Noah Berk is the co-founder and head of strategy at OBO Agency. With more than 15 years of B2B sales and marketing experience ranging from startups to large enterprises, he drives the company’s strategy in transforming the way clients conduct generate business.
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Umar Hameed: Are you ready to become awesomer? Hi everyone this is Umar Hameed and welcome to another episode of the No Limit Selling Podcast, where we talk to industry leaders about tips, tricks and strategies to become more awesome in what you do, and today I’m privileged to have Noah Berk he is the president of OBO agency. Noah welcome to the program.
Noah Berk: Thanks for having me here today.
Umar Hameed: So Noah in ninety seconds tell us who you are and what you do?
Noah Berk: Cool, so I am one of the co-founders OBO. agency and we are a B2B company’s marketing firm So essentially what we do is we help position our clients as leaders in the market place through a combination of helping them set up and implement their markets technology through content marketing and lead generation tactics, so what I do over here I consider the fun stuff of course I lead sales for the company and I bring on clients I think would be a really good fit for the services we provide but more importantly I get to do strategy. So my job is to learn and I’m supposed to learn everything there is to know about marketing everything there is to know about B2B sales so I can educate my own customers on what to do, what process they should implement.
Umar Hameed: So you walk your talk.
Noah Berk: I walk my talk.
Umar Hameed: That is brilliant, so who’s your favorite superhero and why?
Noah Berk: Great question, I think it’s Superman you know partly because I mean you know you really can’t die even though eventually the comics he does die but he is a bad ass he has all the powers but he’s still kind of human you know in terms of his vulnerabilities so he’s not the end all be all but he seems to be able to take on any other superhero and I like someone who can always win but still show a sense of humility and be humble at the same time.
Umar Hameed: So Superman you know he’s got this sensitivity to kryptonite. So for you as a leader of this organization, what’s your kryptonite like what’s the one thing you wish you could do better that would make you a Better leader?
Noah Berk: Oh my God not talk so much. Sometimes yeah sometimes I talk you know it’s I’ll say it throughout this but it’s really listening and being aware and I think as an individuals we tend to talk more than we tend to listen.
Umar Hameed: So I’ve been listening to this book is called negotiate as if your life depends on it highly recommended by the way and one of things they talk about being hostage rescuers it’s not so much about the talking it’s about deep listening and they’ve got other agents listening to the recordings of what’s happening alive now and sometimes they just pick up this little fling that can mean the difference between hostages getting killed or not, so being a great leader listening is a critical mostly overlooked element. So Noah what motivates you?
Noah Berk: You know if you asked me this question ten years ago I’d say money. That’s not my motivation anymore.
Umar Hameed: It’s more money.
Noah Berk: Yes it’s more money (laugh) but I should tend to think that.. that can lead you astray. I think what motivates me now is there really helping others. It may seem cliche to say I want to go out there and help my clients become the best of what they do but that’s what motivates me and by doing that it makes us the best of what we do and I want to be the best I want to be elite I want to be the place of people come in call and say hey listen I need help myself marketing can you guys help us.
Umar Hameed: So it sounds like what I hear you saying is when you’re motivated by money, then it’s about ego and doing the best you can and the way you measure is money but when you’re motivated by helping your customer succeed that actually takes the ego away and it’s more about how to get the best results which is a slight difference but a huge difference. Right?
Noah Berk: And money will follow and so the other problem if you chase money you tend to make decisions not necessarily either in your own best interests or your company’s best interests or your future. And you know.looking back in my own career, there’s plenty of things I could have done a lot better whereas if I wasn’t a silly chasing money first in the business second I probably would have been in a much different place than I am right now
Umar Hameed: Brilliant. So who’s one of your mentors that really helped to progress?
Noah Berk: I have a bunch of mentors but one individual I want to talk about Stuart Gold, unfortunately he passed away.
Umar Hameed: I have met him, he was freaking awesome
Noah Berk: Yeah. He’s a he is a wealth of information and he tells it to you straight he kept me on the street narrow in fact I started this business with my co-founder and he was one of the first of all I want to go talk to about it and you know the advice he says hey if this is your calling as if this is your direction if you think you’re better suited to help other companies succeed, you’ve got to go do it you know in he gave me the motivation but he also made sure that I had the right intention. Before making that next step.
Umar Hameed: Sounds brilliant and it sounds like it stuck because you know money versus helping and money will follow. So here is a question that some people have a tough time answering. Who would be somebody that you know or someone from history that you’d love to have lunch with and what question would you ask them?
