Episode 29: Carole Mahoney
Buyer First Revolution: Shifting Sales Mindsets with Carole Mahoney
In this episode, host Jack Hubbard brings you actionable insights from Carol Mahoney, author of "Buyer First: Grow Your Business with Collaborative Selling." Listen and delve into the transformative Buyer First mindset, emphasizing active listening, collaboration, and buyer-focused language to elevate sales strategies. Carol shares insights from research studies, tackles effective hiring processes, and offers actionable tips on crafting compelling messages to break through the noise.
Whether you're a seasoned sales professional or a business owner seeking growth, this episode promises practical takeaways to transform your sales approach and achieve success. Tune in and join the conversation that's shaping the future of successful sales strategies.
Jack Hubbard 00:01
I've had the privilege of being in and around banking for more than 50 years. Lots of changes during that time. We've gone from Ledger's to laptops, typewriters to technology. One thing, however, remains the same. Banking is a people business. And I'll be talking with those people that make banking great here on Jack Rants With Modern bankers.
Welcome to Jack Rants With Modern Bankers brought to you by RelPro, and Vertical IQ. Each week I feature top voices in financial services from bankers and consultants, to best selling authors and many more. The goal of this program is simple, to provide insights, success practices and to bring new ideas to the table that you can use to maximize your results.
My guest today is Carol Mahoney, author of The great book Buyer First: Grow Your Business with Collaborative Selling. Carol studied Marketing and Business Management at Franklin Pierce University. Carol is an entrepreneur and her core, having owned several successful firms and serving as a senior executive and others. She's a sales coach at the prestigious Harvard Business School and Chair of Emblaze in Greater Boston. Carol's book is outstanding, you need to get yourself a copy.
It's Carol Mahoney on Jack Rants with Modern Bankers. Here we go. As I always like to do when I start out on this show, is to ask you about something good. Tell me something good, Carol.
Carole Mahoney 01:43
Something good. My birthday is in a couple of weeks. And normally when my birthday comes up, it's usually just this depressing time of year like I live in Southern Maine, all of the leaves have fallen. There's nothing pretty to look at. It's just cold and windy but I'm actually looking forward to this year because I'm going to be 49 which means you know, we're headed towards the Big 50, and you know, one of my major goals before I turned 50 was that I was going to publish my book. And I'm actually just kind of realizing this now that I've actually been able to do the one thing that I wanted to do since I was 12 years old. And so this birthday, I'm looking forward to it because I'm not being nagged by that thing that I haven't done yet. So it's a pretty good feeling.
Jack Hubbard 02:22
And you live in Southern Maine, northern New Hampshire area. And I find a lot of authors, Stephen King lives up there and Jody Bucholtz, in that area, who writes a lot of great books. I'm curious, you mentioned that you live kind of on a dirt road and a lot of woods and things like that. I'm curious if that helped you being able to get away from people and be in nature, how did that help you when you were writing this book, because it's not an easy thing to do.
Carole Mahoney 01:43
It's not an easy thing to do, and, and being outside is just I think in my DNA, it's why I live in Southern Maine in the you know, I have a little lake, in the mountains on a dirt road with wildlife preserves all around me. And I'm actually a fan of something that's called Space switching, which in psychology is creating a separate space for certain tasks to get you kind of in the mood and the mood for that particular thing. And so when I started earnestly writing my book, I started it during the pandemic. And in the wintertime, I had chosen a space upstairs that was near the sun so that I could be outside. But then in the spring, in the summer, my husband actually built me what we call the what she shed writing shack down by our beach with just a little gazebo and a little bench and table that I could sit there and write. And just being able to not be able to connect it to the internet, just having the water and kind of peacefulness around me really helped me to be able to focus on who this book was for and you know what it was that I was hoping to help people with. So it really did help me to focus on things and I often found that when I would get stuck, right, like we've all had that writer's block or that wall that we've had, like, I've had days where I would sit down, I'm like, Alright, I have 1000 words I want to write today and I got five. And that’s five because I edited something.
And so when those days and those times I often found myself doing it instead of just sitting there and stewing in it, I would get up, take the dog for like a 15 or 20 minute walk. And by the time I came back, whatever I was stuck on I had some way to move forward on it and so having that dedicated space forward especially being outside and not connected to the internet and then being able to just go outside and walk in nature, you know, calm the nervous system down. It had such a great effect on me that it's actually something I've worked on in my everyday schedule now. So every 90 minutes or so I take 15 minutes, take the dog for you know we call the bio break walk for the dog and it also helps me to clear my head and reset for whatever the next set of tasks are going to be.
