In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Garrett Brown and Colin Coggins. They are longtime sales leaders, practitioners, and professors of Entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business. Also, they are investors, startup advisors, and co-founders of Agency18, a firm that helps mission-driven companies adopt their Unsold Mindset.
Their new bestselling book The Unsold Mindset: Redefining What It Means to Sell challenges common misconceptions about sales and explores a different approach to selling and life.
Success in sales is not about fitting a predetermined mold but about stepping outside the box and doing things their own way. The greatest salespeople are often the opposite of what people expect them to be; challenging societal expectations and are unsold on conforming to predefined roles and behaviors. They prioritize their authenticity, vulnerability, and curiosity. By cultivating genuine care for their customers, asking impactful questions, and showing empathy, they are able to establish meaningful connections with them. Furthermore, by creating a culture that aligns passion with work, sales teams can thrive and achieve meaningful success.
Questions I ask Garrett & Colin:
- [02:06] What is in your words, the unsold mindset?
- [03:25] You are actually juxtaposing the idea that everybody thinks of selling, aren’t you?
- [06:00] How do you have to change yourself when you’re selling? What’s the superpower that you actually need to have?
- [08:24] When you explain this idea as a technique, it’s sort of counterintuitive. Isn’t that a little tough for people?
- [17:54] Some people just don’t have that gift, talent, or empathy. Is that something somebody can learn?
- [20:57] When talking about hiring, how do I look for somebody who naturally has that gift, whether they have a sales resume or not?
- [22:29] Is this a culture thing as much as it’s a technique?
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John Janstch (00:00): This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Nudge, hosted by Phil Agnew, and it's brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network, the audio destination for business professionals. You ever noticed how the smallest changes can make the biggest impact on Nudge you learned simple evidence, back tips to help you kick bat habits, get a raise, and grow your business. In a recent episode, Phil tested a thousand dollars on some marketing principles, some work, some don't. Uh, guest Nancy Har Hut, who's been a guest of the show as well. And Phil put these principles to test in a set of real life experiments. You'll learn what works and what doesn't. Listen to Nudge wherever you get your podcasts.
(00:52): Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guests, that's right, plural are Garrett Brown and Colin Coggins. They are the bestselling co-authors of The Unsold Mindset: redefining what it means to sell. They're both longtime sales leaders, practitioners and professors of entrepreneurship at the University of Southern California's Marshall School of Business. Apparently, you two met at an enterprise startup software called Bium, which helped lead an acquisition to, by Google, I should say, and they're both investors, startup advisors, and co-founders of Agency 18, A firm that helps mission-driven companies adopt the unsold mindset. So Colin and Garrett, welcome to the show.
Garrett Brown (01:39): Thanks, John. You got it all there,
John Janstch (01:41):
Garrett Brown (01:46): Well, we are both. We do everything together. So we, we preach together. We've got our final tonight actually, and we will be up there in front of those students side by side, just as we are here in this conversation.
John Janstch (01:56): Awesome, awesome. So I'll get the easy question outta the way. And it typically, a title has, uh, for most books, has something that needs to be defined
Colin Coggins (02:10): I can go first on this. Yeah. Our journey to write this book was a really interesting one because we thought that we were interviewing sort of the greatest salespeople on the planet, and we wanted to know why they were so good. And what we soon found out, which is something that mirrored what we had seen, you know, in our careers up to this point, is that the greatest salespeople were the exact opposite of who people thought they were, and they didn't always have sales in their title. And so as we were interviewing and as we were cross-referencing what we were hearing with people and what we were seeing, you know, in this space as practitioners, they all had something really obvious and common, which was that they were unsold on who society expected them to be in their roles. They were unsold on who customers wanted them to be.
(02:54): They were unsold on how they were supposed to act. This idea that they could be great at selling without becoming someone they weren't was something that was very near and dear to their heart. And then meanwhile, you know, Garrett and I have been teaching and, and working in, you know, for decades, and what we were finding was that people thought that in order to be a great salesperson, you needed to act like a great salesperson. And what we found out was that great salespeople are actually unsold on what the definition of a great salesperson is.
