How Door Openers and Closers Do Business Development Right
What does great business development look like? It can be hard to know exactly who to hire for important sales roles, and it’s equally challenging knowing how to handle legacy staff members who have difficulty with their job and have a tendency to underperform.
I met with Caryn Kopp, Chief Door Opener, and author of the incredibly successful book, Biz Dev Done Right: Demystifying the Sales Process and Achieving the Results You Want. Caryn provides fantastic advice on managing sales teams, as well as sharing tangible courses of action to help you clear your path to success.
- Identifying blind spots in the sales process
- Taking your pitch to the next level
- Hiring the right staff, and the important differences between openers and closers
- How to spot the characteristics of high functioning performers
- Finding the optimal outcome for every interaction
- Teaching current staff new traits and techniques
- Using the recruitment process to maximize hiring the right candidate
- What an effective onboarding process looks like
- Utilizing effective role plays that break from the usual scenario
- How to best develop your sales messaging for your entire team
- Listening to sales conversations as part of a development
- Strategies to grow sales through refining your messaging
Here’s a transcript of our conversation.
How Closers Do Business Development Right
Rich: Caryn, welcome. How are you?
Caryn: I’m good. How are you?
Rich: I’m really well, really looking forward to having a conversation with you today. I think there’s going to be a lot of information, a lot of insights that our audience is going to find useful and practical, and things they can implement straight away. Let’s begin as we always do on the podcast. Give us a little bit of an introduction to you, your work, your experience, and what’s led you to write the book Biz Dev Done Right.
Caryn: Okay, well, wonderful. Well, I’ve owned this company, Kopp Consulting, for 20 years. I can’t believe it’s been that long. And we are best known for the Door Opener service, where we get our clients the executive-level appointments that they can’t get for themselves, and they can’t get that for themselves either because they don’t have the skills or they don’t have the time, and some people would just rather put a stick in their eye than do this work. So we take it off their shoulders, and we do it for them, and the way we do that is we use very senior-level business developers known as Door Openers, because I’m the Chief Door Opener, so they’re the Door Openers, that represent our clients as if they were a member of our client’s team, and get those doors open and get them the meetings.
Caryn: The reason why I even started this business is that most people are limited in their growth only by their inability to get in the door for more of these meetings. In fact, most people say to me, “You get me in the door, I can close most of the time. I just can’t get enough of these right prospect meetings.” And when I tell them that we can do that for them, get the meetings for them, they just have this wash of relief come over them that somebody’s actually going to help them with the thing that troubles them most, and that’s what we do for our clients.
Caryn: My first cold-calling job, I was 11 years old. I was babysitting for a neighbor, and the woman had a franchise for Lawn Doctor. She said to me, “Boy, you have a good phone voice. Would you make some appointments to get us some free lawn evaluations?” And I thought, “Well, I can do that,” and I did, and look where it got me years later.
Rich: Fantastic, I love it. I don’t know if you’ve seen it, but our CEO, Kevin, his 10-year-old kid came into the office on a holiday and did some cold-calling for us, so you were definitely the front-runner there for sure. Let’s move then towards the book. Biz Dev Done Right is the title. From what I’ve read, it’s really about helping people identify the blind spots in the sales process. What was it that prompted you to author or co-author the book? And tell us a little bit more about the book itself.
Caryn: Sure. Well, as you said, it’s all about the blind spots in the sales process that keep the leaders and the sellers from the success they really deserve. Over the 20 years I’ve owned this business, I’ve seen countless leaders be not only stymied by being able to get in the door, but once they’re in the door, we often guide our clients on what are the best practices for taking your pitch to the next level, what do you do when you get stuck and there’s a new decision-maker further down the line, and all of a sudden it seems like the road is clogged, but it’s not really clogged if you know how to clear that path.
Caryn: I saw so many times that the business leaders would solve the wrong problem, because they didn’t really know how to diagnose and find where the problem was coming from, and they would want to fix the problems with very expensive solutions. In some cases, the business leaders would fire their whole sales team, when actually, the issue didn’t have to do with the people, it had to do with the process. Or they would incorporate this brand-new, big, expensive initiative, but yet they wouldn’t know how to implement that initiative in a way that made sense. And so, they would end up solving that wrong problem, and there were so many times that these blind spots would just get in the way, but if there was only someone to tell them, “Hey, don’t do this, do that,” all of a sudden the path would be clearer, and success would be so much easier for them. They wouldn’t waste time, spin their wheels.
