuable to you. And it's over simplistic to say that, you know, salespeople shouldn't talk about pizza benefits, talk about value, kinda. Yeah. I think that was probably on the first page of every sales book.
Understanding. Well, okay, those story. We're taking the time to be able to understand what is valuable to that person opposite you, whether that's your direct customer or the partner. The principal is exactly the same. What is it [00:28:00] that's most important to them and how we're gonna work together and what is it that they really want and need. And if what they really want and need is a broader customer based in more revenue. Do I just partnering with me, do I have an offer that helps them get there? Yeah. And this is where the bullshit comes in, because I see so many times people go, oh yeah, well, oh, we could always, we could always say this. And coming up with a CATA logic sounding set of words as an argument.
And I've seen all the sales training just creating, say, these. Of course, you know, if you say these words, it, it unpicks that, uh, what sort objection or you, how do you handle Objection to it? Just say this. No, stop it. Understand what the real barrier is, and if you can't solve it, say you're right, we can't solve for that.
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah.
Ben Hulme: Comes the alternative is 12, 18 months later, you either invest in a bunch of stuff in a relationship that goes nowhere, or even worse, you invest a bunch of stuff in a relationship that does go somewhere and it ends up in a really bad place where nobody's winning. Short-term pressure resolved, [00:29:00] long-term problem created.
Marcus Cauchi: And this is why I fundamentally believe you need to spend way more time in reflection, pondering the problem.
And you need to do that not only on your own, but collaboratively. On your own is great. You, a legal pad and one question at the top and no interruptions, 45 minutes, just churning out more and more question. Because you're not gonna come up with answers. If you do, you're lucky, but it just raises more and more questions until you get to the root cause.
Ben Hulme: So, legend though, legend have it. And by the way, this is not a true story. This is, this is a legend, which has been disproven, but Nobel Prize-winning physicist Richard Feynman. Very smart, very smart cookie, solved radio, radio problems with the power of his, of his brain. But, uh, it's, it's kind of spoken in the legend that he had this, this famous [00:30:00] problem solving algorithm, which I thought was just brilliant, cuz there's actually magic number of three steps in solving the most complex of problems.
Step number one, write down the problem. Step number two, think really hard. Step number three, write down the solution. Which works every time, right? I mean, we can, we can go into a bit more than that. We can make it more complicated than it sounded there, but
Marcus Cauchi: I, I, I challenge that for the simple reason that we come with a bunch of biases, prejudices, fixed beliefs.
And the real, the, the most creative and the best solutions in my experience, come from throwing it into the melting pot where people from different disciplines, different age ranges, different interests, different demographics, all throw their opinion into the ring. And you spend [00:31:00] 90, 95% of your time thinking about the problem, working it backwards.
Ben Hulme: Bingo, that's exactly it. Step number one is more difficult than it sounded. So write down the problem. I have been in so many of those conversations where people walk in their own, sit down, open the laptops and say, right, here's the problem. Let's spend the next 59 minutes arguing about the solution to it.
And I say, stop, no, let's not. Well, let's just go back and spend 58 minutes working out what the real problem is. What's the actual problem really solve here? And the more precise you can be in, in, in being clear on what the actual problem to solve is. And why it's a problem and how it's a problem and what the problem really looks like as opposed to describing the symptoms of that problem.
So step number one, rather than problem that frustrates the hell are people in meetings with me because they all wanna jump straight and come up with all the clever creative answers and solutions that we don't quite know what they're for. So I do that [00:32:00] exact same thing, Marcus. Let's spend the first 15 minutes talking about working out what the problem is.
Unintended consequences of poorly considered decisions upstream
Ben Hulme: We've then got, 90 seconds in which we can all shut up. Look at that problem. Dig really hard, and go, okay. Yeah, the answer's quite obvious now because it will be.
Marcus Cauchi: And to build on that, my experience tells me that most of the problems that you are facing the symptoms of today are the byproduct of unintended consequences of poorly considered decisions upstream.
Ben Hulme: Well, I'm not gonna prejudge the lunacy that's gone before worth getting their markers. But I sometimes suspect that that might have been the case. How can I be so much more diplomatic than this? Yeah. Sometimes that happens and sometimes because everyone's so busy, we haven't got time for this bend. We haven't got time, I spent eight minutes working out while the problem we're gonna solve is we need just get on, get it solved.
