Doug Davidoff: Fighting Against Commoditized Sales Teams

In this 15-Minute Strategy Podcast episode, we talk with Doug Davidoff from Imagine Business Development about how to fight against being a commoditized sales professional or team.

Do you know what your prospects, leads, and customers really want? Maybe, but, is that what they really need.

Listen in as Doug Davidoff takes us through understanding a modern sales playbook and what that means when fighting against being possibly looked at as a commodity in your role as a sales professional.

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About the Expert

Doug Davidoff

Doug is the founder and CEO of Imagine Business Development. He’s directly advised more than a dozen companies who have successfully sold for a combined value of more than $1 billion.

For more than 20 years, Doug has been advising small and mid-market companies that are committed to serious growth who want to hear the truth about achieving it. Doug’s worked, firsthand, with more than 1,500 companies (and seen their financial statements), so he knows the difference between what works, and what sounds good and doesn’t work.


Full Transcript

Dan Moyle 0:08
Ready to spend 15 minutes with the experts you admire need strategy sessions from thought leaders brought directly to your ears. Welcome to the sprocket talk 15 minute strategy podcast where every week George B Thomas uncovers the challenges that sales, marketing and service professionals face and of course the strategies to help them overcome their biggest hurdles. So sit back and set your sights on growth with these bite sized conversations build your strategy goals. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 15 minute strategy pod

George Thomas 0:37
alrights rockets here as I am super excited back with another episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast today we are diving into sales sales strategy and listen. The man the myth legend Doug Davidoff, we were talking before we hit the record button. I am going to tell you that this is going to be very interesting, but yeah, but before we get Get started, I almost pulled a by the way, I almost pulled a Dan Moylan caught you, David, because of your last name. But Doug, before we get into this, why don't you let people know who you are what you do and where do you do it?

Doug Davidoff 1:14
Yeah, hey, George, great to be here. Always fun and exciting to do anything you're doing. For those of you out there that don't know me, I'm Doug Davidoff. I'm the founder and CEO at imagine business development. We've been doing this thing in this iteration Gosh, for 15 years now. We've been working with companies in terms of helping them set up sales structure, sales strategy, sales, process design, and then integrating that through their marketing lead generation demand generation. So basically, they go to market with a holistic, predictable strategy and approach.

George Thomas 1:51
Yeah, Doug, and I am loving that you're wearing your sales Genie hats on the podcast. If you're listening to this, you can't see it. So go Watch it. If you want to see the sales Genie hat, it's absolutely awesome. Doug, here's the thing, we started to talk. At the beginning, before we hit the record button, we were talking about how a lot of sales teams, a lot of individual sales people and kind of this methodology or mentality of commoditizing yourself, which is crazy. And I just want you to kind of unpack that a little bit for the listeners of what sales teams or reps may be doing now, so that we can really lean into the strategy of how to not do that and what they should be doing moving forward.

Doug Davidoff 2:34
Yeah, so let me first state something that I think gets skipped all the time. Because, you know, 15 years ago, when I started talking about commoditization people asked me what did that mean? And so I used to have to give the definition, or at least the definition we created. Now, everyone's familiar with the term so no one asked me more. But I realized, you know, a lot of times it's a very fuzzy definition, we define commoditization as the a systematic process where customers or prospects, stop listening or hearing about the components or things that make you different, unique special. And they reduce you to your lowest common denominator. Typically, not always, but typically that comes down to price, or something equally arbitrary. I know when I worked in an industry for years, it was like you had to be the first to respond if you were not the first to respond. And you know, that led people carrying their cell phones and answering phone calls at 11 o'clock at night returning emails at two o'clock in the morning because they had to be first. Um, and so what's happening is it when you think about commoditization, the thing that's important is it's the customer who commoditize is us. So I'm going to say that the salespeople are commoditizing themselves. What we're doing is we're, we're coming in and the way we talk about ourselves, the way we define ourselves, and it's not always the salespersons fault, by the way. But the way we're defining ourselves first we define ourselves by the solution by the thing that people are looking for. And then when we try to establish that differentiation, we talk a lot about value add, we talk a lot about innovation, we talk a lot about the we dues, you know, that we use George we do this, we do that we do this other thing. And, and we expect the customer or the prospect to be able to understand the nuance between what we do and what someone else does. And so the danger around differentiation is while we're spending all this time trying to differentiate ourselves, we have to realize that our competitors are doing the same thing. And, and when you put that in the complex world that our prospects live in, it just ends up becoming a whole lot of noise. And and what what buyers want, I think more than anything, and Increasingly, the data is beginning to show this again, is they're looking for leadership from salespeople, they're looking, I should say they're looking for leadership from selling organizations, they don't care if it's salespeople, the Weber, whatever. And what they're getting is, I call it catching, they're getting a lot of catches a lot of people, they're good. If the need is clear, and the demand is set and things align, then they're really good at catching the wind competitive business that way. But but they're not. They're not creating sales. And what's worse is, it's what's leading to tighter margins, longer sales cycles, more expensive, costs, slower commissions, if you're selling, having to work harder, etc.

