31 - Finding Pain & Other Useful Sales Skills for HR

Begging your manager to start a new HR program? Learn their pain points. Tyson & Alexa interview Steven Baker, the accidental HR dude, on why sales should be important to HR and why being real is the key to sales.

Release date: Feb 2, 2022


[00:00:01] Host: Warning. This podcast is about the realities of working in people operations. This is not a stuck-up PC compliance-based or employment law podcast about stuffy, outdated HR practices. Shit will get real here, and we assume no responsibility.

This is the People Problems Podcast with Alexa Baggio and Tyson Mackenzie.


[00:00:39] Alexa Baggio: What's up, Tyson? You're looking chipper today, you're looking fresh.

[00:00:43] Tyson Mackenzie: Yes, I know, I went outside for the first time in a long time. I warmed up to a nice, freezing -19, [crosstalk] it's the same as -35.

[00:00:56] Alexa: Both degrees, Celsius and Fahrenheit, right?

[00:00:58] Tyson: That's where it switches over. Yes, just to be clear here, it's Celsius and Fahrenheit. That's about how cold it's been in my neck of the woods. Today, I bundled up and I went outside. What else did I do? I conquered the Wordle of the day, which was great. It's good wholesome fun.

[00:01:11] Alexa: Everybody is in the Wordle right now. I downloaded the app, but I think I did the wrong thing because the thing on my phone--

[00:01:18] Tyson: You don't even need an app.

[00:01:19] Alexa: It doesn't? I don't get it. It's just empty squares, I don't understand. What am I supposed to do?

[00:01:24] Tyson: It is just empty squares? Honestly, all you have to do is Google Wordle and then you start, you give your five-letter word, but it's funny because that's how you have to start, you just guess any five-letter word, and I was like, "Wow, I'm really dumb, I don't even know a single five-letter word right now." It's easy and it's fun, so get into it because it's the place to be right now.

[00:01:43] Alexa: All right, I'll try. Well, I'm not Wordling, but maybe I should if it gives me this energetic glow every day that you have right now.

[00:01:50] Tyson: I feel great. I accomplished something [crosstalk] [crosstalk] [chuckles]

[00:01:53] Alexa: A little [crosstalk] disclosure and some Worldles, some new wellness regime.

[00:01:58] Tyson: Exactly.

[00:01:59] Alexa: I love it.

[00:02:00] Tyson: You got to do what you can these days.

[00:02:03] Alexa: I love it. All right, well, on that note, we'll keep it moving. Let's get cracking to our pops in the news.


[00:02:21] Alexa: All right. Article is titled "To Absolutely No one's Surprise, Better Founder, Vishal Garg, Who Did Mass Zoom Layoff, Returns As CEO." I don't need to explain this article in a whole lot of detail. Tyson, you can add any details that you feel strongly about. Long story short, the guy that we talked about a few episodes ago who fired 900 people on Zoom took a "little break," little sabbatical for a month or two, and now he's back.

The best part of this that I can tell is that they are making absolutely no attempt to pretend that he has bettered himself [chuckles] or that this was for any other reason than to just literally just physically distance himself from the situation. There's no, "Oh, we spoke to him, and he's going to better himself" or "He did some therapy or he knows what's it's like [crosstalk]

[00:03:15] Tyson: It says he reflected on his leadership, reconnected with the values that make Better great-

[00:03:23] Alexa: Yes, so ridiculous. He reflected.

[00:03:23] Tyson: -and worked closely with an executive coach. He reflected.

[00:03:27] Alexa: He went on fucking vacation for two months and was like, "They'll get over it, I'll be back." He drinks a fucking Mai Tais, they gave him an "executive coach," and now he's back. I actually love that they're not trying to sugarcoat it.

[00:03:42] Tyson: Yes, I laughed out loud.

[00:03:42] Alexa: I think this is incredible because I was just talking with my team about there was an article that-- I can look it up, but there was an article about basically, what to do if you get canceled. I think it was like a PR and marketing firm had come out with this study that was like if you do these couple of three things after you get canceled, you'll be okay because basically everybody's been canceled at this point, and this guy is like, well, on the tail end of it, but I would argue this was cancelable in the greater internet Zeitgeist and the third thing was like--

[00:04:12] Tyson: I don't believe in cancel culture.

[00:04:14] Alexa: I don't either, but the point is that-

[00:04:15] Tyson: I really don't.

[00:04:16] Alexa: -you can't recover from this. I don't either, I think we're in agreement there. I do remember the first two things, the first thing was, say you're sorry, the second thing was, say how you're going to do better just like publicly, that was like a PR [unintelligible 00:04:31] and then the third thing-- Wait, wait.

[00:04:33] Tyson: Go back and listen to our episode from last week.

