This is our interview with Chris Beall, CEO at ConnectAndSell. You can follow ConnectAndSell at @ConnectAndSell.
Sales Assembly: Give us your quick background in sales.
Chris: I briefly sold door-to-door in the heat of the Phoenix summer about 4 decades ago, and quickly came to the conclusion that the approach I was trained to use didn't make sense. So I broke the sales process into 3 steps (selling a future meeting based on personalized product research, doing the promised research, then returning to present the results), and did very well, very fast. Shortly thereafter, I got a software engineering/support job at NCR and quickly realized that my best work was being wasted because of reluctant or incompetent sales - so I found myself getting involved in making presentations and closing deals. Most of my next 30 years were spent in software startups in technical leadership roles that always morphed into go-to-market strategy and deal design and execution, eventually taking over the sales and marketing function (along with business development, strategy and corporate development, all of which have elements of sales) - interspersed with gigs heading up product innovation, which has its own sales flavor). Eventually, I joined ConnectAndSell in 2011 as Chief Product Officer - my first job with a company explicitly in the sales technology space - which required a level of immersion into sales process and technique that went beyond my previous experience as a "practitioner of necessity," which continues to this day in my role as CEO.
Sales Assembly: What's your biggest accomplishment in sales or sales leadership?
Chris: I count the Fuller Brush experience as my greatest success in sales - even more so than designing and executing a 9 figure OEM deal with the world largest ERP company - because it was pure sales, commission-only, door-to-door, from a standing start; and because I had literally zero sales experience. I still rely on the "double tap" design that focuses on bringing value to the prospect regardless of whether we are going to do any commercial business together, and believe deeply that a sincere intention to help someone is at the heart of sales success. It's easy stuff to say from the position of an expert or consultant, but much harder when you are alone knocking on doors while it's 110 degrees outside, and you have neither sales experience nor product knowledge. Turning more than 90% of those doors into deals is still the hardest thing I have done in my career, and the one where I learned the most.
Sales Assembly: What's the best piece of sales advice you ever got?
Chris: "Never let a lawyer get involved until you have a signed agreement on business terms." From Barbara Mowry, former Chairman of the Board, Federal Reserve Bank, Kansas City.
Sales Assembly: What's the biggest challenge facing a sales rep today, and how would you recommend they overcome it?
Chris: The biggest challenge is having enough conversations to learn the truth about their target market and to fill their pipeline. How to overcome it? Use the available technology to have 10 times more conversations.
Sales Assembly: Do you currently have a mentor when it comes to sales, or have you ever? If so, what did they teach you?
Chris: Shawn McLaren, Founder and Executive Chairman of ConnectAndSell. It's always about the person you're speaking to, not the company they work for.
Sales Assembly: What's the best sales book you've ever read? What are you reading now?
Chris: Best sales book I've ever read is Sales EQ by Jeb Blount. Right now, I'm reading Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss.
Sales Assembly: Best sales or business related books, articles, podcasts or newsletters?
Chris: The Sales House by Andy Paul. The Sales Blog by Anthony Iannarino.
Sales Assembly: What's the best advice you'd give to someone just starting a career in sales?
Chris: Master the art of the cold call.
Sales Assembly: Do you see any interesting future trends as it pertains to sales?
Chris: With the resurgence of the human element and its importance to B2B salespeople, there are two important factors:
- The B2B buyer is rationally more conservative than the B2C buyer for a simple reason: their career is fundamentally at risk.
- Neither digital sales technologies nor the techniques that depend on them are sufficient to build the trust that is needed by the buyer to overcome the buyer's reluctance to make a bad move (the core reason why "no decision" dominates B2B sales outcomes). The buyer must come to trust the seller more than he trusts himself - at least with regard to this decision - and building that trust depends on the human element, which must somehow be brought to bear in a increasingly noisy world where short attention spans and continuous distractions rule the day.
Sales Assembly: In B2B sales, who do you lose the most deals to and why?
Chris: You lose the most deals to no decision, and the reason is that you fail to get the prospect to trust you with the decision more than they trust themselves.