715: Redefining Sales Success: From Seller’s Journey to Buyer’s Experience | Richard Harris

Podcast Cover Image: Redefining Sales Success: From Seller's Journey to Buyer's Experience Featuring Richard Harris
Podcast Cover Image: Redefining Sales Success: From Seller's Journey to Buyer's Experience Featuring Richard Harris

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Ready to unlock explosive growth for your business? Join us on the Conquer Local Podcast as we welcome sales veteran Richard Harris!

Richard is the founder of The Harris Csonsulting Group and brings over 20 years of experience, having worked his way up from SDR to VP of Sales. He’s helped companies like Zoom, Salesforce, Dusty Robotics, and Human Interest achieve remarkable success.

In this episode, Richard will share his golden nuggets of wisdom on:

  • Developing Winning GTM Strategies: Craft a roadmap to market dominance that drives results.
  • The Art of the Question: Learn how to ask the right questions at the right time to build trust and close deals.
  • Sales Enablement: Empower your sales reps to become high-performing revenue generators.

Richard is also the co-founder of Surf and Sales, a thriving community for sales professionals, and host of the popular Surf and Sales Podcast. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain insights from a sales guru!

Conquer Local is presented by Vendasta. We have proudly served 5.5+ million local businesses through 60,000+ channel partners, agencies, and enterprise-level organizations. Learn more about Vendasta, and we can help your organization or learn more about Vendasta’s Affiliate Program and how our listeners (like yourself) make up to $10,000 off referrals.

Are you an entrepreneur, salesperson, or marketer? Then, keep the learning going in the Conquer Local Academy.

Redefining Sales Success: From Seller’s Journey to Buyer’s Experience

Introduction

Jeff Tomlin: Welcome to the Conquer Local Podcast! Our show features successful sales leaders, marketers, thought leaders and entrepreneurs who will inspire you with their success stories. Each episode is packed with practical strategies, as our guests share their secrets to achieving their dreams. Listen in to learn the highlights of their remarkable accomplishments and get tips to revamp, rework, and reimagine your business. Whether you’re a small business owner, marketer, or aspiring entrepreneur, the Conquer Local Podcast is your ultimate guide to dominating your local market. Tune in now to take your business to the next level! 

I’m Jeff Tomlin and on this episode, we’re pleased to welcome Richard Harris.

Richard has been instrumental in helping founders with Go-to-Market strategies and teaching sales representatives about earning the right to ask questions, determining which questions to ask, and when to ask them – highlighting timing as the primary driver. With over 20 years of experience, he has held various roles ranging from Sales Development Representative to Director of Sales Operations, working with clients such as Zoom, Salesforce, Human Interest, Dusty Robotics, and Gainsight. 

Richard is also the co-founder of Surf and Sales and the host on the Surf and Sales Podcast.

Get ready Conquerors for Richard Harris coming up next on this week’s episode of the Conquer Local Podcast.

Sales Consultant Started at GAP and Became an Expert through Career Journey.

Jeff Tomlin: Richard Harris, it is a pleasure to have you on the Conquer Local Podcast. Thanks for taking some time out of your busy day to join us here. How are you doing, man?

Richard Harris: I am really good. Thank you for having me. I’m excited to be here and just appreciate the opportunity.

Jeff Tomlin: Hey, we focus a lot on sales and sales skills and sales methodologies here on the podcast, and we do our best to get a lineup of experts, and we’re really privileged to have you, truly. I love hearing people’s stories and their backgrounds to explain to people where you got started and how’d you get to where you are? So maybe you could walk us through that journey a little bit, from a sales associate at the Gap to becoming a renowned sales consultant. What does that journey look like a bit?

Richard Harris: Yeah, I’ll give you the short version because you and I are of a wisdom age, as we could say.

Jeff Tomlin: I like that description.

Richard Harris: I was one of the few people ever wanted to be in sales in business as you know a lot of people in sales. It’s like a dumpster fire of failed careers for a lot of people, and they sort of fall into it. I was the opposite. In high school, I was like, “I needed a part-time job,” and Gap seemed pretty cool, and I got a discount on clothes, then got there. Most people don’t know this. This is before Gap even sold their own jeans. They sold Levi’s back in the day. Those were the only jeans they had. But then I realized, like, “Oh, you know what? Getting out of college, this would be a good managerial job.” I got some advice from an uncle that said, “Look, your first job out of college doesn’t matter.” He is like, “But the Gap is a good place. It’s a logo people will always know and remember,” even to this day.