[00:04:35] Alexa: The third thing was, just wait it out because everyone will forget. Literally, the third piece of advice from this firm was, everyone will move on, just hang tight. This is a classic case of like, this guy's just hanging on, and he thinks everybody's moved on because the market's tanking, and there's all kinds of other stuff happening now. This guy just two months.

[00:04:56] Tyson: Yes, that's great. I would love to know what he went off and did actually. I'd love to be a fly on that wall, but [crosstalk] one other funny thing. Exactly, one funny thing in this article that I thought was hilarious is that when he was trying to talk about why he did it this way, the people that he laid off were stealing from their colleagues and customers by being unproductive and only working two hours a day. I was like that was him justifying the fact that he just laid them off via Zoom because they're unproductive. I am like, "Where did you get that metric from?" [crosstalk]

[00:05:33] Alexa: Everybody was only working two hours a day. [crosstalk] stealing from your co-workers [crosstalk] No, no, no, no, I pay you individually in play for your time, so you're not stealing from anyone else, to be clear [crosstalk]

[00:05:44] Tyson: It's so weird. That was a funny justification.

[00:05:47] Alexa: I just think it's funny. Clearly, these guys need a PR team or a better one because this is not-- They gave him nothing on this, just not an inch. I love it.

[00:05:56] Tyson: Yes, it was hilarious.

[00:05:58] Alexa: Anyway, we're full circle on the Better.com fiasco. The answer is, nothing's fucking changed. Another day in HR, another day in HR, Tyson, just another day. [crosstalk] Anyway, speaking of HR and another day, we have another guest, and I'm very excited to introduce him. Our guest today is Steven Baker. He is a self-proclaimed "accidental" HR dude that comes to the field by way of a jazz guitar performance, higher ed, administrative and sales operations career.

He tries to bring a smart and honest if not unpolished approach to people ops so employees see their people team as "one of them" and someone they can trust. He is currently an HR business partner at Capco. Hi, Steven.

[00:06:36] Steven Baker: Hello.

[00:06:37] Alexa: Nice to meet you. I hope you've listened to our "What the fuck is an HR business partner?" episode.

[00:06:41] Steven: Oh, gosh. First, I guess I should say, I'm an ardent listener of the podcast, probably to a point where you guys have noticed me on social media and been like, "This guy's a little annoying."


[00:06:50] Alexa: Oh, yes. If I notice anyone on social media, it's a big deal. Yes, Steven, we've noticed you, and we're glad you're here.

[00:07:00] Steven: It's embarrassing. [chuckles] Yes, now I lost the thread of what I was going to speak to, remind me what the question was, again.

[00:07:09] Alexa: I hope you've listened to our episode of "What the fuck is an HR business partner?"

[00:07:12] Steven: Yes, the day that came out, I immediately sent it around to my entire team and was like, "This is what I've been talking about."


[00:07:21] Alexa: They're like, "Oh, Jesus, now he's sending us podcasts about what we don't know that he does."

[00:07:25] Steven: I know and I think that is how they reacted.

[00:07:28] Alexa: If they're listening, fuck them [crosstalk]

[00:07:30] Tyson: No, that was a good episode. I feel like I want to go back and re-listen to that. We just re-released that episode because it got a lot of really good traction. I asked people, "Why do we think that that got such good traction?" I think it's because, we often ask ourselves, "What the fuck is an HR business partner?" even as HR VPS.

[00:07:48] Steven: I know. I was telling somebody the other day that I was in higher ed for a while and got my master's degree in Higher Ed Administration. I wrote my thesis on the value of liberal arts degrees in the corporate workplace. I was telling somebody. I was like, "Yes, HR business partnering is like the liberal arts degree of HR careers. You have to know enough to be dangerous with everything, but you're not a specialist in quite anything."

[00:08:14] Alexa: I love that, jack of all trades master of none sort of thing. Yes, I love that. I always tell people because I've worked in so many different issues, so many different roles at this point, that I call it my liberal arts career because people will be like, "Tell me about your journey." I'm like, "It's windy, there's a lot of twists and turns here." That's awesome. Tell us just because it's relevant for this conversation, Steven, tell us a little bit about your background, how you get into this. How did you get into people ops?

[00:08:38] Steven: It's extremely circuitous. I originally went to college to be a jazz guitarist, which has nothing to do with HR if you couldn't guess. [chuckles] After I wrapped up college, I worked in higher ed in a couple of roles. One of the more interesting ones was in faculty affairs for a college that operated in Abu Dhabi and in Shanghai that's so basically like HR generalist for academics watch. If you ever want to go on a wild HR ride, go do it in higher education because you've got--

[00:09:09] Alexa: No, I've never officially done it, and I'm happy to say that [crosstalk] if I dive in, if I ever crossed over, yes, I've no fucking interest in higher ed. I love you all and God bless the work you do but couldn't pay me [crosstalk]

[00:09:23] Tyson: It's like the oldest of old schools.

