The 4 Customer Personality Types Salespeople NEED To Know

Sean is a serial entrepreneur who has successfully grown dozens of early-stage companies across a wide variety of products and markets.

At GrowthX Academy, Sean is focusing on sharing his expertise in monitoring and adjusting revenue pipelines to help startups improve the probability and predictability of sales and marketing success.

On this episode of The Salesman Podcast, Sean explains the steps we need to take to ask painful (but powerful and business winning!) questions to our potential customers without it getting weird.

You'll learn:

Sponsored by:

Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Sean Sheppard
Serial Entrepreneur

Resources:

Transcript

Sean Sheppard:

I think broadly, we kind of put them into four categories. There is your economic buyer, your user buyer, your technical buyer, and your champion, or sometimes people might call them a coach. Another tombstone in my sales graveyard is closing. I don't believe the closing is a thing… That I do believe there's a direct correlation between the size of an organisation and the structure of the buying process.

 

Will Barron:

Hello sales nation. I'm Will Barron, host of The Salesman Podcast, the world's biggest B2B sales show where we help you not just hit your sales target, but really thrive in sales. Let's meet today's guest.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Good afternoon everyone, my name is Sean Sheppard. I'm a founding partner at GrowthX and GrowthX Academy, where we invest in technology startups, and I'm really excited to be here on The Salesman Podcast.

 

The 4 Main Buyer Types in B2B Sales · [00:55] 

 

Will Barron:

In this episode with Sean, we're going to learn customer psychology, going to learn the four main buyer personality types and a whole lot more. So let's jump right in. Who are the main buyer types that we're going to come across in B2B sales?

 

“We live in this world where people avoid telling us the truth if it either creates more work or creates potential for conflict. And so we tend to avoid it.” – Sean Sheppard · [01:50] 

 

Sean Sheppard:

Yeah, I think broadly we kind of put them into four categories. There is your economic buyer, your user buyer, your technical buyer and your champion, or sometimes people might call them a coach. And the champion slash coach is more of a psychology of the other three. And you should constantly be striving to make everyone in the sales process, a champion or a coach. Because they're the ones that will give you the insights into what's really happening in the organisation, the internal politics, the power bases, the agendas, hopefully honesty and truth about their impression of you and your product or service, which is really important in today's world well because we live in this market where today I think people avoid telling us the truth if it either creates more work or creates potential for conflict. And so we tend to avoid it.

 

“You need to take the word rejection out of your vocabulary and replace it with feedback and view feedback as a gift.” – Sean Sheppard · [02:30] 

 

Sean Sheppard:

And as sellers, we need to begin to change our mindset around that. We need to be more open. I call it, it's not my term, but Dr. Carol Dweck from Stanford University wrote a book called Mindset, that's all about the idea of a growth mindset. And it's something we practise and preach ardently in the GrowthX family of companies in our community of startups and sellers et cetera, is you need to take the word rejection, for example, out of your vocabulary and replace it with feedback and view feedback as a gift. And if you have an attitude entering any kind of messaging and communication, an opportunity to interact with any account, you need to behave in a way that lets them understand and eventually believe in the most authentic and sincere way possible that all you want is the truth. “I don't know if I can help you or not, I'd love to understand if we can.”

 

Sean Sheppard:

We call that a value hypothesis. And it's important that entering any sales interaction, discussion, or conversation, that you have a well thought out value hypothesis in advance of that interaction, so you can lead with that. It's the why, if you will, as Simon Sinek would say, you start with why. There's a reason I'm reaching out to you, Will. I think I can help you in this way because I've helped others like you and I'd love to understand that's the case. How do you do this today? What are the problems associated with it? How does it affect your business? Are there any needs or potential benefits associated with making a change? That's what you're trying to understand.

 

Will Barron:

Okay. So there's lots to go here. We're going to come back to, you might call it something different, but essentially reframing with things like rejection, turn it into the phrase feedback. We'll come into that in a second. We'll definitely come back to value hypothesis, hypotheses? Hypothesis, yes. Whatever that word is, we'll come back to that in a second, Sean, as well because then that's valuable. I think that will subtly allow the audience to never pick up the phone, never send an email without some kind of value attached to it. We won't be sending pestering emails I'm sure, when we dive into that.

 

How Building Up Your Champions Leads to More Sales Success · [04:17] 

 

Will Barron:

But without getting too meta in the first five seconds of the interview of the show here, you said something that really intrigued me of, we should be taking these different buyer architects and turning them hopefully into champions, people call it different things, advocates, kind of helpers within the account itself. But could we wrap up the whole of selling in the B2B space by just focusing on that one thing of, if we go into account, if we suss out who's important in there, who's influential in there, and we turn them on to champions, will the deal come? Will the close just happen naturally if we manage to get to that single point in itself?

