An Interview with Andy Paul

Andy Paul is an old friend, and a true expert in the field of sales. His books include Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company’s Sales, and Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies that Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable Decisions.  As you can see by the title, one of his subjects is the power of speed in sales.

Today’s interview was triggered by one of his over-600 podcasts from Accelerate!, his ongoing podcast.

CHG: Andy, welcome back to Trust Matters! It’s been awhile. Let me start by noting – 600 podcasts? Holy cow. Not everyone can think of 600 things to say, but I know you can.

AP: Well, it’s maybe 100 things repeated six times. Or 50 twelve times. There are some eternal verities.

CHG: True enough, and there are endless ways to communicate them. Well, let’s talk about some those verities.

Let’s start with the old bit about change. Which is true: things are changing more than ever? Or the more things change, the more they stay the same?  What’s the state of change in sales?

AP: Well, despite all the new buzzwords and technology that are flooding into sales, selling really hasn’t changed that much. Effective B2B selling primarily is still about what happens in those critical person-to-person moments when the seller communicates with and delivers value to the buyer. Those moments can’t be outsourced to technology today no matter what vendors may promise you.

CHG: Music to my ears. Meaning, of course, I agree with you.

AP: I’ve spoken with some very clever marketers that are attempting to repackage and relabel sales strategies that have been around since the Pleistocene Era of B2B selling. Some of these are fads and shall pass. In the meantime, my guests have been nearly unanimous is believing that sellers need to remain focused on mastering the fundamental principles of sales. Sellers will always be able to depend on these.

CHG: What’s the biggest fake-change fad? And what’s an example of one of those fundamental principles?

AP: I’d start with Account-based Marketing/Selling. The idea of selling to targeted accounts instead of relying on random lead generation to sell into the enterprise hardly qualifies as revealed wisdom. Using marketing automation tools to reach out to (i.e. spam) a broader spectrum of potential points of contact within the enterprise is new. But, I doubt that there are many potential buyers within enterprise accounts out there that are excited about that.

However, there are some vendors doing interesting work in this space with tools designed to manage account orchestration. It’s another new buzzword but if they really can facilitate the process of the complex sale then it’s promising.

CHG: Let’s talk about another Big Topic: what about technology? Is it here yet?

AP: Despite the massive infusion of technology into sales, there’s no data that exists to prove that it’s contributing to higher levels of sales or elevated levels of true sales productivity. In other words, are the companies that are investing heavily in sales technologies generating more revenue dollars per employee than they did without the technology? Entire business models have been created around the assumption that the answer to that question is “yes.” However, it’s not evident that is the case. It should be. And, it will be. But, we’re not there yet.

CHG: So, is it all just snake oil? Will it always be thus?

AP: It’s important to keep in mind Amara’s Law. Roy Amara was a leading futurist. His succinct formulation about the impact of technology is very relevant here. “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” This is what is happening in sales with sales technologies.

CHG: So, in the short term, what are the negative effects of over-estimating technology?

AP: The influx of sales technology has created in many sales leaders a blind conformity to their sales process rather than blind devotion to serving the needs of their buyers. For many sales teams this has resulted in an unwieldy sales process and an out of control sales tech stack that creates a burden on their sellers. Salespeople are overwhelmed and distracted. It’s a problem sales leaders have largely created. And one they need to take responsibility for solving.

CHG: Amen. This is closely related to another pathology I see – the mistaking of metrics for the things they were supposed to measure. We fall in love with the process, and forget the process was supposed to be a means, not an end in itself.

AP: Which is related to the problem that sales leaders generally don’t know how to use data. This is a bigger problem than just in sales. Technology enables more data to be captured and made available in every facet of life and, as John H Johnson points out in his wonderful book “Everydata: The Misinformation Hidden in the Little Data You Consume Every Day,”  most of us woefully unprepared to accurately interpret it.

CHG: Isn’t the promise of tech supposed to be about productivity?