[00:09:25] Alexa: Yes, you cannot bring this mouth to [unintelligible 00:09:27] [chuckles] It's basically charity work and they would not like the number of F-bombs that I say in a short setting.

[00:09:37] Steven: I did, we'll call it, HR generalist work in academia and then moved on to be a chief of staff in higher ed. That was where I started to realize I really liked, I guess for lack of a better term, consulting type of work, touching lots of different things but not necessarily being a specialist. Eventually, I got tired of higher ed, and I wanted to go to something a little bit faster. I went to work for a workforce development nonprofit here in the US called IRAP.

[00:10:05] Alexa: Yes, IRAP. Did you live in Boston, Steven?

[00:10:08] Steven: I did not live in Boston.

[00:10:09] Alexa: I'm like, you're talking about jazz guitar, working in higher ed, and now you're mentioning another Boston-based thing, which is IRAP, which is a very cool organization for people that do not know about IRAP.

[00:10:19] Steven: There, I worked in their sales operations org, kind of as a de facto chief of staff to their chief revenue officer, a gentleman named Jeff Artis, who really taught me everything I know about selling. I was doing a lot of work there looking at sales analytics, I got really familiar with Salesforce, and I have a bit of an affinity for it, and then also things like sales training, coordinating regional sales directors.

The one thing I loved about working there was that I worked with a bunch of kind of old-school IBM salespeople. We're talking about folks who sold typewriters on the road, driving from place to place, really old-school sales guys and girls. I loved all of them, it taught me a lot about consultative selling, solutions selling, all the things I use now in HR. After I wrap that up, I finally realized, "HR business partnering, that's where I want to be."

Everything I like about the various jobs I've had, they have a people edge to them. I didn't want to be like a narrow specialist or go into a COE, so business partnering was because I like thinking about how businesses operate, how they make money, and then the various people levers that you can push and pull to do that better with happy, your favorite buzzword, engaged employees.

I got my first HR business partnering gig at a company called Refinitiv, which is now part of the London Stock Exchange Group, had phenomenal mentors and phenomenal colleagues there who really taught me quite a lot about human resources as a profession and a field. There's where I really started employing all their sales techniques. It quickly became clear that when you're talking to folks in the business, most of them still today see HR as a cost center, somebody that takes orders, does what they ask them to do.

[00:12:17] Alexa: Paper pushers and fun police.

[00:12:19] Steven: Paper pushers, fun police, and compliance. My favorite is risk management, which I think all HR people are natural risk managers, but we're not a risk management function. I was there for a while and then I went to Capco, which is a consulting firm that works with financial services firms doing HR business partnering there as well.

[00:12:37] Alexa: Oh my god, so much shit to unpack here, Steven, and I fucking love it.

[00:12:42] Tyson: Hold on. I'm stuck on one thing, just your mentorships that you've had along the way and the fact that you've had, it sounds like, some really great mentors in both sales, as well as HR. Tell me just generally how those typically come to be. Tell me a little bit more about those relationships and how you build them and that sort of thing.

[00:13:01] Steven: Part of it I think is a little serendipitous but maybe not so because I'm a terrible liar. I'm terrible at putting on a front for individuals. I don't have time to be somebody I'm not.

[00:13:13] Alexa: I think I know why he likes this podcast so much.


[00:13:17] Steven: I'm surprised I haven't dropped 40 F-bombs already. That's like [crosstalk]

[00:13:22] Alexa: We'll celebrate when you drop your first one. Don't force it, but let it rip.


[00:13:28] Steven: The mentorships I think really came about because when I would interview for positions, I am myself. I curse, I talk about the things I love, I talk about the things I hate, things I think about. I think I, in a way, got lucky. That's why I said serendipitous in that I just landed with a lot of leaders and senior HR folks who we just our personalities were quite simpatico.

They were interested in me as a weird nerd, I guess. [laughs] I was just interested in them as smart people. One thing that I think a lot a lot and it comes out of my days being a jazz musician is we often talk about, surround yourself with musicians who are better than you because, otherwise, you're not going to learn anything. I apply that to all the jobs I take, and the people that I work with. I try and surround myself with individuals who are a lot smarter than me and then I just weasel my way into their lives and try and learn as much from them as I can and develop some really good relationships along the way.

[00:14:30] Tyson: Yes, and I'm sure they learn a ton from you as well. Mentorship is so-- What's that word where there's a relationship? Symbiosis. Yes, I'm thinking about the little-

[00:14:40] Alexa: Symbiotic?

[00:14:41] Tyson: Symbiotic like a fish when the fish attach to each other and they're helping each other out. All right, that's amazing. I think what's so important is like you said, you just be yourself. You're creating a relationship. It's not like a forced "Hey, can we have like a coffee chat?" or something like that. It's more of like, "No, this is actually a relationship that you've built."

[00:15:01] Steven: It's not forced but also not being shy about inserting yourself in other people's space.

