Expert Series: “Why Sales Forecasts Are Still Off” with Steve Kraner

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Table of Contents

In our expert series we discuss a variety of best practices to help sales reps, managers, and everyone involved in the sales process become better.

In this round, we sat down with Steve Kraner to get his insight on sales forecasting.

Key Sections:

Forecast Process and How to Go About It [1:50]
Forecast Missteps [3:50]
Steps of a Sales Process [6:00]
How to Set an Accurate Forecast [8:20]
Mutual Agreed Action Plan [9:30]
The Key to Discovery Questions  [14:05]
Important Forecast Metrics to Track [20:03]
How To Measure the Quality of an Outbound Call [23:00]
Proactive vs. Reactive Sales Management  [26:05]
Keys to Crusher [34:20]

About Steve

Steve has built successful high tech divisions within two major U.S. corporations. He has spent 25 years as one of the most in-demand Sandler sales trainers.

Through continuous experimenting, Steve and his clients continue to advance our understanding of the optimum approach to selling and how it increases sales.

To learn more about Steve, visit:


Video Transcription

Trey Gibson: Hello, this is Trey Gibson from SPOTIO coming at you live from dreary Dallas, Texas today.  We have some hail storms in the forecast.  So, that ought to be interesting.  But here with our sales experts series.  For these series we explore best practices for sales reps, managers and everyone in between to become a better sales professional today.

Today I’m here with Steve Kraner.  The focus of our discussion is going to be why sales forecasts are still off.  I am sure we’ll dovetail off into a ton of other relevant topics from there, but hey, before we jump in.  Steve, tell us a little bit about yourself, how’d you get started in sales, as a consultant, and how do you help companies maximize their sales efforts?

Steve Kraner: Glad to Trey.  Thanks for having me.  So, Steve Kraner.  I’m a sales coach.  What I do is I treat selling as if it were a sport.  If you think of it that way, behind great performance is great process.  A lot of science, not a lot of art.  So, that is my focus. 

I’m an engineer.  I got into sales kind of against my will.  I take an engineering approach to sales.  I am kind of a geek who studies it and tries to optimize it and tries to break everything down into a system.  My company is Upward Sales Guru’s.  That’s probably enough about me to kick it off.

Trey Gibson: Nice.  I am very passionate about sales process and want to talk about that more as well.  But let’s kick it off with forecasts.  So, I’m sure you’ve seen it all from high performing, high functioning sales teams, to the ones that are completely broken and you have to come in and rebuild.  I think today’s topic will be an interesting one and something every executive wants to solve.

When you first start working with a sales organization how many of them have a forecast in place and what does it typically look like?

Steve Kraner: I work with companies up and down the board from small ones to big ones.  Although very focused in kind of software and sass space.  So, the vast majority of my larger customers and medium sized customers already have a forecast in place, it’s kind of rare, maybe a start-up, maybe won’t have a forecast in place.  But most people have a forecast and they have some process for forecasting.

That typically isn’t the problem, it is the way we go about forecasting.  I thought of this analogy, just yesterday as I walking the dog.  If you took a sales person and you sat them and you took a pistol and you put right up against their temple and said, tell the diameter of the sun!  Do we think that would produce accurate math?

Trey Gibson: No.

Steve Kraner: What we do is we put a lot of pressure on our sales people, and sales VP say to me, I asked my people back in December what they were going to do in Q1, they didn’t produce the numbers and they were their numbers.  Well, price doesn’t create accurate forecasts.  What it creates is – as sales people know as an instrument of their own demise.  Out of self-preservation, the bad ones are going to make up stuff, and that’s why it’s on the forecast so long.  Because it was never real.

And by the way on the other end, the good reps, and you’ve probably seen this too they’re sandbagging a little bit.  So, all you do through pressure you produce an inaccurate forecast.  That’s what I typically start out with. 

Trey Gibson: So, then when you go in – most of them of have forecasts.  Do you spend time combing through it and seeing okay, that’s way old, get that old?  What are kind of the main missteps you see when analyzing that situation?

