Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 150: Q&A with John Crowley @justjohncrowley 

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By Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing

Another great episode of Sales Pipeline Radiolive every Thursday at 11:30 a.m. Pacific. It’s just 30 minutes long, fast-paced and full of actionable advice, best practices and more for B2B sales & marketing professionals. The transcript and highlights are below.  

You can listen to full recordings of past shows at SalesPipelineRadio.com and subscribe on iTunesBlubrry, Google Play, or Stitcher.

John Crowley in this interview said “We live in a Jetson world, but it is the Flintstones that are Winning.”   John is referring of course to the subject of his best selling book, Knuckle Dragging Sales.  Crowley is co-founder and creator of the Knuckle Dragging Sales System.  Author, speaker, mentor, coach and just a Knuckle-Dragging Sales Guy, John and Matt discussed what drove him to write the book and create a system that is not fraught with the usual sales gimmicks, shallow tips and tricks.

In the interview we discuss:



  • How salespeople are getting distracted by tips and tricks from books and podcasts, but ignore the basics of a professional salesperson.
  • John explores evergreen sales skills that must be learned and relearned to be successful in sales.
  • How technology is not always the complete liberator that it is supposed to be in delivering tops sales performance.
  • Why human interaction is the cornerstone for successful sales.
  • The reason that superior listening skills delivers happy customers
  • How no one in sales can completely succeed without delivering value to the customer for the entire sales cycle.
  • Why a strong sales mindset is the basis for success that cannot be ignored.

Want to have John Crowley at your next sales meeting?  Go here.

Matt:  Thanks for joining us, on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Really excited to have you all with us. If you are joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, we are here every week live, at 11:30 Pacific, 2:30 Eastern. For those of you joining us on the podcast, thank you so much for subscribing. Very honored and humbled, that our subscriber numbers continue to grow, as more and more people discover the program and our great guests, and the ideas their sharing. So, thanks for joining us on every episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. As always, available past, present, and future, at salespipelineradio.com. We, every week, are featuring some of the best and brightest minds, in B2B sales and marketing.

Today is no different. We have a knuckle dragger on the call today. A proud knuckle dragger. We have the author of, Knuckle Dragging Sales, and a long time successful sales executive, and now, he is a podcast host, best selling author, keynote speaker, consultant, sales mentor. He does it all. John Crowley‘s joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio. John, thanks so much for joining the show.

John:  Matt, thanks for having me man, I’m really excited.

Matt:  I am as well. You have a long and illustrious history in sales and sales management, most of that, much of that in the healthcare space. And I know over the last couple of years you’ve been sort of ratcheting up on the consulting side as well. Talk a little bit, let’s get right into it, talk about this book Knuckle Dragging Sales. I think it certainly catches people’s attention. What about this topic really sort of speaks to you?

John:  Yeah, so the reason, the genesis behind Knuckle Dragging Sales was that I spent a lot of my free time mentoring young sales people. And what I was finding is that about 90 percent of the problems that we were discussing were result of being completely overwhelmed and confused by hacks, by tips, by all the different tricks that people have out there. And a lot of those tricks come from sales gurus that have limited time actually selling. What I wanted to do was to better understand how do you go about segmenting your customers. And as I’m mentoring these folks I would get complete silence. Or I would say, “how do you prioritize your time?” And I would get blank stares. Or “tell me about your quota, your goal, what is it?” And it would be crickets, Matt, it was ridiculous. And when I realized that, in an effort to improve our sales, people have started to consume content, listen to podcasts, read books. But we’ve neglected the basic building blocks on which you layer those new skills, techniques upon. And so Knuckle Dragging Sales is really about getting back to the basics, not just the basics of selling, but the basics of human interaction.

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with John Crowley. And we’re talking about getting back to the basics of sales, and I completely agree with you on that. There’s a lot of great new technology, there are great channels that we can use to engage with our prospects. But there’s an awful lot of fundamentals that really haven’t gone anywhere and probably aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. What are a couple examples of some of those fundamental sort of evergreen skills you think salespeople need to have, people should be sort of reinforcing here as we start 2019?

John:  So I really think, and the way I kinda wrote the book, was the first task starts off with reflection. It really is about the mindset, and I think that is something that all of us neglect, especially in the world of sales because it is commonplace for you to get a no, to have the door slammed in your face, and just constantly be rejected. So having a really strong mental mindset is extremely important. Once you’re there and your mind is in the right place, Matt, I think we’re living in a society which is like the Jetsons. Remember back, when we were kids? We watched the Jetsons. It was about the future, flying cars, and really we have that today. We’ve got automated cars, you’ve got these computers in your pocket. And what I think has happened is we’ve become lazy in using, like you said, some of the technologies and some of these systems that are in place. And we’re neglecting the basics of human interaction. And so I talk about we live in the Jetsons’ world, but it’s really the Flinstones who are winning, those knuckle draggers. Because they’re getting back to the basics of listening to the customer, providing value. And that’s really important, hard to kind of nail down, but really important to find a way to provide value throughout the entire buying process.