[00:15:06] Tyson: Yes, putting yourself out there.

[00:15:07] Steven: I was doing a new hire orientation yesterday. One of the things I told folks was, "Do not be shy about putting yourself on a coworker's calendar and just asking them for some of their time because nobody's going to say no to you." I think we're all nervous, we're all scared. It's that fear of rejection. I drop myself on CEOs' calendars, on all sorts of stuff wherever I'm working. Nobody has ever said no to me. You have to be nice about it. If they have an executive assistant, go through the EA, be nice to the EA. I was an EA for a time. Butter up the EA but no one's ever going to say no to you.

[00:15:46] Tyson: [crosstalk] They do. Be friends with EA. This is very clear to me, though, that you come from a sales background and not an HR background because I feel like most HR-born-and-bred folks have bad imposter syndrome. They're always like, "How do I get into those meetings? How do I talk to people?" You with that sales, you're just out there, and you're like, "All right. I'm just going to make myself available."

[00:16:07] Alexa: Yes. Let's backtrack real quick because I love you, Tyson, you're pulling us in all kinds of directions at once. I'm going to put us back on track here.

[00:16:16] Tyson: That's your job, for sure.

[00:16:17] Alexa: Love you, boo. It's my only value-add here. Let me do my job. Steven, let's back up for a quick second. What I think, obviously, we want to double-click on is your experience with the intersection of sales and people in sales and HR, which is fascinating. I have been in sales in my career many times. I resonate with this a lot.

It's one of the reasons I am so drawn to the HR space is I see how much overlap there is with this stuff.

We don't get a whole lot of HR people, especially on this podcast, who go, "Yes, I love how businesses work and how they make money." That's not the mentality that this industry comes from. Let's double-click on that for a second. Talk to us a little bit about and maybe it comes from your chief of staff experience, maybe it comes from just your exposure to sales and sales ops, but talk to us a little bit about how you see the intersection of sales and HR happening and what you think some of the big themes are that people--

[00:17:09] Steven: Have me back up as much as you want here. I think an important thing when you think about sales, a lot of people if you say salesperson, their first thought is a used car salesperson, somebody's selling widgets or refrigerators. When I think of sales, and it's because of my experience, I think of B2B sellers, business-to-business sellers, and solution sellers.

All of the sellers I have worked with, they do not want to push something on you. They're not there to say, "You want to buy this refrigerator. It's $4,000 more than you want to spend but just trust me, this refrigerator is awesome." That's one type of selling, that sort of product--

[00:17:54] Alexa: It's not very good selling either.

[00:17:56] Steven: No. That's technical selling, obviously, for commissions and whatnot. The great salespeople I always see, they want to help other people solve their problems. That's the point of HR. What I always say as my mantra for being an HR is, "Help the most people as quickly as possible." The way I like to do that or think about doing that is by selling businesses on the various HR products and services, and we can talk about using products and services when talking about HR, but selling business leaders on the HR products and services that exist that will give them more pleased engaged employees who just naturally want to work hard because they find it fulfilling and exciting.

It brings them joy, to reference Marie Kondo.


[00:18:45] Alexa: I need to Marie Kondo my whole apartment right now. Touchy subjects, Steven. [chuckles] My goal for 2022 was to declutter my brain and my whole life, so I feel that. Let's talk a little bit about and this resonates really strongly with me again because I've been in sales many times in my career, and I hear sales and I go, "I know most people think 'Yuck. Oh, they're going to make me feel uncomfortable. They're going to hard sell me.'"

Then I look at it and go, "You absolutely cannot run a business without it." If anyone in the world thinks that the world goes round without salespeople, they're fucking wrong because you don't have a business if you don't have sales, full stop. It's not always glamorous. Sometimes it is like a 21-year-old on the phone calling you about software, but sometimes it's real solutions and real people having real conversations, solving real problems.

My question for you would be a little bit about, based on what you know around the technicality of sales, where is there overlap and stuff that you've used in your career? Then from the operational side of sales because sales is a big, big, large, nasty ops engine, where is there some overlap?

[00:19:46] Steven: Technical side if you want to talk about the sales process and the goals of a sales process, I think we in HR, getting back to the products and services thing, we want the business to see us as a value-add. They don't naturally do that if most people have gone through MBA programs where they think, "What makes the company money?" HR is not on that list of things that make the company money. My perspective and what I always try to get across is that if you use your HR organization to its fullest, HR will make you a ton of money. It won't bring in you--

[00:20:29] Alexa: People can't see this if they're listening, but I am bowing to what you just said because, oh my God, not enough people say that, Steven.

[00:20:37] Tyson: It doesn't even make sense because the people make you money in the company.

[00:20:42] Alexa: It doesn't cost you a shit ton of money.

[00:20:45] Steven: People are your biggest OpEx item in your budget, but there, you're completely correct, Tyson. They're also the ones that are making your product. They're the ones that are going out to talk to customers to sell that product, they're the customer success people who are keeping your buyers engaged and coming back to buy again or renew a subscription.

