We sat down with Owner of Bombadil LLC and Developer of Urgency Based Selling®, Andy Gole, to discuss the nature behind motivation in sales and why the act of selling should be considered heroic.
A little bit of information about our guest, Andy Gole.
Stefan: Good morning and welcome to the Great Sales Leaders Know podcast series. Today, we’ll be focusing on the topic of motivation in sales and why the act of selling is very positive and should be viewed as heroic. For over 25 years, our guest has worked with CEOs, owners, and corporate leaders throughout the U.S, helping them achieve great sales performance. He also taught at Fairleigh Dickinson University for eight years at the Rothman Institute of Entrepreneurial Studies. He started three businesses, including a sales consulting business started 25 years ago. During his career, he has thoroughly researched popular sales processes and uncovered their strengths and their shortcomings. From years of testing and evaluation, he developed the Urgency-based Selling system®, a unique approach founded on philosophies which drive and accelerate human behavior. He contributes original content regularly to forbes.com and is the author of a forthcoming book titled, Innovate Now: Scale up with 16 Break-through Techniques set to release in June of this year. For more information, you can always check out his website at www.urgencybasedselling.net.
Stefan: How did it all get started for you? What triggered your fascination with sales?
Andy: Well, it was an interesting personal story relative to this theme of motivation and what motivates sales people. I actually started out to be a professor of economics and it didn’t work out for me. I was in a PhD program at UC Berkeley, decided it wasn’t a fit, dropped out, spent a couple of years trying to find myself, and kind of went off the grid in my early twenties. I actually set up work in factories for two years and I studied philosophy at night, that’s probably when I formed a lot of the core ideas that underlie Urgency-based selling®. I eventually decided to return to civilization. I worked for a number of years for a company as the pricing and planning manager and in that role I had access to P&L data. With that I learned that the people who earned the most money, other than the leaders of the departments, were the salespeople and so I was determined to get into sales for that reason. I must have been 27 or 28 years old at that time and I went to my boss and I said, “I want to do some selling,” our corporate headquarters was located in New Jersey but the factories that made the cans were in the south of the United States. So my boss said, “We’ll do you want to move down to Atlanta Georgia or that area?” and I said, “No”. He said, “Well, that’s where all the sales jobs are so you can’t have a sales job.” So then I did something that I think could be interesting to your listeners. I went all in and I said, “Okay, I got it, if there is no sales job, I’m giving my notice because I want to sell.”
Andy: That was really an important principle in my life. I discovered that you have to really be totally committed. You have to convey your level of commitment because this is an important reason why people decide to go ahead with you. I was totally committed so my boss found a sales job for me. There was a unique item in a factory that we bought that nobody was really selling and he gave me the assignment of selling it. A couple of years later when they moved everything down to Atlanta, I was offered a job and I proposed an alternative. I said, “Why don’t you set me up as an independent sales agent on a commission basis and I’ll sell these unique items?” That’s how I got into selling and that’s how I got into starting my first business.
Stefan: That’s interesting because obviously you’re an entrepreneur and in a big component of being a successful entrepreneur is commitment. You learned at a young age, in order to be successful you have to give it everything you’ve got.
Stefan: What acted as your biggest motivation for the development in your sales career? Was it the drive to be an entrepreneur?
Andy: I considered one profession after another and I actually decided entrepreneurship was the only thing that fit. I wasn’t ready but I knew then that’s what I was going to do. When I went back on the grid, I picked a company that allowed for me to get an MBA because I felt I needed more business knowledge. So I have an MBA from NYU and I devoted all of my energy to acquiring experience, skills, and knowledge that would allow me to launch my first business.
Stefan: You mentioned in the article that motivation can stem from strong corporate culture and in my experience with different companies, a sales team can sometimes be seen as a clique and are not fully integrated into the corporate culture. So, what are some ways that salespeople or a sales team can become more integrated into that workplace culture that can help them strive for success?
Andy: The first thing that I would mention is that, very often salespeople are not fully integrated into the company and they’re actually in some ways toxic to the organization. Sometimes successful salespeople think they’re above everything and above everybody and they’re not team players and so, my model which I hope I embrace is the humble sales warrior. That is the ideal, the person who is just like a fantastic warrior at selling but has great humility and I think it’s the job of leadership to set up an environment where that can involve and supports that kind of a mindset for salesperson. The humility part is not hard to achieve if you’re familiar with books like “Good Too Great”, a level 5 leader is very humble and transparent and open the new ideas. It’s the sales warrior part that I don’t think is always so obvious to companies, to leadership in companies.
