Yuri van der Sluis
What are the most common questions that managers and owners have about playbooks? What problems do they face?
Managers and owners often ask about playbooks to improve conversion rates, train their sales teams, or improve the sales process. The biggest problem they have is that the sales process isn't clear and that both senior and junior salespeople don't have a set way of doing things. Also, they don't have clear rules for each step of the sales process. Many managers and owners have a "hope and pray" approach to sales and find it hard to implement a structured process. This is because they were once successful salespeople who relied on their own intuition and self-discipline, and they don't want to be micromanaged. They tend to make the whole sales team act like they like what they like, which is a big mistake.
What are the most common questions about playbooks that managers and owners ask you?
Most people want to know how to make a sales process and strategy that are clear, well-thought-out, and specific, as well as how to improve need analysis and negotiation and increase conversion rates.
What are the most important things that sales managers do?
Managers in sales should hire the best people, get the best out of them through pre-onboarding, onboarding, training, coaching, and accountability, give them the tools and resources they need, help clear roadblocks and protect them from stupid leadership, and create a learning culture within the team.
Marcus Cauchi: Hello and welcome back to the Inquisitor Podcast with me, Marcus Cauchi. Today my guest is Yuri van der Sluis, who is a specialist in playbook production and helping organizations to scale.
Quick two, three minutes on your background
Marcus Cauchi: Yuri, would you mind giving us a quick two, three minutes on your background?
Yuri van der Sluis: Thank you for having me on your great, uh, podcast.
First of all, it's fantastic. I'm really excited. My name is Yuri van der Sluis. I have a B2B sales background, so I used to be a salesperson, B2B, mainly in the IT sector, and I've been training and coaching salespeople since the start of 2006. I've trained about 15,000 people to a hundred companies. Mostly in Europe. And my philosophy always was try to be radically relevant to the clients or prospects that you're working with.
Try to truly make a difference [00:01:00] and don't see sales, uh, just as a, as another profession or getting rid of your product or service, or truly make a difference. This is what I've been emphasizing on in my trainings and coaching and consultancy, and the last two years I've been specializing specifically on creating sales playbooks so people and companies are ready to scale.
What are the most common questions that managers and owners ask you about playbooks?
Marcus Cauchi: So what are the most common questions that managers and owners ask you about playbooks?
Yuri van der Sluis: There are a few elements here. The first problem that they have is they, the, the sales team usually consists out of a few are at like a handful senior salespeople that have their own process, their own approach, which is not transparent.
They don't know what they're doing, and they're, they're being left alone because they, they come with the big deals. They have their own network, so it's not [00:02:00] transparent. And then you have the more juniors, uh, and, and, and they need to be onboarded, but there is no process. And everybody sells the way they think is best.
So the biggest problem is if you don't know what's working, you cannot repeat it. Only when it's transparent actually how you're selling. So they start with hurricane, you train the sales team, or can you, uh, help us, uh, to increase conversion rates or do need analysis or negotiation? And while we're talking, then it becomes clear to them that, uh, what they're actually missing is a very thought out sales process and a sales strategy and engagement in every single step, because there's still a few companies that have, that haven't done that properly. I mean, the most, they, they have their sales process in their CRM, but these are, you know, uh, first, uh, call qualification, need analysis, proposal negotiation, close.
But you [00:03:00] know, that doesn't mean anything if you don't make it very specific what you actually need. How does a need analysis actually look like?
Marcus Cauchi: Well, they, they, they did, they did have a system. Uh, it's called hope and pray and okay something like show up, throw up, quote, and hope, sell and run. So
Yuri van der Sluis: Nice.
Marcus Cauchi: I get that. I mean, that's been my world for the last 17 years.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah. So, sorry to interrupt Marcus. You know what, I think where this actually comes from, because I think this is really interesting. The majority of the VP sales or the sales directors used to be salespeople themselves. So if, if you think about where, where they used to come from, they were being drilled usually an activity level when it was still allowed back in the day.
You know, it's a numbers game. So they were drilled to fill out a c r m properly to make, you know, it's a numbers game. And then as they grew and in, in into more [00:04:00] senior roles, they became so successful, they were so good, they didn't have to bother about thinking about CRM because it's in their, in their, their own DNA in their system.
And then they didn't have to worry about the numbers because they have build up so much experience and intuition and self-discipline that they, they didn't need anybody to tell them what to do. Cuz you know, I'm already 30 or 35 or 40, nobody tells me what to do. I bring in the numbers. And as they become a sales director, they actually project what they like or what they don't like to the others, to the rest of the sales team. So even though they may not need it, because their self-discipline is extremely high, and they were really successful because they were really good salespeople. Now they think they don't like micromanagement because they don't like it themselves because they outgrew the whole micromanagement.
So now suddenly they want salespeople that that manage themselves because suddenly [00:05:00] this micromanagement, everything that is in relation to this is what I expect you to do on activity level or in quality level, is now put under one pile that they call micromanagement. And most sales directors are so allergic to it because they algorithm and maybe they don't need it.
But the biggest mistake is, is they project their personal preference to their entire sales team. And this is where I think they make a huge mistake.
Sales is not a numbers game
Marcus Cauchi: I couldn't agree more. And I'd like to pick up on a couple of things. First of all, sales is not a numbers game. Yes, you have to do certain level of activity, but if you're playing the numbers game, then chances are you're throwing an awful lot of shit at the wall and hoping some of it sticks and you're confusing action and activity.
Activity doesn't pay off. Decisive, intentional, uh, meaningful action will. Second thing, just [00:06:00] because it was done to you doesn't mean that you should do it to your people. And we see this happen an awful lot where managers and, uh, sales directors and VPs of sales and CROs do project how they thought they think it's done.
And so they claim that they're autonomous and that they're leaving their people to do their job. Actually, they're managing by abdication. They're making the excuse that they don't want to micromanage and therefore relinquishing their responsibility to do their job well. Because managers only have four functions in my book.
