Sales Pipeline Radio, Episode 206: Q & A with Jeff Kahn @jfkahn

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This week’s episode is entitled More Sleep, More Sales: The Direct, Science-based Connection Between Sleep and Revenue“.  Our guest is Jeff Kahn is CEO and Co-Founder of RISE.

In this current world of uncertainty, and stress, and work from home, and homeschooling from home, and all this crazy stuff, getting a better night’s sleep is crazy important. Jeff has been at Rise Science now for over six years. I ask him why sleep is such a passion and why he created a business around this.

It was just the simple fact for us that sleep affects, as far as I can tell, every measurable thing that we do know about human functioning, sleep has an effect on that measure. So to think about something that impacts everything that you do, impacts how long you live, and then impacts billions of people, that, it’s almost unheard of. There really is nothing else that really impacts people at that scale.

Right now, people are working harder. The boundaries between work and home have really kind of evaporated as we’re working from home right now. Jeff gives us some examples of the impact and the correlation between good sleep and productivity, and why that’s even more important right now.  Listen in to hear his answer to the question “Can you make up sleep debt?”

We talk more about the science of sleep. We talk about precisely how getting more sleep can help you get more sales.  Jeff also tells us how the app works. Check them out, risescience.com. Go to your favorite app store and look for Rise: Track Sleep. They have generously made the app available for free right now to help folks sort of get through this current craziness.

Paul:  Hey. Welcome back. Time once again for another episode of Sales Pipeline. So grab your board, we’re going to swim out into that swirling sea of stuff that we call the sales pipeline. We’re going to find out today from Matt Heinz that he actually says, “More sleep, more sales.” Let’s find out more right now.

Matt:  Well, welcome, everybody, to another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio. Thank you so much for joining us and making us part of your work day.

If you’re joining us live on the Funnel Media Radio Network, thank you so much for making us part of your work from home work day. If you’re joining us on the podcast, thank you so much for listening, for subscribing. Our numbers continue to grow, Paul. I think we’re over 110,000 listeners now. Certainly, we’re seeing a little bit of an acceleration as people are working from home and maybe have a little more time replacing a commute back and forth to work with walks around the neighborhood. We’re honored to be part of that.

If you like this episode and like what you’re hearing from Sales Pipeline Radio, you can find over 200 episodes on demand up at salespipelineradio.com. Every week, we’re featuring some of the best and brightest minds in B2B sales and marketing.

Today is no different. I’m actually really excited about this topic and our guest today. We have Jeff Kahn. He is co-founder and CEO of Rise Science. Jeff Kahn, thanks so much for joining us today.

Jeff Kahn:  Yeah. No, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here. Just thanks to you for taking the time to let me talk about a topic I’m passionate about, and to the listeners to lending me their year. I’m excited.

Matt:  We get a lot of inbound pitches from people that want to be on the show. We tightly sort of curate sort of the topics, and the speakers, and the people we want on. We get a lot of pitches from topics that I think probably aren’t as germane to B2B sales and marketing.

What you are doing is not about B2B sales and marketing, but especially in this current world of uncertainty, and stress, and work from home, and homeschooling from home, and all this crazy stuff, getting a better night’s sleep is crazy important. You’ve been working on Rise Science now for over six years. Talk a little bit about why is sleep such a passion for you, and kind of why did you create a business around this?

Jeff Kahn:  It’s a great question. I think to understand it, we’ve got to rewind the clock maybe 10 years or so, and take you back to my dorm room where I was good friends with now my co-founder, Leon, and we were students at Northwestern’s Engineering School. We’d be up late at night. We’d be up early in the morning. Up late at night working on problem sets, that is. Up early in the morning, feeling tired, and just exhausted during the day. Honestly, we didn’t know why.

We just happened to be sort of in the right place, the right time, and started taking independent studies on sleep science. Sort of that unknowingly set us off into what turned out to be our life’s calling, which is just taking advantage of the incredible power that a night of sleep can have on not only how you live every day, but how long you live.

It was just the simple fact for us that sleep affects, as far as I can tell, every measurable thing that we do know about human functioning, sleep has an effect on that measure. So to think about something that impacts everything that you do, impacts how long you live, and then impacts billions of people, that, it’s almost unheard of. There really is nothing else that really impacts people at that scale. So to think about helping people with that was something that just for me, has brought me a ton of energy and excitement for not only the past six years as we’ve been in business, but really the last 10 as I’ve gotten a chance to do a lot of sleep science. And now beyond that, sort of take it commercial.

