Sales Culture with Sales Throwdown’s John Hill

June 20, 2020

Sales is about conversation.

John Hill is CEO & Founder of John Small Mountain and Adapted Growth, and is a panel member of Sales Throwdown.

Sales Throwdown takes a deep dive into personalities and comfort zones using the DISC methodology to talk about what holds them back and how to keep moving forward. Adapted Growth is a company focused on giving small teams and entrepreneurs a repeatable process with which to sell.

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Welcome to The Thoughtful Entrepreneur Show. I'm Josh Elledge, Founder and CEO of We turn entrepreneurs into media celebrities, grow their authority, and help them build partnerships with top influencers. We believe that every person has a unique message that can positively impact the world. Stick around to the end of the show; we'll reveal how you can be our next guest on one of the fastest growing daily inspiration podcasts on the planet in 15 to 20 minutes. Let's go.

And witness right now we've got John Hill, aka john, small mountain. And john, you are well known as being one of the panelists on the Sales Throwdown. And you're also the founder and CEO of Adapted Growth on the web at Thank you so much for joining us. Thanks so much for having me. I am beyond stoked to be here. So John, you are Well known for setting up sales systems and you kind of geek out on those things, right? So I just want you to know, like, I am so excited for this conversation because I honestly, it is something that will transform someone's business. Unlike me, I can't think of many other things that can truly make that big of a difference to someone's business than truly systematizing their sales, you know, being able to create a system where multiple people can all get in, do what they need to be done. Everything runs well, I shouldn't say in perfect harmony, but idea is, you know, it's mostly in concert. And this drives revenue. And, you know, of course, there aren't too many problems that can't be solved in business with more revenue.

Exactly. Yeah, I you know, I, I've been a sales guy for a long time. And then I kind of fell into like the Small Business entrepreneurial realm almost by accident, and I come from that That background and I know that marketing is like is is like the hot topic that everybody wants to talk wants to talk about. But the thing is, if you have marketing in place and leads are coming in, but you don't have a repeatable process to like actually work follow up and then close those leads. You're spending money on marketing for no real good reason.

Yeah. And, and so I mean, people can spend a lot of money to build these amazing, you know, your one funnel away, you know, type things, which I, I commonly kind of poke at, because I just think that that's for a couple of reasons. Number one, you know, after you know, traditional funnels have been around for so long, you're not fooling anybody, we all know, if I'm in a sales funnel, I know full well, I'm in a sales funnel. So, you know. So what I've seen in consumers and I'm sure you've seen this from the sales perspective, is that consumers have never that I know have been more guarded about being sold to Or marketed to or feeling like they're being systematized or treated like a number. What's your observation on that?

It's so funny. I was just having this conversation earlier today. Because I feel like my walls are always up around like these, like scarcity tactics that marketers use and salespeople use and stuff. And I get really riled up whenever it's done badly, because what it leads to is a break of trust. Right? You, let's say that you're on some webinar flow, and there's like, a limited time to like purchase for, you know, some kind of discounted play, like everyone, it's, it's just hitting refresh and seeing that clock restart, you know, you're not really fooling anybody with bad scarcity lovers, whether you're a marketer or a salesperson, right? So the goal is because I agree with you, right? We have so much information out there and there's so much content and downloads and stuff for for anything you could possibly want to learn about. So by that same token, I think that it's more important to have like a really consultant style conversation with your prospects and your target clients because that's where you get trust, right? I think that Long gone are the days where you can just show up and have some good ideas. And that gets you paid for a while, I think you actually have to be able to implement and help people out on a way that they're going to be comfortable with. Because while information is also easier, it's also easier than it ever has been to pick and choose of who you want to work with. It's no longer the lesser of two evils. Right? You know, you can fill out 15 contact forms and invest these, you know, these potential partners to until your heart's content. So, you got to go the extra mile to cultivate relationships that way they can say no, and that you're getting real, honest feedback, and you're not just getting smiled and nodded out because that doesn't really help anybody.

Right, right. So this is a little easier to do when say it's a, you know, your your product might be have a larger average lifetime value. Then let's say someone's like, Well, you know, I'm just selling the $19 thing. So I don't know how I can personalize that more. I mean, how would you solve that problem? If they're just selling like a $19, digital planner type thing or whatever? Is there a way to implement a lot of your philosophy into that funnel and make it feel more human?