Hire the best people than get the best out of them. That means pre-onboarding, onboarding, training, coaching, and accountability with consequence. Make sure they have the tools and resources they need to do their best work every day. Not overburden them with a whole pile of crap that is, [00:07:00] uh, designed to help the audit function function that is designed to provide hundreds of useless reports that no one does anything with because we see managers being overburdened with pointless reports and reporting and no one uses that big data. Or what they do is they keep doing the same old fit every day and they keep saying, pound the phones, follow up on those leads and close those deals. And so there's no real contribution. The other thing that I see happen a lot is managers who go out there on ride alongs with their salespeople and they puff up their chest and say, Yuri son, look how it's done.
And then they're going do it for them and there's no knowledge transfer because they don't have a learning culture. And then the fourth function, functional management is to help clear roadblocks and protect them from uh, acts of idiocy [00:08:00] from their own leadership. And again, a lot of the time they don't do that cuz they play a political game.
And the net result of that is they recruit. Experienced salespeople who have one year's experience 20 times over who then consistently fail to produce. And then you blame the salespeople for not having a proper onboarding process, which means that you set them up to fail anyway. And all veterans as well as junior people need to go through the onboarding process.
And all people in sales need to train. You don't see people like Roger Federer or I don't know, uh, Messi saying, you know, son, I'm pretty good at the moment. I don't need a coach. These are people at the top of their game who have several coaches.
Why do you think that culture is allowed to persist?
Marcus Cauchi: So, Yuri, tell me this. Why do you think that culture is allowed to persist?
Yuri van der Sluis: I think there are a lot of reasons here, but I, I think you touched upon, uh, a very interesting topic. So I think sales [00:09:00] directors, they have like two buttons. Either they lead to sales people completely free. And they just manage results because they believe it's all about autonomous. You know, just let them do their job and I, and then manage the results.
And then when the results are not good enough, or somebody in the organizations, once you go for the data, suddenly they, they flip to control and then, and they go into activity level, but dumb activity level. But I think what they're missing, they're missing the point is there is a middle ground here. It's not about control, it is about understanding what is the best process, the best way to have sales conversations, the best way to do lead follow up.
So that means that you, you need to be willing as a culture to make it extremely transparent what the actual process is and what those sales, what, how a sales dialogue actually looks like. Now, if I'm a senior, [00:10:00] it feels like, come on, this child stuff, no, what questions I ask, who cares? You know, I, I, I know how to do my job so it feels childish because it's not introduced from a growth mindset, an improvement perspective.
If it's controlled, then you feel like, oh, am I in, in a, in a kid's class all of a sudden, how to ask great questions. I've got, I've done 15 years under my belt. I'm not going to do that. But if you're not going to do that, what the five key questions are, it means nobody can learn from you. You stop challenging yourself and you don't create a culture whereby you look at, from a generic perspective, looking at one level higher.
If you are sitting with a prospect, and if you just reflect upon it, what is the, the, the best way to approach it? Is it, are you going to look for pains? Are you going to challenge your prospect? Are you going to inspire them to look at the future and talk about the trends? Are you gonna focus on the actual needs now? There are so many [00:11:00] roots to go to, and if you don't make it very transparent what those scenarios are and how it looks like, you basically allow these salespeople to just go along with it and improvise and, and to, and, and to rely on their routines. And sometimes successful, and sometimes it's not. But you know what?
Nobody knows why, because nobody's going to analyze it. Nobody's going to, to draw lessons from it. Now, if this is a podcast about scale. The best way to scale is to understand, uh, on a very deep, profound level. To understand what are the common denominators of the buying personas in different customer segments so you can recognize the type of buyers and the process they go through with those playbooks.
That for the most part is a great guideline and a framework to follow, [00:12:00] if nothing is documented. The only thing you have is what you remember from training, which is usually 10%, 20%, or even less if it's, if it's six months, uh, earlier.
Marcus Cauchi: I love your optimism.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah. But it's very low. So it's, it's, uh, you just go along, you wing it.
It's a shame because, uh, I think if we really come prepared. So you mentioned Messi. He's still training and a football team. They've, they have a strategy, they have a formation 4 33. And with every team they adapt and they, they will create a new strategy. And so they know, how do we play against teams that are very on the fence or attacking?
They play open, they play close. They're fast, slow, Italian, doesn't matter. So they have different systems and different strategies. They're strategize all the time. All the time. I know very few companies that can create [00:13:00] an open culture to look at the process, not just at the results. We have the results.
Okay, what is your pipeline? How many deals? What are you gonna commit? You know, every, you know only on the results and you've got the dumb activity level. Just, you know, I wanna know how many proposals. It's just numbers. What they're missing is the third part. This is the actual selling. And I think with playbooks, this is where you can make the biggest difference.
But there's one prerequisite. You need to have an open culture that is driven to learn from each other, not from a control perspective, not from judging, good or bad, just to make the entire team smarter. Because if scaling means hyper growth means you're going to hire 10, 20, 50 salespeople, hundred salespeople in the next 12 months, it means that that process needs to be completely clear and transparent and it, it will keep evolving.[00:14:00]
But if I have a framework, this is how we sell. This is our strategy, not just some copy paste what everybody's doing in the market. This is our strategy. So that, that is the biggest, uh, biggest opportunity right now.
Marcus Cauchi: Every one of the sales leaders that I have interviewed who is leading or has led a hyper-growth technology business, and we're talking about 300, 500, 1200% annual growth compound in UiPath, we're talking a hundred thousand percent revenue growth in seven years.
We're talking about companies like Thycotic, going from 10 to 500 million in five years. Now we're talking about Splunk going from 42 million to 1.2 billion in five years. Every one of them has a process. They have structure, they have a framework. They have playbooks. They are r religious about CRM hygiene to make [00:15:00] sure that they know exactly where they are.
And managers have a process and a framework, and leaders have a manage, uh, a framework and a process. So what has what operating rhythm.
Why do you think that these hyper-growth companies have this all in place?
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah. So why do you think that these hyper-growth companies have this all in place? You say religious in CRM, they cut their, their playbooks. And if you go to companies that may with 20 or 30 million and they are not hypergrowth, but uh, maybe a little bit lower, uh, lower pace, how come they find it difficult in your mind to adopt this same belief.
