064 - "The Challenger Sale" Author Takes the Partner Pill

Wait... did the author of THE CHALLENGER SALE... seriously agree to come on PartnerUp?!

Like, millions of copies sold, "The Challenger Sale?!?

Like, the rulebook for every seller in Silicon Valley "The Challenger Sale?!"

Oh yes he did, and it's too good to pass up. Let's roll.

What is up PartnerUp!?

Perhaps one of the most influential voices in all of sales, Brent Adamson, joins us on the pod.

Has the sultan of sales been partner pilled?!

On today’s episode, we welcomed on Brent Adamson from The Challenger Sale, CEB, Gartner, and Ecosystems.us.

Brent explains the biggest things standing in between companies and their customers, what it actually takes to establish effective customer relationships, and the SaaS macro-trends he’s seen.

Together, Brent, Jared, and Isaac bounce ideas back-and-forth to come to a conclusion about one huge opportunity the SaaS space needs to figure out how to leverage.

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Jared Fuller  00:12
All right, what is up partner up? Isaac? This is one that I've been foreshadowing for quite some time since. Since I read this little article. I've dropped it on the pot a few times. Oh, this I'm excited. I feel like this is like Christmas for you. Because you you have mentioned that Harvard Business Review articles so many times. And then we have this conversation scheduled and we were super hyped about it. And then I think you were sick or someone was sick. We reschedule I had COVID Yeah, and then this one almost didn't happen today because we had some crazies get so all those all those, you know, hurdles, but here we are, this is a big deal. This is a big deal. This is with someone that I think fundamentally changed what I viewed the role of a salesperson or a CSM or someone really advocating for the customer. Mr. Brent Adamson, the author of the Challenger sale, CB Gartner. And now in a new role, Brent, welcome to partner up.

Brent Adamson  01:13
Thanks, Jared. Appreciate it. And thanks for the buildup. I will I'm here to now under deliver I'm super excited about your expectations are super high, and I will disappoint. It's what I do for a living ask my wife.

Jared Fuller  01:26
Hardly hardly here. was funny. We had an ecosystem week a couple of weeks ago, which was amazing. We had like 1500 plus people there. And I was actually you were actually a topic of like, I don't know a good 510 minutes of like Tiffany Bova in me our conversation talking about it. And she she quipped that. What did she say Isaac? She said that she joked that whenever she left Gardner they had to buy all of cb cb and you just to replace her.

Brent Adamson  01:57
That's that's probably right. She's pretty amazing. So it would take an entire company to replace Stephanie. She's great. Oh, my gosh.

Jared Fuller  02:03
Well, Brett, we appreciate you coming to this podcast, because I think in my opinion, at least when I was living in San Francisco, and I was surrounded by VPs of sales that you know, are obsessed with Jason Lemkin, or, you know, the latest thing in terms of how to run a sales organization and move up market, do enterprise sales, and do it the right way, not just be order takers. Your book, the challenger sale was the Bible. I mean, that was the thing that every VP of sales was pushing on management and reps. When did you release as of 2012 2011?

Brent Adamson  02:36
Believe it or not, it's been a secret. It's been over 10 years, and the IP we created in 2008 2009. So it's been around for 12 years, which is hard to believe that this thing still has the legs that it does, is it's humbling. And it's also like, I just kind of funny too, because I've moved on I've not moved on to since like, I dismiss it think it's wrong, I just my ideas and that'll my ideas and thinking and research to develop. But the world of course, around us, it's developed radically, or at least significantly. And yet people are now just coming to the book for the first time. And I get, you know, in mails and emails almost weekly, all very nice, saying, hey, it's great book. It's really cool to hear, but I'm thinking like, oh my god, it's like, we gotta get you caught up. So if nothing else, probably deed right into the book. I

Jared Fuller  03:17
don't know. What's amazing is that, like, back when I had my marketing agency, one of my internal jokes was, you know, the biggest thing standing in front of my customers progress is my customer. Right? So like, that's true. There's something to be said about, kind of like this underlying, like these different personas, which was based on a lot of research that you and your team did, right? This is not just some opinion piece that you put out there. On something like op ed, which, which we often do, I often editorialize lots of other people's commentary. This was based on a lot of research and you found, you know, some very interesting things that like, these different personas have a different result, whenever it comes to how they approach a commercial transaction. And to summarize for those folks that you know, may need to re primer etc. Tell us about the Challenger, you know, persona as it relates to sales or customer it kind of at a high level,

Brent Adamson  04:15
at a very high level. In fact, by the way, it's one of these things like there's so many things I wish I could take back and do differently. But maybe one at the top of the list might be the word persona, because persona implies sort of personality type or who I am as a person innate characteristics and born with and that's really not what this research was about. It was a whole body of research. Start out with six 7000 sales reps, we and people adjacent to this world have now collected data over hundreds of 1000s of sales professionals over the years but the in doing a lot of analysis if you want to I don't think you do so I'm not gonna dig in there either. But the top line that finding is this that we found that virtually every one of us as a sales professional has this tendency to gravitate to one of five distinct profiles or four sets subsets of behaviors that we tend to gravitate to. Almost like almost like a college major right if you go to university You study some you specify some you have a major to minor and the general studies or whatever, that there's a subset of specific behaviors each of us gravitates to, in defining our primary posture when facing off with a customer. And we found that there's five of these. And it's kind of that there's two big punch lines. One is the profile most likely to be a star performer most likely to win and then when least likely to win, most likely to wins this challenger profile who is specifically thinks about engaging customers in a in a way that challenge is not them personally, right? It's not like seriously, you are that today, that would be just insulting. Like Matt Dixon likes joke. We didn't call them the jerk, right. But the but a challenger challenges, your mental model challenges, your thinking helps you find new ways to make money, save money, mitigate risk in ways that you haven't fully appreciated on your own, they effectively know your business better than you know yourself, which is a high bar. So that's that finding alone, I think was really helpful for a lot of people. The other finding was, the profile, least likely to win was what we call the relationship builder, which then set off this, you may be too young to remember it, I don't know. But it was like this. It was like, it was like scorched earth warfare and the world of sales thinking around these guys say that relationships don't matter. I'm here to tell you that they do. And the whole thing kind of went off the rails because we, we never really intend to say relationships don't matter, per se. But if your relationship with your customers largely based on building familiarity with your customer, hey, like, you know, we go out to drinks in the old days in the 70s. Or like, I know who your kids I know your kids names and where they went to college, and I've called on you for 20 years, we built this really strong personal relationship. What we found in our data is that familiarity alone is insufficient shallow, to get that customer to grow with you over time to make big decisions about their business that are gonna change the way they operate. Like, oh, I know. Yeah, it's like, he knows where I went to college, I should spend $10 million. It's just the math didn't work, right. So. So relationships matter. But we find relationships matter, really, when they're based on this idea of challenging based on insight and helping customers think differently about their business. And that's, that's more than enough. It's like a really big nut.