Caryn: So, my co-author, Carl Gould, runs a company that helps many, many companies with overall business growth, and we, of course, help companies with sales growth in particular, and especially new business development. We were sitting in his office one day around his conference room, and he was telling me stories about his friends and his clients who, just because of a blind spot, chose the wrong path, and he was helping them with the right path. And the same with me, my friends who own businesses are telling me about problems that they have, caused by the fact that they just don’t know the right path.
Caryn: And so we said, “Wouldn’t it be great if we just wrote a book that told people what the path was, so they didn’t have to waste time going down the wrong path, they would just know what the right path was, and then business development would be so much easier?” So we said, “Okay, let’s write a book about it,” and we did, called Biz Dev Done Right, and it became an Amazon bestseller. Some people, after they read it, say, “Were you standing in my office watching all the mistakes I made, and that’s how you came up with this book?”
Rich: Brilliant, I love it, and I was reading… I went onto Amazon to have a quick look prior to us having a chat, and one of the reviews stood out. There’s one of the reviews says, “This is an excellent,” underscore and exclamation point, “guide to getting yourselves on track by having a plan, a process. If all you or your salespeople have is a smile and shiny shoes, even getting part of this in place will significantly improve your results.” I thought that was a really nice… It was a really nice review. I think that kind of speaks to a lot of what’s in there. I suppose the main question I have there, then, is what are the main blind spots? What are the ones that, if you had to say, frequently pop up? What are the blind spots that you see the most often when you’re talking with people who’ve either read the book or are interested in the topic?
Caryn: Well, it varies by individual, for sure, but if I had to pick a common one, it would be hiring the wrong salesperson, definitely one of those. And in particular when it comes to hunters, because most people know the difference between hunters and farmers. The farmers grow the business, and the hunters find the business. But what most don’t know, and it is a huge blind spot, is that within the world of hunters, there are different kinds of hunters: some who are great at going on the meetings and closing the sale, we call them the closers, and others who are just intuitively great, they just got it in their DNA, where they can have a conversation with somebody new and get an outcome from that, and we call them the openers.
Caryn: Openers are a tiny little sliver of people out there in the world of hunters, and it is the most common form of sales mis-hire, and very painful, because with salespeople, if they’re worth their salt, they are going to find out what you need and tell you they can do it, but that doesn’t mean they can do it, or that doesn’t mean they want to do it. So if you hire an opener from the beginning, the whole process of getting those new doors open is going to be significantly easier. If you hire someone who isn’t an opener, and you want them to open, it’ll probably take you four to six months as the leader to realize you have a mis-hire. But by then, all sorts of time has gone by, you’ve wasted money, you’ve wasted resources, and you’re no further along, and now you have to do it all again.
Caryn: So I would say that is the most common source of mis-hire. It is one of the biggest blind spots out there, and when I point this out when I’m giving seminars, and I talk about the difference of people in the world of hunters, there’s all sorts of light bulbs that are going off, saying, with people like, “Oh, I’ve made that mistake, and now I don’t need to, because I know the difference.”
Rich: So then, would it be a fair assumption to say that a closer is typically somebody who would perform well in front of a client if they were pitching, but might not necessarily have the skills needed or the aptitude to get that meeting in the first place? Is that one of the differences between the two?
Caryn: Yes, that is one of the differences between the two. And I’m not saying that the closers can’t open, they can, but usually people are either strong in one area or the other, and that’s where they gravitate towards. So the people who are really good in closing, and their pitch is going to be better, and all of that, they want to spend their time there, so they may only open if they absolutely have to. And what that does for leaders is it will cause unnecessary peaks and valleys in revenue generation, which is really uncomfortable from a leadership perspective, because they want predictable revenue. They can’t get predictable revenue unless somebody is doing an activity consistently, and the closers, if they don’t want to spend their time that way, they’re not going to, and that’s where the peaks and valleys come in.
Rich: What are the characteristics of the high-performing hunters, then, or the high-performing closers, I should say? What are some of the characteristics that they typically exhibit? If that’s the type of role that someone’s looking to fill, what would a sales leader be looking for in the optimal candidate for that type of role?
