15 Jun June 15, 2020 – B2B Sales Scott J. Sambucci, Insurance Breakthrough Steve Watson and Covid Offices Jennifer Petersen
If you don’t have a process for selling, you are at the mercy
of the buyers’ process for buying.
Scott Sambucci is a startup coach, speaker, podcaster and international best-selling author. He spent 25 years building sales processes and creating technology products as an executive at two publicly-traded companies. Startup coach and speaker Scott J. Sambucci has led three Silicon Valley startups, including CoreLogic and Altos Research; each to their first million in revenue. Today, Sambucci works with startups across the world, helping them ramp up and scale their revenue and sales teams. As CEO and Chief Sales Geek at SalesQualia, Sambucci works with SaaS startups and tech companies all over the globe across several industries. Sambucci is the author of SalesQualia Blog and several best-selling books and also hosts a podcast for startup CEOs called Startup Selling: Talking Sales with Scott Sambucci. In his latest international best-selling book Stop Hustling, Start Scaling: Ramp Up Your B2B Startup’s Repeatable Revenue with The Q Framework, Sambucci teaches startups how to build sales process by using the Q Framework, so that every startup will be able to establish their own sales process for lead generation, sales pipeline management, sales opportunity development, and customer conversion.
Steve Watson, Founder and CEO of Trendbreakers – Read interview highlights here
I looked at my health insurance broker and thought, ‘this guy is
going to get a 30% raise since he’s on commission. You should
not get a 30% raise because an employee had a big claim!’
Steve Watson is a CFO/CHRO, a licensed benefits broker and the Founder and CEO of Trendbreakers. He has helped his company enjoy over $500k per
year of benefits savings, decrease out-of-pocket costs for employees by 20% within 9 years. After doing it for his own company, Steve realized that others in his position needed the network, strategies, and best practices to do the same. Therefore, he founded Trendbreakers, which consults with companies to help them pick the best insurance coverage for their entire company. Trendbreakers helps CFOs, CHRO’s and business owners make the best employee benefit decisions by offering support, education, and consulting. Steve’s traction comes from him his extensive training and varied experience. As a business owner and finance professional, Steve can look at and understand every angle when matching companies with the best health insurance plan. He recognizes that the current healthcare system is lucrative for organizations and certain people, but also sees the problem with employers and families paying heavily for benefits they may not even use.
Jennifer Petersen – VP of Members and Brand at The HON Company
Companies must understand the needs of their employees.
Everybody is a little bit nervous to come back into the office.
So making sure you know what their needs are is Step One.
Jennifer Petersen, a workplace solutions expert and a leader in identifying high-caliber talent, serves as Vice President, Members and Brand at The HON Company. The HON Company is the largest operating company of HNI Corporation, a leading global office furniture manufacturer. In her previous role, she served as leader of HR for seven years at The HON Company and is empathetic to those making decisions regarding a return to office and the well-being of employees who may be working from home. In her role as executive leader for the office furniture manufacturer, she offers a unique perspective and expertise in both human relations and solutions available to the workforce post COVID-19. Jennifer believes that the choices you make in the office environment will provide employees the feelings of safety they require enabling organizations to achieve employee excellence.
Highlights from Scott’s Interview
So the letter Q in the Q-Framework stands for questions. What I found over 25 years of selling, and particularly working with three different early stage B2B startups is that, basically every sales process that you need to build as you’re ramping up your company’s revenue and sales, it comes down to answering seven questions. If you can answer seven basic questions, then you will have the first version of a repeatable sales process. So the Q is the Q-Framework where we outline in the book, each chapter is a different question, explaining what the question is and how to implement that question into your startup sales process.
You could use this in B2C as well, but the B2C world, the business-to-consumer world is a lot different in terms of the actions that people take and some of the psychology. There’s a lot of similarities in terms of the individual’s psychology that goes into a purchasing decision when we think about the B2B, or some people call it the enterprise sale. There’s a whole Organizational Behavior methodology behind selling to another company, because you have to think about the urgency of problems. In some cases, you could have 50 or 60 people involved with a sale, that you have to get in touch with, that have influence or some kind of stake in the decision getting made or not being made to buy or not buy your product. So it’s definitely a completely different process. So if you were doing B2C, you might get some good ideas. I’ve exclusively worked in a B2B world for the 25 years of my sales career.
