Authenticity Wins With Brent Keltner

Thomas Green here with Ethical Marketing Service. On the podcast today, we have Brent Keltner. Brent, welcome.

Hey, Thomas. Looking forward to the conversation. Thanks for having me.

It is my pleasure. Would you like to take a moment and tell the audience a bit about yourself and what you do?

Sure. I run a company called Winalytics, which is a boutique, go to market and revenue acceleration consultancy. We do a lot of work with sales teams, but we are very explicit in calling it go to market because in the current buying environment, your sales team needs to be very strongly connected to the value prop and marketing prospecting sales and customer success to have a, you know, integrated buyer journey. You know, to be able to tell a clear story to buyers about value and to be able to make those internal connections easily. So that’s what we do. We work with, you know, early growth companies in the 3 to $10 million range. A lot of our work is in the kind of 10 to $30 million range. You have a form to go to market team, but people are, you know, trying to paint a trajectory towards going public and then we do work with enterprise sales teams as well.

Okay, so I do want to ask you about the book, but just point of clarification, when someone comes to you, what is it they typically ask for? What does that look like? Yeah, the number one thing. And then I’ll give you number two. Number one is they recognise that they’re selling motion and their marketing motion is too product focused that they are not differentiating themselves. They’re leaving money on the table. They’re not really connecting with their buyer because they’re going out and they’re selling their product rather than selling into either business outcome or business value or strategic selling. Some people will have that initiative really thinking about your marketing and sales motion always leading with what’s my buyers. Why? What are they trying to accomplish well in terms of how you go about helping them? Is it, is it like consulting or do you get involved and implement on their behalf? No, it’s more consulting. I mean, we have historically done a lot of fractional sales leadership, fractional outreach, but the goal was always just to do consulting.

So now it’s pure consulting. Okay. And what was the second category of people? Yeah. The second is kind of the recognition. I mean, maybe they’ve done a decent job of starting to capture their value. They have success stories, they’re capturing outcomes whether that’s around, you know, revenue or around cost savings or a better user experience or scaling their assets. They might be doing that, but they they’re aware that the consistency in execution around value selling. It’s inconsistent and it can be inconsistent for a couple of reasons. One is that the go to market teams aren’t well connected, you know what is on the website and what sales said or the prospecting to sales. handoff for the sales to success handoff there’s not good alignment there, and that’s not good for the customer, the buyer experience. And then within teams, right as you once you get to a certain size, you got a team, you know, five. I mean literally you know you’re gonna have a top performer or two and then you’re going to have people in the middle And so a lot of the work we do with any team, sales, team, customers success prospecting game is how do you capture the best practices of the top 20% in playbooks to then bring everybody’s game Up to that top 20% move the Middle 60 towards your top performers by capturing their practices, socialising it to the team and then having opportunities for individual practice and just sharpening the sword.

Thank you for the breakdown. It does make me say because, correct me if I’m wrong, you’re opposed to people selling the products based on their features. If you will, what do you what do you make of those channels on TV where they’re strictly only selling products 100% of the time. I forget what the channel is called now, but I’m sure you’d know it. Yeah and just to be clear because we do people will raise that concern all the time and the point is you have a product, you have a service that you’re selling 100%. The point is to map your product or service to your buyer’s problem. So any product or service that they’re quite good at that then you would say who is quite good at that. The TV Channel is the only pitch products 24/7 I guess I would say I think and this goes to the whole debate about product driven growth, right? For b two B companies. I think honestly you can often with a lower value product often you know the need it meets is a lot more obvious and you know people without having to think a lot can say yes I’ll buy that You know, so if you’re selling leads for $500 a pop or you’re selling some kind of single seat workflow software and somebody has a problem around managing their group, right?

Or managing a software and they can put a credit card in for $300 and get a seat. You don’t need a lot of spend a lot of time on anchoring value. That is a much more product lead and totally understand. We can involve sometimes with product driven growth companies that you hit a wall right is okay. What happens when I when it’s not a credit card swap and I actually have to build a case to the person I’m selling to sell to their manager? How do I do that? A product feature isn’t going to make a case to my manager. So I think two things. One is that you know you can lead with your product to a certain transaction point? Um. No problem. And two is in the method we teach. It’s not it’s not that you’re not going to sell your product but you’re gonna link it to a specific by your goal. And I think in a lot of the channels the QVC, et cetera, you know what they’re I mean it’s like it’s the problem it’s solving for you is obvious. Saving time in your day that I’ve forgotten about past the point of value.