If you don't have people that want to do this because it fulfills them and makes them excited and they feel like they're growing and doing something useful and important, they won't make those sales. They won't make you the best products. They won't help those customers and have them come back for their renewals, and you're people org, through job design, organizational design, culture, and engagement activities, they're the ones who are going to give you those excited employees who work for effective managers who make them want to go out and do the best work they can possibly do.

[00:21:40] Tyson: Okay, tell me what you're selling to the managers as an HR business partner.

[00:21:46] Steven: Oh gosh. That's actually a harder question, and maybe you know how hard that is, but I guess I would say what I very frequently am selling to managers is a way of looking at your organization, your team, your business, a way of looking at it with more options than you thought you had to increase revenue, decrease costs. It's really about, and this is what solution sellers do, they educate you as a trusted partner. I sound like a sales textbook right now. They educate you as a trusted--

[00:22:19] Alexa: I love it. Lay on us.

[00:22:22] Steven: They educate you as a trusted partner about-

[00:22:24] Tyson: Solution seller, I love that.

[00:22:25] Steven: -opportunities you didn't even know you had. I was talking to somebody about executive assistant organizations the other day, and they were telling me, "Yes, we've got this many executive assistants. The average salary is X, Y, Z. They're only doing calendar work and expenses, and there's not a lot of travel happening right now. They're not doing a lot of expenses.

"We have these folks who are sitting at home with not as much work to do as they could be doing and also they're spacing out, they're getting disengaged. They're not excited to be doing their jobs because a good executive assistant really likes doing their job because it's helping somebody, it's helping people." I was talking to them about how had they done a talent assessment of their EAs? Do any of their EAs, have project management experience?

I was an EA with a PMP. I did a lot of project management work. There's more value that that leader could get out of their organization than they were even aware of, and that's one of the services that I am selling as a business partner, changing their perspective on their organization to see other ways they can get greater leverage or more revenue.

[00:23:40] Tyson: Yes, I love that. It's going to benefit not only-- you're really highlighting how it's not just going to benefit the single person who is the EA, but also the company as a whole, the manager, and how you're killing multiple birds with one stone kind of thing.

[00:23:53] Steven: You have an EA who wants to be a project manager or something. The skillsets perfectly align, so you send them off to a training course. That's what a manager did for me, and that's how I got my PMP as an EA, and that immediately made me feel more fulfilled as an employee, and I was adding more value to the company.

[00:24:13] Tyson: Reskilling, as well, I think is really important, especially in that conversation because, oftentimes, a manager might jump to, "All right, we don't have any work, we're not traveling," then cut. That could be the first response for a manager.

[00:24:27] Alexa: One of the things I love about this analogy is not only what you're saying in terms of it's our job, and I think a lot of people in this industry can take away like, "It actually is okay for me as an HR person to have some sales skills." In my opinion, everyone should have sales skills, everyone should do sales at some point. It's like if I ever have kids, they'll all work in food services and wait tables because it's just invaluable, you see the world differently.

One of the things I love about this analogy and if you flip it is one of the most important things, and people don't often talk about this, but one of the most important things that salespeople will do is they weed out unqualified people. One of the most important things you can do as a salesperson is qualify your lead, which is similar to qualifying your situation as I would assume an HRBP or qualifying a candidate or just a situation, which is like if you don't qualify someone, qualifying someone is being like, "Do they have the pain I solve?

"Do they have the budget and the urgency to buy the thing I'm selling them?" If they don't have at least those three things and sometimes some other qualifiers like they fit your size or title or industry or whatever, there's no point in selling to them. It's a giant fucking waste of time for everybody, including them and including you as the salesperson and then, therefore, the organization.

One of the things that people don't talk about enough is this concept of it's okay to say, there's no fit here. When you wind up in shitty hard sell positions and why everybody hates salespeople and they make them feel icky is they've probably been hard-sold by someone when they were not a fit. When you're selling a $4,000-over-their-budget refrigerator to the guy whose real pain is not actually the fucking refrigerator, it's that he doesn't have a contractor for his kitchen at all, he hasn't even scoped the fucking project yet, you're wasting your time trying to shove that sale of that refrigerator on that guy, and it's just going to make him more uncomfortable because he is not a fit.

He doesn't have a need for the refrigerator. He actually needs the contractor first. I think that's fascinating because I also think one of the things I hear Tyson talk about all the time is like, "Okay, I had to negotiate this situation, and I had to give someone an understanding of, is this employee even worth saving? Is this situation worth going down this rabbit hole?" If you can't do the process of qualification on the situation and the people involved or the candidate or the person or the manager, you're just going to waste a lot of people's fucking time.

