#113: The Cerebral Seller & Former Salesforce Sales Scientist, David Priemer
Adam: I'm going to hit record. Luckily I know how to say your name, because I know DC for a fact doesn't. That's not a knock on you, he's just not a pronunciation guy. So we have David Priemer on the podcast, but I actually want DC to do the intro, because you see, you guys have known each other for a bit. You sent me a message like," Man, we've got to have him on all about sales, the Cerebral Seller. We got to have this guy on." So I don't know if you remember the context, but you guys got connected and so now he's here.
DC: Yeah. So first of all, I do know how to say his last name, even though I am from Queens. He's trying to stereotype me, David, just so you know.
David Priemer: I understand. My bad, my bad, my bad.
DC: Okay. So I know Priemer, because everyone calls him Priemer. I know.
David Priemer: That's right.
Adam: Damn. That's how you know I'm not really in the mix. I didn't know that.
DC: No. So David has a long, amazing, illustrious career in sales. I got to know him or heard of his legend from a common friend, and they worked together at Rypple. So Rypple was this company that we were a customer of back in early HubSpot days, and David ran sales there. He told me a story about how that happened, how the two of them got connected, and what's funny is that they are doppelgangers. So he can tell you more about that. And then he went on to lead, have many roles, including being vice president of commercial sales at Salesforce and Influitive and lots of stuff, and now he's onto some exciting stuff in Cerebral Selling, which I'll let him tell you about. I'm super excited to have him. We've discovered that we are very like- minded in how we think about the changes that are happening in sales, and I'm excited about this episode.
David Priemer: For sure. Me too. And it's funny, you asked, well, why do people call me Priemer? One of the reasons why that's the case, and it's actually quite timely given the fact that we have three Davids on this call, is that in my first startup where I worked with that mutual friend that we were talking about, when there was 24 people at the company, seven of us were named David. So the CEO, the co- founder. So we had to develop a system to differentiate. So I became known as Priemer then, so here we are. Three Davids on the call.
Adam: I love it.
DC: That's awesome. And that mutual friend is a friend of the podcast and a good buddy, and his name is Daniel Debow. He's the CEO of a company called helpful. com, which we've talked about in the past. But go check out LinkedIn and check out Priemer and Debow, and tell me if they're doppelgangers or not.
David Priemer: Well, I'll tell you that that night, the last time I saw you, DC, was at the sales event in Toronto. I don't know if you remember. I was standing beside Debow, and the photographer that was at the event tapped me on the shoulder and looked at Debow and she said," Twins, twins!" I tapped Debow on the shoulder and I'm like," She wants to take our picture. She thinks we're brothers. And she said," Not brothers, not brothers. Twins." So she took the picture. I ended up posting it on LinkedIn. I like to pride myself on posting high value content to LinkedIn. Sales tips, videos, all that.
DC: Yeah, yeah. Cerebral.
David Priemer: There's no other post I've ever posted that got that much traction that quickly than that picture. To this day, not to get too far off topic, last week I got connected to someone on LinkedIn and he said," Hey, were you at this building, the WeWork building in Toronto, 33rd floor giving a talk?" So before I did anything, I texted Debow and I'm like," Where you at the WeWork building?" He's like,"Yep. Yeah, I was." I'm like," Okay. It happened again. It happened again."
DC: crosstalk In one city, the two of them, and they used to work together, so amazing. But anyway, we're here to talk about Cerebral Selling.
David Priemer: Yes.
Adam: So unpack this. I mean, DC teed it up with a good intro, Priemer. There's so many places that we could start, but what were you doing back in the day at Rypple? You were running sales?