Jeff Tomlin: Mm-hmm.

Richard Harris: So in college, my last semester, I decided to go get a job and decided to go do some part-time stuff in college, and then got promoted to managing a GapKid store when there were about maybe 12 in the country. So again, I’m dating us in terms of our experience but moved from there into inside sales, old school, selling classified newspaper ads, cold calling, and that whole school. Then just sort of slowly progressed through my career, moved around the country a couple of times with that company, and eventually got into the technology space. About 10 or 11 years ago, I was working for a company called Mashery that did API management, what I call the infrastructure of the internet kind of stuff. They got acquired by Intel and didn’t need me. So they hugged me out the door, did a really nice job of that, and all of a sudden people started calling me and I was like, “Huh, okay. I guess I got something to say.” So I’ve been a consultant ever since. I never decided to be a consultant. It was never my desire or life goal to do that, but once I fell into it, I really loved it.

Sales Consultant Emphasizes Buyer Experience over Seller’s Journey.

Jeff Tomlin: I love how things just happen like that. By the way, I don’t think that there is a better way that someone can start a sales career than starting out in retail. It is such an invaluable foundation to learn how to talk to people, right?

Richard Harris: Yeah. Look, the first sales process I had was called Gap ACT, greet, approach, product knowledge, add-on close, and thank you. That’s what they taught you to do. So that’s the first sales process I ever learned.

Jeff Tomlin: Love it. Hey, one thing I wanted to get to and unpack here is that you talk about redefining the buyer’s journey in terms of seller’s journey.

Richard Harris: Mm-hmm.

Jeff Tomlin: So tell us a little bit about your perspective on that and how that sort of changes things.

Richard Harris: Yeah. So often, all of us sort of follow the leader in this advice we get, and I’ve said buyer’s journey all along. Then I realized that there really is no such thing as a buyer’s journey. There’s really only a buyer’s experience through a journey. And that journey is created by sales and marketing, particularly in today’s digital age.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah.

Richard Harris: Even whether it’s inbound or outbound, your buyer has had some experience that makes them want to learn more. So, therefore, whether it’s an outbound cold call or email, you resonated with some experience that they’ve had that they are curious about potentially changing. So that’s what it’s really about is that it’s about understanding that the experience is what matters and how people go through that experience is what helps them choose whether or not to work with you.

Focus on Economic Impact, and not ROI for Sales Success.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, I like that a lot. On the last conversation I had with my last guest, we were talking about the concept of ROI and he had some unique perspectives on that. So you have your own thoughts on the ROI discussion.

Richard Harris: Yeah.

Jeff Tomlin: Since that’s at the top of one of the things at the top of my head, unpack that a little bit too. Some alternative approaches that you have talking about ROI.

Richard Harris: Yeah. So first of all, I call ROI the religion of insanity, okay? Because there’s nothing sane about someone asking you about the ROI. They’re never ever going to believe you. Every time I’ve had someone ask me about ROI, I said, “I can give you an ROI, but will you believe it? Will you really believe the numbers I give?”

Jeff Tomlin: People are skeptical.

Richard Harris: And they all kind of chuckle.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah. In any sales discussion or discussion of sales, people have a position of skepticism.

Richard Harris: Yes, and I talk about that too. But back to the ROI piece is that, so I will tell them, “Look, nobody ever believes the R, they only see the I.”

Jeff Tomlin: Right.

Richard Harris: The reason for that is that it’s about some future state that nobody can predict, right? January of 2020, someone’s asking you for an ROI. Well, guess what happened in April? So now all of a sudden there’s the ROI changes, but right, the economy of 2023. I can give you an ROI, but it’s about some future state and therefore people are very skeptical about the future. That’s the problem with the ROI at the real level. For me, I encourage people to talk about the economic impact, meaning what’s the economic impact it’s costing you right now? I don’t necessarily mean just the hard costs of time and efficiency. Efficiency and effectiveness is not enough. The real part of economic impact comes down to, “Well if you get some of this time back, what does that do for your company’s growth?” Because that’s economic impact, and if you ask questions the right way, they will give you their numbers around economic impact, how many people are affected, how long does it take, how much time would you want back? What could you do at that time? So at the end of it, by the time you get to your commercial terms, they can’t justify that it’s not affordable. So that’s the goal around economic impact and why I think that’s way more important than ROI. Economic impact is about right now. If you like it right now and you’re going to stay with it right now, here’s what it’s going to cost you. So the question then becomes from an ROI perspective, if you purchase this, are you going to implement? If so, then it’s on you to determine the ROI.

