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We were thrilled this last time to talk with Anthony Iannarino in an episode called, Outbound Lives: Take Control of your Pipeline and Beat Your Competitors to Market.
Anthony is at TheSalesBlog.com. He’s an author of numerous books including the most recent book, Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away From Your Competition. He is one of the co-founders of the OutBound Conference, which we discuss but I started out asking, “Anthony, we’ve got to get the elephant in the room. We got to cover it first. Why, Anthony Iannarino, do you hate social selling?”
Anthony’s give us his answer: Here’s a taste… check out the full transcript and recording below.
I don’t know if you know this or not, but social selling is dead, and I would challenge you to go find anybody that’s really talking about it even on LinkedIn anymore. It all went away and was replaced by account-based marketing and now what is being called the digital transformation of sales, which so far nobody can explain to me.
Matt: Thanks for joining us today on Sales Pipeline Radio. If you’re listening to us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you for joining us during your workday as we right now slide into the second half of February. We’re recording this on Valentine’s Day, so hopefully everyone is enjoying the day and about to go out and do something fun with your loved ones and family and friends. If you’re joining us on the podcast, thanks so much for subscribing. You can find us, every episode on-demand, past, present, and future on SalesPipelineRadio.com, on iTunes Store, Google Play, and where other fine podcasts are found. We are featuring, every week, some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing, and today is absolutely no different. I am really excited. This is a special treat. He is a crazy busy guy. Very excited to have with us today Anthony Iannarino. Anthony, how you doing?
Anthony: Is that crazy, comma, busy or crazy busy? Was there a comma between those two words?
Matt: You tell me.
Anthony: Crazy busy. No comma.
Matt: I look at what you’re doing, and I think you’re clearly busy, but you also are one of the more focused, intentionally focused people I know. I don’t think there’s anything crazy about that. For anyone that is not familiar with Anthony Iannarino, you got to check him out. He’s at TheSalesBlog.com. He’s an author of numerous books including the most recent book, Eat Their Lunch: Winning Customers Away From Your Competition. He is one of the co-founders of the OutBound Conference, which we’re going to talk about here in a minute as well. I feel like, Anthony, we got to get the elephant in the room. We got to cover it first. Why, Anthony Iannarino, do you hate social selling?
Anthony: Let’s get right to it. Because it doesn’t make any sense, and I think that what happened is people got really hyped up on the tool kit. The exaggerated claim was once you have social selling, you’re never going to have to really prospect again. You’re just going to connect with people online. You’re going to share things with them, need then, they’re going to reach out to you and try to buy things from you. I think the devastation has been that people believed this and thought that playing on LinkedIn was the same thing as prospecting or going out and Tweeting and making sure that you’re sharing content was the same thing as creating opportunities. They’re not the same thing.
Probably the most aggressive stance I’ve taken against it is about one thing, and it’s simply the idea that you should never pick up the phone, and cold-calling is dead, and any kind of outreach that you do makes you a smarmy, self-oriented, manipulative, old-school, Glengarry Glen Ross-type salesperson. None of those things are true, so I pushed back hard for a little while. I don’t know if you know this or not, but social selling is dead, and I would challenge you to go find anybody that’s really talking about it even on LinkedIn anymore. It all went away and was replaced by account-based marketing and now what is being called the digital transformation of sales, which so far nobody can explain to me.
Matt: Now it’s got to be something every year. We need a new hashtag for the new year, so we’ve gone from social selling to account-based marketing to AI robots taking over to digital transformation. You know, 15 years ago it was, like, there weren’t hashtags yet, but it would have been a hashtag banner ads that they were going to replace all other forms of marketing forever. I think one thing we continue to find, and one of the things I really love about your approach is you are open and really embracing of a lot of new ideas, new approaches, but you are also very rooted in the fundamentals of selling.
Now we’re talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Anthony Iannarino. He is the author of numerous books including, this is literally what it’s called, and I highly recommend you read it, The Only Sales Guide You’ll Ever Need And the Lost Art of Closing. I appreciate you taking the first question in jest because I know you’re also, I mean, you’re highly active like a lot of people are on social media but don’t necessarily believe that it is closing tool.
Anthony: I’m a content marketer. There’s no doubt about it.