Caryn: Yeah, so that’s a great question. Here are some things off the top of my head that I would suggest. One is consistency. The place where you have a point of failure when it comes to a closer is where they’re not consistent in their activity, and they’ll put all sorts of time into a proposal, but they’ll fail when it comes to follow-up and nurturing if somebody is not ready to move forward right away. Somebody who is not deterred easily, they have a philosophy that either customer now or customer later, as Carl, my co-author, likes to say, that it’s just a Richer of time. As long as you’re approaching the right prospect group, a no doesn’t mean no forever, it just means not now, which means there’s a nurture path that these particular prospects need to be on, and the high-performing closer is going to know that and act accordingly with consistency.
Caryn: Another one is, I call it maniacally methodical. This is somebody who is not going to skip over somebody who needs a phone call or an email. They’re going to go ahead and do that. Another is the high EQ, so emotional piece of this, so they understand that it’s not always an email. Sometimes you need to pick up the phone and have a conversation with someone, even though it may just be a couple of minutes long, that will be the key difference, versus just zipping off an email and expecting that to work.
Caryn: And lastly, somebody who understands that every single interaction is important, that you either have the opportunity to further the relationship with that interaction, or you have the possibility that is going to destroy your relationship. So they will prepare for each interaction and get as much as possible, I would say the optimal outcome from every interaction, whether it’s an email or a phone call or a meeting, or anything that you’re doing to interact with someone, and make that person’s life better.
Rich: Okay, so in your experience, then, do you see these as quite fixed traits? Are they largely things that people really struggle to get towards, or can they be adjusted over time? And if so, give us some tips, give us some pointers as to how we can nurture these sorts of traits in staff that we’re working with.
Caryn: Well, I think that the high performers that you were talking about before, those people are doing that anyway, and they may not know that they’re doing it, but they are. And if you’re able to track their progress using a CRM, you’re going to be able to see what they’re doing and know that they’re doing these things consistently. Look, salespeople can’t stand tracking things in a CRM for really not many other reasons than the fact that it slows them down, and they don’t like people looking over their shoulder, but it really does, it does slow them down. And so when the leaders are thinking about how they’re structuring their CRMs, one of the things that they should be thinking about is efficiency. If it’s going to take somebody three clicks to get in to the point where they’re putting in notes, and three clicks to get out, you may have people skipping steps. There are things that you could do to help them, like the ability to either have a sales assistant who does that, or you can have some voice recording where it goes right into the CRM to keep them moving along.
Caryn: But to circle back to your question, which was, “What do you do when you have somebody who doesn’t exhibit these skills in order to help them along?” first of all, they need to know what skills you’re looking for, and that actually goes back to the job description and the hiring process, but they should know what you’re looking for when it comes to what good looks like, and I would definitely want these traits, for sure. If they don’t exhibit them, there are some things that they can do, let’s say… One great example is setting tasks in the CRM, and that can come as a mandate from management that there’s always a next step with the date and time for every step in the sales process, and that gets recorded as a task within the CRM. And then if you monitor the list of open tasks, you should be able to keep somebody who may forget things now and then on track with keeping their open tasks to a minimum. That’s just one example.
Rich: Yeah, that’s a great example. You mentioned in the answer there about the hiring process or the recruitment process. How can the recruitment process be used to best ensure that the candidates, the right candidates, get through? How can a sales leader, through the recruitment process, ensure that the best candidates get through, and in particular, candidates that fit the bill of either the open or the closer?
Caryn: Yeah. So, great question, and the part that I find to be the blind spot, well, just one of the blind spots, anyway, in the hiring process, is that leaders don’t always sit and identify what they need out of their salespeople. For example, the leaders will think that a salesperson is a salesperson, so they’ll just put out an ad for a salesperson. But if you don’t have any client relationships in your… Let’s say you’re going into a new market, and the person who’s going to come in is going to develop a territory entirely from scratch. You need to say that in your job description. You need to identify that you need an opener, you need somebody who’s going to be able to do that.
Caryn: Or if you’re on the other end of the spectrum, let’s say you have lots of leads in progress, and getting more net new meetings is not as important to you, but rather someone who has great nurturing skills, you need to know what do you need now, and what do you need six months from now, not what do you need two years from now. That’s a very different story. But what do you need now? And identify that, put that into the job description, and then interview those people specifically.