AP: Here’s the problem: we confuse performance with productivity. They aren’t the same. Productivity is a rate of output based on the investment of a unit of input. That’s how we should measure productivity in sales. Instead we are still aiming at the fixed target of a quota. As long as sales leaders are fixated on quota attainment, instead of being focused on improving the dollar amount of sales produced per hour of sales time by an individual seller, sales productivity won’t improve.

CHG: Fair enough. But isn’t ‘productivity’ still just a measure of efficiency? I find that focus on ROI in sales ends up too often focusing on reducing the I, and not in increasing the R.

AP: Well, I find it interesting that while supposed experts are busy touting the “modern sales” process, they are still using an obsolete method, a arbitrarily assigned quota,  to quantify and measure the productive capacity of a sales rep.

CHG: What about training and development? What have your multiple guests taught you about the need for, or the appropriate type of, sales training?

AP: It has been a consensus among my guests that the sales training model is broken. A new model for sales education is required. Again, the right solution hasn’t been developed. Yet. However, until that happens, sellers at all levels have to assume greater responsibility for their own professional development.

Guest after guest on Accelerate! has lamented the lack of curiosity among professional sellers to learn more about their craft. I’m at one extreme. I’ve read approximately 150 books on sales, marketing and leadership in the past two years. Unfortunately, the other extreme is zero. However, can zero be considered an extreme if that is the typical number of sales books read by the average sales leader and sales professional each year? Changing this even slightly (one book per month?) would have a profound impact on overall performance in the sales profession.

CHG: Well, as a fellow author, I can certainly get behind that recommendation.

Andy, it’s been a pleasure speaking with you, as always.

AP: Charlie, it is always a pleasure. Thanks!

The Trusted Executive: John Blakey

John Blakey is a UK-based author, speaker and executive coach. He just came out with a new book, The Trusted Executive. In this issue of Trust Matters, I chat with him about the book, and about his view of trust.

John, welcome to Trust Matters. You’ve got a new book out – The Trusted Executive. It’s your second book, right? Why did you write this book?

You could say this book is the story of my life! And hopefully, the story of all our lives at least in some part. It’s about how trust is lost and how trust can be regained.

I was reminded of this by the events of the global financial crisis of 2008-2009; a time when trust in ‘big business’ was lost and we all paid the price. A devastating event that jarred our notions of what we expect from executive leadership. Sometimes it’s helpful to forget the impact of such a breach of trust, to move on and to keep yourself busy. But other times we need to stop and think and learn the lessons we need to learn.

My own response was to first write a book called ‘Challenging Coaching’ with my colleague, Ian Day. The purpose of this book was to help the executive coaching profession learn the lessons it needed to learn from the global financial crisis. I then enrolled on an executive doctorate at Aston Business School in 2012, because I wanted to research the lessons that the wider world of business leadership needed to learn from the events of 2008-2009. This research path led me to the work on trust and I devoured the academic literature, before interviewing a host of CEOs on the topic of trust, including those in the UK, US, Europe and Asia. Gradually, my thoughts became clearer and ‘The Trusted Executive’ started to be written.

At the end of the day, I care about the reputation of business and it makes me sad that this reputation has been damaged in recent years. I have committed thirty years of my career to being a business leader, whether that be as the international managing director of a global multi-national or as an award-winning entrepreneur. Like many others, I came into business because I thought it was a force for good in the world. It seems we are at risk of losing that reputation and we need to show we care about getting that reputation back.

Excellent, thank you. I am aware, as of course are you, of the dwindling levels of trust in business these days. Say something about that?

The topic of trust has been brought to the fore by a number of recent events. Not just the global financial crisis I have just mentioned, but also the series of corporate failures and scandals that have occurred since 2008 – the events at FIFA, Volkswagen Group, Barclays Bank and BP.

Against this backdrop, the trustworthiness of business organisations continues to suffer. The 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer found that only one in five public respondents trusted business leaders to tell the truth and make ethical and moral decisions. Furthermore, only 43 per cent of respondents would trust a company CEO (compared to 62 per cent who would trust ‘someone like myself’.)

