When Mike Hook was handed a high-profile, enterprise, inbound lead, all eyes were on him. This deal was worth 80% of his yearly quota, and the pressure was on.
Everything was going well! Or so Mike thought...
Turns out he ignored a few red flags along the way.
For one, he only dealt with one individual… and they were from procurement.
Tune in to find out what Mike learned from this sales fail early in his career.
Inside the episode:
(bright music) <v ->Welcome party people to "Tales From the Field".</v> In sales we all screw up and it's in those moments that we screw up where we learn the most, and I'm committed to figuring out what that looks like, to make it helpful, and have some fun along the way. Well, hello everybody. It's me again, Amy Volas. And this time I have the infamous and special, and one of my very favorite people in the world, Mike Hook. joining us for "Tales From The Field" podcast. Mike Hook, welcome. I am thrilled to have you here. For those that may not know you, how about a little baby intro? <v ->Well, thanks for having me.</v> It's so good to see you. I am the Vice President of Sales at Childcare CRM, and my wild world of selling began because I wanted to go to concerts and I wanted to travel, and I wanted to have all the money that I needed to go do whatever I wanted, when I wanted to do it. And that's a little bit about me. <v ->Which is very apropos</v> because you are the kind of person that wants to do what you want to do when you want to do it. So shocking that that would be part of your intro. For those listening, so Mike is a Vice President of Sales, and this podcast is really for salespeople by salespeople to talk mano a mano. Mike has been a player-coach. And so Mike's got all sorts of different tales from the field, and a lot of different perspective. And I was really excited that he leaned in to a little thing called trust to be open to talking with yours truly in a very real way about some of the lessons learned through your trials and tribulations. So as you think back on your sales career, what's one of your biggest stumbles, screw ups, failures, whatever you want to say, however you want to coin it. What did that look like for you? <v ->There are so many,</v> but I think to distill it down into one is hard, but I think there was one where I learned a lot of lessons all at one time. And I'll set the stage, this was back in, I want to say around 2015. So I'd just kind of come into four, maybe 2016 as an individual contributor selling all different sizes and types of deals. And this was back when I was selling online payments to the apartment, HOA and single family rental industry. My company had not yet gone through this acquisition mode. So we had one product that we sold. We sold it really well in an industry that was still just developing. So it was a great product to have. And we got an inbound lead that came in one day. It was from a company that I had been for prospecting for a while. A military housing firm, and they were one of the largest in the country. So I'd been prospecting and reaching out to them, all of a sudden we get an inbound that comes in and everybody's really excited. So of course, inbounds coming to the business, the VP of sales can see it. I can see it. Now we've got other founding members of the company that come in. So it's a really high profile deal for the company and it comes to me. So I get on the call with the gentlemen who reached out and his title was, it was some type of procurement title and like business development and procurement. So the right buyer, the right person in these large companies, and we go through our first thesis, into the well why'd you reach out and what are you guys looking for, and all the discovery of the trends that go through there. Well, as we start getting into the sale itself, I make big mistake number one. <v Amy Volas>Oh, oh.</v> <v ->I keep everything with this one individual.</v> So I do the discovery calls and the initial first steps only with him. Figuring out what he needs and what he wants. Then it goes time to set the demo. Well, I do the demo with only him and one person from his support staff, right? So it was the same department in the organization. It was really his direct report right in there, but things were going really well. So he's asking all- <v ->Or so you thought.</v> <v ->Or so...</v> Well, yeah, exactly. Right? This wouldn't be a sales fail if it all went well, it'd be a whole different story. (both laughing) It's kind of like you know the end of the story as I'm telling it. So yeah. So it all felt like it was going really well. He was asking the right questions. He was very engaging. There was actually a competitive situation that I was selling and coming up against too. So even within the selling motion, we got some of those really good competitive conversations. Some of the tech questions started to come in too like, hey, is your tech going to work with our tech? And it felt good. Right? So here I am all jazzed up. I was feeling good. And this is one of those deals where it's not like, oh, this is cool, this is a quarter. And we knocked out a quarter with one deal. This is like, oh, we knocked out like 80% of the year for my personal quota with one deal. <v ->Would it be fair to say this was an enterprise deal</v> for you? <v ->It was definitely an enterprise deal.</v> <v ->And how much was this deal worth?</v> <v ->I would say when you look at single year revenue,</v> it was probably a little bit over half a million dollars a year single year revenue, contract value would have been in like the one and a half to $2 million range. <v ->So we're talking high six figures, low seven figures.</v> And you're hanging out with one particular individual in procurement? <v ->Yeah.</v> <v ->Oh, good Lord.