You would say well past a certain price. You would need a value narrative is what the book’s about. Is that correct? Yeah, 100%. So would you like to go into a little bit about the book and how it was to write it? Ah I so I was trained as an academic and made a transition into revenue leadership. So writing for me was natural, but I was trained as an academic. So I was a very analytical writer, clunky thick and I had an awesome book coach, a guy named David Merriman Scott, probably in name may be familiar to you wrote the new rules of PR marketing, photography, too much of others. And he really did an awesome job of shifting my writing style to make it more story and narrative driven. You know, he would say to me Brent, hey these frameworks are great, but it’s putting me to sleep. Can we start with a story to motivate why that is meaningful, why people should pay attention.

And the other thing he said is when you write for a business audience, you’re the expert, so get rid of all these sites, you know, or use them to support your opinion, but you know, you’re putting me to sleep. So writing came naturally to me, the style of writing was completely new and that took a long time to figure out about the length. So some people, they’re very sort of highly productive, get it out there and don’t worry too much about being a perfectionist, if you will. And some people agonise over every sentence. Where do you fall on that spectrum? Well, it’s interesting because I was just on with a woman who Is beginning the process of writing a book and basically I advised her right 180, 80 page book and get it done and get your ideas out there and get the credit for being an expert in your area. My book is a Is a beast. I mean it’s 380 pages and another 60 pages of call outs, but it’s three still 325 pages.

And I probably could have taken the last two chapters and put it into the next book. So I think I air on the what you said to get it out there you know, chunk out your ideas. I have been doing this for 20 years and now, you know, I’m on the right side of momentum, right? I mean there’s 15-20% of go to market leaders that get what we do and understand that it’s the right thing to do. But I’ve been labouring for years to kind of just do it this way and get people say, yeah. And so I had a lot to say. Why did you write it? I wrote it exactly that. I mean, I literally transitioned into I started I left academics. I was trained at Stanford. I worked at the Rand Corporation as a qualitative researcher. I left in about 2002 came and joined Kaplan in their higher education group to lead a B to B team. I leveraged the academic credential that it was online degrees and I was going to corporations and selling into L and D. And so I’ve been part of this, honestly, I had a way of selling that was successful for me. And then I had that and three more experiences. I go to Market Leader leading sales team and very quick growth success is because I would just teach them what I had learned, which is always structure your outreach, always structure your calls on what’s in it for your buyer. Where do I have similar, they call it now look alike, you know, pure success stories that kind of build confidence for them? And so I found a way of selling that not only makes you a lot more successful, but honestly, it’s just a much better way of selling. I mean, to the point about ethical marketing, you feel like, look, I’m looking for a fit. I’m not trying, I’m not a used car salesman, I’m not trying to sell you something or force something down your throat. I’m just trying to find a fit and so you just feel better and you learn from your conversations and I want to get that message to a lot more people, you know, there is a better way to make more money honestly and enjoy your job a lot more and have much more harmonious relationships with your buyers and customers.

So would you say you noticed a problem that you’re providing a solution to? Um, 100%. I would say it bigger than that. Yes. Problem uh, providing solution to, I would put it, I think at a category of noticed a big market shift that needed to be addressed and the big market shift and you live this, we all live this. We are all overwhelmed with information, you know, the amount of noise coming at us from our emails, social media LinkedIn, right? The, you know, prospecting campaigns, peer review sites, whatever it is, there’s so much information out there and so really to be successful in marketing selling now, you have to begin as a trusted advisor. You have to begin with you know, we solve important problems, these are people we solve problems for. Are you working on any of those?

Could we find some time to discuss it? Could we find a match? And that problem is not going away, right? It’s getting stronger and stronger and stronger. That the way you engage buyers early on and through the process has to be all about what’s in it for them, how you can make their life easier, how you can help them to a better future, the whole motion, everything, content prospecting selling all has to be anchored on that, not about you, your product, your experience, your process, all of those will just kill your uh, you know, prospecting velocity, your geo velocity as a result of writing the book, have you changed any of the way that you do business or any tactics that as a result of going through that process of putting it down and into? Yeah, yeah, it’s a great question, I mean, and honestly, as I kidded, but it was true, I had a lot to say, I’ve worked on every phase of go to market right from the content of the prospect.

