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Flipping the Sales Approach | Sales and Marketing Podcast

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Have you noticed that your prospects are coming to the table with a lot more information these days? Maybe your old sales tricks aren’t working like they used to? Or that customers are signing up but you're having trouble retaining them? 

In episode 04 of the Beyond Business with Synx podcast, we had the opportunity to interview Graham Hawkins, the CEO and Co-Founder of SalesTribe. Graham is a great partner to Synx and is an inspiration to look to for the B2B sales community. 

In this podcast, we dive into how the sales process of today’s world has changed from what it was ten or twenty years ago and how salespeople must recognize and adapt to this change. Sales is no longer outbound focused but instead inbound. Sales reps need to stop chasing the leads and start attracting them as this will create better customer loyalty and advocacy. 

 

 

Some of the show highlights include: 

  • Graham’s career in selling and how he got he idea to write his international best selling book
  • What inspired Graham early on to go back to school and write a book, and what he learned through the process, which eventually led him to create his business sales enablement business, SalesTribe. 
  • The sales to buyer role has changed from information asymmetry to information parity
  • The role of a salesperson is to get them to understand the problem they have rather than tell them. Sales people need to adopt an inbound sales approach.
  • Getting the attention of your buyers is no longer done through a spray gun approach. You must know your ideal customer profile and grab their attention through educating them and nurturing the relationship
  • Businesses that thrive during rough times are the ones that focus on the customer and the overall experience they have 
  • Field sales are not relevant any longer as your buyers now live online. Sales teams need to meet buyers where the live
  • Selling your brand and educating prospective customers on social media will lead to better relationships and customers
  • A lot of times a future customer of yours is following you in the dark. It’s your job to still be there to educate them over time

 

Links and Resources 

Graham Hawkins on LinkedIn

SalesTribe

The Future of the Sales Profession: How to survive the big cull and become one of your industry's most sought after B2B sales professionals by Graham Hawkins

Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis

The Road to Reinvention: How to Drive Disruption and Accelerate Transformation by Josh Linkner

 Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future Paperback by Martin Ford

Sales Success with Social Media - Online Sales Program through SalesTribe

 

Quotes by Graham

  • “In 2010, or thereabouts, I started to realize that for some reason my sales techniques just weren't working as well as they used to be right. It was getting harder. And I couldn't really work out why? I could tell, you know, I could tell fundamentally that buyers were better educated than they ever were previously. There was no hope of using a closing technique or, you know, overcoming objection technique that is old fashioned sort of interruptive push sales techniques that I was taught years ago. That stuff just wasn't working anymore.”
  • “I think what most vendors in some cases still haven't realized is that the buyer has access to the same information as the vendor now. Back in the 90s, they didn't, right? So we had information asymmetry back then... vendors had all the information and the buyers had none. And of course, now it's the other way around, or it's information parity. “
  • “Gone are the days, Charles, and you and I've talked about this, of spray and pray, traditional marketing, blanket marketing, generic messaging, all of those traditional forms of getting attention are no longer working.”
  • “The buyer experience is now all that matters.”
  • “Stop chasing buyers, and instead start learning how to attract buyers. And for the guys that get that right down the track, they're going to have more advocacy, more loyalty.”

 

Transcript

 

Charles McKay 

Hello, welcome to another episode of The Beyond Business podcast. My name is Charles McKay, and I'll be your host today. Today we interviewed Graham Hawkins, who is the CEO and Cofounder of a business called SalesTribe. The reason we got Graham on today is because I love the fact that he had to change dramatically what he is doing throughout his career. And out the back of that has built a really cool business. Graham is a career sales guy, and throughout his career, he saw this monumental shift of the way buyers were behaving and how the buyer is now in control of the situation. In that Graham then went and did his MBA, studied it, and has written a book around it — in the new way of selling.

So if you're interested in where the future of sales play is, sales are always going to exist in some particular way, but how it is done and the way you approach sales is absolutely changing. So without further ado, I'm going to hand over Graham, and we'll get into it.

Very excited to have a good friend of mine, Graham Hawkins, the CEO and co-founder of SalesTribe join me. So Graham, welcome to the conversation.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Thank you, Charles, delighted to be here.

 

Charles McKay

So, Graham, whereabouts are you sitting in this fun time of year? Where would you normally be sitting and where are you sitting at the moment?