Marcus Cauchi: I think it's down to the speed of the leader determines the speed of the group. If the leader's not open and has a growth mindset and they fixate on doing what was done to them, or they're afraid to enter into constructive conflict, and they're afraid to appear as if they are micromanaging when they're absolutely not.
If you look at [00:16:00] the leaders of those fast super hypergrowth companies, they have real clarity as to what they're trying to do. If you look at Tom Schodorf's operating rhythm, he has, um, stuff in there to inspire, to guide, to communicate, to review, to coach, to develop, to align, to recognize, to enable, uh, to give feedback, to make sure that top talent is aligned with future needs.
That they're in sync with HR. He understands what the geographic forecast looks like. He understands what the geographic pipeline looks like. He knows where the top deals are. He knows how the general communication is working. He has strategy in place and a playbook, which is constantly reviewed because it may, it may have been fit for purpose, uh, six months ago, but their business is rapidly changing.
They have in place things like approach to improve execution, to [00:17:00] improve morale, to clarify purpose and expectation, to develop employees, to share purpose and expectation. Make sure there is ongoing reinforcement training. There's formal development and career planning and career pathing, identifying current and future recruitment needs in order to ensure that they're staying ahead of the curve and they don't end up in a traffic jam, creating greater clarity in the forecast.
And eliminating gaps, reducing risk, improving their execution and alignment, accelerating revenue, revenue expansion, um, making sure they're aligned with the customer, aligned with the partners, uh, defining their strategy. Now that, that doesn't sound to me like someone who's winging it. Um, it sounds to me like someone who has clarity on why they are there, because their function is to get the best outta their sales team.
Their function is to ensure they are ultimately [00:18:00] accountable for that P and L number, and they understand that once they are accountable, individuals within their team are responsible, and that responsibility is taken incredibly seriously as well. Now what, uh, Tom said was they would have knockdown fights behind closed doors as a management team, and then they would agree a course of action.
Make a decision and then everybody would back it. And part of the problem here, I think is ambiguity at the top, leads to politics at the bottom. So you look at all of these organizations, the ones that really manage to attain a relatively smooth upward tra trajectory. It's never perfectly smooth. But the, a relatively smooth one understand that conflict is essential.
They don't mind having fights and they understand.
Yuri van der Sluis: It depends on what you fight ab it depends on what you fight about.
Marcus Cauchi: Constructive, constructive conflict. It's got to be constructive.
Yuri van der Sluis: It's a, it [00:19:00] says strive for excellence. It's the fights, what the, the best way to approach it. It's not a fight about ego, uh, or, uh, power
Marcus Cauchi: Ego has to be left.
Yuri van der Sluis: No, it's, it's all about purpose and which, uh, direction to go to.
Marcus Cauchi: There's one other critical point.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: Which is everybody from the bottom to the top in the organization is receiving and delivering coaching. So juniors are being coached by people above them. Which allows the more senior salespeople to learn their craft of moving into management.
The ones who don't do the coaching or the mentoring tend to be top producers, but they're not the ones who should move into management. Tom Schodorf and Ryan Longfield and uh, Chris Duddridge and all these guys who are absolutely at the top of their game are receiving coaching. They seek out coaches. They have multiple coaches.
They're not so up themselves that they think that they're the finished article. And when I was [00:20:00] talking to Tom, he was quite emotional about this. He said, I know I'm not the finished article and what I need to know is that I can always get better. And they're always on this road for constant, never ending improvement.
Yuri van der Sluis: This is the growth mindset. Yeah, this is the growth mindset. You cannot have a culture of growth for the rest of your company. You don't embrace it yourself. This is, uh, what, uh, what, uh, true leadership is about. I was thinking just from a more macro perspective, why is it that these, uh, these hyper-growth companies tend to adopt this, this growth culture and to have all this in place?
And usually my playbooks actually cover a large part of it, that there's no confusion about the components that you mentioned earlier. I think it's when you are in hypergrowth, so you got a great product, you got great marketing, and there's a lot of money behind it and finish series C and it's just, okay, now is the time.[00:21:00]
I think they cannot afford not to have a process, otherwise it's complete chaos. So also out of necessity and, uh, the, what the shareholders are expecting, what the, what the leadership is expecting, you have to put it in place. Otherwise, it's pure chaos. You, you just can't manage it. So, um, if you think about it, if you are a company that's about to enter into that stage, or you're trying to seek out that growth, you can still implement all of this.
You don't need the risk of chaos as a driver to then just embrace this type of culture. You can, everybody can still do it today. And this is, I think where more than 80% of sales teams are, are not taking this opportunity. There's too much emotion involved, or who's right, who's wrong. I think they're, they're completely missing out on this opportunity.
Marcus Cauchi: Let me [00:22:00] ask you this. Can you imagine an engineering team or a finance team running the same way that most sales teams are? How quickly would those companies be bankrupt? There's no excuse for it. We claim to be a profession, act like professionals. You need to have these systems and these processes. And it's not about micromanaging a manager's secondary job after hiring the best is getting the best out of your people. Just abdicating, uh, responsibility and saying, well, you know, I've hired, uh, experienced veterans. They're all grownups. Don't wanna interfere, don't wanna get it in their way. That's an act of icy. You look at the military, we're not talking about, I'm particularly thinking about special forces.
If you've got a bunch of conscripts, yeah, you just drill and drill and drill and, uh, you go through that process. But actually in, in special forces, these people need to be team players and interdependent. They need to know that other people in their team [00:23:00] have their back. They are highly trained, highly specialized.
They're constantly training. And you know, one of them is worth 1220, uh, conscripts. And you see the same thing with A players. You know, an, A player is worth anywhere between three and 12 times a B player. And a B player is worth three to 12 times a C player. That could mean an A player is generating 144 times as much as a C player.
But what people focus on is the coverage, making sure that you got warm bodies in the seat rather than recruiting the right people. You know, the rule is better no breath than bad breath. And the problem is that people don't ask the question, is he better than an empty chair? And often the, the answer to that question, sadly is no.
And often the, if you ask that question of managers, the answer is often no as well. We did a research study that came out in spring and it [00:24:00] suggests that only 6% of sales managers are fit for purpose. That means 94% are not. That's a travesty, but it's born out in the results.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: You see 13% of sales teams globally hitting their quota.