Steve Kraner: We start any engagement by putting in place a sales process.  I don’t begin with the sales forecast.  Let that stay in place for a while.  What we do is teach the folks how to approach sales conversation and the sales cycle in a very rigorous manner.  By rigorous, this probably goes beyond what’ve you seen, what most sales training does, what most people even have a palette for.  But when I say rigorous, here’s a discovery call, you’re going to spend an hour with  somebody.  I have a rubric, a checklist.  Here’s the five elements of what we call mutual agenda to start the meeting.  Here’s how we do a needs analysis into the forecast.  At some point when we graduate through doing all of those initial steps well, and you do have kind do it in sequence.

Kisen, one step at a time.  That’s why I don’t start with the forecast.  There’s a point where towards the end of that discovery call, is what I’m doing is co-billing with a customer a mutual action plan.  If I co-bill a mutual action plan with a customer that is truly mutual and they are truly engaged, then that is what makes the forecast accurate. 

If you think of it like this; you’re at a wedding, the preacher says to the bride, will you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?  The groom is not standing there saying, geez I wonder what she’s going to say.

Trey Gibson: Right.  Hopefully not. 

Steve Kraner: You’re forecast should be the same way.  If it is truly mutual.  Yeah, you’re going to get cold feet.  Brides and grooms do too.  But if you are truly mutually engaged and that is verified with the customer with a degree of rigor, then your forecast is customer validated and tends to be more accurate.

Trey Gibson: So, if I hear you correctly.  The forecast is a result of a lot of things that come before that.  So, it’s almost like if you’ve done the steps right, the sales process right up until then, then you have an accurate forecast.

Steve Kraner: Absolutely, well said.

Trey Gibson: Okay.  And so, help me understand the steps of your sales process.  Can you break it – is it a replicable one, is it something that you go in and say, here’s kind of the steps of it.  You mentioned a mutual action plan and discovery, but what are some of the other steps along that process?

Steve Kraner: If you think of it in terms of a buyer’s journey, there are phases that buyers are going to go through where there are sales people involved.  And sales people are there just to kind where they ca add value assist in a shift from one phase to the next.

So, when I think of sales process I think about a series of sales conversations which are really bridges from one customer buying state to the next.  So, you go from latent need to being aware of a need.  That is the first step in the buyer’s journey.  Is the first step in becoming conscious and aware and any change in human beings.  So, that first sales step is what I call the trigger conversation, and there’s a very specific way that you approach a trigger conversation.

If you’re making a cold call for instance, they’re sitting there, they don’t know who you are, they don’t know anything about you and your stuff.  You take them from latent need to be cognizant of a need and there’s a great deal of specific science that needs to be applied to that very delicate operation.  To shift them from latent need to active need.  Then the rest of the conversation are just bridges between the various steps, all the way up to including the point where they become a promoter for you services. 

Trey Gibson: Okay.  Nice.  So, there’s steps all along the way.  And so, when you’re doing a forecast that’s – do you recommend your sales managers that you work with do reviews or how does that work?  How does the manager interact with their team when it comes to forecast?  Because at the end of the day it’s their job, they have to report those numbers up or to down, and they really need to have some clarity on am I going to hit this number?  If I’m not, I can imagine the amount of internal tension if I have numbers to hit and I have no damn clue if I’m going to hit these, because I don’t know where we’re at.  So, what’s your thoughts on that?

Steve Kraner: Yes.  If you think of that series of steps we just talked about, and if you think about stations in a manufacturing environment.  And you think about lean manufacturing, which means I want to get any poor quality stuff taken care of as early in the process, any defect out of the process as early as possible, lean selling could be viewed as doing the same thing.  You’re trying to get the defects out of the process as early as possible.  As opposed to trying to shoehorn people into the pipeline. 

What we’re doing is taking a basic stance of qualifying people out of your pipeline.  That stance will make a big difference and then in terms of your direct question about reviewing there are two levels.  Different companies have different needs in terms of selling systems.  On one end there’s very high velocity transactional sales, on the end there’s very high intimacy sales where it’s a considered sales cycle.  And a lot of decision makers involved.  We all operate somewhere along that spectrum.

On the low end of the spectrum it’s a tactical thing.  I have a conversation I co-bill that mutual action plan, there’s built-in customer validation.  Once I have checked all of those boxes on the rubric that say, here’s my mutual agenda, here’s a good need diagnostic.  We built a good business case.  We co-created the solution.  We’ve had that difficult conversation about money.  And we’ve co-created a series of steps to which we’re both truly committed to get us all the way to the ultimate yes or no. 