 

“I don't believe that closing is a thing. I believe it's a byproduct of being fully immersed in helping others get what they want.” – Sean Sheppard · [05:15] 

 

Sean Sheppard:

Well, I've learned, and I want you to listen closely to my words here because I do love the irony in this forthcoming statement, I've learned never to speak in absolute. So the answer to your question is, I believe for the most part, yes, another tombstone in my sales graveyard is closing. I don't believe that closing is a thing. I believe it's a byproduct of being fully immersed in helping others get what they want. And it will happen as a result of that. And in due course, if you're fully immersed in creating champions out of every influencer in the average enterprise sale, and I think you know this and probably others have cited a similar statistic, we're close to seven buyers. We're seven influencers in every enterprise sale today on average. So you have to map that account, you have to understand the buyer types, you have to understand what each one of them care about, you need to understand how they're measured, which is the key component to constructing a value hypothesis. Because each of those seven people might be measured differently and care about different things.

 

Sean Sheppard:

And there's nothing wrong with asking them what they care about, what role do they play in this process? Who else is involved? How do they make decisions? That's how you construct and map an account broadly. And then you go from that champion, if you will, to the three functional types of buyers to finish the original question, because I have a feeling you and I will go off for hours, 9,000 directions if I'm not careful, because I have the same passion for this as you do. So the other three buyer types are the economic buyer, the user and the technical buyer.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Let's start with my favourite, the user buyer. In B2B tech sales, only sellers and well, I like to say only sellers and drug dealers call their customers users. They're humans, but the user buyer is the person that uses the product or the service that feels the acute pain, functionally has tactical. There are tactical benefits to the features around what you're doing. You need to understand that for every user buyer that you're going to affect within reason during the sales process. Ultimately, if this is a global rollout, you can't touch everyone, but you need to understand the persona of those individual user buyers, who they are, what they care about and how they are measured, how they will use your product, what are they doing today that's different and how are you going to change that behaviour.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Then you move on to the economic buyer, which is again, the person that owns the budget, right? They write the check. Oftentimes there's only really ultimately one of those people, even though you might be misled to believe there are more than one. And oftentimes you will be misled to believe that the economic buyer is somebody that it is not. And for all sorts of reasons, right? Human motivation to either elevate someone's status of power or manage and control the process because of their own desire to do it, or because they've been charged with that. Oftentimes an economic buyer will place a shield or a mode of user buyers, technical buyers, and other folks around them to protect them until it ultimately really matters.

 

Sean Sheppard:

And so it's up to us to trust, but verify. And do that with asking the right kind of open-ended questions that don't offend in the process by saying, for example, one of the worst questions the salesperson can ask is, “Are you responsible for making decisions? Are you in charge? Do you have authority or power to make this choice?” That immediately puts somebody in a very defensive position, especially if they don't have the power, when we think they do. So oftentimes they'll lie or obfuscate around that. So identifying the economic buyers by asking questions related to the function of writing a check, budget, right? How does your organisation budget for this? Who is involved in that process and what role do they play? Will get you the answers you want without creating that sort of offence. And it's important, also it helps you build credibility, because people honestly now see that you're being authentic in your approach to understand how they do business.

 

“One of the largest frustrations enterprise buyers and economic buyers have, and the Corporate Executive Board does amazing work on this, year in and year out is that they don't believe that their sellers quote unquote, respect their buying process.” – Sean Sheppard · [10:03] 

 

Sean Sheppard:

One of the largest frustrations enterprise buyers have, and the corporate executive board does amazing work on this every year, they research and poll and survey leading economic buyers or just enterprise buyers in general on a whole host of issues. But one of their number one frustrations year in and year out is that they don't believe that their sellers quote unquote, respect their buying process, which again is assuming intent because they're drawing that conclusion based on our actions as sellers. We're not asking them about the process therefore they don't think we care about it and that we're just trying to push our agenda and not theirs.

 

How to Identify the Decision Maker Without Offending Your Buyers · [10:33] 

 

Will Barron:

The way I uncover, just interrupt you here, and then we'll come on to the technical element of this in a second, but the way I typically uncover the decision maker is super simple and you've alluded to it here. I just ask them what the buying process is and who's involved and if even better you're in person with the individual, I just draw it on a kind of, I don't know there'd be a way to describe the charts, but from one block to the next names of people, either side of it. And then we agree on, this is the process. Clearly this can change over time.