Caryn: But the blind spot there is people not sitting down and identifying what they need out of the salesperson, and by the way, they do that with sales management too. A sales manager is not a sales manager is not a sales manager. Certain sales managers are great at growing teams, others are great at managing an existing team, some are great at opening up new markets, and all of these are slightly different skill sets. So when leaders are going out there to look for their sales managers, they also need to identify what they need out of this person now and six months from now, and go out into the market and find the person who’s done that many, many times.
Rich: Fantastic. Let’s roll the clock forward. The right hire has been found. What, from your perspective, does an effective onboarding process look like for new hires?
Caryn: Right, so I’ll speak about the sales perspective, not just the admin piece of it, although that’s important too.
Caryn: But what I like to see people have is a documented sales message and process, and then train the sellers to use it, and then test their proficiency in being able to use the messaging with technique before they start going out there. You don’t want them practicing on your most important prospects. The piece that people tend to skip is the documentation of the messaging to begin with, and what that causes is a bunch of salespeople who are saying whatever they think. But if you hire salespeople who don’t know how to figure out what the right messaging is, they could be using a lot of the wrong messaging for a long time, spin their wheels and get nowhere, where you may think that they’re not a good salesperson, but that’s not true. They just didn’t have the right messaging, and if they did have the right messaging, they could go out there and open those doors and close those sales all day long.
Caryn: So I like to see the… Not just documented messaging, but messaging that’s been tested in the market, so that you know that it’s right, and give that to the salesperson. Most of the time, what companies do is they’ll have a new seller sit next to a seller who’s been successful, and somehow through osmosis, that person is supposed to be able to listen a couple of times and internalize it, and be able to come out with it in a performance moment. But that is a crapshoot, whether that’s going to be successful or not. Why have that kind of gamble? Just document the messaging, train people to use it, and then test their proficiency before they’re in those performance moments.
Rich: And I guess role-play features there for you? Is that something that… Is that the place to do that, in a role-play scenario?
Caryn: It’s role-play, but it’s not an easy role-play. Many times, role-play is, I already have a vendor for that, and then somebody has to read off of a document, if there is a document, and just say what the answer is. But life doesn’t happen according to a script. A lot of times, these objections when voiced are couched within scenarios, so the seller has to be adept at picking out which objection he’s facing, so he knows which answer to use, because if they answer the wrong objection, the conversation goes in a completely different path. If you want to close a sale, you have to be able to overcome those objections. To overcome the objections, you have to know which one you’re facing. So I like the idea of role-play, but we use different kinds of scenarios that force the seller to question and pick out which objection they’re facing so they know which one to use.
Rich: Brilliant. You talked about sales messaging, and as a marketer, as a marketer who’s written quite recently on the topic of sales and marketing teams collaborating and working together, how best should sales messaging be developed such that the whole sales team can benefit from it?
Caryn: Right. Well, a lot of times, people, clients of ours, when they first start working with us, will tell us that they have worked on their value proposition, so they don’t need sales messaging. But here’s another one of these blind spots, is that people think that marketing messaging and sales messaging is the same thing, and it’s not. So they will give their value prop to the seller, but then it goes back to what I said before: That’s really expecting that the seller is going to be able to apply that to an individual selling situation, and that is the crapshoot right there.
Caryn: Marketing messaging is broad. It’s meant for the masses. It’s what you use on your website, it’s what’s in your advertising. But sales messaging, on the other hand, is one-on-one, it’s the spoken word, it’s the email designed for one person, to move that person from one place in his or her thinking to the next. And if that sales messaging is not creating that movement, then it’s time to go back and rethink what that sales message is.
Caryn: Now, one of the best ways to go about figuring out what the sales message is is to first identify, in as narrowly a way as possible, who you’re talking to, what that target is. And that’s not just a company, let’s say, industries and size of the company, level of decision-maker, although that’s part of it. I recommend putting in more filters, as many as you can think of, to narrow the playing field to identify those prospects who are going to feel urgency around taking a meeting with you and moving forward with a decision. Not all prospects were created equally. What would it do for your sales efforts if you only talked to people who truly felt urgency? Right? And that can be done before the message gets developed, in the strategy phase of this.