Matt:  Talk about, sort of getting back to the basics, and some of that as it relates to just, in some cases putting in the work, in other cases really focusing on relationship building. I think it’s interesting that some of the ways that a lot of successful salespeople are really traditionally mastered the fundamentals. My dad sold Caterpillar tractors for 35 years. He was very much a relationship seller. He put in the hard work.

I think we also live, in addition to living in an age of the Jetsons and technology, we also live in an age when I think people consider methodologies like the challenger sale to be enlightened. And so the idea of a challenger seller versus a relationship seller versus a hard work seller, sometimes puts those old school approaches in a negative light. I don’t think that they’re necessarily in conflict, but technology aside how do you reconcile an insight based challenger approach with some of those traditional approaches from the past?

John:  So I kind of look at the processes of being a knuckle dragger is really getting back to the basics, and so most companies have some sort of formal sales process. Whether it’s utilizing the challenger methodology, spin selling something else. But the confusion, Matt, comes when we start to layer new processes on top of our company existing formal processes.

For me, I intentionally didn’t create a process when I wrote Knuckle Dragging Sales. Because I’m really an advocate for basic human behavior. When you’re thinking about the mindset, why are you in sales? What are your goals? That first task is really about mindset. The second half is really about execution. It outlines specific tactics that will help you differentiate from the competition, and really provide value to those customers.

And so, what I’ve been told from the people who have read the book is that the thing they really like is that they can start to plug some of these tactics into their existing process, and not disrupt the whole thing.

Matt:  Talking to John Crowley today. He’s the author of Knuckle Dragging Sales. If you want to learn more about the book you can go to, believe it or not, knuckledraggingsales.com. You’ll learn about the book, get some additional content. Lots of good stuff up there for sales leaders, for sales reps. Even for aspiring sales reps. And I want to talk about that, because I think some of this, you talk about kind of getting back to the basics, you talk about sort of reinvigorating sales reps with some of the fundamentals. What about those aspiring sales reps? People that are coming out of school, that are starting sales as a new profession. How do you think about sort of fundamentals versus some of the new technology? I think there’s, you kind of have to do all of the above, but are there certain skills or certain disciplines that you think a new salesperson needs to focus on first?

John:  Matt, you know when you go back 20 years ago, you would talk about a salesperson, and the first thing you did when you got in front of your customer was just look around. Right, you wanted to find some sort of connection point. And you would have to go to their office, or call and ask all the right questions, catch them at the right time, and ask the right questions. But the reason we did that was because we wanted to have something that we could connect on. Something that we have in common. I think today, in today’s day and age, with resources like LinkedIn, and other social media channels, that information is just sitting out there. It takes time and energy to go and to look it up, and to then utilize that information that you have in, whether it’s the selling process, or the interview process, to really make yourself stand out from the rest of the crowd. As much as I want to say, you know, get away from all the shiny new objects, you know be a knuckle dragger, absolutely the new technologies that are out there are making our lives simpler. But you’ve got to continue to do the basics. You’ve got to continue to prospect, to make your calls, to do all the basics of selling.

Matt:  You talk about, sort of the getting back to basics, and I think you, in your materials, you talk about simple wins. I think it can be hard for a lot of sales professionals to keep things simple. We’ve got a lot of tools, we’ve got a lot of processes, we’re asked to do a lot of volume. There’s information flying at us all the time. What are some tactics you’ve seen work well for a sales rep on Tuesday? Typical Tuesday, emails coming in, meetings they’re dealing with, tools they’ve got to log in and use, CRM they have to update. How do you operationalize simple in that kind of a context?

John:  For me, I talk about in the book, about big fish, right, and so I’m a big proponent of, I like to go fishing, and when I’m fishing I don’t want to go after the little guys. I want to go after the big ones, the whales, whatever you want to call it. I think one of those things that you need to do is to segment your customer list. So if you’re talking about first thing Tuesday morning, you’ve gotten all the paperwork off, and you’re ready to go start calling, you’ve got a list of five to ten big fish. Top priority. These are the big whales that you want to go after. And you make sure that every Tuesday, not just this Tuesday, but every Tuesday from now after, the first thing you’re doing is trying to find a way to engage those big fish, and provide value. So it really, answering your question Matt, it comes down to segmentation. How well do you segment and then how disciplined are you at keeping those big fish top of line and keeping yourself top of line with those big fish.