Matt: Well, I think that’s the point, right, is that it’s not about the social. It’s not about the media. It’s about the content and the ideas behind it. It’s the conversation behind it. It’s you connecting with another person with something of value that compels them to want to have a conversation with you. That’s not about the channel. It’s not, you know, it’s really about how much value you bring to the table. From what I’ve seen from you, that is a constant in your message is thinking about even if you’re going outbound, even if you’re call-calling, like doing that with value, leading with value and leaving with value. Talk a little bit about sort your approach to the value-based selling that you talk about in your book.
Anthony: The most recent book, Eat Their Lunch, there’s actually a framework that I developed about content marketing to help sales people understand how they could think about using content but not in the way of just being on LinkedIn or Tweeting and that kind of thing, but mostly about how do you start teaching your client that there’s another way for them to view their business? How do you swap out the lens that they’re used to looking at their business through and start looking through a different lens. You shape that lens when you start giving them these ideas, “Okay, did you know that this was going on in the world?”
There’s something I just call super-trends, so today in America 11,000 baby boomers will retire. That’ll happen every day this year. That’s 4.3 million people who are now leaving the workforce and retiring that have to be replaced. We create about 200,000 jobs a month, and we’re losing 358,000 people from the workforce a month, so how does this work out over time? That’s a systemic challenge that’s going to have an impact on everyone’s business that they have to start replacing these people and find the talent, and in most cases build the talent and shine the young people who are willing to take the job even when they have a man bun and a giant, you know, well-greased beard. They think they should have a pool table and be able to bring their parrot to work and all these kinds of things that they want now as employees.
It’s a different world. If you don’t have a talent acquisition strategy, what are you going to do? You can start shaping people’s thinking by teaching them a different way of looking at their business, and that’s what you’re really doing with content marketing. It starts with, why change, and then you have to support that with proof that you’re right. You also have to share what I call views and values. What should you be doing about this? How should you be thinking about it? If you want to be a trusted adviser, you only need two things, trust and advice. If you don’t have the advice part, if you don’t have the view and the value, and you’re not aware of all these things, then your prospective client, your dream client doesn’t need you.
If you don’t know more than they do, and you don’t have a strong opinion about it, you can’t really be consultative because consultative means I actually counsel you and tell you how to run your business better and get better results.
Matt: We live in an environment where I think a lot of companies, they may listen to this and say, “I, I get the trust. I get the advice, but I need to accelerate the process. I need this to move more quickly. I need my yields to move faster and close faster.” I’m going to raise my hand and say I want that too for my business, but, I mean, there are certain things you can’t speed up. I think building trust, building differentiation is something that has to start from square one where you may not necessarily control when someone is ready to buy, but you certainly control the quality of interactions you have from the beginning of the conversation. Talk a little bit about the intersection between being intentional about the things you’re teaching but then having the discipline and patience to see it through the right way.
Anthony: The second book, The Lost Art of Closing, I wrote a lot about trying to control the process. In my view, and I’d be interested to hear your take on this instead of me answering all the questions, I’m going to pass this one back to you in a minute, I think that the sales process is non-linear now because the buying process is non-linear. I think we’ve spent a lot of time over the last decade drawing out what the buyer’s journey looks like, so we have this plutonic buyer. We show them starting on the left side of the page with awareness and then ending on repurchasing. We have all these concepts about what they do in between.
It works very, very well for B2C in a lot of cases, but for B2B, it doesn’t address things like we’ve had two discovery meetings, now we’ve got their IT group in, and now executive leadership got involved, and now they want a discovery visit of their own, so we’re not presenting next week. We actually have a meeting to start the discovery process over with people who weren’t included earlier. Where does that show up on the slide deck? It doesn’t. This person decided there was another initiative that they needed to do first, so this is getting tabled for two months, and then we’re getting back together. It just isn’t linear anymore. I think that the way that you have to think about it is, and this is a philosophy, it’s fast is slow and slow is fast.
The more you can take care of having the right conversations and gaining the right commitments and making sure the right people are in the room, and the greater you can exercise control about getting that done, the more you can compress the sales cycle. The other thing is that the opposite is true as well. The faster you try to go, the slower things go. The slower, and by slow, I don’t mean the time it takes. I mean making sure that you get all of the outcomes before you go and do the next thing, the faster things tend to go. It works the opposite of what people’s intentions are. When they try to speed things up, they tend to slow it down.