Matt:  I think a lot of people listening, I think we, especially right now, people are working harder. The boundaries between work and home have sort of really kind of evaporated as we’re working from home right now. Give some examples of why sort of the impact and the correlation between good sleep and productivity, and why that’s even more important right now.

Jeff Kahn:  I would say in terms of its importance, it’s always been essential and important. What we’re seeing, talking with a lot of B2B sales and marketing leaders that are trying to look after their teams, you mentioned the blurring between work and home now, there’s sort of a microscope on team wellbeing today. Whether I’m talking with a sales leader or the SVP of marketing, I mean, there’s a really laser focus on how their team is feeling and how they’re supporting them. So the productivity changes are really nothing new, but I’d say the urgency to take care of this is something new.

I think it’s worth reminding everyone, and this was certainly shocking to me, that sleep science is not new. This isn’t a recent trend. It turns out that about a hundred years ago, the very first sleep lab in the world opened in Chicago. So we’ve been studying this. We’ve got about a million and a half peer-reviewed papers on sleep. We have about 500,000 or 600,000 on physical activity. So just the amount of knowledge we know about sleep is incredible and the science is incredible. It’s now just more urgent than ever. We can talk about productivity, we can talk about immunity, but happy to kind of dive in to a couple of some specific examples if that would be interesting.

Matt:  I think that’d be really interesting, because I think we hear… I think most people that aren’t embedded in the science of sleep… I mean, clearly, there’s been a lot of research and study around this for a long time. Most people, I don’t think, really understand some of those correlations. We hear, “You should get eight hours of sleep a night.” For a lot of people, that can be hard. It can be hard when you’re traveling, right? It can be hard when you’ve spent a long day working, you’ve tried to help your kid through homeschool, you finally get them to bed.

Jeff Kahn:  Totally.

Matt:  You’re like, “I just need a little more time in front of the TV watching Tiger King, so I can get a little time to myself,” and that bleeds into that sleep time. An extra hour of sleep versus one more drink and a little Tiger King, those are harder, I think, trade-offs right now. But I think if people better understood what they’re giving up. Not just an extra hour of sleep, but the cascading impact that has. So yeah, if you could talk about… Let’s separate. Let’s talk about sort of productivity and energy. And I want to get into sort of the immunity conversation as well, because obviously, very relevant.

Jeff Kahn:  Yeah. I want to see if I can sort of provide maybe a simplifying framework here. I think many people are saying this. Matt, I mean, you have already heard of maybe some of the benefits or you’ve heard eight hours, you heard this. I want to share sort of what we know about the impacts, and then I want to share how we actually get those impacts. How do you get all the benefits that people are talking about?

Let’s first talk about just what does sleep affect. The first thing I think to realize, if you were to sort of look at and visualize a sort of jar of how you spend your life, right? You’d see the biggest colored… Let’s say each sort of jelly bean in this jar had a particular color. Yellow for sleep, green for work, red for chores, whatever that looks like. By far, the biggest chunk of that glass of how you spend your life is sleeping. Sleeping isn’t an inactive thing, it’s an incredibly active process. Where if you’re a sort of imaging the brain at night, there’s an incredible amount of activity.

Sort of the short, simple way to understand this is that if you get less sleep than you need, your brain is directly impacted. So we could talk about any impact mentally and cognitively, anything physically. That’s things like your metabolism, immunity, even things like your vocal tone, things like your skin health, libido. I mean, the list goes on and on and on.

Then things like your emotional health, right? Obviously, each of those features, right? Mental, physical, emotional, which pretty much encapsulates everything, has a root in the brain. What happens is when you get less sleep than your need, your brain basically shuts down and just focuses on fight or flight survival mode. That’s, at its core, sort of what’s happening with this mechanism.

Let’s take a look at focus, for example. Well, if you go from eight hours of sleep to seven hours of sleep for a week, your focus is similar to someone that’s just took down six beers and is at the legal limit for alcohol. That’s going from just eight to seven. That should be shocking, right?

On the physical side, let’s look at metabolism. If you get four hours of sleep a night for five nights, and we measure your metabolism, after that sleep deprivation, your metabolism will be like someone with type 2 diabetes. Again, going from regular, healthy levels to clinical levels.

Let’s look at something like anxiety and stress. Again, if you cut your sleep an hour short for a week, you’re going to see that roughly 50% of people that do that will have clinical levels of anxiety.

It’s shocking. But we can look at empathy, we can look at happiness. There’s thousands of these impacts that have been studied over the last hundred years. So it’s almost more interesting to say, “Well, is there anything out there that’s important to you that doesn’t have science on it?” I think we’d be hard-pressed to find it.