 

Graham Hawkins 

I'd normally probably be on a plane somewhere, might I spend most of my time traveling as you know, but right now I'm like everyone else sitting at home. Here in the northeast of Melbourne and four kids running around doing homeschooling behind me, hence the virtual background that I'm using. But it's a strange time of the world that we're living in right now.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah, I know... totally, totally. So, Graham, before we get into what you're doing now, tell us a little bit, sort of where your career started and a couple of pivots you've been on throughout it at a high level. You know, where did you first get into business. And what did that look like?

How Graham Got to Writing a Best-Selling Sales Book

Graham Hawkins 

The short version of that story is that I'm a sales guy and had been for, you know, 30 years now I just turned 50. And so I consider myself a salesperson first and foremost, although I'm running a small company now called SalesTribe. I'm still a sales guy, and sales is what I love.

 

So I began as a 19-year-old in Financial Services, commission only. Worked my way through to telecommunications, and then finally into IT where I was working with software companies, primarily US-based software companies. And I worked in a whole range of different sales, business development roles work my way up to being the sales leader and sales director and head of sales and all that kind of thing.

 

So I spent 25 years roughly, Charles, in high tech sales roles, selling b2b technology solutions in a great career. I'd say I was fortunate to be in those sort of companies at this particular point in time. But in 2010, or thereabouts, I started to realize that for some reason my sales techniques just weren't working as well as they used to be right. It was getting harder. And I couldn't really work out why? I could tell, you know, I could tell fundamentally that buyers were better educated than they ever were previously. There was no hope of using a closing technique or, you know, overcoming objection technique that is old fashioned sort of interruptive push sales techniques that I was taught years ago. That stuff just wasn't working anymore.

 

So I decided in 2012, to go and do an MBA. I was at that stage 42, or three or something, and I realized that I needed to upskill a little bit so I spent some time... I spent 12 months doing an MBA full time. I engineered my own redundancy and went off and did you know school full time. I specifically wanted to go and study buyer behaviour and one of the electives at RMIT in the MBA program was this research project on buyer behaviour.

 

So the really short version of the story. I spent 12 months running around Australia, Charles, interviewing a whole bunch of buyers. And I specifically did that because I wanted to hear from the buyer about what they thought it was like for them to engage with salesperson vendor salespeople. 

 

The feedback I got was, it was not only short of not only it was consistent across the board, but it was confrontational, right? It was like, "Oh, wow, okay. I didn't realize that buyers were you know, so well educated and they knew all of the tricks. They knew all of the techniques that salespeople use and basically are sick of it."

 

So the end of that MBA came this book, The Future of Sales Profession, and that's now an international best selling book, which I wrote. That all came out of the research project from my MBA. I wrote that book in 2016.

 

Charles, I know you and I've talked about this offline, but what's now happening in the world with COVID-19? A lot of what I wrote back, you know, five years ago is now sort of being brought into really sharp focus if you know what I mean.

How Access to Information has Shifted Sales

Charles McKay 

Yeah. 100% if you look in those shifts over that 25-year career, can you see, like what has been the themes that have slowly happened over that 25 years to I suppose, where we're at today that you've seen to be the biggest change

 

Graham Hawkins 

It's a really simple one, to be honest, Charles, it's access to information. So, you know, I was working in telecommunications, the early 90s, mid-90s when the internet was just first being sort of introduced and something that people might use one day and along comes you know, personal computing and all the stuff that happened in the 90s.

 

With all of that, I think what most vendors in some cases still haven't realized is that the buyer has access to the same information as the vendor now. Back in the 90s, they didn't, right? So we had information asymmetry back then... vendors had all the information and the buyers had none. And of course, now it's the other way around, or it's information parity. So that's been the big one.

 

You can no longer... you as a salesperson or a business person working with a product or a service that you're trying to push out into a marketplace you're no longer the information giver, the buyers already got the information, they've done their research, they know what they want. That's a big difference.

 

Charles McKay 

Hmm. It makes total sense and I couldn't agree with you having sat in a vendor seat in a, you know, an end-user seat and a decision-makers seat, this sales thing was really frustrating. Who did you actually interview? Was it your existing clients or is was it just people on the street or, you know, did you get foot to the ground? How did you do that?

 

Graham Hawkins 

Now look, what I did was I went back to a whole bunch of buyers that I'd sold to over the years. People that I have developed reasonably strong relationships with and I said to them, "Hey, listen, I'm no longer working with a vendor at the moment. I'm going to do an MBA and I'm thinking about writing a book, would you mind if I, if I interviewed you?"

