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March 19, 2024

Hustling with heart: The art of selling through authentic connection

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Imagine you’re at a party, and someone you’ve never met approaches you. They share their name, ask yours in return, and before you’re even done speaking they launch into a big spiel about how great they are and why you should be friends with them. After that, would you want to continue the conversation? Probably not.

Modern sales have devolved into the professional equivalent of this scenario. You read a piece of content, visit a website, or interact with a post, and suddenly you have a salesperson calling you up, offering a hard sell before they even know what your needs are. This isn’t how humans form relationships, so why conduct business this way?

This week on Catalyst, Chris and Gina discuss why the best salespeople are those who recognize that trust and genuine connections are the key to successful partnerships. Check out the highlights below, then dive into the full episode to learn more.

Maintain a customer-centric approach

One size does not fit all in fashion or in sales. If you’re trying to make every one of your prospects fit into the same shoe rather than hunting in the stockroom to find their size, then you aren’t likely to close the deal. Successful selling isn’t about listing the attributes of your product and hoping customers buy into it. It’s about understanding your customers’ needs and demonstrating how your product meets them. Remember, you’re matching the shoe to the customer, not the customer to the shoe. Focus on understanding the client's needs and providing tailored solutions rather than pushing predefined offerings.

Achieve alignment

How do you do this successfully? By grasping that sales is not just about closing deals but is instead about aligning your ideas with others’ plans. When dealing with clients, partners, or even colleagues, you need to put time and effort into understanding their motivations and needs. Search for common ground to ensure you’re starting out with the right footing.

Build relationships and genuine connections

Customers can tell when you don’t really care. Great salespeople invest in building genuine relationships that convey that you are interested in more than just closing deals. The best salespeople are skilled listeners who prioritize the needs and problems of their clients and work towards solutions rather than chasing dollar signs.

Engage early

Early engagement of practitioners in the sales process helps to ensure continuity, trust building, and a clear understanding of client needs from the beginning. This integration can lead to smoother transitions from sales to delivery and ultimately better outcomes for the client.

Collaborate often

Successful salespeople collaborate with colleagues and view success as a collective effort rather than individual achievement. The sum of the whole is greater than its parts, and bringing in others to maximize customer value is a lot more fruitful than under-serving for the sake of hitting individual targets.

Provide value without pressure

There’s a reason the pushy car salesman is such a popular, unpleasant trope. No one likes it. Effective sales involve providing value and solutions to the client's problems without applying undue pressure. It's about genuinely helping and providing useful information rather than pushing for a sale.

Learn and adapt continuously

Of course, not every effort is going to lead to success. Sometimes, regardless of how much effort you put into it, the answer ends up being ‘no.’ Don’t let this deter you ― there’s a lot to be learned from these setbacks. If you get hung up on stagnation and inflexibility, these become major roadblocks on the path to success. Instead, treat each setback as an opportunity for continuous learning and adaptation. What could you do better next time? Sales is an ever-moving target. You have to follow its ebbs and flows to achieve continuous success.

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Catalyst wherever you get your podcasts. We release a new episode every Tuesday, jam-packed with expert advice and actionable insights for creating digital experiences that move millions.

sources
Podcast
March 19, 2024

Hustling with heart: The art of selling through authentic connection

Imagine you’re at a party, and someone you’ve never met approaches you. They share their name, ask yours in return, and before you’re even done speaking they launch into a big spiel about how great they are and why you should be friends with them. After that, would you want to continue the conversation? Probably not.

Modern sales have devolved into the professional equivalent of this scenario. You read a piece of content, visit a website, or interact with a post, and suddenly you have a salesperson calling you up, offering a hard sell before they even know what your needs are. This isn’t how humans form relationships, so why conduct business this way?

This week on Catalyst, Chris and Gina discuss why the best salespeople are those who recognize that trust and genuine connections are the key to successful partnerships. Check out the highlights below, then dive into the full episode to learn more.

Maintain a customer-centric approach

One size does not fit all in fashion or in sales. If you’re trying to make every one of your prospects fit into the same shoe rather than hunting in the stockroom to find their size, then you aren’t likely to close the deal. Successful selling isn’t about listing the attributes of your product and hoping customers buy into it. It’s about understanding your customers’ needs and demonstrating how your product meets them. Remember, you’re matching the shoe to the customer, not the customer to the shoe. Focus on understanding the client's needs and providing tailored solutions rather than pushing predefined offerings.

Achieve alignment

How do you do this successfully? By grasping that sales is not just about closing deals but is instead about aligning your ideas with others’ plans. When dealing with clients, partners, or even colleagues, you need to put time and effort into understanding their motivations and needs. Search for common ground to ensure you’re starting out with the right footing.

Build relationships and genuine connections

Customers can tell when you don’t really care. Great salespeople invest in building genuine relationships that convey that you are interested in more than just closing deals. The best salespeople are skilled listeners who prioritize the needs and problems of their clients and work towards solutions rather than chasing dollar signs.

Engage early

Early engagement of practitioners in the sales process helps to ensure continuity, trust building, and a clear understanding of client needs from the beginning. This integration can lead to smoother transitions from sales to delivery and ultimately better outcomes for the client.

Collaborate often

Successful salespeople collaborate with colleagues and view success as a collective effort rather than individual achievement. The sum of the whole is greater than its parts, and bringing in others to maximize customer value is a lot more fruitful than under-serving for the sake of hitting individual targets.

Provide value without pressure

There’s a reason the pushy car salesman is such a popular, unpleasant trope. No one likes it. Effective sales involve providing value and solutions to the client's problems without applying undue pressure. It's about genuinely helping and providing useful information rather than pushing for a sale.

Learn and adapt continuously

Of course, not every effort is going to lead to success. Sometimes, regardless of how much effort you put into it, the answer ends up being ‘no.’ Don’t let this deter you ― there’s a lot to be learned from these setbacks. If you get hung up on stagnation and inflexibility, these become major roadblocks on the path to success. Instead, treat each setback as an opportunity for continuous learning and adaptation. What could you do better next time? Sales is an ever-moving target. You have to follow its ebbs and flows to achieve continuous success.