Only 44% of individual sales reps in 2019 hit their quota. One in eight first meetings result in a second meeting. If that isn't a red flag that says there is something wrong with the way your salespeople sell, I don't know what is. You look at the conversion rates, 60% of sales cycles end in no decision.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah. It's probably higher now in these times. Yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: Well, certainly the research that came out last year was 60%. Now 40% are left. Of those 74% of those go to the company that has a process that displaces the incumbent [00:25:00] and disrupts the current, uh, the status quo. The other 10 point, whatever it is, 10.4% goes into bid where you have a one in four win rate.
That means, on average, if you are a company that faces bids, you will win one in 38.5 buying cycles. That's a 2.6% conversion rate.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah, and think about the time investment. Wow. That's just,
Marcus Cauchi: Well, think about this there, there is an old proverb in English, which is you cannot polish a third.
Yuri van der Sluis: Okay.
Marcus Cauchi: What you can do is you can roll it in glitter and it'll still look shiny, but it'll stink.
Yeah. And that's what most sales processes are. It's a genuinely devastatingly, depressing state of play, and I hope. If nothing else, people are woken up to the fact that they should go back and look at the actual buying cycle started to convert it, not just the tail end, [00:26:00] because most of you are sinking hidden costs in your buying and your selling process.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: And you are allowing buyers to control your profit and loss account.
Yuri van der Sluis: You touched upon, uh, so many interesting insights, Marcus. Fantastic. And I think what we shouldn't forget that, uh, actually right now, it's a pain process is a pain. CRM is a pain. It's seen as a, as a hygiene factor, and it's boring.
And can we just to do our job? It's, it's, it's, uh, for, for a lot of people, if they think about it, it's not the most sexy thing to think about. However, it can be truly inspiring. There's so many companies I speak with, and then I ask them, what is your elevator pitch? And they, they don't have one because everybody just, uh, has, has their own way of introducing the company or, or even the value proposition.
What is your value proposition? They all say different things and some that do have it, then I ask them, okay, who are you buying [00:27:00] personas in a DMU? Somebody from purchasing or the head of IT or the, the user. How would you describe your value proposition specifically for this audience? And then they, they have to think on their feet because they have not written it out.
Per buying persona. Our part of the DMU, what their value proposition is.
Marcus Cauchi: DMU for people who don't know the, a acronym?
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah, sorry. So decision making unit. So if you would sell to, uh, a 20 K deal or a 50 k deal, uh, it's rarely just one person that decides. There's a, there's a group involved and there there are the usual suspects.
Maybe there are three or four key people with different positions in the company that also decide whether or not to choose for you as, as a vendor, as a great salesperson, you know, you have to include those stakeholders, not only for decision making, but insider the process to understand what are their needs and how [00:28:00] would they evaluate your product or service, and what are their interest.
Obviously, because if you don't include those stakeholders, then you're part of your, your your huge number that doesn't convert. So if you are going to include those stakeholders, what is your value proposition for them specifically? Now, there are only a few companies that actually take the time to think about, okay, what is our value proposition?
Bring the people together. So this is what, what is always included in playbooks, but if you don't have it, then what they do, they just, they just copy paste their messaging to all the people in their entire process. So, you know, you're not resonating as much as as you could, you're losing out.
Marcus Cauchi: Well, to that point, account coverage is a major, major gap.
Our research on this is very clear. If you're selling to companies of fewer than 200 people, then there are typically 3.43 influencers in the buying [00:29:00] decision, and the average coverage is 1.72, and this is across a thousand different respondents.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yep. So there's a gap, yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: Then between 2 and 400, 4.85 influences, and the average coverage is 1.75. Between 400 and 1000, 5.81, and the average coverage is 1.9.
And this is the really telling statistic over a thousand people in the organization that you're selling to. The average number of buying influencers is 6.5, and the coverage by salespeople drops to 1.65. Now, when you consider the cost of pursuit on an enterprise, You could be getting 40, 50, a 100, 250 grand, a million dollars to pursue those opportunities.
And that lack of account coverage is one of the biggest indicators, and it will show up in your playbook that there is a gap there. It'll show up in your CRM, but if your management is [00:30:00] abdicating responsibility, and it's not about command and control, it's about taking responsibility for doing your job well.
Then that will tell you where you need to look. Now I, I'm working with a number of tech companies at the moment, and this is first one of the first areas that we look at, uh, when we look at their pipeline because they don't have that coverage, and then we can see which deals are at risk. Then when we miraculously focus on getting that coverage within the next 90 days, those deals move forward and they start bringing in six and seven, seven figure deals, and it's done in a co, a compressed timeframe.
Uh, because now what they're doing is they're making sure that not only are they lining up all the right people to have the right conversations on both sides, but what they're also doing is making sure that they are tailoring their message specifically for the individuals and their job function and those are archetypes and personas in [00:31:00] order to ensure that it's relevant.
Because the thing that everybody in the company is experiencing is a shared experience of their problem. But how they experience it will be different and the drivers will be different. How they are measured, how they are scrutinized will be different. And this is why you need process systems set you free.
They liberate you because you can be as creative as you like within the system, but you have to have that framework. I spent the first 17 years of my career fighting systems and process cuz I thought somehow immaturely, it constrained me. The reality is when I discovered the thunder system, um, and I had that method to follow, within that I could be as creative as I like.
And it isn't a genuinely creative act to constrain yourself. I did a standup course last summer and the thing that worked when you're writing jokes is constrainted. It's not just rambling off [00:32:00] on one. It's learning how to cut out all the fat and just make sure that you've got the bits that you need to, to do the setup and then the punch.
And the problem is that you, people don't think like that. They think that somehow sales is an art. I disagree fundamentally, it, it is to a large extent a science based on repetition and drill and practice. And that means that you have to have, as part of your playbook, pre-call planning, you need to then rehearse.
My rule of thumb is for every minute you're in front of the prospect, a minimum of three minutes of rehearsal. Now that means you do less activity because you're spending a lot of your time in productive actions in rehearsal and preparation and planning for all the different eventualities. So when you're in front of them, you're not having to think on your feet.