 

Will Barron:

But then you know, as a seller, “Well, I've got to engage with these people at this step at this step at this step.” And it becomes less of a guessing game. There's no waiting, you're not inadvertently jumping over someone and embarrassing them in front of their colleagues. And I just found that one crazy simple question solves a lot of this kind of mess of model of who's in charge of what with these seven individuals that were reportedly going back and forth with. Makes it a lot simpler, right?

 

Sean Sheppard:

Absolutely. And the more we do this, people like you and I who spend a large amount of our lives consumed by thinking about these things, the more I do this, simpler I make it, right? Asking simpler questions, focusing on the simplicity of the interaction between the humans and then having that behaviour to follow it, right? Being authentic and being open and actively listening to and willing to accept truth, whatever that truth is because the second best answer in sales is no. I would much rather know now than six months from now that there's not an opportunity for us help you. And to me, the attitude is always that, selling is helping. And so if I'm fully immersed in that helping experience back to your question around closing, yes, closing should be a byproduct of that experience.

 

Do All Buyers Have a Well Defined Buying Process? · [12:30] 

 

Will Barron:

And I don't know if there's any data, sorry I'm interrupting you. I'm sorry, but I don't know if there's any data you might be able to help on this, of the percentage of people who don't know what the heck the buying process is either because I sell the ad space on the podcast, we do multiple kind of six figures of ad sales each year. And I do most of it. There's ad agents now that's helping with some of this process, so I can go off and do other projects, but there's many companies within your world, the Silicon valley tech space, there's SaaS companies that do sales enablement software, and Salesforce for all these different companies. There's a large percentage of them that when I say, “What is the buying process?” Clearly, you want to be involved with the show in some kind of context.

 

Will Barron:

We can dive into that. We can discuss that later on down the phone call, but what is the buying process? I'll get on the phone with a lot of directors of marketing or VPs of marketing and they go, “I don't really know. I put together some kind of proposal, give it to the CEO. They say maybe, okay, and then I just do it anyway.” A lot of the time that's the response I get. Is there any data I guess, or is there any, maybe anecdotal might be better here, but what are your thoughts on this? How often do companies, even big companies have strict buying process and how often of it is on a whim?

 

Sean Sheppard:

Yeah. No, I think you pose a fantastic question. I don't know if anybody's collected the data around this. If not, it'd be a great thing to survey. CEB probably does to some degree, I'd have to look. And if they don't, I think they should next year and I'd love to see the results. What I can say anecdotally, just experientially, is that I do believe there's a direct correlation between the size of an organisation and the structure of a buying process. It doesn't necessarily mean that there's familiarity with it. That'll believe that there's a correlation there necessarily. I think what you will see, however, is economic buyers will have a better understanding of it than user buyers, right?

 

Sean Sheppard:

And then technical buyers, which is the types that I will talk about next, they play a key important and functional role. But again, they typically can't see the forest through the trees either, right? There's that great quote of, nobody cares about the politics of Rome, they care about the pebble in their shoe. The user buyer, the technical buyer, have a pebble in their shoe. An economic buyer typically does not, right? If they're a procurement office, they have one single job that is to save money post-decision, right? The decision's already been made, so now it's time to negotiate. Bring in the hammer.

 

Will Barron:

That's my world here selling to the NHS in the UK.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Oh goodness, you just gave me a headache. But yeah, exactly. So now, especially when you're in a commodity kind of a world, it's challenging. But ultimately, no, I don't think broadly people have an understanding of that process at large. And if you're in a smaller organisation, they haven't structured anything formally, right? So you're going to get that question. And if it's a line of business buyer, the one beautiful thing about line of business buyers is if they recognise a need, they'll figure out a way to pay for it. And so I appreciate that.

 

“There's really only four primary reasons people buy. In B2B it’s to make more money, save more money, create a competitive advantage and stay out of prison.” – Sean Sheppard · [16:24] 

 

Sean Sheppard:

Part of our job though, is to help them think about that and navigate that, right? So as we're mapping the account, let's work together as an extension of their team on the same side of the table, on how to get these things approved, right? And how to get these decisions made. But that technical buyer, ultimately, this is my favourite one to talk about because especially in technology or compliance-driven sales, and again, you have to believe what I believe about, there's only five good reasons anybody buys. In B2B, there's really four primary. To make more money, save more money, create a competitive advantage and stay out of prison. That's my joking one, but it's compliant, risk, liability, right? And then the fifth one is an emotion, right? Much broader in consumers, but there are negative emotions that you want to turn into positive emotions typically with user buyers. And you're feeling those frustrations and the pains, et cetera, right? And you're uncovering those things and just calling them out, because you place a label on them, you can address them, right?