Marcus Cauchi: Well, I came across an instance last year where [00:33:00] a development team had to put any solution in by the 15th of the month because they had to look like they were doing something.
Ben Hulme: Okay.
Marcus Cauchi: So they spent 200 grand on looking busy.
Ben Hulme: Yeah, and I'm, I'm straight away going into my mind, I'm picking what's the real problem here? Cuz the real problem clearly wasn't product features. The real problem was why have these guys got a need to look busy? I don't understand that. Who, who is that for?
Marcus Cauchi: They, they've got an edict from above that tells them that they need to have their plan ready by the 15th,
Ben Hulme: And this is where we need to start getting into picking on picking what's the real problem to solve here?
What you know that edict, what's driving that? What's behind that?
Marcus Cauchi: And this is my point that you have to unpick it and go backwards.
Ben Hulme: Absolutely.
Marcus Cauchi: There is a multiplier effect of bad decisions over time. They compound and their impact gets greater and greater and greater. So it makes a lot of sense. If you're a vendor or you're a partner and you are looking for partners, [00:34:00] is to think about, think as your customer.
Where are they? How did they get there? Where are they trying to get to next? And after that, what's their plan? Because if you sell deep, you go beyond features, functionality, and price. And you offer hope, you offer a roadmap. Uh, you offer certainty and clarity, but the best salespeople move beyond that to how will this be transformational.
One of my collaborators and um, increasingly a mentor of mine, Simon Bone, says that you need to take people from "Oh" to "Wow" to "Ah", and if you can get them to the. Where they realize this is a moment to remember. This is a, a turning point. Then you've done your job well as a sun.
Ben Hulme: Yeah, I, I agree with you on that.
Uh, I did take one tip of wisdom from one of those [00:35:00] generic sales training courses many, many years ago, earlier in my career, described as kind of emotional journey that you've gotta go on and if you go to meet with somebody, their emotional state doesn't move during the course of that meeting, you might as well not have.
So this is the other thing in in, in terms of planning and preparing and thinking your head for going in to meet with a customer. I'll be talking to a team, they're gonna go and do that. And I'll say, okay, so first question is what, what do we understand to be your customer's objective from this meeting?
What do they want out of it? Cause that's super important cause it's the next bit, which is okay, and what's our objective from this meeting? What do we want out of it? And, and to resist the urge to say, well, customer's attitude, this, this, this. So that's what we're gonna do. Sometimes it's necessary to go, okay.
That's what the customer said that they want. But what do they really need and why? And what are we really need and why? How are we gonna get there with them? It's a journey. Again, overly simplify this by saying if, if you go to meet somebody and tell them all the answers upfront to all the questions that they might possibly have, they aint [00:36:00] need to talk to you anymore.
Marcus Cauchi: Well,
Ben Hulme: But if you can make them think and challenge some of their assumptions and help them to see things a different light, now you've got the opportunity to to to show them something that might be useful.
Is the salesperson, the ideal of a salesperson today fit for purpose?
Marcus Cauchi: So is the salesperson, the ideal of a salesperson today fit for purpose?
Ben Hulme: Hmm. I I think that the old fashioned notions of it as we see portrayed in the films or in stereotypes, definitely not. Look often people don't like to be called salespeople anymore. They wanna invent fund new job title doors, partly cuz it makes people feel important, partly because there's a negative connotation. You all say you're double glazing, right? You know, don't you use cartel? Because that one word gets you to describe all manner of things. But I do genuinely believe that the way that we used to find a new customer and start doing business with them, 5, 10, 15, 20 years ago.
In, certainly in the [00:37:00] industries that I'm working in, that's changed a lot. Our customers and our buyers have become, in some ways much more educated and informed and more sophisticated. Um, and in other ways they're operating in such frenetic, hard to keep up with challenging pressured circumstances because it's 21st century.
And that's kind of how a lot of it is out there, that it's necessary to be helpful, useful, challenging. Um, if, if you know what you need, order it and we can do a website for that. You don't need to talk to me, but if you've got a problem that you're struggling with, let's have a conversation. If we can find a way to help you, that's the salesperson for me.
