In this episode, we'll look at how you can beat your sales quota in a downturn using Jobs-to-be-Done (JTBD) . And today, we have a very special guest, Paul Stansik, an operating partner with private equity firm ParkerGale. Paul was previously at Bain and Company, and he was VP of sales at ITG.
✅ Download our Executive White Paper: "How to Use JTBD To Grow Faster" 👉 https://www.thrv.com/jobs-to-be-done-white-paper
Key moments from today's topic on how you would beat your sales quota in a downturn:
00:00 How would you beat your sales quota in a downturn?
03:19 How the up market can hide weakness in your process?
07:12 Less data more often is the answer.
12:13 The customer’s Job-to-be-Done.
14:32 How to be more curious about your product?
18:46 How to build a buyer’s guide.
21:02 How do you choose a product category?
25:22 How do you tap into the customer's needs?
29:50 Knowing what you can’t do and being honest about it.
✅ Download our Executive White Paper: "How to Use JTBD To Grow Faster" 👉 https://www.thrv.com/jobs-to-be-done-white-paper
Learn more about JTBD: https://www.thrv.com/jobs-to-be-done
Follow Jay Haynes on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jayhaynes/
Follow Jared Ranere on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jaredranere/
Welcome back to How would you beat where we discuss how you can use jobs to be done innovation methods to beat your competition. Remember to subscribe and like this podcast. This episode, we'll look at how you can beat your sales quota in a downturn. And today, we have a very special guest, Paul Stansik, an operating partner with private equity firm Parker Gail. Paul was previously at Bain and Company, and he was VP of sales at ITG. He also, interestingly enough, was a professional lacrosse player. So we're honored to have Paul as a guest today. Thanks for being here. So to start, let's start with our main question. So Paul, how would you beat your sales quota in a downturn?Paul Stansik:
And we're starting with the big question, hmm. I've seen this thrown out there in a couple of different places. And what I've noticed is a lot of folks tend to jump to the tactic or the action or the lever to pull without getting into the diagnosis. And I've got a couple of good friends that both in the medical world and not in the medical world that would tell you prescription without diagnosis is malpractice. So we can talk about exactly how you would do this. But my number one piece of advice would be figure out what's causing you to either fall behind or get stuck or where deals in your pipeline, tend to not go the way that they should. And start from a place of understanding that because understanding that and doing a bit of analysis behind that is where any kind of meaningful improvement in sales process marketing process, or how a company runs in general, it kind of all starts with that. So that sounds like a hedge. It's not, I think it's an important point, especially now, when all of us can sense both, you know, whether it's results, feeling tone, what the media is talking about. Things are different this year than they were last year, right. And I've done some writing about this, that I think it's important not to just accept the narrative, but to understand what the narrative means for you and your business before you go and take any kind of violent action in response to that.Jay Haynes:
Yeah, I think that's great advice. We're, you know, we're very similar in the sense that we really love data. And data is really the key to making the right decisions, and especially customer data. And what's interesting is we found to that sometimes, what's interesting about markets is, you know, in our vernacular, the customer's job may still be underserved in the same way, it may be that companies have reprioritize, the different jobs that they have to focus on, it may be that just you know, budgets are cut. So you're under pressure to show that, you know, helping customers get the job done is actually going to create some sort of ROI that's going to impact their business metric. But you wrote, you wrote a couple of great pieces in medium that we'll put in the podcast link about this. Really helpful, I think, to teams just to think in that sort of data oriented, you know, diagnostic way, which is, which is a is really wonderful.Jared Ranere:
Yeah, thanks. Yeah, one of the things I was wondering about that, Paul, is, it sounds kind of like the up market can hide some warts in your process. So if you're selling into a particular product category that happens to be hot companies are flush, they're investing in growth, like let's say you're, you're somebody like Gong, and it's a sales enablement platform, people are investing in the growth of the of their sales team. And then when that growth stops, people aren't buying as much sales enablement tools. And so now you have to move from just being like, hey, look, we're in the category that you're spending money on. And you have to think harder about what you're selling and really analyze your process a little harder. So is that kind of what you're talking about, like the up market might have glossed over some problems you had already. And so you have to look a little bitPaul Stansik:
harder. When you're moving up market, it's important to I think, keep the crosshairs on where the core of your business is because it's very easy to get into a motion where all of the conversation and all the airtime inside of a business gets sucked into this conversation about the 500 Grand 750 grand million dollar deal that's in the pipeline. And you start to ignore the bread and butter, maybe higher velocity lower ASP, but still super important deals that are out there. So this is one of the reasons that I think just rigor around the pipeline, and keeping sales and final conversations away from what I call storytime about the deal, and more tour It's rigorous analysis of what is the pipeline? How is it changing? How are things moving? And also just building in kind of an early warning system, both for individual deals and the pipeline in general, like, Jared, I think you're actually jumping to kind of a 201 version of the problem, like the whole up market versus down market thing. I think in some cases, that happens accidentally, I think there's a really high growth companies that have done it masterfully. Well, it's pretty possible to know when each of those segments is slowing down before it happens. And one of the things that we'll do is help our companies to build that productive paranoia. So it me personally, you know, there's a lot of stuff you can track top of funnel MQL is SQL L's. There's too many acronyms to even list here, we could take up the whole podcast, focus on qualified opportunities, and having a weekly view of how many qualified opportunities we've created, but also looking at a rolling average of that, because if you chart that visually, and you see the rolling average tapering off, or actually falling, the conclusion from that, whether it's the markets fault, or your fault, usually it's a bit of both, is you are getting worse at finding new customers who might want to work for you. And if you are not looking at that data, how many opportunities do we create last week, the week before the four weeks chunk that we're talking about right now. And you're not understanding both what the trend is, and proactively thinking about how to bend that trend in the right direction, like, kind of shame on you. So I, maybe I'm oversimplifying it, I'm a recovering sales guy. That's what I do. But I think you need to pick a point in your funnel near the top, where everybody can hold hands and say, This is the indicator in a leading way of what we should expect for closed business a month, two months, three months from now, and look at that every single week. Because if you're tracking multiple top of funnel data points, it's easy to explain away the weakness that you might see. So I say, all the time, like less data more often is usually the answer, especially when it comes to pipeline creation, and especially when it comes to uncertain times, like the ones that we're sitting in right now.Unknown:
Yeah, what what did you mean by story time about the deal? And how does that get in the way of this this data drain,Paul Stansik:
I mean, you're talking the fun of carrying a quota and working on a sales team is you're shepherding this opportunity along and you're the one in charge of bringing the revenue in. And it's, it can be a little bit like a soap opera, right? Like there's different actors involved. There's different personalities, like there's suspense around the next step in the deal, and whether this thing happened or whether people are going dark on you. And part of the reason that working in sales is fun is like being part of that story is fun and writing part of that story when it's in your control, which isn't always in your control. It's enjoyable, and it's exciting, and it gets your blood pumping. Yeah. And it's really easy to slip into telling that story. When the question that's being asked is much more analytical and quantitative, like where do we expect to land this quarter? How much is this deal worth? Like? What is the probability of it actually closing? Because we're all emotional people, right? Especially if you have quota writing on this deal, especially if like you're trying to prove yourself, especially if this is what's standing between you and maybe a promotion someday. So there's this gravitational pull towards like sharing the drama and the arc of an individual opportunity that can take over the conversation at an executive level. And that's fine. I mean, it's, it's fun to tell those stories, you should tell those stories, but the balance between that, and the quantitative measurement of how your go to market machine is actually running. You just have to keep that balanced. And so if you if you find yourself in your next executive team meeting, and your next sales, meeting, your next pipeline meeting, and you notice that like, Hey, we're just kind of sharing the episode of the deal for this week, and munching our popcorn and seeing what's going to happen next, versus actually measuring something versus a target. Like, you're probably a little off balance, and you need to check that.Unknown:
That's interesting. And I think that the storytelling has a place, he said, but you have to be you have to scrutinize who's the protagonist. Is the seller, the protagonist, or is the customer the protagonist. And I'd like to think the customer is right. So if you're if you're telling the story about the deal, it should be what is the customer's situation, what is their problem? What's their urgency to buy? And from that information from that story, you can gather insight It's about what would cause them to go over the line and what might cause other customers who are in the similar situation to go online. If the seller is the protagonist, then it's just about them being special. And having a good way to persuade and convince people, which is hard.Paul Stansik:
And I kind of dodged Jays question at the beginning, not intentionally, because I know what the where we're going to get into from the agenda. But I think what you're talking about is an important philosophical point. Like if you're worried about hitting your quota, whether you're an individual salesperson or running a company, a pretty good prescription, no matter what's going on is like, try to reverse things a little bit more from buyer empathy. And Jared that can start with what you're talking about, like, are we talking about the progression of this deal from our activities? And like, the heroism of the salesperson to keep things going? Or are we talking about things from the perspective of the pain point that the customer is expressing how they're going to marshal resources inside their organization, like what this is going to displace whether it's, you know, doing something by hand, or a competitor, or whatever it is, like, I think you're right, if the narrator in the story of the deal is the person managing the opportunity on the sales team versus the person who actually has to buy this thing and make it create the value that you're promising them, you have a problem, but I think you can apply that philosophy of working backwards from the buyer, at any point in your selling process, and probably make things better, like I do this a lot with looking at our pitch decks and looking at how we set up our demos. And if you are putting things in the language of what that person is doing today, and giving them a mechanism to compare what they're doing today with what other people are doing and what the advantages might be. That's a much better approach than saying, This is what we sell, this is how it works. Do you want to buy some dot dot dot and repeating that that pitch as at nauseam, so there's a lot to unpack there. But in general, I think a huge principle is like start with buyer empathy. And that starts with to your point, putting the buyer at the center of the story that you're talking about.Jay Haynes:
Yeah, that's great. And, you know, it's interesting, Paul, he talked about the story, we always think of, you know, the customer's job to be done, it is a story, you know, it's got an an end, which is doing the chief the goal, you know, do they get to the destination on time, you know, and a consumer example. And there's a beginning, middle and end to that story. And there is a villain, the villain in the story to, you know, play this out, is their struggle. And what what we always find fascinating is that has nothing to do with the company's current product. Now, the product should be the hero, at the end of the day, it's helping, you know, fight the villain, or however you want to think about it. And it's interesting that that you mentioned that empathy. And we do see that the best sales teams have that empathy for the struggle with the customer's job. So and even in a downturn, they might be struggling with the job even more, just because, you know, they've lost resources, you know, budgets been allocated somewhere else, you know, accepted, there's all sorts of reasons, you know, they might, their struggle actually might go up in a downturn, which is, you know, one way you could approach meeting your sales quota is saying, Okay, do we have a better handle on how they're getting the whole job done? And then look at it and say, Okay, well, if they're struggling with these parts of the job, in our product currently, today really does help them, the value it delivers is that they're going to overcome that villain, which is their struggle for these parts of the job, then we should know that and they might actually have an even a higher probability of closing with us because we've, we've told a better story about how our hero our product, you know, gets their job done faster and more accurately, as we always like to say,Paul Stansik:
Yeah, and I think it's a good way to get out of this product centric pitch that we're all guilty of, because part of the reason if you work in technology, and you enjoy it, that you're there is you're inventing cool stuff, and you're sharing it with the world. And the way that it works is interesting to you. And the fact that human beings have assembled this machine or piece of software or bolt or both, that can do things that weren't possible 10 years ago. That's cool. And it's you naturally want to talk about how it works and how it's put together and like literally how it's soldered, you know, conversationally, but that's also how you lose people. So one of the things that all I'll coach sales leaders to do is, like, do some benchmarking and not benchmarking from the perspective of sending a survey out or asking for data but between you and your team You are having dozens of conversations with people who are going through the same stuff. And if you, if you pay attention to it, you will notice the flavor of the problem or JD, use your language like the flavor of the villain, how that changes based on the macro environment based on what people are trying based on the product adoption cycle, like whatever it is, but the flavor of the pain and the flavor of like, the bad day that that person is going to have at work is different now. 12 months