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Catalyst wherever you get your podcasts. We release a new episode every Tuesday, jam-packed with expert advice and actionable insights for creating digital experiences that move millions.

sources

Podcast
March 19, 2024
Ep.
425

Hustling with heart: The art of selling through authentic connection

0:00
38:36
https://rss.art19.com/episodes/12daaf5b-bd55-4e9c-9b0e-3cee53f7fb8a.mp3

Imagine you’re at a party, and someone you’ve never met approaches you. They share their name, ask yours in return, and before you’re even done speaking they launch into a big spiel about how great they are and why you should be friends with them. After that, would you want to continue the conversation? Probably not.

Modern sales have devolved into the professional equivalent of this scenario. You read a piece of content, visit a website, or interact with a post, and suddenly you have a salesperson calling you up, offering a hard sell before they even know what your needs are. This isn’t how humans form relationships, so why conduct business this way?

This week on Catalyst, Chris and Gina discuss why the best salespeople are those who recognize that trust and genuine connections are the key to successful partnerships. Check out the highlights below, then dive into the full episode to learn more.

Maintain a customer-centric approach

One size does not fit all in fashion or in sales. If you’re trying to make every one of your prospects fit into the same shoe rather than hunting in the stockroom to find their size, then you aren’t likely to close the deal. Successful selling isn’t about listing the attributes of your product and hoping customers buy into it. It’s about understanding your customers’ needs and demonstrating how your product meets them. Remember, you’re matching the shoe to the customer, not the customer to the shoe. Focus on understanding the client's needs and providing tailored solutions rather than pushing predefined offerings.

Achieve alignment

How do you do this successfully? By grasping that sales is not just about closing deals but is instead about aligning your ideas with others’ plans. When dealing with clients, partners, or even colleagues, you need to put time and effort into understanding their motivations and needs. Search for common ground to ensure you’re starting out with the right footing.

Build relationships and genuine connections

Customers can tell when you don’t really care. Great salespeople invest in building genuine relationships that convey that you are interested in more than just closing deals. The best salespeople are skilled listeners who prioritize the needs and problems of their clients and work towards solutions rather than chasing dollar signs.

Engage early

Early engagement of practitioners in the sales process helps to ensure continuity, trust building, and a clear understanding of client needs from the beginning. This integration can lead to smoother transitions from sales to delivery and ultimately better outcomes for the client.

Collaborate often

Successful salespeople collaborate with colleagues and view success as a collective effort rather than individual achievement. The sum of the whole is greater than its parts, and bringing in others to maximize customer value is a lot more fruitful than under-serving for the sake of hitting individual targets.

Provide value without pressure

There’s a reason the pushy car salesman is such a popular, unpleasant trope. No one likes it. Effective sales involve providing value and solutions to the client's problems without applying undue pressure. It's about genuinely helping and providing useful information rather than pushing for a sale.

Learn and adapt continuously

Of course, not every effort is going to lead to success. Sometimes, regardless of how much effort you put into it, the answer ends up being ‘no.’ Don’t let this deter you ― there’s a lot to be learned from these setbacks. If you get hung up on stagnation and inflexibility, these become major roadblocks on the path to success. Instead, treat each setback as an opportunity for continuous learning and adaptation. What could you do better next time? Sales is an ever-moving target. You have to follow its ebbs and flows to achieve continuous success.

As always, don’t forget to subscribe to Catalyst wherever you get your podcasts. We release a new episode every Tuesday, jam-packed with expert advice and actionable insights for creating digital experiences that move millions.

sources

Episode hosts & guests

Gina Trapani

VP, Product Innovation
Launch by NTT DATA
View profile

Chris LoSacco

VP, Product Innovation
Launch by NTT DATA
View profile

Episode transcript

Gina Trapani: When I think of a salesperson, I think of the person who, like, has the contract and kind of slides it across the table...

Chris LoSacco: Right. 

Gina: ...And is like, what if I threw in the floor mats?

Chris: Are you ready to sign?

Gina: What do we got to do to close this deal today?

Chris: Yeah. Right. Right.

(CATALYST INTRO MUSIC)

Gina: Hello world, and welcome to Catalyst, the Launch by NTT Data podcast. Launch is a new branded capability by NTT Data, and we help our clients strategize, ship and scale great digital products and platforms. And I'm Gina Trapani, I lead the product practice here at Launch, and I'm joined, as always, by my business partner, Chris LoSacco. Hey, Chris.

Chris: Hey, Gina.

Gina: How's it going?

Chris: Great. Excited to chat with you today. We've got a great topic and things are going well at Launch.

Gina: Yeah, things are going. Launch is launching.

Chris: Launch is launching.

Gina: It's real. It really, it really is. It's been a ride so far.

Chris: It has been a ride. Up and down, and sideways and left and right, and...

Gina: (Laughs) 

Chris: But we have our feet under us, and we are gearing up for a lot of exciting things in the first part of this calendar year. So I'm excited.

Gina: Yeah.

Chris: There's a lot going on that's really great.

Gina: We've been working on kind of getting our org... There's some changes in our org. We have a new leader, Tammy Soares, who's amazing.

Chris: She's been on the show. 

Gina: Who is... she's been on the show, and we've been kind of putting together Launch 2.0. We've been shaping the organization in a way that's going to help our clients the best. And I've been thinking a lot about... You know, I think when you're in a big, bigger organization that has scale, the kind of scale that we have now at Launch... 

Chris: Yeah. 

Gina: There's this general kind of split of the org, between sales and delivery. Right? 

Chris: Yes.

Gina: When you're in a smaller company, like, you know, when I founded my startup, and even when we were running a smaller boutique, there was, there wasn't this clear line between sales and delivery, right? But once you reach scale, at least in terms of org chart and title, there's this split between sales and delivery. And I've been thinking a lot about... I think it makes a lot of sense, right?

Chris: Sure.

Gina: Because you want more clarity about your roles.

Chris: That's right. 