Matt: When you spend time in front of sales teams at sales kick offs and training events, how much are they coming to you and asking for sort of, you know, the latest wave of hashtag this hashtag that? How much are you seeing them these days sort of settle back, realize that, you know, there isn’t sort of a quick fix, there isn’t a silver bullet and sort of focus on fundamentals? What are some of the trends you’re seeing in how sales organizations are approaching 2019?
Anthony: For the most part, most people are more interested in a couple of things. One, how do I control the process, and then, two, how do I become relevant for that person enough that I can help them and compel the change that I need from them? Mostly this comes down to what does the trough track need to sound like when I’m talking to that individual about why change that’s going to cause them to take the next step with me?
Matt: You mentioned earlier that process of, you know, engaging in the buying journey. I think it’s certainly true. I think one thing people don’t really address up front enough is, you know, if you’ve got a champion and know that there’s going to be a buying committee, “You know, we’ve got to get this next group going,” or “We got to give it this. You know, this is your maker on board.” You know, we’ve got to placate this group over here. How much of that should be discoverable up front? You know, how much of that is the salesperson’s role versus how much should a marketing organization help create a bit of a landscape to make that a little clearer, “I need you to navigate up front.”
Anthony: I think that everybody is involved in this. I think the world of marketing has changed dramatically from awareness to opportunity creation, which is, “Let me help shape the mindset for you, and let me help you with content that causes somebody to say we should talk to these people and do something about changing what we’re doing because what we’re doing is no longer good enough.” That is absolutely marketing’s role. I think that you should absolutely ask who else are were going to need to bring in. I tend to recommend you be very, very broad in that and say, “Who’s going to be effected by this? How do we make sure that we’re taking care of them? When does it make sense to bring them into a meeting like this?” If you can find those names out, you can do a better job.
I don’t think that you can do a complete job because there just tends to be more and more people getting piled into these decisions because nobody wants to force something on the organization if they don’t believe they can execute it. They want consensus, but for a lot of people consensus means everybody agrees. It doesn’t mean that we look for a plurality, enough of the group to say, “Yeah, this is the right thing, and some people are going to have to stand down.” What they really look for for the most part is a unanimous decision, which they can’t get, which is where there is a lot of no deals. You find people coming in later and later in the process. I’ll tell you my experience is the later they come in, the more problematic it is.
The work you can do to find out who they are and start saying, “Listen, I know we haven’t brought IT into this,” because you know it’s going to be a problem, and they’re going to start talking about all the resources they’re going to need. If we don’t bring them in, and they come in late, they’re going to have the moral high ground, and they’re going to be able to say, “We need to stop this. We don’t have the bandwidth,” or whatever they’re going to say to slow things down. That is the salesperson’s job to do that and to first just understand that this is going to happen whether you want it to or not in big deals specifically. Smaller deals not as much and not as many, but certainly in every deal there tends to be more and more consensus.
Matt: Anthony Iannarino today on Sales Pipeline Radio. We’re going to have to take a quick break but certainly talking a little bit about sort of the buying committee, building consensus. Check out Anthony’s work. He just spends a lot of time in his content talking about building consensus, has a proprietary consensus methodology. Check out a lot of that on his website as well as his books including the recent book, Eat Their Lunch. We’ll be back with a little more with Anthony. We’re going to talk about Outbound, the conference coming up. This is, I think the third year, third, fourth year they’ve been doing Outbound. It’s certainly grown, so we definitely want to talk about that and the movement behind it. We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.
Paul: All right. Let’s pick it back up with Matt and his guest. Can I ask my every-man question here before you jump in too far?
Paul: The title of the show is Outbound Lives, and yet for years I’ve been hearing, “Oh, no. Outbound is dying. It’s all about generating leads to come to you here.” I’d love to get your guest’s take on it. Is there a consensus that outbound is still alive and coming back here?
Matt: You’re going to see the answer is yes given the name of your conferences is Outbound, and we talk a little bit about that before. That is a great segue. Is cold-calling and outbound dead?
