TRANSCRIPTION OF EPISODE
Chris: On this episode of Intent Topics, we are joined by guest, Justin Whitcomb. Today we’ll be talking about how to use relationships to sell even in a world that seems totally transactional.
Logan: Hello, everybody. Welcome to Intent Topics. My name is Logan. Today I am with a special guest, Justin Whitcomb. Justin, thank you for joining me today.
Justin: Yeah, man. I’m stoked to be here. Really looking forward to it. Big fan of the podcast.
Logan: Cool, dude. Well, we appreciate having you. Little bit of background on how I know you. We were together, you are on one side of the car business. I was on the other. Now we’ve grown up and we’re not in the car business anymore. We’re on to bigger and better things, much bigger and much better things. I’d love to hear about a little bit about what you’re doing now.
Justin: That’s helpful. Maybe start by just providing a little background. So I would consider myself a career salesperson in the car business. I did exactly what you did, but more when we started working together I was doing on automotive financing. And so the way that you and I got to know each other was you were an account that I helped to secure loans for, for your customers. And what that really caught me is how much I love being in sales and helping people solve problems and just building those types of relationships.
So fast forward to today, I decided to pivot from purest cars and do automotive technology, did that for several years and then realized that I wanted to pivot out of automotive. So now I’m in cybersecurity sales and I worked for a company that provides some a security risk product for, for organizations of all shapes and sizes.
Logan: Nice. Nice. Yeah. So I think the reason that I’m excited to have you on the podcast is of all the people that I’ve worked with, you were the most consistent at maintaining relationships with a whole host. Obviously I experienced it into myself. And then with the other people in the industry. You were exceptional at really cultivating these relationships and building value longterm with the people that you’re working with. I guess they were your prospects and it it’s interesting in this day and age, everything is so transactional. Everything is so metrics driven. I think some of the people coming up right now don’t have the concept of what transcends the numbers. Like what is actually being that that sales person mean from a relationship building standpoint, from a creating content and, or creating relationships and supporting those with different pieces of content, whether that be a phone call or an email, something that’s going to help.
Yeah don’t always get … I know especially you calling into my account, it didn’t necessarily get a return immediately off of that, but it was the little things all added up to a much greater thing. So I’m wondering how you’ve been bringing that into … You’re in tech, it’s quite transactional, it’s quite it’s fast moving, et cetera. So how have you brought that importance of a relationship or how are you leveraging that now?
Justin: I would tell you is I think a lot of just understanding relationship. It’s really more around like human psychology and putting yourself in the buyer’s shoes and saying, or buyer or whoever you’re engaging with, How would you want to be treated? And so I think there’s like a natural level of empathy that you have to have in sales. I think it’s also understanding really important that you understand the end game. So you’re able to realize that you’re going to have to do a lot of additional work in order to get the payoff that you want long term in the form of sales. In the car business it was a contracts funded loan contracts and now it’s a SAS products. I mean, you hit the nail right on the head.
I think SAS is broken up between this transactional model, which is what we see a lot of time on. Fast moving, you hear about like inbound marketing and people just raising their hand and saying, “Hey, I want this technology.” But the reality is that once you buy that technology, you’re going to make an investment with that company to try to improve your business processes using that technology. And that’s where really account management and relationship building really comes into play. So in my world, unfortunately I don’t get to interact with customers once they buy. So what I really notice where my skill set has really flourished is working with a channel distribution arm.
So although I can’t directly work with all of these individual companies and build the relationships that I’ve had with you or some of the other car dealerships that I used to with, what I can do is build those kinds of relationships with my … we call them VARs, value out of resellers. Because ultimately they’re the ones that have the deep relationships and are the trusted advisors of the companies that I’m trying to sell into. So they’re really my … that’s really how I’m able to engage on a relationship level, but partly.
Logan: So let’s talk about that. We here at Union, we love the channel. I’d love to understand. I think a lot of people, a lot of companies talk about the importance of the channel and we’ve had some very, very senior and sophisticated individuals on who have, who have talked about building channel programs or whatnot. What I’d like to understand is what does the day to day look like for … You’re a high performer, so what does a high performer, who’s leveraging their channel, building those relationships and, and transcending that transactional nature that so many sales people are … What does your day to day look like? Like what do you feel makes that such an important piece of your game?