In enterprise sales, involve procurement early and understand their role for smoother deals.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah. Boy, I sure like that a lot because what you’re describing is mapping out the cost of staying the same right now, and it’s the first step in helping them understand what the risk is in their current position and what the future state could look like after that.

Richard Harris: Yes.

Jeff Tomlin: You have a lot of experience in enterprise sales throughout your career, and one thing that I wanted to make sure that we got to in the podcast here is have you talking a little bit about your approach in dealing with procurement because it’s one thing that we don’t talk a lot about is navigating larger enterprise deals. So there’s a number of people that have to deal with procurement departments. So you got some perspectives on that, maybe you could dig into that a bit.

Richard Harris: Yeah. So the challenge is that we get so few at-bats with procurement, and nobody ever teaches us these things unless you’ve got a really good leader who’s been doing it for a long time and understands it. So I only learned this maybe in the last three or four years. So the goal of procurement, yeah, of course, they’re trying to save some money as they should. So there’s a couple of ways to think about that. First of all, when you go into procurement, they actually in most cases want to talk to you sooner than you think. I’ve talked to people at Coca-Cola and Mercedes, and they’ve said, “I would much rather talk to sales way before the end of the process.”

The challenge is internally, that company has never told their internal people who are bringing stuff to procurement to bring them in sooner, right? Because, look, procurement doesn’t want to be there at the end of the quarter, the end of December, any more than you do. They want to go home and be with their family. So that’s the first thing is to think about bringing that up and being able to say, “Hey, Richard, as we move forward, I’ve learned over the years that procurement actually wants to talk to us sooner than later. What’s your process?” So I’m talking to my champion, Richard to see what that looks like. That doesn’t mean that I’m asking to be introduced. I’m just asking what their process is, which we actually need to know as salespeople, what is the approval process? When you do, whether it’s in the beginning or in the middle or the end, you get to procurement. For me, the first question to ask is to just say, “So as I begin to work with you, Mr. or Mrs. Procurement Agent, I understand we’re going to talk about commercial terms. Can you help me understand your role here? Can you help me understand, are we just doing commercial terms or are you going to shepherd me through this process? Does that include legal, too, or is that somebody different?”

So now all of a sudden I’m doing a different kind of discovery to let the other person know I’m trying not to be adversarial, that I’m trying to respect their role and help them in their role. I don’t need to hound them about something. So that’s a really interesting place that I encourage people to think about procurement. I can go a little deeper in terms of how do you prevent the discount so much, but I’ll pause here and see if that resonated with you or where you want to take it or something like that.

Jeff Tomlin: No, 100%. Even internally here at Vendasta, we deal with larger enterprises as well as smaller customers, and you have to adopt different process from working through these enterprises. One of the super important parts of that is understanding what the process is on the customer’s end to see. There’s a lot of different stakeholders when you’re dealing with an enterprise-type client. So you have to understand, “Hey, what are the things that are making them tick?”

Richard Harris: Mm-hmm.

Negotiate Discounts with Value-Adds, not Percentages.

Jeff Tomlin: I like your approach of, “Hey, bringing them in earlier in the discussion so you don’t have this adversarial relationship with the department.” I’d love for you to continue a little bit on your thoughts on that.

Richard Harris: Yeah. So there are a couple of things to remember about procurement and legal. Sometimes procurement and legal are two different departments, and/or, in most cases they probably are. Sometimes procurement will be your shepherd through legal; sometimes they won’t. The first thing to remember is whenever you’re dealing with commercial terms, if you’ve got to talk to someone separate in legal versus someone separate on the pricing, you’ve got to make sure that any number you agree to for pricing is in conjunction with what your legal terms are, because otherwise it’s what I call getting unbundled. Meaning legal’s going to come back and make these changes, but if you’ve already negotiated down your price, you’ve got no leverage.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah.