 

Sean Sheppard:

But the technical buyer is not someone who has the power to say yes, but they do have the power to say no, which is very interesting in and of itself, right? And they're not often identified early enough in the process and they're not given the respect that they want and need and they certainly aren't, let's see, I would say managed, I wouldn't say sold to, but managed appropriately. Technical buyers don't want to be sold. They don't want fluff or hyperbole, they want data. They just want facts. They want specification sheets, they want white papers, they want compliance information, they want API information, they want to know that your systems will work with theirs without creating problems. They're there to assess the risk of doing business with you.

 

Sean Sheppard:

And typically we don't find out about them oftentimes until we're near the end of that process. What we should be doing is finding out who they are immediately and then starting to deliver them the content that they want and putting them on a pedestal, showing them respect. Oftentimes these people have chips on their shoulders because they've been lied to or disrespected by salespeople in the past, maybe they were thrown trash cans by us in high school. They are typically introverts they're not socially as adept as we are and they already have a preconceived notion about what sales people are, what they do and have a very cynical and sceptical sort of attitude towards us. So we have to get out there and do what I call hug the elephant, right? The elephant in the room. The big elephant in the corner that says, “Yeah, I know you don't like me, Mr. technical buyer, Ms technical buyer, because I represent everything you dislike about sales and sales professionals, et cetera.”

 

Sean Sheppard:

Which gets me into my whole myth of a salesman conversation, right? Because society has 150 years of painting us in a negative light. And then that's perpetuated by poorly trained transactional salespeople in retail environments. When we walk into a mattress store or a car lot and we're treated in a certain way and then we think that's just what sales is, when in fact it's the greatest profession in the world. And it should be elevated to its rightful place in society along being an engineer or a doctor, or well, not a lawyer, or an accountant. But to get my point, right? So the technical buyer, we need to identify them soon, give them the information they need and assure them, resolve their concerns if you will around, can our product or service work within their rules in construction?

 

Will Barron:

Let's paint a real clear picture here in the minds of the audience. My background is medical device sales, and I think this fits very perfectly with the archetypes that we're describing here. So if we look at Sam, the shark here on the desk, he's the new studio shark. He is, you wouldn't guess this, but he is an absolute killer B2B medical device salesperson. He sells endoscopes like I used to, Sean. So Sam here goes into an account, right? Who are the people in the account that matched these archetypes?

 

How to Identify the Four Customer Personality Types in An Organization · [20:15] 

 

Will Barron:

And then I want to dive into, how should Sam communicate with them? Should Sam be kind of upfront in their face? Should Sam be kind of more quietly if it's potentially an introverted character? Should this be more over email, over phone? Should Sam be knocking on doors within the account? I guess, who are the archetypes within a medical device sale of selling to kind of a private hospital, someone like that, so there's doctors involved, there's procurement involved, there might be someone legislative involved with the regulation of different equipment and that side of things, who are these archetypes within the account, and then how should Sam approach them, talk to them and engage with them?

 

Sean Sheppard:

Yeah. So great, great question. So again, I think you laid a couple of them out in the application of medical devices. Doctors are user buyers, right? Hospital administrators are economic buyers. Nurses are user buyers and influencers, the facilities person or managers are potentially technical buyers, compliance officers are technical buyers, legal technical buyers.

 

“Philosophically and fundamentally, you want to sell to anyone the way they're used to buying and communicate with them in a way that they want to communicate, not the other way around.” – Sean Sheppard · [22:48] 

 

Sean Sheppard:

You have all those different levels of hierarchy inside of, let's say a hospital system. Obviously sometimes in an organisation like that, they will call themselves [inaudible 00:21:53] they are procurement officers or purchasing organisations that are part of the economic buying process as well. And then you also have your patient, right? They are an influencer associated with the experience of that user buyer environment. And they have to have a positive experience with the product or service as well in order to influence a physician. And then of course you have your physician's assistant and your surgical… Everybody who's involved in the actual usage of the product. Once you do that, the answer to the next question about how do you approach them is that philosophically fundamentally, you want sell to anyone the way they're used to buying and communicate with them in a way that they want to communicate with you, not the other way around. So you need to identify that, right? [inaudible 00:22:59].

 

How to Sell to a Buyer the Exact Way They’re Used to Buying · [23:05]

 

Will Barron:

And how do we identify that? Because I think we know, and we've talked about it in the show enough times now the audience should know, that we communicate with the individual the way that they want to be communicated. We're serving them, we're not taking away from them. But how do we understand what that is? Is it we spam at them every possible communication channel on whatever they reply to us on, we talk to them there or how do we go about uncovering this?