removed from last year, right? So I'm not saying what you should do is change your sales pitch every single day. But it is worth pulling up every once in a while staring at the components of your sales pitch of which I think the most important thing is how you articulate how your customer has a really crappy day at work. And just mining the conversations that you've had, whether you've got a you know, a recording platform, or whether it's just more qualitative, like, how would those people describe a day in the life when it's a really bad one, and they go home to their house and flop down on the couch and pour themselves a drink and complain to their spouse, their dog or their kids or all three? About what happened to them that day? Like what does that sound like? Because that's what a great conversation as a salesperson or a marketer is built upon. And when you do it, well, you sound less like a inventor and more like a psychic. Like the inventor worked to talk about exactly how this machine works and how we put it together and like the third decimal point detail of how you can be sure that it's going to deliver. But the psychic is more like let me guess. When you have a really crappy day at work. You're concerned about this anxious about this uncertain about this stressed about this exhausted with this? How did I do? And you know, you got somebody when you get a little chuckle? And that's your signal to get a little bit more curious. And that to me, is the kernel, that a great conversation with someone whether they're a customer today, or you're trying to convince them to become one is built upon?Unknown:
Yeah, that I thought of you the other day, Paul, it was a couple of weeks ago, I had a conversation with a prospective customer. And they said to me, man, it sounds like you're reading from my diary. Right? Yeah, you got it? Yeah. I was like, oh, there we go. Looks good. So the follow up question there is, what if the person says, you know, my budget just got cut tremendously. I might have to just put up with this for the rest of this year. That's not going to help me with my number. How do I deal with that?Paul Stansik:
Yeah, I wrote a piece. It's, it's, um, what I call like obstacle based growth, thinking, I think, sure, the title is better than that. I hope the title is better than that. But the reason people don't buy from you like it's not always in your control, but there are obstacles between you and your next couple 100 customers. And they're pretty simple. Like, there's three of them. If someone can't find you, or doesn't trust you, or just isn't ready yet. Those are all realities. And you play a part in that the world plays a part in that. But you need to be ready for that record, scratch pump, the brakes moment, whether it's in the first conversation, or unfortunately, it happens late in the deal, too. I think if if there's things working against you, like the budget, just got cut, a wall just got put up, this just probably isn't possible. Yeah, it's your job on the commercial side of the business, to understand the true extent of that obstacle, and occasionally to push people to really find that reality. But a lot of times, you just need a mechanism that lets you hang around the hoop, and kind of a nurture campaign. So whether that's coming out of, you know, a demand gen platform in the literal sense, or you just have enough content, to stay there in the person's periphery, and say, Hey, totally get it, we don't want to push you beyond what's natural. What we do want to do is make sure that you're making this decision to either hit pause now forever, for some predetermined amount of time, with all the information that we think you deserve, and with the earned secrets of people that have bought stuff like this before, so some of this can be solved with content, like one thing that I like to do is, is build what I call a buyer's guide, which is a slightly less biased but still slightly biased piece of content that tells you, hey, if you're looking at this product category, here's the flavors of this product that are out there and a little bit of an algorithm on how to know which one of those is right for you. Here's the questions that might not be super obvious that you should be asking to make sure that This thing does what you want it to do that it plugs in with what you're doing today. And there's basically no surprises down the line. And in general, just like lowers the gloves a little bit because like, let's be honest, nobody likes buying things, and especially if you're an executive at a at a company, like buying something for the enterprise is extra work. So again, starting from that place of of buyer empathy, like, yeah, my job is to make you aware of what we can do and convince you of how great it is. But my job is also to honor the fact that that is extra work, and to give you tools and content and attention that says to them, like, look, this is going to be above and beyond what you do every day at work. My job is to give you stuff that makes that easier. Like I'm here to act as a concierge for you. In this process and less as a closer.Unknown:
Yeah, I love that buyer's concierge notion. That's really amazing. And you mentioned somebody shopping for a product category, which, you know, this being a podcast, we were talking about Jobs-to-be-Done Jobs-to-be-Done, we have to pause there, right, the idea behind Jobs-to-be-Done Being nobody's buying your product, they're hiring to get a job done. So we'll talk a lot about, you know, nobody wants to go shopping for a product category, they have some unmet need, they have some struggle, and that's what caused them to go higher or something. That being said, aligning yourself with a product category can sometimes put you on the front foot, when somebody when there's a there's a surge of customers in the market, realizing that a new product category can help them out well, it can also put you want to back foot if you happen to have a product that's associated with an old product category. So how do you think about making that connection elegantly between using the momentum you can get from a product category without cornering yourself in a product category and getting any negative vibes that might be associated with that the connotations that might be associated with that, while also doing a value sell of look, it's you're not buying a piece of software that you paid 10 bucks a month for you're buying results for some goal you're trying to achieve. And that's worth a lot more money. So, so how do you do that? How do you do it? Anyway,Paul Stansik:
my headline for this is category creation is hard. And I don't do it. I think I think it's reserved for for very special pockets of the business world with lots of resources and capital and time to search for what works. That's not the area of the world that I invest in or work in. So there's far smarter people than I on how you create a category. I think you need to pick a category so that you can pick which conventions of the category to twist. Right? So my favorite movie is like 50 years old, it's alien with Sigourney Weaver, Ridley Scott's The director. And, you know, I like to imagine Ridley Scott pitching the script for alien to studios in two different ways. One that's unsuccessful, and one that's successful. The unsuccessful way too, would be like, well, it's this outerspace movie and it's, you know, they're Sigourney Weaver, but she's kind of in this oil refinery, but it's in space. And then they go to this planet, and this thing gets on the spaceship, and then it, you know, gets loose. And Sigourney Weaver is kind of the protagonist, but there's all these other you know, Space Marines, and you've already lost the studio executive. And the second pitch is, well, it's basically jaws and space. Oh, I get it. Like the fact that you centered. This movie pitch in a category that I'm familiar with in a context that I'm familiar with. What that does is it cascades all these assumptions about what I can expect when I sit down in that movie theater see, but it also gives me the opportunity to say what we're doing this part of it a little differently, a little better. So I think the best writing potentially on marketing ever, but certainly on this concept of product positioning and kind of where to twist the conventions. April Dunford wrote a book called obviously awesome. It's one of my most gifted business books ever. And I plagiarized from her all the time. When I build everything from landing pages to pitch decks to anything else that ends up in front of a customer. Her whole process starts with picking a category, understanding what the competitive alternatives are in that category, both other products and kind of the DIY options like you could be doing stuff with an intern or paper or both. And those things should be in your consideration set because you need to position yourselves against what people are doing today. versus saying Well, it's kind of like this whole new thing that you've ever never seen before. And we're calling it this. And there's dot io after it. And your buyer is saying like, well, I don't know where in the budget that fits. And I'm confused and confused. People don't buy things.Jay Haynes:
Yeah, that's great. Yeah, it's interesting. I mean, based on throw. I wasUnknown:
gonna say that, based on the way I asked that question, listeners might think that all we do is fight you and I. But we've we've spent about a year working together, bridging these two ideas, and I think, really productive ways. Right, which is, how do you how do you tap into what's familiar to the buyer about your solution? And how do you deeply understand what their problems are, so that you demonstrate that your solution solves problems, they weren't necessarily aware that similar solutions could solve. We were working together on a technology that a lot of people see as antiquated, there are buyers in that category. But it can also do a lot of things those buyers don't expect. And I think that's where that, you know, it's it's Johnson space, right? That the twist is, is the value that you provide solving problems they didn't realize that product category could solve. And in this, I think that lesson is very interesting, because it can be used by companies that aren't even, they're not trying to create a category, right? They're not setting out, they're saying, like, we want to put a dent in the universe, right? They're just saying, like, I want to go from 20% growth to 35% growth. And it turns out, we just realized that we had technology and a platform that can solve more problems than we typically sell against. And so let's add a few of those to our truck. And make sure we talk about those because we're already solving the customer's problems, let's just get the message out there. And that can really accelerate sales. Oh, I didn't know you could do that. Well, these other four competitors I was shopping didn't talk about to me about that. That's exciting to me, I want to buyPaul Stansik:
more, you're just making me work way less hard to understand what the heck you actually do, right? Like when I think about the work, we've done together, healthcare technology firm, inside our portfolio, I'd say the two biggest benefits to deconstructing everything the product can do and how that sits in the broader, you know, job, family, I'm not sure what you guys would call it. But you know, we do we do a subset of the broader job that needs to be done in the healthcare world. And when you deconstruct that, two things happen. You know, we're always looking for other great companies to put together with the ones that are inside of our portfolio. But m&a can be overwhelming. Because there's 1000s of software companies out there, each of them is describing themselves a little differently. And just the process of putting potential m&a targets into buckets can make you crazy. But when you understand the work that's being done, when you can kind of get the segments and the individual jobs on paper, and look at, okay, where are we not doing this job? Who out there is? And how does that sit with the company that we own today? It's just tremendously clarifying from a corporate development perspective. And then the second thing is, you know, in sales, I think you score points by being clear, especially in technology businesses, if you can describe in plain language, but give people a reason to believe that we can take care of this part, this part and this part for you. You're going to win more deals simply because you're avoiding the, you know, if these guys can't tell me exactly what they do, then how smart can they be like you're getting away from that in the weeds, super technical, super complicated and hard to understand. Some buyers are going to do the work to get behind what you're saying to figure out if what you can deliver is legit, but a lot of a welt. So just the clarity that comes from breaking things down, using job to be done. And then translating that into all of the things that ended up in front of a customer, your pitch deck, your email outreach, your landing page, how you show up on your website. There's competitive advantage and clarity. And this is a pretty good production process to get there.Jay Haynes:
Yeah, and also, I think, related to that, Paul is is knowing what you can't do as well and being honest about that. Not not over promising and saying yeah, if that What is your problem, we definitely our product does not solve that problem today. Now, that might be great data to get from your sales team to feed back into your product roadmap, you may want to try and solve that problem. But it's, it's, you know, back to the story idea. Your story has, you know, a villain in it and, and a hero. And if your hero doesn't have the superpower to kill them, right villain, you know, okay, come back come back later, but you know, be very targeted about what you can do. And then, you know, we think it was a segmentation problem as well on the the front end of the funnel at the beginning is is making sure that what the customer is coming in there really do have the problem that you solve. And that's that can be you know, super powerful as well, obviously, that's, that's a little you know, longer term because you got to then think about your marketing as well as your sales. But you know, obviously they're related.Paul Stansik:
Yeah, I totally agree. It's a huge trust building mechanism to so if you can explain to people, Hey, we've got a couple 100 customers, when they showed up to talk to us asking for help, here's the flavor of the pain or the flavor of the job that they were asking for help with. And if you can clearly bucket those things. It enables all kinds of really interesting discovery conversations. And most people don't have that page. In their pitch deck. Most people start with, this is what it is, here's the NASCAR slide with all the logos of the people that work with us. Here's exactly how it works. Here's a little bit more on how it works. Oh, by the way, here's more on like, starting with, we're going to tell you about the product and how it works and why we think it's so much better than out there than everything else out there in a minute. But first, like we have hundreds of conversations like these every single year, like let us tell you the flavor of those conversations that we typically run into, because I'm guessing something that you're dealing with is on this page. Like that builds credibility that builds social proof that builds trust. And again, people buy things from other people and what people do they buy from they buy people from they buy from people that they that they trust the most. Right?Jay Haynes:
Yeah, that's great. And I think that's a great place to end because trust is is clearly important. You know, certainly everybody wants to trust everybody these days when Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank are less trustworthy than we thought just even a couple of weeks ago. So ending on a theme about trust is, I think a great way to end. So Paul, really, thanks for being here. And thanks, everybody. For listening. Remember to subscribe and liked this podcast. If you want to learn more about Jobs-to-be-Done innovation methods visit firstname.lastname@example.org th r v.com.