And I've just found that I'm way more productive and less burnt out by the end of the day because I'm not usually talking all day, whether it's in coaching or training or interviews, my poor husband, by the end of the day, I would come he would come home and I'm like, [inaudible] now I like I have some energy, I can actually ask him about his day and feel like a normal human being. So just setting up those little breaks throughout the day and being able to be outside. There's another thing called grounding, where you're actually barefoot outside. You know, some people believe that that takes the negative ions out of your body. And so I've tried it out and tested it, and it does help to kind of reset things. So those are things I'm grateful for.
Jack Hubbard 05:35
Interesting. And you know, you're a young author, a brand new author. You know, I wrote a book a long time ago, best seller. And, you know, every author does this a little bit differently. I've heard, I've interviewed a lot of best selling authors on the show, Larry Levine, Tom Morris, a great author, Phil Simon, who's written a number of books. And everybody does this a little bit differently. I'm curious, you mentioned the gazebo down by the lake, which is a beautiful setting. Curious, do you write words? Do you use a computer? Some people say I do this for 15 minutes? And then I quit? You mentioned 1000 words? What's the methodology? How did you go about doing this?
Carole Mahoney 06:21
So first, I started with how many words do I like, you know, overall, I was aiming for 45,000 words for the book and ended up with 74,000. But that's another part of your story. And so I knew if I wanted 45,000 words, and I had certain for me, I needed deadlines. If I don't have a deadline, then I'm going to keep pushing it off and procrastinating. So I have a deadline with my publisher. And then with that deadline, I'm like, okay, so if I've got 90 days to finish this draft, I've got 30,000 words, that means X number of words that I need to be able to get out every day. And if I'm going to write five to six days a week, that means this many words per day, on average. So that at least gave me a benchmark to know that I was on the right track. So that was number one.
Number two was I actually, I've been trying to write this book for 12 years, stopped and started, you know, doubted, and all of these other things. And so the way to combat that, for me, was actually joining a writing group, having a writing coach, that kind of helped me get unstuck with those things, and give me some perspective. But then also, having every day twice a day, 9am and 4pm, we had writing groups, where we would all get together on Zoom and sit down and write shout out to AJ Harper and the top three book workshop because if it weren't for them, I wouldn't be standing here talking to you about this. And so having a group of people that held me accountable that also coached me through some of those harder spots was also a major part of my process, and actually is still a part of my process, I still go to those writing sprints, because I still have marketing copy that I need to write and other things and trainings and keynotes.
And then I think the other part of my process was he is having the dedicated time, but I also had a morning routine that set me up to put me in the headspace to be able to have to write so you know, getting up with the sun, having some quiet time for an hour with a dog with coffee, meditation, doing some yoga, doing some exercise to get the blood pumping, and then being able to sit down and write in that dedicated space, like whether it was in the corner of my living room on the couch or in the what she shoved down by the lake, I had a clear sense of mind and purpose had the rest of my day scheduled out.
Now it didn't always go according to plan. Sometimes life would happen. Sometimes client calls became urgent and they needed to break into that time. But having a plan and being flexible with that plan, I think was the thing that helped me to manage the stress levels of how am I going to get all of this done in time and what happens when you hit a wall. So that was my process. And it worked so well for the book that I've actually started incorporating that into all of the other content that I'm creating.
Jack Hubbard 08:50
That's great. And, and I find that to be true too. When you write a book, you've got so much content and you can kind of convert that over into helping people with whether it's one on one coaching which I know you do, or or some classroom training, etc. Well, let's go back to the book. I was fascinated. I thank you for sending me an autographed copy. The thing that struck me first y'all need to hear this. Carol Mahoney's innovative research based methods will revolutionize the way you think about sales that was written by Daniel Pink. Daniel Pink, for those of you who don't know, is one of the great authors, business authors of our time. And he's written a number of books, including what was the book he wrote? That was your inspiration, Carol? To sell as human –a great, great book. I'm curious that that's just a wonderful, wonderful endorsement. I guess. You mentioned you started this thing 12 years ago. What's the inspiration for this whole thing? How did this all get started?
Carole Mahoney 09:57
Honestly, when I started my business the honestly This was the book that I wish that someone was able to hand to me 20 years ago when I first started my business and it didn't exist. And it still didn't exist until I put it out there. And the inspiration was, as a small business owner, as someone who has to sell, it just wasn't the same as selling in a company I'd worked in, you know, sales organizations and companies, I'd had my experience with that. And I thought I knew enough about it that I would be able to figure out a way through it. But also, I hated the idea of sales. I hated the pushy, slimy sleazy sales tactics, you know, the aggressiveness of the sales people that I worked with. The back, you know, backstabbing and cutting whatever it took to close the deal, I wanted nothing to do with that. Plus, I had my own history growing up with a salesperson in my house and a role model. And I wanted to be able to grow my business without ever having to make a cold call without ever having to have like, you know, one of those uncomfortable sales conversations.