It is it is about, about solving problems. It's about helping somebody to, to, to unpick a problem that they've been really need to solve. And then the last bit, we don't need selling anymore. Let's just help our customers to buy, right? How can we make it easy for you to do business with us? How can we help you navigate your own organization or procurement systems or, or, or funding [00:38:00] flows or whatever it needs to be to help you put in place a solution that we've just agreed on together?
I think the most criminal act I see of salespeople today, certainly in my industry, within in around healthcare, is where they leave it to the customer to work out how they're gonna pay for something. Right? You said you want one of these? We've got one. It's really good. Go and get your funding and we'll tell it you, Matt.
Okay. I think is a disservice. Right? We should be helping customers to buy
Marcus Cauchi: Le leaving your customer unarmored and unarmed in terms of either the budgetary process and I used an acronym, craft commitment, resources, access, financials, times, and timings, because those are all the elements of the budget step.
Then you have the decision making process, the uh, decision making unit, you know, who are the players, who is power and authority, who are the decision makers or the sub decision [00:39:00] makers? Influencers, recommenders, specifiers, technical buyers, uh, user buyers, financial buyers. Now some will wear multiple hats, others will wear individual hats, some will be anonymous.
And it's our job to navigate all of that, and we need to understand the kind of pressure and attack that our sponsor is likely to be under so that we can prepare them for.
Ben Hulme: Absolutely ab ab arming them to go in and, and solicit the support of their decision making group towards their project is, is, is really important.
That's, that's called being helpful. Right. And there's another part of that, as you're describing that Marcus, this that wide group of stakeholders at the custom end, it's quite likely assuming that the one salesperson with their magic sales hat will naturally cover all of that is a bit of an assumption that needs to be challenged some and where we, where we see [00:40:00] the best, most enduring solid business relationships is where lots of my team are working with lots of your team and together we're, we're gonna solve this really well.
I do see that part of the role of the salesperson is to have that big picture view and understand, and that help or
Marcus Cauchi: Conductor of an orchestra.
Ben Hulme: Exactly. Uh, orchestration is, is is the, the phrase that keeps coming to my mind as well. And so, that does hesitate a lot of internal communication and meetings and chat with your colleagues and all that kinda stuff.
G ood project management skills, good planning, good strategy
Marcus Cauchi: And good project management skills, good planning, good strategy. You need to make to drive action from people who have over whom you have no authority or power and you have to drive discretionary effort. That's a fucking hard job. I mean, it really is difficult cuz you, you don't have any of the clout.
Ben Hulme: Yes, as long as everybody else assumes that the salesperson shops do this and they're doing me a favor, right?
But if [00:41:00] we as a team all recognize that we have got this common goal for the right reasons that we've all agreed on, this is the customer we wanna work with on this project that we know we can do a great job on. And if your product guys are saying we shouldn't take that project on because we can't really deliver about it, then we really shouldn't be selling it, right?
Getting the whole team on, on, onboard and agreeing that of all the hundred one customers we could be going at, this is the one that we need to focus on most first.
Is there anything in the pipeline we will not be able to deliver?
Marcus Cauchi: In, in our weekly sales meeting, one of my first questions is to customer success. Is there anything in the pipeline we will not be able to deliver?
Ben Hulme: And it's natural for products and ops to have some pushback, right? Salespeople are promised in the Earth ops are saying they can't deliver anything. We need a little bit of tension, a little bit of friction there because I believe that both of those groups need to stress and test each other. Because hopefully we are hearing what the customers most want to need now, not what they did three months ago.
And hopefully you're knowing what we can and [00:42:00] can't deliver now versus what we thought we could have done three months ago. The last time we tried this and realized that sort of it was, was more complicated than me, than we anticipated. And so it always evolved in, okay. No, it always evolve. If you're making widgets on the machine, it probably doesn't evolve that much, but certainly in around healthcare, it doesn't stand the field for more than a moment.
How do you, how do you establish effective boundaries and priorities in these relationships?
Marcus Cauchi: Okay. How do you, how do you establish effective boundaries and priorities in these relationships?
Ben Hulme: Hmm. So there's a big, there's a big piece about the way that teams form, and I've come in my later life to think a lot about relationships and about culture and about organizational behavior, and about the role that I play in setting the tone or or stepping on toes, which doesn't always go down, you know, particularly well.