Jared Fuller  06:55
Would you say something like, like, trust matters, but trust is also locational? Right? So like, there's certain people I would trust to watch my kids. Right? And there's other people whose opinions on software I would trust, and those rarely overlap. You know,

Brent Adamson  07:18
it's interesting. So I've struggled, I've been doing this in sales, at least Sales and Marketing for almost 20 years now. And I've always struggled with the word Trust, not because I think it's irrelevant or unimportant, because I just the opposite, I think it's critical. But I also find that the word Trust is almost like this. It's almost like this empty vessel into which you can pour anything, right. So even when I started 20 years ago, the idea of a trusted adviser was already well known then and well written about. And I found that no matter what I said, it's like challenge wins. Oh, you meet a trusted advisor. And like later, we talked about buyer enablement. Oh, you mean a trusted advisor? And lately, we talk with a thing called sense bank, and they say, Oh, you mean a trusted advisor? So it's like, yes, no, it's it's like, I will just stipulate to trust upfront, but I have a hard time stopping there. Because I think you get too many what are called false positives to me feels like I do that already. Yeah, but you don't do this. And that's, that's, that's so that's my hang up on trust. That's,

Jared Fuller  08:10
that's really interesting. There's like a, there's a layer there that I'm really curious about with kind of like domain expertise that and you can see this with a lot of sort of what's called influencer marketing, so to speak, right? Like, yeah, maybe there's a podcaster that I really, really trust. You know, maybe I really trust Jared, because I live in the city to partner up. That doesn't mean that Jarrods toothpaste recommendation is going to be right. Yeah. So there's just, there's something interesting there and getting that right, because I think a bad way to say, Oh, we're in this world where you have to have all these various parties along the buying journey that are trusted, and there's these communities and ecosystems, you can't just like throw any product or, you know, affiliate into any ecosystem, there has to be something more than than that.

Brent Adamson  09:01
I think so. And I think you know, this goes back to Jared, something you've been talking a lot about, at least my understanding of what you've been talking a lot about that we need to do this podcast where we flip it and I interview you too, because there's so much going on in your head that I want to understand now. But the is really interesting, but something you've been talking a lot about. And then in the ecosystem, the partner network idea is this idea of social norming and social trust or going back like Daniel Kahneman and stuff like that wrote Thinking Fast and Slow and that the the Robert Cialdini there I started so so Robert Cialdini wrote the book Influence. Hopefully everyone has read it at least five times. Right. But the he talks a lot about this as well. And the idea is, I want to know a little bit Isaac, what you're saying related least is I want to know what other people like me think, right? I want to know what other people so. So I can trust domain expertise. If you have demonstrated domain expertise, or I trust similar life experiences, or in this case, maybe similar business experiences. So what do other companies like like mine, what have they done, how much they spend, where have they gotten hung up? But I think you guys have seen this in your career seems like the single most frequent thing every executive ever wants to know, it seems as what do other companies like mine? Do. They want benchmarks of some kind. It's a really interesting thing. And that's somehow Jared, I think ties into this partner world as well as because when you start thinking about these partner communities or ecosystems, in particular, I think the word communities which has come up so much as part of my new job, in fact that at a company, ironically, may be called Eco what's definitely called ecosystems. I don't that's ironic or not, but the is I'm I'm part of what I'm doing is building communities. And I think there's something I've been thinking a lot about is, is Isaac, your point about trust, and Jeremy, you've been talking a lot about is like, How can I connect to people to like minded people with shared experience, but then sprinkle a challenger on top of it, then take that entire group and push them forward in ways none of them have expected?

Jared Fuller  10:48
That intersect to me is potentially the change agent that moves and shifts markets and people in politics and economics. I think we just hit something right on the head, then that's that, yeah. In the midst of a great change, everyone's bullshit meter gets a lot more sensitive. Yep. Right. Like, and I feel like everyone's meter got hypersensitive in the past couple years. Why? Because everything kind of got relegated to the same normal like it's whether it's teams or Citrix or, you know, zoom, or slack or whatever. Everyone's experiences kind of got normalized. And everyone raced into the same race. So in our, in our previous call Brent, before he joined the ecosystems, and I foreshadowing some great thing that you joined a company called ecosystems.us. And there were crazy ecosystems. I don't know. I'm just saying, yeah, there's there might have been something happening in the cosmic world. What's so interesting about that? Is this other side where you said this phrase that stuck with me, you said that we are almost experiencing a crisis of conviction? Yeah, I that can't be more. That's so apparently true, after you said that, that I see it everywhere, everywhere, because like, Amazon reviews, G two, two G two reviews, to get like, the typical information that we thought, hey, we can get this out there to help educate the buyer on their journey, isn't doing the same job for the customer that it was just a little bit ago. And as a result, the relationships and the information. They're not all equal, like I need to know that person, that they're a trustworthy source of information, and that they understand me and my particular challenges. So for example, let's say early stage startups versus enterprise, right? Like there's distinctions based on all of these different things, and we want to default to our group closest to us seems to be that this shift that's happening.