</v> Okay. (both laughing) Tell me more. So good. <v ->The lessons we remember the most</v> are often the biggest stake. And boy let's keep charging through this one. So the demo goes really well. I've got this guy on the phone from procurement, everything feels right. Pause. What's happening behind the scenes? Well, this is a really high profile deal. So I'm explaining this to the company. I'm like, yeah, everything's going really well. These are the questions they're asking me. Like I'm bringing other people in from my company to answer the tech questions. And I'm bringing in other people to help with some of like the nuance, little UX UI questions. How can we skin this? How will it look and feel? What are we doing from a funding perspective? Like all of these really detailed questions, which again, in my mind at the time, signaled well, this guy's at least an experienced buyer. He must be the right person. He knows what he's doing. <v ->Yeah.</v> <v ->So now we've got the forecasting conversations to go,</v> right? So my boss is like, "So, well, what's happening? "Do you need any help? "How are things going? "What do we need to do? And I'm giving him like the checklist of all the things I'm doing internally and all the things that are happening. So I feel like we're really good and squared away from a selling motion. At the same time, I'm projecting internally, things are going really well. And it's not a lie, I felt that. But the reality of it was okay, now we get into the next call with the buyer after the demo. We go through probably a month of back and forths. Figuring all the little things out. As I mentioned, it was competitive. So there were about four different buyers in the competitive process here. <v ->And it's still just this guy?</v> That's it. Like, you're still just dealing with this fella. <v ->Still just dealing with this fella.</v> We go through this entire thing until finally it comes down to selection time and he goes, Mike, we've chosen your company. I was like, oh, this is great. <v ->Why do I feel like there's a but?</v> <v ->Well, because the nature of the podcast here,</v> the nature of the podcast here, there's about a $2 million but. So he tells me they're going to move forward with us. And everybody's really excited, right? He sends it in an email. I hop on a call after he sends the email. I was like, oh my God, this is great. We're really excited. What are the next steps on your end on how we move forward? He's like "Okay, so we need a copy of your agreement. Like we had already agreed on pricing, but he's like, "Send me your copy of the agreement. "We need to go through T's and C's, "we need to send it to our legal department. "Here's the timing on everything. "Then we'll sign the agreement, we'll be good to go. Awesome. When do you want to have this implemented by? "Okay, well, we want to have it implemented by X date. Let's call it, I can't remember. I think let's call it was two months down the line. Okay, great. Well, we can do that. You said you've got three weeks for legal. We can get that all sewed up. We can spend the next five weeks doing implementation and training. This is within our scope of work. You're good. Let's set these milestones to touch base. Probably the only thing I did right in the whole process was the end. And first milestone comes, our legal's taking a little bit longer than usual. Should have been a red flag, but we charge on. Second milestone comes up. Well, legal doesn't have it back yet. <v ->Oh, oh.</v> <v ->Okay.</v> What's the hold up and where's it going? Okay, let's press pause on that. Meanwhile, what's happening behind the scenes at the company? Well, they'd seen an email where he said, he's moving forward. Everyone's expecting this deal to come in. We're kind of coming up on the end of the quarter, things are getting really tight in the business. There is a lot of heat coming from the company. Not in a bad way, not in a way that's unreasonable, but in a way like, "Hey Mike, you told us this, "we're seeing this, what's happening here? So fast forward. Back to the prospect. He misses the next check-in call. <v ->Oh, oh.</v> <v ->And now he won't respond to me at all.</v> This drags on for about six weeks of this like game. What happened? Where are you at? Let's reschedule. Just total crickets. <v ->So what happens</v> with the deal? <v ->So then I try to like-</v> So finally I hear back after about two months and he says, "well, we decided to stay with the current shop "that we've got here. Deal's dead. <v ->Ouch.</v> <v ->Ends.</v> <v ->Ouch.</v> Okay, that is a big ouch. Because you have that original email, you're counting your commission check. Everyone's celebrating, it's rainbows, it's roses, it's unicorns. Flash forward, like dead on arrival. Horrible feeling. Let's go back in time. What would you have done differently? Where do you think you took a left turn when you should have been going straight ahead? <v ->I think I took so many left turns</v> I ended up in a couple of circles. (both laughing) <v ->Been there, done that.</v> Totally get it. The word multi-threading is something that is coming right into mind the minute that you just said one person, procurement, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. Multi-threading for the win. I feel like that would be a lesson. Am I wrong in that? <v ->No, not at all.</v> And I think the lessons are plentiful here. From the start, I think you say multi-threaded is exactly right, but how you get there is slowing down to speed up. <v ->Yes.</v> <v ->So this is obviously a really big deal.</v> I was still new in selling enterprise deals at this time too. So it's this thing, right? As you come up in sales, it's like you're selling SMB deals. Okay, I'm getting the hang of this. It's not asking people for that much money. Then you get into the mid market deals, you're starting to ask people for more money, which is weird at first, but you don't realize that it's a business pain for these five to six figure contracts. And it's not an actual person. <v ->Yeah.