Then I write that up.  Share that with the customer.  I don’t put it in a CRM system, I can attach it to my opportunity, but I start with the customer which is key.  Because now the customer’s looking at it and they are needing to validate this, they need to verify it.  If you require that customer verified written mutual action plan as well as all of the steps that led up to it, to be necessary to have something on the forecast or on the forecast at let’s say 80 percent.  Then that in and of itself builds in – it’s almost like an image stabilizer on a big set binoculars.  It just makes that image very stable instantly, because of the customer.  You’re not measuring sales activity.  You’re measure customer activity.  And that makes it very accurate.

Now if you want to go a step further and talk about people on the other end of the spectrum where they are doing big complex sales.  There’s an additional step of review there.  Where I do something called an opportunity x-ray.  And I teach managers to do an opportunity x-ray.  So, there’s a more of a strategic look and understanding of are we talking to the right people at the right time so that we cover all of the basis in those big complex opportunities.

Trey Gibson: Okay. Opportunity x-ray.  So, that’s where you’re going through and sitting down and looking at it as a team and identifying where we’re at in the process.

On your mutual agreed action plan, because I took a look at that.  By the way I recommend everyone to go to Steve’s website,  He’s got a great free resource section, downloadable’s galore.  So, check that out.

I did check it out.  One thing we talked about this morning with my sales team was the close date.  How do we determine the close date?  Is that when I as the sales rep think we’re going to get [inaudible 00:11:46] or what is that?  Is it a magical number?

Steve Kraner: Nothing magic about it.  And there’s no such thing as mindreading.  What it’s not is when I need the deal.  What it is, is based on the customer’s sense of urgency and never my own.  So, when we talk about this rubric that I’m talking about, there’s a point where we’re starting to co-billing this mutual action plan.  The first question is as we enter into that phase is when is the latest you want to your solution live up and running?  So, we established their drop dead date.  Their sense of urgency.

And by the way real projects have real timelines and real budgets, so it’s not real unless they have a pretty firm idea about which they would like see the solution up and running.  And then if you use that kind of like date on Normandy Beach on this day, this is D-Day.  Now we can do a black wards planning sequence so that everything else to include the due diligence process they want to go through.  When I’m going to get my purchase order, all of that kind of stuff is driven not by my sense of urgency.  But by their sense of urgency.  And in deals you cannot hasten the ripening the fruit.  When you do it does not taste as good.  You cannot hasten deals in the process of doing that.  All you tend to do is end up degrading yourself, degrading your solution, discounting all of that stuff that we don’t want to do.  So, it’s their sense of urgency which you identify which drives the velocity of the deal.

Trey Gibson: How do I know as a rep when to have that conversation?  In my sales background is I never had that, that wasn’t taught to me.  And I like it, that’s how we do it at SPOTIO.  But I have a feeling a lot of people aren’t asking that hard question about when do you need to go live by?  When’s the latest you want to have this done?  At what point in the process do you bring that up?  Especially, imagine a cold call where I go out and I visit somebody’s business, they didn’t know who the hell I was a week ago.  And now I’m asking them when do you want to go live by?  I don’t know.  When do we broach that subject?

Steve Kraner: It’s really clearly spelled out in that rubric.  And the call we’re talking about now is not that trigger call, we’re past that point now.  We’re doing what people would classically call a discovery or a diagnostic call.  So, we are moving now from somebody who has an active need to somebody who is moving into analysis. 

Typically, the value a sales person is adding in that second sales conversation is to maybe slow things down to speed things up.  Which helps both the buyer and the seller do a deeper diagnostic than most buyers have the patience to do.  They tend to jump to solutions too quick.  We all do that.  Slow down. Diagnosis really thoroughly, and once we’ve done that diagnosis and we’ve built the business case where that needs to be done.   It’s key that we co-create the vision of the solution.  So, it’s the buyer’s baby.  So, at some point we may or may not want to talk about that.  We have that money conversation.  Then right there in that 15 minute mark about, and that discovery call.  Which is the second of the sales conversations.  Classically would be where we’d be asking, now is when the latest you would like to see this solution up and running.  That’s the perfect place.

