Paul and Alex Brockman of CSG (Cornerstone Solutions Group) discuss how to thrive and grow even in the adversity of the ongoing pandemic.
How many decision makers are involved in your selling process?
How are you “multi-threading your relationships in key accounts so that you can not only weather a situation like that (decision-maker turnover), but come out on the better side of it”? Alex Brockman
You need layered relationships within an organization. Get buy-in from multiple levels.
“Tough times are a catalyst for positive change.”
“Whenever the challenge is ahead of us and we’re right in the middle of it, that’s usually whenever greatness happens.” Alex Brockman
“You have to put yourself in a position where success is your only option.”
Visit www.ToughTimer.com to get started on the 30-Day Tough-Timer Challenge!
Click here to purchase the latest edition of Value-Added Selling!
Thanks to our production team at The Creative Impostor Studios! Click here to book a complimentary consultation with Strategist and Producer, Andrea Klunder, to find out how to launch, produce, and grow your company’s podcast.
Connect with today’s guest, Alex Brockman: linkedin.com/in/a-brockman
Also mentioned in the podcast: CSG (Cornerstone Solutions Group)
Thank you for tuning in. Our show is updated weekly with the questions you ask. So, please go to the home page to ask the question that you want answered.
Be sure to follow our show in your favorite podcast app and share this episode with a colleague or friend.
And most importantly…make it a big day.
How do I manage an opportunity when my decision maker is no longer with the company? With Alex Brockman
(Transcribed from podcast interview)
“You can sit there, and we can have our pity party, right? And we can have that thing of, ‘I can’t do anything about this.’ You have the ability to control only what you can—right—what you say and what you do. And if you don’t do anything in the face of challenge, then, you have nobody to blame but yourself if things don’t go the way that you would like them to.” Alex Brockman
Paul: On today’s episode, we have a special guest. His name is Alex Brockman. He is the chief strategist for CSG. This is a boutique software and analytics consulting firm based here in my hometown—St. Louis, Missouri. In addition to his work at CSG, Alex has also started several companies that assist small businesses and nonprofits with ideation sessions, management consulting, and also strategic planning.
I can tell you, Alex is one of a kind. I get together with Alex, you know, it seems like a few times a year. And every time we get together and talk sales, I always leave the conversation smarter than I was before. So man, I’m thrilled to have Alex on the show today. Alex’s career has focused on strategic growth, marketing, brand transformation, and change management. And he did this for several companies, with Bank of America, Wells Fargo Advisors, New Ground, and eventually CSG, the company that he works for now.
Alex is a true strategist. He knows the critical building blocks of success in today’s evolving economy. So, in addition to that, Alex and his wife, man, they are committed to giving back. I’ve heard story after story on this. They get heavily involved in the community, also in their church. They plan it and focus their attention on helping families in neighborhoods that are impacted by addiction, incarceration and poverty. Although we didn’t get a chance to talk about that on the podcast, it just gives you some context of the kind of guy Alex is. So anyway, it’s great to have him on the show. I hope you enjoyed this episode as much as I had fun interviewing Alex.
Before we get into the show, though, a quick shout-out to our sponsors, Andrea, over at The Creative Impostor Studios. You know, Andrea is extremely helpful when it comes to podcasting, even when it comes to sharing resources. I mean, she has the pulse of the podcasting industry and she’s constantly updating her clients, like me, and all the other groups that she works with, to help them become more successful on their podcast. Our podcast continues to grow. And a lot of the success is attributed to Andrea and her team helping us and supporting us. So, if you have a podcast or if you’re interested in starting a podcast, please reach out to Andrea and her team. We’re going to have a link over to her website on this episode’s webpage.
Also, during the interview, Alex and I talk about tough times. And, in fact, Alex shares kind of a breakthrough that he had throughout the pandemic when it initially really got here. I mean, when we initially were affected by it, it was back in early March of 2020. And what Alex and I talk about is the fact that tough times are good because of the positive change they can generate. Right now, the suffering and everything that’s going along with the tough time that we’re in, that’s not good. But what is good about tough times is that it will generate positive change in your life. And so, when I think about that, I think of the new book, Selling Through Tough Times. My new book is coming out. It’s slightly delayed, because with everything going on in the world right now, we had to push back the launch of the new book. But it should be arriving, really, almost any week now it’s going to be available. You can pre-order your copy of the book on Amazon. It’s available right now. We’re going to have a link directly to Amazon, so you can pre-order your copy. You can also download it on Audible once the book is released. It’s also available via your Kindle edition. So, you can have it three ways: the actual book, the Audible book or via Kindle. Either way, the book is coming out soon. I can’t wait to share it with the community.