And what really happened is I just ended up avoiding it until I couldn't anymore because I couldn't pay my bills. And I wanted to, I wanted to understand why is it that all of the tips and all of the tricks and all of the hacks that we get in all of the books, why doesn't work for me the way it seems to be working for everyone else? Everyone else seems to be doing great with these, everybody's, you know, ranting and raving about these techniques and tactics, that doesn't seem to be working for me and I don't know what it is that I'm doing wrong.
What I didn't realize at the time was that it was my own beliefs about sales and mindsets towards the activities of sales that were getting in my way of either doing them at all, or doing them in a way that was effective to build trust with buyers, and didn't make me feel like that pushy, slimy, sleazy salesperson. And when the pandemic happened, I started to see the stats that were coming out about the number of people that were getting laid off, and the number of people from those that were starting their own businesses, and it reminded me of when I got laid off from my corporate job in 2007, 2008, you know, the beginning of the end of the crash of the markets for the great recession. And I thought, oh, my gosh, we're in the same place again, you know, 10 plus years later, and what's gonna happen is the same thing that I went through is that all of these people after a year of trying to run their own business, they're gonna go, Okay, do I have what it takes to do this? Or do I need to get a job? And so I wanted to make sure that this book that I wish I had 20 years ago is now available for those people who are in the same place that I was then.
Jack Hubbard 12:22
It is. It's outstanding. And to your point, you're now able to take a lot of what you have written here and to help a lot of people. Your focus is founders, startups, small businesses, you make it into the medium sized space, but mostly in that entrepreneurial kind of space. And you're a canary in the coal mine for us, and in a lot of ways because everybody's looking forward and saying, Well, what's going to happen? Going forward? What are you seeing with your small businesses, Carol? How are they doing? How are they feeling? Where do they see the next several months going?
Carole Mahoney 13:01
A lot of the small businesses that I'm working with are coming to me. Some of the things that I'm hearing them say is, I've got five proposals out, and I haven't heard a word from any of them. They're ghosting me, things are taking so much longer. You know, there's harder questions being asked about return on investment, people are fearful right now of risk, they feel not so much that yes, where things could be better. The status quo isn't that great right now. But what they're really afraid of is that they're going to make an investment in something and not get the return the results that they're looking for.
You know, for example, the other day, I was talking with a small business owner who's thinking that he needs to hire his first salesperson, because he's reached a point of growth that he can't grow anymore, he only has so much time in the day that he can do the selling, he also doesn't really enjoy doing the selling. And he's tried to hire a salesperson three times before, and it hasn't worked out. And so now he's like, alright, if more of me grows the business, I need to hire a salesperson. But I've made that mistake three times before. And right now I'm just afraid of making the wrong choice. That's the thing that I'm hearing over and over again, I'm afraid of making the wrong choice, because it hasn't worked out in the past.
And the other thing I'm also hearing from them is, everybody you know, everybody, your lead generation is down, it's harder to get people's attention. And then if you do get their attention, it's taking longer for those things to happen. And for some of the clients that I have been working with, the way that they've been able to get through that is having a better sales conversation where, you know, they're able to increase their close rate and their average order size, because they're building that trust. There's they're seen as a collaborative partner with them. And so they're able to close more business for more dollars, but it's the ones who are afraid of making the investment in their own skills or their team skills.
Those are the ones that I'm actually a little fearful for because if you don't make smart investments, and you just kind of hold on to things and wait for it to happen when the wave of growth comes you're going to be way far out, you know a mile from the shore and not going to be able to capitalize on that forward momentum. So it's trying to get them past that fearfulness of making the wrong decision and examining the impact that a decision is going to have. That's where I find that the biggest struggle is right now.
Jack Hubbard 15:16
I agree with that. And, you know, most of the people that I talk to on this show are entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, there's single people, single owners that, you know, do it all. I'm just curious. And I, you know, I have a routine around this as well. I'm curious, how do you do this? You write a book, you sell, you coach, you do sales training, you've got to do invoicing? And oh, by the way, you need to spend some time with your family. How do you make this all work?
Carole Mahoney 15:48
When I went back to college, in 2003, I was a single mom, I was working two jobs, I was helping helping to take care of a grant my grandmother who had gone through two knee surgeries, and my mother at one point asked me, she's like you're burning the candle at both ends, you can't keep this up. So I don't know, I've broken the candle and holding it in each hand. And both of those ends are burning right now. And I just looked at her, I was like, what would you have me stop doing because if I can't stop going to college, if I ever hope to be able to provide for my children in a meaningful way, you know, obviously can't stop being a mom, someone needs to take care of Nana. And so for me, I became really, really good at time management, in terms of blocking time for certain tasks and being really disciplined about how I am going to use that particular time.