And so what it really helped to do was module arise that and make it a little bit more digestible, right? So now, I mean if I’m talking with a leader, I mean, there’s a company called Mainstay that I’ve worked with a couple of years ago and now we? Re engaging around their next level of growth, there’s sort of a $12 million company and when I started with him, there were two or three and so you can have a conversation around, okay, you know, what are you doing to be more intentional in prospecting across the enterprise, across the campus and university, right, there are multiple buyer roles. Do you have a platform value prop that can inform that? So do we want to work on prospecting, do you? Or is it about sales now as you roll up and have a higher enterprise value to your sales teams have the right skills to qualify and qualify to the right buying group and kind of build alignment around a success statement or is it in the sales of success handoff? There’s not really a good process for them during the implementation and the ongoing QBRs to surface new goal areas. Right to identify other areas of platform value props. So the book really helped to say, you know, we’ve got overall value playbooks, we usually build those in about a month, but then there are really like four other playbooks for every phase of the go to market journey, what do you want to focus on what revenue outcomes are most important for you to make the quickest progress on. Have you got a favourite part of the book that you’re particularly proud of? I think, um, the opening, the very well, the two, I would say. Um, the opening chapter, I tell a story about buying when I moved to Boston to work with Kaplan and buying a condo and I worked with two realtors. And the first one, you know, it was just like every Saturday. It was just a race through condo after condo after condo of like going through the checklist, right, hardwood floor, second bedroom, but you blah, blah, blah. It was just a blur to me and I described that as, that’s, to me, the classic product pitch.

She was just throwing stuff out there to see if it’s stuck. The second one, you know, really was much more thoughtful. She started with, hey, tell me about your favourite living situations in the past that you want to repeat and what do you not want. And after that we did a weekend together where we went to three very different condos just to kind of be briefly, what did you like? What didn’t you like? And so this, her whole focus, was what is your ideal outcome? What’s your ideal condo? What’s your ideal living situation? It was a much more pleasurable experience. I got a great condo, she made a great commission. So I opened with that very personal experience that most people can relate to on the difference between, you know, product pitching and a more authentic journey. Um, so that was one chapter I really like. And then the very first chapter I tell a story about immersion which was a client for a couple of years. They have an immersive VR technology that helps us soft skills training.

So leadership or diversity and inclusion or service or sales and I compare it with an actual company that’s given a fictitious name. Silent. Oh, and go through. I mean immersion is now like a gazelle right is on the Forbes and Fortune top growth list. I mean, they’re gonna push 50 million. These other companies, probably at five or six million, started at the same time around this and able to tell the story about how immersion, this commitment to, you know, selling into buyer value at every phase. I mean Celente does website, you just go and you’re like, it’s about their product, their product awards, you know, their company immersion literally the homepages around, hey, how are you thinking about scaling leadership? You know, how are you making a more inclusive viruses? Just asking you questions about problems you’re solving. And then the bottom is, do you want to join our peer community whether you’re a client or not?

Do you want to join our peer community to learn how to solve these problems? So they very well put themselves at a, there’s an important market problem worth the hub of solving that. Do you want to be part of it as opposed to, hey, this is about us and our product and so I think it’s just a great way to open again in a company story now with these two different trajectories and the results they lead to thank you for that. Um, if say for example someone from Sorrento was listening to the podcast today other than buying the book, what would you say the first few steps are for them if they wanted to move away from, it’s all about us and our product to something a little bit more. I’m not sure how you describe it more. More. The customer focused. Yeah, we talked about it as authentic, an authentic buyer journey or authentic conversations. It really anchors on what they care about first. But then they’ll say, I mean for us, you start, you start by giving right, what do they care about the most?

But in an authentic conversation, it’s not just about being a nice person. You’ve got to get something back right to be able to move forward together. So it’s, what do you care about? Do we have fit and if we have fit, are you willing to do things about it as well? You confirm that value by taking actions to move forward. So that’s one thing, right? Shift your mindset to a couple of mindset shifts. It’s not about you first, it’s about you being a buyer problem solver. So it’s about your buyer. But the second is don’t I mean sales people often think about what do I do? I do a call. I send a proposal. I do a demo to the team. You got to think about what am I getting back after I found a match, right? It’s a mutual process. It’s not my process. It’s a mutual process. So I think that’s one key mindset shift the other. Just simply, people ask all the time. But this sounds complicated. How do you get started? And we just say think about it this way. If you’re in sales or you’re in customer success, you know, your best customers in sales because you use them for your references right?

When you’re selling to other similar customers and customer success because you work with them all day long and you know who’s really using the product well and excited about them, ask them what they got out of using their product. What was the before and after case for them? And if you, if you do that, I’ll just give you a really simple example with a company called true fit, which is a, it’s a retail personalisation platform. So if you that Macy’s is a client and if you go to Macy’s website, you can put in information about yourself, your stature, etcetera and you can get recommendations on size and style fits. and so Greg carter who is the VP of sales for north America and a and z I guess that’s Australia new Zealand. you know, he, he talked about as we debriefed a success story there, you know like our team, like most teams gets excited about our own innovation and so we wanted to pitch this transformational product with all this data and all this matching.