 

The moment I took the salespersons cap off and just went and sat down with them and talk to them they're all really willing to share... you know, in some cases, some fairly blunt feedback. So, yeah, it was B2B... it was B2B Senior Procurement People in Enterprise level companies like Telstra, Qantas, Westpac, NAB, Suncorp, and some of those big companies. So that was where I got the feedback from.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah. And it's fascinating too because they've probably been the slowest to adapt to this new world as well. So it's gonna be interesting to see the current environment and how they're going. So getting into writing the book, and obviously now you've started up SalesTribe, when you first got into SalesTribe, what was the core problem that you were looking at solving?

 

Graham Hawkins 

Great question. So yeah, the research phase of writing the book. Which, by the way, took me about two years really to pull it all together and you know, whip it into shape. But during that time, it became really obvious to me that the role of the B2B sales was changing faster than any of us realized.

 

People like Forrester, the big research company, was predicting back in 2015, they wrote a paper called The Death of a B2B Sales Person. And back then they were saying, you know, the 20% or 22% of the world's B2B salespeople will be gone or transitioned into something else by 2020. Now, the extent to which that's come true or not is debatable, but one thing's for sure is that you know, with COVID-19 now on our doorstep, everything that they were saying back then, and everything I wrote about in the book is now very much true.

 

So, back in 2016, when I first published the book and was doing the research, it became obvious that there was a business opportunity to create something that could help these salespeople. You know, I was a mid 40 sales guy at that stage and thinking, "Well, you know, how do I get through the 65? If this whole role that I've spent my entire career working in is changing so dramatically?"

 

Charles McKay 

Hmm.

 

Graham Hawkins 

So the idea for SalesTribe was born out of that research.

 

Charles McKay 

Very, very smart. And I think the amount of research and work you've done in the way you've got is, is phenomenal. It's about articulating that message to people that don't understand it. I think that's one of the biggest challenges with early adoption of anything is, you know, is how do you get them to see the problem rather than tell them the problem? Especially when you're not selling... like technology is a bit different than selling change and culture and all those sorts of things. So, you know,  I can understand how that is a massive problem and people probably also have a bit of a thing that they don’t think it's a problem as well.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, it's funny you should say that. So I spent... I reckon I spent the first two years... Well, one-year pre-launch and then after we launched SalesTribe, I spent a lot of time pushing out this new message on platforms like LinkedIn. We did a lot of content marketing, I had the book as, as something that I could point to. It was heavily research-based. And I spent a lot of time you know, pushing out content and getting very little feedback. In fact, I got a lot of negative feedback in with it as is often the case.

 

I was sprouting this new way of doing things. And of course, the established entrenched view of the world back then was like, "Oh, you don't know what you're talking about. Sales has always been the way it is. People buy from people they know like and trust and it's all about relationships." And I kept saying, "Well, if people buy from websites more and more now so you know, the world is changing. Everything's shifting."

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah. Yeah, you are your spot on, I suppose that leads into where we sort of met. Graham, actually, he was presenting at an event in Sydney and presented out what I've been doing from a much more technical front and Graham was selling more of the change management and people change and internal process change. And that's where our discussions sort of played out.

 

So now that you've been doing this for, you know, a few years now, and the current environment we're at... What problems are you seeing escalated from your research, but also now people are going you know what, wow, if we don't do this, what does that mean?

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, yeah, look... naturally Charles, I look at everything through the lens of the salesperson and you know, the vendor. So the big problem we've all got now really if you boil it down is in this globalized world that we all work in and this highly disruptive, fast, changing business philosophy world where product life cycles are getting shorter and everything's speeding up the big challenge we've all got is really just getting visibility amongst all the noise. There's so much noise out there on all these platforms that we talk about. How do you stick your hand up and say, "Hey, I've got this product or service now how do you get attention?"

 

Every Sales Director that I talk to these days is, is saying fundamentally the same thing. "Graham, we've got, you know, what we think is lots of leads and things and we've got, you know, forecasts that kind of looks okay, but nothing's closing because everything stuck in the middle of the funnel." And half the time is because they're managing or they're chasing leads that they should never have been chasing which are not really well qualified and it comes back to how do you get the attention of the ideal customer profile in a world where everyone's now competing for the attention of these buyers.

 

So you know, gone are the days, Charles, and you and I've talked about this, of spray and pray, traditional marketing, blanket marketing, generic messaging, all of those traditional forms of getting attention are no longer working. Because, as my good friend Adam Gray says, he says that "the trouble with traditional marketing is everybody's yelling, and nobody's listening."

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah. 100% but I think...

 

Graham Hawkins 

Yeah, sorry, go on.