If you’re not a salesperson, it could be hard to understand the mindset of what a salesperson goes through when he or she is doing their primary task of business development, bringing in the bacon and being a rainmaker. A person who does that kind of behavior on behalf of the organization is a hero. Very often, selling is disparaged sometimes by top executives who don’t understand selling. Believe it or not, it’s even disparaged by salespeople because of negative stereotypes in our culture such as those that flow from a book like Death of a Salesman. In this story, the anti-hero, Willy Loman, is a slimy loser. Whether or not people have read the book, seen the play or the movie, they’ve been affected by how that stereotype has infiltrated our culture. Sometimes you’ll hear somebody say, “Ew, I wouldn’t do that, that’s like a used car salesman.” So there’s a very negative view associated with salespeople which from my perspective is insane because sales people are heroes. Now, why are they heroes? Is it okay Stefan if I just talk for a minute or two about what makes salespeople heroes?
Stefan: Absolutely. That’s one of the main focuses of today. I first heard this concept on your YouTube video, I’ve never thought of someone in sales as being a hero so I’d love for you to elaborate on why you feel that a sales position is an act of heroism.
Andy: I’m just kind of curious, can you interest back for a moment and give me a considered answer to this question, why you never would have associated selling with heroism?
Stefan: The reason why I didn’t fully compare the two relates to the old stigma behind a salesperson and that they are often seen as Willy Loman from Death of a Salesman, or that slimy car salesman. Being a successful salesperson is very challenging, I would never disagree with that, but I never considered it an act of heroism.
Andy: So, the genesis here is the fact that we face uncertainty. We face uncertainty in sales and the reason we face it is because so often salespeople face buyers who say, “I’m good. I’m satisfied. I’m content.” I have a vendor to satisfy my needs.” and that person is closed. Now use a source material for the theory of the hero, Hero with a Thousand Faces written by Campbell, an anthropologist. Campbell studied hero myths in hundreds of cultures over thousands of years. To me, the central contribution of this book is to sketch out the crusade of the hero and in particular, to define the moment in time when somebody becomes a hero.
So an example, in a classic myth, you have an imaginary creature like a dragon who’s threatening a village and when enough people or cattle die, the mayor, the Queen or the King, they gather all the townspeople together and they say, “If somebody will go forth, find and kill the dragon and cut off his head and bring it back, their reward will be half of my kingdom.” You picture there are hundreds of people in the town square, they’re all looking down at their feet and all of the sudden one person says, “I’ll go.” So this person rides out facing the unknown and they have adventures, they meet allies and enemies on the road and the allies help them because an essential part of myth is the idea of the worthy hero. For example, somebody gives him the cloak of invisibility so the dragon won’t see him. They acquire tools on the road and finally come to face the dragon where they have the climactic battle. The hero vanquishes the dragon and the town is now free. The central question in this book, Hero with a Thousand Faces is, at what point of this story does the champion become a hero? What is the heroic moment? I’m just curious, if you haven’t heard me talk on it do you have a response to that?
Stefan: I think it’s facing uncertainty.
Andy: That’s the answer. It’s when the person raises their hand and says, “I’ll go” because they’re facing great uncertainty and danger. Now salespeople who were doing business development are doing that every day. They’re putting themselves in harm’s way and one could argue they’re on a 3 or 4 level crusade. First of all they’re trying to sell for themselves. Most salespeople are on commission or they get a bonus for selling. So if they sell, they’ll improve themselves. Secondly, they’re on a quest for their company. They’re trying to keep the company vibrant and this is so important as we move towards what might be another recession. Therefore, salespeople are protecting the company and perhaps more importantly the company culture. They’re protecting the core team because in a recession, when sales can decline 20-30 percent. I was with a company a little while ago giving a seminar and we were talking about the last recession. They mentioned sales declined 30 percent or more and when sales decline like that, inevitably you have to lay off employees. So the salespeople are like knights protecting the realm and the realm in their case are all the other team members who work for the organization.