Gina: And you have a lot more specialists who have specific responsibilities, right? I think in smaller situations, you have people who wear, like, a lot of different hats, you know? But I've been thinking a lot about sales and delivery. Because... I've just been thinking, just a lot about sales. And my career. And this big, really, shift, like mindset shift I had to make. There was a moment where... You know, I always imagined myself to be a builder, to be a maker. 

Chris: A hundred percent.

Gina: To be the person who practices a particular craft.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: You know, I was headphones on, and I was writing code, I was writing prose. And it was like, the idea was like, you know, I'm going to make the thing.

Chris: I'm making the thing. 

Gina: Making the thing. And then it's on the business to make sure that, you know, the people who use the thing, use the thing. And... (Laughing) Over time, and this happened pretty quickly, especially when I founded my first startup, I was like, oh, if you build it, they will come. (Laughs) Is...

Chris: That doesn't hold true.

Gina: This is, I'm quoting Kim Curley now, that only worked once in one good movie. (Laughs) That is not true in reality. 

Chris: Yes.

Gina: In reality. And so I've been thinking a lot, you know, we're on the delivery side, we run practices inside Launch, of people who are building software for our clients, who are shipping things, you know, week over week. And... I actually think that practitioners and the delivery side, they also "sell."

Chris: Yes.

Gina: And I'm like, I'm doing air quotes. I know our listeners can't see this, but I'm making air quotes. Because I say "sell." They're communicating the value of the work. They're showing the value of the work. They're building momentum. Their influencing our stakeholders and their customers, right? They're finding a way to get to their customers. And that... That is actually what sales is. 

Chris: That's great sales. Yeah.

Gina: It's great sales. And so, I've kind of come to this conclusion, even though there are some really amazing salespeople, like, the best salespeople, and I actually want to talk about what some of the best salespeople do, the people who do identify as sales. I also think that there are amazing salespeople who do not identify as sales.

Chris: That's right.

Gina: They're actually on the delivery side. They are the craftspeople.

Chris: Hundred percent. I also think we should acknowledge, when you hear the word salesperson, a certain image pops into your head, right? Like, you imagine that you walk on to the used car lot or something, and somebody walks up, and they're like, hey, what are you looking for today? What can I get you? Let me show you our inventory. And it's very, like... It's aggressive, it's in-your-face, it's pressure. Like... At least for me, I have all of these, like, negative associations...

Gina: Right.

Chris: ...With feeling like, no, don't sell to me, please.

Gina: Yes.

Chris: Like, if I want something, like, let me go figure out what I need, you know?

Gina: Yes.

Chris: Don't push things in my face that you want to sell, but are not really what I'm after. And, you know, the best salespeople, in a, again, what I'll call, like, a pure sales mode are really oriented around, what does the customer need? But a lot of times it just doesn't play out that way. It doesn't feel good. It feels like something is being pushed upon me.

Gina: Someone's trying to get something out of me.

Chris: Right. And it's so, like, viscerally negative. 

Gina: Yes.

Chris: That it's a bad experience. And so, I think when people hear the word sales, like, that's what... At least for me, and I think for a lot of people, that's what comes to mind. It's like, oh, that's bad. Sales is a bad thing.

Gina: Yes.

Chris: But the reality is, sales does not have to be that way. Sales can be customer-oriented, needs-oriented. It doesn't have to be pushy. It doesn't have to be in-your-face. It doesn't even have to be with the intention of closing a deal. Like, sometimes you're just having a conversation to say, let me see if I can help you. And if I can't, that's okay. So there are all these other ways that you can sell, that... They aren't in the dictionary definition of, how do you act when you are a salesperson? But they are incredibly effective, and just much more pleasant. On both sides, frankly. Like, it doesn't feel good when you're trying to, you know, get something in someone's hands that they don't actually need or want.

Gina: Yes. That's right. I mean, look, this is the thing. Like, you feel this way because we're sold to all day. Prior to this recording, I was going through my email inbox, and I just get cold emailed...

Chris: Oh my God.

Gina: By people who just want, you know, to schedule 30 minutes. Cold pitches. 

Chris: All the time.

Gina: People I've never heard of offering services that I don't even understand what they are. They want my time, which is literally my most precious resource. Like, it feels like... Oh, and I'm annoyed that I'm even spending time deleting and unsubscribing from their emails, which are clearly often automated. 

Chris: Right.

Gina: So, you feel sold to, it feels icky, right? But I... You know, Bill McDermott, who wrote this book, he's, I think he's a CEO of ServiceNow now.

Chris: Oh yes. Yeah.

Gina: He's had a long career, and he wrote this book, and I got to meet him at, like, a corporate event. And he has this great line, which is that great salespeople are givers, not takers.

Chris: I love that.

Gina: They want to solve a problem for their customer.

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: One of my other favorite books in the world is Dale Carnegie's book, How to Make Friends and Influence People. Now, the title, How to Make Friends and Influence People.

Chris: (Laughs)

Gina: It sounds like this selfish, agenda-driven, how do I brainwash people into doing what I want them to do? Right?

Chris: Right.

Gina: But the reason why I love the book so much is because the thesis of the book is that you actually have to care. 

Chris: Right. Be interested. Yeah.

Gina: About other people. You have to be interested, and genuinely curious, about the other person's situation. Their life, their pain, their joy, their goals, their kids. Like, you have to care. You have to actually care about other people. And so I love it because it's such a great, like, jiu jitsu move that the title makes it sound like this, you know, incredibly seedy, you know, thing where you're trying to, you know, socially engineer other people, and then the thesis is like, you have to actually care and be curious and be empathetic.

Chris: Care about people, right.

Gina: And see what you can give. 

Chris: Yes.

Gina: See what you can give.

Chris: Well, and that book has had tremendous, like, lasting power too, right?

Gina: I mean, it has.

Chris: It's still relevant now, decades later.

Gina: Yes. Yes.

Chris: But yeah. I mean, this idea that when you go into the room, you also have to check, a little bit, your motivations. Like, it is really about the person across the table. And you have to get in their shoes. And really, you do have to get curious and understand what they're after. Because maybe the thing that you thought you wanted to put in front of them is not actually what they need, right?

Gina: Right.

