Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 144: Q&A with David Priemer @dpriemer

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By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

If you missed Sales Pipeline Radio this week (live every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific) check here every Monday for the recording and transcript!

The show is just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals.

We’ve featured an impressive list of guests and will continue to do so with awesome content. We cover a wide range of topics, with a focus on sales development and inside sales priorities heading into and throughout the year.  You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunes.

We were thrilled this last time to talk to David Priemer (a repeat guest) in an episode called, Cerebral Selling: How Science, Art and Metrics Combine to Exceed Your Sales Quota“.

To get a glimpse of our conversation, enjoy this excerpt:

Matt:  if you think about it like science, there’re scientific systems. Whether it’s, you know, the water table, or the meteorological systems, they’re all based on certain amounts of rules, but those systems do tend to change over time.



David:  If you’re kind of an astute observer, you can see when those systems change. Certainly, over the course of the last 20 years, the world of sales has changed quite a lot. I just love applying kind of the lens of the curiosity, the why, to the world of sales. I just love seeing it evolve. That’s kind of how I harmonize these two worlds.

Matt:  I love that. You know, this is changing, of course, but there traditionally have not been a lot of educational paths in sales. We’re starting to see some sales certificate programs and some sales management and sales mastery programs in higher education, but I think when you think about the people that tend to get into sales, it’s a different brain set. Right? I mean, it’s the left brain versus right brain. That scientific approach to selling, I would argue, is in the minority. I would say, in the follow-up question I was going to ask you before, is around just the connotation of science in selling. I think you’ve got a lot of folks that believe, that are in sales, that sales is an art, that if you put science behind it, then you lose what works on the periphery to build relationships and rapport, and you lose the uniqueness that each individual selling opportunity requires.

But knowing your work, and seeing the work that you write, I know it’s really, it’s not one or the other, it’s a combination of both. Talk a little bit from the science side how that really does help sellers. Then, marketers listening, as well, differentiate their work and impact.

Read the full transcript or listen in below:

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Matt:  Thanks so much for joining us, everybody. We are here every Thursday live at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. For those of you just joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thanks for joining us while working, while in the car, while getting stuff done here, meeting in December. If you’re joining us through the podcast, thanks so much for subscribing. Our numbers continue to climb as we get more and more great guests who are joining us, hearing about sales and marketing. Every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio is available, past, present, and future at salespipelineradio.com. We are featuring every week some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing. Today is absolutely no exception. So excited to have with us today, this is a repeat guest. We had him on, Paul, 22 months ago, as he reminded me earlier this week.

Paul:  He reminded me, too, so I made quite an impression on him here. I’m telling you.

Matt:  Apparently to do it again. We didn’t screw it up the first time, so here he is again, David Priemer. I think, David, when you were here. He agreed before, I’m trying to think. I think you had not yet started your new business. I think you were still VP of sales at Influitive where you were after a long career in a number of sales organizations, including at Saleforce.com. But today David Priemer is the founder and chief sales scientist at cerebralselling.com. David, thanks so much for joining us.

David:  Oh, my pleasure, Matt. Great to be back. 22 months is too long.

Matt:  Well, it’s a long time, especially in sale and in B2B. I think the dog years, so to speak, of SaaS selling, I don’t know it’s a couple of decades it feels like. That was a long time ago. Give us a little update. I think you did join us last time. You were the VP of sales at Influitive talking about building the advocacy platform that the foundation that you built there from a sales standpoint continues to grow. Talk about what you’ve been doing since then, a little bit about Cerebral Selling.

David:  Yeah, for sure. Would I be correct in assuming, Matt, that a lot of listeners here today are sales people or are in sales?

Matt:  Yes. It’s a good mix. We’ve got B2B sales. We’ve got B2B marketing. People that care about revenue responsibilities generally are in our audience.

David:  No, that’s good. A quick story. I’m a man on a bit of a mission here. For most of us who have gotten into sales over the years, I’m willing to bet, and I’m sure a lot of your listeners fall into this category, most of us got here by accident, meaning we did not intend to get into sales. We went to school for something else, because they don’t really teach sales in school, and we ended up in sales by accident. I was no exception. I ended up getting into sales by accident. I started my career as a research scientist, and then spent the next 20 years kind of just being really obsessed with sales. I couldn’t believe this was a thing that you could actually do. It was so much fun. There was so much learning. As a scientist, I was always very, very curious.