The Buying Experience Needs to be Our Focus

Charles McKay 

I was just gonna say that I think the biggest shift that I'm seeing on my mind with this component is, it's no longer the product-market fit. It's no longer about what you're doing. It's that experience for the customer. So, and especially in these trying times, I think it's been phenomenal some of the businesses that have started or shifted and pivoted. It's all about the customer and the experience they have and caring about them and being empathetic to them, which is definitely not the old way of thinking.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Mate, you're right. And, you know, listening to Brian Halligan as we both did last year at Inbound when he spoke about experience market fit, he's spot on, isn't he? The buyer experience is now all that matters.

 

And I know Charles, I've worked for many organizations going back 10 years ago now, who would proudly exclaim on their website that we are customer-centric and that we place the customer at the heart of everything we do. And yet, when I talk to the sales director, it's how many meetings we got, how many calls we made, how do we bring that deal forward? How do we close this deal? Like it's all self-serving inward-looking, measurements and KPIs around revenue maximization. That's just not customer-centric anymore. So a lot of what I wrote about in the book is these changing models.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah. So on that point, obviously, at the end of the day, sales rep, sales directors... they're there to you know, move the business forward and collect feedback and hopefully help customers you know, to move them down that journey or the customer journey... when you meet with someone and they say "right, we've got these problems of funnel bloat, and you know, we're not hitting quota or we're not getting revenue in".... what are they... two years down the track, what are you seeing some outcomes looking like now where they've gone and transformed?

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, if businesses transform the way you and I talk about, Charles, and obviously your business is the critical piece to some extent, I can talk about the why and you know, the strategy and give the advice about what you should be doing given the modern buying context. But if you don't put in place, those incremental steps, cultural change, you know, operational change, and then the technology that can support that then you end up just having people default. They default back to what they've always done.

 

So, you know, it's all going to be done in a very incremental change management way. But the ones that get it right, the ones that do, you know, make that leap of faith from vendor push to customer pull business models, or, you know, moving away from outbound and moving more towards inbound, I keep saying, Charles, you've heard me say this a million times, we have to learn to stop chasing buyers, and instead start learning how to attract buyers. And for the guys that get that right down the track, they're going to have more advocacy, more loyalty. They're going to have, you know, happy customers that give referrals that talk about what a great experience they've had, you know, engaging with SalesTribe or Synx or whoever. And that's the ultimate to me, you know, when you can create raving fans, people who tell other people, that's the ultimate.

 

Charles McKay 

 Yeah, and removing the friction and all those sort of things. I think the other thing, especially I suppose, talking about enterprise stuff, and it's so relevant because we had a conversation this morning with a particular group of people and like as soon as you start talking enterprise, the biggest problem is most likely the internal politics in these businesses. And potentially even that, call it outbound selling or inbound selling, in internal divisions... getting over that internal politics and flipping it and going, what are we trying to solve for here? Is it? Is it my job? Or is it my division? Or is it the greater good of the customer? And I think that's a massive thing that we come across quite a bit is, you know, we can help you but you've got to internally be open to flipping everything you're doing.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Yeah. Mate, listen, I'll be honest with you my biggest challenge is, you know, creating change around sales enablement... and really, it's not sales enablement, it's buyer enablement. My biggest challenge is getting senior, senior people i.e. the C suite, CFOs and CEOs, to change the mindset around incremental revenue gains because that's all they're focused on, financial measurements. Because if they're a listed company, well, it's what's the gain? You know, how do we increase the share price? We've got misalignment so much with senior people and their short term financial measurements and metrics that really never allows the organization to make those changes because it's it sometimes flies in the face of what the CEO is trying to achieve.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah. It's fascinating. I couldn't agree with you more. It's similar to country's GDP. Like in reality, if you've got happier people in a happier country, happier society, they're gonna do better at what they do. Same as in an organization. If you have a staff happiness meter they're probably going to do better work.

 

We've talked about this change piece a fair few times. On that transition... I can even talk about the government herewith, you know, going from coal power to solar power, or, you know, renewable energy. You don't need to sack the 20,000 employees, you put an educational program in place to transform their skill set. Like all of this stuff is learnable. You don't need to go to uni again, you can learn it on the job. And that shifted, all of that 50 years of or thousand years of knowledge gets transformed into new ways of working... so much more powerful than just sacking your whole team and bringing in new ones. But yeah, I can rant about that one quite a bit of time.

