Stephen Hall received his MBA from Rollins College, Winter Park, FL and began a successful selling career that led him into sales training, regional management and becoming Vice President of Sales for Sensormatic Electronics, a world leader in the electronic security field and a Fortune 500 company (now owned by TYCO).
He has managed sales teams as few as 5 and as many as 120 and revenue from $5M to $130M before becoming CEO of a $20M company. Despite the tough economic slide of 2008, his business grew from $10M to $20M in a four-year period and doubled both the employee base and number of customers. In that time, his expertise went beyond sales to operations, finance and acquisitions.
As a resident of Annapolis since 2000, Steve’s desire to get out of the corporate boardroom and help mid-tier businesses led him to acquire his own business as a Trainer, Mentor and Coach for companies and individual clients. His business, Maryland Sales Training & Management Development relied on Steve’s field expertise in business leadership positions – not just in selling, but also Management, Leadership, Behavioral training, and social media promotion through LinkedIn, Facebook and email blasts. He is a certified DISC instructor and Outmatch (formerly Devine Inventory) Assessments leader.
Steve has been a conference speaker and is a great connector through his networking experiences. In addition to his coaching and mentoring, Steve has served on the Rotary Club of Annapolis’ board of directors, the Y of Central Maryland’s Community Leadership Board and is a competitor and coach for the Annapolis Rowing Club. He is an Emeritus Board Director for the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, headquartered in Alexandria, VA.
[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]
Umar Hameed 0:06
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone, this is Umar Hameed, your host and welcome to the No Limits Selling Podcast, where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how to make you better, stronger, faster. Get ready for another episode.
Umar Hameed 0:35
Hello everyone! Today I have the privilege of having Stephen Hall here with me today, and the reason I'm so excited is that Stephen is a master at opening up large accounts, because we all want those like 2000 fortune 100 accounts, but it is easier said than done. Stephen, welcome to the program.
Stephen Hall 0:54
Thank you for having me Umar.
Umar Hameed 0:56
It's a lot easier when you have 100 person company, you're selling some product or service, you have a good idea who is going to be in the company. And they can just go and there's a decision maker, they make a decision, either do business with you or not. And, you know, "Hey, we live to fight another day!" But when you're going into a large count this such a large investment in time, you need to know the lay of the land, and that's why I'm so excited to have you here today. Stephen, welcome to the program.
Stephen Hall 1:23
Thank you! Great topic.
Umar Hameed 1:25
So Stephen, rather than talk about generic, I know you used to work for Sandler Training a little while ago.
Stephen Hall 1:33
Umar Hameed 1:33
What did you do for those guys?
Stephen Hall 1:35
Well, I sold to corporate accounts, I sold the large corporate accounts, and, and I've also in the past, had an opportunity to work for a fortune 500 company, ao I, I kind of now understand the dynamics, both from being an internal officer of a fortune 500 company, to needing to work to try to penetrate those same types of companies.
Umar Hameed 1:58
So Stephen, what we're going to do today, and this is going to put you on the spot and test your expertise and your resilience is, why don't we invent a fictitious company, there is a consulting company, let's say a sales training company, and what they've got is a new app to make salespeople a lot more effective in what they do, and this app basically ensures salespeople stay in their peak performance and the utilize time really well. And the VCs have said you need to land a large account to get more funding, and I run that company and I come to you, Stephen Hall the consultant, and I say, "Stephen, we need to land a fortune 2000 account., this is what our app does." So be that consultant and help guide me on that journey to land a big account.
Stephen Hall 2:47
Excellent! Excellent! So fundamentally, whether it is that 100 person company you described earlier, or a large behemoth company, fundamentally, the process is the same. There are three core elements that you have to understand and evaluate and make decisions as to go no go based on what you're hearing in these three criteria.
Umar Hameed 3:12
Stephen Hall 3:13
The three criteria, and we'll spend a little bit of time separately on each but the three criteria is the pain. I mean, what's going on? What will your product or service do to either solve a problem or create better opportunities for growth in that company? Those two, those two things we call pain. The second thing is budget, obviously, without the funding, nothing happens. None of us do our services for free, so budget is critical and get snagged a lot of times in big companies. And then the third thing is decision, so I'm sorry, I jumped on you there a little bit, but just to finish decision, that's it's who do you get to the right people so that you can gain that decision. So we can break that down if you'd like.
Umar Hameed 4:03
Brilliant! We'll go breaking that down in a moment. So I've got this app, and not only you know, the pain budget decision, so let's say pain, how would we uncover pain in a large company around the subject? Would it be our best working hypothesis? Or do we do research? And if so, where do we research?
Stephen Hall 4:26
Sure. Of course, large companies, many are public. Therefore many do reporting into the SEC, there's K ones, there's annual reports and such, and you can look at since the sales product that we're talking about, you're probably addressing revenues.