Noah Berk: So I have always been motivated by certain books and one book in particular is Think and Grow Rich and a guy named Napaleon Hill and I would love to sit down in a Napolean Hill more important I love to sit down appoint him and ask him out of everyone who he knows who would he want to interview? and what questions would he want to ask them? because it sent me on my own journey to discover this particular individual and learn new insights so and I think just sitting down to Napolean Hill just be like a wealth of information I mean this guy
Umar Hameed: I would think so and I guess if I would sit down with him the question I’d ask him is, what’s the question you still have.
Noah Berk: Yes Yes Exactly exactly.
Umar Hameed: So what was your first sales job?
Noah Berk: So I’ve pretty much concerned my entire life. If you consider elementary school when I started selling candy you consider that a call that freelance sales job.
Umar Hameed: Yes
Noah Berk: My first real sales job was when I was seventeen I was working for a sales recruiting company and my job was interrupt the times to find sales leads so my very first job was literally going through newspapers a fine job postings and job listings taking on a ruler measuring the size of those ads and equating them to the value we knew the newspaper of selling them for so our sales people.
Umar Hameed: Give me a high five for that.
Noah Berk: Yes. So our sales people then have to go through and actually call on the stuff so I actually help them with everything from their C.R.M. system at the time they’re using something called goldmine. I don’t know how people remember,goldmine and my very first time a member my job volved was working there they said OK Hey can you do a little research and figure out who we need to call each one of those companies so I actually start picking up the phone call and say Hey who’s the sales manager in charge of hiring and one day get someone on the phone and that becomes my very first sales call where the guy says well I’m not interested in talking to someone else I’m only interested in talking to you so what do you guys have to offer.
Umar Hameed: Brilliant. So who was your best sales manager and what was the attribute they had that really spoke to you?
Noah Berk: So he wasn’t my direct sales manager, he was one of the founders of a company called Reach Local and some of you may be familiar with them in Iowa she joined them back in 2008 when I called the Wild West of sales. 2008, 2009 for right time frame and and he was one of the founders and he was in charge of all the sales operations and it was his pure energy and his commitment and his willingness to do whatever it takes to get done and I was inspired by him each and every day I mean he showed me that learning equates to better customer experience which equates to more sales and I follow that advice ever since and he’s to this day one of the best sales people I’ve ever come across some of the best managers I’ve ever personally HAVE.
Umar Hameed: Thanks for sharing that. So have you ever had a come to Jesus moment we had to have like rethink what you were doing and really get on a different track.
Noah Berk: Yes I had a entrepreneur and had a green technology company that was focused on producing indoor hydroponic plants and these plants are not growing with any soil and I left my high pain, you know internet marketing career to go do it.
Umar Hameed: By the way as you were answering that question you pointed to this giant plant is that hydroponic as.
Noah Berk: It is called Hydra culture plants it’s actually Hawaiian plant there’s no traditional soil on there it’s all grown and expanded clay has a while and it cater gaging you can’t really kill them as long as you just water them properly and not hard to figure out how to water them because anyone who goes
Umar Hameed: We’ll take a picture of them put it in the podcast.
Noah Berk: Yes, yes, I’d love that the team my team here gives me a hard time about how much I love my indoor plants its great as a hobby but long story short what I didn’t follow in people are interested read the forceps or an opinion by Steve Blank but I started to build this business without really understanding what they were what market was for or who was going to purchase and I was very idealistic into a lot of things I teach my clients to do now. So I learned a tremendous amount but the coming of Jesus moment happened when I said, is this what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life in an industry and a particular product on the business of that people care or don’t care about, or am I going to try something new? And I realized that moment in time that my passion was no longer there. It turns out it’s much more fun as a hobby than as a business, so I said this is a hub enough for business and I ended up selling that company.
Umar Hameed: So basically if we asked ourselves on a regular basis maybe calendar every six months, are you doing something that makes a difference to you? And I think sometimes people go three years into an endeavor window should have gotten out years ago, have the asked about question it would be, no, not happy.
Noah Berk: And I think for a lot of business, the business owners easy to be a business owner when your company is making revenue and profits, very easy, it’s fun. It’s the times when you’re not making the revenue or your losing money month over month, and the profits aren’t there that you question, do you have the capacity and endurance to continue to get to the other end? And then once you get to the other end and are you still going to be happy? And that business was profitable was making money, but I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t happy in what I was doing. And what I set out to do was not what it ended up becoming, and I think it’s always important to take a look at that you know, understand that one day you will make profits, you will make revenue. Is that alone going to make you happy based upon what you’re doing? And if those are questions you got to ask yourself.
Umar Hameed: So tell me about a deal that you saved from the jaws of death?