 

Sean Sheppard:

Well, okay. So there's about three different ways to answer this question. And I come at this from a worldview of a 25 years of being a direct sales person and leader, but also from the point of view of being an investor in a mildly successful entrepreneur, in a wide variety of products, markets, verticals, and industries. And so I view everything at the fundamental level, what applies in all circumstances or could, right? So from a business perspective, you have to understand the unit economics of your business model first. Like what can I afford to do? So if I'm selling a high value medical device, my sales cycles are longer, my touch points are more often and they need to be higher touch. Therefore my costs are greater. So am I going to use email to try and reach doctors and administrators? Or am I going to show up in the hospital? Or am I going to host lunch [inaudible 00:24:34]? Or am I going to do conferences and events? Am I going to take a referral approach?

 

Sean Sheppard:

We're about a lot of different ways to fill the top of your funnel with different kinds of leads or inbound and outbound, both. If I'm a lower cost product, I may not have these [inaudible 00:24:52] afforded the opportunity to take that high touch approach, right? So there's a business requirement that needs to be taken into account. Then there's also my experience, right? So you've been in med device sales all these years, you intuitively, instinctually and again, data-driven of course, will know the best way to reach a certain kind of person, certain kind of scenario, based on a certain circumstance.

 

Sean Sheppard:

And there are also other ways to do that. So you'll apply what you've learned initially, and hopefully you'll be iterative and data-driven and based on what you learned in real time from that feedback loop, you're going to change and update and revise your approach. And then lastly, I would say fundamentally the same thing you said earlier when trying to figure out how people buy, ask the question, right? Open with that initial, open with that hypothe, open with that statement of, “I want to work with you in the way that is best for you.” Right? “How do I do that? What is the best way to connect? What is the best way to converse? What is the best way to interact? What is the best way to learn together? If we can work together and should work together. And then if so, what does that look like and what's involved?”

 

Sean Sheppard:

And obtain those commitments to those next steps and constantly work your way through that. There's nothing wrong with being honest about those things. It's natural for traditional fixed mindset sales professionals, and the people that manage them and drive them and support them, or sometimes just push them, to be afraid to ask questions that get them a truth they don't want to hear, right? So they'll avoid it. Much like founders in my portfolio [inaudible 00:26:44] we call founder bias, right? There's seller bias too.

 

Sean Sheppard:

We don't want to be told, “No, we don't like rejection. We don't necessarily want the truth if it's not the truth that we want.” And we have to get over that because to me, everything's about efficiency to that truth. All the content that I've built over the years and deliver to our startups, to countries who licence all of our content, to large organisations trying to take new products to market, to the talented people that go through our programmes at the academy, it's all designed to just drive efficiencies in a human to human world. How quickly can we get to our truth? How do we create a culture of learning? And then how do we tie that learning to profitability? And it's those three things. And all of that starts with having that mindset, that the truth matters more than anything else, and I'm prepared to hear it and I embrace it and I'm going to respond accordingly.

 

Understanding the Intimacy Hierarchy Around Communication Methods · [28:00] 

 

Will Barron:

The truth matters more than anything else? I think that we understand it, whether we embrace it or not, I'm not sure. You mentioned Cal Drake a couple of times we've interviewed her in the past. I'll link to that episode for everyone who's listening in the show notes to this episode over at salesman.org. And then I've got a couple examples here that came to mind as you're going through that, Sean. Two things that came to mind, one was, I don't think I ever asked a surgeon when I was selling to them, what is the most appropriate way to communicate with them? But I did have a realisation about 12 months into the first role I had, which is they like getting texts on the phone, SMS here in the UK. Because what happens is they're in surgery all day, clearly they've got their hands inside a patient. They're not answering no phone and they shouldn't really be having a phone held up to the head. It just happened occasionally, but they really shouldn't be going in the sterile field with a grubby mobile phone, a grubby iPhone.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Probably shouldn't be texting inside somebody's body either.

 

Will Barron:

Well, that's just it. So they would then get one of their theatre staff to go to their phone. It'd be unlocked, and they'd ask the theatre staff to read out what the text message was, because typically they'd have a work phone and then a kind of private phone. So obviously the private phone won't be getting read out, that could lead to some awkward moments. But the work phone, the messages would get read out to the theatre and then the surgeon would repeat what response he wanted back to the member of the staff. They would type it in, text would go off. So I'd be, “Hey, Mr. Blah, blah, blah. Can I pop in later on this afternoon?” If I'd call him, I'd get no answer until two weeks later. But if I text him, I'd get a ding 15 minutes later. So that was a revelation for me. And that came from, I wish I would've asked these individuals that simple question, but it was just from being in theatres and observing it. [inaudible 00:29:33] And then the other example, sorry, go on.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Oh, I was just going to say there's an intimacy hierarchy around communication methods as well, right? And as we're striving to create champions and coaches out of all of our buyer types, we should pay very close attention to how they want us to communicate with them. And there's a direct signal associated with the communication channel they want us to share, in which they want to communicate with us. And text and instant messages is I think the highest form of asynchronous intimacy. And we now live in this world, right? Where we've never been more interconnected thanks to screens, but we've also never been less interpersonal because we don't have that face to face intimacy quite as often. But if somebody like a surgeon gives you access to them via text, that's a huge win. That's a signal of a high level of intimacy.