Chris: In our business, this is absolutely critical because there are some companies where it is like, we have, you know, the six things that you can buy from us. And when I come to meet with you, I'm going to give you one of those six things, right? You need a big Salesforce installation, or you need SAP or you need Oracle or whatever. And it's like, I have the menu, and you're going to pick from the menu. And what I think Launch does differently, and what we do differently, is, we don't come in with a menu. Right? We do have some things that have worked in the past and that we can build on, but that's not the point. The point is, we build custom platforms, so we really want to hear, what are the unique challenges that are in front of you, and how do we make sure we really understand those, to decide if we can help you build or implement a system that's going to address those challenges? And if we can't, or if there's a better way to do it, we're going to send you somewhere else.

Gina: Yeah. 

Chris: Because we don't want to just push something on you that is not actually what's helpful. What you really are after.

Gina: Right. Because if you're pushing something out... And there's another part about sales I think is so important, is that relationships and trust are so important. People do business with people that they like and trust.

Chris: Yes. 

Gina: Right? So if you feel like, I'm getting sold to and being pushed, you know, someone's just pushing their agenda on me, just trying to sell me a box that has stuff in it that I don't think I need, and they're not actually listening to me. You know, all they're doing is talking about how great what's inside the box is, right? That ruins any... You know, there are times when we send prospects to other... We say, you know what? You'd be better off with another kind of shop. Or a freelancer. Or you'd be better off doing this in-house. 

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: Or, you should do this off-the-shelf solution, and you actually don't need us to build it.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: I feel great about those outcomes, and there have been times when we've given that advice and the person has said, wow, thank you. And then, you know, a couple of years down the road, they're in a new job, they have a different situation, and they come back. Because they're like, you know what? You gave me good, honest advice. That was about what I needed and not about what you needed. So like, I'm coming back to you now. 

Chris: Right. 

Gina: I was on a call this week with a, with a client that was in just a world of pain. Their system died. Like, just went down. There was like, data got corrupted, fiber cables were cut. It was like a terrible situation where they were just, like, dead in the water. S

Chris: Oh my God. Yikes.

Gina: Something just wasn't working.

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: And it was someone we had worked with, you know, years ago. And she was in a new job. And she called us and she said, please, can I, can we talk? I need your help. And so, we got on the call and she said, we're dead in the water. My customers are upset. Everyone's freaking out. We need help. Can you help us? And I had this minute where I was like, going to start with the whole spiel. We can help you. We've got this. Here's what we're going to do. But I stopped myself and just went, can you just tell us a little bit more about what happened? Right. Because...

Chris: Yeah. 

Gina: Because I didn't understand entirely what happened, and I didn't really understand the shape of it. Because I did want to help. I mean, this is the other thing. I think great salespeople are inherently helpers. Like, they, again, they want to give... 

Chris: Genuinely, yeah. 

Gina: There's a sense of service.

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: Right? 

Chris: Yes. There... And so I was like, can you tell me a little bit more? So listening and asking questions. And really getting a full understanding before you reach up on the shelf and grab the box, and be like, here's a box I think that can help you.

Chris: Yeah, right.

Gina: I think is a really big, important part of that. And I think that that is a practitioner's mindset, right? Like, I think that, you know, our designers or product managers or engineers would start there too, right? Because they're not going to start, you know, implementing before they fully understand what's going on. And that's why I think, like, to have, you know, practitioners, makers, the people who are building the thing, in these conversations is so important, right? Because their only metric for success isn't, did I close this deal and when, and how big is it? And when do we think it's going to land, right? And, look, those are all metrics that a good sales team has to track, and wait, you know, to forecast the business and to see... 

Chris: Right. Understand what's ahead, and, yes.

Gina: We're all, you know, capitalism. We all need to make money. (Laughs) 

Chris: Right. 

Gina: I'm not saying, I'm not discounting that. But I think that, this idea that separating sales and delivery... And I also want to say, like, great delivery, doing something really well for a customer, increases the chance tenfold that that customer is going to come back to you.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: And continue working with you, or bring you on to a new project, or take them with you to their next job. And so, when we talk about, you know, kind of sales and delivery, I've had folks in the delivery group say, well, you know, sales, they're not shaping deals that, like, are good for us. And, well, you know, sales set this up. And it's like, okay, yes, sales is shaping our deals. They're putting together our contracts. But also, like, you're with a client, you're in their house. You know, it's not just about sales bringing in new business. You are selling. Every day that you show up with a client, everything that you say, every interaction, everything that you deliver or don't deliver, or the way you manage expectations or don't, that is influencing and selling and building credibility or trust or degrading it. 

Chris: Or not. 

Gina: Right. Or not.

Chris: You're either taking a couple steps forward or a couple steps back with every single interaction. Yeah.

Gina: Right. That's right.

Chris: When you said sales is shaping the deals, that made me think of another thing that I think relates back to practitioners, right? Which is, sometimes it is the practitioners who are in the room as part of that sales process who actually do have an outsized influence to define what it is we're going to do. What it is we are actually quote-unquote selling. But the selling part is just defining the solution. Defining, like... Here's what we think you need, and here's what's going to make a difference for your business. Make an impact for the, you know, problem you're trying to solve. And that shaping exercise, like, practitioners are really, really good at that. I'm thinking specifically about our product managers, our designers, our agile folks who are really good early on. Like, that is sales. And I think, through another lens, it doesn't look like sales. It looks like, oh, you're just starting the work.

Gina: Right.

Chris: You know? You're in the room with the client, you're doing discovery. You're saying, tell us about your challenges. Where is your current system falling down? How are you not able to go fast enough or check off the, you know, key goals that you had for this quarter or whatever the, you know, core question on the table is. And then you start unpacking it. Again, going back to what you said before, you ask questions, you try to understand what's going on. You talk to maybe a few different stakeholders. This can happen before any statement of work is signed. 

Gina: Yes.

Chris: Because it is really just understanding. And then it does start to take shape. And maybe that looks like, oh, you need to hit the ground running with engineering. Or maybe it looks like, we need to do, like, a design sprint.