If you download the rubric that’s one of the downloads you can get to.  It’s right there on the rubric and it makes it very clear when to ask it.

I’ll add one more thing.  This idea of co-billing and mutual action plan, writing it and then sending it is a behavior trap.  It forces you to sit down and write that up.  Which means you’re sitting there writing it, and you say to yourself, oh, shucks I didn’t ask that question.  Well, once you go through that the completing of the cybernetic loop two, three, four times, pretty soon you start asking all of the questions in that discovery meeting.  It can be done.  It’s just we don’t have an enforcement mechanism that makes us do it.  And that is a behavior trap that kind of causes of to enforce or own discipline and to ask the right questions.

Trey Gibson: Yeah.  I like check lists.  I like processes because then its fool proof, you’re going to ask it.  What are some of your favorite questions about – during that discovery process to understand their issues?  Do you have some set questions that you find will kind of uncover some of their problems or pains better than others?

Steve Kraner: Yes.  The way the rubrics are set up they are check lists.  Like in the check list manifesto, like you will find in the cockpit of an airplane or in an operating room.  Because we are doing the same thing.  We’re managing the problem of extreme complexity, and so they’re very brief.  A good checklist is not a script, it’s just a couple of words.

So, I also publish and help customers develop their own kind of stylized version of each of the questions and then the checklist is just a prompt to ask that stylized version of the question.

Maybe the hardest question in sales based on my listening game film, is to get a customer, especially a technical customer to quantify the impact of a problem financially.  What is the cost of the status quo?  So, there’s lots of important questions that need to be asked in a very intelligent way.  That’s the hardest of all questions, so I’m going to pick that one to answer your question.

Trey Gibson: Absolutely, I couldn’t agree more.

Steve Kraner: So, you need to say, part A to the question is be vulnerable.  Because you are asking another person to be vulnerable in front of you, very vulnerable.  So, you have to say something like, help me out here, I don’t really understand your system economics, and then we haven’t talked about this idea of paradoxical intent.  I don’t want to try to talk anybody into things.  I try to talk them out of things and let them talk themselves into things.  Which they will if it’s appropriate.

So, I’ll talk them out of the cost.  I will say, help me, I don’t really understand your financials models here.  You haven’t mentioned any cost, any dollars associated with this thing that we’re talking about.  Is that because there is no cost associated with it?

Trey Gibson: That’s great. 

Steve Kraner: You ask that question.  And then you’re listening to game film and you hear people – it doesn’t always get the answer.  Sometimes they’re a little taken aback, well, I’m sure there’s a cost.  But I don’t know that we can quantify it.  And that’s just kind of the start of the dialogue.  That gets the cost of the status quo on the table. 

Many sales teams I start where there’s nobody on the team and they’re good sales people to start out with it.  There’s nobody getting an answer to that question.  Within a couple of months we can get everybody on the team getting an answer to that question.  Because it’s very doable. 

Trey Gibson: Yeah.  It’s funny, again we had a sales meeting this morning and we go through and listen to game film and every body can get a problem.  You know you can get a problem out of anybody, any prospect.  What’s the problem?  Well, for us it’s our field sales team aren’t hitting their numbers or I don’t know what they’re doing out there.  And the one this morning it was like they had 60 sales reps and didn’t believe that they were going and revisiting their existing customers to get new business.  The reps stopped at that.  And we talked through, you’ve got to get to the impact. 

And you’re right, it’s awkward, saying, well Steve, what’s that costing you?  You know?  So, I really like the way you approach that on kind of the going like I don’t know what’s going on.  That’s really good, I’m going to have to steal that and talk to my team about that.

I think the reason that we’ve stopped that at problems, because yeah, it gets awkward to start talking about money.  What does this cost you?  Because if I just meet someone and they just say, well Trey what’s that cost you?  Come on, we’re not there yet.  But I really like the way that you approach that subject.  That’s really good.

Ex-engineer, numbers guy for sure.  Are there any metrics that you like to look at around the forecast, the forecasting aspect?  Are there certain metrics or numbers that you feel are important for sales orgs to track? 

Steve Kraner: Yeah.  When it comes to metrics we tend to measure what’s easy to measure.  It tends to be easy to measure the quantity of things.  And back to the original opening of dialogue about forecast accuracy and how pressure creates spurty and inaccurate forecasts.