Richard Harris: So your legal is you’ve got to have that piece. So being willing to say things like, “This seems okay, I cannot confirm until I hear back from legal on red lines,” because if there’s something you got to give up too much, then there’s a challenge there for you.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah.

Richard Harris: So you just have to be delicate with that conversation. I don’t think it’s inappropriate. Look, believe me, procurement’s heard this stuff a thousand times before. Procurement goes through training about how to negotiate and they know that they can scare the hell out of us with anything, same with legal. So you’ve got to make sure you don’t get unbundled and that you handle the legal terms, MSA along with the pricing together, even if they try to separate them. That’s the first thing. When it comes to discounting, procurement is generally happy with a good 2, 3, or 4% discount. The first thing I always say to people when they ask for a discount is to say, “Well, actually, our pricing is based on what the market will bear, and based on our research, the market says this, how would you like to proceed?” Sometimes they’re like, “Well, we still need a discount and those kinds of things.”

If so, if you have to give a discount, I encourage people to say, “Well, look, there’s a few ways we can both leverage commercial terms to get what we want here. If you give me a longer term contract, I can give you 2%. If you buy more seats, I can give you 3%. If you give us a customer quote, I can give you another 3%.” So based on that, you can have all these discounts, which one are you comfortable with? So now all of a sudden they have to earn that discount. They can’t just get it for nothing.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah.

Richard Harris: What’s really important is that I’ve also prevented myself from just, “Oh, I’ll give out 20% or 30%,” because we know they’re going to come in with some high anchor of 30%. I’m going to be like, “What are you talking about? Do you really think my time’s worth 70% less now?” So I can’t say that out loud, but I like to sort of take that position and then sort of say, “There’s a way we can both leverage it.”

Sales conversation: Value Exchange, not Discounts.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah.

Richard Harris: It’s a mutual exchange. So the context of the language, I think matters. So that’s what I encourage people to do.

Jeff Tomlin: I mean, I like just even the psychology of asking for something before you give something, right?

Richard Harris: Yeah.

Jeff Tomlin: “If you want this, what is it worth to her?”

Richard Harris: Yeah.

Jeff Tomlin: So I mean, that’s just good psychology because then you’re not undervaluing your time or your product and the value of what you’re providing at the end of the day.

Richard Harris: Yeah.

Richard discusses New Book, Mindset Shift & 13 Practical Sales Tactics.

Jeff Tomlin: Hey, let’s chat a little bit about the book. You’ve got a book out, The Seller’s Journey. Maybe you can share a little bit about some of the insights that you have in the book and what people can expect.

Richard Harris: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, thank you. I’m always conscious about over-promoting a book, so if I seem reserved, just know I’m trying to be respectful about it.

Jeff Tomlin: Oh, that sounds Canadian.

Richard Harris: Yeah. Well, I am from the Deep South in Macon, Georgia, so maybe it’s a little Southern hospitality.

Jeff Tomlin: There you go.

Richard Harris: That being said, so the book’s in two parts. One part is about the mindset of sales, and there’s a chapter in there called, Yes, I’m in Sales. So often you’ll go to some event and people will be like, “Oh, I’m a doctor, and I’m a lawyer, and I’m this and I’m that.” They’re like, “What do you do?” We’re like, “Oh, I’m in sales.” It’s like, “We should be proud about this.” No profession changes more lives than what we do. Careers can be made by what our customers buy. They can get promoted. They can get extra money. They can take care of their family. That doesn’t put down a lawyer or a doctor for what they do. They can change people’s lives as well. At a quantity level and a quality level, we surpass them, and we should be proud of that. There’s no reason not to mention-

Jeff Tomlin: Amen.