</v> <v ->And I was like,</v> oh, it's not their personal money, it's the business's money. You start to understand better about the decision-making and then you get into enterprise big ticket amounts. Like you say, it's like you're seeing the first big commission checks for the first time. Like, oh my God, this is a five figure commission check. <v ->Yes.</v> <v ->And then it's a company</v> that you had on your target account list. And it's like, they finally got back to me. Right? So it's all these emotions that are coming in that for me. Well, one, I didn't really know how to manage that level of excitement. And because I didn't know how to manage that level of excitement, it caused me to speed through a process when I should have actually said, this is great that you're interested in this, man number one from procurement, here's all of the other departments that our software and our solution keys in on, I don't think that it will be very beneficial for us to move forward unless we can know and talk to some of these other figureheads. Or had I proactively gone and reached out and brought them into the conversation as well. So I think right from the start, you say multi-threaded, 100%. That would be left turn one. Staying with just one person. And staying with just procurement. I didn't really fully understand what the job of procurement was. Right? Not only is it to get contracts and do it, but to get them for the best dollar amount when it comes to the table. <v ->Yeah.</v> <v ->And ultimately, what did this person do?</v> I mean, they stayed with their incumbent. They stayed with their current provider. They used our pricing and probably several other vendors' pricing to go back to the table and renegotiate a rate. Like that is what I believe happened. I'll never know. <v ->No.</v> <v ->But</v> I think that's what happened. <v ->It's difficult because I just had a call</v> right before this, with the founder and they're trying to validate the market. And they want to solve it by hiring a bunch of channel partners. And I said to them, and it's an interesting part of this conversation too. It's very difficult. If you can't sell something on your own directly, nobody else can do that as well as you for you. And it's the same thing here with procurement. And by the way, for anybody that's listening that's in the procurement world, we love you. We're not mad at you. You're part of this. But I think if you don't know directly what's happening with the business, because the business is the one that's going to be using it, right? The business is the driver of demand. The business is the one that's going to benefit from that. Procurement is almost like the police of the deal. And ultimately, you know, we talk about this all the time in "Thursday Night Sales". People take action because you can help them solve problems. You can help them reach goals. You can help them get better. You can pinpoint blind spots. And by the time procurement comes in and they're like, I'm talking on behalf of the business. Let's just get to the deal. And you've missed all those other steps with people that would feel this in a different way. So that's one lesson I feel like. You said you learned lots of things or you took lots of turns where you went into circles. One was that, what are the other two? <v ->So I think there is a real lesson</v> about internal expectations. <v ->Tell me more.</v> <v ->And evaluation.</v> <v ->Okay.</v> <v ->So when I went back to my VP</v> and when I went to people internally at my company to help have them answer questions for us, to say that, "Hey, this deal is going really well. I think that for me, understanding like let's not always look at this with rose colored glasses. Like it's good to be optimistic. And I'm a believer that you should be... A level of optimistic is good. Right? We get beat up a lot in sales, you have to assume things are going to go well, but you have to assume that in the framework of I'm doing everything as I should be doing it. Not, oh, this is just going to go well for me so I can do whatever I want. It's I'm doing things the right way so it will work out the way that it should because I'm doing the right work. <v ->Yeah.</v> <v ->I was not doing the right work,</v> but I was representing that everything was going well and optimistic. So I think being more prescriptive internally with where things are at, how they're going and where I needed assistance and what I didn't know. I think that was a big lesson to take away. And it's one of those lessons for me that I learned after the fact, I didn't even know that I needed to do that at the time. <v ->Well, especially as you're getting</v> into a different motion, I think there's a lot to be gleaned from this conversation that we're having. Sales is not a one size fits all, you're talking about just starting out, it was more transactional. And then you go upstream a little bit to mid-market and then you go into the enterprise. These are all very different things that you have to think about the buyer journey in different ways. And especially with enterprise, it's a lot of small wins to get to the big win. And you're just thinking about the big win. And you mentioned not really... You didn't know what you didn't know, and that is something that happens to all of us, right? You don't know until you know, and usually when you know, it's because something bad happened and you're feeling the pain of that. That's also ego for all of us. It's like, I got this. I'm good. I'm vibing in a conversation. This person's responsive. They're going through this whole process with me. And you're missing all of the signs along the way. And I think that's a really valuable lesson for anybody that's listening here that you've learned that I've learned firsthand as well. So fast forward to today... Well, you said that there was a third. So before we get to the fast forward to today, what's the third and final lesson that we're going to share with folks today. <v ->Tech is table stakes.