John Janstch (03:24): So in a lot of ways, you're actually juxtaposing this idea with what everybody thinks of selling. You know, I mean, obviously unsold is the opposite of sold
Garrett Brown (03:43): That's exactly, and Collin said, we started out writing what we thought was a book about the mindset about great salespeople, but as we started interviewing them, and we would ask them, you know, who's, who's the greatest salesperson? You know, we want to talk to them immediately. They were giving us names of people that were not salespeople. It was marketers and CEOs and actors and military generals and artists and everything in between. So we've got a wide scope of people represented in this mindset that are not salespeople in, in fact, most of them aren't, because we're all selling every day. Right? Yeah.
John Janstch (04:13): I mean, I tell, you know, I talk to a lot of people getting ready to start businesses, and I advise them, and I, you know, I've kind of gone to saying, look, I hate to tell you this, but 50% of your job is selling
Colin Coggins (04:29): Well, that's what the interesting part is, that you had to make the caveat, like, I hate to tell you. Right, right, right, right, right. Deal with that. Right. And so, Garrett and I, so we fell in love with this profession once we realized what it could be versus what we thought it was and how much it's given to us. Yeah. And so this understanding that everybody is selling themselves or an idea or someone else's idea, and we teach the only sales mindset class for entrepreneurs in all of higher education that we know of. But the reason that people are showing up every Monday to this class isn't because they want to be, quote unquote salespeople. Like they don't realize it yet, but a third of them wanna sell ideas like they're the future CEOs and entrepreneurs and marketers, you, a third of them, want to sell themselves.
(05:13): They want to build relationships. They also want to be leaders. They also want to be entrepreneurs, but they also want to be able to have people, like, have agency in their decisions. And, and people feel like they're in control of that decision to want to go and fight for their leader, right? Like, these are, like, people talk about sales, and then you got the third, they're the crazy ones like us, where we actually sell products and services.
John Janstch (05:55): Yeah. So, so what, you know, if everybody had this myth of what I'm supposed to be, or how I have to change myself when I'm selling, you know, what's the superpower that you actually need to have?
Garrett Brown (06:06): Hmm. There's, well, good news is there's an entire book about that
Colin Coggins (07:12): Yeah. It, it's a hyper authenticity conversation, but there's, there's common threads that sort of tie the whole book together. Like, it's easier to tell somebody, you know, be authentic whenever Garrett and I tell a student to be authentic, they, okay, I'm gonna act authentic. It's like this funny joke, like, no, you don't get it. Like, we're not asking you to act authentic. But what we found was that these great salespeople, like are really good at one thing, like better than most people have ever even thought to be good at it, which is like putting their imperfections on display as early as possible for no other reason than to make sure that the people understand they're a human being. Now, the byproduct of that is very simple, people like themselves. So as soon as someone can see themselves in you, right, that is when you catch a vibe, that's when you start looking for the good in people. That's when you start believing in them. Most of us are trying to be a really great version of ourselves when we get in these selling situations. But the greatest salespeople on the planet, they come in pretty raw, pretty, pretty vulnerable, pretty authentic, just to make sure that you see yourself in them immediately.
John Janstch (08:24): I imagine when you explain that to people really almost as a technique,
Garrett Brown (08:52): But you're, you're not wrong. We were just in office hours with a student who, he's, he started his own business, he's starting to have conversations with potential customers and potential employees, and he's really nervous. He's like, I, you know, I don't wanna just be myself. I feel like they're gonna think I'm just a student. And so, kind of tying back to what Colin just said, one, one of the things we, a piece of advice that we always give no matter what your job is when you're in a selling situation, is to show your work. So you remember, like in school, in math class, you wouldn't just get credit for the answer. You had to show how you got to the answer chat,
John Janstch (09:25): G, that's how I got there, right?
Garrett Brown (09:28): What's that
John Janstch (09:28): Chat, G p t? That's how I got the answer, right?