After 20 years, I kind of had this moment of reckoning where I said, “You know what? I love sales so much.” But I got into it by accident, and it kind of bothers me. I would take a page from Dan Pink’s book, To Sell is Human, where he had this amazing word cloud, where he asked people, “When I say the word, sales or selling, what’s the first word that comes to mind?” 80% of the words had a very strong negative visceral connotation. I started thinking about that. I said this is my love, this is my calling, this is the profession that I got into by accident, and continue to love.

David:  It bothered me that there were so many people out there, and that we’re kind of doing it wrong enough to create that negative impression. I said, “You know what I’m going to do? I want to kind of go back to my science roots. I want to take all of the things that I learned about sales from just being very curious over the years, and bundle it into kind of a new, whether you call it selling system, or platform, or methodology, called cerebral selling.” That’s what I’ve been doing for the last year or so.

Matt:  All right. Love it. For those that don’t know David’s background, I mean, he’s been running everything from sales operations, sales engineering, through to running sales organizations for a wide variety of companies. But I think part of this Cerebral Selling and the science of selling comes from your education background. This is a guy we’re talking to who has a Bachelor’s with distinction in Chemistry and Atmospheric Science, as well as a Master’s in Chemical Engineering. So for those of you that weren’t listening 22 months ago, can you talk a little bit about how you make a hard right transition from a Master’s in Chemical Engineering into sales? Then talk a little bit about the, well, let’s do that first. Let’s talk about how that happened.

David:  Yeah, for sure. I was doing my graduate work at the turn of the millennium, so to speak, 1999. This was kind of during the dot-com boom when a lot of tech companies just started hiring general purpose, educated people to kind of be in sales. I ended up joining a start-up as a solution engineer, so a shout-out to all of the solution engineers out there. I was a coder. You know, I liked to give presentations and teach, so it was kind of a natural fit. That was my foray. I did that for eight years at that start-up. We ended up IPOing three years into the business, and then we were acquired by a company called Infor, which a lot of people have probably heard of, seven years later. That was my foray into sales.

I started out on the solutions side, because I’m like, to be an account executive, that’s like a hard-core sales job with a lot of risk. I was like, I’ll forego the big paycheck in favor of kind of doing what I love. But as I got kind of bitten by the start-up bug, so as it were, I just got hooked, so I ended up doing four start-ups over the course of my career. The third one was acquired by Salesforce, which is how I kind of came over with the ship. That was my graceful transition into the sales world. But I’ll tell you, what I’ve realized now, and kind of why I love sales so much, is that, like anything else, if you think about it like science, there’re scientific systems. Whether it’s, you know, the water table, or the meteorological systems, they’re all based on certain amounts of rules, but those systems do tend to change over time.

If you’re kind of an astute observer, you can see when those systems change. Certainly, over the course of the last 20 years, the world of sales has changed quite a lot. I just love applying kind of the lens of the curiosity, the why, to the world of sales. I just love seeing it evolve. That’s kind of how I harmonize these two worlds.

Matt:  I love that. You know, this is changing, of course, but there traditionally have not been a lot of educational paths in sales. We’re starting to see some sales certificate programs and some sales management and sales mastery programs in higher education, but I think when you think about the people that tend to get into sales, it’s a different brain set. Right? I mean, it’s the left brain versus right brain. That scientific approach to selling, I would argue, is in the minority. I would say, in the follow-up question I was going to ask you before, is around just the connotation of science in selling. I think you’ve got a lot of folks that believe, that are in sales, that sales is an art, that if you put science behind it, then you lose what works on the periphery to build relationships and rapport, and you lose the uniqueness that each individual selling opportunity requires.

But knowing your work, and seeing the work that you write, I know it’s really, it’s not one or the other, it’s a combination of both. Talk a little bit from the science side how that really does help sellers. Then, marketers listening, as well, differentiate their work and impact.