A recent paper from the Council on Business & Society summed up the mood when it stated ‘Society’s trust in corporations and their executives is dismally low, with the crisis in leadership fuelled by a relentless media cycle and a growing consumer influence through the global spread of information and viewpoints over the internet.’

Give my readers a quick story line of the book, if you would please?

The story goes like this:

In the old model of business, leaders worshipped profit and got things done through intellectual ability and authority. This worked to a degree and for a while. But transparency has broken the old model. Through globalization, diversity, technology and shifting demographics we now see through the opaque lives of organisations. As a result, we have lost trust in authority and lost trust in organisations and leaders who worship profit.

Authority as the glue of organizational life is no longer sufficiently ‘sticky’ to hold it all together. We need a new glue. The new glue of business of is partly a broader sense of purpose (results, relationships and reputation) and partly a deeper bonding of stakeholders through trust. Leaders need to take their trust-building skills to a completely new level if they are to create this new glue of 21st century business life.

Of course, the devil is in the details. What’s your view of how we do that?

Building trust is not as simple as delivering on your promises. I posit trustworthiness as ability x integrity x benevolence. For each pillar of trustworthiness, the book proposes three habits that modern leaders need to master. Typically, our understanding of trust has amounted to solving only 10% of the problem. Successful leaders will master all nine habits.

Some habits are familiar to us, such as choosing to deliver, to be honest and to be open. Others are more radical and challenging such as choosing to be morally brave, to be kind and to be humble.

Through these habits we will architect a new business model populated by trusted executives. This will be a model fit for diverse 21st century stakeholder of business and a model that will drive not just financial results but also inspiring relationships and a positive, long term reputation.

Give me a specific example, if you would? Say, a habit from the integrity section?

Under the pillar of integrity there are three habits – choosing to be honest, choosing to be open and choosing to be humble. If we take choosing to be open as an example, according to a 2014 survey of 1,600 managers in the UK by the Institute of Leadership & Management, openness is by far the most significant driver of trust. This finding was backed up by various CEO comments in my own research interviews such as ‘The first way to build trustworthiness is through open communication.

Consistent, open communication builds a belief that you are being told everything you need to be told’ and, ‘As a Chair going into a company, I get an instinct about the CEO. It’s really important what my gut feeling says about their trustworthiness. I’m testing it out all the time. I’m watching how open they are.’

But openness is not simply about telling the truth. Being open goes beyond being honest; it involves speaking the truth and then giving something more. Being open requires a leader to expose themselves and reveal some vulnerability. As Patrick Lencioni, puts it, choosing to be open involves ‘getting naked’.

In the book, I explore how leaders can show appropriate vulnerability and openness without undermining their credibility in front of their followers. At its root, this involves reframing their perception of vulnerability as a strength of the modern, 21st century leader who is focussed upon building trust rather than a weakness of the 20th century leader who was focussed upon winning battles regardless of the longer term cost to their underlying relationships.

What is your greatest wish for the book?

That it spark a debate in the boardroom regarding the role of trust in a modern business. I hope it will make CEOs and corporate leaders sit up and think again about their individual role in the trust-building challenge and so inspire them to commit to new habits for themselves and their organisations.

Beyond this, it would then be a bonus if the book’s impact leaks further outside the business realm into the worlds of education, politics, sports and parenting, where trust is also a key driver of success and sustainability.

I have a colleague in Slovakia who is writing a version of the book for 10-12 year olds which will convert the book’s messages into a parable for children based on the progress of a sports team competing in a handball tournament. I was initially surprised that he saw the relevance of the book to children, but then I suppose trust is something inherent to all successful relationships whatever your age or your profession.

How can the book help business leaders at a practical level?

It should help them to deliver outstanding results; inspire relationships; and leave a positive long term legacy.

I hope that after reading the book, business leaders will understand why trust is such an important driver of success, and why it is becoming ever more critical in a world where nothing can be hidden. The models in the book will help leaders translate this understanding into practical steps to improve their own trustworthiness and that of the organization as a whole.

On the one hand, this involves role-modelling specific behaviours on a day to day basis. On the other, it involves leading transformational change across the whole organization and instilling a culture of trust. It is both a micro and macro level challenge.

