Episode 84

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Tim Sanders is a veteran sales, marketing, and HR leader with expertise in sales collaboration, relationship management, leadership, and customer experience design. For almost 20 years, Tim Sanders has closed deals and led B2B sales teams to victory using his Dealstorming methodology. He was an early member of Mark Cuban’s broadcast.com and then later, CSO at Yahoo during their best days. Today he consults with leading companies on how to drain their pipeline, secure major accounts, and beat the competition with teamwork. Financial Times calls his latest book, “Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges” a ‘force multiplier.’ He gives some unconventional insights that just may get you to the finish line on your next big selling opportunity.

 

 

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Tim’s start in sales working for a radio station
  • Dealstorming: how Tim took dealmaking and brainstorming and put them together
  • The difference between collaboration and cooperation
  • How to strategically build your dealstorm team
  • Turning your peer group into “competimates” that you can collaborate with to make each other stronger
  • Why you absolutely need diverse perspectives in the room (and why you should have an external voice on your dealstorm team)
  • The secrets to making your dealstorm meeting a magic meeting with results
  • New business through rapid problem solving
  • The hacker, the chef, and the artist: the three personas for solving different problems
  • How leaders lead culture

 

The Golden Nugget:

“Rapid problem solving is the secret to new business development.” – @sanderssays Click To Tweet

 

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Speaker 1:

If you’re going to take a risk of running an agency, shouldn’t you get the benefits too? Welcome to Agency Management Institute’s Build a Better Agency podcast, presented by HubSpot. We’ll show you how to build an agency that can scale and grow with better clients, invested employees and best of all, more money to the bottom line. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant to you, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey there everybody, Drew McLellan here with another episode of Build a Better Agency. Today’s topic is all around sales, and you’re going to love the conversation. I promise you, there are going to be some ideas that you have not thought about, or at least not in this way before. So, I’m excited to challenge your thinking and to inspire you to explore different ways to create new business sales. Let me tell you a little bit about my guest, many of you are going to be familiar with him.

Tim Sanders is a veteran sales marketing and HR leader with expertise in sales collaboration, relationship management, leadership, and customer experience design. For almost 20 years, he has been closing deals and leading B2B sales teams to victory using his dealstorming methodology, which I promise we’re to going to dig into. He was an early member of Mark Cuban’s Broadcast.com, and then later was CSO at Yahoo during their best days. Many of you will be familiar with Tim. He wrote the best selling book, Love Is the Killer App, a few years ago.

Today he consults with leading companies on how to drain their pipeline, secure major accounts and beat the competition through teamwork. Financial times calls his latest book, which I just finished called, Dealstorming: The Secret Weapon That Can Solve Your Toughest Sales Challenges as a force multiplier, and I highly recommend the book. It was a great read, lots of great examples and really practical, tangible tools that you can use, which you know I love. Tim gives some unconventional insights in the book that just may get you to the finish line on your next big selling opportunity. Tim, welcome to the podcast.

Tim Sanders:

Drew, nice to be with you.

Drew McLellan:

So, you have been a sales guy from the get go, was that your schooling and your upbringing, or did you come by this profession through circumstance?

Tim Sanders:

I stumbled into selling early. I had a firework stand in the farm community I lived in as a teenager and it was slash sales and entrepreneur. So, Drew it’s in my blood, it always has been. My first sales job when I was still in high school was wrapping a radio station, KKQQ FM. I’d go door to door, I’d pitch. If the shop owners were interested, I’d convince somebody at the station to make me a demo on a cassette. They’d make it on the Vox card. Right? Then you’d load it onto the little cassette player, you’d play it for the client.

Drew McLellan:

You’re aging us, Tim.

Tim Sanders:

If they liked it, all I had to do was pick up a check and hopefully when we ran the promotion, people walked into their store and that was my first sales job. And then I went on to sell TV and then I went on to sell internet. So, advertising, marketing and sales have been in my blood since the late 1970s.

Drew McLellan:

So, in your actual pursuit of sales, I think is where you decided to combine two ideas, the idea of deal making and brainstorming. Can you talk a little bit about where the origin of Dealstorming came from, and give the listeners an idea of what you mean by that phrase?

