Podcast interview with Tim Sanders..
"If the growing complexity of sales is making you bang your head against the wall and you’re ready to try something different that is proven to work, you might want to read “Dealstorming.”" Listen to the podcast here!
PODCAST EP. 016: COLLABORATION IS THE DEAL
With Tim Sanders by Terry Weaver
On this episode of “Making Elephants Fly,” Terry sits down with Internet Pioneer, Best-Selling Author, Keynote Speaker, Leader, and one of the best guys on the planet…Tim Sanders. Tim was an early stage member of Mark Cuban’s broadcast.com and later joined Yahoo where he rose to the position of Chief Solutions Officer and named its Leadership Coach. Tim’s past books include the New York Times best seller “Love Is The Killer App: How to Win Business & Influence Friends,” “The Likeability Factor,” and “Today We Are Rich: Harnessing the Power of Total Confidence.” Tim’s latest book “Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges” unpacks the idea of how collaboration is secret to selling anything. Join Terry as he talks with Tim about the power of collaboration in building a life worth living and creating opportunities that you could have never created alone.
Mike & Tim Between Worlds Transcript
Tim Sanders on Dealstorming, emotional talent, and the sales driven company of the future
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Mike: I’m here today with Tim Sanders, we’re here in Las Verga of all places. But this is where you live right Tim?
Tim: This is where I lay
Mike: Fortunately not on the strip, You’ve carved out a quiet, tranquil spot in this crazy city.
Tim: We are the westside, we love it, its a great city, one of the best cities to live in in NA
Mike: You know Tim I’ve been a big fan of your books and your ideas for some time. What was amazing when we started talking was that you've really been on the cusp of so many of these revolutions for some time going all the way back to cell phones.
Tim: I’m like the Forest Gump of technology. You show me an inflection point of history and its like I’m there with big shoes. I’ve been fortunate to be on the ground floor of the quality moment when it came to the united states in the 1980s, the launch of cellular phone, the birth of the internet with audio and video streaming, so it’s been very exciting.
Mike: and if nothing else you were the sales guy for Mark Cuban
Tim: There you go! Exactly
Mike: So how did you make that transition from the corporate sector into becoming essentially a thought leader around sales and relationships?
Tim: I didn’t choose it, it choose me, and I tell that to people all the time. I was working at broadcast.com when a literary agent approached me and said that she thought I had a perspective that was worth writing a book around, and we incubated that idea for a few years. At the same time parallel to all of that Mark Cuban IPO’s this broadcast.com and it’s the biggest IPO in history, and then he sells the company to Yahoo for whatever amount of dollars and I transfer to California and within two years become the company’s chief solutions officer, so this happens at the same time. So I publish a book while i’m a standing executive at Yahoo, we take some time off work to do a little national book tour and it makes the lists 11 months later and I go to work one day and they’ve run a cover story on fast company about my book and I’m holding a heart and the whole thing. I go to work, no joke, there’s 20 voice mail messages on my machine from talent agents and bureau leaders saying we’ve got this client HP and they want you to come to France and give this talk at their international customer summit and thats how it started! I went to my boss at the time and I had a list of all these speaking offers and I said, ‘What do I do?’ and they said well just take vacation days and be a brand ambassador and I started, that’s where it all began.
Mike: I sometimes think I feel sorry for the people that weren’t around for the first internet ___, because they think Uber, and AirBnB are big but back in the late 1990’s early 2000’s it was insanity!
Tim: They were breaking new ground, it was like morse laws time a thousand. From a business development standpoint the value that was being created from 1994 to say March of 2000, we’ve never seen that again. Forget social media, bitcoin, whatever you want to speak to, we’ve never seen that much value created in such a short period of time in history.
Mike: Your new book that’s coming out, it’s going to be about re-imagining the sales process, but it’s more than that isn’t it?
Tim: It is. It’s my 5th book, it’s titled Dealstorming: the secret weapon that will solve your toughest sales challenge. The premise of the book is that in business to business sales, a quality sale is really difficult. The rise of multiple decision makers procurement groups in buying committees is astounding.
Mike: It’s like a labyrinth for anyone to navigate.
Tim: The analogy I use is that when I started out in sales in the nineteen seventies I sold radio ads in Portales, New Mexico. I had a clip on tie and a short sleeved white shirt, I went door to door and I pitched mostly mom and pop businesses on buying radio and our little FM station.
Mike: This wasn’t a product that sold itself was it?