So that's a good question. Most of where I hang out is whenever the product or services is costly enough that you actually have like salespeople in there doing, right. The conversations, you know, having having the other stuff before is more marketing. And I know enough about that stuff to be annoying and somewhat dangerous. But I try I tend to focus more on like, once there's a reach out to have a conversation, like what needs to happen in that conversation for you determine a good fit for you to figure out the next steps in to keep it moving through the process or move it out. And, you know, all the stuff before that I kind of leave it in the hands of better trained, you know, marketers and people who were really focused on it in that area because I love to read about that stuff and learn about it. But I don't really know enough to help anybody with that. With marketing stuff,

when you are engaging with a potential client that you would serve through adaptive growth, and again, your website, so for someone who's listening or watching our conversation, go to adaptive growth calm, and you can see exactly what the work that john does. You can learn about the process and exactly how your services work. But what are some of the most common pain points that you see people coming in with?

Oh, that's a great question. Um, you know, what I have found is that on most sales teams, especially if they're kind of old school sales teams, there's a big movement around like database selling, you know, when you look at some of the bigger tech companies that are like Salesforce and HubSpot, they're they're doing this thing on such a grand scale, and that's great, but you can also do it on a smaller scale. But the pain points are typically you have salespeople on your team, but they're performing at different levels, right. The thing to remember is that your top performing sales person is someone else's number one sales prospect, right and it's so easy as a salesperson to move from company to company to company. So if you are not working on your sales culture in like giving them room to run and you know, manage but give some trust as well, they're going to move to a company that does. So a lot of the companies that I'm working with are like, how can we retain good talent, but also give them runway? Other people are looking for, you know, we're not really sure what's working. And so that makes it hard to forecast the future, which is true. And then some people are just terrified of that first sales hire. Right? They've never hired a salesperson before they've heard all the horror stories. It is, you know, it's really easy to make yourself look really good on paper as a salesperson, but how do you how do you actually implement get them ramped up and actually to the level that they need to be producing some of their pain for themselves? So those are kind of the main pain points and then everything else is kind of like an offshoot from there, but it should be this thing that you don't want to avoid. Right? I mean, you should be so excited to go out and share with people your product and your service and your mission and how you help people. Everything else past that is is our perception of things right? We make sales harder than it actually has to be because of how we view these kinds of relationships and conversations.

You refer to having a sales culture What does that mean? and and you know, what I'm thinking about selfishly is I think we have a sales culture, but maybe you can help me fine tune this a little bit.

So So in my experience, there's there's kind of two main sales cultures. You know, the first one is the one that everybody is like, scared of, you get hired on, and you get some product training, and then you're told to go out and make something happen. Right. And I've been in those areas, right. And for me for my specific personality, which is what we talked about on the podcast. I'm a C type personality, which means I want a lot of information, a lot of facts, a lot of logic, a lot of expectation. Yeah. So because of that, I push back and I and I'm looking for this clarity and then I sometimes when I've worked for larger companies in the past, I get labeled as not a team player. Mostly because I'm just trying to figure out more. Now, the goal is to hopefully, you know, have some process, right. So that way you can have KPIs and leading indicators and not just looking at the lag indicator of like revenue, and how much did you sell, because if you're just looking at that you're too late, right? Because if people are struggling, they're not going to come to you, when it's like six months into an eight month ramp up period, they're gonna start looking for something else because they haven't found like they've they found success. So when you measure around like KPIs and leading indicators and the behaviors that get you the business, and you coach around those things, and you have CRM to track those things, then you can look at, okay, we're not getting to very many qualified conversations. So maybe we need to look at, you know, some qualifying coaching, right? They're not closing as much as as we would as we thought. So maybe we need to work on some closing techniques. If it's like we're not getting enough people into the hopper right to have a deep enough pipeline, then maybe we need to work on like our prospecting game. So when you look at like from a KPI is a leading indicator thing, it allows you to coach ahead of the ball as opposed to behind the ball. It also allows you to give people more freedom, because they've got a certain amount of activities that they need to do weekly and monthly. So they've got a longer leash. They're responsible for what they're responsible for. But it also builds a culture of trust, right on both sides, the salesperson as well as the sales leader, around Hey, look, we both agree that these behaviors are important. So let's run with them. And then let's adjust in, you know, three to four weeks if if we're wrong, because it's kind of a, it's kind of a test, you know, just like marketing is in most cases, when you're when you're working with someone on a marketing campaign, a lot of it is like testing to see what works and then after that, sales should be the same way but we're not quite there yet. You know, it's a little bit behind marketing.