At the end of the day, the buyer was trying to solve a problem. So when they started to tell stories about Macy’s or moose jaw, or really this was about when they used it. They saw returns dropped by 20 or they saw the number of people coming to the website that were browsers, converting to buyers at a much higher rate. That’s why they’re upped, that’s why they became a recommendation. So asking your buyers what was the problem? We had a big problem with returns after we worked with you that that started to go away. We didn’t get size related returns, asking your buyers to tell you what was their situation? How did you solve it? And was there any simple result in just that’s simple as two or three? Is there any good substitute for that 1-1 conversation? What does it have to be that dialogue that you have with the client? The context of the question is just about if you’re not 100% sure on what it is that really drives the buyer, what do you then do?

Yeah, I mean the other, the other so couple of other things you can do. One is you know, a lot of calls are recorded these days, obviously with gong and other similar technologies. If you listen closely for those calls and go in with your own hunches about why buyers by you can get a lot of information that you know, we’ve seen a number of marketing and product teams, they use those calls to kind of build their own roadmap, right for content or for product innovation, if you just listen to a smattering of people in a certain industry or a certain role. So that is you can build your own hypothesis and go listen. How do your customers talk about working with you and what do they say? You know when they don’t know you’re listening as a great approach. The other thing you can do, we, we talk about, we use a story actually I mentioned Mainstay, so it’s a good example or I torchlight would be another one which is a caregiver platform.

They work with companies. It’s a company benefit, but it basically helps that 50% plus of employees that are often have an elderly parent and a child. They’re taking care of often a child, you know, may have some type of learning disabilities or developmental things that they’re working on and we work with them on shifting from kind of more of a spray and pray model of prospecting just sending out high-volume emails to what we call programmatic prospecting, which is hey, you know, go to 100 or 200 contacts at a time and a similar role with us with a specific theme, you know, is this about employee time on task right. That if they’re distracted with those, you know, issues, they’re not gonna be as productive or is it about engaging high talent employees and making sure they stay particularly women, right? That might exit the workforce because of some of these issues. You want to retain them. You want to put them on a management path. So design your campaigns and the content assets and the stories you share around those themes run campaign test, use every campaign as a market test and figure out where’s your uptake rate the highest, where’d you get the most engagement, where do you get the most meetings and, and do those convert and so that process with them.

You know that it was very clear sectoral patterns, professional services. Right? Totally on the recruitment and retain mint for high-value employees manufacturing. I mean, maybe not a surprise after the fact it’s time on task right. Keeping people letting people better focus on their work. So that’s a third thing you can ask customers directly, You can listen to recorded calls. You can also do your own kind of prospecting tests to try and learn from the market. It’s a great point in terms of misconceptions, are there any main ones about the topic? I think someone I alluded to well to you hit on one is people react to and I say you know by our goals first products, second people react badly. Like, well, we’re selling a product, right? People buy a product and that is one. And we just say all the time.

Look at any products other than these very simple transactional ones you can sell on QVC. Usually, they solve multiple problems. And so people will say, well I show up and they say show me a demo, show me a demo. Show me a demo. How do I be responsive to that buyer centric? And we just say you know very simply it’s like look I can show you 100 things and you will probably fall asleep. So could we just spend a few minutes understanding what you care about the most and then I’ll give you a very targeted walk through our product to see if it can help you. So the pivot is yes you want to sell your product but you want to link it to something your buyer cares about a lot. So that’s one. Yes, it’s about the product, but it’s about mapping your product to what your buyer values. I think the second is this idea of being authentic is like oh I’m just going to be really helpful and kumbaya with the world. And I honestly think it’s about the pursuit of truth. Um, you know, just trying to find a match, right?

I’m being intentional with you about the problems we solve your being clear with me about what you care about most. And if we find a match, what steps will you take to solve for those? I am, we, as part of the growth of our own business are looking for a learning platform to facilitate, we do a lot of uh, team based training sessions and then individual coaching and so we use google drives or share docs to socialise and share place and playbooks and we want in 2020 to move that to a social learning platform, right? So people could, you know, we’ll just put it in a social learning platform. As I was on with a guy from Seismic Yesterday, they have a lesson li and we literally in 10 minutes it was like, I think I understand your goal, is this your goal right to serve like white label, it serve your clients. And I was like yes. And he’s like, yeah, we don’t do that. I’m not gonna try and take any further down the path, but here are a couple of clients that I know do. And if you find people that are working on this technology, I’d appreciate the referral.

