Sales is a noble profession: George Leith on trust and integrity in sales

“I believe that sales is solving people's problems for profit, and you got to make money at the end of the day. Cause you got bills to pay. Profit is an important component because without it, you don't have a business. But what I learned a long time ago is if your mission is to truly help your customer, the profits will take care of themselves.”  

George Leith is the Chief Customer Officer at Vendasta and the Host and Executive Producer of the Conquer Local Podcast. Join him as he takes a deep dive into what drives a salesperson today.  

Learn about things like:

- Building trust with your customers

- Why integrity matters in sales

- How commissions drive sales reps

- Why sales is about helping people

Kushal: Hi there. Welcome to “On the Flip Side”, a podcast for anyone who wants to live their best sales life. We're going to be talking to buyers, sales managers, SDRs and AEs about things like, what does it take to be a great sales manager? Or how can you go home happy month after month? So let's dive right in. 

Okay, folks, Welcome back to “On the Flip Side” with Wingman. I'm your host per usual, Kushal. Now I do not have the right words to describe today's guest, except for saying that listening to one of his most recent podcast appearances on the left better, self-better podcast, with Kevin Dorsey cutting, buzzing with ideas and inspiration. George Leith, welcome to the show. Great to have you here.

George Leith: Well, thank you very much appreciate the invitation.

Kushal: And just so that our listeners know, George is the Chief Customer Officer at Vendasta and host of the popular Conquer Local podcast among a lot of other roles. George, before we really get into the nitty gritty of sales and technology, and all of that, can you just tell me more about Conquer Local and its mission?

George Leith: Well, Kushal, it's kind of surreal, Conquer Local is a brand that we created a number of years back to articulate the culture of our organization where we're helping local businesses conquer their local market, and get their message out and service their customers better. And we're all about serving local economies. And in order to do that, we chose a channel partner model where we use channel partners in the various countries that we do business. And they go to the end customer, which is usually a small or medium business, and provide products and services. 

So you know, we have our internal team that acquires new channel partners and works with those channel partners. And then we have the channel partner sales teams, which are a stakeholder in the ecosystem as well that we empower with marketing tools and sales training, so that they can be more effective. So Vendasta, at the highest layer, is a technology platform, an end to end platform. But then we also are a thought leader in the ecosystem with our various channel partners and their sales and customer service teams, and how they present those products to their customer base. So you know, our current count was about 475, I'm sorry, at current count, we're at about 575 people here in Vendasta, up 175 from last year, so some rocket ship growth there. Our channel partner ecosystem is approaching 60,000 channel partners and 50 different countries. And then those channel partners work with over 6 million end users or small and medium enterprises. So it's quite a large ecosystem. There's almost 1000 different products and services in our marketplace that can be sold through by those channel partners to those end users. So we have a lot of sales stakeholders in our organization and ecosystem.

Kushal: Amazing stuff, George. So one of my next questions is that I suspected creating value for the community is probably one of the core tenants of the Vendasta and Conquer Local as well?

George Leith: Yes, our chief operating officer Jackie Cook had a vision that we could do one too many. So you know, one too many sales training, one too many product training, webinars one too many. And then the concept of would the community, the users, the raving fans of the platform, would they then start to participate as well. So the Conquer Local Academy, you know, was this concept of a learning management system, one too many, but it's become much more than that. It really is an ecosystem, where we have the Conquer Local community where you can come in and ask questions of other users and get their feedback or, you know, ask them if they've got a great template for a proposal or an automation, or a marketing automation campaign. Those conversations are happening every day. We then put a number of courses into the platform for learners to learn about how to use the system or how to go to market. And then we have this podcast, which we started about four years ago, which interviews top sales leaders and gets their insights and feedback on what's happening in the space. We do what we call master Sales series episodes, which is all about teaching. We have some guests that just have great other podcasts like Kevin Dorsey, who you mentioned earlier, who's been on the Conquer Local podcasts, and I've been on his podcast. So we have that ecosystem that is going on. And then we have the conference. And in the early days, we all got together at a conference facility. And then that was put on hold due to COVID and we did a virtual conference. And now you'll probably see more and more of those virtual conferences. So yeah, Conquer Local is the overarching ecosystem of the community of channel partners that are on Vendasta platform.

Kushal: Now, obviously, a lot of challenges in going digital and online for local businesses. And this is maybe one of the biggest challenges that we've seen in the past year or two. How do you think we can really make sure to take everyone ahead with us?