David:  For sure. Where I kind of see the art and the science meeting, where the bridge occurs, is actually in a contest I called the why, not like the Simon Sinek why, although I’m a big Simon Sinek fan. It’s this idea that when you use a sales tactic, and there’s a million sales tactics out there. It could be a prospecting, a pitching, whatever it is. There’s a million tactics. When you use one of those tactics in a certain situation, with a certain kind of customer or buyer, it will have a certain kind of impact. Maybe they love it. Maybe they hate it. Maybe they think you’re the best, or they think you’re sleazy, or maybe it worked on customer A, but not on customer B. You’re sitting there and you’re kind of all perplexed. You’re saying to yourself, “Well, why did that happen?”

The problem is that most sellers, regardless of the tactics that they use, they don’t ask why. They don’t really want to understand why the tactic worked or didn’t. They want the list. Show me the list of the five things I’m supposed to say, and then 60% of the time it works every time. That’s not the case. How I see art and science meshing is this idea of the why. As an example I give, when you’re trying to describe what you do. If I say, “Now, Matt, what do you do?” It’s a question we get asked all the time, especially in kind of the tech world. What do you do? There are different ways that you can use to explain scientifically what you do. Principles based in polarization, based in conviction, based in creating contrast. All of these things serve a purpose of helping your buyer quickly, very quickly, because no one has attention these days, understand what you do. That’s the science, right? I can teach the science of selling in that way.



But if you deliver a particular pitch that is, let’s say, polarizing or uses a heavy dose of contrast or emotion, but you do it in a way that made the customer uncomfortable, or you didn’t do it with enough enthusiasm, then it’s not going to work. This idea of science kind of knowing what to do, and art kind of knowing how to do it, get together, and they intersect again at the why, which is really kind of that question we should all be asking in sales and marketing. Why did this stuff working? Why is it not? That’s kind of how I see these two things meshing.

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with David Priemer. He is the founder and chief sales scientist at Cerebral Selling. I highly encourage you to check out cerebralselling.com, in addition to some great resources and tons of great content he produces on a regular basis. Especially if you know and have worked with David in the past, please do yourself a favor, and go to the home page, and find this fantastic picture of David with, basically the same style of hair, but about five times the volume, as a research scientist and engineer at the beginning of his career. I love it. Your story around training, around science, and empathy, and combining those two together is unique, and I think super welcome.

You know, we’re recording this episode here. Beginning in December, we’re looking at the beginning of a new year coming up, lots of sales kickoffs coming. How should people, and I know you do a lot of sales kickoffs, and a lot of work with teams as they’re sort of thinking about their new sales year, as well. How does this manifest itself in training? How do you train effectively, and then reinforce the combination of science and empathy in sales?

David:  Oh, that’s a good question. One of the things, I’m still trying to figure out how I optimize this in my business, but we’re all familiar, like you said, I’ve been a VP of sales a number of times, and brought in sales trainers. Oftentimes, when you kind of have the kickoff, you bring in the person to talk at the kickoff. However long they spend there, hopefully it’s good and pumps the team up. But then most of us, just kind of go back to our desk and do mostly what we were doing before. The idea is how do we drive that ongoing reinforcement. What I try to do with most of my clients is actually set up my engagements where I’ll come back for small periods of time on a more frequent basis to help reinforce.

But part of it is the content strategy. You know, the videos, I produce a lot of videos on the YouTube channel, and certainly there are articles on my website, and I give all those away for free, even if you’re not one of my clients, because I want the sales profession to get better, but also to help provide that reinforcement. A lot of it, and I would kind of put this out to all the leaders out there, a lot of it has to do with the leadership. I come in. I can help pump the team up. If we engage multiple times, I can help reinforce. But one of the things I do focus on a lot is really enabling the leaders in the organizations that I work with to continue the education, and continue the accountability, as it were, for that education so that we don’t let people off the hook. We’re continuing to reinforce the concepts. A lot of it just comes down to that leadership element.

Matt:  Love it. We’re going to have to take a quick break and pay some bills. We’ll be back right after this, with some more with David Priemer talking about the integration of science and empathy in B2B sales and marketing. We’ll be right back. This is Sales Pipeline Radio.

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I want to continue our conversation now with David Priemer. He’s the founder and chief sales scientist at Cerebral Selling. You can check out him and check out a lot of his content, and a lot of his other resources, videos, podcasts, other content he’s created on cerebralselling.com. I want to bring in the marketing side of this, because we’re talking about the science and empathy in selling. How do you create alignment between sales and marketing on this? When you’re doing training, and you’re working with clients, how often is marketing in the room? If they are, how do they get incorporated into this philosophy?

