Episode 07: What it Takes to Become a Modern Seller

Amy Franko develops B2B Sales Talent, she is a sales & leadership keynote speaker, and author of the book The ModernSeller: #1 New Amazon Release

As a sales leader, Amy Franko built a successful and lucrative B2B sales career with global tech giants IBM and Lenovo. She then took a 180° pivot into entrepreneurship in 2007, launching a training company, Impact Instruction Group. She is also the author of The Modern Seller. She knows what it’s like to build a book of business and a Fortune 1000 client base from the bottom-up. She has successfully navigated that steep curve, consistently selling 5-to-7 figure engagements with repeat business and loyal clients.

01:17 Dan: Alright. Welcome to the Minds On B2B podcast. And I'm incredibly excited today to introduce you to our guest. Her name is Amy Franko. And I have to tell you, I have read her book, "The Modern Seller", earmarked it, scribbled in it, made notes in it, and it's one of the reasons I invited her to this show. So Amy is a incredibly successful B2B sales person who has now started coaching, training, speaking, and helping others adopt the modern seller methodology. And we're gonna talk to her today. But first let me welcome her to the show. Amy, welcome.

01:54 Amy Franko: Dan, thanks so much for having me here. I appreciate it.

01:57 Dan: Yeah. Well, I'm looking forward to this episode. So I'm gonna jump right in. What truly prompted you to write the book, "The Modern Seller"? And really, can you describe to the audience who the book is for? 

02:09 Amy Franko: Yeah, sure. So I'll kinda tackle that from two angles. And the first is the personal angle. Something like writing a book, it kinda takes a village. Even though it's a little bit of an isolating project in many ways, it takes a village to create that, set a goal like that and to create a successful book launch. And so for me, there was a personal goal behind it of wanting to write a book. It's something that has been a long-term goal for me. And the timing just happened to be right with some changes that I was making in the business, and wanting to put this specific message out into the marketplace; so there is certainly a personal goal with wanting to do that.

02:52 Amy Franko: But from a professional standpoint, what I was seeing in the marketplace and with the clients that I'm working with, is that there are some bigger level or foundational skills that I'm seeing sellers and sales organizations needing to build, whether it's at an individual level or across the organization. So things like prospecting, presenting, negotiating, closing, those are all really important sales activities and those are not things that will go away. But what I was seeing is because the marketplace is changing so much and there's so much influencing our prospects and clients in the way that they buy today, that there are some deeper level skills that I see needing to be built. And so my goal behind that was to dig into these five dimensions that I call them, that I see sellers needing to build that will help them get better at those everyday activities.

03:53 Amy Franko: And in terms of who the book is for, it is for the individual seller. It is also for a sales leader. So there's a very practical component for a sales leader. And then lastly, for anyone who's in sales enablement or sales training, these are skills that can be built into your already existing programs.

04:13 Dan: Yeah. And I think the interesting thing too to tell the audience is... I kinda introduced you a little bit but your background and the stories that are in the book come from that background, that experience. So for the audience can you, tell 'em a little bit about the background and kind of framework the of how this came to be? 

04:29 Amy Franko: Yeah, yeah. So I got my start in technology and for about the first 10 years of my career, I grew up at IBM and at Lenovo; and I was in a B2B selling role. So I had a defined territory, I had a defined set of products, and I had what you'd probably call a pretty traditional B2B sales goal. And then about 12 years ago, 2007, I took a complete pivot into entrepreneurship, and launched a learning and development company; and that has grown and morphed over time. And today what it looks like is I work with organizations, primarily in professional services, insurance and technology; and I help them accelerate sales results through a strategic selling framework that I've created, and then also sales consulting. So that's what my world looks like today.


05:29 Amy Franko: What's really been unique about this is, and you might appreciate this, is having to make the shift from a kind of more traditional B2B selling role to more of an entrepreneurial seller. There's some overlap, but there are also some... There's some differences between really having to bootstrap, and you're the founder, CEO of your book of business. And it's quite a bit of a different experience than having a traditional B2B selling role. And so I think that gives me a little bit of a unique lens in being able to work with the organizations that I work with by fusing those disciplines together along with leadership.