Matt:  You talk a little bit about, sort of that discipline, and for me, as I think about it, how do you operationalize this, when I think about habits, I think about checklists. I think about how to manage my time. Are there some of those that you’ve found more important, both yourself having carried a bag for so long, as well as with some of your consulting clients today? Is it about calendars? Is it about task lists? Is it about just having a habit and a process you’re following? Is it a little of all of the above?



John:  I think it’s a little bit of all of the above. For me, and kind of the advice that I give most of the coaching clients, is if it’s not being scheduled, it’s not getting done. And so being sure that you schedule your time with your big fish in your calendar so that, whatever the day is, Monday or Tuesday, that you’re focusing on those top five to ten customers, really is key. And if you schedule it, it will get done. If you throw it on a task list, that’s just something that you’ll do eventually. So those top priorities, segmented customers, make sure that you’re putting it in your calendar, that you’re going to prospect, to find a way to connect and add value for those people, certain times, every single week.

Matt:  Calendar versus task list. I think that’s good advice for anyone, whether you’re in sales, aspiring sales, or in any given department. We’ve got to take a quick break here, pay some bills, we’ll be back with more with John Crowley. We’re going to talk more about Knuckle Dragging Sales. I want to talk a little about whether this applies to knuckle dragging marketers. What that might mean and how these lessons apply there as well. Lots more coming up, we’re right back here on Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Alright, let’s pick it back up with our cro-magnon discussion here, about knuckle dragging salesmen. Can I ask a quick question before you jump back in here?

Matt:  Of course, of course.

Paul:  A million years ago, I did sales. Direct sales. I worked for Xerox copiers, and I had to pull my copier out of the station wagon. You don’t even remember what station wagons looked like. And collapse the cart and push it up and down the hallways of all the buildings, saying “copier, who wants a copier?” And the only thing that kind of got me through that experience was the old cro-magnon knuckle draggers that had been doing that territory for 20 years. And they sort of took me aside, “hey kid, here’s how we do it. You don’t do that, come on.” Are there still that kind of mentoring going on, or is that world disappeared, and new salespeople are just coming in, reading books, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube, are they still learning, mentoring from the old tribal chieftains before them here?

Matt:  John, I think that’s a question for you.

John:  I think there’s always room for mentoring. I will say that the market has moved so fast in the last ten years that if you haven’t adjusted with the market, and developed some sort of technical acumen, that you will get left behind. And I can tell you I meet with kind of more senior level folks, call it wiser reps, all the time, that inevitably, if you’re in sales, it’s a high risk business. And there are times where you can get downsized, completely outside of your control.

Matter of fact I just had a meeting with a guy the other day, and he spent 25 years in pharmaceutical sales, was very successful. But he got laid off because one of the drugs just went generic. And so as we’re talking, I started talking to him about, like “hey, I see you’re from New Jersey. I’m from New Jersey. And I see you worked at Pfizer. I worked at Pfizer.” And the look on his face was just completely perplexed. He had no idea where I was getting this information. So he finally stops me and he goes, “where, how do you know that I lived in New Jersey?” I said, “the first thing I did was look at your LinkedIn profile, you know so what you’ve done in the past.”

This guy had gone by the wayside, he was a cro-magnon knuckle dragger, but he did not adapt. And he did not evolve with technology. So to answer your question, Paul, is I’m afraid that there are certainly guys that are out there that have not kept up the times and they will go extinct if they don’t find a way to evolve with the sales process. The new sales process.

Matt:  You could argue that, that kind of an impact, is everywhere. I think we see it in sales, we see it in marketing. You see some people that are just old school marketers that either are stuck in their old advertising ways, or believe they shouldn’t have to work with the sales organization to drive value. And so I think if you listen, and you’re smart, there’s things you can learn from all of those people that’ve been around for a long time, some of those fundamentals. But I think it’s always a combination of all of the above.

We’re here, Sales Pipeline Radio, talking to, just a few more minutes, with John Crowley. He’s the author of Knuckle Dragging Sales. Make sure you join us next week, we’ve got a group of guests coming up over the next few weeks on Sales Pipeline Radio, as well. Next week we have Brian Scudamore, he is the founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK. Really excited to hear his story, I know he has some great sales stories as well. His new book, called WTF, which for him stands for willing to fail, talks about his entrepreneurial journey. So excited to have Brian next week on Sales Pipeline Radio.

John, talk about knuckle dragging marketing for a little bit. And I think what I want to hear is, as a knuckle dragging salesperson, as someone who’s back to the fundamentals, what do you need from marketing in marketing organizations, or organizations you’re working, what do you need from marketing to make sales successful?