Umar Hameed 4:44
Stephen Hall 4:45
So if you look at the history of revenues, what does it show you growth? Not growth, minimal growth, which is not attractive to anybody or downward you know, reduction in revenue, so when you talk about pain you're trying to assess when you're in front of a good person, such as yourself who's responsible for the revenue is you know what's happening. And you don't start out with a whole series of, "Wow, we just invented this great product and it does ABC, X, Y and Z." You really begin the whole process. It's almost like you're a psychiatrist...
Umar Hameed 5:32
Stephen Hall 5:33
You want to, you want to get and I'm going to presume that you're either the chief revenue officer or maybe the global VP of Sales or someone you know, that has revenue tagged to their back. So I would begin with questions like, "Tell me what's going on with your revenue?" even though I may know it, because I researched it. It's more important than it comes from them.
Umar Hameed 5:58
Brilliant! So let's take a step back for a moment. So these people are well insulated, and they probably get more than one call a day from people wanting to connect with them to have that kind of conversation. So what strategy would you utilize to get an audience with one of these chief revenue officer or VP of international awesomeness?
Stephen Hall 6:21
Yes! Okay, there's multiple strategies, no one is guaranteed to work. But some combination of them certainly usually makes progress for you. I mean, there's the cold call, that's the most difficult of all, stranger call coming in from the blue, that not gonna take it. Probably the more effective thing is, if you have had success with another company, and you talk to maybe the chief revenue officer that you've had success with, and you asked them to do an introduction into the CRO of this other target company that we're looking at. And then there's LinkedIn, when you go out and do research on LinkedIn, and you research the person whose title and position you would really like to speak with, you want to take a look at their connections, see if there's something mutual, see if they are connected with someone that either you or a colleague has had some interaction with, again, maybe for the purpose of getting a referral into seeing that person, those are the chief ways that I found it to be successful.
Umar Hameed 7:33
Brilliant! So you finally get an audience with the the grand blue bar and, what does the first 30 seconds of that call sound like?
Stephen Hall 7:42
Hmm, interesting! Well, if you separate things into two forks in the road, one fork is that, you know, they know they have a problem and that's why they accepted the meeting. The other fork in the road is they are currently focused on that problem and you've kind of come in from out of the blue, so you have to try to capture their desire to continue to talk in that way. So if I take the ladder, I'm gonna start out and say, "Umar, you know, we've helped a lot of major companies like yours, you know, companies who realize that their pipelines are fictitious, they are worth really what they appear to be that they're losing too much to competition," or possibly, it could be that, you know, just the hygiene of the pipeline itself. We're not tracking our wins and losses to understand where we win and why we don't. I don't know, Umar, has, have those thoughts ever crossed your mind? Is that something that you ever dwell on?
Umar Hameed 8:49
So that's a really good question. So let me get a better understanding, a lot of these companies are public, and their pipeline dictates what they're going to forecast for this quarter which impacts their stock price, and yet, a lot of times these pipelines aren't as accurate as they could be, so they've got a compelling reason to do it. Why do you think corporations are so lacks in really guarding the pipeline, so they actually know what's qualified? What isn't? Why do you think there's a disconnect?
Stephen Hall 9:22
The disconnect is probably that they don't have a bonafide documented system in place, and by system, I mean, a selling system. You know, one person's 80% probability to another person may be 60%, or we're still to another person may be 95% probability, right? So we don't have even measurements, and I've suffered from this, you know, as a Sales VP in a fortune 500 company, I would take that pipeline forecast, and depending upon which region it came came from I kind of knew how close to the ground were they. So I would discount this one by 10%, I might discount this other one by 15, I might take this one because they're conservative, and they're pretty strong on their delivery, but that's no, we live, right? because not all the regions, not all of the key leadership are playing to the same term.
Umar Hameed 10:24
Alright, so let's break that down because I think that's a real world kind of problem. So you have the power to hire and fire in your department, and yet, it's difficult to get those different regions to become more accurate like, it's certainly you did the math you needed to do to get an accurate forecast, but did you try and instill that level of rigor at the different regions? And if so, why did it take or did you get pushback? or what happened?
Stephen Hall 10:51
Well, I have no claim to perfection, okay? so, you know, when you're a CRO, you have a huge target on your back, it's one of the toughest positions in any corporate world, because you know, when the company is really pushing good numbers, you don't get that much acclamation, it's, you know, the star salespeople, or the regions or whatever they are performing so well, and they get lavished with heaps of...
Umar Hameed 11:15
Stephen Hall 11:16
...as they should, but for sure, if you're behind on numbers, and you're not hitting your performance, you know, you have a miserable life. So, you know, it's incumbent upon the CRO to recognize that and to make sure that they do establish some sort of a system in place. This is how we're going to measure things, this is what our definitions of probability of closed means.