Garrett Brown (09:31): The answer sometimes, but you know, by when, when you let people into your world and you show your work, and I, and we told this student, we said, you know, tell these people that, tell them that you're a little bit nervous and you don't wanna come across a certain way and let them into that, then suddenly they're looking for the good in you just as much as you are looking for the good in them. Real game changer when it comes to that stuff. So, so you're right to some people, they're like, I can't be authentic while I'm selling. I have to be selling, I have to do this, I have to do that. But that's exactly what these people taught us, and exactly what the book is about, which is you don't, people don't want a sales robots why the stereotype exists. They want a human being who they're gonna enjoy spending time with and doing business with in the long run.
Colin Coggins (10:10): And then put that in like clearer terms, like as clear as I can make 'em, people will say no to you because you're right. Hmm. Like, you know, you wanna see like the greatest salesperson in any room, look for the smartest person in the room that's actively trying to figure out how not to be the smartest person in the room. You know, this different, it's a, it's cliche. It's like it's a learner versus a knower. And it sounds very obvious, but great salespeople are really good at asking questions that they actually wanna know the answers to, as opposed to what most people do, which are either asking the leading questions or asking questions to lead them to a goal. You start asking questions that people, you know, that you actually want all the answers to, you'll eventually ask a question, no one's ever heard before.
(10:50): Now you're giving people gifts, right? They're like ideating for the first time in real time. Like, damn, I never thought about that before. You know what, whatever that answer is, they will take ownership in that answer, right? Like, that's their answer. That's that agency that we're talking about, that they feel like they're part of the decision making process. Someone tells you every objection that you had, they handle every reason that you don't want to buy is, is irrelevant. And now you're backed up in a corner and all of the reasoning is accurate, but you got this gut feeling, you're like, all right, I'm just gonna say no, but I don't know why. The reason is because I do not feel like I'm part of this decision. You didn't need me to be here to make the decision, and therefore I'm gonna say no, even though I can't articulate why. That's why it's a lack of agency.
John Janstch (11:31): Yeah. I actually had this exact question down, ask questions people haven't heard before. And you touched on that. And, and I will say in my own experience, you know, we sell marketing strategy, uh, nobody wants marketing strategy or, you know, they all need it, but
Garrett Brown (12:15): Yeah. You're getting to something that we could talk for hours and hours on
John Janstch (13:23): Well, and what I find is that when you do land on that, you, you're actually providing value right then, because you asked that question
Colin Coggins (14:01): I wanna, well, I, yeah, I mean that the caring thing is honestly the wrinkle in it all. Yeah. Is that we all know what it feels like to talk to somebody that's looking for the good in us. Yeah. You know what that feels like. Yeah. So the, I mean, the baseline of this conversation is that you move differently when you are enamored with the person that you're talking to. And as we move through life, especially in our careers, we forget that. And either we're accidentally falling in love with someone because they're so perfect for what we care about, that we can't help but be enamored. But then there are these great salespeople that will intentionally start to look for the possibility of who these people could be. Mm-hmm.
(14:46): You know, you look at three things that you could leverage in a conversation. Like, Hey, I read that you acquired so-and-so and you know, we can help with that. You know, Garrett and I, we like to make people really uncomfortable. So we'll tell people, go ahead and find three things that you could love about this person. You've never spoke to them before, but like hypothetically, go out there and research them. And if it were true, what are the three things that you could love about them? And what ends up happening is you see these people within three minutes, they have these like questions that they need answers because they're not sure if the person that they're gonna meet is actually who they hope they are or not. So you'll get on a call and you'll see it. Like, they'll ask the same question that everyone asks.
(15:26): And then the second question is a question that a lot of people have never heard before. Like, we did a whole, I'll, I'll cut to the, the short version of this. We did a consultant, uh, a consulting agreement a while ago with, with a group. And there was a gentleman that was doing really well on the sales force, and then everyone else was not. And we asked them to fall in love with a prospect, right? Like a lead. And he was like, I'm not doing it. I don't need it. Right? Like, look at my numbers, I'm fine. We're like, yeah, just do it for everyone else. And he's like, no, we're like, why? And he is like, cuz this is an unqualified lead. We're like, you know what, you don't have to take the lead, just do the three by three following a love exercise, you know, and then we'll give it to a newbie.