Tim: Direct sale, handshake deal is was the easiest sell in the world. The analogy I use is it’s like playing the video game of the time palm. Very simple hand eye coordination right? But today, with multiple decision makers layers and layers of complexity on the products and services we sell and cloud based competitors. It's like playing halo these days. The game of sales has become increasingly complex. And the premise of Dealstorming is that, A quality sale is a thousand problems solved and the only competitive advantage left is rapid problem solving. Whether it's our problems or the customers dysfunction that we have to solve to get from the contact to the contract.
Mike: And this is not just looking for the right angle to sell somebody is it you're actually constructing the value on the fly.
Tim: You know what you're doing is you're creating a team. And the analogy I use is that we need to create webs not silos. So when I think about teams I've done a lot of research on successful collaboration, creative innovation projects. You have to invite everyone who has a stake in the outcome, or expertise about the problem. You have to think beyond the borders of the normal organizational structure. So in the world of sales, I've interviewed so many leaders that say we’re very teamwork oriented, and I say help me understand the value chain of your team and they basically described this very tall line oriented team. They're not doing team work they're doing line work. This is no different from making a car in Henry Ford's factory, it’s line work a person passes it to the next person. Teamwork is when everybody's involved with a shared vision and willing to look out for the person next to them and sacrifice themselves if they have to. True teamwork we've learned, involves people from finance and operations and engineering and marketing and there's an alignment in the most successful selling organizations in the world that's cross departmental. Where this shared vision, usually beating the competition, gets everyone in the room to share what they actually know. Because the secret to collaboration is for everyone in the room to share what they know and express what they think will work in a given situation.
Mike: You need more than executive platitudes like this happen though, I mean what is the optimal environment you need to have for this to kind of take root?
Tim: So in my mind, an opportunity for collaboration starts around the sales challenge. It could be winning a big account it could be about breaking into a new market that could change the future of the company I write a lot about that or it could be about saving your biggest relationship. And I believe it starts with that account executive and her manager
Mike: That’s the catalyst
Tim: That’s the catalyst, that account executive has to figure out how to translate everything to get everyone in the room, those that are not in sales, to make the transition from me to we so there's a shared vision in the room. The account executive has to protect the misfits and the introverts, they have to drive people to making decisions and achieving consensus. The most important thing I learned from the research is, to quote Louis Pasteur “chance favors the prepared mind”. Brainstorming doesn't work because we throw people into a room, fully unprepared and we spend too much time briefing them and not enough time letting them express their ideas and that vetting their assumptions. The secret I learned in the research for this book, a hundred case studies, is that a deal brief that's given to everyone that's going to come to a meeting three days before, hopefully over a weekend, is the secret to success. When you put together the problem, the influence map, the history of the opportunity, and the strength weakness opportunity threat of the target, and you put that into a three to four page brief. You give it to a wide diverse group of thinkers and you bring them into the room they are bursting with vetted ideas and you can enter the debate cycle within fifteen minutes. That's where you really hatch constructive plans.
Mike: Is this something that really has to be done in a room with a white board and a pot of coffee or can you use enterprise social networks rather tools to scale this up beyond just the physical environment?
Tim: Very good question! So the answer is it depends on the organization and its culture. In certain situations the umbrella of grace that is extended that causes everyone to reveal the not so common information that really leads to creative solutions has to happen in the room. Because, what you have to do is dissolve those boundaries or as one author that I researched writes - Leigh Thompson in Creative Conspiracy - you gotta solve those fault lines. So sometimes you have to do that face to face because they're such a high telepresence of communication can happen more face to face. However, that being said I've seen a lot of shared environments that were purely digital. The analogy I would use for those organizations, say Google and advertising sales or Linkedin and HR solutions, it’s called the accordion. So think of the accordion as like the account executive and the small team of cross departmental players get together and they identify and agree on the problem and they pontificate on potential next steps and then they go out and have all their separate meetings with their tribes their stakeholders. To figure out what they can do what they can get commitment to and that's a bigger set of meetings and then they collapse back into that small Dealstorming meeting again to talk about what's happened. The executive kinda keeps that going so according goes in and out and out over time and what kind of pulls them along is the shared document features. Whether its salesforce or Google drive, whatever it is, so that shared work space is critical to that accordion keeping the group together through multiple iterations and little tribe holder meetings etcetera.
Mike: It seems that these companies that are successful that build a culture that is collaborative to solve problems really depends on the strength of the networks that they have internally.
