Our guest this episode is Gretchen Gordon, award-winning sales management blogger and dynamic speaker. Gretchen started her sales career as a reluctant salesperson but through mentorship, hard work, and perseverance she has become a self-proclaimed “sales nerd” and is widely recognized as a top sales influencer. She is the CEO of Boost Profits, a sales and pricing consultancy firm, and she is here to share some valuable lessons learned from more than 25 years in sales and sales management.
Boost Profits was formed in 2009 in order to help sales teams focus on the role science and data play in elevating revenue and profit through effective price setting. Price can be the quickest way to increase revenue and profit; more impactful in the short run than closing new deals. Gretchen walks through how to price goods and services competitively, including:
- Signs that your prices may be too low or too high
- Demonstrating value to prospective customers
- Strategies for implementing price increases
- And more
Oftentimes salespeople are worried that price increases will drive away customers and that economic downturns automatically require companies to drop prices for goods and services. Gretchen shows us why these fears are often unfounded and how a different mindset will lead to better returns. Tune in now and turn up your profits!
Mentioned in this episode:
Voiceover: You’re listening to the Conversational Selling Podcast with Nancy Calabrese.
Nancy Calabrese: Hi, it’s Nancy Calabrese. And yes, it is time for Conversational Selling. The podcast where sales leaders and business experts share what’s going on in sales and marketing today, and it always starts with the human conversation. Today we’re speaking with Gretchen Gordon, CEO of Boost Profits, a sales and pricing consultancy like no other. The company was formed as a collaboration of Boost Pricing, a pricing consulting firm that helps clients get paid for the excellence they deliver and Braveheart Sales Performance. A sales transformation firm that combines the art and science of selling to help client companies over achieve.
Gretchen is not your typical sales consultant or speaker. And actually, sales didn’t come naturally to her. But through her hard work and perseverance ,she became an award winning sales management blogger, dynamic speaker, and has been recognized repeatedly as a top sales influencer. I am pretty sure, almost certain that most of us here didn’t dream about becoming a salesperson when we grew up, so I’m really excited to hear about Gretchen’s sales journey and successes. Welcome to the show.
Gretchen Gordon: Thank you very much. I’m thrilled to be here.
Nancy: Yeah, you know, something I read that I had to bring up right away is you describe yourself as a self proclaimed sales nerd. So I’ve heard geek, right, but not nerd. So why is that?
Gretchen: Well, it all starts with the fact that I was a lifelong nerd, though, first of all, and then progressed into, you know, I had before, you know, founding the predecessor company to Boost Profits, I was in sales and sales management for probably, I don’t know, 25-30 years, something like that. And what really always intrigued me is not just the art of selling, you know, connecting with people and making friends with your prospects and your customers. But what really got me excited was process and how you can actually predict outcomes based on doing certain things, I guess, you know, kind of being, you know, data focused. And, and then, since, you know, starting the company in 2009, I’ve become even more of a nerd around the science and the data, and how it plays a role. It isn’t it isn’t, you know, in a vacuum, but the combination of art and science, and how that really elevates sales teams to excellence.
Nancy: Yeah, you know, they say, focus on the behaviors you can control, and you will get there, right, it’s very much activity driven. I’ve also read that you’re all about mindset. And what I find interesting in your, your new company, Boost Profits, is is really a mix of mindset. Having the right mindset is so important in sales, and especially as it relates to pricing. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Gretchen: Yes. So through our work, and and we’re, we’re a in full disclosure, here, we’re a one of the top resellers of objective management group, sales assessments, sales evaluations, so they really do a ton of work around data and science as predictors or saboteurs of success in sales. And what we’ve found is that, you know, the easier part of helping sales teams execute at the highest level is having the process having the script, teaching people how to overcome objections, what are you going to say? How are you going to say it? The harder or more nuanced problems have to do with what rolls around in an individual’s head and it really stems from beliefs, motivations, perceptions of the world. A lot of it goes back to our upbringing, and through the combination of our two companies into boost profits.
What I’ve what I’ve learned and have been really intrigued by with my partner, Casey Brown, she’s a complete and total pricing expert, but not from the perspective that a lot of pricing expertise comes. So a lot of companies out there will do the nitty gritty. Let’s do the number crunching, you know, what should you charge for these products versus those products. But what we found is that sales people, even if you have a very well disciplined approach to you know, our gross margin needs to be x, even if you compensate sales people off of the gross margin, as opposed to the top line revenue, they still figure out ways around it, or they’re, they are willing to decrease their commission, because they’re too uncomfortable having pricing conversations, or they’re uncomfortable, you know, just negotiating price.
And so that is incredibly impactful, because price can be the quickest way to increase revenue and profits. Because if you just can bump up your price a little bit, sell at the same effectiveness rate. But you bump up the price a little bit, that increase in price drops straight to the bottom line. So it can be, you know, incredibly much more impactful, frankly, in the short run than improving the effectiveness in closing business, believe it or not.
Nancy: Yeah, so what what I’m hearing you say is feeling very confident and competent, about what you do, and what services or products you can offer will help a salesperson, and becoming less challenged when pricing or the pricing question comes up? What would you say there, it’s safe to say that the more confident a person is about their skills, the more I guess, easy a conversation, the conversation becomes when pricing does come up?