Embrace Change or Be Irrelevant

Graham Hawkins 

What you're saying, Charles, in terms of change management. Change is always hard, right? We're naturally as humans change resistors, and I like what Eric Shinseki said the US Navy General I think he was where he said, "if you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevance even less." And, you know, we all have to just embrace this change that's happening now and get on board with it and move with it quickly, right? Otherwise, we are going to be irrelevant.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah. And I think on that point, with what's happening in the current environment, where obviously lots of people are being forced to change and forced to do things. So it actually shows how quickly these things can actually be done when you remove the wrong metric. So, like, yes, we've all got to live, we've all got to survive. You know, we're here to hopefully turn a profit and feed our families but at the end of the day, the greater good.... if you do stuff for the greater good in a good way, you're gonna have a better place, better society, happier people. Which then attracts talents, which attracts customers. So, you know, I think that's been my observation with this whole COVID stuff at the minute... like people can change. They just didn't want to change.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Correct. We need a.... we need a catalyst certainly and we need something to force us to change. And now that we're all doing this sort of thing... zoom calls and engaging our buzz on digital and social platforms, which I've been banging on about now for five years. When we're now forced to do that people realize actually, it's not that difficult and actually, it works pretty well.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah. And then, by the way, you've got a bit more time for your family and a bit more time to do stuff that you love outside of work.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Benefits everywhere.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah, it's fascinating, like, in those problems, obviously, that you're solving for businesses. I'm sure it's changing, changing a lot. And even after this current environment, those problems are going to change again. But I think the fundamentals of what you've approached and the research you've done is fascinating. So, you know, good on you for doing that work, because most people, probably at this stage of the career you're at would have gone out "well, I'll just keep ploughing along."

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, thank you, mate. I appreciate that. And yeah, look, I thought, once I started on this journey in 2012, Charles, where I went out and interviewed buyers, I just got I became fascinated in all this. You know, when you look at what machine learning and artificial intelligence and all this, you know this stuff better than I do, right? When you look at where that's all heading, and what it means for commerce and business in general, I think the next few years are going to be the most unbelievable, exciting time.

 

Exciting for those who want to embrace change and get on board and try things new. But they're going to be devastating for people who are stuck in the old ways of doing things.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah, hundred percent. There's a fascinating book that I have read, which is called "Abundance". And what it talks about in that book is the world's gonna go either one or two ways into scarcity or into abundance. And what does an abundant world look like? Well, it's, you know, robots and machines, taking care of a lot of these things that people don't like doing. It's actually where I get a bit frustrated with people just outsource mundane tasks to a country that they can't see. And they can't see the people, but they just give them all the shit work. Robots and machines are going to do that so in an abundance world we don't work five days a week, we work three days a week, you've got more time with the family, there's less travel of food, like all of these industries where we've globalized it, but not gone back to localized solutions. Machines going to take care of that.

 

So, you know, obviously energy, food, health, all of these big ticket items. It's going to get disrupted heavily but is the world.... without getting political sides of things on that. It's gonna be fascinating. So I totally agree with you. Like, I always look at anything in two ways, either. Yes, it's going to be challenging, but the opportunities are going to be great for humanity.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Totally agree. Totally agree. And yeah, like, I haven't read "Abundance", but I read as part of my book research... I read a book by Martin Ford called "Rise of the Robots" and what a fascinating view of the future when you look at all of the routine and, you know, fundamental tasks that can be outsourced to a robot or an artificial intelligence bot of some sort, and how that frees up the humans to do things differently.

 

And, you know, to some extent, we are seeing it , Charles, in our country here in Australia, with the government handing out what Martin Ford referred to as a universal basic income. The machines are doing some of the work and the humans are, you know, on a universal basic income from the government to some extent, so who knows where it's all going in the next 10. The next five I think you're going to be exciting too.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah, no, I I couldn't agree with you more. Another fascinating like I could quote a few books, but another fascinating one... I think is quite relevant for businesses are struggling with that change is called the "Road to Reinvention". And that is looking at how you can attack your business model or attack your products and services and only change a little bit at a time, rather than changing the whole thing, just test it, pay to test it, build an internal startup within your business. And that incremental change mindset just shifts it all instead of being a huge, overwhelming massive project, you just flip it into a little micro chain thing, and then it becomes not as overwhelming and you actually get stuff done.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, it's one of the things I learned the hard way, Charles, when I started SalesTribe or the business before SalesTribe I tried to transform sales international. I was advocating in sort of, you know, what was effectively rapid big bang, radical change. Quickly change now and you'll you know... but the truth is, most organizations can't do that. They can't mobilize themselves to to create big incremental, big radical change, I should say. So, go back as you say, go back to incremental. You know chunk it down on little bite sized pieces and do them in the right sequence and you can gradually over time win the war so to speak.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah yeah, those one percenters become... it's like football... simple stuff yeah? The one percenters are what win Grand Finals, it's not taking the hanger.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Exactly. Exactly right. Spot on.