And I'm proud to say, Marcus, I've learned a huge amount in my life to all the mistakes that I've made by doing it badly and doing it wrong a lot of time. Now I can [00:43:00] see that the most important thing to ask in a team when you first get together to tackle a problem or to tackle a project or to have a meeting for 10 minutes or for for the next two years or whatever it might be, is to go around the table and just ask everybody to be really honest and say, as a team, as we're gonna work together on this, what's the most important thing, or what's the most important things to do, and, and to each of us. It may or may not be a work objective, right? It may be a personal thing, it may be your values, it may be about how we communicate, but for everybody to share, these are the top two or three things for me, for this to work well, for us to work well together, for us to communicate and for to enjoy the process that allows you as a group.
So, okay, well, let's agree these are our, these are our rules. This is our charter. We're a team, we're gonna work together for the next six months on this project. We may never see through again, but for the next six months as we work together, these are the rules that we've agreed in how we do this. [00:44:00] Uh, you can call it a code.
You put it some mask, you whatever you want with it. And it could just be two or three bullet points, right? Or it could be a list of 20 things. But if I ever been in the, in the group has had their say and been open and honest about, right. You've then got our way to hold each other to accounts and refer back to that in every decision, every time we get stuck, every time things, you know, there's tension and friction scream, you can go back to that and say, well, how, how does, how does this play out against these rules that we've committed to each other?
Marcus Cauchi: Yeah. Acts as a filter for decision making.
Ben Hulme: It does establish boundaries and it establishes priorities and it establishes what's important to you or non-negotiable for me, or that I wouldn't have even been considered. Because that doesn't feature in my life, you know? But it's important to you. It's the front of your mind every day.
So creating that team understanding of each other, and by the way, that can be within an internal team or that can be set across the table with your customer. I've personally had a couple of great experiences where I've done that with customers that started a project, and whether or not the project's [00:45:00] been successful, the relationship has come out stronger through the process.
Marcus Cauchi: Very interesting. Unfortunately we've hit the top of the hour, so we need to, uh, wrap up. In terms of books you mentioned, was it Oliver Berkman, Value of Idleness?
Ben Hulme: So, well, Oliver did this thing on radio called The Importance Being Idle or something like that. But he has written a couple of books too. One is called The Antidote, which goes even further.
I recommend that and I recommend Tony Crabbe, Busy. These are, these are two my favorite books. That's about accepting that you can't do anything about it. So you know, why bother? This is about slow down, take your time. And I think you do these two things together, get a lot done, super productive, and all a bit happier, so that's important.
One bit of advice would you pass on that the idiot Ben aged 23 would have probably ignored?
Marcus Cauchi: Excellent. Okay, so you've got a golden ticket you can whisper in the ear of the idiot Ben aged 23, what one choice, bit of advice would you pass on that he'd have probably ignored?
Ben Hulme: So genuinely, if [00:46:00] it's one piece of advice, I would say do not break quite so hard on gravel, on your motorbike.
Marcus Cauchi: Fair dos. Okay. Good advice.
How can people get hold of you?
Marcus Cauchi: So how can people get hold of you?
Ben Hulme: Easy to find, I am, uh, widely available on LinkedIn. Uh, it's Ben Hulme, Ben. Oh, LinkedIn/in/benphulme. Is my business, you can, you can see website, contact me through that or I do hang out a bit on Clubhouse on a Thursday evening. Usually around five o'clock we throw up a room called Sales Piracy, uh, and share stories about how to be a little bit more pirate and cause good trouble and break some of the old rules and do you think differently, which goes in all kinds of wacky and wonderful directions, but it's always got a good story at the end of it.
So Clubhouse on Thursday on Sales Piracy, LinkedIn, Benphulme or hulmeredwood.co.uk will always find me in the end.
Marcus Cauchi: Brilliant. Ben Hulme, thank you.
Ben Hulme: Marcus, thank you very much. [00:47:00]
Marcus Cauchi: So this is Marcus Cauchi signing off once again from the Inquisitor podcast. If you've enjoyed this or found it useful, then please like, comment, share, subscribe, and tag someone who could benefit.
Feel free to leave a negative or a positive review on Apple or Google Podcast. And if you wanna get a hold of me, firstname.lastname@example.org. Take care. Happy selling. Bye-bye.