John:  I think there’s really two main things. Is one, a coordination of the messaging. Making sure that what is coming out of the rep’s mouth aligns with what marketing is doing. So that would be the first piece. And the second would be qualified leads. But going back to, kind of knuckle dragging, I’ll give you an example. I’ve worked for many years in the healthcare industry. I was working with a company, big Fortune 15 company that was dumping a ton of money into advertising. But as we dug deeper and we started looking where they’re spending their money, it was all in print ads. And I’m just sitting there, scratching my head, going “guys, what are you doing?” They had zero social media presence whatsoever. They were dumping it into print, just print ads that would then be distributed out by their sales reps. So I think the second component is you’ve got to get leads that are hot leads. And as soon as those things come in from marketing it needs to then be pushed to the sales team. And it can’t get cold and stale. The quicker a salesperson can follow up with a lead, the higher the probability that they close that sale in a shortened period of time. Those are the two things I would say, Matt.

Matt:  I want to talk a little bit about best laid plans as well. Right, whether you’re following a new strategy, or whether you’re combining that with some of the old fundamentals from the knuckle draggers. We are sitting here on, as we record this, it’s January 17th, we’re two and a half, almost three weeks into 2019. And there’s plenty of sales reps that are facing resilience opportunities already, that are getting lots of no’s, that are facing prospects that haven’t moved as quickly as they want. How do you adjust? How do you handle resilience as a sales professional? And how much of that is the strategy you bring? How much of that is mental, just to try to sort of position yourself, and to ensure that you’re staying positive and staying focused on what you can control and what you can do moving forward?

John:  As much as I want to say it’s mostly mental, and it certainly has a lot to do with it, the mental aspect. If you haven’t been strategic in the approach that you’ve taken to your territory, if you haven’t segmented your customers, if you haven’t come up with a coordinated call plan, then all the work that you’ve put in could just be spinning your tires. So I think sales is mostly, if you were just to break it down from a percentage perspective, it is greater than 50 percent mental. There certainly is the strategic and tactical side that goes along with it, but if you don’t have the right mindset coming out of the gate, you’re done. But you certainly need to make sure that you’re continuing those strategical tactics that will drive the end result. If you’re calling on the right people, with the right messages, at the right time, you’ve got a higher probability of being successful. Especially if you’ve got that positive mindset, Matt.

Matt:  I totally agree with that. Awesome, just a few more minutes here with John. I think you clearly, you have been successful in your career, in selling. I think you, anyone who’s publishing as much as you are, has learned from a lot of people along the way. Who are some people that you have particularly learned from? People that you would recommend others kind of check out. They can be authors, they can be speakers, they can be alive or dead. But who are some of the business leaders and thinkers that have most influenced you?

John:  I would say probably the biggest influence would be Seth Godin. And that’s coming from a guy who’s a sales guy. I think the reason I’ve resonated, or Seth has resonated with myself, is because he is my antithesis. If you put us next to each other, we couldn’t be further from the same, or we couldn’t be more different. Seth is extremely analytical in his approach, and I really have enjoyed his marketing mindset, but then the way he brings sales into that conversation. So that would be my hands down, number one go to choice.



Matt:  That’s great, it’s a good recommendation. He’s someone who’s been publishing for a long time. And talk about knuckle dragger, I think there’s folks that have said that he might be a little old school, but the advice he gives on a daily basis on his blog continues to be valuable.

Speaking of blogs and additional information, where can people learn more about Knuckle Dragging Sales? I know people can go to knuckledraggingsales.com, get a copy of the book, get some bonus materials. Where else you recommend people go to check out more about this?

John:  If you go to knuckle dragging sales, everything’s linked there. My social media platforms are all there, you can email me, call me at that 800 number. If you want to talk about sales, I’m all open ears, so just give me a shout anytime.

Matt:  Awesome, love it. Well thank you very much for, our guest today, John Crowley, the author of Knuckle Dragging Sales. Thanks for joining us. If you’d like to get a copy of this presentation, learn more about the book, and you want to hear this again and have some other folks in your organization listen to this, you’ll find a copy up at salespipelineradio.com here in a couple days, and we’ll have a transcript with links off to the book and to the other resources John makes available on heinzmarketing.com here shortly. I think, Paul, as we all get older, we all get into knuckle dragging stages, right? It’s easy, we all felt like whippersnappers and thought all the old people didn’t know what they were thinking about. And as the father of three young kids I’m already starting to feel like our kids consider me now a knuckle dragger as well. Lots of good thinking today, good to look at the future and what new opportunities exist. But always, always important to learn from the past.

Thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. We’ll be back next week with an exciting guest, Brian Scudamore. He’s the founder and CEO of 1-800-GOT-JUNK. He’ll be joining us, talk about his journey and his new book WTF?! (Willing to Fail). For my great producer Paul, this is Matt Heinz, thanks for joining us on another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

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