Brent Adamson  12:52
So let me put it, let me put it back to you in a slightly different way. I agree with you, here's a an additional, a different way, an additional way to think about it, I think it's super interesting, at least to me, which is I often talked about, and that's what your creative conviction is more of a crisis of confidence, but it's all just kind of that same idea, right? It's like customers, we find have become so overwhelmed with with the complexity of the buying decisions inside their company with the the amount of high quality informations available to them, with the the size of the deal sometimes that they're doing and the stakes involved, that they they are seeking more confidence in their ability to make large scale decisions on behalf of their company. And this is where I think it gets really, really interesting and thinking about sort of what our role as as a sales organization and marketing organizations, a vendor or supplier partner can be, because I think what's happening so I've heard you talk about this before as well, Jared is like, you know, in this world wasn't so Washington formation, my role as a customer, as a buyer, let's put it that way, is to separate signal from noise. So there's all this information out there from all the suppliers, and I've got to go consume some of that information, we have a lot of that information, and then separate signal from noise. And that was our story. If you read the second book, the challenger customer, we spent a lot of time talking about that dynamic and how hard that is. And there's that big blue arrow we use talked about all the time customers are farther along in the buying journey than ever for learning on their own before they reach out to a supplier as part so this is like what is this like 2000 and say 15 1617 in that era, this is when your content marketing came out of nowhere and everyone jumped on the content marketing bandwagon we all got martech Scott Brinker built this, you know, thing with all the logos on it, Scott's amazing, right? And everyone started just spamming the world with more content than ever before, in an effort to become a thought leader. And that's how we're gonna differentiate ourselves by becoming a thought leader and standing out in the eyes of our customer. Well, what's happened is effectively over those years we've we've all collectively sort of flooded the market or the marketplace of ideas, with not just high quantities of information, but I would argue high quantities of high quality information. There's just more data. There's more insights or more. There's more research out there than ever before, including challenger based insights that we've been part of, sort of, and 12 years ago that was differentiating today. That's More noise that's just more just, you. It's so much separating signal from noise I like to ask it was like, what do you do when it's all signal? Yeah to when there's people out of information. That's right. It's like everybody's saying really smart stuff, which is great, because it's really smart. But now the quality of the information is no longer an effective criterion upon which to make a good decision. So I think this is where like, so what do I fall back on? Well, what other people like me think about what other people what have they decided? It gets really, by the way, you won't go down that rabbit hole really far. What do you do and the people you're relying on to say, Well, what do they think that turns out? They're just as confused as you are? And then kind of nobody knows, right? This is I think, kind of where we are today. Which is because I don't need your IQ is unfair. But the the logical one was the rational reaction as a customer in this situation where I lacked confidence. I did all this research and due diligence, I've talked to all these experts, I've gathered all this data, I've run this analysis like crap, I still don't know what to do all you know what I do, I gather more information. That's my knee jerk reactions, I better go do more research and more due diligence. And so what happens is deal cycles cycle times buying and selling, they get lengthened. Deal sizes get smaller as people come more risk averse, not because they're afraid what I suppose now they're afraid of inflation, the economy, but they're also afraid of just like making a bad decision. So everything kind of gets gummed up. And you know, I often used to say to a good friend of mine, who was the head of Research at Gartner. His name's Eric, I used to say, Eric, it's kind of amazing to me that commerce still happens at all. And he would always reply was is Brian, you're an idiot, which is true, by the way. He says, of course, commerce is going to happen, because people have to replenish things get broken, I gotta expand commerce is still gonna happen as well. But it does make me wonder how much more commerce could happen if people just felt more confident in their ability to make larger scale decisions on behalf of their, their, their company. And this to me, Jared is where I'm trying to figure out like, what is all that? So that's a narrative I just laid out. Right, right. How do you take that narrative and put it in the context of what you're talking about now? Which is this idea of ecosystems of partners and communities? Somewhere? And there's there's some magic, and that's part of

Jared Fuller  16:59
it, and that brand? I love how you said it's not just that there's too much noise? There's too much signal, right? It's like, how do you separate the signal from the signal? Yeah, right. And a lot about product lead growth, the pros and the cons of that framework. And I think, like, done well, it's a phenomenal framework. But one of the reasons I suspect it's very, very appealing to founders, in particular startup founders, is because they see what you see, the content game is so freakin competitive now. And they're like, how am I supposed to go out there and my go to market strategy by having this incredible resource library, and I'm publishing books and podcasts and just to compete, how about I just focus on my product and my product is does its own marketing, right? And they see it as kind of like, who I don't have to compete with all that content. And I think if you're approaching it that way, you're probably going to struggle, because products don't just magically sell themselves. But I think there's something to that insight as well that like, the overwhelm and the sheer level of it.