The occasions where you do have to think on your feet because something comes outta left field to hit you on the head. You've got breathing [00:33:00] space and you, what you don't want to do is trigger your lower brain function, uh, because your amygdala gets fired off and suddenly you go into your mid-brain or your erectile brain. You want to stay on purpose.
Managers want to be liked instead of be effective
Marcus Cauchi: And the problem is that most salespeople think that it's okay to do that kind of stuff. It's not, it's absolutely not. And I, I fundamentally believe it is an act of gross misconduct and a horrible offense to turn up to meet the chief executive or the chief financial officer without having done a pre-call plan, without having done your rehearsal time and without doing a post-call debrief. I think that managers are remiss where they are not taking their salespeople to task. And I think it comes down to the fact that managers want to be liked instead of be effective. Your thoughts?
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah, exactly. And maybe they, they are, uh, like you or that they don't like systems and processes because they, [00:34:00] they think in personal, just, you know, your charisma and, and your, uh, you know, it's, it's, it's, it's, uh, you know, it's all about people. And if you like each other, this is when companies buy. Of course, if people like you, it helps.
If they don't like you, they will try to avoid to do business. But of course, but there's so much more.
Marcus Cauchi: They have to trust that you have their best interests at heart.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: And you know what the hell you're doing. If you just turn up and you wing it and you show up and you put your market stall out, and you fire up PowerPoint and you torment them with presentations about your company headquarters and how long you've been in business in the who your investors are and who, which of the, their competitors you do business with, what on earth are you thinking?
No one gives a damn. That's why sitters of your ugly children to strangers.
Yuri van der Sluis: So, uh, uh, so Marcus, you've done standup.
Marcus Cauchi: Well, very badly. I, I, I didn't manage to make the cut for this show, and [00:35:00] the following day, my 13 year old daughter at the time said to me, daddy, a lot of people ask me, do you want to be like your dad?
And I say, no. I said, what do you. Well, I'm funny. And so, um, she's the standup comedian in the family, not me.
Yuri van der Sluis: That that is, that is just great.
Marcus Cauchi: Um, she's, she's being sold into working in the suite now.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah. So maybe it's interesting, uh, to, to just spend time, uh, on, uh, sharing with, with our audience of the feedback that I receive, uh, after implementing these playbooks, because there is always some natural resistance because people are afraid it's, it's control, uh, because there is no system and, and process enough.
Uh, so when you introduce this and salespeople are afraid, they're like, oh, no, it's, it's not against, you know, somebody thoughts of something, So you have to onboard this properly. You have to introduce this [00:36:00] properly. You have to go back to talk about your sales philosophy and, and your purposes. Uh, it's exactly what you mentioned earlier in the beginning of this podcast with, you know, there should not be any am ambi ambiguity.
Marcus Cauchi: Ambiguity.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah. Uh, on, on, on the top because that creates confusion and politics, uh, below. So it has to be clear. Now, it's so nice after implementing these playbooks when you get feedback from, from sales that it's finally clear and original paper and implemented in a process that it also gives some comfort that there is no confusion how to go about this.
And you know, what, what is truly expected from me and, uh, how can I engage? And suddenly you see the seniors when, when, when they change that they can actually contribute to the playbook and suddenly it becomes a, a, a growing, a growing library [00:37:00] of sales insights that they can implement and reuse again.
And now it's something they share. So before it was something personal. You have your products, prices, your systems, and how you sell it. It's, it's up to you personally. You just have to, to meet the company guidelines a little bit. But who cares? But now it's something completely different. And the reason why I all started this, my purpose is I'm coming from, I used to be a salesperson, a manager, and then I became a sales trainer and coach for the past 15 years.
And I realized, That the percentage of people that actually implement whatever is trained is so dramatically low that I thought to myself, okay, I, I'm done with just training without a fundamental, I need to structure, I need to make sure that if, if I walk out the door or close my zoom session now, if, if, because a lot of it is, uh, virtual right now, then, and know that at least everything falls into a, [00:38:00] a structure and a strategy and an approach and a methodology as opposed to just, you know, uh, in the air.
Marcus Cauchi: That's why most training doesn't work. I mean, honestly, you'd be better buying lottery tickets than spending money on most corporate training because first of all, it's not structured. Secondly, uh, even if it is structured, it's not reinforced, which means that there's very little uptake and it's quickly forgotten.
And the other part of the playbook, which you touched on, is that it needs to be built by the people who use it.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: It can't just be imposed. It needs to be something that I evolves organically. And as their market changes, as their customers change, as they grow and they're selling into different types of companies, the playbook needs to evolve and get richer through the input from the lessons from the field, from the lessons customers teach.
Yuri van der Sluis: Exactly.
Marcus Cauchi: And this is the thing that really frustrates me, because I [00:39:00] fundamentally believe that there is corporate deafness. Majority of corporations do not spend anywhere near enough time actually speaking to and listening to their customers. I interviewed a fascinating lady called Amy Brown who runs a, a startups, a scale up company called Authentics, and they specialize in the American health system.
What they do is they use AI to capture the free form conversations in the call centers. So customers are actually telling them what they need to do, how they get frustrated, what they find difficult about dealing with them, the things that they want in the future, the impact that the work that they do is having on their lives.
Now, the problem is that often they companies rely on survey data. Now surveys are terrible for the simple reason that no one fills them out. You get 0.8% response rates. That isn't a representative sample of your customer base. That's a fraction of your customer base, probably either very strong, [00:40:00] uh, views in a positive or a negative light.
And they're people whose time you've just wasted because they've had to call your call center. And then at the end you're asking to waste more of their time by filling out one of these surveys with the dropout rate that's massive. You need to speak to your customers. Marketing absolutely needs to speak to your customers, but marketing very often doesn't.
They operate, operate in a bubble. Senior leadership needs to speak to the customers. Jim Leg at Thycotic has conversations every day with their customers. Tom Showoff has conversations with the customers every day, and what they're doing is they're listening. And I have a managed service provider client, and the c e o, uh, relatively new to the job, has started having conversations with the customers.
And what she's bringing back is golden, absolutely golden. They're finding out what the customers love about them, but also where they need to develop, and also recognizing the gaps in [00:41:00] terms of their offering, but also where they're offering stuff. But the customers had no idea about it because the salespeople were going in and transacting.