George Leith: You know, my background is in the media business. So I've been dealing with local businesses my entire career, and then I owned businesses for 10 years of my career. So I know the challenges firsthand from my customers in the days that I was serving those businesses and then from sitting on the other side of the desk. Local’s hard, and running a local business is difficult because you're doing everything is that business owner. And if you're the entrepreneur, your butt is on the line. So I feel pretty good waking up every day to be able to help those local businesses with the challenge of feeding their kids and supporting their communities. And we just have to look to the past 600 and some odd days, there's a bunch of local businesses that we dealt with that aren't there anymore, unfortunately, due to the economic circumstances of COVID. So I think we all have a new appreciation for those local business owners and what they mean to our society, our culture, and our economies. 

So with that comes this massive challenge of adoption of technology, how do they keep up because the world is moving under their feet, and they need a trusted local expert to help them on that journey. And that's who we power is the trusted local experts in each of the communities that are working with their set of 20, 30, 200 local businesses. So we are right at that epicenter of technology trust in need, the local business needs the technology, the technology providers need to be able to get it in the hands of local businesses. And there needs to be that trusted expert in the middle, that kind of that general contractor, that educator or tour guide who can help those local businesses, connect with the technology providers that will help them in their day to day operations. So that's what we wake up to do every day. And that's what we wake up to power our channel partners to do every day.

Kushal: It almost sounds like profits are maybe not your number one goal, but maybe they're a byproduct of the sort of value that you're trying to kind of provide to your channel partners and downstream. Is that correct?

George Leith: Well, you know, it's a great question. I've been on lots of podcasts, lots of interviews, and I love this question. I believe that sales is solving people's problems for profit, and you got to make money, at the end of the day, because you got bills to pay, you got to be able to pay your staff, you got to be able to give them a Christmas bonus, you got to be able to keep the lights on inside your facility to innovate and bring new products to market. So I'm not ever afraid to say that profit is an important component, because without it, you don't have a business. But what I learned a long time ago is if your mission is to truly help your customer, the profits will take care of themselves.

Kushal: Do you think in the heat of the moment sometimes it's difficult for sellers and sales rep to really kind of, you know, put aside the need really and just kind of push their agenda and make their sale?

George Leith: Well, more and more that's becoming increasingly difficult to set unreal expectations, to maybe lie about a data point or something like that, you know, sales changed a long time ago, the sellers that were out there just for themselves to get that sale and move on to the next one, that just isn't enough. Next ones out there. Eventually someone will tell the community at large that you are not delivering on your promises. So you know, I believe that we should help the customer reach a decision. Here's all the facts, here's the economic benefit. Here's what happens if you don't make this decision today. And then they get to make the decision at the end of the day. But those days of, you know, maybe if I just creep this data point up this much, they'll say yes, or all just, you know, tell the truth in advance on something that's on the roadmap next year, and say that we have it now and they maybe they won't notice. That isn't… it was never really all that easy. Because eventually it would come back to bite you. But now it's really difficult because the guy just picks up their phone and starts researching all the things he said in the meeting and the Zoom meeting in this podcast. And we'll say, you know, George wasn't telling the right numbers like that stuff will come back to hurt your integrity. And it's very easy for a customer to jump on their soapbox and tell the world that you did not align our expectation you set. Oh, and then everything's recorded as we are right now.

Kushal: Yeah, that's true. So go back a little bit to you know, when you spoke about how sales has sort of changed, but I think the basics are really the same. As someone who's seen enough sales trends, what do you think are some of the sales trends, values or principles really that you think will stick around and pass the test of time there?

George Leith: There is never enough good salespeople. So in all the years that I've been doing this, I found that if you ask anybody that's saying, I'm looking to hire a good salesperson, that has always been the constant and it's more true today than it's ever been there. Also, strangely enough there is no school that you can go to become a better seller. There are courses online that are getting close to that, which is really exciting to see. But when I was in high school thinking about what my career would be, I couldn't go to university to become a professional salesperson or professional sales manager. So I think it's a big gap because we need salespeople to help facilitate commerce, but I think that we're starting to bridge that gap, and then the next piece is, is the ability to remove the stigma that exists around sales that it's always you got to be lying or you're not selling, that isn't the case. If you are helping, you actually sell exponentially more, because you build trust with that customer. You know, I've got this new thing I've done a lot of speaking over the last nine years, and I probably should trademark a couple of things that have been long lived and have resonated with folks. 