How do you address the situation? I'm sure you've seen this where a CEO has a company and by you know, just sheer founder magic, they've managed to start driving some revenue, and now they're like, okay, but I really Really, like, I don't mind doing this work to create revenue, but I really need some leadership here. And so how does the CEO or the founder hire that position? And And meanwhile, they're probably thinking, Oh my gosh, you know, it'd be great if I could just hire someone on commission and I wouldn't have to take the big risk, you know, or, you know, should I hire start by hiring someone overseas? Like, I know that there's probably many different paths here based on the unique situation of the company. I'm just curious, maybe what you've seen, or if there are any kind of trends for someone who's in that position and knows they need to start bringing in some expertise responsibility.

Now, this is a great question. And this is one of my favorite topics. So there's a metaphor I use when I'm talking about this topic very specifically, because I've been in martial arts for about 16 years now and a couple of different arts and And what you see is whenever you've done something for so long without having to explain it to someone else, it becomes the same that you do instinctively. Yeah. And when you do something instinctively, you might pick out three of the 25 things that make the whole. So before you try to hire someone else, or bring someone else in or anything else, you have two options, right? In my experience, you can either pay a premium for someone who already knows how it all works, and then they have it all figured out and everything else like this. And you should pay a premium for that because they already have the keys of the castle. Now the other way is you can start documenting and building processes yourself and everything else like this. And then testing them, bring someone in and let them run that program, see how it works, make adjustments as necessary. And that way you and then we're working on this thing together. And that ultimately is I think, the better way, right because it's so hard to just because nobody wants to pay the premium especially for salespeople. You hit the nail on the head when you said that everybody wants a commission only sales person. Well, here's the thing, right? If they're working For you For commission only, and they have the sales thing figured out they can go launch whatever idea they want. Like this is arguably the hardest part right is the sales part portion of it right? Because as more and more people get really good at things like consulting and marketing and graphic design and everything else the thing that they're lacking is the sales thing, right? Maybe because lack of experience might be a personality hold back but if if you can figure out how to sell and you're going to work for someone else on commission only, why not go work for yourself? Right? And that's such a that's such a small step to take. So you know, and also if you're killing it for someone else do you really want to go into like a brand new industry or a brand new company and do it for commission only? Not in my experience, right, right. All the top guys that I know who are killing it, they get these kinds of calls all the time, like hey, just come work with me Commission on the you're gonna make a bajillion dollars. But they're like, I'm making really good money over here. And I'm already here and I don't have to take that leap of faith. Yeah. So right. It's that kind of stuff. Whereas you know if you can build a process As you don't have to hire at the premium, you can start smaller and test some things out, see what works for you. And it works for the person that you're working with, and then make adjustments as necessary. But the thing, the golden rule about delegation is that it's going to take time on the front end to make sure that it is done well, because you can't rush it. So documenting that process, what would be some steps that you think would fall into that? One of the one of the first things that I talked about with people, it's like, what makes a bad fit? Right? Who are the kinds of clients that you don't want to work for? Hmm. Because once we start going down that path, right, and it's got to be more than just they can't pay me, right? Because that's, that's where everybody starts, john, they can fog a mirror and they can pay me, okay, that's not targeted enough, right? In my in my experience, right? Because no one wants to really spend time with a guy who can help everybody. Everybody wants to talk to the guy who's there to help people that are specifically like that makes the conversation a lot more targeted. So by starting with, okay, here's the things that I don't do this and this and this and this and this. And then here are the kinds of clients that I don't want to work with this and this and this, you can And then start to build out who your actual target market is. So that way you can build questions. And that way you're qualifying around these things while you're having conversations. So that way, you're not just trying to throw everything against the wall and seeing what sticks.

JOHN, in terms of using a CRM, do you see that most people are probably not taking advantage of all the features that they could be? And if so, what are those things that you would challenge? Most small sales teams or, you know, startups are kind of on their way up? You know, what should they be doing? In my mind, I'm thinking that you know, I know for ourselves, you know, setting up automations has been a godsend. So that way everybody comes in, you know, and so, you know, I've got, you know, in a, say, a 2030 day cadence, you know, I've got a team of three other people. And, you know, there's Elisa Jenny Eva, Eva, say Ava, who's a sales associate bottom line says she's basically just there to most Just push buttons and make sure things move along. But she knows, like her responsibilities are days, you know, for 711 90, you know, whatever. And so if someone's coming through the funnel, and it's that day for them, she just sees a list of all these people that need day for activity. So I know that that has been huge for us. Because before that, we were just kind of guessing we just look at this spreadsheet or this record, like, Hmm, I wonder what these people need. I don't know. I just go through and, you know, it's so haphazard.