Tim Sanders:

Absolutely. So it’s 1997, I remember it like it was yesterday, and I’m working for Mark Cuban. The company at the time is called AudioNet. He changed the name of the company to Broadcast.com the following year in preparation for the IPO. But it’s 1997, we’re still a relatively small startup. I’m in a division called Business Services where we sold audio and video streaming, live or on demand as a business service say to corporate communication or for product launch, et cetera.

So, market hired this new VP of sales who came from the technology sector from the West Coast. And this guy, his name was Stan. He was a big deal guy. He knew how to go out and do million dollar, multi-million dollar deals. So he was talking to us about how to up our game, because at the time, quite honestly, all of us were pursuing really small, really easy deals because when you tried to pitch something, six figures are bigger, it got really complicated for a lot of reasons. So we’re sitting up in the crow’s nest. That’s what we called the area where we met, and Stan’s like, “When we go bigger …” Because we have to. He says, “You’re going to get stuck.”

He says, “And when you get stuck, don’t go down alone.” He says, “Grab a few people that care about the outcome, grab somebody who knows about why you’re stuck and make it rain.” He said if you’re stuck on a technical issue, go grab Bobby in the broadcast booth. If it’s a pricing issue, go grab Todd in the finance group. He said, “But whatever you do, don’t try to do it on your own. No one gets credit for losing on their own.”

When he is talking about all of this, two concepts collide in my mind at the same time, Drew. The traditional brainstorming idea, which I had studied when I was younger and deal making. The two coming together, creativity for the purpose of new business, I just said out loud to my buddy, “Wow, dealstorming cool stuff.” And that’s where it began. Where this is different than brainstorming, which by the way, was invented by Alex Osborne, founder of what we now know as BBDO, it’s different, because what Stan’s talking about is a very project oriented, let’s find the next play, not a list of ideas approach.

And starting that day, when we got stuck, I would build a dealstorming team around the challenge, and we got better and better and better at bringing in people that weren’t in the sales function. I got to tell you, not just at Broadcast.com and Yahoo, but for the next 15 years, I saw it produce a dramatic lift in our ability to close deals and to close them faster.

Drew McLellan:

I love the line in the book that talks about that sales is a team sport, and that’s really in essence of what you’re talking about. Right?

Tim Sanders:

Absolutely. We have to understand the difference between collaboration and cooperation. Think about it this way, Drew. You’re at a restaurant and you give your order to the server. He turns it into the kitchen. It moves over to the pre-cook. It moves to the cook. The cook puts the food on the counter under the heat lamps. Someone expedites that to the server, the server puts it on your table. Is that teamwork? No, that’s line work.

Teamwork occurs when the server is too busy to bring you the food right away, so either another server or a bus boy or the expediter sees that, and they bring the food to the customer while it’s hot. That’s teamwork. Teamwork is the surprising work we do when we notice that somebody else is either strained at their job or incapable of doing their job in that moment.

Drew McLellan:

Okay. How does all of this … I get the examples you gave in terms of where you were working, big, big companies. So you had lots of people to go tap on the shoulder and bring into the process. How does it work? So most of my listeners probably have 200 employees or less, and a lot of them have 20 employees or less. Especially in the agency space, because I know you’ve spent a lot of time working with agencies and talking to agencies, how does this translate specifically to that industry?

Tim Sanders:

Well, let me give you … and I’ve worked with a lot of marketing solution companies, whether they’re ad agencies, whether they’re media companies, I’ve worked with a lot of them on dealstorming. So, let’s first talk about what that means. When you build dealstorm team, the magic number is three to four disciplines. I call it perspectives. Right? Three to four ways of seeing the world. There’s the new business lead, there might be a creative lead and there might be an account planning lead. I’m just making this up to illustrate this. So the magic number is three or four.

Drew McLellan:

Yep.

Tim Sanders:

We found that when you get four perspectives in the room, you increase by 300% your chance that you walk out of that meeting with the next play that somehow advances the deal. Okay? Now let’s say that your shop is too small to be able to produce those four perspectives. I see this all the time. The secret then is to work with your peer groups or to work with your key business partners and have them join your collaboration team.