[00:26:48] Tyson: Also, the other thing that I'm hearing is you're talking about that is something that we commonly refer to as readiness. We think about the organization's readiness and the manager's readiness. Oftentimes, HR people are like, "Oh my God, let's do a talent review." It's like, "Whoa, pump the brakes. We need to walk before we can run." It's thinking about, what is the manager's readiness to do something like a talent review because, oftentimes, if we go to gungho, then it's falling on deaf ears? How can we start with something smaller? Let's just start with effective performance reviews. Let's just start with giving feedback. It's that easy, right?

[00:27:22] Alexa: Yes.

[00:27:22] Tyson: Just basic stuff, that's what was coming to mind for me is readiness.

[00:27:29] Steven: Yes, absolutely. I think a lot of times when we're talking about qualifying leads, qualifying prospects in HR, our biggest competitor, in my opinion, Alexa, I'm curious what you have to say about this, is doing nothing because you don't necessarily have to spend money on an HR intervention, to use an organizational development term, but you do have to spend time and energy.

Very often, for a business leader who is busy, they're tired, they've got kids they want to to take care of, they just want to get through the quarter, doing nothing is very, very attractive. I find most of what I'm doing is selling the idea of doing anything at all. Tyson, you're totally right. You don't want to go in selling the biggest talent assessment top-to-bottom review, compression exercise. Maybe you just want to do that for a six-person team and just prove that it can be done, prove that it can be done efficiently, scale it. That's a "try before you buy" methodology.

[00:28:33] Alexa: I love that. Yes, I couldn't agree more. I think it's one of the reasons why I think everybody should do this because there are so many parallels to finding value in a sales cycle that is the same way that you find value for customers. It's the same way you find value for employees. It's like, what's the pain? What's the need or the perceived need, right? Need and perceived need are not always the same.

Then, how do I fill that with my solution or a solution, in this case? If my solution doesn't fill that pain or fix that need, I should just shut the fuck up and walk away because it's not doing anybody anything to try to shove a square peg in a round hole or whatever that's saying is. You got to be able to sell internally. You got to be able to walk those, the same thing. You sell that internal thing to that employee or that manager or that situation the same way you sell the idea of spending money on something to your CEO, which is like, "What's the pain, what's the value? How does this fix the problem?"

[00:29:28] Steven: It's worth pointing out that I talk about this a lot from my experience as a business partner, this is not just relevant to a business partner, this is relevant to, say, you're in a learning and development COE, and you want to get an LMS system and you do want to spend money on a learning management system vendor, or you want to build a COE for learning and development at all and you need to justify the value of that spend.

What is having learning development staff going to do for the company? Are you going to more money or not? The same thing is true for talent acquisition or HR operations or business partnering.

[00:30:06] Alexa: I think the key thing that gets lost there a lot, and I hear this a lot our [unintelligible 00:30:10] members and a lot of people talk about this like, "Well, hey, I need to go sell this thing up up the chain," or "Hey, I need to go get buy-in for this thing." You can't get buy-in if you have not identified pain. It's like one of the oldest sales tricks in the book.

If you do any crappy sale like Sandler sales training or any of these sales trainings are very by the book, they're all very old-school at this point, in fact, the world's of moving on from a lot of that, some of those tips and tricks because they're just so fucking obvious at this point, but they're tried and true and it's like, find the pain. If you're trying to sell an internal system to somebody or you're trying to get a group of people to change your behavior, which is a lot of what you guys do as HRBPs is like, "I need you to do something differently," and humans fucking hate changing their behavior, it's very uncomfortable, there's no motivation to do it if they do not feel pain.

You have to identify it, and they have to actually feel it. If you're trying to push something internally and you're not getting a champ at the bit, you have not clearly identified why this is a pain and why it needs to happen right now. You're not going to get any buy-in if you don't identify a real pain. It can't be a pain that you think, it can't be a pain that hurts you, it's got to be a pain that they value as "I need this solved. Yes, go do the thing," right?

[00:31:25] Steven: Yes, absolutely. A book I recommend anybody who wants to learn about selling for HR purposes is-- I can't remember the name of the author but the title is pretty unique. It's called Hope Is Not a Strategy. It's from the '80s or something like that.

[00:31:36] Alexa: I love that.

[00:31:38] Steven: It's about complex business-to-business selling of intangible or huge products and services like enterprise software and that sort of thing. Rereading part of it the other day because I'm making a training on all of this stuff for my HR org, one thing that really jumped out to me that I'd forgotten is financial ROI doesn't get a sale made, emotions get a sale made.

[00:32:01] Alexa: Pain, baby. I love that. Pain and hope.

[00:32:02] Steven: Pain. It's like there's all different types of pain that I think we in HR especially should be cognizant of. It's not just "I want to get recognized at work, I want to make more money," it's "My wife wants me to have a cooler job that she can brag to her friends about." I can't accept that true to my life to a certain extent.


[00:32:27] Alexa: You disappoint your wife at cocktail parties is what you're saying.