But the new thing that I'm talking about is a trust matrix. So every interaction with a customer as these two factors, trust and fear, the customer or the prospect has fear. And that fear is put there for a number of reasons, they may be bought things that didn't work out for them, there's other people trying to sell to them that are adding fear to the transaction, and your job is to help them and to help build trust in the minds of that person that you're interacting with whether it's a long standing customer or a prospect. And if we put that lens over every one of the conversations that we had, did I build more fear in that last eight minutes? Or, did I actually layer in more trust that we're the right organization that I'm the right individual to help this account that we have the right products that can solve the problem that I heard them correctly when they articulated their need. So the trust matrix, it's overtop of every conversation or every interaction that we have. And I like boiling it down to just those two components, because then we can start to measure how we're communicating. And when we're bringing that value, like I love that line, bring value. But what really is it it's about showing that you really understand the problem, that you really listen to the customer that you can actually deliver on your promises, that adjudication is happening the moment they start talking to prospects, and then throughout the lifecycle of the client.

Kushal: To go back a little bit to building trust, right, I think that's probably one of the most talked about, wondered about sort of thing, right? How do you build trust with your prospects or in sales? And it seems to be the number one, maybe at the heart of, you know, most sales objections as well. So I guess the question is, how do you really build trust with your prospects?

George Leith: Well, you gotta have a good reputation that you've solved problems, and that there are people that will talk about that and say that you've done a good job, you know, testimonials, or online reviews, as they are today. So you know, going out there every day, and doing what you say you're going to do, and when it doesn't meet the mark, to claim it, and say, yes, that didn't work out, let's figure out whether we can make it work that all of those items are the foundation, it comes down to integrity. 

And then the next piece is, is it repeatable what you're doing? Or do you have to continue to refine it to make sure that what you're delivering works. Most of the time, now you can have the odds slip up, but you got to be solving for those slip ups, so that you can make sure that you're delivering on their promises. Now, that's the next piece over the under promise and over deliver. It's one of the oldest lines in sales, but it's really, really important. Because you're right, it's that trust component. So when you say I'm gonna call you tomorrow at three o'clock, and you call the next day at three o'clock, with three excuses in the middle, you are not building trust. And you know, just making it to the appointment on time is part of building trust. I saw something great yesterday with these backgrounds that people have on the calls that you and I are on what happens when you blur your background? What happens when you put a fake background? I know you're not on the beach? And if you are on the beach, do you know those types of things? Is that building trust? Or is it you know, putting fear in the mind of the prospect if they don't want to show me what's behind them what's really behind, you know, all of those things. 

So it's hard. It is at the heart of what we do is professional salespeople. And the building of trust comes from the repetitions of delivering on what you say you're going to deliver on if you don't know, say you don't know, don't make it up and seeking to over deliver and under promise rather than the opposite, which just doesn't work out for anybody.

Kushal: George, to talk about, you know, some things, you know, being the oldest lines in sales, right? What are maybe some of the other best practices in that sense that you think that you hope and wish really that people would carry on to do in sales?

George Leith: I tell you one that I want to get rid of “always be closing” you know, that's a famous sales line. But I think it's always be helping and I think it always was always be helping but you know, some overzealous sales managers that had to meet their target will ran into a room and yelled at reps and told them to always be closing or as a would win the second prize of a set of steak knives. 

So I think that there are tenants of sales that you go away forever, like the bag and the one cheater and you just go in there and hope to get the deal and then you know that sort of stuff robots will just take your job because they can do it better than then we can do it door to door so I'm not saying that we don't need to go door to door some jobs you have to go door to door to do it. But you know that whole idea of I like this analogy of sales. I'm the tour guide. And I'm going to take you through, Kushal, on the most amazing tour of how my solutions can solve your problems and how I've done it for countless other customers. And at no time on that tour, well, bad things happen to you. And if you think about that, from tours that we've been on, I was on a beautiful tour of Rome one day, there's a great lady named Chiara that took us on a tour of 4 hours all the hotspots of Rome. No one fell down and twisted their ankle, thank goodness, because Chiara knew what Ali's not to take us down, where we might have a bad experience that that's the analogy that I like using in what sales professionals could be, is that tour guide that's got sterling reviews, they've done a great job taking people on a tour and getting them to their destination.

Kushal: What do you think, maybe some of the things that people are doing better today than yesterday?

George Leith: Listening, I think that it's getting beat in people's heads. And we've got tools that help us to say, hey, that last call, you talked 75% of the time. And our job is to let the customer talk about their business. And it's something that all salespeople trip up on, we get passionate and not passionate is exciting, because we believe in what we're talking about, we believe that we've got the solution. But we need to make sure that we're listening to that customer. And I think it's easier to listen. And by the way, they don't even have to open their mouths for us to listen. We can read their content online, we can see what they're posting on social media, we can watch their video channel on YouTube, there's many more places that we can go to listen to the prospect or the customer to see what's being said. And actually, the real good sales organizations are listening to those other channels as much as they're listening to the client when they can get them on the phone. Because the insights that you can gain from that other listening that we do through research can really help you in understanding how you can solve that customer's problem.