Anthony: Cold-calling and outbound is alive and well, and it never really went away. I mean, there were still many, many of us that were still coaching, teaching, training, using it in our business, and that’s not going to go away for a long, long time in the future. You’re going to need cold outreach. None of us are anti-inbound. I mean, the difference between I think the cold-call is dead, outbound is dead, that’s the straw man that social sellers or people who talk about social selling, that’s the straw man they set up to have something to rail against. “Don’t you hate the cold-call? Everybody hates the cold-call.” Mostly the group that said that are charlatans and people who got washed out in sales and tried to find an easier way to do something. That easy thing for some of them was just start talking about how social selling was the new wave in teaching and training that.
The truth of the matter is inbound is important. It’s critically important, and it would be a mistake not to say, “I’m going to use all of the channels to reach out to my perspective customers or dream clients.” All bound is better than inbound and outbound. You want all of them. The idea of passively waiting for deals to come to you and passively waiting for what somebody told me last week was a sales-qualified lead. When I asked what that meant, and they meant ready to buy. I said, “If they’re ready to buy, why do they need a salesperson? Why can’t they just fill out an order form and buy what they want?” You take clients where you find them, and sometimes they’re not prepared to change. Sometimes they don’t know they need to change. Sometimes they’re just so bogged down in the status quo, they need somebody to come and start sharing ideas with them.
Outbound gives you the ability to say, “I can reach out and start talking to the people that I want to do business with and that I can create value for rather than sitting back and passively waiting.” I’ve never known waiting to be a great strategy producing any particular result that you want in life and certainly not in sales.
Matt: You feel so strongly about this. You and some of your friends have literally created a conference around it. Talk a little bit about the origin of the Outbound Conferencing and where it’s gone, and talk a little bit about what you guys have planned here in a couple of months.
Anthony: I was sitting in a sales conference, and I realized that many people will never get to go a four million dollar sales kick off like the one I was speaking at. I thought, “It’s a shame that other people don’t get this experience to hear, you know, big-name speakers and get this kind of content and this kind of experience.” While I was sitting there, two things happened. I recognized that idea, and then I saw the Inbound Conference keep popping up in my Facebook feed. I thought, “You know what? If there’s an Inbound here, why wasn’t there an Outbound? Why couldn’t somebody do a conference just about Outbound?”
I bought OutboundConference.com and about 25 derivatives of that name on my domain supplier. I immediately left that meeting and called Jeb and said, “I’ve got a good idea. We should do an Outbound conference.” He said, “That is the single best idea you’ve ever had in your entire life.” I think that’s an exaggeration, but he still commits to that being the very best idea I’ve ever had. We called Mike Weinberg and Mark Hunter, and we put the first one together a couple of years ago. The first one we had about 12 weeks to put together, and we had 400 people show up. We recognized that there was an appetite for people to come in to learn about prospecting, building your pipeline, and being productive with your time.
By the second year, last year, we had just over 600 people. We just exceeded what we had seats for and had to bring in extra chairs because we did a little bit better than even we thought we would do because people showed up very late to buy tickets. This year there will be 1000 people in the World Congress Center Georgia Ballroom, and we’ve extended it from a two-day event to now a three-day event. There will be two days of main stage with people like Jeffrey Gitomer, Bob Burg, Andrea Waltz, Colleen Francis, and Victor Antonio that we’ve added to the bill. The third day there will be a who’s who of sales development, Larry Levine, Jen Gluckow, Gene McNaughton. There’s, I think, 16 people presenting workshops on the final day. The tickets are on sale now, and they’re doing really, really well, so we’re going to have another big conference this year.
Matt: April 23 through 26, 2019. As Anthony said, The Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta. You can check out more at OutboundConference.com. You know, I think there are an awful lot of sales reps and sales managers who don’t have access to those big sales kick offs. We see sort of people posting pictures from wild extravagant places with great speakers, and I think it’s awesome you guys bring that together. You know, one thing I’ve noticed in your conferences and others that are tied and seem to be some of the most popular and well attended, they don’t just include people sharing process and methodology. You do have people that are inspirational, that are motivational that get into sort of the psychology and psyche of selling. Why is that? I mean, if I’m right in seeing that, why is that something that has been a priority for you on the agenda?