If we press people they get more proposals on the street if they have any fear of this at all, they will probably get a lot more proposals on the street.  We’ll increase the quantity.  We probably will not impact the quality of those proposals, and we may even degrade them.  Because you started out by talking about 20 leads one, and 70 leads to four, that math doesn’t work.  It doesn’t, it probably degrades the quality of the effort.  Because they are now rushing or pushing or forcing things that shouldn’t be forced.

So, my key focus when it comes to metrics is to think of it like calculus, there is a Y axis and X axis and we’re not just trying to get something as high as possible on the Y axis, because the area under that curb is zero no matter how high the Y number is.  It’s the area under the curb that matters.  And we’ve got both the quantity and the quality. 

So, the effort for most sales managers is how I measure the quality of the thing I’m measuring.  So, any metric I pick.  Number of calls I’m making.  Number of proposals on the street.  And quiz me on any of those should you want to, we have to both a quantity and a quality measuring.  The quality measure is the key to success because the area under the curb is what counts. 

Trey Gibson: So, give me an example of quality measure.  Because I – and I’ll tell you a quick antidote that’s a lot our customers go through and I’ve seen them go through is they will say; well, if I can get one new customer out of visiting 20 businesses or knocking 20 doors, well then like I said, let’s go do 80 and I’ll get four.  A matter of fact I even had one customer that was paying their reps, started giving bonuses based on visiting businesses.  Like, hey, we’ll give X number of dollars and guess what the hell happened?  Just like you said.  Boy, the visits went through the roof.  I’ll tell you what, they got more visits than you had ever seen in you life.  People were probably running from – they weren’t talking to anybody, so there was zero quality there.  And I’ve experienced in my background of running inside sales team.  They’ll say, guys, I want to 100 calls a day.  Guess what they were doing.  They were calling and hanging up.  Call and hang up.  Call, hang up.  Call, hang up.  It’ll get you 100 dials, by God, I’ll get you that, just like you said. 

Man, I really like that the quality.  So, how do I know what’s a metric or how can I measure the quality of these certain interactions?

Steve Kraner: So, let’s take those outbound calls you were just talking about.  And it’s hard.  The way you measure the quality of an outbound call, the top way, the best way, is to have your reps record the calls.  Have a rubric.  Here’s a seven step outbound call.  Here is not just what to say, but also how to say it.  Style is making you or breaking you on the phone.  And your voice as an instrument of persuasion is critical.  So, that’s one of the quality measures we’ve got to be listening to.

Do you sound playful when you’re doing the playful part or do you sound a little freaked out?  That is going to make you or break you.  So, listening to the call recordings is a great quality measure.

Now, the problem becomes, oh my gosh, Steve, how the heck can I do that, because it would take so much time.  And the fact is, answer number one is, yes, it takes a lot of time and it’s tedious.  Answer number two is if you’ll put that investment in your folks as you implement a sales process, implement a mastery phase and go through this phase where you’re forcing them to record their calls.  Get the calls critiqued.  Put the time in upfront.  Once they develop the facility and they see the success that comes from that it will become self-sustaining. 

So, you don’t have to have that focus forever.  But you do have to put a lot of time and energy into it upfront.  Also, there are new tools today.  I was just reviewing Sales Loft today, I was not familiar with the details of their solution.  It’s kind of a neat solution.  I don’t know if you’re at all familiar with what they are doing.  But they have, Gong, has stuff like this.  There’s several mechanisms out there that allow you to use artificial intelligence to replace a guy like me or a manager to actually get some sense of the quality of the calls.  So, there are mechanisms for measuring the quality of outbound calls in addition to the quantity.

Trey Gibson: Yeah.  The tough part is if you’re doing field sales.  I don’t know how the heck – the old school way is we just went to ride along, you do a ride along.  But that’s not scalable.  So, the technology will come along some day.  Maybe SPOTIO can work on that.

Steve Kraner: Well, it would be a great one for you guys to do and you actually can do it with a handheld recorder.  You can do it simply by saying to folks, rather than taking notes or in addition to taking notes, I’m going to hit the record on my phone here with your permission.  If you’re uncomfortable with that you won’t.  I don’t hear people saying no to that.  And it’s certainly going to impact conversation, I think a lot of people are hesitant to do it, but it’s been my observation that it actually impacts the quality of the conversation in a good way. 