Brent Adamson  18:00
So now you're gonna get me on my soapbox. All right, so I gotta be like, Okay, who's got time for this? Nobody, right. But so so there's always an interesting sort of parallel story of what's happening in SAS, versus what's happening everywhere else out, particularly in traditional enterprise sales, right? And so like, SAS, to me is always this weird place where it feels like SAS is both 10 years ahead and 10 years behind simultaneously, it's this weird thing that's going on. You're right. So what we today call product lead growth, if I just have a world class product that's highly differentiated. No one's ever seen anything like this before, and it's well tuned to customer needs. That thing's gonna frickin sell itself. Welcome to about 1997. Right, because this is what was happening and traditional companies where everything was product led, we didn't call it that, because that was just business. Right? It was just like, that's how you you had world class products. And what happened in the late 90s into the 2000s. Was those products through things like cheaper commodities, competition from China, you know, IP getting I lose out in the world. Lots of different reasons lead to fast followers, cheap imitations, very rapid replica replication of products. And so what happened in the late 90s, early 2000s, was product differentiation as a reliable strategy, that that window of opportunity began to close and close pretty rapidly, it became harder and harder and harder to economically compete on just your product alone. So what happened was, company said, well, crap, I need something more than just an individual product, I know what I'm going to do, I'm going to take three products, snap them together. So one plus one plus one equals four. And I'm not going to call it a product, I'm going to call it a solution. And so now I've not seen the product and I'm not competing. It's so brilliant. Like now it's your product, your individual products against my solution. And my solution could solve more customer needs than ever before. And because it's all put together, I can sell them at a higher margin, but a lower price and everybody wins. The trouble is everyone jumped on that bandwagon. Now what was it just competing on products? Now we're competing on solutions. And the best stories here be things like FedEx versus ups, right one started with trucks and one start with airplanes and they grew and grew their solutions to the point where they met in the middle and now they sell they go head to head across stores. overnight. You name it, they go head to head and so now they're they're both World Class comm companies, but they're just as commoditized. Now as they were before, they're just commoditized at a higher level across not just products but solutions. This is when challenger hit right here. 2009 is right about the time where the the window of opportunity for differentiation on solution selling was closing as a means of differentiation. And I would said, Wait a minute, it's not what we sell. That's not our opportunity for product differentiation. It's, it's or differentiation. That's how we sell. It's how we go to market. And that's literally weapon, the challenger sale and the world exploded and people said, Oh, my God, I can compete not just on products and solutions, I can compete on insight. So effectively, I know that we opened the window, but we were part of an opening of a window, a whole new landscape, for differentiation for China. And so what the narrative I laid out to you just a second ago is, I think that in turn, that window now is closing as all windows of differentiation close as people get on the bandwagon. It's like harder and harder to compete on the inside. And it begs the question like what's next? So I think Isaac, I could say, What's next, let's go all the way back to where we started and compete on products. Good. But it's different for SAS because you know, why smell SAS, they're playing a different game. They're playing the exit game. They're playing like, I just got to be product lead until I could sell the thing thing. And then it's someone else's problem, right? Then I don't have to worry about it, right. I'm not in it to grow a multi gazillion dollar volume, except only in third like on paper, but I'm not truly in it to build an enterprise level company. I'm in it to get bought. Right. That's unfair, and a little simplification, but bear with me, it's good for the story. So totally works with the narrative. Right. But the but but so I think that's where there is a different window of opera of differentiation is opening for us. But it's its fourth wave, and I'll throw that on the table that

Jared Fuller  21:34
I got. That was our rant was oh my gosh, Brent, Brent Adams and everybody. This is this is satellite I have I was just chatting, Isaac, I was like smart people. That's the key to this podcast is just smart people. Really, really

Brent Adamson  21:49
smart people. And then we have this jackass. I

Jared Fuller  21:52
know I'm geeking out I'm totally geeking out right now. So I want to come back to this because I think you said some important. Yeah, I think the what? And then the how today, Brent, it's the who? Yeah. Right. Tell me more. What do you mean? So I mean, I don't know. I've been using athletic greens for three years. So it's this little drink that I drink in the morning. And this podcast is not sponsored by athletic greens. But I got this like three year gift from athletic greens, like Oh, thanks for being a customer for three years. And it's like, wow, that's because of Tim Ferriss.

Brent Adamson  22:22
Right. Oh, interesting. Wait, but Greg, because

Jared Fuller  22:25
Tim Ferriss would talk about it on his podcast every single day and like, I got addicted to it. And then I do it. It's my morning ritual every single day there you don't get every single day. And then you realize, holy cow that that is the rest of the world. My glasses are rochas because someone else I trust them. I go, they don't fall off my face. This other thing? Like how I do vacations, how I do everything now. So let's go to sales tech. Right? So, last sales forecasting tool, right, there's Clary. There's, I guess Gong just broke into the market like literally today, which they're going to destroy because it's gone. Then there was an inside square, there's a whole bunch of other different things. How did how did I buy that forecasting tool? It wasn't what information. It wasn't how I was sold to I went to modern sales pros peak agencies group. And I looked at the forums to see the conversations happening with other VP of Sales like me, in my cohort, like my relative size, to hear about Clary, right, the up and coming one and then the one person I trusted more than anyone, the ops Pro that I really trusted said, go with Clary, contact me. If you're making this decision. I pinged him, I bought Clary, he helped me implement it. What and how?

Brent Adamson  23:41
Yeah, but let me throw a flag here. So and I said, there's a deep love and respect but but what you just said is I bought Clary, what you did not say is we bought Clary and that's actually really interesting, right? Because I think there's there's a number of things at play here. So we win your original list of not Soylent Green, but the other the athletic, thank you. Yes, I'm not sponsored either. But the athletic greens, I shouldn't know this. I'm just not cool. I don't know cool thing, but it was like, but like the athletic greens, the glasses, like all those things are individual consumer purchases. These are made by a person I think it plays out there. And I think when you're a small but very important company making decisions where you're buying Clary yourself, that's fine, but what happens now when 16 other people at your company have to be involved in the Clary decision and sign off across it across procurement across data security, then then it becomes a different animal altogether. Hold

Jared Fuller  24:33
on isn't isn't are we saying the same thing though? So hold on. So let's let's go from like, yeah, the solo challenger to the challenger. What if an account executive is actually gathering the wagons and bringing the team to the table to battle the it overlords that are trying to say not another tech tool, right? Like we can't integrate this and then you're working with the marketing org on here's how the way it's going to impact blah, blah, blah, and then the legal team, like to me the best young sales people and partner people actually bring a team to help solve that customer's challenge, because why they're a team making that happen. And if there's 16 people in that buyers committee, show me the account executive that can truly influence all 16 of those.