How Graham Started SalesTribe

Charles McKay 

So to touch quickly on the journey. So obviously when you went out and did your MBA and wrote your book, did you have the intention of starting starting SalesTribe? And I suppose talk us through that journey as opposed to what your vision was to what it's been like and what you've learned along the way.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Yeah, now look, there wasn't an intention to do an MBA and start a business. It was funny I got during the MBA, Charles, I got to spend a lot of time with some younger people - millennials. You know, I was 42 or three at that point and some of the people in the program were, you know, late 20s, early 30s and now we're doing some really cool stuff with social media and content marketing and you know, I don't think Instagram was big back then... but I know were doing Facebook and Twitter ads and all that sort of stuff.

 

And I got really fascinated in what all that was looking like so I decided I'd spend some time with them trying to learn and yeah, having done the research and then written the book and spent some time getting my head around these new technologies and platforms I started to see the opportunity to build a business and you know, SalesTribe was born.

 

I decided to use content marketing on LinkedIn to get a message out to try and build a brand. Not just a business brand, but my own personal brand. And I often say to people, you know, I chipped away at that for a long time without much success. Charles, I've got to say probably six to 12 months I would push out articles, and posts in short form long-form blogs, etc. and nothing much was happening really. And then all of a sudden, at about the 12-month mark, I started to realize that on LinkedIn in particular, I was getting quite a lot of engagement, quite a lot of feedback.

 

And so whilst the vision for SalesTribe was always, you know, help salespeople, I began to realize that actually, what I'm doing now can help businesses as well. So the pivot for us was to some extent, we can create this two-sided marketplace where we help businesses on one side, and we help sales individuals on the other, get, you know, upskilled and repurpose their skills and whatnot. And then connect the two through a marketplace almost where businesses need salespeople who've got the latest skills and the latest competencies. And salespeople need, you know, access to new training and new ways of doing things to be relevant in the modern era.

 

So yeah, that was our pivot if you like, once we started to realize, okay, well, we're building a two-sided marketplace where we can bring businesses and salespeople together. And yeah, so the journey took a bit of a twist in the road at that point. But it's always been based on my, you know, my own personal experience with sales and how it's changing and getting prepared for this future that kind of now arrived.

 

Charles McKay 

And I think it's fascinating. If you were to start thinking... we've talked a little bit about the future and I like to talk about the present because it's just easier. But where do you see the future? 10 years of sales? Like where do you think it's gonna sit?

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, you know, that's an interesting one. Ten years now is a long time, right?

 

Charles McKay 

It is.

 

Graham Hawkins 

What are they saying that by 2030, 80% of the world's drivers will be out of work because we'll have self-driving cars? Hard to believe, but maybe that's true. What does that mean? Well, what does the future look like for sales? I think there's a couple of realities that we have to, we have to all accept.

 

And one of them is, Charles, you know, that all thing about commercial realities, or the Invisible Hand of the market always dictates what happens. And if you think about it, logically, businesses will always find path of least resistance when it comes to doing things more cost-effectively, right? And buyers now know that when they're talking to a person, a salesperson, that there's a cost involved in that. And so quite often what we're saying even now we're seeing it... buyers go into salesperson avoidance mode, they'd much rather go directly to the manufacturers. They'd rather bypass the salesperson, in some cases, not all, but in some cases, they would.

 

And that's why we're seeing a huge shift now towards, you know, online retail spend and all of the proof points that sort of point to this idea that you know, the salesperson is kind of like the middleman and in lots of cases, like with companies like Atlassian and you know lots of others where there's no salesperson needed. I mean... I did have a client the other day, Charles, and you'll love this but your business is similar to mine. I run Xero, I run HubSpot, I run Stripe for payments, I use AWS for hosting, and a whole bunch of other you know, technologies that run my business and I've met one salesperson from those companies.

 

So you know, forward, cast that forward five years. What's the role of the salesperson? Well, it's vastly different roles are the one that's happening right now. We've almost got this pinter movement happening, Charles if you think about it. The vendor on one side who employs the salesperson is looking for, you know, any means by which they can lower the cost of acquisition and still today, the cost of sales and marketing as a percentage of revenue is the highest cost of acquisition. If you can remove the marketing and salesperson from that, you know, the acquisition cost for getting new customers, that's a big improvement in margin and profit. On the other side, the buyer is looking for how do I get the best deal? Well, I'll go online and I'll do all the research and I'll find the best possible price online. So, you know, salesperson who sat in the middle is being squeezed from both sides commercially.