06:12 Dan: It's interesting to me too. As you go through your story and we've talked off, obviously offline, but in order to be an entrepreneur, you have to have an idea and a product to sell. And in order to do what you do, I think you talked about a framework, you talked about the dimensions. You had to come up with this. And what was interesting to me, as I read the book, it's so sound in its focus, and the ability to apply it quickly after reading the book, and then even some of the opportunities in the book, the inventories at the back of the book, it really makes it purposeful and the results can be immediate and you can do it immediately. But let's step back one step and let's really talk about how do you define modern selling today? Because you mentioned, the market is changing, people are buying differently, and things like that. I wanna just dive into that a little bit more.

07:06 Amy Franko: Yeah. So how I define modern selling maybe a little bit unique in the sense that I don't necessarily define modern selling as having the latest technology tools and platforms. There are certainly a place for those types of tools and platforms, but I really think about modern selling is sort of having to upgrade our internal operating system, upgrading our mindsets and our selling skill sets, and then leveraging the right tools in order to be able to sell more effectively. But there are, if I were to lay out, basically, the three tenets of what I see as modern selling. The first is that someone who's a modern seller is really recognized as a differentiator in their client's business, and I would also argue, in their prospect's business, even though they may not have closed the deal yet, but there's someone who's really recognized, as that differentiator. Secondly, I define a modern seller as someone where the value of your product or service isn't fully realized without you as being part of the equation. So you become...

08:17 Dan: Yeah.

08:18 Amy Franko: Indispensable to that client or that prospect. And then the last thing is that your client or your prospect, they see you as a real competitive advantage to their business. They can't imagine not doing business with you because you help them to become so successful.

08:38 Dan: Yeah. And as I read through some of the dimensions too, I circled and highlighted the word "elevate" 'cause I think that was something that jumped out at me. And can you talk a little bit about that one piece 'cause I think it's kinda tied in with what you're talking about.

08:56 Amy Franko: Yeah, absolutely. So that probably was part of the ambassador dimension of the book. An ambassador is someone who is really a bridge between themselves and their internal organization and then, they bridge to their clients and prospects, and even into the greater community. And one of the attributes of someone who is an ambassador is that ability to elevate; and they have this ability to really come into any kind of situation. And especially a higher stakes situation, or maybe a conflict situation, and they find a way to elevate everyone in the room. And they leave a situation better than what they found it. And sometimes, being that elevator means you are challenging the status quo, you are bringing really new, interesting insights and angles to a common problem or challenge. You're elevating the thinking and the actions of the people around you.

10:03 Dan: Yeah. And I got so much out of that particular discipline. And we talked a little bit afterwards but for the rest of the audience, I encourage you to go get the book, highlight and circle things that are important to you. But can you just walk through the five dimensions, and kinda talk through each one a little bit, the keys, the opportunity that somebody has if, they get the book.

10:25 Amy Franko: Yeah, absolutely. So I'll lay out the five, and then if there are any that you'd like to dive into a little bit further, we can definitely do that. So I laid out my definition of the modern seller. So there are five dimensions that I lay out in the book. And again, I see these as the skills behind the skills to help us get better in our every day selling activities. So the first one is that a modern seller is agile. And someone who is agile, they are fluid thinkers, they're really comfortable in ambiguity, and they are confident making decisions, sometimes with only partial information, and they're great at pivoting. They see an opportunity or they see a need to change, and they're very confident in doing that. So that is someone who is agile. A modern seller is also entrepreneurial. So if you think about yourself or if you're a sales leader thinking about your team, who are those people that really see themselves as the founder and the CEO of their territory or their book of business? They don't just see themselves as employees. And that's a really different way of thinking because the decisions that you make about your book of business or your territory, are different and more strategic, when you think about it from an ownership standpoint.

11:50 Amy Franko: A modern seller who is entrepreneurial, is really going to be able to accelerate their results because they're looking at their book of business or their territory from that ownership stance. A modern seller is also holistic. In any given day, we have a finite reserve when it comes to our time, our energy, our motivation, and our discipline. And so thinking about yourself as a person in this equation is really important because the decisions that we make with those resources have a direct impact on how successful we are as sellers or as sales organizations. So modern sellers who are holistic really are great at looking at value over volume, and quality over quantity. They're very strategic about how they invest their time. A modern seller is also social. And social really comes down to your social capital and your strategic relationship. So someone who's a modern seller, they really understand that the way to achieve a big sales goal, or really any big goal for that matter, is the value of our relationships and the investments that we put into our most important relationships. So, they're intentional and strategic about where they're investing their relationship time.