Anthony: We decided that we were going to have a couple of single rules about, you know, this is the way that we run a conference. The number one rule is this is a content-driven conference. It’s not a sponsored driven conference. In a sponsored-driven conference, there tends to be a lot of pitching from the stage. There tends to be a lot of technology and process things that people are showing because they want you to come to a booth and buy things. We have sponsors, and we definitely want you to go to the booth and see, you know, Outreach and ZoomInfo and the people that are going to be there. They don’t get to have the microphone, and you’re not going to listen to a pitch. What has always bothered me is people that have to pay to go to a conference to be pitched.
I mean, if you’re just going to pitch them, don’t make them pay them to pitch them. Just pitch them. That seems more fair to me than making them pay to show up and come into a room. This is a, it is a content-driven conference. No one is allowed to pitch from the stage. Sponsors don’t get the microphone. We’re there to deliver the content that helps people improve their lives and improve their sales result, and that’s our single outcome for everything that we do here. When that happens, I think that’s why people keep coming back. We’ll have probably 30% of the people that were at Outbound last year come back this year specifically because the promise is there. You’re going to get content that is what we call practical, tactical, and actionable. You’re going to be able to leave and do things that you can’t do right now.
Matt: Last question for our guest as we wrap up here on Sales Pipeline Radio with Anthony Iannarino. You know, make sure you check out the Outbound Conference at OutboundConference.com. His new book, Eat Their Lunch, Winning Customers Away From Your Competition. Speaking of books, I know that you are a voracious reader of a wide variety of topics. Who are a few people that you have been particularly inspired by in your career? You know, they could be professors, managers, alive or dead. Who are some people that you’d like to recognize that you might recommend other people check out as well?
Anthony: That’s a big giant list for me, but I’ll start with for character development and success and productivity, Steven Covey’s work is still the master work in that category. After that I have to say from a sales perspective, still nobody tops Neil Rackham in my mind. Neil Rackham is still the very best. If you want to start getting out into other concepts where it’s not going to be quite as conventional as those, Howard Bloom who wrote a book called The Lucifer Principle, A Scientific Expedition Into The Forces Of History. If you want to really understand what the word, meme and memetics is and how ideas spread from person to person and infect us, Howard Bloom is the very best.
Then I study a philosopher here in the United States named Ken Wilber. Ken Wilber has got about the most clear lens of understanding human behavior as anyone that I’ve ever found. Because in sales what we’re doing is we’re working with humans, it’s a really good idea to get a deep understanding of how we operate.
Matt: Last question. I promise this is the last question before I make my producer sweat and, you know, is going to cue the orchestra. You know, it strikes me the number of books you read and the level and the amount you travel, how busy you are, how many things you’re working on, I think a lot of people can make the excuse, “Well, I just don’t have time to read. I wish I had more time to read.” You can say the same thing, and yet, you still get a lot of books read. What are some of your quick secrets to just spending, getting more time to read?
Anthony: I try to block an hour a day for reading. The way that you can get the reading done with no extra time, if you like a Kindle, you can have Kindle with Whispersync with the audible. If you buy those two things together, you buy the Kindle book and the audible at the same time, they’re synced together. When you stop reading, you can just turn your phone on while you’re running, while you’re on the treadmill, while you’re in the shower, while you’re doing something else. It allows you double the speed that you’re able to read books, because all the time that you really can’t be doing something else, you can actually be taking that in. Can I have the last question?
Matt: Of course.
Anthony: When are you coming on the In The Arena Podcast?
Matt: Oh, my gosh. I’ve been waiting for an invite. Are you kidding me? Any time you want.
Anthony: All right. I think we’re going to make that happen in the next couple of weeks.
Matt: Awesome. I love it. I wish we had more time, but Paul is going to kick us off here, so we get the next show out. Thank you so much, Anthony Iannarino for joining us today. Make sure you check out the Outbound Conference and his books including the latest one, Eat Their Lunch. Got a bunch of great guests coming up next week. We’ve got Shawn Herring. He is the CMO, the Chief Marketing Officer, for PandaDoc. We’re going to be talking about the hidden inefficiencies that are killing your sales workflow and conversion rates. A lot of great speakers and topics after that. I know we got to go. From my great producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thank you for joining us another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.