Noah Berk: Okay there’s a ton of those. One in particular is when I was selling BI software and we were competing against several other companies for this particular software; and this was six-figure deals I was selling at the time, and this particular deal in particular our competitors had come in and they were beginning an offer cutting prices slashing prices, I went to my boss and I said listen, I’ve got to hop on a flight to Minnesota, it’s the middle of winter and I need to go see this client. He says okay go do it. You know there he was encouraging you to go out there and what I quickly understood no one had gone out to meet with this particular cleint. Everyone was pitching him six figure deals but there wasn’t a single person on site whether their engineer the sales person. So I actually had gone out there with one of my engineers brought one of my engineers with me.
Umar Hameed: Smart.
Noah Berk: And we did about a day’s worth of work onsite totally free,helping them out throughout that process and when I went back to the office it wasn’t about numbers about whether they trying to accomplish and very casual was able to say OK session me twice as much as I originally quoted you you bought and partly is because we were to solve this problem it turned out it wasn’t about money, it was about having a relationship with a company and feeling confident that when they install our software into their application it will be there.
Umar Hameed: So it goes back to that theme that you started with when you started focusing and it sounds like in an early time focusing on helping the customer actually going out there doing that day of work for free is when you open up opportunities and you really build that relationship.
Noah Berk: Absolutely and I think there’s a fine line between giving away free advice and consultation and then showing a customer what you’re capable of doing. And you know there’s a balance between the two in a certain situations because the outcome you’re looking for so great it makes sense and but in other situations you also got to be mindful you know there’s a point where you know are you doing free work for the sake of doing free work or is this because you’re investing into this relationship for the long term benefits.
Umar Hameed: Brilliant. So looking at the sales profession right now because the climate has changed is always changing I guess always has been but particularly nowadays what do you think is the biggest challenge for salespeople in selling in this day and age?
Noah Berk: Too much data. You know the irony is you’re flooded with so much data you’re not really quite sure what data is most important to you, so you know what counsel I call what should I bring up in a conversation how should I communicate with this particular prospect and I think the challenge isn’t necessarily although it’s too much, so much data out there it’s how do you use it for your own benefit and I think as a sales person you use this data to figure out how to connect to your audience right and you use this data to figure out how to connect and take a prospect and turn them into a customer and kind of the second part to this is with all this data is you know sales and that is a profession and keep in mind your customer already knows eighty percent about what you have to sell part of are getting on the phone and talking to them right so your job is to help them understand why your product is the one, they should choose and thus you’ve got to become a consultant so sales people who are focused on transactions, who are not educating themselves who are not reading, who are not saying current on their industry are going to be your bottom twenty percent you know that twenty percent I’m sorry the bottom twenty percent versus. The top twenty percent US can produce eighty percent your company revenue.
Umar Hameed: Makes perfect sense and so back to that being that consultant being that helper just spits you apart from everybody else because you help the client understand what their real needs are as opposed to what they think they are.
Noah Berk: That’s correct.
Umar Hameed: So you’ve got sales people that work with you.
Noah Berk: Oh yes.
Umar Hameed: So how do you manage expectations for the sales people you lead versus your board of directors because you have two sets of expectations, so how do you manage both?
Noah Berk: So that’s a really great question so first is to have those goals that we’re going to hit and making sure that we’re consistently hitting them and I’m really proud to say as a company we have. We’ve been hitting our goals every month.
Umar Hmeed: Nice.
Noah Berk: You know we’ve been as a company we got started last January, so only two years and a really really far ahead we’ve got an excellent client roster,we’ve got excellent clients coming on board,but I think it comes down to big ensure that you have a plan for both a company as a whole as well as an individual sales basis so you know just like we teach our clients we do ourselves you know who are my top hundred and fifty clients, who I want to bring on board based on my ideal customers and then what’s my strategy to go target them and in Mycenae aside time throughout the week to actually devote myself to doing business development or if I’m a sales person my devoting the right amount of time to business development and even given time but without a plan and just kind of willy Delina and just going at it you’re not going to be successful and then also being flexible in terms of your approach and realizing that you’ve got to revisit every quarter are we hitting Are we not what are some lean locks and what do we need to do to overcome it.
Umar Hameed: Brilliant. So how do you motivate your sales team?
Noah Berk: That’s a great question, depends upon who they are?