Caryn: You may ask me next, who does that? Is it marketing, or is it sales? They can work on it together for sure, but in my experience, when the marketer is tasked with this, having not had the experience of actually being in a selling situation over and over again, and what is it like to open a door, what words do work, what words don’t work, that often the messaging that they would give from a marketing perspective is too broad, and not strong enough to use on an individual. So you have to have people from sales involved in this, so sales can say, “That’s never going to work. That’s not going to be strong enough.”
Caryn: In our company, we have messaging strategists who are Door Openers who have exhibited the skill of being able to get on a conference call and ask questions of four or five different people within our client, and then distill that information into, “Yeah, ding ding ding, right here. And those phrases? Don’t need them. They’re not going to help us at all.” And we have a training program specifically internally that our head of programs created which will train Door Openers on messaging strategy skills specifically for door opening, and that doesn’t exist anywhere. We’ve actually trademarked the messaging process. It is called Moment of Yes, and that’s one of the things that our Door Opener clients have that most other people don’t, is that access to our messaging strategists and our trademarked process of developing the door-opening sales message.
Rich: Where does listening to calls and listening to sales conversations fit into this? Because as you’re talking there, I’m thinking, one of the best places to go for this sort of insight is to listen in on sales conversations, to elicit what’s working within a prospect when you’re on the phone, when you’re talking to them. From your side, where does listening to those conversations fit in? Is it just assumed that that’s happening already, or… What’s your take on listening to calls to develop this messaging?
Caryn: I would develop the messaging before you listen to the calls, unless you have somebody who’s just knocking it out of the park. Otherwise, you can listen to the calls and you’ll know what’s not working. But there are many variables that could cloud the conclusion, so you have to remove those variables first in order to… so that you don’t cloud the conclusion. One great example is, what is the target that they’re reaching out to? Because if the person whose phone call you’re listening to is speaking to a target that’s outside the target that you’re developing the messaging for, it could be as different as apples and oranges.
Caryn: So the most important thing first is to go through that targeting exercise I talked about: Identify the groups of people who will feel urgency, who will also find you to be an obvious solution, who will also willingly pay what you want to charge for your services. Identify that first, and then you can listen to those conversations on only those salespeople who are successful, who are focusing on only those… only prospects that fall within that one category. Then you can hear what’s working and what’s not working, and help you develop that.
Caryn: More interesting in this period of time that we do, aside from the questioning of our clients who have been successful, is also talking to, in short interviews, a couple representative A-level clients to ask them, “Why did you say yes to a meeting? Why, out of all the things that you have to do this week, why did you, let’s say, knock three people off your calendar and make room for this person? What was going on in your world that made you feel that that was critical, and you didn’t want to put it off?” Because sometimes, what they tell you about what was happening in their world is more telling than just what they say on a recorded call.
Caryn: So, all of these pieces are important, but then once the messaging is created, and the seller is trained to use it, and has demonstrated proficiency, and now is making calls, that’s when it’s a really great time to listen, because you’ve already removed the variable that they’re not contacting the right people. You’ve removed the variable that they don’t know what they’re saying, because they’re just saying whatever comes to them, and now you can really listen for… Is this message working, is that message working? What are the answers for the objections? Are they working? You can start A/B testing at that point too, and then further refine the message, because the messaging document should always be fluid. Then you further refine the messaging, and retrain if need be. But that’s where I would find the best use of those listening calls would be.
Rich: Yeah, so what I’m hearing you say is effectively, it’s more of a strategic move, it’s understanding, having a broader strategy to growing sales, as opposed to firefighting or just trying to hit numbers. This is about taking a step back, assessing the landscape, and then making moves depending on the overall objective of the sales team and who they want to target.
Caryn: Exactly, and that’s what many leaders don’t want to take the time to do, because while you’re doing that, you may not have calls going on.
Caryn: So is there strategy in place of activity? I mean, so many people out there are doing “ready, fire, aim” as opposed to “ready, aim, fire.” But when you’re talking to the exact right prospect group for you, and saying things that are so meaningful to them that they would never take a step forward without you, closing a sales becomes almost a simple execution detail of the earlier parts of business development well done.