Umar Hameed 11:41
So Stephen, let me, can I interrupt there just for a minute because I think a lot of VPs have done this, but getting people to actually do it is a different thing. And because sometimes there's a lot of pushback from the frontline salespeople, like, "Hey, do you want me to sell, or do you want me to do your process?" like you decide like that kind of mentality? So how do you win salespeople over to get them to adopt, what's going to be ultimately the best for them because they'll allow their sales to increase pretty radically too?
Stephen Hall 12:12
Well, I do think that there's some behavioral changes that have to take place among the selling leadership team, okay, so it can't all be done by the CRO, see you have clearly you have to set the tone, but then you break it into either your regions or your divisions, right? And those leaders have to all be on the same page, across the country or the globe, if that's the case. At the end of the day, we have to get away from some of the behaviors that we have, and to me over time, one of the most alarming behaviors was what I would consider to be the commit call. You know, the commit call is that Friday afternoon call where the region's you know get on with the high powered executive, and they basically in house, you know, what they're committing to, you know, for the month or the quarter. And those calls, by and large, and I'm gonna stake and get here that 70% of those regional people are telling the senior leadership kind of what they want to hear, rather...
Umar Hameed 13:23
Stephen Hall 13:23
...than what where they really are. It's the behavior that we've driven into the organizations. And it's wrong, I mean, there's got to be permission to be truthful, not permission to make things up, so I dodged the heat for a couple of days.
Umar Hameed 13:41
Right! So let's go back to our example, so one things, we've got this conversation with the chief revenue officer, and we're looking for pain points, and you gave a really good example of how to uncover those. So once we've got the pain points, we need to figure out if our solution connects with those pain points, and let's say it does, where do you go from there?
Stephen Hall 14:03
Right! probably as you wind up uncovering the pain points, you know, you know, again, maybe it's we don't have a system or, you know, we're not keeping good records, we don't have good accountability, whatever it may be. You morph that into what do you think this might cost you, or what could you stand to gain if you had those things in place?
Umar Hameed 14:23
Stephen Hall 14:24
So in this, in essence, you have to try to monetize things in a big company, because, you know, that's all they know, big companies talk in terms of money every single day and you got to talk to them about money. So you have to ask them, well, what would a 5% increase mean to you? And if I'm a $1 billion company, you know, a 5% increase, that's measurable, yeah?
Umar Hameed 14:50
Yeah! $50 million.
Stephen Hall 14:52
Mm hmm. And I got my solution is not going to cost that much.
Umar Hameed 14:57
So let's see that's true and they go, "Oh my god, this is like really important." But they didn't have a budget for this because they didn't know it till you call them and you started this conversation with them. So how do you get, because they'll solve a problem that needs solving, even if they don't have a budget, so how do you get them to cross that bridge?
Stephen Hall 15:15
Okay, my, one of my favorite topics, I think, because first of all, you know, we've all been trained that money is a difficult conversation, you know, I both buy things myself in the world and I sell things in the world, and...
Umar Hameed 15:29
Stephen Hall 15:29
...I bought things in the world, I try to get the best price or you're too high, or I can't afford this kind of feelings, right? And so your buyer in this company has those same feelings too. And what I would say is that you've got to break through this notion of money and budget. And let me explain, in most companies, companies always have an annual budget, they have a P and L...
Umar Hameed 16:00
Stephen Hall 16:01
...and for the most part, unless you have a really good crystal ball, you don't know in October of 2020, what you need to project for capital expenditures or, or operating expenditures in 2021, as you're setting up your budget, right?
Umar Hameed 16:19
Stephen Hall 16:20
And then some are even more advanced than that. So they come into the discussion with you thinking, "I have a budget," and I didn't put this together in my budget. And that right there tends to put on the brakes, both from for them as a buyer, but as the seller, I don't know how to combat that, you know, you don't you don't have a budget for it, I guess well, what can we can we wait a year and put it in for next year, that doesn't work, plus, I'm missing out on 5% growth for my client.
Umar Hameed 16:55
Stephen Hall 16:57
So what everybody out there in sales needs to understand is there's this separate, more important thing than any budget out there and it's called the balance sheet. The balance sheet contains all my assets and liabilities as a company. And the number one line on the very top of that asset portion of the balance sheet is cash. And it is so fun to go to any billion dollar company. And if they're public, you can pull that up and you can pull up their balance sheet and you can see they may have $489 million in cash. Now, can they tell me honestly, they don't have the money for this project?
Umar Hameed 17:43
Stephen Hall 17:44
But we're not getting him to think about it, right? What we're getting him to think about is, you know what, I know you didn't put this in your budget, I know, you didn't think about starting the year needing to have to fix this and, and spend this kind of money, let's say our solution is $100,000. But if they're convinced that the solution can gain them a 5% uplift in revenue, that 500 million, right?