Being prepared for things in general, like, you know, simple things like the night before picking out your clothes, making sure that everything is ready to go in the morning for the kids so that you're not running around and scrambled kind of owning that morning routine, so that the rest of the day is more productive. That's something that I think I learned and adopted then just for survival. But that's kind of carried me through now. I'm on my website, there's a blog, that's called how I work and get blank done. And I kind of go through the whole process of it, where every week I look at what are my you know, every year I have my goals, but then I break those down into quarterly sort of milestones. And then I take those quarterly, and I break it down into monthly and weekly, and then daily activities. So that everything that I'm doing is working towards that ultimate goal, so that I know whether I can say yes to something or notice something if it doesn't, if it lines or doesn't align with those goals.
The other thing I learned the hard way, was to absolutely take time off, like I used to work weekends, I would be up all night. I stopped doing that when I realized that I wasn't being more effective. I was just driving myself crazy. And my family was suffering, my other relationships were suffering. And so one of the things that I've learned is actually taking time off, protecting your weekends, not checking your email, not doing the you know, the kind of busy work that you would normally be doing and prepping for the week. Spending time with family and loved ones actually made me more productive during the week than if I had tried to work through the weekend. Now they're, of course, when I was writing the book, and there were times where I would use that time to do focus work and you know, writing, things like that, that was more creative work that I like to do. But by being able to take that time off, I was giving myself the headspace to not feel like I was constantly running myself ragged.
I think that you know the time management piece, the discipline, owning the morning routine and taking time off. That's the only way that I'm able to do anything. Now. That's not to say that some things don't fall through the cracks. And I do hire help like a virtual assistant having a marketing assistant, a bookkeeper, a lawyer and accountant. You know, I've also gotten a lot better at asking for help and delegating those things that are things that someone else can do that I either don't enjoy doing, or aren't going to get me closer to my goals, but still need to get done.
Jack Hubbard 18:54
Wow! That's outstanding. And that's a mind shift. And that really leads to my next question. That buyer first you talk about in the book quite a lot. One of the things I really love about it is that it's a mindset change. So talk about that a little bit, and how someone changed their mindset around putting the buyer first.
Carole Mahoney 19:16
So I wanted to talk about the mindset shift that needs to happen to be a buyer first, because again, tips, tricks, hacks, we have plenty of those. But what we're not talking about is why we spend $70 billion a year in the sales industry, according to Harvard Business Review on sales, training and technology $70 billion a year. This is what I think in 2017 that we first come up with this number, so I'm sure it's different now, but only what barely 50% of salespeople are making quota year after year. After five years, you know, the rate of small businesses failing is still way too high.
And so obviously, the tips and the tricks and the activities are not the answer. And what I found was that it's actually how we're executing on those things, not just what we're doing that is actually the thing that's making them ineffective. And in my work with coaching salespeople, we Harvard Business, all of those other places, I kept coming up against this, isn't this what a salesperson is supposed to do? Statement. You know, aren't they supposed to, you know, give the value proposition, the pitch and then ask for the business? If I ask too many questions, don't they're gonna, are they gonna think that they I don't know what I'm talking about? How am I going to make my number if I'm collaborative with my buyer?
So it was like, all of these beliefs that were getting in people's way of doing the things that they know that they should do, and probably could do but in the moments that they were in a conversation with their buyer weren't doing, we're forgetting we're chickening out or, you know, somehow rationalizing in their mind why it wasn't going to work. And to shift our mindsets to be by your first it was, it's really all about our intent. And in sales, it's always been about what you do, I'm going to sell you on this, I'm going to persuade you, I'm going to motivate you or influence you or convince you that this is the right thing for you to do. And it was always about us about what we wanted about the solution that we wanted to sell about what we thought. And when I started doing the research on, you know, what is it that buyers actually wanted it? Because that was the other question I kept hearing is, you know, it's kind of like that movie what women want? What's going on in the head of our buyer? What do our buyers actually value? Because they're not responding to us anymore. They're ignoring our emails, they're ignoring our messaging.
And so that's when I started digging into the psychology of it. And when I learned that buyers want salespeople who can actively listen to them, who can ask collaborative questions that make them think differently about their problems. I'm like, okay, seems simple enough. But when your mindset is, I'm going to persuade you on this, I'm going to do this to you. It doesn't facilitate active listening. And it doesn't facilitate asking questions to come up with collaborative solutions. And as I started digging into performance data on salespeople, one of the things that I found was that of the top salespeople, the thing that most of them had in common were certain mindsets. It wasn't skill sets, it was mindsets that allowed them to adapt to whatever changing environments were happening. And that's the one thing we see happening today, rapid change. And so that's why I think mindsets are what we need to talk about in sales in order to shift the dynamic.
The other thing was, as I was digging into the research, I came across two psychological theories, one called the Theory of reasoned action and plan and the other plan behavior, how we think about a particular activity, and what we think is normal will dictate how we do that particular thing, or if we'll even do it at all. And so psychologists have known this for years, but for some reason, in sales, we've never considered how we think what we do becomes the results that we get.