Brent Adamson  25:13
Yeah, good luck. This by the way, it's like early days where challenger customer came from right idea of, of consensus building, right. That's where, in many ways, I think there's an important moment for no one cares. But for me, personally, my research and the team that I worked with, which is we shifted really from studying buying, excuse me studying, selling to studying buying it, because that's where all the complexity is, but, but if I may, there was. So I show up of 16 people to provide help. So that's the 16 legged actually, I guess that's technically the what's that's the 32 legged sales call, right? That's a lot of people, because of FedEx, when time called, they call that the school bus sale, where you like to have so many people showing up at the customer that you literally have to rent the school bus to carry them all. And he was only half joking. So but if I may, I'd pull a different word, as you said, I bring 16 people to help what if I change your statement to I bring help? In other words, what if I take the 16 people out, maybe 16, maybe it's not maybe it's eight, maybe it's no people at all, maybe it's a frickin website, maybe it's a tool, I don't know. But one way or another, the thing that I'm doing is I'm bringing help, that's where I you and I think would allow you

Jared Fuller  26:13
100%, you see, because I kind of see different things happening in these sort of buyer journeys. And the way that this stuff is happening on the b2b level, there's obviously for a larger tool that's going to affect a lot of people. And that's at a larger price point, there's going to be some department head or some group of people that are signing off on that. But there is a proliferation now of tools that are either their low enough price point where the individual contributor can just sign up and just buy them without any signing off. Or I see this a lot. The individual contributor likes something so much that they just do it. And they're like, Hey, I've been using my personal notion account. And now all these other people on our team are Can we just get notion for the teams? And there's this bottom up that forces the manager to say, Yes, I will use notion because half my team already uses it every day. Yeah.

Brent Adamson  27:04
So Isaac, I spent enough time digging the SAS industry, let me give some credit, right, because I think exactly what you see. So. So there's two ways to solve, there's probably more but there's at least two ways in my mind, I can solve for this really complex problem. And like lots of people buying a complex solution. One is to teach and train sales rep sales professionals to sell into the complex. That's mostly what I've been doing. The other option isn't a sales approach. It's a it's a customer, it's a business strategy, which is how about I just take the thing that I'm selling, and make it frickin simpler, right? So maybe instead of making an enterprise thing, I make it a tool, a product that a software package for a person. And maybe instead of selling it at the company level, I sell at the individual level, and maybe having a price point of 600,000, or even 6 million, you have a price point of 600 or 6000. So I make it smaller. So effectively, I de risk the thing that I'm selling by simplifying it. And then I land land and expand right but and but which has a whole nother that's a whole nother podcast of how you've helped me do that. But But I think right, so one way to solve for this child set of challenges exactly as it were, you just landed as I solve it through product lead, if this word product light comes back, because I kind of threw it out the window a while ago. But this word comes back because I can design it. So research is like we don't actually need this is pretty smart, subscription based, right? So it's not a shorter, smaller subscriptions at a lower price point. For fewer people, it can do a lot to mitigate, but not overcome these challenges. I think what happens though, in SAS is that works until it doesn't, right? Because it's like you get bigger and bigger and bigger. And all of a sudden, it's like, by the way this happened at CD. So I've been through I've been on this journey, right? It's like you sell these individual memberships, and all of a sudden, the company sits down and says, you know, when I add up all the stuff that I'm buying from your company, it isn't $50,000 A piece, it's actually 5 million, we need to have that talk, right. And that's I think, where I think it's the right play, what you just suggested is like until it shows up on someone's radar screen, and they start to add up all the numbers and realize, oh, this actually isn't enough. Think of it that way. And that's where I think a lot of SaaS companies go holy crap. Oh, like

Jared Fuller  28:55
almost every phrase. You're like, Oh, I've got a rant about that, too. You have like a quiver full of rants. Like,

Brent Adamson  29:03
see, I felt like do I feel really bad? There is a data behind all this. I'm sorry. I apologize. Yeah. Well, yeah.

Jared Fuller  29:09
Here's an example that I that I use. Were just releasing the partner hacker handbook, which is like a an anthology election if you will have like different articles. Yeah, I wrote two of the chapters in there one on strategic alliances and I use this this phrase that I've been talking about for a while. I don't know if you've heard the phrase, great product never beats Great. Go to Market.

Brent Adamson  29:30
Not the phrase specifically, but I think I'd buy that fact. I would buy that. Yes, I'd 100% Buy that I'm on board

Jared Fuller  29:35
right now. So like it's something that was circulating in product channels that I was a part of right like CEO throwing that out to product leaders being like, Hey, you got to work more closely with go to market because great product and rubies great go to market. Well, here's a great example of that, that we were just talking about and plg is HipChat. Atlassian is product versus slack, right? Same thing. I mean, like literally plg kind of same thing but then slack layered on that you Switch model and nailed getting a handful of people in at a big corporate and then upselling and driving that thing. Okay, great. Awesome. Good job slack $27 billion outcome How could you argue that that's a failure? Right then comes Microsoft Teams so great product never beats great go to market but great ecosystem always beats great go to market teams went from nothing to 115 million users almost 10 times the size in half the time that it took slack, which was half the time that it took HipChat, holy crap, how do we not recognize the power of that? That's what all those relationships and tell me a link right so that unified like, Hey, we're already doing billing with you. You're already Microsoft's already on your paper. We're already past it. Yeah, word passleader. Just slide this in there. Wait, all of a sudden