David Priemer: Yeah, yeah. I was running sales. I mean, Rypple was our third startup, and I had been working with the same crew for a number of years, as you know most people, they like to get the band back together. We got acquired by Salesforce, and I ended up spending five amazing years there. I can't say enough about the experience. But one of the things I've noticed over the course of time, over those 20 years, is that selling has changed quite a lot, quite a lot, for a number of reasons. I think if I were to pick out three things, I'd say number one, there's just so many more solutions now than there used to be, and so many more overlapping solutions. I mean, you guys know, especially DC, from the HubSpot days, in marketing technology, I remember seeing a stat in 2011 there were 150 marketing technology vendors. And in 2017, there were 5, 000. You can't tell me that all those vendors do something completely unique. There's some overlap and building on the previous idea, but there's so many solutions. While we think they're well- differentiated, the problem is that our customers have no idea. They spend a fraction of a percent of time giving a shit about what we do. They only care, and rightly so, about their problems. So to them, we just all sound the same. We all sound the same. We all say," We're going to help you reduce cycle times and improve efficiency and improve conversion rates." Everyone says the same thing. So that's a big challenge. Number two is just attention spans have shrunk to minuscule proportions. We're just inundated with all sorts of stimulus and mobile and the whole thing, and so people just don't have time. Their lives are so fast, they're moving so fast. They don't have time to care and pay attention. The last thing is unfortunately, modern selling hasn't fully caught up yet. I mean, you guys are at the forefront of modern. You know what I'm talking about, right?
DC: Yeah, yeah, yeah. You got me going. You're throwing a softball over there.
David Priemer: Yeah, but modern selling hasn't caught up.
DC: Exactly. It's a softball, but it happens to be what you believe, and you've been preaching for a long time. Couldn't agree more. And I think you're right, that competitive landscape, having gone through this just like you did, it's so radically different that people don't understand. Five, 10 years ago you had competitors in the one to five. Maybe you had five competitors if you were in a really hot market, including marketing like we were, and now you have thousands. So how do you stand out? How do you differentiate? How do you build a product? As you said, these things can't be wildly different, so you need a different way to stand out. That's what I love what you're doing about your content on Cerebral Selling, which I've been digesting and learning and shaking my head at in a positive form. Yeah, yeah. I love it. It's like, are you preaching to the converted?
David Priemer: Yeah.
Adam: All right, so somebody who's listening right now, they're at the gym, they're on their commute. Shout out to all the Seeking Wisdom listeners, but what is that? Because sales reps are still going driven, right? Sales reps still want to make money, that's why they're in the game. What are you, out there, are telling them or talking to people about, or shifting in this world where hey, you don't have all the power like you had 10 years ago, but obviously it doesn't mean that sales reps aren't getting paid or aren't making money. The need for sales reps, it's still just as high, but what's the biggest difference in how they're forced to work every single day?
David Priemer: Yeah, no, absolutely. Well, I think that the biggest thing, because there's so many solutions and attention spans are so slim and there are narrow margins there, the number one thing is you need to be able to overcome inertia. Which is a lot of times people think of a selling system, and a lot of selling systems start at discovery. All right, you're sitting down with your customer and now you're going to go through your list of questions, and you're going to find out what their pains are. My feeling is, you should be so lucky to be sitting down with a customer, talking about their pains. The customers are busy, way busier than they've ever been. So you need to figure out a way of getting your message to pierce through the armor so that they even care to listen to you. What I found, and certainly working with a lot of entrepreneurs, the way I think about messaging, and that's really the tip of the spear, is that messaging is like clothing. We get dressed. We look at ourselves in the mirror before we go out for the day, and we're like," We look good. I look good." And then we go out there in the light of day, at the party we're going to at the venue, we realize that oh my gosh, I'm totally overdressed or I'm totally underdressed. This is not landing. So we have to reshuffle. Meanwhile, the idea should be to really not develop your messages in a vacuum, to think about how your message is going to pierce through, how you're getting your customer's attention, how you are differentiating yourself and disrupting that inertia. There's a lot of content that I talk about on Cerebral Selling, but that's probably one of the biggest areas, is how do I overcome that inertia?
Adam: So one of the things that we talk a lot, I love just talking to our sales reps, just as a marketer. They're trying to sell to me basically, right? This is just a rant, but one thing that drives me nuts about the traditional sales process is so many reps today still are like," Okay, great, Dave, you're on the call. You're going to go through my process right now, okay? I'm going to ask you the questions that I need to get you to the next step." That's just crazy, because like you said, the discovery process is different now. I don't wake up on a Saturday morning and I'm browsing your business website. I'm on your website, I'm talking to you for a reason. Everyone's so damn busy. I'm not just taking a 30 minute call with you because it's fun. There's a clear need. So I think the whole process of you have to go through my process. I got to make sure I ask, are you the decision maker? Do you have budget? Do you have needs? The whole bant process, it just seems crazy, but so many people have to stick to that script because that's what the model looks like.