Kushal: It sounds like introverts have a really, really good chance of being really good in sales, right? 

George Leith: Sorry. 

Kushal: It sounds like introverts have a really good chance of being great in sales because there's just so much listening?

George Leith: Well, and, you know, I just had a gentleman on my podcast here recently, Matthew Poehler who wrote the book around “Introvert Selling”, and I, as we were going through it, and I started to really realize what he was speaking to. I believe that introverts are great salespeople and ever we only got to be an extrovert. I'm obviously an extrovert. I don't think that that's a surprise to anybody. But when I started listening to Matthew on the episodes of our podcast, and he started going through why introverts are great salespeople, I was like, Whoa, there's some traits in there that I wish that I had that were stronger in my personality, just

Kushal: George, to just go back a little bit to this really great analogy that you just shared, right, of salespeople being more like tour guides than anything else. Maybe the challenge for salespeople is that at the end of being a tour guide, what's your take home is kind of linked also to the commission that they get. Do you think it's really time to kind of reload compensation plans? And a lot of people are talking about this. What's your take?

George Leith: Yeah, it's an interesting challenge. It's long lived comp plans are always something that is in flux. And in my early days, in the media business was pretty simple comp plan, you got 15% of whatever you sold and collected, and did that lead to bad behavior, you know, straight commission, no base, I think that it probably did a little bit because you’re as long as you're over plan, and you're over what you need to eat, you're doing well, but then you have that bad month, and you have a tendency to I gotta do what I gotta do, I gotta feed my kids. So I don't know, I also don't know what kind of talent you're going to get with 100% commission plan nowadays, because there are organizations that will compensate for, you know, a level of base plus, but I believe that commission is what drives a great salesperson. And if it is, if the plan is put in place properly, where maybe and I know, claw backs are not very popular, but if you say the wrong things to the customer, and they don't come true, there has to be some consequences, especially if I paid you for it. So you know, I don't know if I have a full answer of this. But I do believe that it's something that sales leaders need to be constantly watching is, is the compensation plan leading to the behavior that you're looking for? And just expect somebody to gamify the system. I think it's so funny when we roll out a comp plan. And some manager is super surprised when some smart rep figures out a way to gamify the system. Just anticipate that going into it and look at it and say how would I game a fight easy for me because back in the early days, I got sales managers didn't like me very much because I gamified lots of systems, but I'm just saying it's like it's going to happen. So just expect it and build a plan that is bulletproof, and then expect it to be wrong, because they're always wrong at some point in time and you got to make some sort of adjustment to it's like, okay, we got the comp plan done. You don't know I got news for you. In 35 years of doing this, it's never been. Also another thing that has never happened in 35 years and 1000s of salespeople that I've worked with, not once have I heard a salesperson say to the CFO, I think you paid me too much. I think there's too much commission on this check.

Kushal: Yeah, I probably wouldn't hear that one either. This is probably my last question for you on the podcast, like you said, right, 35 years, what's the number one impact that you want to drive on the world?

George Leith: I want people to understand that sales is a noble profession, that it has an enormous amount of value in what we do on a day to day basis. I work with a lot of great young new sellers, I have that privilege. And I don't take that for granted. And the one thing that I like to tell them is if you do this, right, and you have that level of integrity, and you put the work in, you can earn as much income as you pretty much want. Like, it really is that open of a book you can earn, like a doctor or a lawyer or a dentist, or a politician. You know, it is a noble profession. Doing it a long time and I really love waking up every day and helping people is a great every day. Of course it isn't. There's no job out there that there is one show me that job. But I will tell you that waking up every day and helping people solve their problems and hearing from people that you've been involved with that you really made a difference. And you know, I'll never forget that you know this that is exciting. And that can happen in sales that can happen in becoming what I like to call a sales professional, someone who helps solve people's problems for profit.

Kushal: So I think that's the best note to probably wrap up this podcast on. Thanks so much for being a guest with us. Appreciate your time.

George Leith: Kushal, it's been a privilege and I appreciate the flexibility on your schedule, because we're halfway around the world. So what a great time to be alive that we could meet here and have this conversation halfway around the world from each other. 

Kushal: Yeah, thanks so much.