I’ve been involved in almost 200 dealstorms over the last decade as a consultant, and in many of those situation, external parties were key collaborators and they brought fresh perspectives to the table. In the book I use the example of a small architectural firm here, where I live in Las Vegas, they’re called LGA. And they were working on a piece of new business at Opportunity Village, which is for the intellectually disabled. And it’s a very special facility, and LGA’s expertise had been visitor centers for years and years, but they were local, and they knew the people at Opportunity Village, but they also knew that they couldn’t figure out how to win that bid and come up with the right approach.

So, Craig Galati, who’s one of the founders of LGA, he had met this architect in Baltimore. Her name is Jane, and she was part of a peer group, just like you guys have peer groups for agencies. So, he and her had talked once at a previous meeting and he knew that she had an expertise in these types of facilities for intellectually disabled, and they had agreed that where they could, they would help each other. So he picks the phone up, tells her about the situation. She’s excited to work with him on the bid and she’s not expecting a cut. This is a very good thing for her too, and they collaborated.

She even came to Las Vegas and participated in the pitch. They won the deal. Since then, Craig’s been able to return the favor to her, giving her great advice when she’s pitching visitor type centers or tourist and destination centers in her part of the world. And what Craig calls her is a competimate. That’s technically a competitor because she’s also an architect, but she doesn’t bump in to him in his market. So they’re actually able to work together as business mates and actually expand the pie.

So I see this happen all the time. So, as an agency, you can talk to other agency leads, and the key here, Drew, is to have a standing deal that, this is my expertise and I’ll lend it to you when you need it. And so as you talk to people in your peer groups, find out what their expertise is. Someone might say, “I specialize in working with Hispanic markets.” Someone else might be able to say, “I specialize in digital subcategory, native advertising, subcategory, video production.” I’m just making this up, but that’s a specific area of expertise.

So as you have these conversations, you’re able to say, “Great, I’m your person for Hispanic market penetration, you’re my person for native advertising request.” And that is a way for you to scale beyond the size of your shop. Let me say this, I think this approach gives smaller shops a winning edge. Here’s why, when you are collaborating as a small organization and someone has out of the box idea, but you’re able to verify the assumptions and it looks like the next play, if you’re at a small organization, you don’t have to go to corporate communications and legal and the founding partners and all these people in a bureaucracy to get approval, you can just do it, and you have the agility to adopt innovations in the deal making process that a big agency or a big company does not possess.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So true. As I’m listening to you, I’m thinking for those listeners who are a part of an AMI owner peer group, they have a natural built in dealstorming team because they’re surrounded by 12 to 25 agency owners who are in non-competitive markets, but who they know and trust, in some cases they’ve known each other for more than a decade. That would be a natural thing. I was all also thinking about for the agencies that are listening that aren’t a part of that, even reaching out to media partners or production partners or other people in their local market, who again, could bring a different perspective and a fresh eye to the conversation, that would be a solution for them as well.

Tim Sanders:

Well, and here’s how I think about those media partners. It’s like, the difference between working with one of your media partners that you end up getting checks written to versus working with another agency lead who might be busy. The difference is like ham and eggs. The chicken is involved and the pig is committed. Okay? Your media partners want you to win the new business because they feel like that can influence you making part of the specification for the program. Right? So they really want to help you, and they have a different set of perspectives.

Here, Drew, I want to pause, and I think for agencies, this is really important to understand, when I say perspective, it’s important to point out why it’s important to have diverse perspectives in the room. A perspective is a story that you tell yourself about what succeeds and what fails, what you can’t do and what you can always do. Okay? That’s what a perspective is. It’s that story about the world, The beauty is, when you think of different disciplines, either inside an agency, different types of agency or the difference between an agency and a media partner, they all have different perspectives.

I think of it this way. When people walk into the room, they say, “Here are the constraints, the things we cannot do. Here’s our greatest hits and best practices. Things we know that work.” And here’s what I’ve learned. Companies or agencies, or even media types, they don’t become obsolete. What becomes obsolete are the constraints and the best practices they do business based on every single day.

Drew McLellan:

That’s a really good distinction.

Tim Sanders:

I can tell you … Right? That’s what goes obsolete. I mean, I’ll give you a classic example here. When I was at Yahoo, this is years ago, right before I left, these two guys from Google, they had a company called IBlogger, and Google bought it. One of them, Ev, comes over and shows us a demo about this new little thing they’d built that leveraged short messaging service in Asia, 140 characters to enable people to talk to each other.