David Priemer: Yeah. I call it the polite interrogation. It's like," Here's the list of questions that you will answer it for me." That goes to the second piece, which is feelings. I think about it as a barometer. I did a little video on my YouTube page, I called it [Okay, Not Okay 00:10:26], which is the thing that has existed in sales for a long time. You're working with a sales rep, and we've all worked with sales reps in our lives, that at some point in that discourse made us feel not okay. You did something that was sleazy or you said something, or you made me feel pressured, or you subjected me to a polite interrogation. We have to be really conscious about how we're making customers feel, because feelings is actually one of the biggest drivers of selling an affinity, especially now. Empathy, feelings. So when you subject someone to your discovery list of questions, you make them feel not okay. When they feel not okay, you erode the trust in that relationship. So you always have to be mindful of, just because I have all these questions, doesn't mean that they're going to answer them. We always talk about being a trusted advisor, and forming the trust and rapport in selling is really important, but it has never been more important than it is now.
Adam: Do you think the biggest fear, though, is that reps don't want to lose control? I have to make you go through this because I'm going to control this conversation.
David Priemer: Yeah. You know what? I got news for everyone, you don't have control. The customer has way more information than they ever have. If you want to know how little control you have, just go onto Google and put in your company's name and type reviews after it and hit enter and see what happens. You're going to get all sorts of insights and contexts that in many cases you don't control. So you always have to be working at the speed of your customer and have a lot of empathy. That's the other thing. When I talk about Cerebral Selling and what is this new kind of selling, it's based on these three factors of science, empathy, and execution. The science is just really about doing what works. Looking at the data. The data tells us that people buy from people they trust, they buy on recommendations from peers. The data tells us that most messages fall flat. The data tells us that most people, when they look at your website, have no idea what the hell it is you do. So how are you leveraging both the persuasive forces, the science, to get your message across? And then empathy is huge. No one wants to be subjected to the healthy interrogation, uncomfortable cold calls, pressure at the end of the month. Certainly, yes, as salespeople we have quotas. We have expectations that are placed upon us. We didn't talk too much about background, but I got into sales by accident. Like most of us, I'm sure, in sales, your listeners out there, I started my career as a research scientist doing graduate work in engineering, building computer models, and got into sales at the turn of the dot- com boom.
Adam: Just in case nobody believes you, go to your website. There's a hell of a picture from back in the day with you. It's cerebralselling.com. Go.
DC: Does he have a fro?
David Priemer: Yeah.
DC: Does he have a fro in it, and a labcoat?
Adam: Yeah. No, he has a shell necklace, and he's got a bunch of test tubes around him. I don't know what's happening. Hold on. Yeah, you do. You have a shell necklace or something like that.
David Priemer: Yeah. That was my girlfriend, who was my wife at the time, got me a necklace. It was really nice. That was the summer of 1997 for those keeping score. I had Gene Simmons hair going on back then.
Adam: It's good.
DC: That's amazing.
Adam: No, this is actually a good transition, because I know DC and I were talking about this before, fascinated with the early learning. So the story now for sure, the shift to Cerebral Selling, definitely I would push people to go check out your site. But what did you learn in spending five years at Salesforce? The way you talk about that, it was so powerful for you and your career, but I would love to dig into that a little bit.