Sales is a noble profession: George on trust and integrity in sales

Sales is a noble profession | On The Flip Side Teasers

“I believe that sales is solving people's problems for profit, and you got to make money at the end of the day. Cause you got bills to pay. Profit is an important component because without it, you don't have a business. But what I learned a long time ago is if your mission is to truly help your customer, the profits will take care of themselves.”  

George Leith is the Chief Customer Officer at Vendasta and the Host and Executive Producer of the Conquer Local Podcast. Join him as he takes a deep dive into what drives a salesperson today.  

Learn about things like:

- Building trust with your customers

- Why integrity matters in sales

- How commissions drive sales reps

- Why sales is about helping people

Kushal: Hi there. Welcome to “On the Flip Side”, a podcast for anyone who wants to live their best sales life. We're going to be talking to buyers, sales managers, SDRs and AEs about things like, what does it take to be a great sales manager? Or how can you go home happy month after month? So let's dive right in. 

Okay, folks, Welcome back to “On the Flip Side” with Wingman. I'm your host per usual, Kushal. Now I do not have the right words to describe today's guest, except for saying that listening to one of his most recent podcast appearances on the left better, self-better podcast, with Kevin Dorsey cutting, buzzing with ideas and inspiration. George Leith, welcome to the show. Great to have you here.

George Leith: Well, thank you very much appreciate the invitation.

Kushal: And just so that our listeners know, George is the Chief Customer Officer at Vendasta and host of the popular Conquer Local podcast among a lot of other roles. George, before we really get into the nitty gritty of sales and technology, and all of that, can you just tell me more about Conquer Local and its mission?

George Leith: Well, Kushal, it's kind of surreal, Conquer Local is a brand that we created a number of years back to articulate the culture of our organization where we're helping local businesses conquer their local market, and get their message out and service their customers better. And we're all about serving local economies. And in order to do that, we chose a channel partner model where we use channel partners in the various countries that we do business. And they go to the end customer, which is usually a small or medium business, and provide products and services. 

So you know, we have our internal team that acquires new channel partners and works with those channel partners. And then we have the channel partner sales teams, which are a stakeholder in the ecosystem as well that we empower with marketing tools and sales training, so that they can be more effective. So Vendasta, at the highest layer, is a technology platform, an end to end platform. But then we also are a thought leader in the ecosystem with our various channel partners and their sales and customer service teams, and how they present those products to their customer base. So you know, our current count was about 475, I'm sorry, at current count, we're at about 575 people here in Vendasta, up 175 from last year, so some rocket ship growth there. Our channel partner ecosystem is approaching 60,000 channel partners and 50 different countries. And then those channel partners work with over 6 million end users or small and medium enterprises. So it's quite a large ecosystem. There's almost 1000 different products and services in our marketplace that can be sold through by those channel partners to those end users. So we have a lot of sales stakeholders in our organization and ecosystem.

Kushal: Amazing stuff, George. So one of my next questions is that I suspected creating value for the community is probably one of the core tenants of the Vendasta and Conquer Local as well?

George Leith: Yes, our chief operating officer Jackie Cook had a vision that we could do one too many. So you know, one too many sales training, one too many product training, webinars one too many. And then the concept of would the community, the users, the raving fans of the platform, would they then start to participate as well. So the Conquer Local Academy, you know, was this concept of a learning management system, one too many, but it's become much more than that. It really is an ecosystem, where we have the Conquer Local community where you can come in and ask questions of other users and get their feedback or, you know, ask them if they've got a great template for a proposal or an automation, or a marketing automation campaign. Those conversations are happening every day. We then put a number of courses into the platform for learners to learn about how to use the system or how to go to market. And then we have this podcast, which we started about four years ago, which interviews top sales leaders and gets their insights and feedback on what's happening in the space. We do what we call master Sales series episodes, which is all about teaching. We have some guests that just have great other podcasts like Kevin Dorsey, who you mentioned earlier, who's been on the Conquer Local podcasts, and I've been on his podcast. So we have that ecosystem that is going on. And then we have the conference. And in the early days, we all got together at a conference facility. And then that was put on hold due to COVID and we did a virtual conference. And now you'll probably see more and more of those virtual conferences. So yeah, Conquer Local is the overarching ecosystem of the community of channel partners that are on Vendasta platform.

Kushal: Now, obviously, a lot of challenges in going digital and online for local businesses. And this is maybe one of the biggest challenges that we've seen in the past year or two. How do you think we can really make sure to take everyone ahead with us?