Gina: Right. That's right. 

Chris: To frame up what we're going after here. Maybe it's something in the middle. Where it's like, we need to start orienting around a minimum viable product for a new release. But it's actually practitioners who are in the room alongside really good, you know, client partners, who can say, oh, we can draw this out a little better. 

Gina: Yes.

Chris: Than just saying, I'm going to carbon copy the last statement of work I wrote and apply it to this new prospect that I'm talking to. So, practitioners have a really key role, actually, in the sales process, even though it doesn't feel like sales. It just feels like, I'm starting the work.

Gina: Yes. I mean, that shaping time, it's so important too, right? I mean, we talk about this all the time. The most expensive time to change course is when you're down the road, right? 

Chris: Exactly.

Gina: The least expensive time, expensive in terms of money, in terms of time, in terms of relationship, is the very beginning, right? Where you're asking questions and you're sketching on a whiteboard, versus, like, committing code, right?

Chris: Yes.

Gina: So that shaping conversation is so important. And I think, you know, and I've been guilty of this as a practitioner and as a coder earlier in my career. Of just being like, I'm not, that's not my job. Just let me know, let me know when we know what we're doing.

Chris: Yeah. Right.

Gina: Like, I'll... That's when I come in. Like, I'll... 

Chris: Yeah. Hand me the user stories.

Gina: Hand me the user stories and I'll build them, right? And, you know, as you move up, I think particularly become, you know, a manager and a leader and more connected to the business goals. And I would argue, like, look, if I was giving my 22-year-old self career advice, I would say, always be able to draw a clear line between what you are doing at your job every day and what the business's goals are, and how the leaders of the, of that business think about what's important to the business. Right?

Chris: That is such a good point.

Gina: I mean, you have to be able to draw that clear line.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: And if you can't, it's either... It's one of two problems. Either you just don't know it, you just don't see it, and so, it's a matter of talking to your manager, talking your leaders, talking to folks to help you see it. Or, it's not quite there. And at that point you have to kind of change up what you're working on.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: And I think... Look, I think that for folks who really just love designing and love coding. (Laughs) And love, you know, writing those user stories, it's maybe a little less exciting, those early, you know, those early conversations which have a lot to do with budget, and when does it get unlocked? And how does this structure this? Is it... You know, I mean, we're talking about the consulting side, right? Like, you know, you can kind of glaze over and be like, ugh, let's just sort out these logistics so I can hit the ground and get going. But those things are key.

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: Key. It's important to know how the deal is structured and what the budget is like. It tells you a lot. If the budget gets unlocked over time, that means you have to show value over time, right? Like, the business isn't committed to it yet.

Chris: Yeah. 

Gina: Right? That's a signal.

Chris: Exactly. I think it's funny that you describe it as not exciting, because I think that you're absolutely right that some folks, I think, especially those that are earlier in their career, will think, like, I don't want to be part of this part. Like, just figure this out, please.

Gina: Right. Toss over the to-do list.

Chris: Toss over the to-do list and let me get going. But I think what we've seen, and I think it's related to seniority, right? The more experience you have and the more client projects like this you've done in our world, the more you want to say, I want to be in those rooms. I want to be in the early conversations. I do want to understand.

Gina: Yeah. I want to have my fingerprints on that. That's right. Yeah.

Chris: Exactly. I want to be able to mold the clay a little bit while it's still wet, because that is going to set the tone and the boundaries for what we are able to do and not do. And I want to make sure that we are setting it up properly from the beginning. I think it's the same thing when you think about, like, kicking off a new piece of work, right? So, it's that next step, right? After you do sign a statement of work. The more that you can sort of get it off on the right foot...

Gina: Right foot. Mhm. 

Chris: The better off the whole thing goes. 

Gina: Yes.

Chris: Versus, if you kind of stumble across the starting line.

Gina: Yes.

Chris: How many times have we talked about the handoff moment? You know, between the, for lack of a better phrase, the sales team and the delivery team. And the more continuity there is there, so that there isn't much of a handoff, actually. It's just a seamless progression.

Gina: Yes. 

Chris: From, here are the folks you were talking with, to, like, figure out what the engagement looks like, and then here are the folks who are going to execute on that engagement, and some of them are the same human beings, and we're just ready to roll.

Gina: Yes.

Chris: That's even more of an argument to say, get practitioners, get folks who are not quote unquote salespeople. Like, get them involved early on, so that they can just be off to the races once the signature is on the last page of the contract.

Gina: Yeah. That's right, that's right. Also, the trust is there, the knowledge is there, the full understanding is there.

Chris: They've been in the room.

Gina: They've been in the room. So... It's just continuity. That's right, that's right. I know we've been talking a lot about sales and delivery in this context of consulting, like what we do.

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: I think this is also just really applicable to someone in a, you know, in an in-house position. I mean, if you broadly define sales, it's about essentially, like, aligning, you know, your idea of the world and the plan with someone else's. Right?

Chris: Okay.

Gina: So, you're selling when you're telling your toddler, like, what we're going to do on Saturday. (Laughs) Right?

Chris: That's... That's true.

Gina: Like, you're selling when you're, like, trying to get your spouse to agree to, like, order in, you know, tonight versus tomorrow night because you're tired, right?

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: Like, you're... You know, when you are in a position, you know, when you're an in-house position and you're thinking about your career path, especially early in your career. Early in my career, I expected this. And I see this in early career folks. They say to their leader or their manager, like, what is the career path here? Like, what are my paths. Like, show me the paths forward. And I think that in a mature organization, there are clear career paths forward that are aligned to what the business needs, right? But I really think... It's so much, the onus is so much on you as a person who's a part of the organization, to be really clear about what you love and what brings you energy and joy, and what drags on you. 

Chris: Yes.

Gina: And where you want your career to go. Like, what you want. And then look at the possible options and choose one. And if there isn't a possible option, going to your leader and saying, here's where I think I really can add value in this place, because I'm super passionate about it. Here's what I want to go. And having that conversation. Like, advocating, right? Like, you're essentially, again, aligning, like, your view of the world, which is like, I think this is what this company should do, and here's where I think I fit into it, to, with, the leadership's view of perception, of the business and what's important. And those are really productive conversations. But it isn't, like, the kind of thing where someone's going to hand you the task list. Okay, here are the ten things you have to do to get to the next level. I mean, if there's a perfect fit... 