</v> The business is what dictates buying decisions. <v ->Amen.</v> <v ->So.</v> It ties into being multi-threaded. But ultimately, if your tech doesn't work, I mean in today's day and age, you don't have a business. <v ->Yeah.</v> <v ->But if your tech</v> doesn't work, that is table stakes. If the deal is big enough, you put the development plan together, you set the milestones. If there's a cost associated with that, you figure that out. But your tech team and that business' tech team figure out how to get the tech to work. Or if it already works, because you have proof of concept there that is table stakes. You don't need to have IT, again IT people, like procurement, we love you, but it's just a different conversation. There is no sale that happens unless the business needs it. And in an enterprise deal like the one that I did not win is it's multiple departments within that business. And understanding that, oh, just because someone was asking the right tech questions meant that they were a serious, knowledgeable, interested buyer. Like it doesn't. It just means that they're validating something that's table stakes. And there's so much that you're not capturing if you focus on the tech side of things. That doesn't mean abandon it, but it means if that's where your focus is at you're off track. And you need to pull the reins back in to get back into the business and run both of these tracks in parallel. It's not to say cancel one or the other, they both need to be running in parallel. And if you don't have both of them, again at this type of enterprise level deal, it, for me, signals that you're off. Not maybe lost, but off. <v ->Well that encapsulates enterprise well.</v> There are lots of different conversations happening for lots of different reasons, because you have lots of different people involved that need and want and desire different things. And to your point, technology is table stakes. It's that vitamin versus painkiller analogy. There are lots of vitamins out there. The things that people gravitate to are the ones that really solve something for the long term. And those are the painkillers. So that's a good lesson to learn. And that is for anybody that's considering enterprise sales, this is what it looks like in real life. These are the real things that have to happen. It's not just, you have an inbound lead, you have a conversation, you have a demo, you go to contract and it closes. No, no. No. And it's not just with one person. And also new data shows that even in the SMB, there are more than six buyers involved in the decision making process. So, yes. All right, so here you are. Lessons learned, pain felt. I have to ask you, when you got that email and it was like, sorry, status quo one, which is the main reason why people don't buy your product is the status quo, which is a really hard thing to beat because it's the fear of making a change. How did you react? Because it's how we react in those moments that's a good lesson too. <v ->Well, I will tell you that day of really, really poorly.</v> I was very upset. One I was upset, 'cause I lost the deal. <v ->Yeah.</v> <v ->Two, I was upset 'cause I lost the money.</v> 'cause I was pre doing commission things in my mind, the fancy things that I would buy. Three, I was really upset because I knew that I had disappointed the company. So there were a lot of reasons for me to be upset. I had to kind of eat crow. And in that moment immediately sent the email to my manager and just said, it's not happening guys. And then I shut it down for the day. 'Cause I knew that I was just not in the right head space. Like I was furious. And all of it really at myself, not even at the buyer so much 'cause I knew that it was... We control a lot of this stuff, I needed there were things there. Next morning woke up and there was a big post-mortem that took place that I drove myself. And I think there's a lot of clarity around this specifically and a lot of lessons that happened that allowed me to not make this mistake again. And it happened young, I think I was 25 or 26 when I made this mistake and just doing enterprise for the first time and painful lesson to learn. I'm happy I learned it early, but it was definitely one of those day of let me remove myself from the situation, we don't need to cause any more harm here 'cause I'm in a horrible mood. And then that next morning it's dust it off, get back on the horse, and then go figure it out. <v ->I love that.</v> So a few key takeaways as we're wrapping this up, multi-threading. Don't count your chickens before they're hatched. Get others involved, realize that there's other people involved with other agendas. And when you do screw up, the post-mortem is huge. Amongst all the other things that you shared, those are the big things that stood out to me and the complexity of sale. So Mike, here you are in a leadership role. Also still very much involved with the buyer on the enterprise as well. What do you do now to avoid something like this happening again? <v ->I take control of the buying process early and often.