Tim: That is absolutely true Mike, it is. There was a study in 2014 by Miller Heiman Institute that does a lot of research on sales performance. And they identified this type of company they call world class organization. World class organizations sell twenty percent more than their competitors and has better reputation for deliveries, the place you want to be in any business right? They said that they looked at everything attribute wise that they could all share in common to find the one that could be modelled and they said the only thing they could find in common with all these world class organizations is the habit of conscious collaboration across departments in pursuit of large deals. Because the large deals are the war stories around the campfire that create that corporate culture.
Mike: They become a shared experience.
Tim: They become a share experience exactly. The stories, the heroes, the multi-million dollar deal that saved the company. So what happens is that the world class organization uses a sales challenge as platform, a burning platform, if you will to create underground tunnels between silos that can't be solved. The worldclass organization would believe that you can't solve silos as long as you have budgets and limited resources. They will always be built to harden the world from the outside that that department wrote. But when you create these collaboration projects up against a sales challenge, you create these tunnels, these high level communication experiences between groups that allow them to function very well despite the fact that they live in silos. It changes the culture of the company.
Mike: It’s like a neural link almost like a kind of form of muscle memory.
Tim: It is and the reason why is because, getting back to one of my earlier points, this account executive is really good at using the right lever to create a shared vision. The shared vision is not the revenue believe it or not you know engineering and operations and everybody outside of finance and sales they don't care about the money that much right! In the world we live in the stock market you don't even know that money leads to stock performance. But I hate our rival. That organization where the pain of losing is greater than the joy of winning and that works every single time and so the act of bringing a team together to solve a sales challenge to kick a rivals ass…
Mike: It’s tribal right?!
Tim: Yes, exactly. What it does culturally, is it puts competition on the outside. So that's part of that culture building process, so what I loved about the Miller research and I write about it in the new book is, it redefines what it means to be a sales driven organization. Right we also thought a sales driven organizations was an organization where sales had to bring the business in or the lights don't stay on but that’s not it at all. Sales through its collaboration through its boundary busting problem solving mentality creates a truly innovative organization. Right because creativity, which I spent a lot of time researching, creativity is one's ability to produce surprising yet truly appropriate solutions to the situation. That comes from culture, and that culture comes from shared experiences. And besides, save the company product or marketing which is very rare, these sales challenges present the platform for organizations to reinvent themselves.
Mike: What I think is intriguing about this, is that companies often think about these things in isolation. Almost like in a vacuum, they say to themselves we want to be more innovative, we want to be more collaborative, we want to be more creative. But they kind of tell people to host spend part of their day doing that it, there is no focus around that.
Tim: Right, there’s a process. I mean there are two common ideas that came out of all my research. I interviewed two hundred different executives across all the different verticals and and not just salespeople, CEO, CMO, Chief Product Officers and there’s two ideas. Idea number one, without a process you get a mess. You don't prescribe collaboration, you adopt a structure for it, you create escalation points, and you create a process around it to structure it so that the time is spent wisely, execution is based on a test and scale basis. So when you have that process, the thing works great, you don't the process you have the “goat rodeo” I call brainstorming. Second key idea I got out of all my interviews, is that the winning culture has the following mantra. Ideas can come from anywhere. When leadership adopts this mantra, ideas can come from anywhere, you shatter one of the most important myths we need to shatter about creativity and that's the myth of the expert. You and I know there's no such thing as experts, they're just experienced people that have opinions.
Mike: But we also kind of buy into that heroic archetype of kind of the lone genius on the mountain top.
Tim: Another myth of creativity right? Thomas Edison stood for twelve people right? There is no lone genius, Whitney didn't invent the cotton gin.
Mike: Why do we lust after that?
Tim: I interviewed a creativity expert, David Birkus, who wrote a wonderful book called the “Myths of Creativity”, and he said that it goes all the way back to mythology right? It's like, it's a romantic notion like the hero's journey. So we're very resistant when people like me or him or the other creativity experts, when they come out and say there is no lone inventor, it's all collaboration, it's all people building and other people's ideas. Or as Ed Kappel from Pixar says ‘most ideas are like really ugly babies’, you know that are brought to like and kind of made pretty you know by a town or a committee. But Birkus told me, he said we fight for this, we fight for the idea that Steve Jobs invented everything, it was Steve when you know it wasn't. It’s Jony Ive in the studio and it cascades down, you got Tony Fadell in there, I mean you know you know it's a huge team but we have that romantic notion, we fight for it, that’s the problem with myths of creativity. If we believe there's one big idea that saves the company, if we believe there's one lone genius that saves the company, we never collaborate, that's the risk. When we break these myths down we realize no, I've got to build a web around me that’s democratic. I’ve got to extend the umbrella, i’ve got implement a meritocracy for these meetings were ideas can come from anywhere. That that's the only way that any company truly solves any problem.