George Thomas 5:44
So Doug, it's interesting as I'm kind of, you're expanding on this and I'm listening, I really want to dive into this catching the perfect ball. Like I'm in my mind, I started like if somebody throws you a curveball or somebody throws you a knuckleball and It's a little bit out of the normal reach because you've just been kind of focused on this like you said, here's what we do, not necessarily who we are or maybe even a deeper level like my mind also went to like, you know, I'm no as dad or maddies father, but I'm also George V Thomas and like when you take that personal side of this in turn into a business, we you know, we sell web design and we sell SEO but what's deeper than that? And and how, what strategy or what can you put into place where instead of this being this commoditized feel instead of being this like ultimate catcher when everything's perfect, how do you almost become the pitcher? Or how do you become known for things at a deeper level that allow you the flexibility across a span of things that may be happening in the sales process?

Doug Davidoff 6:46
You know, George, before we got on and I was briefing you a little bit about this, you asked me is this kind of like the order taker thing. And I want to be clear, when I when I talk about catching on, I'm going to end up using another analogy just to confuse everybody. like catching that perfect ball. That's the order taker. Right? So what I'm saying is I'm I'm not inferring that salespeople are only able to do the job if everything is perfect. We're there a lot of sales, a lot of professional salespeople are catching the curveball or catching the ball that you know, they came at them unpredictably or whatever. But But my point is, is they weren't the reason that the ball drop, they didn't, they didn't influence the ball that got dropped. And this is the other analogy or metaphor that I use just just because the fish are jumping in your boat doesn't mean you're an angler. Right? And so there's a lot of aspects where as long as the fish are jumping out in our area of the water, you've got some salespeople that are really good at getting their boat in a position to catch the fish. But no matter how good you are at that you don't really control your destiny. And as you get to more and more competitive environments, etc. The analogy breaks down You You lose control there. And the reason for that is so you sell web design. Well, what do you sell web design for? Who wants web design? Right? There's there's an old phrase in sales that it's wrong actually. It says last year, millions of drill bits were sold, but nobody bought a drill bit. What did they buy? And the sales? The Legacy sales playbook says, Oh, they bought holes. The drill bit is the feature. You know, the quarter inch drill bit is the feature. The quarter inch hole is the benefit. Except that's not true. Because who wants a hole? Hey, I'm not really doing anything today. I'd like a couple quarter inch holes in my wall. You know, what do they want a quarter inch hole for? Well, they want to build a bookshelf well, so no one bought a drill bit. They bought a bookshelf except nobody wants a bookshelf. Well, they want a place to put their books except nobody wants to place to put their books. What they want is their wife is been yelling at them because the books have been piling up on the dining room table. And she hasn't been able to entertain. And so they're buying a drill bit because they want a better relationship with their wives. Now you think I've gone too far, Black and Decker, the most successful consumer brand for for power tools, selling two men, just about every commercial that they had for decades was a picture of wife picture of man picture a problem. Man does a whole bunch of cool things. man leaves garage, wife leaves front door, they come together, and they embrace Black and Decker one, not because they had better tools. Anybody that competed with them will tell you, they didn't have better tools they want because they sold better relationships. Right? And so what do we want web design for? Well, a lot of times it's because we want more sales, we want more revenue. Now that might not always be the case. It might be we need better investor relations. It might not be you know There's, there's an outcome that that comes from all of the actions that get taken. And the question is, are you defined by the the micro process you support? Or are you defined by the macro outcome that's driving the need for that process.