Brent Adamson  30:52
footwear? This is Isn't this the story? Jared? Isn't this the story of sash more broadly, is the feature isation of entire companies. Right? So I mean, this is what Amazon's doing with Hollywood, they literally just feature rised all of Hollywood to sell more toilet paper, right? It's like, it's like we are now in the movie producing business such that you come to such that you buy prime so that you'll buy all your daily toothpaste and necessities on the website. So there's a I think it's so the ecosystem thing is powerful. But I think what's really a play in the at least the story you just shared, is the fact that very large players with very large power can feature eyes, literally entire industries. It's it's a fascinating phenomenon as well. I mean,

Jared Fuller  31:31
just look at Snapchat, right? Facebook, Instagram, like, right? Yeah, tick, tick, tock got away with some AI stuff. But I think in general, you've seen that happen in many, many, many places. I mean, that's where the build by partner combo comes into play. And I think a reality is, is that you really need to have something very special for that to not be built. Right?

Brent Adamson  31:56
Yeah, replicate it with it. By the way, this goes right back to my wife was a rancher now, but that the story I told about, like, you know, the rapid replication of individual products is kind of this is the very phenomenon we're talking about. Right? And so my, my strategy and sasses get out before it happens to me, right, either by selling or exit or public or whatever, you know, the, let me ask you this, what happens when you get both? Like, what if it's like the best example of world class product? And world class go to market? That's gotta be Apple, isn't it?

Jared Fuller  32:22
I mean, yeah, that's a pretty locked in ecosystem, I would say.

Brent Adamson  32:28
But plus, right, that's actually at all three World Class product, world class market and world class ecosystem. Yeah. Because that's what happens when you get all three. Right. But yeah, one of the most valuable companies in the world.

Jared Fuller  32:37
I mean, I think the biggest threat to Apple was their lock in and fight with, you know, like the fortnight developers or whatever in their, you know, exorbitant app, store fees of like 30 plus percent. And then now, in the latest releases, you can actually redirect someone in app to go sign up for your product, and apple won't take that cut. So like, if you just want the convenience of Apple Pay, you will take the cut. If not, you can actually get new signups. I mean, that was something that Google was very much like, Yes, this is going to hurt apple. And then Apple responded with a much more consumer friendly, you know, kind of approach and made the platform even better for developers. So I mean, I think at the end of the day, we've probably seen some version of this before there's bundling, and unbundling, right, like the newspaper, we could just take that example. And you know, all the businesses that you know, unbundled the newspaper, and then there's a reap, there's a re bundling that that's happening. And then at the same time, though, like, let's take a let's take, like the perfect example of like, why ecosystems don't matter. And then all of a sudden, the past year they do Netflix. Yeah, I have no rules rules up here on my, you know, Reed Hastings book from Netflix, I love their culture code. I love everything about that business. But in the past year, ouch, ouch, ouch, ouch. Netflix is getting their butt handed to them. Why? Because they're entirely dependent on what their own own content producing more of it and competing with the entire world that is now content producers, that it seems like they're in a very unenviable position, compared to let's say, YouTube, who is just printing money quarter over quarter

Brent Adamson  34:12
was because Netflix doesn't own the rails, right. So they they they are not vertically integrated. This I think one of the most interesting things like Scott Galloway talks about this on the pivot podcast is the potential acquisition of Roku by Netflix, for example, right. So that again, I have a route to market other than going through direct competitors, which is a pretty crappy place.

Jared Fuller  34:33
Well, I would I would take a disagreement with that because there's no network effects of Netflix, right? But with YouTube, there are network effects. Every viewer can be a producer, which can be a subscriber, and then you have that view share. Like there's compounding.

Brent Adamson  34:46
Yes. Yeah, that's,

Jared Fuller  34:49
to me seems a little bit different list your independent film on Netflix like a platform and bring all your right. Oh, cool. That's

Brent Adamson  34:57
right. That's a great business idea. Isaac, I like that, right? By the way this exists already, I think it's called tick tock, right?

Jared Fuller  35:03
Okay, so, so this is an interesting as you were talking about, you're talking about these things with Apple is like, you know, market, product, ecosystem, etc. There's something that kind of hasn't been mentioned. And I guess in a way this ties into your article, traditional b2b sales and marketing are becoming obsolete, because the main thrust of that article is, you know, summarizing it is companies need to listen to and pay attention to and watch and learn the way buyers actually live their lives and learn the way that they're patterns and adapt to that, rather than saying, we're going to build this org chart. And then we're going to force the market to fit into our funnel, we're gonna go learn from the market, there. This isn't a perfect analogy, but there's something in there that's like, it's like user experience. It's like, what do people actually want to do. And this is where, you know, the buyer experience, but it's similar, where I think one thing Apple maybe doesn't get enough credit for is, they tend to figure out how to make things that people like using and are easy to use, I mean, down to the process of opening the physical cardboard box that your phone comes in. They designed it in a way that you actually like doing that you like using it, whereas something like Microsoft has incredible distribution, but they're notorious for brute forcing through their distribution. Now, you're all going to use teams. And what does everybody do when a new Microsoft tool is imposed on them, they kind of grumble because usually the user experience isn't very good. An apple kind of has that consumer facing product, lead growth sort of style. They understand the way people want to live their lives and interact with their phones and their products. And they build around that very well. So there's kind of an analogy there to like building your sales or building your your, your revenue. Org around how people want to actually buy and discover your product.