Mike: One of the other big problems other companies are trying to get their minds around beyond obviously creasing sales is experiences. And you know, in my work, I see this as particularly important because when thinking about digital transformation in the context of how it improves the customer experience for a new generation of customers. You’ve done a lot of thinking and work around emotional talent, how does that tap into this idea of experience.
Tim: So let's tie into why emotional talent is so important. Donald Broadbent, he was a UK professor in the fifties, he penned a theory that he spent a lot of time researching, it’s called Broadbent's filter. Right they always name the concept after themselves. He believed that the human brain would develop these filters that would keep information from penetrating and demanding attention and that the more demands on our attention that are made, the denser the filter becomes and that there would be a point where the human being is accosted twenty times a day with a request for our attention, he predicted it’ll be somewhere in the sixties or seventies. Of course, now it's five hundred times a day and it's escalating, so the filter is so dense it’s a miracle anything gets through. But Broadbent suggested there was velvet rope and when he wrote this it inspired a young man named Daniel Goleman. Broadbent explained this emigdula, this emotional seat of the brain that was thirty-five times more powerful than the logical brain. That is the hijack, it is the velvet rope, it is the secret, like before the book the secret came out, to being successful with human beings. So to cut to the chase, when you take a look at companies that have figured out customer experience design, whether it’s virgin airlines, whether it's Ritz Carlton, whether it’s Starbucks. What they've done is they've taken a design viewpoint about how the customers journey works from an emotional experience that went beyond that Microsoft functionality and they entered the apple surprise and delight world. So I’ve done a lot of work that basically says, leaders need to think like designers, especially when it comes to their employees emotional experience, which drives either their cortisol or DHEA production. This leads to their problem solving ability, which leads to their ability to get along with each other, which leads to engagement, and entrepreneurship, and all those things we push for. We've got to design an emotional experience that’s so positive that when the employee comes to work everyday somehow there is a song in their heart and not a pit in their stomach. In the last two years, I’ve also developed a body of research that suggests this is infinitely even more important in terms of how companies treat their supply partners and vendors. If you think like a designer and you say ‘I am the best client, I am tough but fair, but I am the best client from an emotional standpoint,’ you get the A-team, and your service levels are dramatically higher. The research I've seen says it's three hundred percent more determinative of performance of your service providers then your ability to negotiate strong contracts with them. So it’s thinking like a designer, design being defined as the constant act of problem solving.
Mike: And what kind of resolution do they have to do this? I mean, CEOs can sort of understand they can go out on a weekend retreat and come up with a bold purpose for the business. But how do you sort of go down to the to the level of day to day managing the emotional levels?
Tim: It’s a brilliant question. So getting back to customer experience I’ll use an example, so Sharp Healthcare systems in San Diego read a book, the same book I read, “Turn of the century; the experience economy” by Pine and Gilmore, talked about the idea that in the future people buy experiences, the don’t buy services. So Sharp decides they're going to do this, so the CEO comes in and decides ‘hey we want to compete on having the best experience” and he challenges every discipline in the hospital system to segment the experience, because the patient doesn't have one experience, they have a bunch of little transactions along a designed plot-line from discovery to billing that leads to an overall impression. So whether it was the emergency room, or whether it was oncology or whether it was prenatal, they all had their little collaborative exercises to redesign their experience and the winning group which was based on the KPI have net promoter score. The winning group was pavilion where they do colonoscopy. These guys sat down as a group democratically and they asked everybody ‘what are all the experiences the patient has around a colonoscopy?” Well you can imagine it's a pretty bad experience from preparation to conclusion it sucks! They realize in this experiment/discussion the two things they couldn't change was the flee enigma or the actual invasive procedure, they can’t do anything about those. But they changed everything else.
Mike: So they give you a hug afterwards?