Justin: I have to tell you this, this, this running joke in our office and that is I I think I take a different approach than a lot of the salespeople. So it’s a given that I’m on a sales floor, there’s a lot of guys around me. The running joke is if Justin’s on the phone, he’s talking to a partner. As opposed to doing a demo or talking to a customer. So, that’s just the joke because I do spend a lot of time engaging and investing with that partner. It doesn’t just start there. I would say the majority of the partners that I’ve really started to establish good rapport with I’m doing things like I’m texting them regularly.
I might give them a call in the morning to check in on an appointment that we had a couple of days ago just to say, “Hey, have you heard any feedback on this?” Outside of that. Like I also just check in periodically to see how they’re doing. So in our world we primarily deal with resellers that sell security products and they provide a wealth of knowledge in terms of understanding what the market is doing. Like so I’m a lot more effective calling into a say-so or a CIO if I understand what are the, what are the big trends that are going on. I can speak to those. So right now in security there’s a huge push towards privileged assets, access management and identity access management.
So if I can somehow figure out a way to have a conversation and involve my product around that, I know that at least I’m going to have a conversation that’s more valuable. So I leverage to give me that almost like market intel to understand what’s going on in the market.
Logan: Sure, sure. That’s interesting. So there’s a little bit of you’re not necessarily always looking to extract revenue from your channel. There’s other value. So we talked a lot about mind share in the channel and I feel like a lot of companies are building solutions technology solutions and whatnot to try to try to cultivate that mind share among the VARs. But it sounds like there’s an element of just doing the work. So what are some of the value adds you think … You’re obviously extracting value from your VAR network, whether that be a deal or that be some good Intel, but what are some of the things that you’re providing those of VARs that, that allows you to then get from them? What’s your gain?
Justin: And I’m glad you brought it up because I think a lot of reps don’t really get that, that you have to put yourself in their shoes and ask the old question, “What’s in it for me?” And think about how they would respond to that. And so what I would tell you is that I think you’ve got to understand that the channel, they make money, it’s a distribution model and it’s based on a margin game. And so they make money based on how much of your product they sell and how much you’re willing to give them in terms of margin. So there’s a couple of ways to go about doing that. One is having them have the relationship directly with the customer and we call it deal reg, which is I think an industry term. But so one is that idea of deal, [regging 00:11:03]. They’re bringing you into a deal.
This other idea is more of a fulfillment, right, where you’re using them to pass through paper because they already have the existing relationships and contracts in place with the vendor. And in some cases you can actually bring them into accounts that they weren’t previously talking to, that maybe they, maybe they had a stale connection at that company because they weren’t bringing the right products to the right services. And so when you bring them into a deal and, and provide that an opportunity, you somehow you sometimes can get the pump primed again for them to start having conversations about other products.
So I’ll give you a great example. We were working with one of the larger resellers in, in nationwide and it’s very difficult for you talk about make mind share. We’re not a huge company. It’s very difficult for us to be noticed when you think about million dollar firewall deals that are sold on a daily basis. And so one thing I did was I was actively involved in one company and I brought in one of these VARs that really doesn’t focus a lot on what we do and, and gave him a substantial amount of margin. Not only that, I provided him an end to be able to start having conversations with the CIO and the say-so, which he’s been struggling with for years.
So it’s about opening some of those doors up that they weren’t in. And it’s also about providing. And money talks and everything else walks. And in some cases if you’re not giving them margin … So interesting element I would tell you there is a lot of reps will bring in a partner to a deal and try to push it through with giving them just a few points. And I just think that’s the wrong approach because number one, they’re not making much money on the, on the deal and you’re still asking them, even if it’s minimal work, you’re still asking them to exude their time and their resources and their energy. They’ve got hundreds of other technology their partners who are trying to get them to do the same thing.
So you want them to think … When their phone rings and you’re on the other end or it’s a text message or whatever, you want them to see dollars, you want you to represent dollars to them and that’s how you build that relationship.
Logan: Sure. Interesting. Interesting. So Sarah, it’s about allowing them margin stacks now. So your stats are … when you talk about this, are you getting good margins on the deals you’re putting together or are you giving it all the way? Where’s the give and take end for you specifically?
Justin: So I can tell you that our company has made a huge investment in the channel and as part of that, there’s a back lift to allow us to be able to provide more margin upfront to that channel partner and not lose all that money within our own commission structure. I don’t foresee that lasting forever, but what it’s doing is it’s incentivizing us to establish and build those relationships. And so longterm the hope is that the majority of the business we receive is going to come through the the reseller actually regging those deals. So we’re doing less of that upfront prospecting and outreach of sale and really using that distribution. If you think about it almost like they’re there. My business development represent. [inaudible 00:00:14:35] ones that I deal with and they’re the ones that are selling value my product and finding out what it makes sense to bring it in to them.