Rich: Exactly. I love it. So, just with one eye on the time, last question from me: One of the things that I know listeners do often struggle with is where they’ve inherited members of a team who potentially might not be a good fit, and had they had their time again, would probably have never hired them in the first place if it had been their responsibility. What advice do you give to people who are responsible for members of a team who are not necessarily a good fit? What advice do you give them? What can they do?
Caryn: Well, first, I think it’s only fair to these people who, many times, are legacy people to identify whether there’s anything getting in the way of their success. Maybe they didn’t have the messaging before. Maybe they didn’t have the right target group before, and they weren’t the kinds of people who would think about that. Maybe they never had a chance to demonstrate their proficiency in the message. Maybe they didn’t have this kind of guidance before. Because sometimes, if you just give somebody the message, all of a sudden, they’re able to get in the doors and close the sales, but without that, they’re just struggling.
Caryn: Here’s another thing too that sometimes happens, is that people have, by management, have been given all sorts of non-revenue-generating activity that gets in the way of them generating revenue. It could be reports, it could be customer service, it could be all sorts of different activities that eat up revenue-generating time. So therefore, it’s important to really understand what’s happening for that seller, and is there anything impeding that person’s success that management can fix? And if there is, you then get to keep somebody who already knows your culture, already knows the product, already understands your customers, and can really get out there with these roadblocks removed and do an awesome job. Otherwise, you’re going to fire that person, and then you have to start from the beginning, which means you’re looking at three to six months before a seller who’s responsible for the close is really up and contributing. Right? I mean, with door-opening, we can be live in three weeks contributing meetings, but when you’re making a new hire, it can often take, with hiring and onboarding and all of that, it could take three to six months before they’re contributing.
Caryn: So, my best guidance is, find out first if there’s anything impeding that person’s success. If there is, remove it, and see how that person does. If the person is still underperforming, despite everybody’s best efforts, then it’s time to help that person find a new home.
Rich: Excellent. I really appreciate that, Caryn, thank you. There’s some solid advice. I also, I like the fact that you’re giving the person… You’re not just assuming that there’s no room for improvement, it’s trying to understand and reflect on the reasons why they might be… Yeah, why they might have not been performing as well as they could. So I think it’s a nice approach, sympathetic approach, which is great. With one eye on the time, Caryn, could you just tell us a little bit more about the service that you guys offer, the work that you do, and some of the… maybe some of the results that you get for your clients?
Caryn: Sure. So, as I said before, we are best known for the Door Opener service, which is where our senior-level business developers represent our clients as if they were a member of our client’s team, and work on a strategically selected group of prospects, usually hand-selected group of prospects, and with the messaging that we’ve created for our clients, open up the conversation and get our clients the meetings that they can’t get for themselves. So that’s the primary purpose for people to come to us. We work with all different kinds of B2B companies, as long as the sale is big. That’s why usually people come to us for that. But we work with a staffing company, for example. They’ve added over $10 million in incremental sales to their efforts. We’ve gotten them, this last count was 168 meetings, they’ve gotten 55 new clients, so that $10 million is just the tip of the iceberg. And they have an annuity sale, so that number will keep going up and up and up.
Caryn: And also, although our responsibility is to get the meetings, their responsibility is to close, we will often coach them on how to make their pitches to the next level, and how to remove roadblocks later in the sales process. So actually, their closing ratio improved from one in five, when they first started working with us, to one in three, which it is now, and I think at one point, it was one in two, based on the recommendations that we made. We work with many different kinds of companies, some who are looking for many appointments, others are looking for the needle in the haystack. And for those companies who have their sales team and they don’t want to hire us for door-opening, they can hire us to create their door-opening sales message, and then train their team to use it.
Rich: Brilliant. And how can people find out more about the company and explore these options in more detail?
Caryn: Oh, sure. They can go to our website, which is koppconsultingusa.com, and learn about the door-opening service. They can learn about the Moment of Yes sales messaging. I also have a blog where I’ve been writing for many years on narrow subject areas of challenge within sales. There are tons of tips and advice on there. Definitely reach out, we’d love to talk to anybody who wants to get more new meetings.
Rich: Fantastic. Caryn, thank you so much for your time. I’ve really enjoyed it, and enjoy the rest of your day.
Caryn: You as well.
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