 

Sean Sheppard:

And then as you describe that, I think about the day in the life of the surgeon, they're in those ORs for hours on end, they're listening to music, they're multitasking and behaving in a way that to the layman might look as very cavalier casual in some circumstances. And we're shocked that they're listening to Zeppelin or they're texting or having these conversations about what they're doing this weekend, but that's very common for them. So understanding that is critical to your point.

 

Will Barron:

Sure. And it's a sign of the interest versus, “Hey, here's my number. Text this,” versus, “Hey, speak to my PA. She will arrange an appointment for you sometime in the future to spend five minutes in the coffee room, make sure you bring some donuts.” The two ranges of conversations that I would have. And immediately I would just ignore them, if I got that response, they were off the list, they weren't interested and I'd move on to other people. But the other thing that came to mind as we went through these different buyers was the technical buyer. And I was racking my brain of who's held me back in a large scale sale, kind of a million pounds plus, which would typically be a full theatre refurbishment.

 

Will Barron:

And the one individual or group that came to mind that no one ever spent any time with and this got their backs up, which is almost pushed them towards being pains in the asses when any project was getting to that kind of scale was the IT department, because there's all kinds of, in medical devices, clear regulation of patient data, patient notes, images, where they should go, where they shouldn't. Surgeons typically just stick it on a USB drive into the camera systems absel and take it home. There'd be no data trackable. They shouldn't have been doing it. So as soon as you got beyond just one camera system, and there was a series of them, IT would want to be involved. And there's all kind of licences for certain applications, for software, for services that the NHS as a government organisation would approve, disapprove.

 

Will Barron:

And they came in on a couple of occasions and just said, “You are not plugging that ethernet cable into that wall. Everything would work, you're just not doing this one thing because we don't want the pain in the ass dealing with it.” Because it's just more work on their plate when they're not really seeing any benefits on it. No patient benefits to them, there's no kind of use end benefits to them, there's no financial benefits to them, it's just cost and pain and just time suck. So there was literally occasions where they would take… There was one occasion they came and they untuck the plate off the front of the ethernet cable port in the operating room and just put a blank plate on so that nothing could be plugged into it. That was a clear message that deal was going to fall through. Wasn't going to get very far. So that was just again, paint a clear picture in the audience's mind, that was an example that came up with me.

 

Why You Need to Remove the Word Rejection Out of Your Vocabulary · [33:34] 

 

Will Barron:

And I want to wrap up the show with two things that we started off with the show with and I don't want to kind of, because we can talk about this all day, I don't want to miss out on two things. One, reframing. Very quickly just explain what this is. You might have another way to describe it, but use the example of, rather than use the word rejection using the word feedback. This is a mindset piece for the audience and hopefully it can change some of their thoughts on perhaps some of the negative activities or the seemingly negative activities and responses that they get every single day.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Yeah. I think it starts with the premise that the greatest obstacle we all face is ourselves. And great sales people are highly intelligent, very analytical, thinking critically and are harder on no one as much as they are on themselves. And I have a very good friend that really opened my eyes to this. He's the head Dean of psychology, University of California, San Francisco, and the head of the PTSD wing of department of veteran affairs in California, Dr. John McQuaid. Give the credit in the world. He wrote a book about negative self talk.

 

Sean Sheppard:

And he said, “Sean, think about it. Would you ever talk to another human the way that you to yourself in your own head when you're down yourself?” It changed my world. No, I mean, we are so mean to ourselves. We are so hard on ourselves, right? So recognising that and understanding and catching yourself being mindful, self aware in the moment about the way that we talk to ourselves or the way that we construct things in our minds using what's called leaping, which is one of the natural brain activities that can hurt anyone, right? So you start with that and then-

 

Jumping to Conclusions and How It’s Hindering Your Success · [35:20]

 

Will Barron:

What is leaping?