David:  Sure. I think about it a couple of ways. First of all, the good news. When I do my engagements, I don’t charge. Maybe this is stupid, or the smartest thing ever, but I don’t charge based on the person. I invite anyone from the organization to participate, but also because I do believe there’s this thing that I call the message supply chain. It starts, let’s say, at marketing and continues to sales, but continues all the way through to customer success, and so on. The challenge, oftentimes, is that when you go into an organization, and I look at the marketing team, and I say, “Oh, what do we do?” I listen to what they say. Then I go to sales, and I say, “What do we do.” Then customer success. All the messages are different. Even within the groups, all the messages are different.

One of the ways I kind of see marketing fitting into this is being a part of that messaging supply chain, and helping to distill out that message, and taking what they’ve learned, as far as their marketing prowess, and injecting that into kind of the sales motion, then downstream, injecting that into the CS motion, because one of the big challenges is that well, as sales people, we like to say stuff. Then when a customer buys what we have, and then they un-shrink wrap it, and they’re working with our customer success team, and CS says, “Oh, what did sales tell you we did? No, we don’t do that.” Right? Then it breaks the chain. I think it all starts in marketing. That’s, you know what I would say, is the first piece.

The second piece I think about is, you know, in marketing a lot of organizations, I know from what you’ve seen, Matt, a lot of organizations from what I’ve seen, house the BDR or SDR kind of sales development function within the marketing org. Is that what you’ve seen?

Matt:  I’ve seen it in both places. I think smart marketers want to own sales enablement so they can sort of embrace a bigger part of revenue responsibility. I’ve seen it successfully work in both places, though.

David:  Yeah. Well, I mean, so a lot of that kind of tip of the spear messaging, when someone says what is it we do, and a customer says, “Well, tell me a little bit more about the product,” that often falls on the BDR function. In a way, so marketing is oftentimes responsible for that. I feel kind of weird, but also normal, that we take our youngest and least-experienced kind of sellers and marketers, and we kind of strap them to the front of the locomotive on that BDR and SDR front, and put them in marketing.

Where I kind of see kind of the sales and marketing mesh as it relates to what I talk about, is how do you help those frontline sellers, the marketers that are kind of creating the copy? They’re putting out the webinars, to the frontline, and the BDRs, SDRs that are talking to customers, first and foremost, who are younger, and less experienced, and more arms length. How do you help them deliver your message with tremendous conviction? Conviction, I’m a big fan of selling feelings, over features, and conviction is one of those feelings. I feel like those are two great points of intersection like that, that’s in supply chain and kind of arming kind of the frontline, if you call them, kind of qualification reps with high-conviction messaging that allows them to convert.

Matt:  You’re speaking a little bit to the requirement of sort of an integrated approach across these different channels, so it’s not just sales and marketing. Marketing alone sometimes breaks up into silos where you have your content team, your email team, your social team. If they own sales, it may be a separate team, and it’s really easy for organizations to work there in silos. Sales can be similar where you might have an SDR function, the sending opportunities to a field sales team. Directing channel sales teams are separate. How do you ensure, as best you can, a consistent approach across all those different people in more of a sort of matrix organization?

David:  Well, I’ll tell you. Here’s my little cheat. It’s very easy to get caught up in features and functions. To your point you mentioned earlier about oftentimes when the enabling function, marketing wanting to have a little bit more of that enablement responsibility you mentioned, a lot of times what that entails is product knowledge, so marketing is responsible for distilling out product knowledge and training the team on that. But the thing that’s more powerful, as I mentioned earlier, than just products and features, is emotions and feelings. This always reminds me of, did you ever watch the show Seinfeld, Matt?

Matt:  Oh, sure.

David:  All right. Do you remember there was an episode with George Costanza and Jerry, and Jerry’s girlfriend was accusing him of watching Melrose Place? She said, “Oh, you’re watching Melrose Place.” She happened to be a cop, and he was denying it and saying, “Oh, I don’t watch Melrose Place.” For those of you who are the younger viewers, this was a, I don’t know, how would you describe it, trashier kind of show.