I'll do it otherwise, but you know, what, what we do normally is we sit down and we try to figure out like, Where are the gaps in the in the sales process? Right, you know, so for like, a lot of people, no, show rates are high. Alright, so how can we build some automations and some things around encouraging people to show up and you did a great job of this with me leading up to this interview, you know, I've gotten I've gotten emails, I've gotten gotten notifications, like, almost six ways from Sunday It feels like which is helpful, right? I live on my Calendar, but I'm still prone to forgetting things just like everybody else's. So that's where we start, where are the biggest drop offs in the process? Right? You know, a lot of people have got to collect some information so that they can do due diligence before they can put together an offer. If you have a sharp drop off of prospects, we're actually bringing that information, how can we make that process easier, right? And then once we figure out that process, then let's let's figure out ways of maybe like automating it and nudging it, you know, so that you're not actually having to like push the buttons, it's more or less automated, but it's got to start with some understanding of like, where things fall apart. So that way, we're, we're looking at the same things so that we at least have a baseline to go off of, does that make sense?

Yeah, where what are the biggest trends that you see in terms of, you know, things that you should be including in your follow up cadence or just the general relationship management of buyers and and or consumers today?

That's a good question. I think, because there is so much information out there. We talked about this a moment ago. Think any opportunity you can to stand out as being an actual human, and how you communicate of genuinely caring if you can fix their problem genuinely caring about if it's the right fit and things like this, the more you can do that in your email correspondence in your follow ups in your conversations, that's what's going to set you apart, as opposed to everyone else who's just trying to get their needs met by selling you something whether or not it's going to be the best fit for you or not.

And so john at adapted growth, calm, what would be a great place for people to start and saying, well, I kind of like the way this john guys talking sounds pretty smart. What would be a great way for them to kind of delve into your world? So

we have some blog posts on there talking about these kinds of things as just like everybody else, you know, creation of content on a regular basis is not one of my strongest points. So one of the goals for this year is to do more of that. The contact form is great. If you want to have a conversation. I don't I don't think For like a an engagement because sometimes people we can have like an hour long conversation and they're going to leave with that with some action items that they can take and start to implement. And then if you want more than let's have a conversation about it, because I, you know, I do have to get paid at some point. But you know, the goal is to bring some value because like, this is kind of a different process, you know, the CRM, I wrote a post about this on LinkedIn today, because I do write a lot on LinkedIn. You know, there's always this need to chase the shiny new CRM or what's new and john, which one's your favorite? Yeah, here's the deal. The CRM is much more about the habits that you have created a salesperson and and you talked about this before we turned on the recording that it is, you know, you were using it but not really effectively or anything else and you finally you delve into it and you changed habits right. And you got team buy in about why everybody on the team needs to have these certain things because that's how the ball moves forward. Most cultures that are that are using a CRM if you do this because you have to write document your chatter, you know when these things that are like very powerful amongst people who like work at large companies and havior CRM, they don't see any value in using it. So if you don't see any value in using, you're not going to make change necessary to actually make it the tool that it's meant to be. Yeah.

Excellent. All right, well, John Hill, aka John little mountain, or small mountain. Yeah. So you're you've got so you can be found at adaptive I'm sorry, Also Yep. And then, of course, one thing I'm very excited to listen to is the Sales Throwdown where you've got four distinct sales personalities all getting together, and it's a melee.

Yeah, we all work in different industries rolling in very different personality types based upon the disc methodology. We have hi Dee, Hi, I'm the high C and we have a high s. In the thing that is really interesting is the same issues show up from from my field of consulting you know, on tech stuff, you know, we have a guy who works in some pretty high end construction. And then the other two people are in healthcare where you know, medical devices and things like that. And it's the same stuff, right? How can you build more rapport? How can you have better relationships? And how can you move things forward? And how do you stop, you know, chasing? How do you know when to cut off? How do you not waste time with people that aren't qualified to receive it? And those things were talked about?

Awesome. John Hill, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for having me, Josh. I really appreciate it

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