Umar Hameed: right
Noah Berk: Yes, it’s an individual basis. So motivating sales team and I think you can probably comment on this too as understanding you know whether it’s the Meiers break desk or anything just understand who the person is? Who their personality is and what their motivation is? You may be surprised how many sales people are actually not motivated by money, they’re simply motivated by winning. Money comes. You’d be surprised *hostle* what those sales person’s motivations are and then be able to trigger on it but I think to keep yourselves people motivated is you have to make sure that as a company you delivering on what they’re selling. There’s no quicker way to demoralize your sales team and have that salesperson sell an amazing deal and see your product not live up to the expectations or your solution not live up to the expectations.
Umar Hameed: So trust with an organization is critical I was working with a client where the sales team was caving in on price when we unpacked what was going on is they didn’t believe that they are supporting him could live up to the expectations so they were kind of taking the foot off the gas and once we fixed that issue then they actually double the sales.
Noah Berk: Yeah.
Umar Hameed: so we didn’t teach them a thing about selling but took the I don’t want to rip anybody off kind of thing that was going on at the unconscious level.
Noah Berk: I agree and that’s something in a I think as a company you can support your salespeople by sharing with them what new products, what features, what capabilities, your success stories in making sure that the teams are aligned, that the team supporting the product and solution are living up to expectations sales also making sure sales know overselling what your product can do.
Umar Hameed: Brilliant, So what’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?
Noah Berk: Wow. Best advice that I have ever gotten? Was probably my father telling me that Paul the stock market in 2001 right before the bubble exploded last I want permits for money. Now just kidding about that one (laugh). I think the best advice I’ve ever gotten. It was you know do what you’re great at doing and find that thing continue doing it because it’s much easier to maintain momentum when you’re doing something new you’re really great, it maybe you love it maybe you don’t love it but you’re really great at doing drilling when you’re great at doing something he literally love it you know. So I don’t want to say do something you love doing because I could say that about plans but I’m not really great
Umar Hameed: Now we’re looking at the point you were not.
Noah Berk: Yeah. I’m not really great running you know that’s a company person but you know so I think I can grow plants I can grow in your hydroponic plan any question you have about them. But I think it’s funny to me that you’re really good at doing and making that into.
Umar Hameed: You’re going to hit hard times if you doing something you love it gives you the capacity just there’s a quote from Winston Churchill a quote a lot “When you get to hell keep going.” If you’re doing something you love you can do that more easily than something that is George.
Noah Berk: Agreed.
Umar Hameed: So how do you know you’re making the right hire when you’re hiring a salesperson because that’s a tricky thing to do, how do you know you making the right decision.
Noah Berk: Figure out what their incentives are their motivations.
Umar Hameed: Like you’re into so in that interview you figure out what drives them.
Noah Berk: You figure out what drives them so I was I had the fortune opportunity to interview thousands of salespeople throughout my life. I was a sales recruiter for about seven years right and I said travel around the country interviewing salespeople for sales positions and very quickly you can start assessing whether or not a salesperson is going to be a good fit for something simply by figure out their internal motivations and drivers. One way of actually doing that is understanding you know they actually treating sales as a craft or how are they perfect in their own craft. One way to do is simply know hey we want to look at I don’t care Jeff or get him or HOLMES You name it just give me something that you’re doing to improve your own craft. The second thing is what……18:48…….. You know why are they going to come in here where they motivate to do what are they motivate be best at. And I think from that particular standpoint you can..18:57…better assessing the individual in the sales person to see are they really going to be a good fit for this are the educating themselves or do the before coming in the interview they know what your product was because if they research you like a little research your prospects.
Umar Hameed: Make sense in it and it’s also another theme that keeps on coming up in this conversation “learning is a key element of success.”
Noah Berk: The number one I tell my team all the time we’re paid to learn.
Umar Hameed: So when you have a salesperson that is talented but we all hit slumps. How do you coach somebody out of a slumps, so they do it sooner than later?
Noah Berk: That’s that’s a really great question to..
Umar Hameed: Without using a taser.
Noah Berk: Yeah without using a taser or without giving them five hundred dollars or bribing them or incentives or anything else. It depends upon what’s causing that slump. I think goes back to one of your earlier questions and one of the answers I gave you is because you know or have faith in your product. You know there are some internal things happening right now in the organisation. Have they checked out for one reason or another?
Umar Hameed: Or could be external event to get to be a service when it…
Noah Berk: Yeah I think there’s a lot telltale signs of a salesperson checking own person because I’ve actually been in that position myself where I’m not motivated anymore and you can start seeing that by simply looking at their activity and I think the other thing is oftentimes sales is forgotten that you’re on the front line actually learning what customers want?
Umar Hameed: Right.