That’s sort of, at least on the productivity performance side, and again, we could go in… Since it’s a lot of sellers that are listening to this or marketers that are listening to this, we could go in and dive deep into, “Well, how does it affect sales force productivity? How does it affect my marketing team’s ability to be creative and productive?” But that’s the core.

The question is, well, how do we get these benefits? What is it about sleep? Is it eight hours? Is it sleep quality? Is it REM? Is it I need to track my sleep? Is it a new mattress? What’s going on? How do you get it?

Well, the kind of big finding over the last hundred years that came out in the early ’80s is something called the two-factor model. It’s basically the laws of physics, but for sleep. Basically what this theory proposes is that there’s only two ways to get the benefits that I just talked about. One way is to reduce your sleep debt. Sleep debt is a real thing. But the way it works is if you get less sleep than you need, you build up debt. All the performance measures we talked about are based on debt, not based on just how much sleep you got last night.

Then the second is by better planning your day in accordance with your biological clock known as your circadian rhythm, you actually do have a part in the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus that controls every cell and organ system when to sort of be active and alert. As a result of that, you actually have these performance and creativity peaks, and then you also have dips and times that are optimal to be sleeping. So by arranging your day with your really high-capacity tasks at different times, you’ll actually be able to get quite a bit more performance.

If you look at the last 50 years of Monday Night Football game data, you actually see that the teams, West Coast teams in particular, that are playing at a circadian advantage, playing at their circadian peak, will win 70% of the time, which is just shocking. It should be 50%. So the impact is just, again, massive on both those fronts.

Matt:  Talking today on Sales Pipeline Radio with Jeff Kahn. He’s the co-founder and CEO at Rise Science. Over 200 episodes of this show, I’m pretty sure first time we’ve ever used the term suprachiasmatic nucleus on Sales Pipeline Radio.

It’s funny. I mean, you mentioned a couple things I was going to ask about, including sleep debt. Because I mean, I never really understood if that was a real thing. I mean, you think like, “I’ve had a big week. I’m going to sleep a lot this weekend.” It’s interesting to see that the science actually backs that up, that you can actually… Is part of what you’re saying that if you have a couple nights where… Listen, I mean, just like whether you’re trying to lose weight or any kind of habits, you’re going to have some bad days, you’re going to have some bad nights. You can make that up by sleeping more and sleeping better?

Jeff Kahn:  Yes, absolutely. In the short term, the answer is yes. Where there’s been some confusion like if you Google like, “Can you make up sleep debt?” you’ll see an article from Time magazine. You’ll see, “No, you can’t make it up.”

The nuance here is that over the long term, if you’ve been getting… Let’s say you need eight hours. It turns out the reason you’ve heard eight hours is that the average need in the population is slightly over eight, about eight hours and 10 minutes, with a 35 minute standard deviation. For those of you maybe not as statistically inclined, most of us need between seven and a half and eight and a half hours. But it’s an individual number just like your height. If you get less than that, whatever that number is, doesn’t mean it’s eight. You could totally be seven and a half. You could totally be seven, 15. You could totally be eight, 30. I’m eight hours and 20 minutes. That’s my need.

If you get less than that, you build up debt. Over about the past 14 days is what really impacts your performance today. The reason we know that is tons of scientific studies, but we’ve also done the largest real world study that we’ve got in peer review right now that’s looking at sleep debt predicting NFL game performance, college football game performance, NBA point per minute efficiency and three-point percentage, actually sales team revenue performance on a monthly basis, which is fascinating.

So it’s this sleep debt number that really matters. And yeah, absolutely. If you look at sort of your last 14 day period, you can make it up. But long term, if you’ve been doing this your whole life, there’s a lot of, as I mentioned before, the stress response that’s happening, that does take a pretty serious toll on your body. In the way that long-term smoking isn’t good, same sort of thing with long=term sleep deprivation.

Matt:  Man, this is amazing stuff. We’ve got to take a quick break and pay some bills. We’ll be back more with Jeff Kahn. We’re going to be talking more about the science of sleep. We’re going to be talking about precisely how getting more sleep can help you get more sales, which I think is going to be interesting to a lot of people here. Also, talk about how the app works, which Jeff and the team have made for free are folks that are going through this current COVID crisis. We’ll be right back on Sales Pipeline Radio.