Brent Adamson  36:54
Yeah, hey, for what it's worth, I didn't title that article in HBr. So I don't know that sales marketing are obsolete, per se. But I think that is becoming obsolete, we certainly need a lot more. It's, it's got to be a lot of clicks and shares. So there's that that's good. But the but but the shoot, there's a point here, I thought that was really interesting what you said, because there's the thing, I think, oh, yeah, here it is. The thing that you're talking about here, Isaac, which which Jared actually I assume is all over your thinking and you think about things stupid, I don't hear you mentioned as much. So I'd love to see how it folds into so the words, the ideas, the concepts, important trends, you're talking about things like communities, ecosystems, partners, partnerships, what about experience because that's the other one, I would throw into that bucket of like, the customer experience, the just the overall experience, because I think that's, I think, where you're landing, what Apple is done, uh, among other companies, is to really focus on how does our customer experience our company, or maybe experience our ecosystem with Jared decide put those two together in a really interesting way or experience our community, from soup to nuts from the very beginning, that first time that they just barely touch into that world, to ultimately the, you know, land and expand and purchase and all that kind of stuff? I think particularly you know, the world I come out of is largely the world of sales and marketing. Marketers, yes, salespeople, sales leaders, they're not thinking about customer experience. I was gonna say at all, but that's a little unfair. But that's not if you ask them their top five priorities, the top five is not going to be customer experience. And for most of that,

Jared Fuller  38:19
well, I think, Brenton in response to that what I would say is going to the only analog for ecosystems and this emergent order of businesses interoperating with this mass market of partners and communities is Yeah, ecosystems and nature ecology. And there is this consumption of stuff in ecological systems, right. So there's an exchange of energy and matter. And but the concept of an ecosystem, something is preserved. Right, like there's more than just the exchange, there is a more efficient exchange. And what happens is that in a business ecosystem, there is this cost and time factor, right? Both of those things are conserved, meaning you're spending less cost less time. Whereas the thing that's preserved in that transaction, because there's less cost, there's less time, right? The experience is better to be cost and time equals experience. If you're preserving and conserving cost and time, then the thing that's preserved is trust, right? Because of that experience, I trust you more right with the next thing, because you've preserved or conserved my cost and my time. So I would say how I that's how I would tie those concepts together and how I would define an ecosystem.

Brent Adamson  39:41
Let me let me throw one more in there to see how you react to this. So so the thing that I often focus on in the research I've done and particularly in the storytelling, you know, it's an all this stuff that I do in the books I write is now used to train our people at CB in Gardner on this very idea, which is when conveying a new idea. There's two things really your audience would We're kind of audiences, there's two things you need to convey at the same time. One is what do I want you to know? But the second bit is, what do I want you to feel? So tapping into that it's almost like the elephant writer stuff that the Heath brothers talking about men, among others, I'd say, what's the emotional connection? So the reason I say that here is because the what you said about saving time, saving money is very rational. And it's important fact, it's critical. But I think there's an element to that I'm guessing you would be on board with which is, there's also some of that the ecosystem, the partner or the partner world, or for that matter, any world any kind of experience where what you're really solving for isn't just like, I save money or productivity, but it's like, I feel different about not you, but I feel different about myself, this goes all the way back to the confidence point, I feel more confident the decisions I'm making I feel better about the, my credibility, I feel confident about my ability to perform for my company, that there's a, there's a wide range of just different emotions and feelings that I think one could so if I'm building a partner, network and ecosystem, whatever it might be, or just a product, don't overlook the emotional aspect to it. And if that sounds obvious, maybe it is, but I just find that it gets overlooked. Like, and I'm now in this world of value management and Value Engineering, where so much of its focused on ROI calculators and quantifying everything. And there's a there's a really interesting aspect I'll be studying around, like, what's something we used to call identity value, for example, the like the value that accrues to me in the way that I perceive myself, which goes again, back to Kahneman and Cialdini and others, it's very human aspect to it that I think is probably underleveraged right now in in any go to market model, but I think is potentially, that's how you think you stand out in the wind and his partner world ecosystem world is to begin thinking about that as well. So thought,

Jared Fuller  41:36
what's what's so amazing there is, I think, is if you look at ecology as an analog, yeah, there in that in those systems, there's a lack of this other element, which is that delight, right? Or that, you know, maybe maybe even addiction, if you were to look at like other things, too, right? Like, that's, you know, there's all sorts of stuff that we can buy that like, there really isn't these cost and time factors in consider. So I think you bring up a very important point to experience that needs to be reconciled in b2b SaaS, alongside everything else that we've been talking about Brent, and that's, everyone's looking for that today. Everyone's looking for that today.

Brent Adamson  42:24
It's like b2c marketers, to be fair to them. It's like literally what they've been doing for centuries, centuries, but like this, like business to consumer marketing, like, individual consumer products, it's all built on emotion about all that the low overs, if it's a lot of it's built on emotion, right? It's like, why do we wear the clothes that we wear and want the brands? Who because it makes us feel good about ourselves? And I think that, why would that not? You know, it's not the only thing that works in in b2b, but let's face it, humans are involved in b2b decisions. And I think there's a whole there's a whole dimension that we tend to overlook, because we run right at the business case, or the ROI, whether it's, again, it's individual companies or partners.

Jared Fuller  43:01
Well, I mean, that's where community and partners and like the cool people, right, like, great if you can, you can make that purchase and by proxy, like you're part of the cool crowd, it's like, oh, my gosh, only losers use that. Like,

Brent Adamson  43:12
I think that's the magic of community if it that's a really good articulation. I think that's really what community is what is doing is it's it's actually it's the one really reliable card in our deck right now to play on the emotional side of belonging, of assurance of social proof. Those aren't, that's not changing what I know I tap into community to change how I feel. Oh, gosh, that's

Jared Fuller  43:39
a really that's a word right? Brent Adamson, one letter people.