They weren't focused on the longer term. The strategy and sales organizations need to remember that customers come to us, the leadership for a safe pair of hands, and if you do your job well, you become a partner. And this comes back to the issue of trust. They don't have to like you, they may get to like you later and you get to play golf with them and you know, be godparents to their kids and go to their weddings and funerals.
But the reality is they have to trust that you have their best interests at heart. They have to have faith in you for them to keep coming back. And there are so many companies out there that have loyal customers who stopped spending and that's a bitter, bitter irony because if you've got customers who love you, but they've just lost faith because you've [00:42:00] deviated cuz you haven't listened to them.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah, that's it. That's a great, great example. I always say there are, there are two main things, uh uh, you need to make sure that the potential buyer can experience from you. That is your integrity and your competence. Because you can have people that have high level of integrity, but they're just not competent.
They don't understand, they don't have the skills or they intellect or. They just can't do it. They're, you can trust them by having the good, good intentions, but they just can't do the job. They got other people, they may be competent, but if they don't have a high level of integrity, maybe their main interest is, is on their own side and maybe they have other customers that they prefer or, or spend their time on.
High level of integrity and a high level of competence
Yuri van der Sluis: So you want those two things. High level of integrity and a high level of competence. And I think this is the trust that that you speak about. I wrote a book about trust. You know, trust me, I'm a salesman. Where a trust [00:43:00] is such an important topic, especially in times of crisis or in times of uncertainty, or when there's so many vendors, so many people, so little time.
Where should this trust comes from?
Marcus Cauchi: This is really important. Earlier on I talked about the 60% of deals ending up in status quo, and the 74% going to, of the remaining 40, uh, going to the company that can disrupt. What they also need to be able to do is demonstrate categorically what the cost of staying stuck will be, so the cost of inaction, but this is the key.
They need to be able to create enough white space, enough difference between what they are offering and the status quo and all the competitors. If they can't create that white space, then the natural inclination for the buyer is to stick with what they've got. And, uh, they need to also to be able to head off the anticipated regret and blame.
So this is where [00:44:00] trust and competence come in because they need to be able to tell the hero's journey story from one of their customers perspectives. And you gotta remember, you are never the hero in any of your sales stories. Your customer is because the minute you make it about yourself, then you get between the prospect and their decision to buy.
But if you make it all about the customer, someone just like them and how they had their initial reservations, they went through some ups and downs, they struggled and, you know, you were in, in peril and then, you know, you managed to find your way out of it. And you as the seller, or you as the vendor organization, were the guide.
So you are the Obi Wan Kenobi or the Yoda to their Luke Skywalker.
Yuri van der Sluis: Nice.
Marcus Cauchi: You have to be able to tell those stories and that's where the playbook can come in. Because the playbook will be filled with these kind of stories.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah. But the right, with the right story, not some shitty story that is, uh, dumped on the website with, uh, [00:45:00] lots of, uh, gen generics that, you know, doesn't,
Marcus Cauchi: And technical information
Yuri van der Sluis: Mean anything.
Marcus Cauchi: Again, I, one of the things I've been doing with my clients is I partner up with a guy called Alex Moscow. He's an old client of mine and he's the best so storyteller that I know to be able to tell the customer's story or, or your story through the customer's voice. And it's incredibly powerful when you compare the case study
that the company originally has. Which is talking about, you know, an implementation of Azure or, uh, office 365 or teams or whatever, versus the story that comes out from the customer and how it affected their ability to collaborate, how it improved their ability to communicate, how it, uh, created transparency within their organization, elevated their ability to perform and deliver to their customer.
That's a very different message, and the problem is that so often marketing collateral is [00:46:00] produced to feed the desires of technical people who can only say no or maybe not the people who can say yes. And the salespeople don't understand that the critical skills in selling, I believe, are planning an organization.
They are listening. Really listening, not only for understanding, but also so that you can then ask questions that deliver insight. You have to be customer-centric. So the customer is front and center of everything that you do, and your mission is what the customer needs and wants, and your purpose is how they want to delivered, and you have to be focused on the long term.
So you cannot be transactional if you want to create lifetime customers who are loyal and keep buying and bring their wealthy friends as customers. Now, if you lack any of those, and also you lack empathy and [00:47:00] compassion, because I think these are things that really important, then you become just a transactional machine and you will be replaced by Siri.
You'll be replaced by the internet because you are irrelevant. Your thoughts?
Yuri van der Sluis: Completely agree. We're touching, uh, uh, upon so many interesting topics here. I like the word empathy that you used, especially if you combine it with the word distance empathy. It's, uh, also something that I mentioned a lot of times because if you do all those things that you mentioned, planning and preparation and asking questions or whatever the needs at wants. I think the, the, the biggest skill as a salesperson from a business empathy standpoint, of course empathy on a personal level, but if you, if you understand, if you can tune in and, and empathize where what a company is going through and what they need to, to make the next step, to create that wide space, as you mentioned earlier, if you can create a [00:48:00] business empathy to, so to replace, uh, to put yourself in the shoes of the customer and not just, and, you know, come with these questions.
Okay, what do you want? And just write it down. And it, it's, it's, you can only challenge. Your, your prospect or your client, you can only increase the number of stakeholders. Uh, you mentioned earlier about the 1.6 and the 1.75. All those statistics, only if you have a high level of business empathy, because if, if, if a client or prospect doesn't feel that you actually understand their business and you can come with such sharp observations and mirror what you see, what you think, what they should need, so you can challenge what they think their own requirements are.
because if you, if you can only follow what, what people say they want, then the only thing you do is you, you become an order taker. But just, you know, an intelligent order taker as a client, you want somebody that doesn't accept the, the, the status quo or the separate requirements [00:49:00] and show how their product fits great in, in what they're looking for.
Now you have to challenge what they're looking for, but not for the sake of challenging. So you need such a deep level of business empathy to come up with these questions because, uh, I know you've seen these statistics as well, you know, Gardner that talks about, I think 70% of the major B2B purchases.