[00:32:29] Steven: Exactly. Yes, "He's in HR." [laughs]

[00:32:33] Alexa: No, we're going to fucking change that. That's why we're here to change. Exactly.

[00:32:37] Steven: Absolutely. It's things like that, there's personal agendas and then there's professional agendas, and very often, the personal agenda is you have to build a relationship, you have to have trust, it takes time, you're not going to do it in a one-hour call. It's months of weekly one-to-ones or getting to know managers, figuring out what motivates them as specific individuals, and then you build a larger composite picture of what motivates an organization, what motivates a leadership team, and what are the politics of that leadership team? Then you move into the rest of the sales process, which is understanding the politics at play, who has real decision-making authority, yes, decision-makers. I think this term is from-

[00:33:15] Alexa: Decision-makers. They're already in timeline.

[00:33:21] Steven: -Miller Heiman, it's like economic buyers, the person who can actually say, "Yes, we're going to spend the money." You got to know who that is. You have to know the EA of the person who can actually decide to spend the money because--

[00:33:33] Alexa: Influencers?

[00:33:34] Steven: Influencers, exactly. You have to know, does the influencer hate this other person and they just want to screw them over, and they're going to buy your product because they want to screw them and it'll make them look good compared to that person? All these. This is the HR part I love about it because it's all you have to understand people's emotions, get in their heads and--

[00:33:52] Alexa: [crosstalk] that puppet puppeteer ort of work.

[00:33:56] Steven: Yes. I once had a manager tell me, "Steven, you're really good at getting folks to tell you things they should never tell you." That is really useful in sales [crosstalk] and really useful in HR.

[00:34:07] Tyson: Sorry. I want to say I love the way that you're throwing this down, too, because oftentimes when HR people are like, "Okay, I want to try to sell something to a manager," they do automatically go to that ROI because they're like, "Okay, how can I make this a financial thing?" and it's not necessarily something that they know about. Working to people's emotions and manipulating situations, that's what us HR people are so good at. Using some of those skills first to make the sale and then come back with the ROI, I think is--

[00:34:36] Alexa: You got to have both.

[00:34:38] Tyson: You got to have both [crosstalk]

[00:34:40] Alexa: Yes, you got to have both.

[00:34:41] Tyson: I love that. It's like the initial "What is the pain point? Play to the emotions first." Like you said, that's the sweet spot of HR, and that's what we know best is the ins and outs of what's going on.

[00:34:51] Steven: Yes. You're going to eventually need to be able to demonstrate some sort of ROI, be it financial or just operational or however you're going to do it, especially if you're trying to sell an actual product that costs money because then you got to get past the procurement team and the finance team.

[00:35:07] Alexa: Let's put procurement on buzzwords, the next buzzwords part 3. I fucking hate that word and I hate the whole process of procurement.

[00:35:16] Tyson: No, I feel terrible for people who work in procurement because [crosstalk] it has such a negative connotation. Everybody hates procurement.

[00:35:22] Alexa: We can start a side podcast called Procurement Problems.

[00:35:25] Tyson: I know. That's awesome.


[00:35:29] Alexa: That'll be our spin-out. Once we're done with this industry, we'll move to that one.

[00:35:35] Steven: You have to appease those people from a very just "get it over the line and no further perspective." [crosstalk] So much of your energy, though, should be spent on playing to the emotions and politics of whatever group of decision-makers you're working with.

[00:35:50] Alexa: This is one of those reasons I always find it so-- There's so much I could say about this. Everything you're saying is right and if you're listening to this and you work in and around HR people, I would highly encourage you to take a basic sales training. It's all people. Nobody in HR does this because they don't like people. Everybody that does this loves working with people and finds this human ship fascinating. It's why I'm here. It's not for the glory.

[00:36:15] Steven: It's worth noting that I think a lot of people assume to be a good salesperson or consultant or solution seller or whatever term you want to use, that you need to be extroverted and super energetic. I'm the world's biggest introvert. I spend most of my nights with my little--

[00:36:32] Alexa: You're a jazz musician. [laughs]

[00:36:34] Steven: I know. I know. I spend hours practicing, or these days, I just spend most minutes with my little Nintendo, playing video games by myself and talking to my wife and my cats. I'm not an outgoing, extroverted person. I think it's important to just spell that belief because I've run into it constantly.

[00:36:52] Alexa: Some of the best salespeople I know in the world are introverts, odd ducks, actually, just not the people that can work a room at a cocktail party, very different people. It is some of those people, but it is also some people that I'm like, "I would never have guessed that you're in--" but they're super inquisitive. They're very thoughtful.

[00:37:10] Tyson: They watch. They're taking information in. You're not just like, "Blah, blah, blah."