Matt:  Well, it was sort of a Beverly Hills 90210 spinoff.

David:  It was. That’s right. Yeah, it was a guilty pleasure for a certain demographic to watch this show, but a lot of men would deny ever watching it, so he did. His girlfriend was a police officer and said, “Well, you know, if you’re telling the truth, you wouldn’t mind taking a lie detector test.” She orchestrates this whole big lie detector, you remember what I’m talking about?

Matt:  Oh, yeah, yeah.

David:  She orchestrates this lie detector test. Jerry, who’s going to have to lie, asks his friend, George Costanza, says, “George, you’re the best liar I know. How do I beat this thing?” You remember, what did George say?

Matt:  I don’t remember.

David:  He said, “It’s not a lie if you believe it, Jerry.” You know, all these years later, I find that is 100% relevant to the modern world of sales and marketing, which is, people buy feelings, first and foremost. Whether it’s safety, or security, or belonging, or the future vision of theirself, everything that we buy from the lunch at food court, to the clothes that we wear, and the products we buy, whether it’s a Tesla or iPhone, we all buy based on feelings. One of the easiest ways, kind of bringing it back home, to unite a group of people around a product or solution message is around that feeling, because feelings are very easy to remember. They’re very easy to retell, and they produce a very visceral reaction in our customers.



When I think about how you kind of arm your sales team, and your marketing team, coming back to that vision, that feeling, which will be more consistent and won’t really change as you develop new products and services, and new features and benefits, that stays the same. I feel like the best organizations are the ones that go out and arm their field team with feelings rather than features and functions.

Matt:  We’re wrapping up here. Just a couple of more minutes with David Priemer. Check him out for sure. It’s cerebralselling.com. We’ll put links into his website and some of his content in the show notes for this podcast. Last question for you, David. If you could think back in your career and the different steps you’ve made and sort of the advances you’ve made, who are some of the people that have been most influential for you? They could be people. They could be authors. They could be managers. They could be alive or dead. They could have written 500 years ago. Who are some of the people you might recommend other people seek out, or check out, or read that have been influential for you?

David:  For sure. I’ll name both. I do have a blog post on my website called My Top Sales Reads. Interestingly enough, most of my top sales reads are not specific sales books. I’m a big Simon Sinek fan. In fact, his favorite book that he wrote is called Leaders Eat Last. Not to start with, wow, that’s a great book. Leaders eat last because as leaders, and I hope many of you are leaders out there, or aspiring leaders who are looking to kind of be that force multiplier for your team, because great leadership can be a huge force multiplier. He does an amazing job in that book of breaking down the science and sociology of leadership. He makes it really codified and repeatable. I love all of Simon Sinek’s content.

I would say, and this might just be my personal previous position, to the leaders I’ve worked with over the years, the leaders that I’ve loved the most, and this is an interesting exercise. People who are listening, just think about the manager, or the boss, the leader who you loved the most in your career. What did you love about them? Oftentimes, the thing that comes and rises to the top is this one theme of caring. They cared about me personally. They pushed me to be the best version of myself. I’ve been really lucky over my career to have a number of leaders that all possessed that sentiment where I really felt they cared about me. They got the most out of me.

There was an interesting article in Harvard Business that talked about this idea. Do you need to be a likable leader to kind of help people along their journey? It was like thousands of leaders that they interviewed. They found that out of the thousands of leaders that they surveyed and interviewed, there was only a fraction, I think less than a fraction of a per cent, that were on the upper quadrant of efficiency, of effectiveness, and on the lower quadrant of likeability. The take-home message is that if you are a leader, learn not in how to be likable, really invest in your team. Care about them. Go read Simon Sinek. I’m a big fan. Then, certainly, try to be that kind of leader that your team would fight to work with again. That’s my best advice.

Matt:  Love it. We’ve got sales, marketing, and leadership advice today from David Priemer. If you like his message and his story, definitely share this episode with those on your team, those in your network. You can find it on demand here in a couple of days, up at salespipelineradio.com with all of our past episodes. We are, unfortunately, out of time, but we’ll be here again next week at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern, as well as on salespipelineradio.com. For my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks so much for joining us for another great episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

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