I would encourage people to do it.

Trey Gibson: That’s good.  I was reading some of your content and one of the posts I really liked was Proactive Versus Reactive Sales Management.  And for our customers in field sales, I feel like – we talked about forecast, we talked about process, I feel like it’s really hard to be a proactive sales manager when you have very little data to work with.  And that’s what we focus on at SPOTIO is giving them insight into activity and earlier in their sales process.  But let’s just say, how do I identify, I’m a sales manager, how do I identify am I a proactive or a reactive manager and why should I care?  Let’s dive in there a little bit. 

Steve Kraner: Okay.  Good.  The classic reactive sales manager of course is responding to pressure perhaps from Wall Street.  I was hoping that maybe when private equity firms started buying up and becoming private it would reduce the pressure.  It hasn’t.  It’s made the pressure even more extreme which has been my experience. 

And I love those VC and those private equity firms, but they’re even tougher than Wall Street was.  So, you’ve got Wall Street, you’ve got the private equity firms hammering the board of directors or hammering the CEO who are hammering the sales VP who then turns around and hammers the sales people.  And if you think about it, the bigger the company is the taller the mountain, the more of this is flowing downhill and it’s gaining velocity as dropping.  At the bottom of that people is not your sales people, it’s your customers.

And so, then we end up applying pressure to our sales folks.  Because we are trying to accelerate artificially what’s already in the pipeline.  Instead I would tend to apply pressure early in the quarter, early in the month to get some prospecting done.  To get some more quality stuff in the pipeline.  Because at the end of the quarter while there’s all of this natural tendency to be the hero to go out and make things happen.  That’s not what we do.  What we do is we take ten good deals that are in the pipeline and we instill panic in our troops, they go out and offer discounts.  They degrade what’s already out there, themselves, the offering.  If we’ve got ten deals in the pipeline and we go out and offering all 20 percent.  Just do the basic math on this, maybe two or three of those deals realistically are going to be coming in now sooner.  I am going to argue that they may have come in at that time anyway. 

Seven or eight still come in, in the next quarter but what happens to the 20 percent discount?  You say, well you pull it back.  We don’t pull it back.  Now that we put it on the table we can’t pull it back.  And if you do the math on those numbers, that’s what I call eating your young. 

It’s like a guppy, we’re cannibalizing our pipeline, that’s why the numbers are worse and not better.  So, we need to stop doing that and put the pressure at the beginning of the quarter to get more in the pipeline, as opposed to at the end of the quarter trying to pressure and get deals done. 

What I would instruct my sales people to do instead of saying, hey, end of the quarter, can you get that purchase order.  I would instruct them to say, hey, it’s the end of the quarter everybody’s calling, everybody’s asking for the purchase orders, I just want to let you know.  No pressure from me.  We’re growing, I’ve already made my number.  Don’t need it.  I am responsible for forecast accuracy, so if this thing is going to come in next quarter or never going to come in, feel free to tell me that.  Because truth is more important than sin.  Just take that away. 

Trey Gibson: Like it.  So, being proactive starts today, not at the end of the quarter.  It all kind of ties together from having a sales process, you understand be proactive to work towards that sales process and if you’re consistently doing that.  You can be proactive instead of reactive.  I like that, makes sense.

Steve Kraner: Yes.  And when I take on a new sales team, I am going to be proactive from the beginning.  I’m going to assess.  I’m going to look at whether they have a documented selling system in place.  And if they don’t have a really well-defined sales methodology I’m going to put that in place.  I’m going to be proactive.

I’ve heard sales managers say, I don’t want to tell people, I don’t want to be prescriptive, I don’t want to tell how to make that outbound call.  I don’t want to tell them how to conduct a discovery call.  Well, why don’t you want to do that.

If you had a golf coach, and the golf coach said, Trey, you know the problem with your game.  The ball does not go in the hole early enough and often enough.  That’s not helpful.  You need to be prescriptive.  You need to be the person who knows what’s going on.  You need to overcome your fear of that.  And if you don’t know you probably shouldn’t be the sales VP and you should learn.  You should call me up and hire me.  And I’ll show you, teach you how to do it, and then you’ll know how to do it.