Gretchen: Yeah, and actually, yeah, you make a really good point. And, and in addition to that, so being confident being confident about the price that you’re charging for, you know, your products or services, and also being confident in being able to talk to the prospect, let’s say about the value that is delivered. So a lot of it is, you know, what does the customer value, not just what are prices, we’ve seen it a lot, though, you know, recently with, you know, kind of the ups and downs of the pandemic and in different business cycles tend to impact this as well, meaning when the economy goes down, and maybe we feel like there aren’t as many at bat so there aren’t as many opportunities. What right sometimes creeps in is the desire to discount based on fear that if I don’t, I’m going to lose the business. So it’s the opposite of being competent about the price and being able to sell value or the return on the investment with the with the customer or prospect.
Nancy: I know that we had perhaps we prepared for this discussion, but I’m really getting into this pricing thing. So how do you know if you’re competitively priced? Is there a trigger a sign or you know, statements and sales conversations that would indicate got to do something about our pricing?
Gretchen: So, you know, I mean, obviously, the the very anecdotal way is I’m not winning any business at the price or, you know, maybe I’m too high, or I’m, I’m winning every opportunity, I’m probably priced too low. But really, if we dig deeper, it’s it’s not that surface level. It’s really if we’re doing our job, you know, as a salesperson, our job is to help the other party the customer get what they need, want desire, right, regardless of what you’re selling. So if we’re doing our job in the right manner, then what we’re doing is we’re, you know, laser focused on is this the best way for that customer to get what they want, desire, need? Is it the better choice than doing something less expensive, let’s say.
Is it the better choice than doing nothing. And so then that gets into this whole other conversation about the cost of failure, which is closely related to price and value. So it really, if you can demonstrate the appropriate return on the investment, through your goods and services, then your price, right, if everybody buys that lines up, and you know, it’s super, it’s too easy to demonstrate the return on investment, and you’re probably underpriced. And you know, an easy litmus test is be very prescriptive and be very precise, you know, an increase the price a little bit, you don’t have to increase it by 10%, or 15%. You can increase, crease it by 2%, and see what happens.
You can increase based on receptivity of the client. The problem is, is that we always, oh, well, we can’t raise prices, because you know, then they’re not going to buy and that everyone just falls into that thought process. The reality is, is that if you’ve done a good job of demonstrating the value, what happens if they don’t choose you? What’s that going to mean to them? You know, what’s the catastrophe that happens? Whatever it is, then, you know, you can you can push a little bit and there’s no harm in selectively saying, you know, I know that you’re, you know, this wasn’t what you thought it was going to cost.
And if you can’t get someone over the hurdle of paying the price that you feel you need to get for it, there’s no harm in discounting. What the harm is, is in discounting, because we think they’re not going to buy from us at the price that we’ve offered. And that’s really where the mindset comes in, is we have this fear around, those folks are going to walk away if I don’t discount. Well, the reality is, is that that’s very unlikely if you have demonstrated the value of your services.
Nancy: Well, now I know you have an amazing story you want to share with the audience. So I want to say let’s get the story out.
Gretchen: Okay, so as as you said, Nancy, I don’t consider myself a natural born salesperson. So I wasn’t that person at you know, 11 or 12, who was gung ho to have a paper route and then you know, by 12, or 13, had numerous people working for them, you know, doing the paper route. As a matter of fact, I didn’t realize this at the time what was going on. But, you know, I was I was a girl scout loved everything about Girl Scouts love the camping, love the projects, love the merit badges, you know, loved all that stuff. What I did not like was the cookie sale. And I was, you know, nearly paralyzed. And this is back in the day when you didn’t you know, your troop leader didn’t just set up a table outside the grocery store.
And people just walked up and bought the cookies. The Girl Scouts actually had to go door to door knocking on doors trying to sell Girl Scout cookies, well, he doesn’t want to buy Girl Scout cookies? But I had this debilitating fear about doing it, you know, nonsensical really, because I might be interrupting their dinner or I didn’t want to intrude or, gosh, they might not want to buy that kind of thing. And and so that was my my first sales job. And I quit Girl Scouts because of it. Which is kind of sad.
Nancy: I hated selling cookies too. I’m with you.
Gretchen: You did? Okay. All right. So you, you love this. So I didn’t know what I was going to be when I grew up. And, you know, nearing the end of college. I was like, okay, well, I don’t know what I want. So I took some interviews on campus. And then my roommate had always wanted to work for Procter and Gamble. And so I was like, well, I’ll interview with Procter and Gamble. So ultimately, I got the job selling cookies for Procter and Gamble. And other things. Other food products hated it. I hated it.
And I didn’t hate it because I think that they had a lot of data, a lot of consumer data and that kind of thing back in the day, that great training programs uh, you know, we we practice and all that. I learned I have since learned that I also did not like it because I was feeling like I was imposing on those store managers and those warehouse directors and those types of people that I had to sell to, and it got the better of me, my favorite part of my job was driving from store to store listening to music in my car. So, you know, fast forward, I ended up quitting that job.