David Priemer: Yeah. So I got an appreciation for how sales machines are built at scale, because one of the things as a sales leader, when you're designing a comp plan or you're carving territories, or you're trying to figure out how to get your message to land, and you have 10, 20, 30, 40 reps, it's great, but you may not see the trends and patterns that you see when you have that widespread scale when you have thousands of reps all saying the same thing in different locales. How is the message landing? Where are we falling down? What does the actual customer need? You just have so many more tentacles when you are operating at that scale, which is awesome. But I'd say also the reverse. It can tend to be that when you work for a big company, that sometimes the sense is that, look, we have a great product. Everyone should know about us. We're in the Gartner Magic Quadrant, the top right hand corner. Really, what I kind of took as being a Salesforce customer twice before and then once after, is back to that empathy. You go into the organization, you say," Hey, look. What you're doing is great, but I was a customer a couple of times before. There's lots of things that you could have actually done that wouldn't really have cost you any money that could have added tons of value to my experience." Especially a lot of small businesses. They're looking to understand how companies operate at scale. Now, what did you learn as you were building Salesforce? The funny thing was, Salesforce wasn't an old company when we were acquired at 13, 14 years old. So there's a lot of 13, 14 year old companies out there that are not$ 5 billion companies. What did you learn building that? So there was a lot that I felt that Salesforce could actually share with the community. Interestingly, when I got there and we started running some of these, I would say, value added," No, this is not a timeshare pitch. There's no thinly veiled product that's going to creep in." We actually started adding value to customers and engaging some of these high value events. They were actually the highest ironically ROI events that we had, because the power of reciprocity, something I talk a lot about on my website, add value to people with no expectation of anything in return and watch what happens. The science tells us that people feel indebted to those who help them, if you can legitimately help them and not veil it with a thin product pitch behind the scenes. So I can't say enough about my experience at Salesforce. It was amazing. Really amazing people, really amazing culture. Really cool to see on both sides what happens when you bring the entrepreneurial spirit to a big company, and then also on the reverse, when you get to see things at the big company at scale.
DC: Unpack that those events there. I'd love to learn, and love for all of us to learn, what was different about those from what you had seen done before?
David Priemer: Yeah. So the biggest difference, there was no product pitch. I think oftentimes when we have corporate events, we talk about a trend or pattern that we see, and it's all still related and it comes back to our product. So a couple things that we did, we got the right profile of people in the room. Typically we try to focus on executives. The topic for most of these sessions was not, how can Salesforce help you run your business? But just things like prioritization, focus. What are you focused on in your business? I know you had Sangrim on your show, and he's a big ONE Thing guy. The book, The ONE Thing.
Adam: Where did he get that, that crazy guy? Where did he get that idea?
DC: I wonder where he'd get that. crosstalk Sounds familiar.
David Priemer: Did you guys start that with the podcast?
Adam: Every person that starts at Drift gets that book, baby.
David Priemer: Oh my gosh.
DC: Yes, 100%.
David Priemer: I'm a ONE Thing fanatic. If you look on my blog, I have a blog post called Top Sales Reads, with a focus on empathy and execution. Not only is there, you're going to love this, guys. So not only is there, The ONE Thing is my favorite book and it's at the top of the list, there is a picture of me that my team that ran the Boston region got me. So I think it's on the site, there's a picture. It's me wearing a t- shirt that says Boston vs Everyone, and it says ONE Thing. It is on there. I'm looking at it right now. It says ONE Thing on the back. So this was the book. So we're on the same page guys. This is the book. I used to give this to executives, and we used to use it as the foundation for our executive dinners and events. We'd say," Hey, look, everyone's too busy. Everyone's focused on lots of different things. What's the one thing that you are focused on in your business?" We gave people copies of the book. I would give copies of the book to people on my team and so on, but the executives really appreciated being able to talk about their business problems, that may or may not have had anything to do with the software that we were selling, with other people like them. Even just the simple gift of a book, which I feel is actually quite lost nowadays. People don't read.
DC: So lost, so lost.
David Priemer: It's a huge deal, right? So you give them a book, you talk about the challenges they have in their business. You connect them with other like- minded individuals. You don't pitch your product, and that's actually the real trick. I teach a technique, which is not unique to me, but I call it the belief statement, which if you go on the website, there's a blog post called Sell More by Leading with What You Believe. The idea is you pitch your product in terms of the vision and the problem that you're solving in the universe, but you don't talk about your product. As soon as you start talking about your product, people immediately tune out. So that's the real key with these events. So back to the events, they were super value add. We gave copies of the books. We got people to open up. Literally, if anyone's wondering what the mechanics of what does this kind of event look like, you literally go to a restaurant, you get yourself a private room. You have 10 to 15 executives, keep it intimate, and you introduce the book, you talk about," Hey, look, this is one of my favorite books. I read it and I loved it. Here's what I took away." You literally just go around the table and you get everyone to like," What's your one thing? What's the one thing you think that's holding you back?" And You get everyone to talk. I actually prefer like the quiet kind of environments, not the environments where there's a lot of cross chatter. I like it when everything's quiet. It's like a study group. Everyone's listening to each other. Those were the highest ROI events, because we measured them, that we did in our segment.