13:18 Amy Franko: And then lastly, I mentioned this one a little bit earlier, a modern seller is an ambassador. And someone who's an ambassador is really fantastic at being able to take a small kernel of a win, a small project that you've just earned from a prospect. They've just become a new client. They are fantastic at really executing well on those types of wins, and then using them as spring boards to long-term loyalty and being able to turn that into new opportunities, and really grow that new client into [13:57] ____ wallet share and really grow deeper into the relationship. So if you have folks on your team that are really fantastic at that, the chances are good that they are your ambassadors.

14:08 Dan: That's perfect. So they're agile, they're entrepreneurial, they're holistic, social, and they're ambassadors. And one thing I picked up, and this is for the audience, my perspective and you can see if you feel the same way, but the word that shout out to me, that I wrote on the side of the book, was versatile. And being able to, like you said, in the agile side, being able to pivot quickly, think on your feet, find the best in people, build relationships strategically, and deliver value. It's almost like you have to go into a meeting where you really don't know somebody or you might know them a little bit, and really exercise these dimensions through the process of a long sales cycle. So hopefully, that's what you were hoping to get out of writing the book for people. That's what I got out of it.

15:00 Amy Franko: : And what I appreciate about that is that "versatility" word, and especially that absolutely ties back to agile. And agility is something that really hasn't been on the radar up until maybe the last decade or so. And to your point, that ability to go into a sales conversation or a meeting, and be able to think quickly on your feet, to pivot the conversation if needed. But absolutely, as you're going through different opportunities or you're looking holistically at your book of business, you absolutely cycle through all five of these dimensions, when looking at your book of business and then being able to use them in other certain situations like you are prospecting or you are going to be presenting in a large RFP opportunity. You can absolutely apply these dimensions to those specifics as well.

15:58 Dan: I wanna ask this question around entrepreneurial dimension. As a business owner, you mentioned, I want my sales team to look at their book of business as that entrepreneur. Can you talk a little bit about, from a training perspective, if you were to go into an organization and say, there's a VP of sales and they have 20 sales reps, how would you go about training or coaching them to become more entrepreneurial? 

16:28 Amy Franko: Yeah. And so if I'm looking at that team, probably the first thing I'm going to do is talk with the sales leader, and understand and have the sales leader go through and assess the entrepreneurial capabilities of individuals on their team. And then I will typically have some interviews with folks to understand and dig into what those skills are a little bit deeper. And if I'm working with a team on that specific skill set, there are a couple of things that I'm going to have them do. I would have them look at their territory and I would have them map out. There's a territory map in the book with a number of questions that you can take yourself or your team through to help you look at your territory from the big picture, a 20,000-foot view. Because I would have them assess what are your best opportunities? Where are your current clients that maybe are lower on the profitability scale that we may need to make some decisions about? I'm gonna be helping you look at your top line and your bottom line. So you're really analyzing your territory as a business owner versus opportunity by opportunity, just individually. That's the first thing that I'm going to do.

17:53 Amy Franko: And then the second thing I'm going to do is help build some bench strength in some particular skills. One is helping to create a vision for their territory, and then the corresponding territory map that would support it. And then, there's one strategy in the book that I have found really helpful, and that is what I call "diamonds in the rock". We are so conditioned to be always looking at where our competitors are; and that's super valuable information, but if we reverse engineer that a little bit, and think about where our competitors aren't, that can start to open up our thinking and open up new white space, new markets that could be unique to us, so that we can be first, and we can really establish ourselves and stave off some of our competitors. So that's one strategy or one skill that we look at in teaching that entrepreneurial piece.