Let’s get into the episode.
Paul: Hello everyone. Welcome to another episode of the Q and A Sales Podcast. On today’s episode, we have Alex Brockman joining us. Alex, thanks for joining us on the show.
Alex: Happy to be here. Happy to be here. I appreciate the opportunity.
Paul: Absolutely man. Thanks. Why don’t we do this? Maybe you could share a little bit just about yourself for The Q and A Sales Podcast. Maybe a little bit about your sales experience and what you’re currently doing.
Alex: Yeah. So, I joined a company called CSG (Cornerstone Solutions Group) at the beginning of 2019, and have had the great opportunity to just kind of evolve this company from being a 30-year old kind of software development, very project-oriented company into a true-blooded consulting strategic firm that comes in and helps people understand not only where they’re at, but the roadmap to get to where they want to go. And how to leverage technology, how to empower their people with data, and put all those pieces of the puzzle together.
So, it’s been a very fun journey, not only the work internally at CSG, but having that translate into successful relationships with the clients that we’ve been working with for over a decade, as well as the new people that I’ve had the opportunity to bring on since. So working at CSG, we’ve got a couple of other things going on. I’ve got a company called Whole Brain Strategies where myself and my co-founder have the ability to kind of leverage both sides of the brain, so Whole Brain Strategies: the left side is the analytical, the risk averse, all of that kind of rote procedural side. And then the right side of the brain is the interdisciplinary. It’s the creative side, it’s the problem-solving side of the brain. So instead of that gut reaction always to go and outsource solutions and answers for problems that companies have, a lot of times you’ve got all of that residing over here (gestures to right side of head). You just don’t tap into that side of your brain. And so, my co-founder wrote a book about it. It’s called Thought Revolution. And so, we just leveraged those tactics and speak with companies, nonprofits, for profits, big, small, everywhere in between to, to help them figure out how to get to answers faster.
And so, we’re kind of challenging the old strategic planning approach, which is years long and all the assessments and surveys and the process that goes into a big strategic plan. Whereas, you know, we can go into a right-brain ideation session, accomplish the same thing in about four hours for a fraction of the cost. So, a lot of exciting stuff. But, basically, all of it comes to this point where I’m coming to the understanding of who I am as a strategist and not just, not just having the sales expertise that I have in doing this for over a decade, but how do I apply that in a strategic fashion? And so that’s, that’s the evolution that I’ve been trying to bring, not only to CSG, not only to Whole Brain Strategies, but you know what I do in my personal life, professional life, volunteering, all that kind of stuff. Just fully encompassing and trying to really kind of embrace that and lean into that.
So, I don’t know if that’s what you were looking for, but that’s what’s going on with me.
Paul: Nice. Thanks for the background there. And you know, it’s interesting, you mentioned with the brain piece. And it’s, been a year or a couple of years, rather since I’ve really diving into that. When we were working on the last edition of Value-Added Selling, we spent a lot of our professional researching and study time focused on behavioral economics and how we decide how everything—right brain, left brain—how it all impacts our decision making. And I mean, it’s fascinating to me. I think I tend to be more of a right brain type of individual, more on the creative side. That’s the piece I really enjoy. I love writing. I love just getting on a whiteboard and coming up with some ideas, whether it’s focusing on a new campaign, whatever it may be. So, I may need to tap into the left side a little bit. I may need to hit you up after this for some help on that. All right.
Alex: There you go. Absolutely looking forward to it.
Paul: Well, good stuff. You’re familiar with the show. The whole idea here is we want to help salespeople go out there and sell more profitably, more professionally. And part of that means helping them overcome some of the challenges that they’re continuously facing. And so that’s the whole platform of the show is, we answer questions that salespeople are facing every single day. Before this, we were talking a little bit about just some of the challenges, whether it’s over the past couple of years, whether it’s prior to the pandemic that we’re in right now, and we had a couple of questions come up. And one of them was, we were talking about how to deal with turnover. So maybe you could share with the podcast community here a little bit more about the question we’re going to answer.