The fourth level of the crusade may be the most important and that is trying to help the client reach a higher level of well-being. What makes this so tricky is that typically the client is fighting them because they start the interaction by saying, “I’m good!” And what is the salesperson to do when a prospect says, “I’m good”? They have to have such tremendous self-belief in themselves and in their company. They have to face the dragon, in this case it is not fire-breathing dragon, it’s a closed mindset and the essential heroic act of a salesperson is opening the closed mind. How do we do it? The heroic salesperson does it by getting the prospect to look up instead of looking down. So many prospects are on a false peak or a false summit. Imagine a mountain with two peaks, one is pretty high up and the other is much higher. The average prospect is on the lower peak of the mountain and is looking down. When we come in as a salesperson and we say, “Hey, I’ve got a great idea for you.” The prospect says, “I’m good,” because the prospect is looking down and saying, “Hey I’ve accomplished a lot.” What makes the salesperson heroic in my view is opening the closed mind to get them to look up instead of looking down and say, “Wow! There’s a higher mountain peak, how can you help me get there?”
How do you get somebody to look up? There are two principles I would mention – bold vision and bold behavior, and how do you enact these two principles? With type 3 knowledge. There are three types of knowledge. Type 1 knowledge is what you know or what the prospect knows. Type 2 knowledge is what the prospect knows they don’t know. Type 3 knowledge is what they don’t realize they don’t know, and that’s why they’re not looking up because of type 3 knowledge. So the reason why we’re a hero is that we’re bringing information to the prospect. Type 3 knowledge will help them reach a higher level of well-being by getting them to consider the possibility of looking up versus looking down.
Stefan: There’s a lot of great points in that answer and I like the connection that you made between how salespeople can be seen as heroes but I also like that you touched on the fact that it’s the sales leaders job to ultimately get their sales reps in that mindset. It’s to propel their sales team to get their prospects to look up instead of looking down, especially with the type 3 knowledge. Teaching them something they don’t know that they don’t know.
Stefan: In the same article, you referred to emotional intoxication as the ultimate achievement for salespeople. So, I want you to explain in your context, what emotional intoxication means for a sales team and why is it important for a sales leader to strive for their team to reach this point?
Andy: So, the discussion we just had about the heroic mindset is the core of emotional intoxication and so it’s a building block to this next question you’re asking. I’ve been studying philosophy for over 40 years, and my thoughts on emotional intoxication were inspired by Nietzsche in Twilights of the Idols where he talks about this state of intoxication. Through the work I’ve done through my life, through my studies, and through introspection, I’ve culled out a formula for getting to emotional intoxication. So an emotional intoxication is an accelerated state of mind, it’s like how we want to experience life. For example, when you give me an opportunity to sing my song as I am now, I’m intoxicated and this is how I like to live, right? So it becomes a perpetual energy machine. Once you get to this state, it becomes self-propelling because you come up with great new ideas which leads to additional emotional intoxication. So, it’s an emotional intoxication machine when you get to this state of mind because you’re constantly creating.
Here are the components of emotional intoxication. The base without which it’s not possible is moral certainty. You have to be sure that what you’re doing is right and that’s why the idea of opening the closed mind, showing the higher peak, and doing it with type 3 knowledge are critical. They’re critical to the base of emotional certainty because if you don’t believe that what you’re doing is a good thing, you’re going to hate yourself, right? So, these ideas that I laid out in the theory of the hero are essential to moral certainty because the closed mind is the essential heroic act and what could be more valuable or powerful than opening a closed mind? That’s your moral certainty. The heroic piece comes from not only those elements but also persisting in the face of adversity and I have a formulation that I’ll offer you and your listeners for another way to look at the heroic act – bold vision, bold behavior. Are you being bold enough in your vision? Are you being bold enough in your behavior?
Andy: So this is how I got into this crazy business of sales consulting. It’s 25 or more years ago, I have the sales agency that sells packaging to food packers. I hired a new accounting firm and they invite me in to try to upsell me a proprietary spreadsheet they developed and I listened to a one-hour presentation. At the end of the presentation, I’m face-to-face with the main partner who’s in the room and I say to him, “Is this how you normally sell?” He says, “Yeah it was pretty good, wasn’t it.” I said, “Gee, I felt the need of some work.” So I chewed this over and about two weeks later, I call him and I said, “Bert, you and your six partners need to hire me to teach you how to sell.” They kind of liked my ideas and they saw a very primitive version of what I now teach. So they brought me in for a conversation and asked me some questions relating to my experience with teaching sales. At that time, I had no experience with actually teaching sales.
So, as you could imagine, this is not a perfect setup for closing a sale. I’d never done it before but I was sure I could do it; I had the conviction. So, they liked my ideas and they brought me out on the sales call where I helped them close two sales. About a month later, the CPAs hired me. I worked with them for six months and during that period of time, their closing ratio went from 20% to 80%. Now this story represents bold vision, bold behavior because what I have going for me to make this sale, I had a bold vision. I conveyed a bold vision to the CPA firm. What was my bold behavior? It was insanity! It was insane to try to convince people who are by reputation, totally conservative that they should hire you to do something that you’ve never done before, right? This story is also an example of a learning mindset because I was able to open the closed mind. The real credit to the story goes to the CPA because they were willing to learn.