Customers said that their, their actual purchase was difficult because it's difficult, because it's, uh, it becomes increasingly more difficult to, uh, to find internal alignment. So if I'm a, if I'm a salesperson, if I speak to my client, I shouldn't just take those requirements as they're set in stone. It's just one perspective because you know the moment you'll speak to others, there will be slight differences.
If a client feels that you can empathize with their business, [00:50:00] and if a high level of understanding of those requirements and what they actually need, and not only what they're looking for, now you are becoming a, a, a team member to help to, to create this internal alignment. You're a partner. That is what a partner is about.
But this requires a lot from a salesperson.
Marcus Cauchi: It absolutely does, and it requires that you are committed to the, uh, helping your customer, not helping yourself. It requires that you challenge them, and it also requires you to have the vulnerability to say, you know, I don't know. Or with a wrong organization to help you go and speak to our competition.
They're better in this area. That builds your credibility. I think it also points to another factor, uh, which is that most salespeople put the customer on a pedestal and, um, they don't exercise their
Yuri van der Sluis: Right. Yes, sir. To, yes, sir. Yes sir. Absolutely. .
Marcus Cauchi: Um, and you as a seller, do not [00:51:00] conceptually see yourself as they're.
Then you are automatically at a disadvantage. And what you will then do is fail to serve your customer well because you will be, uh, try, you'll be afraid to lose. So you're, uh, most sales organizations that I see are playing not to lose instead of to win. And it gets even more complicated when you are operating in a channel environment.
So I interviewed, uh, my old account exec from 18 years ago, a guy called Graham Waff, who is one of the world's best enterprise salespeople. He's stunningly good. He's just closed a hundred million dollar deal where they were 12 partners. Now that is effectively, uh, a strategic exercise in managing a complex system where all of the moving parts are difficult cuz they're human beings.
Uh, and making sure the right people are having the right conversations at the right time. [00:52:00] But he made himself the ally of the partners by understanding what strategic value they are trying to deliver to their customer and aligning himself with that. Net result of that was he took six to 12 months off the sales cycle because they introduced him to the board, which he would never have got in as an independent vendor.
And the second thing that he did, which was genius, which he created a cheat sheet for the CFO when they were trying to explain why they wanted to go down this road. And, uh, the CFO then came back and said, thank you for the cheat sheet. It made all the difference. And you, this comes back down to this business empathy and I wanna make a distinction between business empathy and buyer empathy. Okay. Business empathy is a good thing. Buyer empathy is a bad thing. Buyer empathy is where you suddenly have a little voice in your head that says, oh, this is a bit expensive. Or, [00:53:00] if it were me, I'd probably want a discount. Or you jump through hoops that don't need to be, uh, that you don't need to. Uh, you start answering unasked questions cuz you think you need to educate them. You don't. You sell today and you educate tomorrow.
You need to earn their loyalty, and you need to earn their faith
Marcus Cauchi: People don't need to know what they're buying, what in, in the deep technical sense. They need to understand that you have a solution to their problems and you need to earn their business. You need to earn their loyalty, and you need to earn their faith. And these are things that we forget because we're so fixated on hitting our own target and transactional selling. And managers putting pressure on people to meet their targets in the short term. And at risk, uh, putting at risk the long-term relationship.
Have another client who's, bear in mind he's 220% of quota. Okay? He's the highest performing salesperson in his territory. And his [00:54:00] boss came to him and said, we've got a problem. Your quote rate is too low. What do you mean my quote rate's too low? He says, well, um, you know, I in line with everybody else, your quote rate is much lower than everybody else, but I'm 220% of the target and ahead of everybody else, and you're asking me to spend my time dishing out quotes when currently I have a 90% conversion rate on the quotes that I send out.
Yeah, but we need you to focus on quotes. I mean, what on God's earth are they thinking? Um, and the other thing that they did in his case, um, was because the rest of the team was behind by 23 million for the quarter. They were being told, do anything you can to bring revenue in this quarter because they're private equity masters. Idiots.
Okay. A more interesting quarterly, uh, result than they are in creating the long term.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: So they were being, they were being told to give 80% [00:55:00] discounts.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah. It's, it's in this, it's terrible. So, so what happens then? You're, you're educating your client that your prices are not your real prices. And it's not about value because if you start dumping your stuff, then value is not the emphasis, but it's uh, your, your low price point and you're educating your client to keep on negotiating.
Cause apparently your prices are, you know, are, are there, there is no, no system behind it. It shows desperation. And if they're not ready to buy this, this, this is one of the, the, the, the,
Marcus Cauchi: And that's the point.
Yuri van der Sluis: You know, so if they're not ready to buy, you dump. So you've done everything. Well now you start dumping.
So when they are ready to buy it, then suddenly you, you, you didn't bring in the revenue earlier. And when they are ripe, when, when they are ready to buy, you just threw away for no reason. All this potential revenue because you've earned it, you've done all your jobs so well,
Marcus Cauchi: Profit, profit, [00:56:00] that's the important thing.
It's profit, it's not just revenue, it's actual profit.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah, yeah.
Marcus Cauchi: Which means that you can spend it. If it was just revenue, you couldn't spend, but you're giving an 80% of profit away.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah. That's so, so, uh, one, one of the jobs, uh, in 2005, I was working for BT Global Services as an international business development manager for large outsourcing deals.
And I know that, uh, in Q3, I think they, they missed some, some revenue. So they had all these, uh, schemes we, we had to follow. And I went to my sales director and said that, you know, I'm not gonna do it. You can find me, but I'm not, I'm not going to do it because in Q1, in Q2, next year, I need my deals and I'm not going to kill my deals to, to right now, you know, I just dump my pricing because I know they're not ready to buy.
I know they're in a pipeline, but it's, it's not, it's not time yet. So I'm not going to hurt my Q1, Q2 and burn all this profit. I'm, I'm not going to do it. You [00:57:00] can fire me, but I, I, I, I refuse. I refuse.
If you had a golden ticket and you could whisper in the ear of the idiot Yuri, age 23, what advice would you give him?
Marcus Cauchi: Yuri, if you had a golden ticket and you could whisper in the ear of the idiot Yuri, age 23, what advice would you give him?