Let’s start with number one question in the Q-Framework. What I tell people whenever I’m doing a workshop or teaching a master class or even working with clients, I always tell people, if you get this one question right, that’s probably going to propel you 80% of the way to where you need to go, when it comes to building out a repeatable sales process. So the very first question, which sounds so rudimentary and so basic, but most companies when they go to sell their product, they forget this basic question. The question is, what problem are you solving? The reason that’s so important is because, especially in the tech world or in a B2B world, as a founder of the company or somebody who’s early in the company, a lot of times it’s easy to get excited about your own product. Think about it! You left whatever day job you may have had to start this company, to solve a problem in a market. So you built this product, you poured months or even years, and sometimes millions of dollars into getting this product out to market. You feel like, “Wow, this is my baby! I’m going to show this product and people are going to want to buy it.” That represents the biggest single challenge when it comes to starting off a sales process, is that especially if you’re selling to another company, they’re going to want to see your product, there’s no shortage of interesting conversations you can have. But at the end of the day, the person or the company on the other side is only going to buy your product if it solves a specific and urgent problem for them.
Now, for example, if you’re starting a podcasting business, the first question is who’s the audience for your podcast business? That’s kind of like question zero. Let’s say you’re selling your service to other podcasters, so it’s B2B. Then my next question to you would be, so you want to start this company and you want to launch this product, what’s the problem that you’re solving? What’s the gap in the marketplace, generally speaking, that you’re seeing that is giving you the motivation to go and start this company? So for example, you believe that podcasters are interested in growing their show and having more numbers. Your show is going from 0 to 165,000 listeners a day and you’re going to do that exact same thing for others. Maybe you can guarantee 100,000 listeners three months from now for your listeners. Even though I’d say that is more of a metric than problem-solving, but I think if you have a podcast, you are obsessed with growing your show and you truly care about the numbers. It’s not a metric to you, it’s how many people in the world like you. So if you’re selling to somebody who has a narcissistic point-of-view and all they care about is their listeners, that’s more of a B2C sale.
But if you said to me, Scott, why are you doing podcasting in the first place? My answer to you would be, because I know when I podcast and I deliver huge amount of value to our listeners, then that creates lead generation for me, it creates authority voice in my market. It’s a tool that I can use for active deals in my sales process, if I’m talking to a founder who wants to join our coaching program. So that’s what you need to qualify me and say, “Well, how many listeners do you have right now? Do you have any metrics to start from? Is your hypothesis or the reason you started this podcast is you wanted to generate leads, but you’re not?” In one case, maybe I am. In other case, maybe I’m not. But what we’re starting to do is a basic root cause analysis, sometimes it’s called the five why’s. So you’re digging into this problem, like, “Scott, you want to get to 100,000 listeners, why is that important?” Well, it’s important because when I do podcasts, I can use them in my sales process and I can use this to generate leads. “Okay, cool. So why is that important?” Well, because when I do podcasting, I’m putting content out there and it’s in a one-to-many format, so I don’t have to spend a lot of time doing outbound emails. “Why else is that important?” Because now, when people are listening to my podcast, they have 60 minutes of me talking in their ear. So by the time they get on the phone, they already know me and they know who I am and they know my style when it comes to inner process, when it comes to coaching. So now we start digging deeper and deeper and deeper, and ultimately, the problem that I would want to solve with my podcast that you would want to sell me on, is that if we get 100,000 of the right listeners, that would mean that people that come into our sales funnel are already indoctrinated with how we coach our clients. They’re already a 9/10 or 10/10 in terms of ready-to-buy and I don’t have to do any selling, I just have to show them how the program works. It’s difficult to cover all of these questions in a limited amount of time, that’s why I wrote a book about it too, by the way. If it was that easy, then I could do a 15-minute LinkedIn video and everybody would be done. But let’s keep moving.