George Leith: You know, my background is in the media business. So I've been dealing with local businesses my entire career, and then I owned businesses for 10 years of my career. So I know the challenges firsthand from my customers in the days that I was serving those businesses and then from sitting on the other side of the desk. Local’s hard, and running a local business is difficult because you're doing everything is that business owner. And if you're the entrepreneur, your butt is on the line. So I feel pretty good waking up every day to be able to help those local businesses with the challenge of feeding their kids and supporting their communities. And we just have to look to the past 600 and some odd days, there's a bunch of local businesses that we dealt with that aren't there anymore, unfortunately, due to the economic circumstances of COVID. So I think we all have a new appreciation for those local business owners and what they mean to our society, our culture, and our economies. 

So with that comes this massive challenge of adoption of technology, how do they keep up because the world is moving under their feet, and they need a trusted local expert to help them on that journey. And that's who we power is the trusted local experts in each of the communities that are working with their set of 20, 30, 200 local businesses. So we are right at that epicenter of technology trust in need, the local business needs the technology, the technology providers need to be able to get it in the hands of local businesses. And there needs to be that trusted expert in the middle, that kind of that general contractor, that educator or tour guide who can help those local businesses, connect with the technology providers that will help them in their day to day operations. So that's what we wake up to do every day. And that's what we wake up to power our channel partners to do every day.

Kushal: It almost sounds like profits are maybe not your number one goal, but maybe they're a byproduct of the sort of value that you're trying to kind of provide to your channel partners and downstream. Is that correct?

George Leith: Well, you know, it's a great question. I've been on lots of podcasts, lots of interviews, and I love this question. I believe that sales is solving people's problems for profit, and you got to make money, at the end of the day, because you got bills to pay, you got to be able to pay your staff, you got to be able to give them a Christmas bonus, you got to be able to keep the lights on inside your facility to innovate and bring new products to market. So I'm not ever afraid to say that profit is an important component, because without it, you don't have a business. But what I learned a long time ago is if your mission is to truly help your customer, the profits will take care of themselves.

Kushal: Do you think in the heat of the moment sometimes it's difficult for sellers and sales rep to really kind of, you know, put aside the need really and just kind of push their agenda and make their sale?

George Leith: Well, more and more that's becoming increasingly difficult to set unreal expectations, to maybe lie about a data point or something like that, you know, sales changed a long time ago, the sellers that were out there just for themselves to get that sale and move on to the next one, that just isn't enough. Next ones out there. Eventually someone will tell the community at large that you are not delivering on your promises. So you know, I believe that we should help the customer reach a decision. Here's all the facts, here's the economic benefit. Here's what happens if you don't make this decision today. And then they get to make the decision at the end of the day. But those days of, you know, maybe if I just creep this data point up this much, they'll say yes, or all just, you know, tell the truth in advance on something that's on the roadmap next year, and say that we have it now and they maybe they won't notice. That isn't… it was never really all that easy. Because eventually it would come back to bite you. But now it's really difficult because the guy just picks up their phone and starts researching all the things he said in the meeting and the Zoom meeting in this podcast. And we'll say, you know, George wasn't telling the right numbers like that stuff will come back to hurt your integrity. And it's very easy for a customer to jump on their soapbox and tell the world that you did not align our expectation you set. Oh, and then everything's recorded as we are right now.

Kushal: Yeah, that's true. So go back a little bit to you know, when you spoke about how sales has sort of changed, but I think the basics are really the same. As someone who's seen enough sales trends, what do you think are some of the sales trends, values or principles really that you think will stick around and pass the test of time there?

George Leith: There is never enough good salespeople. So in all the years that I've been doing this, I found that if you ask anybody that's saying, I'm looking to hire a good salesperson, that has always been the constant and it's more true today than it's ever been there. Also, strangely enough there is no school that you can go to become a better seller. There are courses online that are getting close to that, which is really exciting to see. But when I was in high school thinking about what my career would be, I couldn't go to university to become a professional salesperson or professional sales manager. So I think it's a big gap because we need salespeople to help facilitate commerce, but I think that we're starting to bridge that gap, and then the next piece is, is the ability to remove the stigma that exists around sales that it's always you got to be lying or you're not selling, that isn't the case. If you are helping, you actually sell exponentially more, because you build trust with that customer. You know, I've got this new thing I've done a lot of speaking over the last nine years, and I probably should trademark a couple of things that have been long lived and have resonated with folks. 