Adam: We're going to ask you this, but I didn't want to. Okay, well, this is a good time to do it. Okay. So you got the one thing. If I'm listening to this and I'm digging what you're saying about sales, or I want to follow the path of a guy who was a VP at Salesforce now starting his own thing. What are the other books that you recommend the most to people that are out there, at any point in their career? What would I come into your house or your office and get if you're like," Okay, here's a stack of three, five, two, whatever books." How many?
David Priemer: Yeah. Yeah. So again, they're all on my website. The one that isn't there, which I really love as well, is Dan Pink's book To Sell is Human. I love books. As a scientist and a very curious person, to me, I've been in sales for a long time and I love it as a career. That is my passion. But it's also, in many ways, it's academic pursuit. You can just keep learning and getting better at it. So I love books that not only teach you something, but they use data and things you can put into practice right away. So I love The ONE Thing. Dan Pink's To Sell is Human is another really great one. It really levels the playing field as far as everyone being in sales, and just humanizes this idea of what is selling, and the fact that nowadays, if you want to be a top seller, being a top seller is as complicated a pursuit as reading a CT scan or designing a house. So I love To Sell is Human. I love the book Essentialism. There's a book called Essentialism, The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. Again, I feel like in our lives we're always struggling with choice. What should I do? I'll tell you, for the younger folks in your listening audience who are in sales, sales in many ways is the worst from a career standpoint, because you're always sitting beside someone who is doing the same job as you, who wants to get that promotion. I'm in small business, I want to get promoted to now be in mid- market. I want to get promoted to be a manager, and then promoted to be an enterprise. Oftentimes we think about what we should want instead of what we actually want. Very easy to get caught up in, especially in sales. So I love Essentialism, because it's a great level set for what is it you actually want. I love the book Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to be Persuasive. It is one of the other books that is standard reading for people on my team. It's 50 short chapters of just little things that can help you understand how to be more persuasive in your everyday interactions. The fact that we're all called David on this call is an interesting one. It means that subconsciously, we're going to have a strange affinity for each other. Leaders Eat Last by Simon Sinek is another awesome one. I'm a big Simon Sinek fan. I love Leaders Eat Last because it goes into the science and the physiology of leadership, which is awesome. I love Emotional Intelligence 2. 0 is a great one. Let's Get Real or Let's Not Play. And then I like the tactical ones. Actually, I really liked the Sales Acceleration Formula by our friend Roberge. I like Hacking Sales by Max Altschuler as well. I like the tactical ones, but for me, I find that because we're in an era of empathy. Empathy and focus and distraction and inertia. I love the books like The ONE Thing, Essentialism, Yes!. The things that give us an edge to understand, what are these secret forces that we can use? I say to our advantage not in a subversive way, but in a very pragmatic way to be successful in our jobs.
Adam: I love it. I hope the listeners right now, nobody's writing while they're driving, but they got the list. DC, you got to go in four minutes, so why don't you take us out of here?
DC: All right. If you like Cerebral Selling, if you like my man Priemer here, hit him up on his blog. Check it out. Shout out at him. Remember to check LinkedIn and see if he has a doppelganger with Daniel Debow of Helpful. If he is, let me know. Holler back at me. Don't forget the most important part, six stars only. Go to the Apple Podcasts app, leave a six star review. If it is still broken, complain to Apple first, then second, leave a five star review for us. Just holler at Priemer in the comments and tell them what you would like to know about his past adventures and where he's going.
Adam: Yeah. Also, I don't know if you know this, but hypergrowth.drift.com. Big Hypergrowth this year. We're doubling down Boston, September 4th. San Francisco, September 24th. Maybe we'll even have Priemer speak. I mean, who knows? Anything can happen, so go get your tickets. Use the promo code Seeking Wisdom. It's a$ 500 discount for any Seeking Wisdom listener. It's ridiculous. DC doesn't want me giving away tickets like this, but I'm doing it anyway because I want you there.
DC: Don't do it. Don't do it.
Adam: Priemer, thanks for making it happen. We appreciate you coming on.
David Priemer: My pleasure guys. This is great. I'm glad we made it happen.