Stefan: I think it relates to my thoughts on a good sales rep in that they’re servants but they need to have that motivation to serve. So it sounds like you didn’t have all the puzzle pieces in order in your first meeting with them but you had the motivation and conviction that you can help them and I think that is what propelled you to ultimately be successful in that instance.
Stefan: We are all motivated financially to go to work, but how can you ensure that your sales team is motivated and excited about the product or service that they are selling?
Andy: So, there are three things I would bring to the attention of both salespeople and sales leaders. First are two motivational components: respect and self-respect, and then the third is, supporting the worthy sales hero. So, let’s talk about respect and self-respect. What gives a salesperson self-respect is the crusade. Having a worthy crusade and opening the closed mind, bringing the prospect to a higher level of well-being, are all important components. So, leadership in my view needs to make it possible for people to be on a sales crusade. Similarly, the salesperson has to pick a job to which he or she can be committed and at the same time, leadership passed to him make it possible for them to be totally committed; that gets you self-respect.
The respect comes from a very powerful selling system where the prospect shows respect to the salesperson. This is a leadership function to design a selling process that’s so powerful and I believe that urgency based selling, what I developed, is one such option. It’s so powerful that it causes the prospect to give respect to the salespeople. Salespeople are often treated disrespectfully by prospects. You have to have a selling process that’s so powerful that it causes the prospect to show respect. If you have a very powerful selling method and an even more powerful sales presentation, it engenders PIKs – payments in kind, which shows respect to the sales person. If a salesperson has self-respect and respect, they’ll be motivated for life.
So, if you have a salesperson in front of you who’s a worthy hero, who’s riding forth like a knight of the realm to protect the organization and to protect the prospect against impossible odds, you need to support them. You support them with the sales culture that recognizes and supports the sales hero. You develop a sales process and provide powerful selling tools. In ancient myths, it was the cloak of invisibility, it was the invincible sword. In the case of a salesperson, it’s sales marketing tools and powerful messaging with visual icons that quickly convey our message to the prospect. It’s proving materials, testimonials, and case studies to address the skepticism of the prospect. If you have a bold vision and you catch the prospect’s attention, the next thing that might set in is skepticism. Prospects are risk-averse and so, the worthy salesperson has to be armed with a fantastic toolbox to handle that scenario.
Stefan: I love the last point! As somebody who’s on the marketing team and responsible for helping build a tool box that the sales team can use, I definitely resonate with that point. Now Andy, we’re running out of time but you’ve got some big news coming up.
Stefan: I want to touch on your forthcoming book, Innovate Now. What are some of the main ideas that you’re hoping the readers will take away from it?
Andy: Well, the whole book, taken together, is a path to get into emotional intoxication and throughout the book, I offer the reader immediate ideas they could implement right now to revolutionize their selling. In addition, brainstorming processes in some of the chapters that will allow them to create their own new selling ideas. So you’ve heard about insured forum, like payments in kind, bold vision, bold behavior, and the “all-in” principle. We talked about the premortem as a brainstorming technique and the premortem is when you ask yourself the thought question when you’re in a campaign, “Why will I never close this account?” So I talk about how you could stimulate your own brainstorming. I give people, in effect, fish to eat today and then how to catch your own fish in the future which metaphorically means how to develop your own new selling ideas. As a final piece for people who are really adventuresome, I’ve developed an induction worksheet. A worksheet to help you go way out of the box and create your own ideas, drawn from Francis Bacon’s New Organon written in 1620. So there’s all kinds of stuff in there for the salesperson and for the sales leaders.
Stefan: When will it be available?
Andy: It should be available by June.
Stefan: Awesome, that’s fantastic. What I loved about this discussion is the fact that we really touched on the theoretical side of sales. I mean oftentimes, when I’m in discussion with other people in the industry, we were very analytical and metric-based which is also important but I think it’s crucial to look at the theoretical side of how to be successful. And I certainly enjoyed listening to your ideas. I want to thank you very much for your time today. I think we covered some awesome topics and I hope that our listeners learned something because I know I did. I wish you all the best and I look forward to the launch of your upcoming book.
Andy: Well, thank you for this opportunity. I hope you have a great day and I hope your listeners have a great day. Thank you very much.
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