But the new thing that I'm talking about is a trust matrix. So every interaction with a customer as these two factors, trust and fear, the customer or the prospect has fear. And that fear is put there for a number of reasons, they may be bought things that didn't work out for them, there's other people trying to sell to them that are adding fear to the transaction, and your job is to help them and to help build trust in the minds of that person that you're interacting with whether it's a long standing customer or a prospect. And if we put that lens over every one of the conversations that we had, did I build more fear in that last eight minutes? Or, did I actually layer in more trust that we're the right organization that I'm the right individual to help this account that we have the right products that can solve the problem that I heard them correctly when they articulated their need. So the trust matrix, it's overtop of every conversation or every interaction that we have. And I like boiling it down to just those two components, because then we can start to measure how we're communicating. And when we're bringing that value, like I love that line, bring value. But what really is it it's about showing that you really understand the problem, that you really listen to the customer that you can actually deliver on your promises, that adjudication is happening the moment they start talking to prospects, and then throughout the lifecycle of the client.

Kushal: To go back a little bit to building trust, right, I think that's probably one of the most talked about, wondered about sort of thing, right? How do you build trust with your prospects or in sales? And it seems to be the number one, maybe at the heart of, you know, most sales objections as well. So I guess the question is, how do you really build trust with your prospects?

George Leith: Well, you gotta have a good reputation that you've solved problems, and that there are people that will talk about that and say that you've done a good job, you know, testimonials, or online reviews, as they are today. So you know, going out there every day, and doing what you say you're going to do, and when it doesn't meet the mark, to claim it, and say, yes, that didn't work out, let's figure out whether we can make it work that all of those items are the foundation, it comes down to integrity. 

And then the next piece is, is it repeatable what you're doing? Or do you have to continue to refine it to make sure that what you're delivering works. Most of the time, now you can have the odds slip up, but you got to be solving for those slip ups, so that you can make sure that you're delivering on their promises. Now, that's the next piece over the under promise and over deliver. It's one of the oldest lines in sales, but it's really, really important. Because you're right, it's that trust component. So when you say I'm gonna call you tomorrow at three o'clock, and you call the next day at three o'clock, with three excuses in the middle, you are not building trust. And you know, just making it to the appointment on time is part of building trust. I saw something great yesterday with these backgrounds that people have on the calls that you and I are on what happens when you blur your background? What happens when you put a fake background? I know you're not on the beach? And if you are on the beach, do you know those types of things? Is that building trust? Or is it you know, putting fear in the mind of the prospect if they don't want to show me what's behind them what's really behind, you know, all of those things. 

So it's hard. It is at the heart of what we do is professional salespeople. And the building of trust comes from the repetitions of delivering on what you say you're going to deliver on if you don't know, say you don't know, don't make it up and seeking to over deliver and under promise rather than the opposite, which just doesn't work out for anybody.

Kushal: George, to talk about, you know, some things, you know, being the oldest lines in sales, right? What are maybe some of the other best practices in that sense that you think that you hope and wish really that people would carry on to do in sales?

George Leith: I tell you one that I want to get rid of “always be closing” you know, that's a famous sales line. But I think it's always be helping and I think it always was always be helping but you know, some overzealous sales managers that had to meet their target will ran into a room and yelled at reps and told them to always be closing or as a would win the second prize of a set of steak knives. 

So I think that there are tenants of sales that you go away forever, like the bag and the one cheater and you just go in there and hope to get the deal and then you know that sort of stuff robots will just take your job because they can do it better than then we can do it door to door so I'm not saying that we don't need to go door to door some jobs you have to go door to door to do it. But you know that whole idea of I like this analogy of sales. I'm the tour guide. And I'm going to take you through, Kushal, on the most amazing tour of how my solutions can solve your problems and how I've done it for countless other customers. And at no time on that tour, well, bad things happen to you. And if you think about that, from tours that we've been on, I was on a beautiful tour of Rome one day, there's a great lady named Chiara that took us on a tour of 4 hours all the hotspots of Rome. No one fell down and twisted their ankle, thank goodness, because Chiara knew what Ali's not to take us down, where we might have a bad experience that that's the analogy that I like using in what sales professionals could be, is that tour guide that's got sterling reviews, they've done a great job taking people on a tour and getting them to their destination.

Kushal: What do you think, maybe some of the things that people are doing better today than yesterday?

George Leith: Listening, I think that it's getting beat in people's heads. And we've got tools that help us to say, hey, that last call, you talked 75% of the time. And our job is to let the customer talk about their business. And it's something that all salespeople trip up on, we get passionate and not passionate is exciting, because we believe in what we're talking about, we believe that we've got the solution. But we need to make sure that we're listening to that customer. And I think it's easier to listen. And by the way, they don't even have to open their mouths for us to listen. We can read their content online, we can see what they're posting on social media, we can watch their video channel on YouTube, there's many more places that we can go to listen to the prospect or the customer to see what's being said. And actually, the real good sales organizations are listening to those other channels as much as they're listening to the client when they can get them on the phone. Because the insights that you can gain from that other listening that we do through research can really help you in understanding how you can solve that customer's problem.