Alex: Yeah. One of the biggest impacts of last year was just the C-level turnover. And so, what I understand for CSG, the company that I represent, is that we do best whenever we’re speaking with C-level executives and talking to them about the business objectives that they’re trying to accomplish, “What are you trying to get done this year? What are you accountable for this year?” And so, by doing so, then you just kind of go in and help figure out underneath them, all the people that are responsible for taking care of the tasks that accumulate into that thing that they’re accountable for. But whenever your C-level people, the ones that are on the axe because of everything that’s going on in the world, it’s tough to rebound from that. And so, the question was, “How are people multi-threading their relationships in key accounts so that they can not only weather a situation like that, but come out on the better side of it as well.”
Paul: That’s a common challenge. What’s interesting, though, I find that this happens more with lower level decision makers. When we’re working with organizations, oftentimes what will happen, maybe it’s a mid-level decision-maker that ends up leaving a company. And then the salesperson is left trying to figure out how to manage this opportunity because they only had maybe one or two individuals that were calling on. So, I love the way you put that, “multithreading within an organization,” because that’s what you need. You need those layered relationships to where you’re not only meeting with the high-level decision maker, the C-level, but also other people that are impacted by the decision.
So here’s a data point to remember, for the audience as well. When we doing our recent focusing research study, and we did this to just help update some of the data we had from our previous programs. We asked a group of salespeople, (these are top-achieving salespeople), “When you are managing your highest revenue-producing customers, how many decision makers get involved in the process?” And, we clarified: a decision maker is anyone that can influence the decision, whether it be technically, whether it be being the ultimate decision maker. And the average number was 5.8. Five point eight people are going to be involved. So call it, call it six people. That number is probably getting higher because we’re facing uncertainty right now. During times that are uncertain, people get more decision makers involved. It’s a technique to mitigate risk.
Let’s go back to the high school days. We had a senior skip day. When you’re a senior, everyone picks that one day where we’re going to skip class. And the whole idea is that, okay, if everyone participates, they’re not going to, they’re not going to throw out the entire class. They’re not going to punish everyone because it would just be too many. You spread risk over more people that are involved. That’s why more decision makers get involved. But, the key is, I think getting all of those decision makers involved means having a move towards a common goal. When we looked at and studied group decision making, one of the most challenging aspects of group decision making was getting people to at least agree on what their common needs are.
So let’s go back to this situation where we’ve got a C-level executive, who is now leaving the company for whatever reason—maybe they were fired, maybe they’re choosing to go a different direction, whatever it may be. You had the ultimate decision maker that is now no longer part of the process. The good news is, we still hopefully have four or five other people that are involved in the process. And as we’re incorporating a new high-level decision maker that’s going to come in, we need to take the group’s buy-in, we need to leverage that buy-in so that we can let the C-level executive know, “Hey, all these people are already on board with this decision. And you’re going to get a natural bandwagon effect there, where people are going to stay on board.
So, you know what I’m thinking off the top of my head here is, when we’re in this situation, the first thing we need to do is obviously identify—you know, the C level—that’s, where the decision is going to be made. But you almost need to get a passport to the rest of the organization. And when you’re meeting with that, C-level you say, “Hey, we know that for this project to be successful, for this to really get some legs and be able to move it forward, we’re going to need buy-in at multiple levels. So, let’s get started with that.” I’m going to meet individually with some of these folks just to understand their needs, what’s important to them. And I’m going to be able to tie that into the overall objective, which is, basically, you’re aligning your solution with what that executive is trying to achieve. You have a team of internal champions that are going to be working for you, even if that executive decides to leave.
I don’t know. What are your thoughts on—. I mean, how do you handle that from your perspective?
Alex: That’s pretty much why last year when everything’s happening, right, at the beginning of this whole process, I’m trying to figure out, when that day—I think it was in March of 2020—when the NBA cancels, the March Madness is done, NHL cancels the rest of their season. You just realize this is way bigger than we could have ever imagined. I cracked open a book and it’s called The Road Less Stupid.
Paul: I love the title of that, by the way. We’ll have to put a link to that on the, on the show notes.
Alex: Keith Cunningham. And he challenges you to just sit there and think. And so, I blended, you know, okay, what’s going on real-world with then tapping into the right brain and just coming up with, “Okay, how is it that we’re going to be able to navigate this,” because the stuff was already happening. And so, you know, directly to the question of “How do I multi-thread accounts?” I established, last year, a new process called The CSG Environment Assessment. And so the CSG Environment Assessment is accomplishing every single thing that you just mentioned. And we didn’t talk about this before, so this is actually pretty cool. So, basically, we go to the C-level, or executive sponsor, somebody that’s sponsoring the relationship and saying, “What are you guys trying to get done this year? What is on your C-level objectives? What are you trying to get done this year?”