George Thomas 10:19
And I love this. And it's funny, Doug, a couple of things. I started to go into like, yeah, there's a lot of lucky salespeople out there a lot of lucky sales teams. How do we actually create skilled sales teams and then I don't think you went far. I loved that storytelling of Black and Decker and how it is like 357 layers deep. You like this saying our boy Remington bag likes its chest versus checkers. So now let's lean into the part of where if you're listening to this, how do you What's the strategy? What's the things that you Doug Davidoff have put into place to remind you as you go into the sales process, or you're building out the entire process for it To remember or leverage those deeper levels, like how do you train your brain to think in that way versus Well, we sell SEO or we sell web design.

Doug Davidoff 11:11
So I was lucky, I had a coach early in my career. He told me that Doug, everybody wakes up every morning with the same goal in mind. And I said, Really, what's that? And he said, they don't want to meet you. And, and what he was communicating to me was, nobody wants my stuff. And so that's the first thing I teach any sales or marketing team. Nobody wants your stuff. Don't Don't fall in love with your stuff. what you've got to do is you've got to think about what are the at most three to five? And I would actually say probably one to three. Certainly, if you haven't defined this already, don't go above 123. What are the 123 important results that you impact? Now? You might not impact them fully. You see one of the problems that happens on the sales side is we tended to find ourselves by where we are a total solution. Right? As opposed to where are we a partial solution. So we sell web design to the web department because we solve the whole web problem. We don't solve the whole revenue problem, we solved one small piece of the revenue problem. But a if you don't want to be commoditized, if you want to be able to get involved earlier, if you want to be able to influence the decision to truly influence the decision, you've got to be involved before the need has been defined. So so you start off and this is where marketing and sales are beginning to come together. We've got to teach people so if I sell web design, and I'm about revenue growth, then I'm going to be teaching where web design creates friction or drag for revenue growth, where it creates for and I'm going to connect the dots to you so you've got sales, you've got customer success. You've got even operations, how does web connect to those pieces. And so I'm going to, I'm going to connect those dots. If I'm coming in proactively, I can start at the top, which gives me access to a higher executive level to then work down. Now, by the time I get to web design, the chief revenue officer, the CEO, the, whoever the executive level you're talking to, they're not going to be, they're not going to be dealing with you on the day to day for that, but what they're going to do is they're going to delegate you with authority. Right? As opposed to delegation by abdication. Right. You know, when we, when we talk to the VP of sales or the VP of Marketing, they say, well, you got to talk to my web person about that. That's, that's delegation by abdication. As opposed to, you know, that positive communication where it's been defined, we actually teach a lot of sales organizations we work with to create an executive sponsor agreement. So we might have 115 or 20 minute meeting with the with a high level executives And they actually, they literally signed an agreement that basically says, If I run into any troubles that this gets stuck anywhere, I have the permission to connect to you, and you'll nudge the appropriate people to move this process along. Right. So so that way we're getting that that authority, if you will, but but the key here is we're connecting What is the result? Now, I will tell you, if you're selling b2b, there's only two ultimate results. Everybody sells one of two things. They either sell greater revenue or lower costs. Right. So if you're not connecting those dots, the only two things at the end of the day, we increase revenue, we lower costs, has a margin impact. You've got to be able to know where were you aligned to that point, to be able to trace up or down. So again, if I what I was saying before, if I'm talking to the senior person, I can start at the top and trace down. A lot of times we don't learn about the opportunity until it has been defined. So the first question I get asked when someone says, Hey, Doug, you do sales training, don't you? I'd like to talk to you about doing sales training. My first question is, what are you looking to do sales training for? And the point here is, I'm not going to be able to truly differentiate myself between my sales training and somebody else's sales training, because there's lots of good sales training out there. That's not the question. The question is what's going to drive the outcome? Let's define what that outcome is. And let's actually agree on what the barrier is. That's where your value is. What's the barrier to the outcome? So why are you doing a website? That's, that's the first thing we teach to learn how to do. That is, whatever they're asking. That's great. Why? What are you looking to do that for?