Logan: Yeah. That’s awesome. This definitely is a, are you working harder and smarter? It sounds like you’re doing both, but the channel really is your force multiplier. You have a handful of people out there bringing you in a deals as opposed to you just trying to hunt for those, [inaudible 00:15:07]. So what do you think the where do you think your strategy is going into 2020? Do you think it’s adding some … So are you looking for more partners? Are you looking to cultivate the ones that you have or do you think you’re going to need to, in order continue your trajectory do you think you’re going to need find some deals from another place.
Justin: So all of the above. So the channel strategy for an organization is multifaceted. So at a strategic level you have the executive interaction where you talk about our company as a whole talking to a channel company and trying to build … trying to do marketing events together and things like that. In order for that strategy to work, you need that to flow downhill. So you need the managers to talk amongst other managers. And at the rep level you need a lot of like grassroots, one-on-one we call it account mapping. Looking at what accounts do I work with that you already have a contact with or what accounts have do we both want to try to go after? So there’s different varying strategies there.
I would say one thing that I’m really going to focus on is strategically going after several partners that we don’t have as much interaction with, but also continuing to really build upon the momentum that I’m starting to get in the market from working with channel partners that we’ve been working with for a long time. So I don’t think it really changes. I think what changes is the relationship you have with those partners. And so now what’s interesting is although the running joke is that Justin spends way too much time in the channel. I can tell you on a daily basis, a rep comes up to me and says, “Hey, do you know so-and-so from this VAR? And because, “Hey, I want to get into this account be aligned with it.” And I’ll say and, and I’m happy to do it. I’ll send a quick intro email. I’ve got a trusted relationship with that person. And so they’re more willing to then pick up the phone and talk to my rep because I’m recommending that conversation.
Logan: Awesome. So you are figuring out how to just absolutely kill it with the channel and the people in the channel love your phone calls. Because I didn’t see it as dollars coming through.
Justin: It’s more complicated than that. There’s so many nuances to the channel. [inaudible 00:17:42] certain people that are … you have certain people that are more pro channel than others. You have certain people that have been really burned by maybe taking a deal through the channel and then having them stall the deal because they were trying to sell something additional or they had another project in play. But the reality is it’s the longterm approach. It really is focusing on the long game and not the individual transactional sale and realizing that if you can establish that rapport and you can really build that presence, your job becomes a heck of a lot easier. Because now you don’t have to go out and do all the outbound prospecting and all the stuff that you hear, all these people who are bombarded constantly with phone calls and emails and stuff like that just are totally numb to.
Logan: Right. So for the company or the leader or the rep that’s looking at this and saying, “How over the next 12 months do I really get more out of my channel relationships?” One action that they can take every single day. What is it?
Justin: Block off time every day to have conversations with your partners, to review accounts list. I think a good salesperson has a cadence to … and they block off time for certain things. So I put time in the morning every morning for prospecting and whether I get to use it for prospecting every morning that’s a different story. But my prospecting is the channel, it’s outbound, cold calling. It’s emailing, it’s going to events sometimes and, and reaching out to key contacts. But specifically make sure that you continue to find time for the channel. Because if you don’t find time for the channel, here’s the thing, you probably have a competitor that is and you probably also are losing an opportunity because it’s probably an account that you’re trying to get in front of that one of these channel partners is already talking to. You have to.
Logan: Right. So to make time for the channel-
Justin: You have to.
Logan: It’s going to be the title. Make time for the channel. That’s awesome. That’s awesome.
Justin: Oh man, this is-
Logan: [crosstalk 00:20:18]
Justin: Nothing ever happens the way it’s supposed to or the way you plan it out I mean. Perfect example is look at uni, we were to knucklehead in the car business. [inaudible 00:20:33] now marketing side. I’m starting to form a little bit groove here selling SAS and cybersecurity, but [inaudible 00:20:39] where we’re going to be at in 10 years. So I guess if there’s anything I would say is take every opportunity as some level of learning and, nothing’s a mistake. Everything’s just, it’s part of the journey and you learn a little bit. It’s been fun. This is a fun time.
Justin: I’m super stoked for what you’re doing over at …
Justin: At your shop and I hope we stay connected and if these conversations going.
Logan: Absolutely. Well that’s fantastic. Thank you for coming on the show. Thank you everybody for joining in to Intent Topics today. My name is Logan. Please give us a five star review on whatever podcast application you use. We will talk to you next time. Thank you very much.