Jack Hubbard 22:47
Just fascinating. Well, you've gone down this research path, and I want to talk to you about that. But one of the things I like about this book is that you've really put your your own person into this book, you reveal some things into this in this book about your personal life that I like, and I commend you for that you tell stories about when you're riding in the car with your children, and a number of other things that I won't reveal, because you got to buy this book to kind of kind of see it but one of the things I do like and you've talked about research, is that this book is as as Dan Pink says, Based on research, which is great. What are some of the research studies that you looked at? And what were some aha moments that you found when you looked at some of those studies?
Carole Mahoney 23:38
Well, one that I just mentioned, was the theory of reasoned action and plan behavior. When I read Daniel Pink's book to sell as human, and I've probably read it several times I've listened to it, it kind of embedded in my brain. And, you know, he talked about the negative perception that pervades around sales. And, you talked a little bit about why that happens and the thing that was stuck in my mind was okay, but I know we can change our mindsets. I know we can change people's minds all the time. How do we change our mindsets around sales? What's involved with that? And then what would happen if we did? And so I really wanted to dig into how we start shifting our mindsets around sales so that we can relate better to our buyers and we can have better results without the pushy, slimy sleaziness.
So that was the first study. And then I started looking into objective management groups data where they have like 2.3 million data points on sales performance over the last 30 years across countries across industries, the most comprehensive set of data. And as I started digging into some analysis on that, one of the questions that came up for me was in my coaching of sales managers, as we've all heard the phrase as goes the manager, so goes the team. And I thought, okay, we see that we know that it's true from observation, but why is that happening? Like what is the dynamic between manager and salesperson that's causing this to happen. And when I dug into the data, what I found was that when managers had certain beliefs and mindsets about sales, they were more likely to pass it on to their team.
So if they had negative beliefs and mindsets around sales, they were 355% more likely to pass it on to their team, because their teams had the same mindsets and beliefs. And this was the thing that was interesting, though, is that when they had positive beliefs, around sales, about the beliefs of sales, their team was 1,000% more likely to have positive beliefs. And of course, they outperform those that didn't, by a huge margin. And that was a big aha moment for me, one, because there were so few managers that had that. But the impact of a different mindset on their team's performance was 1,000%. I thought, okay, there's, there's something more in all of this.
And then I started digging into it. Alright, so that's how we can help salespeople to change their mindsets. But what are the mindsets that are most important for us to change to put our buyers front and center because the other thing I kept finding with the coaching I was doing with salespeople was they were always making it all about them, you know, their quota, the end of the month, their products, their services, all of their messaging was me, we, I, our talking all about themselves. And then you know, wondering why nobody was interested in talking to them. And I kept repeating, it's not about you, they don't care what you think, they don't care what you want, they care what they think they want. And so then I started digging into some of the psychology around that. And I came across LinkedIn.
This is actually kind of the inspiration for the title of the book. LinkedIn did a survey in 2021, and 2020 called buyer first, and they surveyed B2B buyers and asked, What's the number one trait that you value most in salespeople? The number one trait was active listening, they asked that same question of hiring managers. And the number one trait that they looked for was not active listening. Actually, that was the last trait that hiring managers looked for. And I'm like, Okay, there's a big discrepancy there. And so then I started to say, Okay, if active listening is one of the traits that people value most in salespeople, what's getting in the way of that?
And that's when I started digging into the impact that emotional involvement has on our ability to stay present in the moment and then actively listen, because you can't be actively listening to someone if you're caught up in your own head thinking about what you're going to say next? Or how you're going to answer that objection, or worried about the next objection that they're going to give, or as one salesperson told me once, cashing their commission check in their mind already. And so I started then digging into what are the other mindsets and beliefs that are getting in their way of being able to engage with their buyers in meaningful ways. And I went back into the OMG data and started digging into that, and found that over time, again, the top salespeople were the ones that had certain mindsets in common. And it wasn't necessarily about skill sets, because skill sets can be learned. If you have the right mindset.
Jack Hubbard 27:53
Interesting. You, you talked about the hiring manager, what you do on a daily basis, helping solopreneurs and startups and small businesses. So I'm a small business. I gotta hire a salesperson. I think it starts there. I have a phrase that I like to say that I learned from a great banker in North Carolina. He said, You can teach a turkey to climb a tree, but it's better to hire a squirrel. And often what happens is we hire someone that's fogging a mirror because we look at their resume and we see all the kinds of stuff that they've sold. We don't know how. So let's tear this onion apart a little bit and go right to the hiring manager. What can I do? And your book, by the way, is not about that but it does start there. What are things that you're advising your clients to do in terms of hiring better salespeople? Because it starts there.