So the second and third questions are related. The second question is, which segment or industry or sometimes we call it a niche, which niche are you targeting? Then related to that niche or segment, who are the specific buyers? What are the titles of the people that are getting involved with the purchase of your product? So one of the big challenges that a lot of companies have is they say, “I built this product, I could sell it to a lot of different companies across a lot of different industries.” It’s the old adage, if you try to be everything to everyone, you end up being nothing to no one. So what we need to do is get really clear about what segment or niche of that business population we want to target initially. Then within those companies, who are the people? Do we know that it needs to be a CTO, a Chief Information Officer and a VP of operations? We’ve to identify those people who are going to be involved with the buying process. Because if we haven’t done that, then we’re going to be stuck pushing out lots of emails, trying to do lots of demos, we’re not actually talking to decision-makers. So =we’ve actually covered questions two and three with ‘which’ and ‘who’.
So then number four, this comes into thinking about how do I stay in control of the sales process? There’s another old adage, if I don’t have a process for selling, then I’m at the mercy of the buyers’ process for buying. So what that means is we need to understand, when is the next step in the sale? Oftentimes, let’s take the podcast example, you have that podcast product you want to sell. You say, “Well, look, I’m going to do a demo on a show, how it works.” After that demo, I say, “That sounds great. Send me a proposal, I’ll get back to you.” Well, the problem with that is I send you the proposal, and then there’s an ambiguous next step. You sit around, checking your email every 10 minutes to see if I’ve said yes to the proposal or not. You don’t know what’s going to happen next. So that fourth question is the ‘when’ question, when is the next step? So as part of your selling process, as you’re building your process for selling the product, you want to make sure that you’re clear going into every meeting what the next steps are going to be, so that you’re never stuck chasing that person who you sent the proposal to or chasing the person who you sent a free login to.
Question four is about just having control, knowing when the next step is, so that then you can get those buyers back on the phone or get back onto the next meeting to move the deal forward to the next part of the sale. So one of the things we teach our clients is never send a proposal until you know it’s going to get approved. So if I were you, I would say, “Scott, I’ve put together a proposal based on everything you shared with me. Gosh, I just want to make sure I’ve got everything in it exactly right. So how about we hop on a Zoom call together? Let’s review it to make sure that there are no gaps; that you’re clear on the pricing, you’re clear on the implementation. That way, if we need to make any changes, we can do that on the fly before I send it over to you for approval. How about we do that?” So maybe the client just doesn’t want to get on a call, he simply wants to see what you’ve got so that he can show that to his boss. Well, now you say, “I’d love to send that over. But what we’ve found is that, whenever we put together our notes, we always find that there’s something that’s really important that your boss is looking for that’s missing. So even better, what I’m wondering is how about we just grabbed 15 minutes with your boss? I’ll introduce your boss to my CEO, so the two of them can talk, just to make sure that everything that you and I have talked about when it comes to launching the show has everything that your boss is going to need in order to get approval? So even before we send the proposal, let’s make sure we have another conversation.”
I was the Head of Sales for three startups, but the problem that most B2B companies have is you’re a founder of a company, and most founders have never really done sales. Maybe they’ve been a product person, maybe they’ve been an engineer, a technical person. The fundamental issue that most companies suffer from is they’re just copying what everyone else is doing. They think, this is the way people sold to me, so I guess this is the way I should sell. But just because you’re copying doesn’t mean that that’s the right way. That’s one of the things that we teach to people in thinking about building out your sales process, is that just because people are doing it a certain way doesn’t mean you should just copy them.
Moving forward, number five is also an extension of the ‘when is the next step’, and that is, where are you in the selling process? So I always think about an enterprise sale or a B2B sale. It’s a process, it takes months, sometimes even years, depending on the size and scope of the product or service that you’re selling. So it’s important for us as a seller to think about this as a journey, it’s almost like if I’m going on a long hike or a long run. I like to do ultra-marathons, I like to run long distances. One of the things they always do is they say, “Well, here’s the course. You have this checkpoint at mile seven and you have that checkpoint at mile 15. Then from 15 to 20, there’s a big uphill, so make sure you get ready for that and you have enough water.” So I already know before I even crossed the starting line, exactly what’s ahead of me in that course. It needs to be the same way if you’re selling, you need to know “Okay, in the first couple of weeks, we’re going to do some needs analysis and discovery calls. Then only after we do that, do we show the product demo. Then the next step after the product demo is to do a second demo that’s more technical. These are the people on the buying side that should be involved with that.” So if you play this out over the course of six or 12 months sales cycle, you need to have that map ready, so that you can keep yourself honest and keep your salespeople honest as to where the sale really is. Because we get emotionally tied to the sale. How many times have you said, “Oh man, I’m so excited! I could really help this company, I could really help this person. I think they’re going to buy.” But we let that emotion overcome the objective reality, that maybe there’s a bunch of steps that we skipped. It’s important for us as a seller to have that map, so we can just look at that and say, “Hmm, it feels like they want to buy. But gosh, we missed these three steps back earlier. So if we know that we’ve missed those three steps, we can’t possibly be this far in the journey as we think.” So where you are in the sale is such a critical question, because it helps you manage yourself and it helps you manage your sales team.