George Thomas 15:45
Yeah, that's super interesting. And it's funny because and I want to lean in and I'm going to ask you a question. I you may have been asked this question. I, you've may have leaned in this way previously, I don't know. But it's where my mind is. Going so as the interviewer, I want to go in this direction, you talk about meeting them at the top, you also kind of leaned in or talked about the conversation being there before they even know what they kind of need as far as the service or the thing that you're selling the layers, the deep that you're going to go. There's this thing that is called the Columbus principle letting people discover America for themselves. Do you think or have you ever used or is this a thing that sales teams or sales professionals should be leaning into to help them get the 357 layers deep, is understand the questions or the conversations that they need to build, to help that prospect lead, discover America for themselves discover that they need to get the books off of the table onto a bookshelf, therefore need a drill because then the wife's gonna be happy and life's gonna be good, maybe unpack and talk me through that. Columbus principle as far as a sales team or sales professional for a minute,

Doug Davidoff 17:04
though, yeah, I've never thought about that from from that perspective before. And I hadn't heard the Columbus principle, but I'm going to steal it. Yeah, either. So So the only thing as you talk about that the only thing that scares me when I heard it is things like that get taught to salespeople get taught to marketing organizations, and, and we advocate, if you will, our, our our authority, so we think it becomes an example of the customer's always right. So I'll sometimes ask a salesperson, well, well, why are we proposing on that? And they'll go, Well, that's what they want. Like, okay, but, but why is that the thing you know, like, Is that the right thing? Well, that's what they want. Right? At that point. We, you know, that that's where that message gets Applied improperly. So you're the thing that's interesting is you said, I think you said lead the customer to discover America for themselves, did you? So I like that terminology. Because if I'm going to lead you to discover it for yourself, I have to know where it is. Right? I have to be the guide, I'm going to I'm going to get you to the place and at the end of the day, the only ideas that matter are there's, by the way, the definition of a great question is a question that causes the customer or prospect to learn about themselves. And as any great lawyer will tell you never ask a question that you don't know the answer to. Right and and so yeah, you I think there's all phrase that I got taught a man convinced against as well as have the same opinion still. And, and so, yeah, we've got to lead them. Again, you know, that that's top down or bottom up, I get a question from salespeople all the time. Well, I can't talk to the executives. They don't they don't want to talk to me. Well, I say to them two things a, that's because you're not talking about the things they they're paying attention to. So start talking about other things. But be you know, what my contact doesn't doesn't want me to. Okay, great. Your sale now is how can you help your your contact discover the the mutual benefit of involving a senior person. That means you have to level up your game so that it's so that it's worth that happening. But But yeah, I mean, really, at the end of the day, all of a sales all a great salesperson is is a tremendous facilitator to make really good decisions.

George Thomas 19:46
Mm hmm. I love that facilitating great decisions. Doug, if people want to contact you, they have questions about you know how to level up their game as far as a sales professional or a sales team. If they want to think You know chess versus checkers, if they want to go into this mindset of, it's less about the customers wants and needs and actually being able to dig in and provide them truly what they're trying to buy the job that needs to be done, if you will, where do you want to send them?

Doug Davidoff 20:16
Go to imagine LLC comm check out the sales genius podcast or just grab me on twitter at Doug Davidoff

George Thomas 20:24
and sprockets ears. Remember to think layers deep ask great questions, and we'll see you on the next episode.

Dan Moyle 20:31
Did you enjoy this episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast we'd love to know. leave a rating and written review wherever you listen to your favorite shows and keep that learning going by visiting sprocket talk comm sign up for your free membership. And in that membership area you can find bundled episodes where we combine like strategies to help you grow better make the world better and share this episode with your friends and co workers who may be battling this same obstacle. You can always reach out to George Thomas on Twitter with questions or guest suggestions or just to talk about your favorite Marvel superhero. I go out into the world and leverage this strategy for your success. And we'll see you on the next episode of the 15 minute strategy podcast.