Trey Gibson: Exactly.  So, I’ll put you on the spot.  I love stories, any stories come to mind of one your past clients?  Anything that, success stories, you went in and this was what happened and this was the result, I think people really, just really resonate with stories.  I will put you on the spot to see if anything comes to mind, if not, no big deal we can move on.

Steve Kraner: There’s loads and loads of course.

Trey Gibson: Yeah, you’ve been doing this a long time, so it’s probably hard to pick just one.

Steve Kraner: Yes, the good, bad and the ugly.  For the purpose of our conversation, I hear these stories all of the time.  I’ll tell you one and several others that have occurred since.

In training sales force one of the young ladies I decided to try this idea of an agreed mutual action plan.  She sent it out, and a couple of days later I got an email from her.  She was passing on to me an email that her customer had sent to her.  So, the sales rep has written up this mutual action plan, sent it to the customer, and the customer is now responding.  And the customer is saying, I deeply appreciate your professionalism and the way you approach the sales process.  She had a number of details of why she thought this approach was clear, concise, crisp, and respectful.  But the point of the story is if you take – it’s just like a man leading the dance, if you can lead arm and arm dancing well, if you’ll take charge and do a good job – a woman looks better as a dancer, enjoys that and is glad to let you take the lead.  If you as sales person take the lead and do a good job, buyers will be saying to you, wow you’re good at what you’re doing. 

I pick that example because it had to with the mutual action plan.  You can hear on the game film.  If you do it a good cold call, buyers are saying, hey – I just heard this, this morning.  I was reviewing game film before I got on with you.  The buyer said, wow you’re really good at this.  You will get buyers saying to you, you’re good at selling.

Trey Gibson: Yeah, that’s fantastic.  That’s the biggest compliment I’ve received during my time at SPOTIO is we were cold calling to someone, VP of sales or something, he said, stop.  He goes, I’m going to go call in my team real quick, I want them to hear how this is supposed to go.  At that point you’re high fiving. 

Getting props for being a professional, there’s nothing better than that.

Steve Kraner: You know what, I think that’s an unusual thing.  So, I’m glad to hear you’ve had that experience.  And anybody who’s listening to this, maybe they would think you and I are bragging about ourselves a little bit here.  And I don’t want it to come across that way.  If you’re not getting that kind of feedback as a sales person about every fifth all, 20 percent of the time, and I’ve measured that.  I am that geeky.  I measure stuff like that.  Then you’re game isn’t where it could and should be.  Because they will absolutely say, you are good at selling and I appreciate it.  I don’t take calls ever from anybody, but I will take your call.

Trey Gibson: Yeah.  That’s awesome.  Alright, so wrapping up here.  I like to do our what we call closing out our T’s to crusher, and we call it that because at SPOTIO if you’re at 150 percent or greater to quota we call it a crusher. 

So, just four quick rapid fire questions and then just first thing that comes to mind.  So, number one, favorite business or sales book and why?

Steve Kraner: You know given the context of our conversation today I love the Checklist Manifesto, it sounds boring.  A guy who referred me to that book had to refer me three times, and I so respect him.  Have you read that book?

Trey Gibson: I have not.  No.

Steve Kraner: Read the Checklist Manifesto, it sounds horribly boring but it so ties into what you and I are talking about and once you do, you’ll say, whoa, it’s a little more interesting and I see why Steve recommended it in the context of this conversation.

Trey Gibson: I remember when I started my first company it was building processes was so important, as a matter of fact I hired a consultant to help me build the process.  And a lot of it is checklist.  It’s something so simple, but often very well overlooked, and I know a lot our customers at SPOTIO are trying to scale their business.  So, that’s really good input.  I read something about how the checklist that NASA has, like how detailed and maybe that comes from this book, I don’t know.  I read a blurb on a blog somewhere about the checklists that NASA has and how detailed they are and how that allows them to avoid any mistakes that are going to cost people’s lives.

Surely in sales we could benefit from a good checklist.

Mindset, how important is it in sales and what do you do or what do you recommend to get in the right one?