So in the end, I’ve got a very nice gift. So a lot of times people publish books and they’ve got this idea of selling lots of copies. Frankly, I don’t really care about selling lots of copies, I just want to get this message out to as many entrepreneurs and companies as possible. So two things. One, if you go over to my website “SalesQualia.com”, right in the middle of the homepage, you can click and download a completely free full PDF version of the book. When you download a copy of that book, the second thing you’ll get is the accompanying worksheets. So when I wrote this book, I thought about it as I was teaching a class in sales. It’s not like a novel where you’re going to read from start to finish, you’re going to be working on building this process. So at the end of every chapter, there’s a worksheet that you can use as an activity base to actually implement the question and the process that I’m teaching you in the book. So once you download the book, then you’ll also have access to each of the worksheets that go along with each of those questions, so you can start building out your own sales playbook just based on the book alone. So you can go to “SalesQualia.com”, you can grab a free copy if you want, get a copy of the worksheets and get to work.
I’m all about value, I want to teach people this. The reason I started this company and the reason I wrote this book is that I saw hundreds of startups fail, simply not because of the product, but because they never figure out how to sell their stuff. It just seems like it’s a problem that needs to be solved, that’s why I wrote the book and that’s why we do what we do every day at SalesQualia.
If you’ve already figured out your sales process, we can also help you with scaling that now. You have to go in there, you have to understand your own sales process, and certainly we help people with that. If you’re building out that first repeatable process, we help you in our coaching program. If you’re now ready to scale and you start building out your team, we can help you with that second phase of growth as well. But if you’re looking at sales as something that you’re going to outsource or hire somebody to do for you without figuring it out first, then you’re never really going to know how your company runs. Sales is an essential system in your company just like building products, just like doing marketing, just like finance, just like human resources. It’s an essential system, you need to know how it runs. Once you know how it runs, then you can hire somebody smarter than you to make it better.
Highlights from Steven’s Interview
Nobody first off likes to talk about insurance. Then when you start diving into it, it takes some nerds and geeks to go through all the contracts and stuff. I think it is intentional to make it complicated, but I’ve figured out a few things though. So my background is a little bit different. I’m not an insurance salesman, I actually don’t even sell insurance right now. My background is actually I’m in finance, I’m a CFO of a company. I’m a CPA by training and I also have an HR background. With those two together, what you end up doing is you have to negotiate your employee health insurance once a year. So the very first year that I was having to do that, I got a 30% rate increase. Nobody taught me how to negotiate insurance, nobody explained all this stuff. So that 30% ended up being hundreds of thousands of dollars for my company and hundreds of dollars for each employee. It just ticked me off enough to want to know more about it. I knew how to negotiate rent, I knew how to negotiate salaries; everything about my company, but for some reason health insurance for my employees is this black hole that nobody ever talks about and you don’t really know anything about. So I spent 10 years doing it and I ended up saving half a million dollars every year on my plan by making a few different changes. Now I’m on this quest to help a thousand other companies do the same thing.
It really isn’t that complicated. All you have to do is stop thinking about just insurance, take it down a couple layers and start thinking about the components you’re actually buying. If you focus on those things, there’s many many different ways to save money and actually improve the care for your employees and for yourselves. For example, let’s just talk about medical insurance. So within medical insurance, there’s different components; you have to have pharmacy, you have to be able to have a doctor, you have to have a network there, you have to have an insurance component if you get cancer. You start negotiating those components or trying to buy those components, you can buy it at a much cheaper price than just buying this big insurance policy. So when they group the individual components, that costs much more than the individual components.