Then we go through and we talk to about 5, 8, 10, 12 other people that are the doers—the people that are responsible for accomplishing those things and saying, “What prevents you from being able to do those things? What’s a hurdle—what’s a turtle. What’s, slowing you down. What’s making you jump. All those types of things. If you had your magic wand, what would it be?” And asking all those different things. Taking a look at the technology, taking a look at the software, taking a look at the data, kind of getting behind the scenes and looking under the hood. At the conclusion of a two or three week process, we come back with, “This is what we heard, this is what we saw, and this is what we would recommend.” And so, it’s basically coming and bringing all those different things to bear. You talk to the CEO, the COO, the CFO, CTO, all those guys, and then some of their people that are under them that are responsible for that. And that’s been the way that we’ve multithreaded. And the multithreading happens just through establishing relationships: “Tell me about what’s going.” “How was this working for you?” “What would you change?” “Tell me your experience. If you worked anywhere else, how did they do it there?” You know, bringing all of those things in. And so, the compiling of that report is not very labor intensive. It’s really not. It’s kind of a, just a scheduling and logistics type of thing. And with everybody on Zoom, it’s really not overly complicated at all. But the art form is bringing all of that together, amalgamating all that information and trying to figure out what the themes and the trends are. To then come up with a set of recommendations that offer value first: “What is the most valuable thing that we can do to help you accomplish this goal, this goal, this goal, this goal.” And the CTO should be able to have something similar to the COO and the CEO and the CFO. There should be some commonality there.
So if one of them unfortunately moves on or gets fired or what happened (and that happened in six of my top accounts last year). And so, you know, when you go through this process, then it’s something where, you have all of these other, hinges that you already have inside of that account and people that you’re trying to help them accomplish their goals. And so, that’s something that I’ve tried to marry a whole variety of different methodologies from not just the sales side, but the, you know, just kind of the pure-blooded consulting side, as well as, you know, just kind of talking with people that have different levels of relationships in different sizes of organizations. And, this is the stuff that some of the big boys that sell at Oracle and everybody, they try and embrace this thing where they figure out, “What’s the key level objective?” “What’s the C-level insight.” “Why is that important to them?” And, “What’s the distinctive value proposition to be able to accomplish those things?”
And so, I’ve tried to kind of wrap all that up, and that’s what we call the CSG Environment Assessment process.
Paul: I love it. And you know, what’s interesting Alex, about the CSG environmental thing. That’s what I’m going to call it. The technical term.
Alex: The CSGEA.
Paul: Yeah. The only reason that you were able to create that was because of the tough times that we were experiencing.
Alex: Oh, for sure.
Paul: Because without that, you know, we just kind of carry on and it’s business as usual. (Alex: Right.) It’s amazing how trigger events like what we’re facing, you know, the pandemic, and it’s still ongoing, and the tough times we face, it acts as a catalyst for positive change.
Alex: If you look at it that way. You can sit there, and we can have our pity party, right? And we can have that thing of, ‘I can’t do anything about this.’ You have the ability to control only what you can—right—what you say and what you do. And if you don’t do anything in the face of challenge, then, you have nobody to blame but yourself if things don’t go the way that you would like them to.
I remember sitting there and the office was gone. Literally everybody had gone remote and I’m just sitting in the office feet up reading this book and just sitting there thinking to myself, “Alright, I’m the head of sales and marketing and the chief strategist for this company. If I don’t sell, there was 19 individuals that wouldn’t be able to put food on the table. I was 32 at the time. That’s a lot of responsibility, but it’s also a great challenge. It’s a tough situation to look at. And not only was I looking at, you know, my food bill and thinking, “Okay, my squad won’t be able to eat,” but there’s, you know, 60 people in those 20 families that aren’t going to be able to eat. And so that was kind of the let’s buck up and let’s do something.
Paul: That’s powerful. And that reminds me of—. I saw this post the other day on LinkedIn. It was one of the greatest excerpts to explain how important sales is to an organization. And the short version of the story was, as soon as the salesperson was hired, went around to each different department. And the VP of sales, or maybe it was the business owner, would introduce the salesperson. And he basically would say to them, “This person has a family. Here’s their family. If you don’t do your job and keep them busy, they’re not going to be able to feed their family.” (Alex: (whistles) Man.)