Yuri van der Sluis: I think I'll rema remain an idiot until the, to my last, uh, last breath. But if I, if I would give advice to my 23 year old self, I would say, uh, to trust, to trust, uh, your instinct more, to become an entrepreneur faster. Don't follow the masses. I think, uh, it took a long time for me to choose my own path.
And, uh, even today, it's, it's, uh, as an entrepreneur, uh, as a, as a growing company, decision making is, is is one of the most important things. Uh, if you know you, you're also, for you as a entrepreneur, it's all about autonomy and believing in your own path. [00:58:00] And as a 23 year old, I was uh, looking for affirmation, confirmation.
You know, I, I, I needed a pat on the shoulder that, that I was good. And yeah, you, you, you do it well. And I think we shouldn't be afraid to shine and to be, to be vocal and, and to show and, and, and, uh, to keep our thoughts and to ourselves that you don't want to rock the boat. Now, I did rock the boat plenty of times, but I wish I, I would've done it more, become an entrepreneur faster.
So I, I think this would, uh, be my advice. Trust that whatever it is that you want in life, it's for you. It's fine to make, uh, mistakes and don't hold back.
Marcus Cauchi: Absolutely. And again, you know, failure is your best teacher. And I think the part of the problem there is how people conceive of failure because they see it as a personality defect [00:59:00] instead of an opportunity to grow and learn.
And I think if you're not failing frequently and you're not failing fast, then chances are you're not growing. And this is why I see so many people who are veteran salespeople who really haven't evolved because they haven't taken the risks, they've played it safe not to lose rather than to win.
Yuri van der Sluis: So I have a mantra right now because I'm, as an entrepreneur I'm launching all these new playbook services and it, it's still a relative new thing.
Uh, sales playbooks is becoming more and more popular, uh, and hiring people and onboarding new clients. Uh, I will say, okay, as a young company, we have to screw up forward. We're moving forward. You stumble forward. There is no such thing as, as perfection, but we shouldn't stop executing either. So you have to screw up forward.
So as long as you move forward, it's fine. You just move forward and learn. O obviously, you know, you, you shouldn't make, uh, [01:00:00] mistakes o the same mistakes over and over again, but screw up forward. So that is our mantra right now as, as we're growing.
What are you watching and reading, listening to at the moment that you think is really good?
Marcus Cauchi: Excellent. So, Yuri, what are you watching and reading, listening to at the moment that you think is really good?
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah, so I, I listen to a lot of different, uh, podcasts. Actually brian Burns, uh, from the, the Brutal Truth, uh, I follow as well, but a book I'm reading right now, I actually really like it. It's called The Selling Is Hard, Buying is Harder. Uh, it's by Garren Hess. He's the owner of Consensus Software. It's a great book because it touches upon such a so, so many things that are, that are relevant right now. And I like the idea, selling is hard, but buying is harder because it, it puts the entire mindset and focus of the salesperson from a buyer's perspective. And, and, and I think, you know, it's all about alignment and, and putting yourself in the shoes of your buyer.
So I lo I love this book. It's not, uh, wildly known. I think he's published it a [01:01:00] few months ago, but look it up. Garin Hess Selling Is Hard, Buying Is Harder.
Marcus Cauchi: It's on my reading list now. You might want to look at the work by a guy called John McTigue around, uh, bio journey mapping, which is really interesting.
That's a fascinating, and McTigue's, M C T I G U E.
What are you struggling with? What are you wrestling with at the moment?
Marcus Cauchi: What are you struggling with? What are you wrestling with at the moment?
Yuri van der Sluis: Right now I have customized my promise to my clients. As you can see here in the back, uh, we, we customize sales playbooks completely for our clients. That means that everything is fully, fully customized.
And, and I love customization because that's where irrelevance is the highest.
Marcus Cauchi: However, and is, sorry, just very quickly, is it customized just to the vendor or is it customized for the customer as well?
Yuri van der Sluis: So for my client, for, so for the vendor, so, so I make their, their entire playbooks completely customized because it's their product, [01:02:00] their, their markets, their dynamics, their average deal size, uh, their competitive landscape.
So everything is unique, but because everything is so unique, it means that it is not easy to standardize my own processes. So it means it's, uh, it's a lot of work. I like it because it's gives a lot of purpose and a lot of satisfaction to do, to finally deliver these playbooks and get it implemented because I, I, I, I love the fact it has so much value.
So I, I, I think it's truly inspiring. Otherwise, I wouldn't launch this proposition, this company. But the biggest challenge is to standardize myself. So the moment I've scaled up enough, uh, this is the moment I will put in more, more templates and more replica ability, repeatability in, in my own proposition, but I'm not at that stage yet.
So I, I find, so that's my biggest [01:03:00] struggle that I, it takes a lot of effort right now to deliver the value, and I don't mind, but I know that from a business standpoint, I need to standardize my company if I want to reach the next stage.
Marcus Cauchi: Excellent. So again, eating our own dog food here. Yeah. You know, having systems and processes in place that can be replicated.
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah, absolutely.
Marcus Cauchi: Valuable lesson there. Okay.
How can people get a hold of you?
Marcus Cauchi: How can people get a hold of you?
Yuri van der Sluis: Yeah, so you can go to salesplaybook.pro or on my LinkedIn profile, Yuri van der Sluis Reno Sluis so people can link with me, you can find on Amazon. Trust me, I'm a Salesman. Uh, but most importantly around playbooks, uh, go to salesplaybook.pro, and, uh, I will be very interested to, uh, to see how I can help a listener or anybody that wants to, uh, wants to brainstorm or learn more about playbooks.
Marcus Cauchi: Excellent. So Yuri, thank you so much. Really appreciate your being on today.
Yuri van der Sluis: Thank you [01:04:00] for having me on on your podcast. I really enjoyed it. Uh, Marcus.
Marcus Cauchi: Me too. So this is Marcus Cauchi signing off from the Inquisitor Podcast. If you would like to be a guest or you know someone who would be a guest, then please email me at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
And if you've enjoyed this podcast, then please like, comment, share, and subscribe, and the subscribe is important because then you'll get notified whenever we, uh, produce a new one. In the meantime, stay safe and happy selling. Bye-bye.