Tim: Get this - so the night before your colonoscopy you receive a video they produced, and it's kind of humorous, but it's kind of serious and it kind of helps. They call it an orientation video, because it helps you learn surprises, as the more you know about what's going to happen when you go in the less bad it is right? So the video kind of sets your expectations. You’re given a wake up call the next day by cheerful nice person at your home. When you show up at Sharp Healthcare they link the picture in the health insurance records to your appointment so that they recognize you before you even identify yourself just like Starbucks does. Brilliant hack by the way, Starbucks doesn’t give you a number they ask you your name, Shapr does the same, they say ‘Mike it's nice to see you’ when you walk into the pavilion. They redesigned the walkways because men don't like to see other men in their robes so there's no eye contact between patients, they also redesigned their robes around the San Diego Chargers, the local football team, as they got rid of the hole in the back of the robe it’s Velcro at the side. When you come out of the procedure your served orange juice on stemware. The doctor is trained in empathy so when he calls you with the results, if their bad he's very sensitive, if they're positive he's almost jolly, and it's almost like a Southwest Airlines flight where they kind of joke around when you land. But by taking that colonoscopy experience and breaking it down into every little transaction they did the two things that a designer always does, they get rid of the pain points and they find those signature moments that can be staged and I think that's the secret. It’s also something I'm super interested in. So great leaders today have a design viewpoint and they understand how to read the emotions of their people correctly and they know how to design for a consistently positive emotional experience, not just for the customer, but for the employees and the vendors they depend on.
Mike: Which companies have you seen that have taken that logic and applied it to the employee vendor or supplier experience?
Tim: Sas Institute, it is considered one of the best companies to work for in the world, no doubt. Fortune has a list they come out with every year and Sas Institute has been top ten for twenty years. So, they get it! They get it so much that Google went there to Cary, North Carolina in 2000 and they stayed there for a month just bugging the founder Jim Goodnight, a statistician, bugging him about how we did everything at Sas because he figured it out. He was the first corporate campus, he was the guy they got rid of cyclic time - at Sas they don't have sick days. You just come in if you feel healthy, if your kid sick don't go to work, if you can’t do your job they replace you. They bring in fresh flowers every Wednesday, there is onsite food, they've had on site health care for you and your family from the 31st day since 1989.
Mike: Do they do this globally? Because I know there's a trend with a lot of these tech companies kind of utopian campuses in the United States but if you work for them anywhere else…?
Tim: Well, Cary, North Carolina is a utopian campus, but when they have expanded out, I have had the opportunity to speak for them in other countries such as Brazil, they have replicated that campus idea. They want to create that solution, that sticky point that's family oriented and by the way, they are the first that adopted the strict 38 hour work week with no evening and weekend email, he was the first guy! The French got the idea from him. Goodnight realized that if you could tell an engineer you don't have to check your email evenings or weekends, and he realized this a decade ago, that it would create a huge advantage for the next generation that wasn’t as workaholic as their boomer parents. Sas institute has great design for employee experience.
Costco, great design for vender, or what they call partner, experience. Jim Sinegal and his team take just as much time and attention around the Kirkland brand supplier chain that allows him to produce such an outstanding quality product at a fraction of the price of most of the leading brand. He realized that their ability to produce strong store brands and have really good suppler relations came down to their ability to be their retailer of choice. He was smart because think about his competition like Walmart, who has a reputation for being the crap out of their suppliers to push the price down, he saw an opportunity to think like a designer and if you shop Costco versus a Sam's club or Walmart it's not even close.
Mike: We're at a time now where 21st organizations are going to be under attack from A I algorithms, automation, and more computers. Do you think this is going to present a challenge to the design of these kind of human experiences inside organizations?
Tim: I was thinking about that today, and I think so. I read something about Robert Scoble - Scoble wrote a famous blog called the Scobleizer, he’s chief technology evangelist now at Rackspace. But yesterday, he was talking about how excited he was to see all these independent bookstores dying, he thinks this is a really good thing for society and the way it should be. And what he what is that if you want to be a successful technology leg company in the future as a consumer services company you have to reward the lazy and stop rewarding the innovators because that's what ruins business. He says you know the only people that ever got any value out of going to independent bookstore from like 2000 - 2015 were the innovators that figured out how to hack the store and get something out of the whole hassle of driving there and parking and buying real physical books and having to carry them around and monkey with them, when the rest of the lazy world that carries a kindle around just does it on two clicks. He says business has to change their philosophy to reward the lazy if they want to stay on the cutting edge of innovation.That really hit me today and I said, ‘yeah that's where things are going, that’s where we are now with machine learning, AI, and everything converging. We have to realize that the lazy will rule the future of consumer services.
Mike: Tim it's been a great pleasure hanging out as always.
Tim: Absolute pleasure, drive safe.