I’m a big believer in that you, you have to put yourself in a position where success is your only option, because that’s when you can find your true potential and tap into your potential. People rise or fall to the expectation they are given. So it’s good to bring people those high levels of expectation, and we put it upon ourselves. (Alex: I love it.)
It’s interesting. We were also talking before this about, you know, just getting back out there. How are people re-engaging their customers? And one thing I’ve noticed, I’ve seen more salespeople traveling. I’ve talked to more of my clients and some of them are starting to travel. I’ve got some, a handful of live engagements coming up here in the next few weeks. So, I mean, as we’re recording this, we are smack dab back in the middle, it feels like, almost, of where we were, you know, earlier this year, so, it’s kind of a bizarre time. But you know, maybe that’s something we can talk about for a moment is just how salespeople are getting back out there. If you have any thoughts on that, or if you have any questions around that topic, let’s discuss.
Alex: Yeah. I’ve been the guy that, when I started my career sitting in a central location. People came to me. I was at Bank of America. I didn’t really have to do much, right? (inaudible) They’ve got a brand. You go and you just sit and you just (keyboarding sounds).
So, at Wells, I was a part of a team that was going in and helping to—. that whole life cycle of merger and acquisition, of bringing on new books of business, bringing over people from UBS Morgan Merril, Edward Jones, all that. So going up to the territory, going up to the Northeast, going to Florida and helping kind of manage that process, whole life cycle. So that’s, a little bit of travel. And then whenever I was consulting for New Ground, I mean, it was—. I think the last year that I was there, I was 135 nights in hotels. And I ran Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana. I mean, those states all touch Missouri, and I was still 135 nights away. And it was because I had to make it feel like I was in their backyard all the time. If I had traveled differently, if I had traveled easier for me, then it could have been easily 175 or 200 nights. But I was trying to, you know, we’ve got two little girls and so I was trying to see them as much as possible. So, I’d go and put them to bed and then drive eight hours.
And so, what that looks like now, I was not doing all of that travel in the CSG role, but I know that getting back out, the question that continues to ruminate in my mind is, yes, there are some pockets of groups that are going more back to normal, and then there are others that are not. And that’s, sometimes that’s based on the part of the country that you’re in, maybe, you know, kind of the vertical that you’re in. The question that I have continued to try and figure out is, should continue to invest in the technology side of doing networking and going out and establishing new relationships in doing that? Or should we continue to, kind of, go back to trying to get on the road and embracing that travel aspect of going out, seeing clients, being in front of people, getting in front of offices and things like that.
So, I know the answer’s probably in the both/and category, but I just wanted to really get your thoughts as to what you would think on that.
Paul: Yeah, absolutely. You know, what’s interesting, and I have maybe somewhat of a contrarian view here from what I’m seeing from corporate America, what I’m hearing from other sales experts. One thing I think we’ve all learned throughout this past year and a half is that we need people more than we thought. We need to pass each other in the hallways. We need to meet different stakeholders. We need to walk around the coffee pot so we can connect. And I believe people need that now more than ever. And I think what’s going to happen is, eventually, once we do get this virus under control—which, who knows when that’s going to be. It’ll happen eventually. We don’t know when—I think you’re going to see an outpouring of connections from salespeople to their customers. You’re going to see people more willing to meet face to face because they, people crave that interaction.
You know, when you think about it, many of the salespeople that I work with and the organizations, I would say most of the salespeople I work with are extroverted. Most of the sales leaders I work with are extroverted. Now I’m not saying all of them are, but most of them are extroverted where you enjoy that interaction. You enjoy being around other people. And I think that that is going to come back. I think it’s going to come back in a big way, and I don’t think that virtual is going to be a permanent fixture. In a sense, it’s always going to be there. And, by the way, it was always there beforehand. I mean, think about how many Zoom calls you would be on before the pandemic. It’s not new, it’s just new to some people. And I think it’s going to be a good filler if you got a client and, you know, it’s eight states away that you need to go see next month, but they want to jump on a quick call. Rather than jumping on a plane to go see him, yeah, you’re probably going to do that virtually and then you’re going to be connecting with them face to face. And another thing, too, I don’t think we need to reinvent the sales process that goes along with it. Sometimes we forget, as salespeople, most of our selling activity happened virtually anyway.