And I did take another sales job, fortunately, and ended up learning from a wonderful mentor, that if I was to inside my head, I was worried about what the other party was thinking, as opposed to being focused on helping the other party get what they needed and wanted. And once I learned that my whole world changed. And that’s really why I’ve, you know, I am where I am now and combine not just the skills, the tactical selling skills, but also the mindset that can be crippling. For so many salespeople out there, and I suspect them I’m not, unlike a lot of listeners, like you said, we find ourselves in sales, not because that’s what we wanted to do when we were a child. But because we ended up there, right?
Nancy: Yeah, you really triggered a memory I used to just have my father go sell them at his job. Wow, I haven’t thought about that in a long time. So let me let me ask you this. Tell us something that’s true that nobody agrees with you on or almost nobody agrees with you on.
Gretchen: So there is a lot of discussion about qualifying, and I would you know, from a sales perspective, qualifying your prospects. And I agree with the thought process. I don’t agree with the perspective, I guess I would say. And and the reason I say that is because if you have a very defined qualifying process, then inevitably, what happens is the salesperson is trying to fit the prospect into those buckets, you know, trying to fit sometimes a square peg into a round hole. So I like to, and to be honest, it’s fairly destructive, right?
We’re like, oh, good. I moved an opportunity along in the pipeline, because I checked another box. I like to view it from the opposite perspective, which is you should go into a sales conversation, trying to disqualify a prospect, and they don’t get the privilege of working with you. If they don’t meet, you know, XYZ, whatever criteria, as opposed to trying to get them to fit the criteria, we’re trying to eliminate prospects from consideration. So that’s a little bit of a contrarian view, I think.
Nancy: You know, what, when I think was the word qualifying, I naturally think of, are they going to fit in what our target audience is. And if they don’t fit in, then we can’t be of service to them. So what you’re saying is, you feel that sales people sometimes qualify, and as you said, might not be the perfect fit, but they still go with it, and move those conversations along.
Gretchen: Yes. And so I you know, just to be clear, I’m very process oriented. But what happens is leadership has a very clear view of what fits and what doesn’t fit. And then what they do is we create, you know, pipeline stages and all that, but it’s generally set up. And so salespeople misinterpret, when there’s too much emphasis on, you know, how many opportunities do you have in the pipeline? And you know, how well qualified is it? And what stage of the pipeline it is. And so what happens is an end, you know, think about it, if they’re heavily commissions, commission’s compensation, then the sales people are absolutely eager to qualify more opportunities, because they want to believe that these opportunities will close and they’ll make money off of it.
And again, it goes back to mindset, believing what we want to believe about a prospect instead of taking a very skeptical eye and saying, you know, what, my time is too valuable to spend time with that kind of a prospect. And so that’s what that’s what I mean, I think you’re right, I think the better salespeople do a very, you know, they can be very precise, efficient in their qualifying. I just like to throw in, you know, the thought process, like what we really want to do is disqualify not
Nancy: Yeah, I’m with you, 100% on that, and I can’t believe that we’re almost out of time. This has been so interesting. Last question. What is one takeaway, you want to leave every one with today?
Gretchen: So, you know, I think that the world’s changed. I mean, I’m not just talking about the most current environment, but we know that the marketplace has changed pretty dramatically. And so kind of the old school, let’s tell people what to say and how to overcome objections. And do this, do that do it the way I do, it doesn’t necessarily resonate, you know, we have a much more what some people call a collaborative selling environment. So sales teams need to be the best they can be, because it’s super easy to weed out, you know, sales people calling up and you know, and just ignore them and that kind of thing.
And so, I am a firm believer and and, you know, this is how we operate. We make sure that any work that we do with our clients, sales organizations, is first a, you know, a diagnosis process, like, what will benefit this team, the individuals on this team to execute in their marketplace, there is not a one size fits all approach, and then tailoring the approach to the situation, the sales organization, that marketplace, so that it becomes ingrained. And it does take a combination of skill sets and mindset to effectively change behaviors in sales teams.
Nancy: Yeah, and we know that that’s not an overnight development, it takes time and practice.
Nancy: So how can my audience find you?
Gretchen: So the easiest thing is, boostprofits.com is our website. And we’re continuing to add things ever, you know, all the time we just merged at the beginning of January. And then my email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nancy: Fabulous conversation. Thank you all for listening in. And thank you Gretchen for letting us hear your voice. Now everyone out there remember reach out to Gretchen and her team when you’re ready to over achieve and you know talk pricing and mindset. Make it a great sales day everyone. So happy you were on Gretchen.
Gretchen: Thanks Nancy. It was great.
Voiceover: The Conversational Selling Podcast is sponsored by One of a Kind Sales. If you’re frustrated that you don’t have enough leads or your sales team complains that they just don’t have enough time to prospect, we can help. To work with Nancy and her team one on one to help you manage your sales team, install her proven outbound sales process and create more bottom line results, email her now at Nancy@oneofakindsales.com. To learn more about Nancy and her outbound sales secrets, grab your free copy of her book, The Inside Sales Solution at oneofakindsales.com/book.