(16:06): And so he's doing this exercise, you know, begrudgingly. And then all of a sudden, like, he looks up and he goes, huh. And we all watch him. We're like, what? And he's like, researching this lead. And he goes, the guy graduated around the same time I did. And so we're like, oh, you must love that. You love that he's the same age as you. And he's like, no. I'm like, okay. Keeps going. You hear the second, huh? And we're like, what is it? He's like, this guy went to the University of Minnesota. I'm like, you love the university of me? No. Okay. And then, you know, one more second looks back up and he goes, but Bob Dylan went to the University of Minnesota
(16:54): See what happens. Cuz you proved our point. Great. Right? We're good now. Not a chance. He's not letting somebody else take that lead. He has an, he has questions he needs to know the answers to. This guy shows up on this call and you've never seen two people catch a vibe so quickly,
Garrett Brown (17:24): It is. And for people listening, like think we all know how it feels to be in a conversation with somebody who genuinely cares about us. And we all know how we sound different when we genuinely care about the person. Like, think about that conversation that Colin just talked about, conversation. Somebody who might have seen Bob Dylan while he was in his college years versus up. I'm just gonna call the 28th name on this list of 50 people that I have to talk to that day. You are going to sound very, if you have done the work that Colin just talked about
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(18:57): Hey, marketing agency owners, you know, I can teach you the keys to doubling your business in just 90 days or your money back. Sound interesting. All you have to do is license our three step process that's gonna allow you to make your competitors irrelevant, charge a premium for your services and scale perhaps without adding overhead. And here's the best part. You can license this entire system for your agency by simply participating in an upcoming agency certification intensive. Look, why create the wheel? Use a set of tools that took us over 20 years to create. And you can have 'em today, check it out at dtm.world/certification. That's dtm.world/certification. You know, a hundred percent agree. In the back of my mind, I'm saying some people just don't have that gift that that talent, that empathy, that whatever you want to call it, I mean, they don't care. I mean, is that person, is that something somebody can learn or is that something that like, that ship sails at some point?
Colin Coggins (20:01): Everybody cares about something
John Janstch (20:55): If, if nothing else, the connection will be made. Right?
Colin Coggins (20:57): I mean, look, here's an example. During the height of lockdown, during covid, like we saw a group of underperformers do really well and historically they didn't. And when we think, when we went back and watched the tape and figured out why they weren't doing well, it was be, I mean, why they were doing well, it was because the beginning of their conversations all sounded the same and they were across multiple different verticals. Okay? So these were not all the same people and all the same roles, but they were all doing well because the beginning of the conversation was, Hey, I just wanna pause really quick and just acknowledge the elephant in the room or the two year old in the room
(21:41): Just want to say it, you know? Yeah. And you would watch this like this reciprocation, like the person on the other end of the camera is like, thank God you said that. Like, this is so weird. This is my first pandemic too. And you would watch them catch this vibe in the first five minutes where they saw themselves in each other. Yeah. That's just a microcosm of what the larger Right. The conversation we're having is, which is great salespeople. No, just like these people knew, this person is not perfect either, right? Like during Covid they were like, you know what? I'm in an imperfect situation. I'm gonna give myself permission to talk about it cuz I know that they're in the same imperfect situation. Yeah. Most of us are imperfect, most of us when we are being very authentic, are in a situation where we're trying to figure it out and it's not the ideal situation always. And most of us try to hide that part of us. Oh yeah. There's some people that share that part of themselves
John Janstch (22:32): Pretty, pretty hard to have your act together with the unmade bed behind you in, in, uh, in this zone, right?