Chris: Yeah. Yahtzee. Great.

Gina: Then you can do that. That's wonderful. I'm in the right place and I want to go this way, but... But I think it really is... I think you're selling when you're managing, when you're managing your career and you're looking at your own career path. And I think that a lot of people kind of feel like, oh, I have to go to my manager. You know, especially around promotion and comp time. And I think this is where these gaps, like, really start to, like, reveal themselves, right?

Chris: Right.

Gina: Like, here's how I see what I've been doing here and how much value it brings. And here's how the leaders see why I'm here and what values it brings to the org. And that, you know, realizing that delta can be actually really...

Chris: Really tough.

Gina: It can be tough sometimes. It can be jarring. It's like, oh, I had a misunderstanding.

Chris: Right. 

Gina: Or, this is going really well. I want to really lean into these areas. 

Chris: Right.

Gina: Versus those.

Chris: Yeah. I mean, I don't want people to misinterpret what you're saying, because I do think, is there an aspect of, like, the same kind of sales, the sales instincts that we're talking about, where it's like, let's figure out what the motivations are of the person on the other side of the table, and how can we orient around those? I do think that applies to how you chart your career at an organization. But empathy is so important there. Like, it can't just be... 

Gina: Yes.

Chris: You can't just make your list and say, I want to focus on A, B, and C, and so let me go sell that to my boss so that I can make sure that, you know, the role looks exactly like what I want it to look like. That's not the whole story. That is not the equation. Right? The equation is... This is a business. This is, the business has goals that, like, the organization itself wants to go achieve. And so, what you personally want to do, it's a really important part of the equation but it's not the whole story. Like, you have to also... I think the verb you used was align.

Gina: Yes. 

Chris: Which is exactly right. Like, you have to align what you want with where the organization is going. And then make sure that you can say, I see how I... Like, my puzzle piece fits in the larger puzzle. And that's where it, like, really lights up. And I think the sales part of it really works. Right?

Gina: Right.

Chris: But if you're just saying, these are the things that I want, it's the same thing with a salesperson coming to you and saying, like, these are the things I want you to buy. And it's like, no, that doesn't... 

Gina: Right. 

Chris: ...feel good, if that's not what I want to buy, you know what I mean?

Gina: Yes. Absolutely. Right. I mean, ultimately you're saying, I've got something really, really valuable. And I want you to agree that it's really, really valuable and I want you to buy in. Even if it's like, me saying to my kid, like, okay, we're going to go to a museum this Saturday. It's going to be awesome. We're going to get dressed. We're going get on the train, we're gonna go see the show. And she's kind of like, mmm, Museum? 

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: Is that going to be fun? Why don't we just stay home and watch Netflix? And... I mean, like, it's a bizarre example, but you're... 

Chris: I know what you mean.

Gina: You're saying, like, I've got something really valuable and I'm excited about it, and I want you to see the value in it. I want you to go all in with me on it.

Chris: Yeah. 

Gina: Whether that's, you know, hey, boss. Like, here's all the incredible value that I have to offer this organization, I want you to agree and recognize that, you know, in the ways that I'm... Or if it's, hey, customer, like, I see you. I see you've got a problem. I see you've got a need. I got something really valuable here for you. I know it's going to help you. I've got the salve for your pain. You know, like, let's... And then the customer gets to decide, like, I agree with you and I'm in, and I'm going to sign and we can agree on a price.

Chris: Right.

Gina: You know, that works for both of us. Or it's like, ah, I actually don't think it's as valuable as you think.

Chris: Not for me. Right. Yeah. 

Gina: Yeah. And in a work context, I've had people say to me, you know, I feel really undervalued at my org. And I think that there are leaders who undervalue their employees.

Chris: Yes. 

Gina: That happens. But I also think... (Laughs) That there's an aspect about communicating your value, which is, again, I... You know, it's selling a little bit, right? It's like communicating your value, you know, as you go. Here's what I did. Here were the impacts. Here's what we're going from now, from here. And that's something that, in consulting, we have to do with our clients constantly. 

Chris: Constantly.

Gina: Right? Because we are a cost. Like, every month the CFO looks and says, do we need to pay this much for these people, right? So we have to constantly communicate value. Here's what we did, here's the impact. Here's what we're going to do next. Here's the momentum. Right? And so there's that constant sort of communication of value. And that is... I mean, that's selling.

Chris: That's selling. That's right.

Gina: That's a kind of selling. For sure.

Chris: You're absolutely right. Yeah.

Gina: I don't identify as a salesperson. Whenever I get pulled into sales calls, I feel a little bit like an imposter.

Chris: Me too.

Gina: I mean, still, after all these years. After decades. (Laughs) Still. 

Chris: Right. I mean, I think about the past, you know, several years for sure. I mean, even going back to early days of our agency. Like, we did a lot of selling, even though we didn't call it that. We didn't think of it that way.

Gina: Yes. That's right. That's right.

Chris: I do want to go back, though, because you said earlier, there are some aspects of more traditional, I guess I'll say, salespeople that you think are really, really valuable.

Gina: Yes.

Chris: What are those things? We've been talking a lot, I think, to the practitioner listener who is like, I don't think of myself as a salesperson, but there are a lot of ways that they can and should be. But what are the things that really good people who do have the title, like salesperson... What do they do that you think, you know, practitioners can adopt or learn from?

Gina: A couple of things come to mind. First, I think that great salespeople, especially in our business, like, the consulting business, invest in their relationships with their clients and their customers as human beings.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: And not because, you know, they're checking off a box in Salesforce. Because they actually care about these folks. 

Chris: Right.

Gina: And they know when their kid is leaving for school, or they know that they're going through a health thing, right?

Chris: Yes.

Gina: They know what their relationship with their boss is like. You know? 

Chris: Oh, that's a good one.