Then they start throwing in the scare tactics, ‘it’s complicated’ and all this stuff. Then there’s all these myths, that we just assume that rates are going up every year, and so if we just get a rate pass, we feel like we’ve done a good job. So it just becomes this black hole. Honestly, going back to that scenario 10 years ago, when there was this 30% rate increase, I started thinking about it. Again, as a company, I don’t talk directly with Blue Cross Blue Shield United, I talk with a broker. I remember looking at those brokers and thinking, “Well, this guy is going to get a 30% rate increase because he’s paid commissions.” That, again, just ticked me off. I’m like “You shouldn’t get a 30% rate increase just because I had an employee, Johnny that ended up using the plan and having a large claim.” So there’s all these people stacked against you. The brokers get paid more when it goes up, insurance carriers get paid more when it goes up, and doctors gets paid more when it goes up. Therefore, as a company, you’re set up against all these other people, this whole system that’s set up against you. So you’ve got to work through that and start negotiating in a better way.
Now, there are four different things that you need to get, to negotiate. Since you’re not doing the big bucket, you have to carry these tiny buckets. So you need a doctor, that’s the thing that we think of the most. If I get sick or something, I want to be able to have a doctor that I trust, that I know. I’d have to have a network or someplace that once I get beyond that doctor, where’s the hospital system or other different places. The third thing is, I need some financial insurance that if I end up having to spend $100,000, I need some type of insurance to kick in; that at some point, I will kick in. Then the last thing is, I need a pharmacy component to buy whatever prescriptions and medications that I need.
For example, concierge medicine is a wonderful model. That’s what I’m talking about, like a doctor that’s actually tied to you. They call them concierge or direct primary care is another one, where you’re actually just paying the doctor and some of them have retainer fees. Like for example, my doctor, I pay $75/month, and I get unlimited text calls, emails, whenever I can go the office. They’re not tied to that per 15 minutes and trying to push me in and push me out kind of thing, we can actually work on a health plan. So some employers, what they do is they will just buy that $75 plan for their employees and say, “Look, I’ve now paid for a doctor.” Now with that doctor comes, tests at-cost. Some of them are actually free, but there’s a bunch of tests that are at-cost. So instead of getting an MRI and different things at the marked up price, that concierge doctor or that direct primary care can give it at a much lower fee. So that becomes a solid component of an employee health insurance plan. Especially if you’re a smaller business with maybe 50 employees or less, it’s a great model to start with.
Buying all of those four things separately seems like a real pain, so only if there was such a business that would help bundle up these four components. I would like to find it, but honestly, if you’re less than 50 employees, I have not found that business yet. So if you want to go create a business, there’s a huge opportunity out there to go create this kind of business, put these four different components together. But once you get bigger than 50 or 100 employees; like for example, my company where I’m a CFO, we have 500 employees, we can start bundling those components together, and there’s a third-party administrator (TPA) that administers those things for you. So I just purchase from a TPA and the TPA buys those things for me. TPAs are usually by geographic region. So what I’ve done with Trendbreakers is I’ve brought employers together from all over the country, and then we recommend people within that area. So if you’re in Nebraska or different places, I would have somebody to talk to, I’d go talk to employers that I’m connected with there and recommend you somebody there. I don’t have one TPA that I could recommend.
I’m a CFO and like other CFOs, I have my day job. But I found that I was able to save some money in different places and other CFOs were able to save money in different places, but there was no place for us as buyers to talk with each other. There was no Yelp reviews for brokers’ insurance carriers. So Trendbreakers is a community of employers, we have 300 employers that come together and we’re working with each other to break this trend. We don’t sell insurance, we’re not a company that puts us out there. We are a community of employers sharing information and helping others to replicate it. It’s like a CFO Insurance club. The only way to get in there is you just have to be a buyer. So we don’t allow vendors or brokers in there, but if you are a CFO or HR professional, a CEO, a business owner, we’d love to have you in that group. So if you’re an entrepreneur and you’re buying for your 10-person business, you could absolutely qualify to get in the groove once you sign up for it.