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah, no, it's, it's...

 

Graham Hawkins 

That's kind of what my Brian's thinking about it.

 

Charles McKay 

It's fascinating. You know, the rise of new roles that talking T-shapes. Well, that's been talked about for a while, but customer success and, you know, it'll be really interesting what happens. Like, I think we're gonna go into a seed and grow mentality and lots of them are doing it, get in, get started and then you get reached out to when you need help. And then, by the way, they're probably trained in sales on how to upskill, up service upskill or cross-sell blah, blah, blah. I couldn't agree more.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, it's all happening now. Right, you're spot on. The green shoots of this new way of working is happening. The rise of customer success, the rise of focus on lifetime value. The number one business metric now for most businesses is churn mitigation or net retention, right? That's a huge shift from when I started selling, you know, 10 years ago, 20 years ago, whenever.

 

Charles McKay 

I think, especially at the minute, the people that, you know, I can guarantee that across the board, net new sales are down globally. But what's retention like? The people with the best retention and the best customer success they're going to get through this period, the ones that don't will no longer exist.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Simple as that.

Forgetting What You Know

Charles McKay 

Fascinating. So, Graham, if you were to give one tip or two, let's talk to a business owner or you know, that C-suite... you get into that meeting and you've now got them an interview stage, rather than you trying to convince them of change, but they're vulnerable and they've gone you know what we needed help? What would that tip be?

 

Graham Hawkins 

Once again, looking at everything through the sales lens, Charles. The tip would be, you've got to now understand that the attention of your buyer is shifting. Forget, forget the old idea of cold calling and sending out blanket messages and emails. You've now got to understand how you can engage those educated buyers on the platforms where they now reside. 

 

You know, I keep saying Field Sales, which is what I've always done was fine when the buyer resided out in the field, get in the car, jump on the train, go out and meet the buyer. The buyer now resides online. You have to learn how to engage those buyers and you know, Matt Dixon, who wrote the "Challenger Sale" said it beautifully. He said the best salespeople right now are engaging buyers where and how they learn and increasingly, that's on social platforms. 

 

So you better have a strategy, business owner or CEO, you better have a strategy around how you're engaging your buyers on these platforms. That would be my number one answer.

 

Charles McKay 

It makes a lot of sense. And like you've said, I think like you were saying in that journey piece that you spent 12 months curating content, putting content out there and with nothing but that compounding effect of what happens off the back of that is massive. And that's one of the biggest challenges I believe that you know, people are looking for this instant success. Instant this. Buyers want instant success, they want instant gratitude, but a business is not going to get the same result. So how do they be bit more patient and it came up on a previous conversation we had in this series about being the custodian of the business rather than just leaving the property, like stealing the profits and bleeding it dry, like how do you leave it in a better place? And this would be one of the strongest things that I would be doing. So I think your advice is spot on.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Yeah, I think you're right, Charles. And we've all got to stop this short term mentality that we've always suffered from. And in sales, you know, there's two right? Salespeople... end of month, end of quarter... quick, bring that deal forward....quick.. we've gotta hit our numbers. That old mentality short term-ism has to stop.

 

We've got, as you said, I love that quote, seed and grow. That seed and grow mentality. What I've done with my business over the last three years has been, it's blown my mind how well it's worked. But we've taken a very long term approach where I treat every single potential customer as an opportunity to build a long term relationship and I don't care whether they're ready to buy today, tomorrow, next month or next year. 

 

At some point, they're going to come back. And my cost of acquisition will be so much smaller because we've nurtured relationship right?

 

Charles McKay 

Yeah. I couldn't agree with you more. And it's just that - flipping the mindset. I think we've talked about a lot, the customer is now in control. I think that's going to shift a little bit not that the customer is not in control, but their expectations need to change a little bit. 

 

I think we're a bit ahead of ourselves with customer expectations and customer demand. Not saying that that's a bad thing, but just the world was going you know, what we've, we're running out of resources, stop using so much stuff. So it'll be interesting to see where that happy medium plays out.

 

Graham Hawkins 

I think you're right. Yeah, totally. There's always a balancing effect.

 

Charles McKay 

It's like any relationship as soon as it gets too skewed one way it's gonna break. So we've got even up the equation a bit.



Graham Hawkins 

Yeah, yeah. We're in total agreement.