There’s one thing I wanted to ask you about questions around definitions are often tough, but I did want to ask you about your definition of authenticity, but is it what you referred to initially? Which is your wording? Was it the pursuit of truth? Is that what how you define it? Yeah. Okay, so I pre-empted you and to put a finer point on it, I mean, there are three phases to an authentic conversation for us that lead to a better outcome and honestly, just more enjoyment of your work. The first is we talk about value discovery and it’s not just questions, it’s getting to what would be success for your buyer and working with you. So merge, right? When we started to work with them, is that they had this transformational product and people were wowed by the demo but they would literally go for demos without having any idea if they had a buyer on the other side. So the purpose of value. So what they just shifted a little bit there. Motion starts with the demo so people can see it and you don’t have to do it over.

But then the question is, is there any critical leadership training initiatives, there any critical learning and development initiative? This could point towards D and I, is there any CHR or chief human resource officer initiative, this could align to. So here’s the product. Can you tell me where it could be most valuable to you, Where are you having trouble scaling soft skills training? Where are you having trouble reinforcing that? So, value discovery for us, the good Discovery, it gets to a buyer success statement. Your buyer can say to you yes, this is what I see, how we might work together and what it would solve. So that value discovery, second phases, value mapping, I don’t bore my buyers. What I just said is when I share my stories, when I share my experience it all, if you can’t begin a product presentation with, I heard you say, and therefore I’m going to show you this, you’re still product pitching. So when you show your product, you should be able to refer directly back to what your buyer cares about.

And then the third phase we could talk about it is value confirmation or the decision roadmap is, is what will your buyer do about it if your buyer agrees that we have this alignment, so go back to the immersion case. Okay, so you’re having trouble scaling D and I training across all of your site locations. That might, that’s a very important to your VP of HR and matter of fact, your CEO has a diversity initiative, this could align to and you, you see, we can help scale that. Did I hear that correctly? Yes, okay, typically for us we’re gonna need to have a call, where we get a business unit owner involved as well as the VP that’s probably gonna fund this or whatever is going to fund it. Uh, and it’s also helpful just to know what your timeline is in terms of when this becomes a priority. So can you share with me how you’re thinking about the steps, next steps and then over all the steps to a partnership? What actions would you need to take to know we’re able actually moving down the path together?

It’s honesty on both sides. Good regarding the promotion of the book. How has that been and what have you been doing? Yes. So started uh, about maybe in October just doing podcasts, podcasts tour the next two phases. We’ll start our press campaign um, in a couple of weeks. So just looking for press citations and by-line articles. And then the next phase after that is starting to do some speaking. We’ll start with some probably sales kick-off meetings with, you know, corporations. I am going to a public speaking course for the first half of this year to build and they, this course, they teach you how to give a keynote and then they record it and then you use that to promote yourself further. So we’ll start with corporate friendlies and then ideally move into, you know, event speaking. And then the fourth thing I’ll say is we are with current and past clients going to form what we call we call it an authenticity wins group. It will be a pure learning group.

People that are brought into these practices will probably have a monthly webinar. We do a lot of video recording of how people put plays in practice. So honestly and this is gonna sound a little bit arrogant, maybe. But I have been committed that I want to lead a movement around this right, got a small consulting company, but a lot of believers And we will get from 15% to 30% by getting a lot of people working together to say this is the right way to go. So like immersion trying to put ourselves at the centre of a like-minded community that’s doing great work. So we’re going to see you on Ted X at some point then? Maybe. I’m honestly just the corporate talks are the next hurrah for me. I’m not. I’m a skilled facilitator. I’ve been doing it for years, has had natural skills there. I’m not a great public speaker. Never have been in a big format.

And so I’ll need to build that scale and then we’ll see where that, where we go from there. Well, congratulations on. Well, were you an author before this or is it how many books I wrote? I wrote a dissertation. I did have an opportunity to publish that, but I was coming out of Stanford and the press wasn’t prestigious enough. So I did not. So no, not a published author yet.

Well, congratulations, regardless. Is there anything that I should have asked you about today? No, I think only folks will ask sometimes, like, you know, so how can people get more information about the book? And I always say we have set up a book website, If you go to the website, you can download the foreword by David, Merriman Scott and chapter one for free, or, you know, if they’re interested, they can come to There’s a book website or they can find out more about us. So those are the two things I usually add for them.

Brent, thank you very much for your time and for sharing today.

Thomas, really enjoyed the call. Thank you for the time.