</v> So I think as a business, one of the things that I have done and that I am adamant about is mapping your sales process to the buyer's journey, right? If you don't have that type of mesh, it's really all for nought, you need to make sure that the way that your buyers engage with you. So that was a big thing we did from like a setup standpoint to make sure that we were meaningfully engaging with our buyers in the right segments at the right time. As you alluded to earlier, SMB, mid-market, enterprise, they're all a little bit different. So there need to be some nuances within that pairing. And from there it's helping our buyers make good buying decisions. So I kind of mentioned it earlier, but I think one of the things up front, you always generally have one point of contact, reach out. Or you're engaging one point of contact, whether it's inbound or outbound, it's having a really meaningful conversation with that person that matters to them, making them feel like they are important because they are, and then letting them know about the other areas within their business that our product impacts. So a great example of this would be, let's say somebody from marketing reaches out to me about a CRM. Okay, that's great. Well, generally what I find is that operations uses our platform in XYZ to help their business with ABC. And I'll go through every department like that, saving IT for the end. Right? 'Cause we know that those two tracks run differently. Intentionally keep IT for the end because for me getting a lot of really technical questions early on in the process, it becomes very detailed and nuanced where again you're moving away from those big business needs. So to the point of view, multi-threaded, I'll take all of those individual departments and I'll go through. And then because we've paired our sales process with the buying journey, right? I understand now what are our little checklists within our framework that I know we have to get off that signals how serious it is. Do I understand what they need this for in every single department? Do I understand the impact in every single department? Is there something that they need to do for me? Right? Whether back in my days at my previous company getting a full property list with all their billing breakdowns, to today, maybe getting a list of all their childcare centers with enrollment information, right? Now are they willing to do the homework to get me information? Which always is a good signal that there are really serious buyers. So it's being... I mentioned beforehand, right? Staying optimistic in a sale, but staying optimistic about when you're in your framework doing the right things knowing, now it's all about I have built those frameworks and I'm being a little bit vague here intentionally because I don't think that every sale is the same. Like my sale at ChildcareCRM is not the same as my sale back at Zego, which was formerly PayLease, which will not be the same as when you sold back in your enterprise days. But it's knowing those milestones on how buyers engage with you and making sure it's not always linear, it's going to loop around, but making sure that even if you don't get it the first time you own the conversation to come back and get it with a sound reason why to the buyer. And it's being that expert that allows you to control the conversation. And I think that those are lessons that I've learned, really doing the work up front, to understand how the buyers engage, how they buy, how they use the product in every department so that I can come to the table when needed, when they're not going to, to bring the entire group into the scene. <v ->Well, and isn't that a wonderful lesson?</v> The more you know the better you do. And discovery isn't just something that you do once and think that you have all the answers because as you go through these motions with different people that have different wants, needs, desires, fears, et cetera, everything is nuanced. And it's the ability to look for the tells of how are people leaning in? Are they giving you information? Are they along for the ride with you or are they rebutting you, you know there are so many different things to look at there. So look for the tells, realize that not all people are created equal and the more you know, the better you do and discovery is part of having business conversations to understand, to validate, to confirm or deny every single step of the way. Mike Hook, I just love you. Thank you so much. Here we are. By the way, for those that may not realize this listening, Mike and I know each other very well. We talk shop all the time. I was so thrilled that the minute that I asked you to participate, you were like, yeah, totally. Because you have so much to lend. And I really appreciate that. So that's what this show is all about, ladies and gentlemen, it's in those moments where we stumble that we grow the most. It tends to stay with us for the long haul, Mike's talking about when he was 25 years old, Mike I know you're older than 25 years old, so it's stuck with you. And for anyone that's listening, I hope this was helpful. And Mike, thank you. I appreciate you. <v ->Absolutely.</v> Amy V anytime. It was a blast and hopefully this helps a couple people here and there. <v ->Thank you.</v> <v ->Thanks for having me.</v> <v ->You're welcome.</v> For those that may want to talk more about this lovely lesson, these lovely lessons I should say, that you learned where can folks find you? <v ->Yeah, so you can find me LinkedIn, Mike Hook.</v> You can find me on Twitter @MikeyMhook. And if you want more, there's a good story about when a dog bit my hand when I was selling Cutco door to door. So I've got stories for days. <v ->That's amazing.</v> And we're going to leave on that note. Leave people wanting more all the time. I appreciate you, Mike. Thank you so much. <v ->Thanks.</v> <v Amy Volas>You've been in sales,</v> I've been in sales and sales as a journey where we all have stumbled and it is in these moments where we grow the most. So for anybody listening, I hope that this was helpful. This has been a Sales Feed production. 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