I remember that Jerry Yang in the meeting turns to me and a couple of other guys and said, “User generated, it’ll never work. We bought E Group three years ago for a half billion dollars. Everybody stopped using it after two or three sessions, this thing won’t work. And then, so we sent the founders of Twitter out of the room, even though for very little money, we could have owned at least 50% and had that as our social media lynchpin.”

Drew, that’s when I realized it was time for me to leave. Right? Because the constraints that I did business with made me as a decision maker, obsolete, what I really needed was one of our engineers in the room, a 20 something who would say, “Yeah, we’ve been using something like that on our projects because we love it. We’ve been using a hack workaround with Yahoo messenger.” If someone with a different perspective in the room would’ve had a different way of seeing the world that would’ve helped us envision the future.

And I think it’s so important because of how fast media is changing and how fast the things that work stop working and the new things that are working great failed yesterday. That’s why it’s so important for us to have diverse perspectives, whether it’s generational diversity, disciplinary diversity, or even where we sit in the value chain of marketing solutions diversity, it just enables you to be more agile and to embrace the future faster.

Drew McLellan:

So, as I’m listening to you, I’m thinking, for a lot of agencies, they brainstorm and I’m doing air quotes, which of course you can’t see over the podcast, but they brainstorm by pulling different people from within the agency. So, even though they may have different perspectives, I may be an art person, or I may be a media person, or I may be a whatever, we all have the common shared perspective of the agency in which we exist. So, would you recommend that for agencies, even if they had enough bodies in the shop to create the three or four perspectives around a topic, is it more advantageous to them to invite outsiders into the conversation to give them a broader perspective and a fresher view of the problem?

Tim Sanders:

It goes both ways, on the one hand, if it’s a very strategic opportunity and you really feel like you’re stuck, I think having at least one external partner is going to really help you make sure that you’re not operating under a false constraint. I think that’s the guarantee there. But one of the things I also point out in the book is that, the more perspectives you bring in the room, especially the more they’re different, the harder it is for you to run that meeting effectively. Right?

Because unlike brainstorming where we’re just trying to come up with a list of ideas, dealstorming is about everyone agreeing they can live with the next play and being willing to do joint work on it, even if it’s not their job. When you bring in different perspectives, guess what else you bring in? You bring in different agendas. You bring in grievances from three years ago, you bring in a person that has different needs than you do. As a meeting leader, your number one job is to get everyone from me to we, you’re not trying to necessarily build consensus that everybody loves the idea, but you are making sure that everyone can live with the idea. So when you go wider, it does get a little bit tougher.

We did some research on this idea. I talked about the magic number, and what we learned is that, when you add a second perspective to a meeting, your chance of finding the next play goes up 50%. When you add a third perspective, it goes up a 100%. When you add the fourth perspective, you’re 300% more likely than the baseline to walk out of that meeting with the next play that has some workability to it. But what we also learned is when you go to the fifth perspective, it drops back down to less than a 100%. When you add the sixth perspective, you’re no better off than when you had two.

And then after that, Drew, it’s a goat rodeo. So there is a magic point you want to measure. When we think about the difference between brainstorming and dealstorming, dealstorming, you’re building a team and you have to be very strategic and you have to ask yourself who has the biggest stake in the outcome or the process, like how we sell, who has a big stake in that? That might be someone in your delivery team that really cares about the outcome. It might be someone over in your finance group that really cares about whether this is even going to be a profitable response to an RFP.

It could be a partner who’s really depending on you to win to utilize their solutions. Right? So, you find these stakeholders, think of them as your blockers and tacklers, and then you add one or two at the most experts on why you’re stuck. Okay? So as a meeting owner, you got to do a lot of work in your mind before you even build your team. It’s so different than brainstorming.

When I was at Discovery, we used to do that where a guy would walk out and he’d be working on a piece of news, he’d go, “You and you and you and you and you and you receptionist, everybody in conference room six.” You go into the room and there’s the guy with the flip charts. That’s why I call it a goat rodeo. There’s no rhyme and reason as to why people are in the room.