Gina: They know whether or not they're looking to maybe move to another company. I mean, we had a fantastic sales leader here at Launch who would say, I don't believe the relationship is real unless your client will invite you to their birthday party.

Chris: Yeah. 

Gina: Right? Like, you're... It's a friendship. And I've seen this over time. You know, I used to hear this and think, that's BS. Nobody really cares. No, it's real. We have a few Launch clients who I consider personal friends, and I know that I would be in touch with them and spend time with them and want to hang out with them and have coffee with them and lunch with them, regardless of where I worked.

Chris: That's right.

Gina: That’s a real thing. So, I think great salespeople are very relationship-focused, love being around people, and care. And think of their clients not when they need to close a deal, not when this quarter is short and they need to bring in some short term revenue. No, no, no. When that client is having a problem, celebrating a milestone, got promoted, moved jobs, taking a break, is on sabbatical. All those things. So, great relationships. I also think great salespeople... Like, are incredible listeners, and understand what their customers need, even if it's not what they want to hear.

Chris: Yeah. 

Gina: Like, there are times when you've got a solution and that's just not the problem. 

Chris: Right. 

Gina: That your client has. It just isn't. And so you've got nothing. Right? But they do, there is a problem that they do have. And so, I think great salespeople want to understand the problem that they're facing. How did this happen? What was the background? What are you thinking you're going to do about? What are some of the plans? Like... And then, great salespeople come back to the org and say, I'm seeing a need in our market that we are not fulfilling.

Chris: For this. Yes.

Gina: I'm seeing a need for this, and we're not fulfilling, right? Great salespeople, they're givers, they want to help. They're service-oriented, right? So they say, okay, how can we create an offering, a solution, at least some point of view on this particular problem, right? So they really care about the needs in the market.

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: And I also think really great salespeople partner with each other, and with practitioners, as collaborators. I think really great salespeople are less focused on territory and revenue numbers that are going to be attributed to, revenue attribution to them as individuals, right? They're less concerned about their individual success and thinking about the whole org's success. Right? 

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: Like, and how we all succeed together. So... Because I think some sales folks are  just very, you know, they're trying to make their bonus, they're trying to hit their numbers, they're trying to, like, put themselves far up on the leaderboard, right? When it's about the entire org. So those are three things that come to mind for me.

Chris: Those are so good. That last one... I mean, all of them are great. But you're absolutely right that there are sales folks who are just thinking about their commission. 

Gina: Their commission.

Chris: And they're just like, I want to make sure that I get that check at all costs.

Gina: Yes.

Chris: And not only is that not good in the long run for, like, maximizing your individual potential, but it's also incredibly harmful to the overall success of the organization. And it's this really tricky balance, I think, for... You know, I haven't had to create a compensation plan for a sales team. But that, I think, is a real challenge, because you want to make sure that you are not incenting the wrong behavior. Where people are like, I need to, you know, protect my borders and make sure that, you know, I am absolutely maximizing every dollar that's coming to me, because it leads to a lot of the wrong behavior. So, you're 100% right on that one. There's one more that came to my mind, which is like, a little, you know, I guess, weirder. But great salespeople are interesting. Like... 

Gina: Yes. 

Chris: They have things to say that draw you in. They're like, oh, let me talk about this experience I had, or this previous career I was in, or this crazy trip I took, or... Like, they just... They have a lot to draw on. And it's... It's so funny, because I think for me and, you know, for both of us, it's like, it's such a treat when you're in a meeting like that, and you get someone who can just, like, carry the conversation and just go. You know, just go? 

Gina: Yeah.

Chris: Because it's like... It draws you in. And it's not like a, hey, I want to give this person money per se, but it's like... It's a very human, you know, oh, you're telling a story that I'm interested in. Like, let me lean in a little bit and let me pay a little bit more attention. And it just makes things go smoother. Again, it's a, maybe another facet of, like, people like to do business with people they like.

Gina: Yes. 

Chris: You know, people like to do business with people who are bringing things to the table. And who are telling interesting stories and the like. So, I think that's part of it. When you think about, you know, going into a room with a potential client, or with your boss or whatever, it's like, bring some juice, too. You know, bring some of that interesting stuff. Because that, you know, it draws people in.

Gina: Absolutely. I mean, I know there's a lot of cliches about deals being done on the golf course and that kind of thing, but I would even take it a step further. Like, if you've got hobbies and activities and things you love, by... Humans are tribal by nature. 

Chris: To our core.

Gina: I mean, I was reminded about this when the Super Bowl came up, you know.

Chris: (Laughs) Oh my God. 

Gina: And it was like, team Kansas City, team 49ers, team Taylor Swift. And, like, that... I mean, we saw it in internal meetings. People were like, who are you?

Chris: Oh, yeah.

Gina: You know, so people who love to golf, who love to cook, who love wine, and share those things and have that enthusiasm. And then, I mean, some of the best salespeople I've seen bring their clients along.

Chris: Yes. Yes.

Gina: Hey, why don't you join me? Let's play together. Let's hang out. And then you're just hanging out. You're talking. You're building that relationship, right? And that's the kind of situation where you can get to, you can invest in that relationship and get to know that person. And again, because you care about them. Not because you're necessarily going to close a deal. Just, you want to understand, you know, what their life is like and what the landscape of your, you know, customer's life is like.

Chris: And genuinely, like, enjoy the time.

Gina: And enjoy the time. That's right.

Chris: You know, go have fun. Like, that is... Yeah.

Gina: That's true. You know, I tend to... I think I tend to be a little bit more on the private side, and draw kind of a line between my personal life and my work life.

Chris: Which you can.

Gina: Which you can. But, I have seen this behavior in great salespeople where they have great stories, they have hobbies, they have things to share, their vacation, whatever it is, and they kind of draw you in and you make that personal connection. And you're like, oh, you know, you do yoga too? Like, oh, you went to that game, how was it? You know. And there's, like, a magic connection that happens, because we're just human beings who just really want to look around at our peers and, like, connect with one another on some axis.

Chris: That's it. That's exactly it.

Gina: It's just like, the most basic need for human beings to have is connection.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: Right?