Carole Mahoney 29:01
It does. So the first myths, I'll talk about the first mistakes that I see people making when they're trying to hire their first salesperson. One is hiring a friend or someone they know, no, no, no. You know that the old saying, never hire a friend in your business, if you want to keep them as a friend. There's a reason for that. Also, because it is inviting even more biases to come into play. Right? We make our decisions about people by the way that they look within milliseconds. And so one of the mistakes that I see sales, hiring managers make is that when they find a resume, or they say they put out the ad, we'll go there in a minute. And then they get on a video interview with that person. They have already committed offenses within the first few seconds of that because as soon as they see them, they've made their decision, good or bad.
And so the process that I actually invite people to take is first let's start with the ad. Most people when they post an ad, it's actually a job description. It starts with all about the company where XYZ company we're growing. We're awesome, we're wonderful, you want to come and work for us all about me, me, me again. And then there's a bullet list of all of the duties and tasks that you want them to do, and then followed by some types of benefits. Now, the problem with this is you can take that job description or add and swap out the company name, and you wouldn't be able to tell the difference from one to the other, because they all look and sound the same. And so you're not exactly putting out an ad that's going to attract the right person.
So what I actually have people do is decide first, what is the role criteria? What does someone who's in this role need to be successful? At what price points do they need to sell it? What type of environment do they need to be comfortable selling? In? What kind of company do you have? What kind of people are they going to be talking to on a daily basis? There're 34 different data backed questions that we asked to create what I call the ideal selling profile. Those then role specifications are what we use to write the ad. And we write the ad in the phrases of you are someone who, and then we describe the person who's comfortable doing these things, and working with these types of people in these types of environments. So that we're attracting the people who are seeing the ad and going, Oh, my gosh, that's me, that sounds exactly like me, I'm someone who has sold to these types of people before and I'm comfortable with these kinds of situations. And then we start getting more qualified candidates to begin with, because we've started with objective criteria. Then what I do, again, I use Objective management groups, hiring assessments, to then have someone take a questionnaire to dig into what are their beliefs and their mindsets around sales and the skill sets they have? And how does it line up with the criteria of the role of someone who's going to be successful here.
Now, it's not a judgment of whether you're a good person, salesperson or a bad salesperson, it's just are you the best salesperson for this role in this company, with this buyer within this environment, and it reduces the biases that we all have about, you know, gender diversity inclusion, it takes away that ability for us to make snap judgments when we've seen someone on video. And then we go into a hiring process that's very much based on using the data in the hiring process, we do a phone screen, where it's not on video, it is only on phone, so we can only hear the person's voice. And then we decide from that, you know, based on the assessment and the phone screens, we move them through the next part of the interview process.
And, you know, I do training on this process for companies. And one company that I started doing this with, when we started getting into reviewing resumes, I asked him, how many of you have actually been trained on how to review a resume? No one? Absolutely not even the HR people had been trained on how to read resumes, which I found scary. And then I said, Okay, so what are the criteria that you look for in a resume? Everyone had a different answer and how they used that information. So we go through and teach a standardized process that uses scoring, and metrics and matrixes to make our decisions more based on data than gut feeling. Because that's what happens when a lot of people try to hire salespeople either.
They don't want to deal with it. And so they're like, look, they're a salesperson, I'm going to pay them on commission. If it doesn't work out, then there's no loss there, because I haven't had to pay for anything that they didn't do. But there's still a cost involved in the cost and lost revenue cost in relationships with your clients and buyers cost in the relationships internally with your organization cost in what they're going to leave on the Glassdoor review when they leave your company and you try to hire someone else later on it. And you know, there are a lot of hidden costs in there that people don't take into account. And for a startup, or a small business owner, a bad sales hire will cost you around a funding, if not more.
Jack Hubbard 33:42
For sure. No doubt about it. And it puts your company back years and years. You don't even realize it. And that's why it’s such a critical person. Well, alright, let's play this forward. So if you hire me, and that you want me to do some prospecting and then it's cluttered out there. But Deb Calvert did a study around 400. Folks, I think you did spend a year you were involved in a study with less people around messaging, talk to me about messaging and how we get through in this whole cluttered environment of people getting so much bombarding them every day.
Carole Mahoney 34:23
Yeah. So Deb Calvert, and her co authors in her book stop selling start leading, did a survey of I think it was actually like 500 or so b2b buyers, and ask them questions to understand again, that question like LinkedIn, it asked, you know, you know, what is it that you value in a salesperson? What about the interaction in the exchange do you find valuable? And what they found is that salespeople who are able to help buyers think differently about their problems, add insights and collaborate with them to come up with solutions were the ones that those buyers found that they wanted to engage with, which also lines up with some other research and studies that I've done
So I also surveyed my own, you know, subset of B2B buyers, I'm sorry, B2B buyers and asked them, you know, what their experiences were like we did, you know, qualitative interviews. And what I found was that they were seeing the same things, the experiences that they liked, were people who met them where they were, understood them their business, their challenges before they got on the phone and didn't ask questions like, so tell me about your role in your company? And then also people who ask them questions that got them to think differently, that they hadn't considered these things before, when they had done their research about the problem. And collaborated with them, you know, you met them where they found different solutions to help them with their unique situation.