But when you’ve thought this through, and you’ve said, “This is a big problem. I’m going to qualify the collaboration opportunity. Right? It’s big enough for us to build the team around, and we’re really stuck.” Then you’re really being strategic. Who should I invite? How many should I have in the room? How many can I manage? And then you have to also ask yourself, “Are there personalities going to gel together?” Because the best ideas I’ve seen in dealstorming are the combination of two okay ideas. So, people have to really be able to work together for a dealstorm to produce the next play.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So true. But that’s fascinating that there is a point of diminishing returns.

Tim Sanders:

There is.

Drew McLellan:

Be mindful of how many perspectives you put in the room.

Tim Sanders:

Right. So the key then is, make sure you’ve got more than one perspective. That’s what we do know. So you don’t just have new business mindset in the room. That’s the key.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. I have so many more questions that I want to ask you, but before we get into those, let’s take a quick pause and we’ll come right back. One of my favorite parts of AMI are our live workshops. I love to teach, I love to spend two days immersed in a topic with either agency leaders, agency owners, or AEs in our AE Bootcamps. But most of all, I love sharing what I’ve learned from other agencies from 30 years in the business and all the best practices that we teach.

If you have some interest in those workshops, they range from everything, from money matters, which is all about your financial health of your agency to best management practices of agency owners, to new business, to AE Bootcamps and a plethora of other topics. Go check out the list and the schedule at agencymanagementinstitute.com\livetraining. Okay, let’s get back to the show. So, I want to dig into the idea of how you make these, what you call the magic meetings. So Tim, tell us how you define a magic meeting, and then how do you make that happen as the facilitator-

Tim Sanders:

Absolutely.

Drew McLellan:

… of the dealstorm meeting.

Tim Sanders:

So, when you’re working on a piece of new business, you’re going to have a series of meetings that solve a series of challenges, and a magic meeting is a meeting where you walk out of the room with the next play against the challenge. Okay? A horrible meeting is when you walk out of the room with a conclusion, “Thanks a lot, we’ll have another meeting.” Okay? That’s not a magic meeting. So the secret then is that your meeting produces a specific solution, everyone can live with and commitments to do work on delivering that solution immediately. That’s what you’re really going for.

And the secret to magic meeting, there’s a couple of them actually, the first secret to a magic meeting is that you send out a deal brief at least 48 hours before a meeting. Now I didn’t come up with this idea, was actually-

Drew McLellan:

Well, that sounds like being prepared in advance. That’s crazy talk for agencies.

Tim Sanders:

Absolutely. Oh, it’s crazy. It’s crazy. But you want to do that, Tom Kelley ideal, wonderful consultancy. They’ve invented so many products, whether you’re thinking about like the Palm Pilot or pump toothpaste. Okay? So, Tom Kelley once was talking to me when I was at Yahoo about this whole dealstorming thing and he smiled and he quoted Louis Pasteur, “Chance favors the prepared mind.” He introduced to me the idea that incubation is the most important part of creativity, and giving people time to have clarity about their key assumptions will make them less defensive in a meeting when you’re actually going to have a debate.

Because unlike brainstorming in a dealstorm meeting, you debate the quality of this person’s assumptions around their idea. You do. So here’s the way you do this. Let’s say you’re going to have a dealstorm meeting, and it’s about a really important piece of new business or an account review. All right? Schedule the meeting for Tuesday at 10:00 AM. Make sure that you send the deal brief out Friday by lunch.

And the deal brief, Drew, it’s basically a summary of the opportunity, the influence map of who you’re selling to, what you’ve tried so far and how it did or didn’t work. And maybe some information about that prospect or about that customer in terms of what they’re doing in the market or what external challenges they might have. And at the end of the deal brief, you give a specific thinking assignment to that attendee. Okay?

If you value their time enough to come to the meeting, value them enough to think about their stake in the outcome or their expertise and give them an assignment. I want you, for example, to really kick some holes in my assumption about our root cause of the problem, why we’re stuck, or I want you to tell me if anybody’s missing from the team, or I’d like you to do some research on some potential solutions you can have in hand when you walk in the door. If you give everyone this deal brief and you give them a thinking assignment and something to process, and then you hassle them later on Friday, please read this before the end of the day, what happens is, over the course of the weekend, their subconscious mind goes to work on the problem.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It just percolates.

Tim Sanders:

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