Noah Berk: And you know a sales person one other way of getting them involved is by saying well what questions do people have and have your marketing star answering those questions and start actually supporting sales, so getting your salespeople more involved in the business, as a whole help them feel like they’re part of the company not just a cock in the wheel, is one way of kind of turning that around.
Umar Hameed: And that’s a two way street because I guess it really helps the marketing folks when they know what the sales people are hearing you know the building that team so one team, so here’s a question. Do you think sales is a subset of marketing or the other way around?
Noah Berk: That is a really great question because they issue. I think sales of marking are becoming more one in the same or so to see more V.P. as the sales and marketing your service you know more chief revenue officers to market he may be directly reporting them, I see it as a standpoint marking this job is to thing like a battle is to bombard the beach had before you troops arrive.
Umar Hameed: coporate bombing.
Noah Berk: Corporate bombing Yeah you want to make sure by the time your sales person because before a call that prospect they know what you do, they know what you’re about they’re familiar with your brand and they feel confident to be able to purchase from you because I makes your job a lot easier. So I really think it’s a more of an even playing field whereas the sales work in less a more top of the funnel getting those leads coming in
Umar Hameed: Marketing top of the funnel.
Noah Berk: Marketing, I’m sorry marking top of the funnel its responsibilities sales pull them all the way through the cycle but responsibility of marketing is to help them move that prospect through the funnel. What material what collateral ? What visibility what awareness? what events do we need to go to and to rather think as you know two separate entities working against each other let’s think of the most one in the same just different roles.
Umar Hameed: Brilliant so what something that you wishing you now wish that you know now that you wish you knew ten or ten years ago?
Noah Berk: So I think it’s patience. Wow patience is such a virtue. There are certain situations of a just simply the patient to hold out, wait it, learn more my career would have been a much different trajectory then you know it is not your I love it oh Russell[23:33] because I’ve been humbled throughout my career my motivations I think are more aligned and you know I feel better about where I am both as a person and in my career but I think patience is something that people tend to forget excess the highly motivated vicious people, where you’re driven and that drive is beyond important a lever that go away. But patients whether it’s a business deal patients whether it’s a company or patients whether as an entrepreneurial activity.
Umar Hameed: as a leader.
Noah Berk: Ptience as a leader. Patience. You are what you read, you are who you meet and you are your experiences and that makes up who you are as a person. So one area you can accelerate is by reading and listening you want to get further ahead.
Umar Hameed: Brilliant. So what’s a book that you’re reading right now that you’d like to recommend?
Noah Berk: So there’s a couple books I’m reading right now one is the twenty two mutable laws of marketing. And you know it’s a classic I think it’s what seventy’s eighty’s and you know right now I don’t know so I know I’d recommend it I tend to finish books all the way through right only because I I think some of the principals and they’re probably no longer applying especially some of the examples I gave but if I do recommend some business books like some would be just calls from good to great you know get that hatchet you know get that big hairy audacious goal that you’re going for and understanding that and there is also another really interesting book that you know maybe I should take a step back rather necessarily just interesting books but there are three books that journey recommend one is How to Win Friends and Influence People by Napoleon Hill another one is. I’m sorry not Napolean Hill and Napolean Hill also thinking grow rich and then the other one also is really want to really long one out there you can read either Atlas Shrugged. Or found had Yeah it will explain why you work but that’s for someone who’s like really committed. To get further and I meant to say earlier How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie right there was a really interesting book I wish I could just pull off Tom ahead right now in terms of in terms of where it is but there is a book called fifty nine seconds. Since I think a little Richard Wiseman that She dispels a lot of business myths stuff that I had done early, in my career that I wish, oh my God if I hadn’t actually followed that Myth my life would’ve been quite different so that’s another interesting book.
Umar Hameed: So no thanks so much for sitting down with me. Get a hold of you and your company.
Noah Berk: Yes so you can visit us at oboagency.com. You can email me directly at email@example.com. You know as a company you know what we’re looking for is we are looking for companies that want to take that next step. We’re looking for companies who we feel can use our process that we developed that has been proven time and time again for our clients to succeed in the marketplace, and we’re looking for Generally B2B companies you know can be earlier stage companies, we work with a lot of mature businesses both technology, non technology based companies in terms of the true sense of technology companies; and for me I’m looking for wins you know. If I take you on as a client it’s because I know I can win. If I refer you to someone else it’s because I don’t feel like we’re the best fit for you for one reason or the other.
So feel free to check us out at oboagency, we’re at events, we’re at sponsorships, networking all the time, and I’d love to meet you and if you just want to pick my brain I’m happy to share.
Umar Hameed: Brilliant, thanks so much for sitting down.
Noah Berk: Cool, thank you.