Umar Hameed 18:11
Stephen Hall 18:12
If, if I only have to spend 100 million to get five, wouldn't I want to take that to someone in a position of authority and say,"You know, didn't put this in the budget, didn't see it coming," pretty solidly believe that we can do this and see a jump in our revenue, which is going to flow a lot of money back down to our bottom line? And would that cause you to be able to have a conversation with someone, you know, who will be in a position to make a decision? You see, the The bottom line is we're afraid, we're afraid that we've been given a budget and we can't go talk to the CFO,
Umar Hameed 18:54
Stephen Hall 18:54
...we can't go talk to the CEO or whatever organizational leadership structure we report into.
Umar Hameed 19:01
So how do you, because the person you're talking to right now, sometimes, because we all have money issues. Sometimes they're like, "Hey, Stephen, that's fantastic. let me go get some more money, we're going to make this happen." And other times they go hand in hand, and they're already predisposed to hearing a no. And so the way they pitch it is going to be done poorly, even though in their area of expertise, they would probably be really strong and powerful. So you as a sales rep, how do you empower that person to go ask for the cash in a way that they are more likely to get a yes, do you coach them? Do you try and get a meeting directly yourself with them? What's the strategy there?
Stephen Hall 19:39
Well, either of those two is a better strategy than hope.
Umar Hameed 19:45
Stephen Hall 19:46
You know, I hope he'll do this job and get it done. You know, you need to take him or her and you need to say, "Look, there's a couple ways we can do this. You tell me what you think works best in your organization. I can coach you, and we can talk about it, we can, you know, put some metrics down on, on paper, we can kind of show what the goals of the program are going to be and what the return on investment will look like...
Umar Hameed 20:13
Stephen Hall 20:13
...so I can coach you on all those things. And then we can even roleplay let's, let's make an appointment and kind of role play. And I'll pretend like I'm the senior executive and take that role, and you come in and do the presentation for me. I'm also happy to join you, right? if we do this properly, and tee it up properly." But see here, where we get to this stage of the game, is where we kind of shift into that third element I spoke of earlier, which is decision.
Umar Hameed 20:46
Stephen Hall 20:47
We now have to make sure that we get I mean, because the CRO may say, "Wow, you know, this could make my life tons easier. I'm loving this" But if they don't think they can get in front of the right people, or get them to take a look at the expenditure in a different way, then it's not gonna happen, they may want it, you know, till the cows come home, but it's just not going to happen. So we now have to worry about decision makers. And we have to develop internal coaches, we have to maybe set up some additional meetings. And the key thing is in large corporations, if I spend $100,000, you know, I don't do that necessarily willy nilly, right? I need to follow a certain process and it will involve, you know, people in the financial part of it a division controller or a CRO, a, a CFO, I meant to say, and then it may even hit to CEO, it all depends on the size of the company and how they make their decisions.
Umar Hameed 21:55
And the size of the deal.
Stephen Hall 21:56
But yes, and the best thing that you can do, best question I've ever found is, "So Umar, you know, the last time your company made $100,000 decision on something like this, can you map for me how that went? It started with you, and then where did it go? And then after that, and then after that?" I mean, you want a map, you hopefully have earned enough trust and confidence in whom you're working with, they want your solution. So now let's get them to help you understand where you have to go next because now you understand, you know, where am I in this stuffing process and how long will each of those steps take to take place.
Umar Hameed 22:49
So that's totally brilliant! Because if you ask them, you know, how is this decision made? It's a different filter inside their head. So either they can actually shortchange the answer, or change the reality of what actually happens versus what they want you to know, but asking the, "Tell me about another time," opens up a different filter and there's less ego involved there, they just kind of reporting a story in and I think I love the way you say, "Okay, this happened, then what happened next year," helping them remember all the steps, which is totally brilliant. So Stephen how can you help organizations go into larger accounts? How can people get ahold of you to figure out how to do it really well and help their teams become better, stronger, faster?
Stephen Hall 23:32
Sure. So I'm at this point, kind of a freelance gun for hire for projects, espec...especially on working with organizations to do this sort of penetration. You can find me on LinkedIn, under Stephen, with a PHEN, Hall, and you can also send an email to me it's firstname.lastname@example.org. Those would be two areas, and you know, I am in a position right now where I'm in a giveback mode, where I am trying to help other people excel. And so coaching and training and mentoring is in my DNA and I'm happy to help any...
Umar Hameed 24:16
Stephen Hall 24:16
...comes out to me.
Umar Hameed 24:18
Superb Stephen, thanks so much for being on the show.
Stephen Hall 24:20
Appreciate it, Umar. Good selling everybody.
Umar Hameed 24:27
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.