So, let’s dissect that term, virtual. What does it mean? Okay. Well, it means, yeah, you know, you and I, right now we’re on a video call essentially, right, using our podcast software. So I can see you; you can see me. We can hear each other. That’s virtual. If you were to call me on the phone—the original virtual tool is our phones, emailing. Right? Think about all the touch points you have with a prospect throughout the entire experience. Most of it was virtual to begin with—email phone, zoom call, whatever it may be. So, it’s going to continue to be part of it, part of the process, but you know, I think people have this craving just to get back with one another. I think once they get a taste of it, you know where they’re going to have to go back, where they’re going to have to meet, where they get to go to that conference again, where they get to meet with the salesperson again, they’re going to realize what they were missing. Just the same way that many of us road warriors, being at home realized what we’re missing from the family side of it, from the friends side of it, when you can actually go do certain things. Now that we have a taste of that, you know, it’s like, wow—reminded of just how great those things are.
Alex: Right. And I think to that point, we need to set the stage differently for the stuff that happens in person. And what I mean by that is, a lot of times, kind of salespeople bucket themselves into these service providers: I’m just providing you a service, but how can I truly distinguish myself? And there’s a couple of guys named, Joe Pine and James Gilmore that wrote a book called The Experience Economy over 20 years ago. And they’re writing the next edition called The Transformation Economy. But really, you know, when you stage an experience for somebody, that is what truly stands apart and makes it a photo-worthy moment. So, when we’re talking about going back and looking at, that is—, for me, it has to be different. And so, what I’m kind of proposing is that more of these in-person engagements are truly meaningful. Bring everybody around the round table for either QBRs, big whiteboard sessions. You know, truly try and get into the ideation style of thought provoking, you know, trying to really distinguish what is this, what’s that and have a big experience as opposed to just, “Hey, I’m stopping in. I’m going to be in the area would love to grab dinner.”
Those are good, those touch points, those little micro-commitments, things like that. Those are good, and they have their reason. But as far as getting people to sign off on a big, expensive meeting for them, which is having multiple executives in one room at one time, it’s an expensive meeting. And so, you have to deliver that amount of value, if not more, through the reason why you’re coming in and sitting down. Not just catching up, not just talking smack and going back and forth. There has to be significant value over what you anticipate what their investment is just in the personnel costs.
And so, that’s what I’ve been trying to figure out and kind of whiteboard and figure out what that looks like in the evolution of CSG’s QBR, as well as the, you know, kind of managing backlogs and figuring out what people are doing and what remains the top priority, for people to start accomplishing. So, that’s going to go into the next budget cycle because a lot of our clients are either finishing up their calendar year or preparing for ‘22 in whatever way, shape or form. And so, we’re coming in, we’re helping them budget out and figure out what they need to prepare for as far as budget for what’s on their backlog and the things that are most valuable to them.
Paul: Absolutely. No. And you know what? I just had a thought there. As you mentioned, what it takes to get these key decision makers in a room. It’s not the cost of them having to travel to the meeting or wherever it may be, or even your cost. It’s really the time cost. Think about what these executives are making. And, we used to say the average sales call will cost your company—. So for, you know, ABC Supply to make a sales call, it’s going to cost about $400. Right around there. That was probably the investment. But what’s it costing the customer to sit in on that sales call? You think about, you get two or three decision makers in there, especially high-level folks, it’s an investment. And the value you create has to be significantly higher than whatever your customer or client has invested in that meeting.
Yeah, well, we’re getting towards the end here of the show, but, you know, I thought it’d be interesting just to talk about, the past year and a half, lessons learned as we’re selling through tough times. Maybe some things that you’ve learned, some things that have humbled you, things just stick with you as we’re working through this.
Alex: That’s big. I kind of mentioned at the start, whenever everything’s happening and the office is empty, and I’m sitting there thinking to myself about all those different people, about all the grocery bags that wouldn’t be able to be filled. I also sat there and put myself, put my neck on the line with my CEO. About three days into this whole process of every[one] being at home, I called him and I said, “Hey, if you’re going to fire anybody, fire me first. Let me go first before you take anybody away. If you’re going to reduce pay, take all my pay away or reduce my pay before you do that.” And again, it’s just putting me on the chopping block and putting me as the one that is going to have a lot of that bounty on my head to go and get stuff done. And it just put a lot more emphasis on why I needed to do things quickly, and to put a lot of that stuff that could have normally taken a year or two years to evolve that sales strategy, but to get it done in like four weeks, and to start knocking it out and getting it. So, to your point earlier, whenever the challenge is ahead of us and we’re right in the middle of it, that’s usually whenever greatness happens.