 

Charles McKay 

That's right. That's right. So you can get.... you can share some of your biggest success stories, your grand.. or what's something that you've been the most proud moment of, you know since you started SalesTribe and released the book that you can share with us.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, yeah, we've had a number of wins along the journey, Charles. You know, all of them are important, particularly when you're in startup mode, right? But I think one of the things that I'm most proud of is that for a little Aussie company, we managed to win in... I think it was our second year it was yeah, it was our second year... we managed to win when one of the world's largest and oldest banks, Lloyds Banking Group in London. And you know, it was a testament to everything I've been preaching about how to engage more than buyers in the places where they learn.

 

Where this bank was unbeknown to me was sitting back watching some of my content. One particular gentleman over there guy named Wayne Mills, who's the MD of global capital markets. He was sitting back watching some content. And he reached out on LinkedIn and said, "Hey, listen, I like what you're saying about how sales is changing." He said, "we're  an old fashioned bank who needs some modernizing." And he said, "if you're ever in London, you know, let me know and let's share some coffee."

 

So, you know, my content marketing strategy, got the attention of the senior guy inside one of the world's biggest banks. And the next thing I'm in London having coffee with him, and now they're our most important customer, globally. So, for me to have been able to win one of the big banks in the UK is still mind-blowing. I still don't know how that happened, really.

 

Charles McKay 

That's fascinating. And imagine if you flipped it and said, Lloyd Bank is one of our accounts we're going to chase. Where would you start with that account mapping document and the org chart?

 

 

Graham Hawkins 

I mean, you know, let’s be clear serendipity in these things happen all the time from time to time. But certainly, that was one where my investment in content marketing and the time and effort we put into pushing out that content. What people don’t understand is that quite often there are buyers sitting back in the dark, so to speak, watching your content and trying to work out whether or not you’re the right sort of person. So without even knowing it, I was nurturing this relationship with Wayne.

 

Cut and fast forward six months and all of a sudden I’m being engaged to come over there and deliver a whole bunch of sales enablement with their team. So that’s been an amazing success story and there’s been a few others like those as well. Mate, the power of these global platforms when you do it the right way is just incredible.

 

Charles McKay

Yeah. It’s that simple you ask, we answer or give value before you extract value. Those terms are pretty relevant. I can bet you.. What was that sales process like Graham? Did you got through procurement and did you go through nine levels of approval or did you just give him a proposal and he signed off?

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, it was pretty simple, to be honest. The hardest part of that was filling out the supplier agreement forms. So to be a supplier to the bank I had to go through some hoops there.

 

Charles McKay

So they had friction on their end, still?

 

Graham Hawkins 

 Yes, they did they did. Look it was because of Wayne and the relationship that we struck on LinkedIn and then having coffee with him and getting to know him and the team. I made the entry-level really simile for them to chew on. That part was really quite easy. In fact, I was really surprised how quickly Wayne was able to make a decision with a little company from Australia. The hard bit was getting the T&C’s in place. Once that was done it’s been a wonderful relationship.

 

Charles McKay

That’s awesome. Good on you. I love hearing success stories… they’re everywhere and I’m not a big fan of people promoting their own success stories but when you hear them it puts a smile to your face.

 

So Graham we better start to bring this to ground. How do people find you and how do they engage with SalesTribe or yourself?

 

Graham Hawkins 

Well, no surprise what I’m going to say here, Charles, but you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m everywhere on LinkedIn, as much as I can be. Look me up on LinkedIn or jump on the website – SalesTribe.

 

We just recently launched and I’m excited about this, we just recently launched the SalesTribe Academy which is our online learning for salespeople. We’ve got our first course now available to subscribe to. For $39 a month people can access the platform and go through our sales success with social media program in their own time, all online. We’re really excited about that. We’ve got our mobile app coming very, very soon which will make the end-user experience on the mobile really slick and enjoyable, hopefully. So yeah some exciting things happening but yeah that’s the way to contact me, on LinkedIn primarily.

 

Charles McKay

Awesome. I love it, that sounds really interesting. I’d strongly recommend any reps out there to jump on and do that. Reality is, businesses probably won’t do it for you so you better upskill yourself. Some reps out there probably got a bit of time, unfortunately, because a lot have probably been laid off so now is a good a time as any.

 

Awesome, Graham, thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule I look forward to sharing this out there but yeah thanks for your time.

 

Graham Hawkins 

Thanks for having me, Charles. It was an absolute pleasure, mate.

 

 

 



Charles McKay

Charles McKayAuthor

Charles built a very successful I.T. Business from the ground up prior to SYNX. Bringing advanced technology skills to digital marketing, and the ability to explain it simply to his customers, is allowing SYNX to stand out in an overcrowded under-educated market. Synx is a digital marketing agency based in Australia, focusing our work on Marketing Automation, Demand Generation, Lead Generation and Social Selling.

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