We also know that we all make mistakes. The book will help leaders recover from mistakes where trust has been damaged quickly and effectively through using proven coaching techniques that I’ve practiced myself and taught to over 120 CEOs across 22 different countries in my role as an executive coach.

If you could share only three insights about trust with a business leader what would these be?

First, I’d stress that trust matters. Whether you look at the academic research or listen to the front-line leaders, that it is clear. In 2002, Tony Simons and Judi Parks at Cornell University conducted a survey of more than 6,500 employees at 76 US and Canadian Holiday Inn hotels. They discovered that a one-eighth improvement in a hotel’s score on leadership trustworthiness led to a 2.5% increase in profitability. They concluded that ‘no other single aspect of manager behaviour that we measured had as large an impact on profits’.

Second, you cannot control trust. According to Rousseau, ‘Trust is a psychological state that comprises the intention to accept vulnerability based upon positive expectations of the intentions or behaviour of another’. It is my psychological state and my decision. Whatever you as the leader thinks, says or does, you cannot force me to trust you. However, as a leader, you can influence my decision and what influences my decision is your level of trustworthiness.

Finally, trust and authority are not the same thing. In the past, we trusted people because we were told to trust them by people in authority. When you were a child, you watched the politician speaking on TV and you might have said, “he looks a bit shifty to me”, and, no sooner had the words left your lips, your mother would snap back, “But you should trust the politicians!” “Why mum?”, “Because they are politicians”.

That is how it used to work, but this model is breaking down. As part of my research into trust, I interviewed Ben Page, CEO of the market research company, IPSOS Mori. Ben told me that their surveys reveal the level of deference to authority is dropping with each successive generation. Today, he says, only 29% of us believe that those in charge know best.

Who inspires you as a trusted executive in the business world?

There are some great role models out there, but if I had to pick one it would be Paul Polman, the CEO of Unilever. When it comes to ‘big business’, they don’t come much bigger. They have 172,000 employees, annual revenues of more than $50 billion and sell products in 190 countries.

When Polman was appointed CEO in 2009, he launched the company’s ‘Sustainable Living Plan’, which has since become a benchmark for triple bottom line thinking. The ‘Sustainable Living Plan’ aims to reduce Unilever’s environmental footprint and increase its positive social impact while also doubling sales and increasing long-term profitability. In 2014, a review of the ‘Sustainable Living Plan’ revealed the following progress:

  • Unilever’s ‘Sustainable Living’ brands accounted for half of the company’s growth and were growing at twice the rate of the rest of the business.
  • More than 55 per cent of Unilever’s agricultural raw materials were being sustainably sourced, more than half way to the 2020 target of 100 per cent.
  • CO2 emissions from energy and water in manufacturing had reduced by 37 per cent and 32 per cent per tonne of production respectively.
  • Unilever had improved the health and wellbeing of 397 million people; 40 per cent of the way towards its 2020 goal.

The punchline is that, in the same period, Unilever’s share price rose by more than 40 per cent! The story of Unilever under Paul Polman’s stewardship shows that a company can deliver results, relationships and a positive long term reputation in society as a whole. It is an inspiring story and I was privileged that Paul wrote the foreword to my book because I can think of no-one else who is currently ‘walking the talk’ as well as he does.


Thanks John for taking the time to share your thoughts.


CNBC Asks Experts How to Improve Confidence in Business: Hmmm..

On July 22, the Gallup organization released their 2010 poll on US Confidence in Institutions. As Gallup headlined it, Congress scored an all time low (for all 16 institutions ranked, not just for Congress). 

Barely beating Congress for lowest confidence ratings were, in order, HMOs (15th out of 16), Big Business (14th), organized labor (13th), and television news (12th). The Presidency, which also shows declines, still ranks 7th out of 16.