Kushal: It sounds like introverts have a really, really good chance of being really good in sales, right? 

George Leith: Sorry. 

Kushal: It sounds like introverts have a really good chance of being great in sales because there's just so much listening?

George Leith: Well, and, you know, I just had a gentleman on my podcast here recently, Matthew Poehler who wrote the book around “Introvert Selling”, and I, as we were going through it, and I started to really realize what he was speaking to. I believe that introverts are great salespeople and ever we only got to be an extrovert. I'm obviously an extrovert. I don't think that that's a surprise to anybody. But when I started listening to Matthew on the episodes of our podcast, and he started going through why introverts are great salespeople, I was like, Whoa, there's some traits in there that I wish that I had that were stronger in my personality, just

Kushal: George, to just go back a little bit to this really great analogy that you just shared, right, of salespeople being more like tour guides than anything else. Maybe the challenge for salespeople is that at the end of being a tour guide, what's your take home is kind of linked also to the commission that they get. Do you think it's really time to kind of reload compensation plans? And a lot of people are talking about this. What's your take?

George Leith: Yeah, it's an interesting challenge. It's long lived comp plans are always something that is in flux. And in my early days, in the media business was pretty simple comp plan, you got 15% of whatever you sold and collected, and did that lead to bad behavior, you know, straight commission, no base, I think that it probably did a little bit because you’re as long as you're over plan, and you're over what you need to eat, you're doing well, but then you have that bad month, and you have a tendency to I gotta do what I gotta do, I gotta feed my kids. So I don't know, I also don't know what kind of talent you're going to get with 100% commission plan nowadays, because there are organizations that will compensate for, you know, a level of base plus, but I believe that commission is what drives a great salesperson. And if it is, if the plan is put in place properly, where maybe and I know, claw backs are not very popular, but if you say the wrong things to the customer, and they don't come true, there has to be some consequences, especially if I paid you for it. So you know, I don't know if I have a full answer of this. But I do believe that it's something that sales leaders need to be constantly watching is, is the compensation plan leading to the behavior that you're looking for? And just expect somebody to gamify the system. I think it's so funny when we roll out a comp plan. And some manager is super surprised when some smart rep figures out a way to gamify the system. Just anticipate that going into it and look at it and say how would I game a fight easy for me because back in the early days, I got sales managers didn't like me very much because I gamified lots of systems, but I'm just saying it's like it's going to happen. So just expect it and build a plan that is bulletproof, and then expect it to be wrong, because they're always wrong at some point in time and you got to make some sort of adjustment to it's like, okay, we got the comp plan done. You don't know I got news for you. In 35 years of doing this, it's never been. Also another thing that has never happened in 35 years and 1000s of salespeople that I've worked with, not once have I heard a salesperson say to the CFO, I think you paid me too much. I think there's too much commission on this check.

Kushal: Yeah, I probably wouldn't hear that one either. This is probably my last question for you on the podcast, like you said, right, 35 years, what's the number one impact that you want to drive on the world?

George Leith: I want people to understand that sales is a noble profession, that it has an enormous amount of value in what we do on a day to day basis. I work with a lot of great young new sellers, I have that privilege. And I don't take that for granted. And the one thing that I like to tell them is if you do this, right, and you have that level of integrity, and you put the work in, you can earn as much income as you pretty much want. Like, it really is that open of a book you can earn, like a doctor or a lawyer or a dentist, or a politician. You know, it is a noble profession. Doing it a long time and I really love waking up every day and helping people is a great every day. Of course it isn't. There's no job out there that there is one show me that job. But I will tell you that waking up every day and helping people solve their problems and hearing from people that you've been involved with that you really made a difference. And you know, I'll never forget that you know this that is exciting. And that can happen in sales that can happen in becoming what I like to call a sales professional, someone who helps solve people's problems for profit.

Kushal: So I think that's the best note to probably wrap up this podcast on. Thanks so much for being a guest with us. Appreciate your time.

George Leith: Kushal, it's been a privilege and I appreciate the flexibility on your schedule, because we're halfway around the world. So what a great time to be alive that we could meet here and have this conversation halfway around the world from each other. 

Kushal: Yeah, thanks so much.

Sales is a noble profession: George on trust and integrity in sales

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