 

“We tend to find what we focus on. So we need to focus on the right shit and not the wrong shit.” – Sean Sheppard · [36:05] 

 

Sean Sheppard:

Leaping? Jumping to conclusions, right? Of any sort, with no data or basis. Because the person didn't respond to my message or my text or like my posts on Facebook, therefore they hate me, right? That's the kind of thing that we do. That's the dangerous addiction of this asynchronous social media stuff. But it's also the same thing with asynchronous interaction in sales and relying on screens and technology too much as a crutch, but also in our own minds, creating scenarios that just never come to fruition or so rarely that why are we even creating it? And one of my favourite sayings about that is we tend to find what we focus on, right? And if we can focus on the right shit, not the wrong shit, as my dad always used to say, “We focus in on the wrong.” 25 years I heard that, now 45 years old, I know exactly what he means. And so that's the start of it. So that begins the reframing.

 

“I don't believe that buyers have objections, I believe that they have concerns. And those concerns need to be identified, they need to be labelled, they need to be addressed and ultimately resolved for anyone to make a decision.” – Sean Sheppard · [36:53] 

 

Sean Sheppard:

Then the second part of reframing is I have this thing I call it sales graveyard. And I have several tombstones in that graveyard, of different things that people have done in sales or do in sales that should all die a very public and murderous death. Closing was one of them. We talked about that being, it's not a tactic or manipulation, it's a byproduct of being fully immersed in helping people. Rejection was another. Another is objection handling. See, I don't believe that buyers have objections, I believe that they have concerns. And those concerns need to be identified, they need to be labelled, they need to be addressed and ultimately resolved for anyone to make a decision. Objections come when sellers offer up solutions or services or products too soon in the process before the other parties are there. Just because you and I know that this person needs this stethoscope or this whatever thinging kaleidoscope that you're selling, doesn't mean that they know that they need it.

 

Sean Sheppard:

And so they have to get there on their own. I mean, we help them, right? We reframe it. But we reframe the whole thing in a way that says that they have a process, we have to align our process to theirs, we have to find what these checkpoints are, we have to know how to measure it at every step in stage. Because again, most of the stuff is offline. It's analogue, not digital, right? We are not growth hackers sitting there watching user clicks and heat maps on a webpage, trying to determine whether or not people are buying our stuff. This is live interaction, got to collect the data and we need to do that. And so we have to resolve those concerns.

 

Sean Sheppard:

And so the reframing comes into, construct that initial value hypothesis. Ultimately I believe that my job in sales is to help others be successful. It's that simple. If I can help them be successful, I will gain success from that. I think it's just a general life rule anyway. So what does success look like for that person? How do we find it and how do we execute on it? [inaudible 00:38:51].

 

What is a Value Hypothesis and How Does it Work? · [38:50] 

 

Will Barron:

Sorry to interrupt. What does a value hypothesis, as you're describing here, how does that look for Sam, who's selling a medical device to a surgeon, an endoscope or something like that? How does that look, what should his hypothesis be, should there be more than one of them and how does that then the conversation go? Wrap up with this Sean. How does the conversation then go with the surgeon when we're trying to validate that hypothesis or prove it wrong?

 

“There's a difference between selling propositions and value propositions. Selling propositions tell me what you do, value propositions tell me what you do for me.” – Sean Sheppard · [39:40] 

 

Sean Sheppard:

Yeah. So every user buyer and type needs to be assessed to understand potentially that they can have one or more value hypothesis constructed for each one of them. And they need to be validated through the course of conversation with that buyer. So in the instance of the surgeon, the first thing is what is value, right? Value is quantifiable, okay? There's a difference between selling propositions and value propositions. Selling propositions tell me what you [inaudible 00:39:45] do, value propositions tell me what you do for me. And there's a difference, a big difference. I like to use the whole drill bit story of, I go to home Depot to buy a quarter inch drill bit. I don't buy it because I want a quarter inch drill bit or even because I want a quarter inch hole in the wall. I buy it because my wife wants me to hang a picture and I want my wife to be happy because happy wife, happy life.

 

Sean Sheppard:

And so I understand that now 25 years later, but there's always a net benefit or end result. That's what we have to at. So what does that endoscope do for the surgeon? And then how do we quantify it? Okay? So we have to look deeply into understanding how a surgeon is measured and then their perception of those measurements. Are they measured by customer satisfaction? Are they measured by fatality rates? Are they measured by OR time? Like how quickly they can get people in and out? Are they measured by… All those things are different metrics by which they're measured. We have to figure out the metrics that matter for each individual buyer type, construct the value hypothesis around each one of them, present them to that person and ask them to tell us if that's true.

 

How to Present Your Value Proposition to a Potential Customer · [41:05] 

 

Will Barron:

So could it look like this endoscope has better optics than what you used to, allow you to be, there's two elements of this, more accurate with your procedure and then it should allow you to do your procedure quicker, so you've got better patient outcomes and then more through theatres. Would we outline this to a potential surgeon and then say, “Hey, does that align with your goals? Does make sense of you?” Is that how we should frame this up?