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Matt:  Welcome back to Sales Pipeline Radio. We are joined today by Jeff Kahn. He is the co-founder, CEO of Rise Science. Some pretty amazing research and pretty amazing impact sleep is obviously having on productivity, on alertness, on sort of just general health. But I was also surprised to hear you use the word immunity. As we go through this COVID-19 year, lots of ideas around should we stay away from cell towers? Should we be exposing ourselves to ultra light? Please don’t do the Tide Pod challenge as a way of getting rid of COVID-19.

But you mentioned that better sleep can actually help your body strengthen immunity. Talk a little about what that means and how that impacts.

Jeff Kahn:  Here’s what we know. We do know that sleep and your immune health are intimately tied. Just to back that up with a couple studies, researchers have actually had folks get instead of eight hours, seven for a week. They bring them into the lab, and what they actually do, this is amazing, they actually cultivate the common cold virus, they put it in the participant’s noses after seven days of not getting enough sleep. In this case, it was just seven versus eight. Then they measured whether or not the person caught the cold or not.

What they found was, depending on the study, and there’s a couple different ones, a couple things. One is even if you’re getting seven versus eight, you’re 300% more likely to catch the common cold. We also know that not only sort of are you more likely to catch the common cold, but your sort of entire immune functioning is disrupted when you get less sleep.

There’s all sorts of ways that you can measure immune function and normal healthy responses. What we know is that when you get less sleep, your immune function is not normal. I think sort of boost is maybe not the right way to think about it, but the immune system is obviously very complex. What we know is that sort of the immune system functioning healthily and normally is tied to getting enough sleep at night.

Now, what we don’t know, what there aren’t studies on is sort of the direct impact on sleep and the pathogen that causes COVID-19. That part hasn’t been studied, and I don’t want to overstate this and say, “If you sleep more, you’re definitely not getting coronavirus.” But certainly if you could look at all the things out there that you could do to help protect your immune system, sleep would be the thing that has the biggest impact by far.

Basically anything else that you can do has not really any real impact. If you look at nutrition, if you look at UV light or whatever, none of that really has impact. Of course, CDC wash your hands, all those other things. But it is kind of mind-blowing to me that sleep isn’t brought up as this critical, protective factor that everyone should be taking really seriously. That’s sort of the short story on immunity.

Matt:  That’s amazing. If I go to your website, the two things I see up at the top, and this is just risescience.com, you learn about the product, you learn about the science, there’s an FAQ. For folks that are interested in this, and I am crazy fascinated by this conversation so far, check out the website and click on the science, and you get a lot of this detail.

The two categories you call out here are athletics and sales teams. I know that there are professional athletes across so many different sports, baseball, football, college athletics, that are using Rise and Rise Science behind sort of helping their teams. Sales teams is an interesting one, right? Everything you’ve talked about so far seems to imply, “Okay, listen, better immunity, better energy, better alertness.” Talk about how this applies into the sales organization and what you’ve learned from some of your sales clients so far in terms of the impact it can have.

Jeff Kahn:  Yeah. I think definitely we’ll dive into that. Just quickly kind of on that story and transition. Obviously, athletics made sense. The way this worked was Northwestern football found out about our research that we were doing. My co-founder and I were really the first to take all the data that wearables were generating, and making it useful for people so you could get all these benefits we’re talking about.

That was our research. Our school’s football team found out about it. Quickly other teams started finding out about it. Basically, name a team, we’ve likely worked with them. Time over time what we’d see is players didn’t think about sleep before, now they’re thinking about it and they get more sleep, and we’d see injury rates fall precipitously, we’d see in college and pro football players making five more plays a game, we would see points per minute efficiency in college and pro basketball increase by 70%. I mean, just wild numbers that you haven’t seen anywhere else.

It just so happens that the founder of Northwestern’s Kellogg Sales Institute… In the business school, they have an institute directly kind of geared at looking at high performance selling habits. Contacted us and said, “Well, Jeff, would you partner with me and this Fortune 200 sales team I’m working with? Sellers are the pro athletes of Corporate America. Can we study the impact?” So we actually did this five month controlled trial with a hundred sellers, and did all the attribution and really impressive statistical study. What we found at the end of this was that there were marked improvements in productivity. I’d say even stronger than what we saw in sports teams.

The first thing we looked at was outbound calls. Outbound calls went up 50% when we saw sleep debt increase. Then we also saw the quality of those outbound activities increase such that there was a 14% increase in revenue per month. It’s just wild. I mean, to see that level of impact because of sleep is really kind of crazy to think about.

Just pausing there for a second, just so that everyone kind of understands the math. If you’re running a team right now, just add up what’s the average revenue that your sales team does. Let’s say it’s 100,000 to make the numbers easy. Well, 14% of that is $14,000 a month that you’re losing because your team is sleep deprived. By fixing sleep, you can get that back. It’s just wild to see.