Steve Kraner: That maybe my favorite topic.  If you believe, and this is not some eastern metaphysical statement I making, this is just literally true.  And if you haven’t got in touch with this truth then meditate on it and understand it is true.

Your actions today are suddenly a manifestation of your current beliefs.  And therefore, your beliefs, you mindset, your mental map is determining the level of success and everything you are doing today.  We believe 100 percent of our beliefs if we just stop and reflect for a moment – is it possible that 100 percent of our current beliefs today about selling, and customers and everything in life are absolutely correct?  By definition it’s impossible unless we’re God himself.  That’s not true.  So, while we believe 100 percent of our beliefs, one of the most fundamental things we can do is check our basic belief system and redo things and update that mental map.  Once the mental map is updated, our behavior will naturally, and instantly, and permanently change.  One of the beauties of listening to game film is that you’ll ask people to do something that is so incredibly uncomfortable and which they think it’s the world is flat and we are going to sail off the edge, there’s no way in the world that’s going to work.  And now, here one of their peers do it, and what’s changing isn’t their technique, it’s their belief.  Because they just now heard somebody else do it and they believe it works and they can do it. 

Trey Gibson: Nice.  So, best sales advice you received, maybe not best sales advice you’ve received, what’s like the most common sales advice you give or receive.  That’s broad topic.

Steve Kraner: If you want something that flips both ways, certainly, it is the advice I give and the advice I also give myself and others give me, is to inspect yourself as a third party.  To seek ways to see yourself as a third party.  At the end of a sales call, a buddy uses call recordings for field sales people.  One of the things they’re suppose to do is review their calls and then give a summary of how the call went at the end.  I think I’m the only one that’s actually listening to the call recordings.  And the thing I pick up on is when you listen to the actual call and then you listen to the rep’s summary at the end, it’s two different calls.

Trey Gibson: Oh really.

Steve Kraner: Yeah.

Trey Gibson: Is that because they’re actually not listening to it or that they just had a completely different impression of what happened?

Steve Kraner: You do.  You have a completely different impression of what happened until you sit back and listen as a third party.  Because when you’re in the moment you’re emotionally involved.  And you are not an accurate observer of what’s going.  If you then sit back and listen to the recording, and they are not listening and they are not taking the time, because it’s tedious and it’s also painful and we hate to hear ourselves performing, because frankly it’s not that pretty for most. 

Trey Gibson: Yeah. 

Steve Kraner: It’s adopting that third party perspective.  My mentor into the sales business, the sales systems business, the sales training business was a guy named David Sandler.  And what he said was – I said David where do you come up with some of this stuff?  He said, well I pretend like I’m a martian and that I was dropped on this Earth by my fellow martians, and my job is to study the earthlings.  Take notes and they are going to pick me up in about a year and I’ve got to tell them about the earthlings.

Trey Gibson: Nice.  So, last question, one thing every sales professional should start doing today?

Steve Kraner: So, given the context of this conversation, I would say, just take a baby step.  Kisen, just do one little thing different.  Just one step out of your comfort zone.  Next time you talk to a customer about an active transaction try to reach an agreement that’s appropriate for that conversation.  And then, write that agreement up, write up a courteous recap and send it to the customer and start developing that habit of documenting your agreements in writing.  Confirming them with the customers.  That won’t be a full blown mutual action plan the first time you do it, but if you’ll just start one baby step at a time there’s a point at which it will become a full blown mutual action plan.  And if you want to take it a step further and get to that full blown mutual action plan, as you said go to my website, download the template.  Adjust it if you don’t like my thing the way I have it, but try to achieve that level of mastery and that level of completeness. 

Trey Gibson: So, with that said, where can the listeners find you.  I was on your website earlier and I’m a content junkie and there’s a ton of good stuff.  So, where can they go find you if they want to get some of your content and continue to learn?

Steve Kraner: So, the url is  And to download content you can give me your email so I can start sending you tips if you’d like.  If you don’t want me to send you tips the password to download all of the content is goodselling.  You can download all of the things that we’ve been talking about, the checklist, the mutual action plan template and other stuff that we haven’t even talked about.

Trey Gibson: That’s fantastic.  I had a great time Steve, learned as well, and really enjoyed our conversation.  Thank you so much and we’ll talk to you later.

Steve Kraner: Likewise Trey, good selling.