 

Sean Sheppard:

So I'm glad you said exactly what you said in the order in which you said it, because this is really important. One of the biggest friction points in the funnel is market messaging and market messaging friction comes from offering up selling propositions before value propositions. So let's just deconstruct what you said. This scope has a thing of a jigger on it, which then makes it better at this, this and this, right? You led with a selling prop Will, and then you followed with a value prop. Okay? Now that works. But what works better is leading with the value prop and then showing how the value prop works by delivering the features. So flip it. “This can help you better deliver this by, because of this,” right? And the reason is that we now live again, in a world where you've got seven to eight seconds to get somebody's attention.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Your response rates will go up if you leave with value and then follow with the selling prop. You'll always get to the how, where you always get to the detail. And this is part of the systemic problem with the way we train sales professionals too. We train the majority, and I've done some anecdotal research on this and I'm probably [inaudible 00:42:55] a whole study around it, but what percentage of corporate sales training is focused on product and company? And it's over two thirds, when it should be two thirds on how to talk to humans. Right?

 

Sean Sheppard:

And we get to the rest of it. We have two portfolio companies across a wide variety of products, markets and vertical. I don't know shit about most of what they're selling, but I know how to find out. And I know how to have a conversation and we teach them how to solve other people's problems. It's not about the product, nobody gives about our products. It's about their problems, and if your product helps them solve their problem, fantastic. So it's leading with that value and then delivering the how, and then that's your value hypothesis. And you don't even have to construct in the hypothesis. You don't have to include the how yet, which is always a natural thing we want to do. We want to vomit about our product, we want to get to our demo. The last thing we should do is demo. We should hold the demo off until the absolute end once we know what they care about, who they are and what functions. And then we connect the dots between our product and their problem.

 

Will Barron:

That makes total sense. And it seems like, and I didn't word it that way on purpose, that's the way that clearly I word it so I can work on that myself. So I appreciate it Sean.

 

Sean Sheppard:

No, that's natural because we're trained that way. We're developed that way. We're developed to take a product first approach towards our communication style, when we should be problem first.

 

Will Barron:

And it makes more sense to go the other way around as well, because there's less problems that we're solving versus features and benefits if you, everyone listening to this, rather than watching it, if you imagine features and benefits at the bottom of the pyramid and the end important problems that we solve at the top. If we start with them, we're going to get to a yes or a no quicker, right? Versus if we start at the bottom and we go, “Well, we do this. Do you like that?” “No, we do this. Do you like this?” Or maybe to do this, well, Sean might not like this, but Will does like this, versus starting with the end in mind, right? If we start with the end problem, reverse engineer, how we can solve and add value to them, it makes the conversation as you said, more impactful in the very beginning, which allows us to have better impact and more reach with our, whether it's called outreach, whether it's event marketing, whatever it is.

 

Parting Thoughts · [45:25]

 

Will Barron:

And then we can kind of feed back and build relationships as we guide them through what we can offer them on the back end of things. And with that Sean mate, we could talk about this for a couple of hours, but I'm going to wrap us up here. Tell us a little bit about GrowthX , tell us a little bit about the GrowthX Academy and where we can find out more about you as well.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Yeah. GrowthX family companies is all about helping countries, companies, startups, entrepreneurs, and those that want to work in the innovation economy, develop themselves and grow. And that takes the form of education in sales education, UX design education, digital marketing education, both B2C and B2B. It takes the form of a seed stage of venture capital fund. Our corporate innovation group works with large companies, teaching them the new mindset, the new way of taking new products to market more efficiently. And then we help countries prop up their startup ecosystem so that they don't lose their top talent to Silicon Valley.

 

Will Barron:

I mean, it's different. Where can we find all of this?

 

Sean Sheppard:

Growthx.com or GXacademy.com. Both places direct you in both. There's tonnes of blogs, there's content, there's all sorts of information. Hopefully people can consume it and learn something from it and just be a little bit better today than they were yesterday.

 

Will Barron:

Good. Well, I'll link to both of them over in the show notes to this episode over at salesman.org. And with that Sean, I want to thank you for your time. You're more than welcome to come back on in the future because I feel like we've only scratched the surface, it's about 55 different subjects here. And, yeah [inaudible 00:46:45] I want to thank you for your time, your insights and joining me on the show.

 

Sean Sheppard:

Thank you Will. I'm happy to be here and I've been looking forward to this for a long time and turned out just, it exceeded all my expectations and I hope to do it again soon.

 

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