So it was fitting that CNBC (that would be in the 12th out of 16 group) put together a three part special panel discussion on “Restoring Trust in Business” (that would be in the 14th out of 16 group). The panelists included Gordon Bethune, Bill George and Myrtle Potter (representing the 14th out of 16 group), and Christie Todd Whitman (there wasn’t a category for ex-State Governors and Bush cabinet secretaries, but I’d hazard a wild guess she generally fit in).

Interestingly, there was consensus on the panel about how to restore trust in business. 

Answer: It’s the government’s fault.

How Good Shows Go Bad

Given Charlie’s blogpost of yesterday about the hazards of relying on those-who-summarize (including me), here are links directly to the show so you can make up your own mind.

The show—originally advertised (we recall) as “Restoring Trust in Business,” ended up after broadcast on CNBC’s website in three different sequences: “Leadership in Government,” “Leadership in Corporate America,” and “Leadership and Trust.” As CNBC’s John Harwood points out at the outset, the declining trends are long-term—since the 1970s, and particularly since 1994–and they apply across nearly all institutions. (See Gallup’s historical data, here.)

The four leaders invited have some fine credentials. Bethune was a revered CEO in the airline industry, where it’s very hard to be revered by anyone. George was a successful CEO, and writes on leadership. Potter was a COO at Genentech, and Whitman ran the State of NJ and the EPA. Good choices to opine about how business can regain confidence.

Give CNBC credit. Not only did they tee it up right, but nearly half the questions they asked more or less rhymed with, “how has business lost confidence?” or “how can business and the markets regain confidence,” or “what must be done for Americans to regain confidence in business?”

We would expect that the first thing we’d hear from any one of these leaders on the subject of restoring confidence in their institutions would be a straightforward acknowledgment of what was lost, and a statement of responsibility for having lost it. Is that not unreasonable to expect of distinguished leaders?

And indeed, every leader did get off at least one direct acknowledgment that business might have to improve itself—but having done the curtsey toward the question, the bulk of their comments were reserved for tax policy, government regulatory foibles, and flawed federal government policy. 

Instead, here’s what we got (we’re paraphrasing: go ahead, check our interpretation here.)

Q. If you look at the data Hartman reviewed before for us, the congressional approval rating is low. Yet contrast that with the issues that got accomplished this year; various reforms—what is it that isn’t connecting here? 

Whitman: You’ve seen a move in government away from policy to politics; everything’s partisan now. (She then proceeds to attack Nancy Pelosi).

Q. What do you think needs to be done to restore trust in business?

Potter: Business needs to take responsibility for stewardship and its own governance. We can think of examples where that didn’t happen. We also have to think carefully about how we’re paying so we can drive innovation. Innovation used to drive the world from the US, but not now.

Q. I’m interested in your view, Mr. George; you say the crisis wasn’t caused by subprime or derivatives. Wasn’t it caused by flawed leadership putting its own interests before its clients or its people?

George: No question about that; we saw flawed leadership in Enron and all the companies that blew up back in 2003, we saw it on Wall Street. Most of those leaders and their companies have gone away. But it is about leadership in government. We need to emphasize policy not bickering; we need a jobs policy. I’d like to see the President step up to a rebuild America program. 

Q. In terms of business’s relationships to government, why doesn’t it seem to be working? 

Potter: Well everyone’s feeling the crunch, but what stands out is jobs. Jobs are so critical to America feeling more confident about the country, and yet this chasm has to be closed between government and business.

Q. What is your best advice to the administration on what can be done to restore trust and confidence in business and in Wall Street? 

Whitman: Clearly we need a rigorous regulatory policy, but we need to stop this gotcha attitude of blame-throwing in congress. The BP disaster turned into a criminal investigations instead of focusing on how to fix things. Clearly there was a problem on the regulatory side as well. We need to show respect for each other.

Bethune: You have to demonstrate some performance, not talk. No one in our government ever ran a business. The administration shouldn’t have focused on health care or regulatory reform, but on jobs…business doesn’t like uncertainty.

Q.  Most people don’t expect as good a world for their kids as they had.

Whitman: The main thing is we’ve got to do is get deficit spending under control.