19:00 Dan: That's fantastic. Everyone listening, you definitely have to get this book. The inventory components that you have positioned there, they can self-serve and do those type of things. But it's interesting, as you start to read through this and you see the dimensions on how they interact together, and you can utilize them. One thing I asked you off the podcast was what if you're strong, very, very strong, in one of these or a couple of these, and you're not so strong in some of the others. What's your advice? If somebody gets the book tomorrow, they go through this, they read it, and they find out that they have strength in three and they're a little weak in two, what would you say would be the best thing to do after you have that information? 

19:43 Amy Franko: Yeah. So the way that I wrote the book was to be modular so that you could read the first couple of chapters and get your bearings, and then decide, "Hey, I'd really like to work on ambassador. Let me go flip to that. Or I'd really like to work on entrepreneurial. Let me go flip to that." So they can live independently of each other. So I purposefully wrote the book in that way to be more of a field guide. If I were someone, if that was my situation, if I were strong in three, and maybe there were two that I needed to work on, I would pick one of those three that I was strong in, and I would pick a strategy that I could amplify what I'm already good at. Many times we are always looking to plug the hole on our weaknesses, and I certainly believe on working on our weaknesses, but if we can also amplify something that we're strong at, we're going to accelerate our results a little bit more quickly.

20:44 Amy Franko: So, I would do that, and then, I would, also, pick one strategy from one of the two areas that I wasn't working as well at, and I'd just pick those two things to work on, because then, if you're working on one or two, those are manageable, you can put them into your every day selling habits, you get strong at those, and then you can pick one or two more.

21:06 Dan: Yeah. Yeah. And the way you describe the book, I consumed it pretty much in a couple of days, but as I picked it back up prepping for this podcast, I started to see the pieces come together, as you said, and this idea of "I'm really strong here. How do I amplify it?" I applied it. I was in a meeting, actually, today, and I pulled out some of the things around the holistic side of this, and said, "Prior to this meeting, I need to do these things because this is a high value client. What is it, and will it make a difference?" And I jot these things down. I can tell you, it was probably one of the best meetings I've ever had. So, I think, the purpose for the book, your background experience, from this podcast host, you made a big difference and I can't say thank you enough. So, I just want to let people know, if they wanna get the book, they wanna hear you speak, they wanna hire you to train their organization, can you tell the audience how they go about getting in contact with you, and how do you go about doing that? 

22:08 Amy Frako: Yeah. Sure. So, if you are interested in the book, you can just hop on out to Amazon and either get a hard copy, or a Kindle version of the book. If you'd like to connect with me directly, you can connect with me at amyfranko.com, or I am on LinkedIn every day, you can find me at Amy Franko on LinkedIn.

22:31 Dan: Well, Amy, thank you so much for a great podcast, and I'm gonna invite you back, 'cause, I think, we could explore this, and a lot more, in future episodes. So, everyone listening, please take a look at the website, go get the book, and I'd love to hear feedback from you. If you'd like to give feedback on this book, please contact Amy. You can also reach out to me and if there's episodes that you'd like us to work on, and deliver, with Amy and myself, let me know. The best way to get a hold of me is send it to my email dan.harris@mindson.com. Alright. So, Amy, thank you so, so, so much.

23:09 Amy Franko: Oh, thank you. This was a great conversation. And I can't wait for the next one.

23:14 Dan: Yeah. Well, we're gonna have to schedule it, and everyone, look forward to that. And please, make sure to subscribe on your favorite podcast channel. And until next time, have a great week, and we'll talk to you soon.

23:27 Dan: So, listeners, here's where you come in. If you have ideas for possible episode topics, like to be on the guest of the show, or know someone that would be a great B2B teacher, or coach, make sure to connect with me on LinkedIn. You can find me by searching Danny D. Harris. You can also send me an email with the subject line "Minds On B2B Idea, or Guest", to dan.harris@mindson.com. The more input we get from listeners, the more good listeners, the better the podcast is gonna be. So, make sure to subscribe to iTunes, or your favorite podcast player, and until next time, this is Dan Harris stay curious, connect often, and learn always.

24:03 Outro: Thanks for listening to today's minds on B2B podcast. If you like what you heard today, please subscribe. Also, feel free to share this episode with your peers and colleagues, so we can keep bringing you quality content from the best minds in B2B. Until next time, from all of us at minds on, have a great week.


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