Colin Coggins (22:38): You get's camera angle, you know what I mean? You dunno what bed's behind there and you don't even wanna know what's behind this screen. You know,
John Janstch (22:46): Alright. Right. So let's go to hiring. I'm, let's say I'm the CEO and I'm like, I listen to this. I'm thing. That's what I want my salespeople doing. I mean, how do I spot that person? How do I, you know, look for somebody who maybe naturally has that gift, whether they have a sales resume or not.
Garrett Brown (23:02): Well, I think the good news is that it's not necessarily a gift that some people have and some people don't. It's a matter of cultivating it and finding it. And so there, there's a couple things that we always recommend. One as a leader is giving your people permission, right? To be the authentic version of themselves, to look for the things that they love in the customers and, and to do that sort of thing. And that means, you know, not necessarily rewarding behavior that doesn't allow for those things. The other thing is setting up the infrastructure around your team to allow them to do that. So we talked about intentional ignorance before, you know mm-hmm.
(23:46): They just want to talk with their customers about how they can help them. And so instead of then trying to pretend, try to learn all the technology and pretend that they know it and pretend that they're excited about it, they'll bring in a resource from their company. They'll bring in, you know, the technical salesperson or somebody from the product team who actually built it, or a, a former customer or a current customer who loves the product and also loves the technical elements of it. Whatever that is that infrastructure looks like for your business. You know, find ways to set that up around your people so that they don't have to go out there and pretend to be something they're not.
John Janstch (24:18): Yeah. I'm glad you made that point because, uh, like what you're talking about, some of the things you're talking about, the, there's not a culture
Colin Coggins (24:34): I mean, you don't wanna talk about culture. We could talk about, we should have started with culture. We could, we could for our, I mean like we, a key point in the book, in our learnings in our curriculum, and I think what we've seen in, in the real world is that what people are good at, you know, what people get paid to do and what people love doing are not always the same thing, right? And when you create a thriving sales forward culture where people don't think that they're gonna give up their mission by being a revenue centric company, like what you're finding is that companies have done a good job of making sure that those two things converge. What you get paid to do and what you love doing are happening at the same time. Now you're in the flow state right now, you're in, you'll pick up any book and they'll call it different things.
(25:22): But now you're where you want to be. That doesn't happen overnight. And in, in order to do that, like first you gotta figure out what you would do for free. Like what do you love doing? Like the ad tech exec that Garrett was talking about, like she would build relationships for free, but what would, you know, what do you really need to get paid a lot of money to do? Like Ray Lewis, a football player, he's got that great quote. He said, you know, do you pay me for what I do? What is it, Monday to Saturday? But Sundays are free
John Janstch (26:31): Love it. Speaking with Colin Coggins and Garrett Brown about their new book called The Unsold Mindset, redefining What it Means To Sell. I appreciate you guys stopping by here. You wanna invite people to connect with you, find the book, find your Work.
Garrett Brown (26:52): We are pretty easy to find online. We're, where are we Colin? We're on LinkedIn as ourselves. We're on Twitter and Instagram at Colin and Garrett and we've got a little website, colinandgarrett.com that will basically give you way more than you ever wanted to know about the book and everything else.
Colin Coggins (27:10): Oh, and the newsletter we just dropped, we just gave away like a really, I think it's still up there, like this really cool document that has a list of questions that you're asking. You know, they say the most important conversations you're having are the conversations you're having with yourself. Yeah. So we compiled a really awesome list of questions that we're getting great feedback on that are just shifting the way people sell immediately by looking at this doc before they engage in these conversations. So I think if you sign up for the newsletter, you get that or maybe just go to the site. That's
Garrett Brown (27:38): Correct. Yeah. Yeah.
Colin Coggins (27:39): Cool. Awesome.
John Janstch (27:40): Awesome. Well, I appreciate you both stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing, uh, podcast. And hopefully we will run into you on these that days out there in, uh, sunny California.
Colin Coggins (27:48): That's
Garrett Brown (27:48): Right way, John.
John Janstch (27:50): Awesome. Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it @marketingassessment.co, not.com, dot co. Check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just marketing assessment.co. I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.
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