The other thing is that there was a study done by Harvard Business Review, I think it was 2012. That was called the IKEA effect. Now, if you're familiar with IKEA, you know, it's the home goods store where you put together your own furniture type thing. And they wanted to understand the dynamic of why people were willing to put together and pay money to put together their own furniture, and in some cases, pay more than they would for something that was already put together for them. And what they found is that when people had a say in what was being created, or took part and put sweat equity into something that was being created for them, they placed more value on it, and they were willing to pay more for it.
And all of this is what kind of led me to talk about investigating messaging that was collaborative questions that were collaborative, and using messaging frameworks that took the answers from that collaborative conversation, and then positioned it so that they were buyer first focused in the messaging. So first, talking about messaging. One of the things that I have an exercise I do in the book for people is called the “we, we”factor. How often are you using “we, me, I, Our” in your freezing when you're talking all about yourself. And then compare that to how many times you're using buyer focused language “you yours, because that means” so that it helps the buyers tie what they're going through to the solution that you offer.
Most people don't do this. And in fact, the ratios are opposite of what they should be. They talk about themselves three times as much as they talk about their buyers, and what's important to them. And more data even shows that talking about yourself is going to turn people off. So if we can get our buyers to start talking a little bit more about themselves, that's when we start to truly build collaboration. A couple of other studies that kind of go along with this collaborative conversation framework is when you look at messaging and how messaging and collaboration impacts our buyers brains.
One of the things that was a Stanford University study that was done that examined what happens when people ask open ended collaborative questions, clarification questions where you dig deeper into something. And they found that when someone is asking those types of questions, it helps them to understand the other person better. So we still understand our buyers better with this type of conversation messaging but it also showed that buyers also understood more about something else as well. So they actually started to change their minds about something through this type of questioning, you've probably seen it happen when someone asks you a really good question. And all of a sudden, you're like, Oh, I hadn't thought of that that way before. That makes me take a different perspective on what I was thinking.
In addition to that Harvard also did a MRI study, so a magnetic imaging resonance imaging of our brains, and found that when people were answering these types of clarification questions, it lit up the part of their brain where dopamine was released, which is also the same part in our brains, where we build trust bond and relationships. So by asking collaborative, open ended buyer focused types of questions, we are actually not only helping buyers to see things differently, we're building trust with them.
And so looking at your language verse to audit is how much am I talking about me and myself and my company and my solution? versus how much am I talking about them both in conversations and in written messages, but then also looking at so many of us ask questions, and it's a yes or no. And it either allows us to go down one path or another path. Now there's different types of questions for different types of scenarios. But when you're first talking with your buyers to understand their situation, their challenges, how they see it, the impact that it has on those open ended questions are the things that are going to help you to understand them better, and vice versa. So it's amazing how powerful these things are. But it's also amazing how quickly or easily people don't do them all because of the mindsets that get in their way.
Jack Hubbard 39:39
That's right. And you've got several examples, very specific examples around messaging that I really liked here. Let's take this down another level and we've got a couple of more minutes here but so I want to hire a great salesperson, okay. I want to help them with messaging. Okay, I do that. Now. I'm a business owner. And my role is to be a visionary and do the books and you know, make sure everything is done and maybe do some selling myself, whatever. I haven't been taught to be a coach, I find the coaching in banking is still abysmal. After the billions of dollars we've spent on sales, leadership training, I don't have time or you know, well, they'll hire adults, we've heard this all. Yeah. How do you get a solopreneur? Who has maybe a couple of employees here, we're here, and hire them first. How do you get them to behaviorally coach people to get them that salesperson to the next level of success?
Carole Mahoney 40:43
First, it's to help them to understand what coaching really is about and what management is about, actually a conversation that I had with the individual who had hired three salespeople before it didn't work out. You know, one of the things that he also shared with me was, I don't want to be a sales manager, like I work with these tech companies, and I see what their sales managers are like, and I want nothing to do with that because their style of coaching is, when's the deal going to come in? When's the deal gonna come in? But why haven't you done this yet. And it's more about a deal review, and what you're going to get the outcome that you're going to get out of it than it is actually helping them work through the process of the conversation that they need to have.