Brent Adamson  43:43
I use that word a lot, but it's a good one. Right? It's like but but I mean it sincerely as much as it may sound can I really do mean it sincerely. It's like that's our opportunity is not just focused on changing what our customers know, but changing how our customers feel. And they're jarred, I'd say specifically, not how they feel about you, because it's God bless it. That's how a lot of salespeople say, I need to change the way they feel about me and our product or Britain. Oh, no, no, this isn't how do I change the way they feel about themselves and go, by the way, that that makes us not just better business people. It just makes us better people. It's it makes the world frickin better. And I mean that sincerely. So that's

Jared Fuller  44:15
one of the areas I see. So where you can see this so clearly is developer communities, the way that they feel about certain programming languages or certain tools in their stack or certain there, it's not only this tool works, it's, I am going to feel a certain way if I'm the kind of person who's a part of this community, utilizing this tool or something more than the utility that comes with it that that makes them feel I belong

Brent Adamson  44:44
I have a tribe, right? Yeah. Super cool. That's, that's our opportunity. It's in front of us right now. I think, how do we make people in a world this very dislocated world where we all feel a little bit of drift we all feel uncertain, we all have this, you know, crisis of conviction and confidence. I suddenly I kind of want to feel anchored, I kind of want to feel like I belong. I mean, my project, I think we all want to feel a little bit better about like, This is my place. And this is the place from which I can make good decisions that are good for me or my family or my company. It's like, just bring a little bit like goodness back in the world. If it seems like we just went to Planet Mars, I actually do think, and if I could start making birth charts that show this all the better. But I think that's, that's the opportunity in front of us. And what's cool about it, is it has really awesome externalities attached to it, which are all on the positive side, or at least largely on the positive side, we actually literally can make the world a better place by selling it a better way.

Jared Fuller  45:38
Brent, do you do you happen to know our mission statement? Have you heard that in any of our stuff?

Brent Adamson  45:42
I really don't care. What is your mission statement?

Jared Fuller  45:44
So it's it's funny that you said that because like, I would have never thought this would have been like related to b2b or business at all. Yeah, it truly is based on what you just said, and kind of the thoughts that we've had. It's to build a world where everyone can win together.

Brent Adamson  45:58
Yeah. Let me edit. It is right. So I'd add a tagline to that if I could, because I've been thinking a lot about these kinds of ideas. And this is if I write a book on this, if anyone ever read it, so I'm gonna write it but but the tagline to me has always been frenzies. Oh, by the way, you have to mean it. Right? Do you see I'm saying, like, it's like, and I mean that sincerely. You kind of mean it. Like, if you're going to want to make the world a better place, you actually have to want the world to be a better place. There's the second there's a whiff of cynicism. You're toast, right? The whole thing falls apart. It can't be performative. It can't just be a methodology, when things always bummed me out about challenges that became a methodology. And it's like, all the magic went out of it then right? It's like, we can't take the magic out of this. That's why I hesitate even talking about it, sometimes only since like, oh, let's build a structure and have, you know, a model with five steps. And that's where that's like, you gotta, that's where it all goes to die.

Jared Fuller  46:50
It has to be something you can't easily fake something that is, and you have to come back to like your zone of genius. We talked about this Jared, a partner hacker all the time. Like there's a lot of things we could do. There's so much opportunity in this space, all these different things we could do. Well, what are the things that literally no one can compete with us on because they're so unique to who we are, that are they're so genuine, right? They're not it's not a it's not a tactic or a strategy, wherever you can come back to those things that are just part of your DNA, you have a huge advantage. But it's also you're far more likely to have a huge impact because it's because it's real.

Brent Adamson  47:28
And this Isaac's, you know, think about now, let's just kind of button this one up at the you think about the particularly the new sales professionals, someone right out of college or in their 20s, you know, getting a new job, and they're like, or maybe it will determine age is less important, but someone new at this, right? They're gonna be focused on what do I know? And what do I need my customer to know? Right? It's like, they're gonna go through the product training, and they're gonna get their features and the benefits because they don't know any of this stuff. By the way, I'm kind of in that boat right now with my new company and ecosystem show literally trying to learn the product we sell, which is very cool, by the way, but but we overlooked the fact that oh, wait, we're all still human beings. Oh, wait, I still have to relate to this person and build their confidence in themselves. And those tools are tools, we hope I hopefully, we are hopefully we all carry with us already. Right. And so we over index on the things that we don't know, trying to build that skill and under index on the things that we have already access to in our in our toolbox. And that's, there's a little bit of feedback for anyone out there trying to figure all this stuff out. It's new to it, it's like don't forget the fact that you're already good at 90% of what you need to be good at

Jared Fuller  48:30
Brent Adamson, everybody bring it home across the finish line Brent, with ecosystems.us, your new role your this intersect between customer and sales, and partnerships and ecosystems. And then also, you know, challenging me to think like, hey, it's not just about these ecological things of you know, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, there's also this human component. Wow, this is one for the ages, one of my favorite pods, and I can't wait to do more with you. Because I think we genuinely are trying to make the world a better place.

Brent Adamson  49:03
I think we are 100%. And I've, you know, been I just like to learn and share and study. And so if you want to join me, you know what we're doing and value management over ecosystems come on the journey with us. I can't wait. And it's funny, you can show my ecosystem. I just joined a company called ecosystems. There's got to be some weird Kismet going on there that we need to figure out it. And there. So that's all good. Thanks, guys. I really appreciate it.

Jared Fuller  49:24
Amazing. All right, partner up. We'll see you all next time. This is one to share. Share this one with your CRM that read this challenge yourself. We look forward to seeing them. All right. See y'all next time.

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