I mean, surprising I think for folks that haven’t been thinking about it. But it’s not surprising. It’s unsurprising for people that are really intimately in tuned with how do sales activities happen. What goes into a sales activity? What goes into sales success repeatedly? If you look at things like focus, if you look at things like your vocal tone, if you look at the human ability for empathy, if you look at the human ability to have lateral, creative, open thinking, if you look at your ability to have sort of mental toughness. Those sorts of things that go into day in, day out, high performance selling, sleep is the thing that drives those.

So when you look at, “Well, how do I improve those factors?” you really only have two options. One, recruit people that are higher in those areas. Or B, and obviously you can train kind of in that area, none of that training is going to do any good if your reps just aren’t sleeping well. That’s really kind of a crazy idea right now, but we’re seeing a lot of leaders today kind of look at this under a microscope, just because of this whole COVID crisis.

Matt:  Just a couple more minutes here with Jeff Kahn, who’s the co-founder, CEO of Rise Science. You can check him out at risescience.com. You can also find their app available up at the App Store. It’s got a super crazy high rating, which is always good to see, and it’s available for free right now.

My last question for you as we have to wrap up here is the science all is amazing, it makes a ton of sense if you believe in it. The easy answer is just get more freaking sleep.

Jeff Kahn:  Yeah, exactly.

Matt:  So I think some people may say like, “Why do I need an app just to get myself more sleep?” I think there’s a variety of sort of good answers to that, but just in a minute or two, why should someone use an app to sort of take advantage of all these benefits that better sleep may have for them?

Jeff Kahn:  Here’s the surprising thing. Obviously, I think people know the benefits. But probably most of you listening to this are like, “Well, I don’t feel like sleep is really affecting me that much. I feel just fine.” So it turns out, again, researchers have studied this, and the finding happens to be that humans have very little subjective capacity to tell how sleep deprived you are.

What does that mean? We’re walking around with way more sleep deprivation than we think we are. To give you a sense, if you are at all a little sleepy during the day, meaning one o’clock, right about now, maybe you feel a little bit sleepy, that is extreme levels of sleep deprivation. If it takes you less than five minutes to fall asleep, extreme levels of sleep deprivation.

We, as a sort of species, do not have the ability to actually tell how sleep deprived we are. So you might really think that what we’re talking about really doesn’t apply to you, but science shows you should really rethink that.

What’s really important here and what an app can do is be measuring your sleep patterns in the background and actually tell you how much sleep debt you have. On top of that, we mentioned the circadian rhythm at the beginning of this, we’re able to actually visualize that and show you your personalized circadian rhythm throughout the day, so you can better plan. That thing is changing all throughout the day.

So there’s quite a bit of science and algorithm that go into telling you what your sleep debt is, figuring out your sleep need, predicting. We actually use a bunch of models from the Department of Defense to help predict what your circadian rhythm is. We make it really easy, but there’s just a significant amount of data science and algorithmic work to make sure that this is something you can use. That’s really why it’s so critical.

I think the other thing that maybe people tend to forget is getting good sleep and getting enough sleep isn’t just about what you do when you hit the pillow, right? It’s what are you doing during the day? When are you having caffeine versus not? When are you getting light exposure? Are we able to help let you know that it’s time to decompress and actually watch Netflix and Tiger King? But only watch 45 minutes of it tonight. Don’t go and binge it for two and a half hours because your sleep debt’s through the roof, right?

It’s important that that technology is able to have an impact there. Kind of what our initial research showed is you can make a big impact with this so long as you have the right data and that you’re able to use the right science to make it useful to people. Otherwise, it’s just a tracker. There are a lot of trackers out there, and the science on them shows that it doesn’t really move the needle, in a way that just having a scale wouldn’t necessarily move the needle for weight loss, for example.

Matt:  Amazing stuff. We’re going to have to wrap up here, but I want to thank our guest, Jeff Kahn, from Rise Science. Check them out, risescience.com. Go to your favorite app store and look for Rise: Track Sleep. They have generously made the app available for free right now to help folks sort of get through this current craziness. We will put a link to those in our show notes as well.

If you would like to impress your friends with your now knowledge of the suprachiasmatic nucleus, you can find this episode up on salespipelineradio.com in a couple days, and as well as every episode past, present, future of Sales Pipeline Radio.

This has been awesome. On behalf of my producer, Paul, this is Matt Heinz. Thanks for joining us for another episode of Sales Pipeline Radio.

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