And so, I think we’ve seen that a lot. And I’ve heard that a lot from the people that have been on your show is, you know, when you’re presented with great challenges, whenever true sales leaders and really great sales men and women shine their brightest, and I’m just grateful that I’ve got some track record to be able to say that last year was really successful for us, as opposed to it being bad, like it was for a lot of people. But there’s—. You go from that, and just knowing how everybody is—, some people are really excited about the direction of where the world’s going and others are freaking out, and you’ve just got—. It’s such a polarized situation that you just never really know what you’re getting into whenever you go sales calls.
Like we were talking about before the show. You know, I had a gun pulled on me in a cold call. It was an antique gun that was sitting on this guy’s—. He has horse mount, and he has the saddle, and then he’s got two antique pistols and he just sat there, and this gun was like right at me. And I’m sitting there just like terrified thinking what in the world is going on. This world is going insane. I’ve never in my life thought that I was ever going to have a gun pulled on me in a sales call. But, tough times have made people more resilient. I think that there’s a truth to the fact that if you’ve come out of this on the other side, and you’ve got some battle wounds to be able to show that, “Yeah, I learned a lot of lessons last year. A lot of the things that used to work in 2018, ‘19 and early ‘20 don’t work any longer and I’ve got the scars to prove it.”
But those scars help me remember how to prepare for 202, for 2023, things like that, and how to put those pieces of the puzzle together. I think that’s honestly what makes us, you know, pretty resilient people is if we can take those lessons learned and go ahead and start doing things differently, as opposed to continually just saying, “This is what worked in the past for me. I’m going to go back to it. I’m going to go back to it.” And if the results aren’t yielding what you’re wanting them to, then you have to change. You have to throw different variables. You have to just go back to what you learned in like sixth grade of the scientific method. Just keep introducing new variables, test it, test it, test it, test it, and then keep moving forward.
Paul: Eventually you find something that will work. It’s really incredible to think about, you know, over the past couple years, we talk about resilience and building resilience and that. What’s interesting to me is so, you know, I’m knocking on the door of 40. I’m 39 right now. So, I’m like on the edge of, I guess, a millennial and a gen X-er, or right in that window. Apparently it’s called a cusper—when you’re kind of on the cusp of one generation to the next. And what’s interesting to me, prior to what we’re dealing with now, was how—. People would talk about how easy the millennial generation has it: It’s been easier than previous generations and they’re entitled. They’re this or that. I mean, every generation bashes the previous generation. It’s just—. That’s been going on since the days of Aristotle. He was quoted to saying like children today have no manners. They don’t stand when an adult enters the room and blah, blah, blah. So that happens.
But what’s interesting now is that for many young professionals, and let’s say individuals that have been in the workforce for about 10 years—10 to 11 years—they came in right after the Great Recession, when the world was rebounding from that. So they were fortunate enough to be entering a market where things are back on the upswing. Which means that they have not had a true event, like the Great Recession, to help build resilience. That’s the interesting thing about mental resilience is you can’t just build it out of nothing. You have to face adversity. Tough times are relative. That’s one thing we talk about in the new book is how tough times are relative to your own experiences, not the experiences of other people. So, as painful as it has been, what we’ve been going through the past two years have helped build a foundation of resilience that the generation just has not had the opportunity to build. So, obviously, I think it’s going to help—. We’re going to be much better off in the long run. But, you know, that’s part of what we’re experiencing now is, we’re in the thick of it. And as we go through this, it’s important to realize that yes, what we’re facing is painful. It’s devastating, but eventually, we’re going to come out of this much stronger, more resilient and, the lower the valley, the higher the peak. (Alex: That’s it. That’s it.)
Cool man. But Alex, I wanted to thank you for joining us. Thank you for being on the show today. We’ll have a link over to your a LinkedIn profile on this episode’s webpage. That way, you know, if people want to connect with you, I know you’re sharing a lot of great content on LinkedIn and that as well. So, Alex, thanks for stopping in.
Alex: Appreciate it, Paul. Keep doing what you’re doing, man.
Paul: All right, everyone. Thanks for tuning in. Just a reminder, make sure you visit TheQandASalesPodcast.com. While you’re there, you can ask me a question and I will turn it into a future show. Hit that follow button. Share it with your colleagues, but most importantly, make it a big day.