Q. One reason people don’t have trust in business is that, at the height of the crisis, big financial companies took big bonuses and were bailed out: what’s your take on that, Mr. George

George: Goldman didn’t pay any bonuses last year. Trust is the fuel that enables society to run….but we need policies from government that create incentives. Goldman, JPMorganChase and are rethinking compensation to have pay for performance….investing in America….lower capital gains tax. But that won’t solve this jobs crisis. We’ve got to get back to investing in America.

Q. What is your one piece of advice that would reassure people that the future is going to be better for them?

Bethune: Tax policy; articulate it, make it pro growth, pro business, put cash to work, make the future clear in order to get confidence.

You be the judge, but let us suggest a simple headline. 

When the institution that ranks 14th out of 16 shows up to talk about restoring confidence in their institution—given a decades-long decline—we ought to expect something more than a short-term political bashing of the 7th– and 16th-ranked institutions, a la the Sunday morning interview shows.

Business, heal thyself.

(At this point, you might be thinking, "Oh yeah? Think you guys could do better?"

Well, yes we do, and that’ll be tomorrow’s blogpost.  Tune in again.)

Interview Like a Trusted Advisor

Recently I had coffee with a group of newly unemployed professionals in my community. Most of them haven’t had to interview for a few years, and they were looking for an edge.

I thought about it and realized – many interviews are conducted on both sides by people who really don’t know how to interview. The interviewer asks questions, presumably to assess fit, and the job hunter tries to impress. That can be seen as over-confident or desparate, in either case, without regard to whether the job hunter is truly right for the job.

I suggested another approach: The real goal of both parties ought to be to determine whether there is a fit on all levels. Change the dynamic of the interview itself to a collaborative discovery. It may not be easy. Interviewers may not be skilled and veering off the prepared questions and format may be difficult. Job hunters want to show that they have what interviewers want, and may be afraid to acknowledge where they fall short.

Changing this dynamic requires both of you to take the risk of thinking unconventionally. If you can move the conversation to what’s really at stake for both parties you can truly distinguish yourself.

How can you collaborate wth the interviewer? Here’s what I suggest:

1. Explore the job requirements together. Understand what is needed and why. Discuss the specifics of what needs to be done, how it’s been done in the past, and why there’s a need to fill this job now. Don’t be afraid to discuss whether it makes sense. Better to address the job now, than for the employer to discover two months from now that the need was different than originally thought.

2. Discuss the ideal candidate. Ask what type if person would be perfect for the job and why. You may agree or have input. Find out what got you in the door – what intrigued someone enough to interview you. Ask what qualifications the interviewer thinks you have, and those he or she thinks you lack. Discuss those qualifications openly.

3. Sell by doing, not by telling. Make it easy for the interviewer to see how you might approach a situation in the job. Your exploration of the job requirements might uncover something that your role might address. You might have enough information by now to talk about how you would address the situation.

4. Understand the decision-making process. Ask the questions that will help you understand how a hiring decision will be made. And it’s not a bad idea to ask about the other talent they are interviewing. If you bring up the subject in a collaborative rather than competitive way, it will be heard with the genuiness you intend.

5. Be open and clear about whether you believe you are right for the job. Express whether you think you are and note your concerns. Don’t be afraid to refer to what got you the interview in the first place.

Notice there is absolutely nothing in these steps that says you should try to dazzle the interviewer with your credentials and your brilliant ideas. Nothing that talks about you selling yourself in the traditional way. Being transparent and collaborative in an interview requires that you are not arrogant (usually a sign of weakness), and certainly does not give the impression that you are desperate for a job.

Not to say you shouldn’t put your best foot forward. Or help the interviewer see what you can do – and how that might benefit the company. But do so only after you learn as much as you can about the job, and only as part of a mutual exploration into whether you might be the right fit. If you are, after a single interview you’re well on your way to earning their confidence and their trust. Then you will both understand that the interest and enthusiasm you’re expressing by the end of the interview are genuine. With the beginnings of trust established you’re bound to find your odds of landing the job substantially improved.

Do you have other tips for interviewing that build trust? Please share them as comments here!