And what's interesting is that this same business owner is like, look, I love coaching my team, helping them to, you know, get to the next level in their skill set, asking them questions to think differently. I'm like, Well, that's what a sales manager is supposed to be. That's what coaching is supposed to be. It's not about you telling someone what they should be doing. It's actually again, back to the questions, asking questions, to help them become aware of the things that are getting in their way, and devising strategies that they're going to implement to start working through those. It's in the questions that you ask as a coach that makes you a good coach, not in the things that you tell them to do.
There's a different dynamic there. And there's a mindset shift that needs to happen with coaching as well. Where if, for example, if you're a business owner, and in your mind, you can't let a single deal Get lost you everything that has to go that comes in needs to be one. Now if you go into your coaching with that mindset, then you're going to become that typical sales manager. When's it going to close? Why haven't you done this yet? You know, this should have closed yesterday. And then you create an environment where you're putting more pressure on your salesperson, which is then causing them to become emotionally involved in the deal. And that's when they're scrambling in their heads. Oh, my God, I can't let this deal close, I have to answer this objection the right way, or my boss is going to kill me and I'm gonna get fired. And now they're not able to actively listen. And now we're causing the very problems in our salespeople that we're looking to solve.
Jack Hubbard 42:42
That’s a great, that's a great catch. Before I let you go, you're extremely well read, you're extremely well written. And you get a lot of great ideas in your head. But you also probably get a lot of ideas from other people who are authors or podcasters, or people on LinkedIn that you follow that maybe the audience should know about.
Carole Mahoney 43:03
So one reason why I was actually on and now I'm kind of addicted to the podcast itself is Luke Layman's podcast called Shift Work. And like me, he's a bit of a brain science and research nerd. But he really talks a lot about our different biases and brain science, how it impacts us in our entrepreneurial journey. So I actually just listened to his episode, I think 87 about risk. Because again, that's the thing that I'm seeing is how people are calculating risk in these times right now is going to impact their ability to grow their businesses. So I've started digging into that. I actually just started reading a book from one of my favorite authors, who is Robin Drake. He actually wrote the book, the code of trust, which I cite in my book, but he's also come up with another book recently called sizing people up. And you know, how do you read body language? How do you get to understand people based on the nonverbal cues and things like that that they're giving you? So that's another one that I'm following.
You mentioned Dan Pink. I'm also reading his book right now, the power of regret, which I'm happy to say, like kind of why that good thing I started off in the beginning. I'm not regretting the fact that I finally finished reading my book before I'm 50. And then, you know, two more books that are heavy on my mind. One is Laurie Richardson's book, if you're not following her, definitely do. So. You know, we're recording this in October, which is women in sales month. She wrote a book called She Sells that is actually written for men who are trying to figure out how to get more women onto my sales team. And she offers some really great insights and tips and also talks a little bit about the biases that are in play and the mindsets that are in play that are getting in people's way of that. I'm reading so many books right now.
The last one that I'll mention, which isn't out yet, but it's coming out that I absolutely love is called the negativity fast by Anthony Annarino. t's unlike any of the other books that he's written. And the reason that I'm loving this book so much is that I talk about the impact of a negative mindset in our sales abilities, but it goes far beyond even just our sales abilities. And that, you know, things like how negativity breeds not only, you know, disease within us and stress within us, but how it affects everybody around us as a whole. And how we can start to take some small steps to start reducing the amount of negativity in our life. Like, for example, during the pandemic, I was one of those people that I was listening to, you know, the six o'clock news on TV every night as I was making dinner, and all it did was just make me spiral even more. And so my husband was like, you just need to stop watching the news. I'm like, You're right, I do. And when I stopped doing that, suddenly, my negative spirals stopped as well. So it's a lot of that type of work that I think people really need today.
Jack Hubbard 45:47
I think it's a good point, you know, we used to, at dinner, we would watch the news or one of the channels and it's just like the world is crashing around us. And then, and then we look at our lives and we say, I think things are pretty good. So we've started listening to music at dinner, and it really makes a huge, huge difference. I heard a phrase once. I heard that people that can't sell teach people that can't teach, write. That's not true. In any case, for you, Carol Mahoney, you've written a tremendous book. And according to what I hear from my good friend and partner, Brynne Tillman, you're a phenomenal teacher, and a great salesperson. So you've done it all. And I hope to see you next time when you write your next book. I hope it isn't 12 more years from now. But I'll see you soon. Thank you very much for being with me, Carol. I appreciate it. All the best with the book.
Carole Mahoney 46:44
Thank you so much, Jack. Thanks for having me. Can't wait to talk with you again when the next one is out.
Jack Hubbard 46:50
Thanks for listening to this episode of Jack Rants With Modern Bankers with my guest, Caroe Mahoney. This and every program is brought to you by our great friends at RelPro and Vertical IQ. Join us next time for more special guests bringing you marketing, sales and leadership insights and ideas that will provide your bank or credit union with that competitive edge you need to succeed in 2023 and beyond.
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