Richard Harris: … guess what a lawyer’s job is? Sell. Guess what a doctor’s job is? Sell. There’s not a doctor in the world who isn’t getting measured by how much they’re billing at the hospital. Trust me. Now that doesn’t mean they’re bad doctors, hopefully, or bad lawyers. But we’re in sales just like they are, and they just don’t like it because it’s a dirty word. Meanwhile, we get it. So a big part of the book is about being proud and understanding mindset and sales mindset. Then the other part of the book is, there are 13 tactics of what you can put in your sales playbook. This discounting conversation is in there, understanding a strong sales process is in there and how to write one, understanding the right kinds of questions. There’s a whole section around how do you bucket your questions around getting access to authority or what is the economic impact and how do you get there? So there’s a bunch of examples in there. So it’s mentally strategic and then heavily tactical from the execution side.

Sales Success: Strong Mindset & Adapt to Improve.

Jeff Tomlin: Yeah, love it. If you had a couple of takeaways that you wanted to leave people with on today’s chat, what would they be?

Richard Harris: Well, aside from, “Yeah, please go buy the book.”

Jeff Tomlin: Go buy the book.

Richard Harris: Yeah, I’m a big fan of this mental part of the game. Sales is not easy, right? There are few professions that are where literally your livelihood’s on the line every month or every quarter or every year. So I want people to know that I get that, and that’s a part of what’s in the book, but I want people to walk away knowing this mental health side of sales is also equally important. Doesn’t get talked about enough. I want people to know that there is support out there that if your company is not educating you and helping your career grow, and you could say this about marketing or IT, whatever it is, go do it on your own. I don’t care if it’s my book, someone else’s book, a blog, a website, a podcast obviously like Conquer Local. Take accountability for yourself and find little ways to just improve and to learn. So that’s the one thing. Then the last thing I’ll say is that, in sales, we are meant to be the instigators of change for our prospects and customers-

Jeff Tomlin: Love that.

Richard Harris: … to their own benefit, not just to our financial benefit. Yet salespeople are some of the hardest people to change their own bad habits. We’re terrible at it.

Jeff Tomlin: I agree.

Richard Harris: We don’t take our own advice. So if you ever feel like you’re in that spot, that kind of goes back to this, take some accountability and go learn something. That’s what I want people to walk away from, is like, we can all get better at this. I’m not perfect at it. You’re not perfect at it. We all learn. So take what you can get.

Getting in touch with Richard Harris 

Jeff Tomlin: I love the concept of the instigators of change. I’m going to hold onto that one. Hey, with that, by the way, if people wanted to get a hold of you and continue the conversation, how do they reach out?

Richard Harris: Yeah, this is the crazy part. So my real cell phone number is 415-596-9149. 415-596-9149. I give it out on everything I do. Nobody ever calls me. It’s the craziest thing. Text me ahead of time to say, “Hey, I heard you on Conquer Local,” but people rarely ever reach out. You can also find me on LinkedIn. I’m Richard Harris, have a little goofy trademark emoji by my name. Yes, I know you can’t trademark your name, but that’s probably the easiest way, or the Harris Consulting Group is my website.

Jeff Tomlin: Hey, it’s been an absolute pleasure having you on the Conquer Local Podcast. I want to say a quick thank you for taking time out of your very busy day to join us here, and I wish you all the best of luck, and I encourage people to reach out and contact you and definitely take a look at the book, some amazing insights inside of it. Richard Harris, thanks for joining us today.

Richard Harris: Oh, thank you so much. I appreciate this. It’s been a lot of fun.

Conclusion

Jeff Tomlin: What a great chat with Richard! So what are some of the takeaways here? The first one is to Focus on the buyer’s experience. Forget the buyer’s journey. It’s all about creating a positive experience throughout the sales process.  Whether it’s a cold call or an email, resonate with the buyer’s current situation and their potential desire for change.  Focus on the experience to build trust and move the deal forward.

The second takeaway is to Move beyond ROI. While Return on Investment is a great metric, Richard argues it can be unreliable because the future is unpredictable.  Instead, emphasize the economic impact of your product or service on the customer’s business.  Show how it will save them money, free up time for growth, or contribute to their overall success. I think that’s a super important nuance.

If you’ve enjoyed Richard’s episode discussing The Seller’s Journey, keep the conversation going and revisit some of our older episodes from the archives: Check out Episode 707: Exposing Strategies to 10x your Sales Growth with Joe Ingram or  Episode 701: The Sales Doctor’s prescription for $100 M Success with Chet Lovegren. 

Until next time, I’m Jeff Tomlin get out there and be awesome! 

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