I would say that we’re more mission-driven and we’re all trying to help. I would say that most of us tend to be bigger, so usually 50 to 100 employees plus, and working on ways to save at that level. Again, that’s why I can’t say, if you have 10 employees, here is the one company you can buy all this from, because I don’t think it exists out there. I hope people will create it, but it’s just a tough market to be in there. But I do know that you can buy the four components and I know you can get them for a lot cheaper than what you can by buying a Blue Cross plan for a 10-employee company.
The concierge model’s value proposition just makes a lot of sense. The doctor actually knows your name and you can ask him the questions you want. If you’re at home and you don’t want to call into the doctor, you don’t want to set an appointment and go there, you just have to text them a question about it. So it makes so much more sense; you get better care, you open up more to them. But then again, that’s one of the components, another one is pharmacy. So there’s an app called GoodRx, and there’s a bunch of them. But what’s fascinating about an app like GoodRx or whatever the other ones are out there, is that again, we just assume that the insurance companies have the best prices on pharmacy, and a lot of times it’s not the case. I had a personal experience with this last summer where I had really bad allergies, my eyes were all red, I go to my doctor and he says you need to get these eye drops. So I go to the pharmacy, Walgreens or whatever it was, and the pharmacist looks at me and says, “Whoop, these are kind of expensive. That’s not a good sign.” I’m like, how much are they? He said, those are for $235. Well, I got my insurance cards, I pull out my insurance card. I’m like “Okay, here’s an insurance card. How much is it?” He says, it’s for $231. I’m like, “Really? Four bucks? This big insurance carrier, all they got me was four bucks?” I was ready to just walk out. I’m like my eyes are red, but not $231-red. Then I remembered I got this app on my phone, so I pull up GoodRx. You don’t have to pay anything for GoodRx, you don’t have to put any personal information, I just put in the prescription. So same place, same everything, but I show it to them and it was $75 at that same place, so $150 cheaper. Then it also showed me that if I drove three miles away, it was $20. So I’ve gone from $231 for this major insurance carrier that everybody knows down to $20 if I would just pay for using GoodRx. That’s one transaction for one employee over a whole year. Now think of that if you’re a business owner, how many transactions are happening throughout the year that you’re using that Blue Cross, United, Cigna, Aetna; whatever the plan, thinking you’re getting the best rate and the best care for your employees, when in reality you’re not?
When you add all those up, the potential is tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands of dollars are just wasted. It’s really sad. This is where I start driving more into it is, as business owners, we all trust our brokers. The brokers come in and say we represent you and we all know them. But a lot of times, we didn’t get them because of their analytical skills or whatever, either we know them or referred them. Like for me, I just inherited them, I started working for my company and they were already there. But when you start diving into their compensation, they get paid more when your premiums go up, and not a lot of us work more to get paid less, and their compensation and their contracts are all set up with the carriers. So they are more sales reps than they are buyer’s agents for us. There is so much on that backend. I learned all this stuff because I had the CFO consulting company for a while and I had a broker ask me to come help him. All of a sudden, I got a peek behind the veil. I got to see all these insurance companies are giving bonuses out to them if they sold one plan over another plan, these commissions and overrides and all this stuff going to them. So then I really started to lock into the fact that brokers will present what’s good for them and not so much what’s good for you as the employer or the buyer for it. That layer drives so much of this cost that we just don’t even realize it. Steve,
So for example, there is no-fee financial advice. For stockbrokers, they went through this big transition 10 or 20 years ago where they were all commissioned and they went to fee-based. That’s happening right now and it’s just starting within the insurance industry. That’s what I did 10 years ago after that 30% rate increase, I’m like, “I’m not giving that to you, and we’re going fee-only right now.” He said okay, and we moved it. All of a sudden, I brought him over onto my side, where the contract is with me, I set the fees, he works for me and he doesn’t get any commission or bonuses and all this other stuff from the carriers. That changed dramatically, that pulled him on my side. If he helps me find a 3% decrease, “Here’s a bonus. I’m going to give you more money if you help me, versus the other way around.”
You can follow me at Steve Watson, CPA on LinkedIn. But if you’re looking for those groups, just search in Facebook or LinkedIn for Trendbreakers or you can find me on my website at Trendbreakers.com