Chris: I firmly believe that there is a way to do that where you don't have to, like, be a completely open book and be like, let me tell you my life story, you know?

Gina: Right? Right. Because that's a little too much.

Chris: That's a little too much.

Gina: I've seen that backfire. It's like... 

Chris: A hundred percent.

Gina: ...Whoa whoa whoa, dude. Like, slow your roll.

Gina: Right. Like, too much. Too much, too fast, you know? But there is a way to do it where you can... Again, it's bringing something to the table, right? You can offer up interesting stories, anecdotes, you know, things that have recently happened, without saying let me, let me give you the full rundown of my horrible week that just happened. You know, there's... It's a balance. And the great salespeople know how to strike that balance. And know how to say, like, I can still have a private life. Like, that's not the... The intention here is not to be, you know, throw the doors wide open. I think the intention is like, it's connection. It is about enabling connection. That is what it comes down to. And once those connections are made, it becomes so much easier to say, okay, now we can go do something together, you know?

Gina: Yes. I was in a situation just this week. So, my 11-year-old takes a martial arts class, and they have, for Valentine's Day did this, like, parent-kid class where you go with your kid and you train. And it was great.

Chris: Love it.

Gina: And I really, really enjoyed it. And so at one point they said, okay, we're going to take the kids and they have a little special Valentine's project to do. You sit down here with the sensei, the main teacher of the dojo, and we're just going to chat. So we sit down. This guy's wearing, you know, a ghi and he's got no shoes on. You know, he's a... he works at a dojo.

Chris: What's a ghi?

Gina: It's like the, like, karate, like, white suit, the pants and the... 

Chris: Got it. Okay.

Gina: And he says to us, to this group of parents, you know, we offer self-defense classes here at the dojo and subway safety classes for teenagers who are just starting to ride the subway. And in my mind, I went, oh, no. 

Chris: I'm getting sold. Mhm.

Gina: We're about to get sold. This guy is about to pitch all these classes that he wants us to sign up for. And I, like, just kind of was like, oh God. Like, I didn't want a pitch. I wanted to come here and like, do jiu jitsu with my kid. 

Chris: Right.

Gina: But then he says, you know what? We've got six minutes and I just want to share with you, just a couple of the top tips that we teach in these classes, because we live here in Brooklyn, New York, and no matter how great your neighborhood is and how wonderful your neighbors are, this is a dense city. A lot of things happen. And if there's something I could say in the next six minutes that might change your behavior just a tiny little bit, and increase your chances of being a little bit more safe in a dangerous situation, then it will be worth it.

Chris: Wow.

Gina: So now I kind of, like, perk up. I'm like, oh. Huh. Okay, yeah. Let's hear your top tips. And he runs down just some kind of basic safety stuff. Stuff that I was like, this makes sense. Stuff like, you know, don't wear your headphones while you're walking down a busy street, or on the subway. When your headphones are on, you're a target for people who are, you know, swiping bags or phones. Take your headphones off. Don't model that for your kids. They also shouldn't have their headphones on when they're walking down Atlantic Avenue.

Chris: Mhm.

Gina: You know, when you're on the subway and you walk into the car, and something doesn't look right or smell right, or there's trouble, it seems like, brewing. Just get off the car. It doesn't matter you're going to be late. Your life is more important than being on time for the thing you're going to. And et cetera. So he runs down, like, 6 or 7 of these things that I was like, this is common sense. And also I've lived here my whole life in the city, and I've totally, common sense. But also, you know what? Sometimes I wear my headphones.

Chris: Yeah. Good reminder. 

Gina: In situations, in Times Square, and I'm not as alert as I could be. And like, it's like, a really good reminder.

Chris: Yeah.

Gina: And at the end of it all, I was like, I came away from it, truly, like, rethinking a couple of my own habits. (Laughs) And rethinking about, you know, a couple of ways that I can maybe model a little bit more safety and a little bit more alertness to my kid. Who is going to start taking public transit on her own, you know, in the next couple of years. And it's on my mind. And I thought, this person was selling me. And I thought, you know what? Maybe we will sign her up for that subway safety class. Like, I was like, oh, this is really good. This guy cares. And he gave us some information. Like, this was good information.

Chris: But he gave you information.

Gina: This is... He was giving. He wasn't taking.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: He wasn't like, you should really come because you're going to come out of it with life-changing tips. Just $150. Just swipe your credit card. It wasn't that. He was just like, you know what? Let me share a little bit about what we talk about, because I just want you to come out of this room today, just maybe having a little bit more perspective. He gave me something. Versus took it. And that made me want to actually sign up for the class. But it made me realize like, oh, this is what a great salesperson... 

Chris: That's great sales.

Gina: You know, is. Yeah, yeah. It was really, really great sales. And this is a person who teaches these classes. (Laughs) You know, like, he's the practitioner. He's the one doing the delivery, so to speak, you know?

Chris: Right.

Gina: But I remember my heart sinking in the beginning, like, oh God, I'm about to get pitched. I didn't want to get pitched. Completely turned it.

Chris: And your whole mentality changed.

Gina: Completely turned it. Yep, yep.

Chris: Oh, that's so good. We got to end it there. That's the perfect... 

Gina: That's it. (Laughs)

Chris: ...Summary. I hope we educated our non-sales friends about why sales is not a bad thing.

Gina: Sales is not a bad thing. We're all salespeople. The best salespeople actually don't have that in their title. Sales is about giving. Great salespeople are givers, not takers. That's my big takeaway.

Chris: Great.

Gina: Thanks, Chris.

Chris: Thank you Gina.

Gina: This was really, really fun. I love doing the show with you. I love talking about this stuff with you. I would also love to hear from the folks who listen to the show. I may have, you know, there's some opinions here about selling yourself at work and selling your services. We want to hear from you.

Chris: Yes.

Gina: Reach out, send us a note. We reread every single one that comes in. You can send us a note to catalyst, c-a-t-a-l-y-s-t,@NTTData.com. We'd love to hear from you. And have a great rest of the week.

Chris: Back to work.

(CATALYST OUTRO MUSIC)

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