[00:37:14] Alexa: They're very good at finding the information. They're very good at asking the right questions. It's an incredible skill. It's one of the things that I think is so interesting about the intersectionality of all of this is when you're creating an internal champion, it's the same as selling to someone. A champion is basically the word for "I sold someone the product that likes it but has no ability to buy it. They don't have any say in this, so they're just going to go champion it for me internally."

You love champions because you need champions, but you also you're frustrated because they have no pool. You're like, "Okay, I need everybody on board for this," but ultimately, the team leader is going to make the decision or the CEO or whatever. Knowing the playing field there is insanely important, and you cannot identify it without getting on a personal level. It's one of the reasons why I think people always assume salespeople are just personable people you'd like to talk to.

It's like, yes, because that opens you up. You're, when you're selling someone, not only selling the organization in a B2B sale, you're selling the individual. Lots and lots and lots of times, you'd be fucking fascinated at the number of times that that person has actually thrown the organization out of the fucking window. They're just talking about themselves. If you don't know what Suzie Q wants and what her pain is, personally, you're never going to get through her to sell it to the larger organization, and so much of that is true when you're dealing with just people in general, and it's fucking fascinating. I love this shit.

[00:38:40] Tyson: I had a mentor who used to tell me she's like, "Yes, you got to massage their shoulders, rub their backs [crosstalk] open them up a little.

[00:38:51] Alexa: Why do you think old-school sales was all about winning and dining? It was like, liquor them up a little bit, get them to tell me that like, "Oh, Robin actually has the purse strings, and she used to sleep with Bob over there. If Bob gets involved in this sale, you're going to lose it." That's the kind of shit that comes out.

[00:39:05] Tyson: The EAs know all that shit, too. EAs are the people you want to go to. They know all the shit.

[00:39:12] Alexa: Exactly, they know everything. They're an extension of the people team, and they know everything. [unintelligible 00:39:18] joke about some of the times, you got to be manipulative if you're in these roles, but it's also one of the reasons why I find it fascinating that the way that this industry has evolved is to be like, "Oh, well, the buck stops at the company" and like, "Oh, don't tell HR or anything." Oh, they're just the fun police and the compliance department."

I'm like, "You're turning off the signal, stop. These are the people that need to get this information." They need to be on the ground floor drinking and cursing and getting all this context out of teams because if they don't, they can't help.

[00:39:52] Tyson: [crosstalk] The best managers that I've ever worked with have been the folks who are always like, "Hey, I need you to talk to so and so, I think something's up," like they sent me in or to get a different information or "I want you to be meeting with my people regularly." They're pushing me out there, that sort of thing. The best managers are putting HR out there from that respect.

[00:40:12] Alexa: Yes, and there are some. I think one of the other things that's a fascinating concept, Steven, I want your thoughts on, do you know the concept of match tone or meet tone? Oh, this is a good one. There's a rule in selling that's basically, you should almost always match tone. It's largely around initial conversations and cold calling and some of the uglier, scratchier parts of sales that are not as feel-good as relationship selling and wining and dining your clients. The general theme here is, oh, actually, it's two things. One is match tone, the other is ask for help. Matching tone is fascinating because the rule is you give back the same attitude and the same tone that you are getting.

If you're trying to pitch someone and you're like, "Hey, I just want to ask you what's your biggest pain point in being an HR VP right now?" and you rip back a one-line email that's a dickhead move like, "I don't have any problems right now, I'm great." You write back with the same tone, which is like, "Okay, what's so great about it?" You just give it right back to them because then they're like, "Oh, you didn't disarm me. I maneuvered and now you're on my level, you're speaking in my tone. Okay, I'll engage."

[00:41:21] Steven: That's where the whole thing about cursing at work and that sort of thing comes into play. I was reading about a study the other day about people form bonds of trust more quickly if they curse in the workplace because it's seen as breaking a taboo and breaking taboos forms bonds. When I'm talking to a manager who's pissed off about something, commiserate a little bit. Someone's pissed because their employees are resigning because it's 2022 and shit happens. For me, it's just like, "Yes, this fucking sucks. I hate it too. You know how much work I have to do because we have so many people resigning, the number of forms I have fill out?

I fucking hate it. That's not what I want to be fucking doing. I'm here to help you make money and make your people happier, so I'm pissed about it too." That kind of conversation, that'll help you out-

[00:42:14] Tyson: It does.

[00:42:14] Steven: - six months later when you want to roll out a new performance enablement framework that has a different rating scheme, higher expectations, and you need them to go champion it to the managers that are beneath them or their direct team.

[00:42:29] Tyson: Yes, building relationships.

[00:42:31] Alexa: Yes, but it's also knowing the strength and the wave of the signal. You've also got some employees or some prospects where they're super timid or they're super long-winded or they care about every fucking detail, and you're like, "I don't give a shit about all these details. You want to buy this thing or not?" but you got to get on their level and you got to do it pretty quickly. What I think is important about that is everybody talks about HR on this function of group-level selling. Like, hey, HR is going to roll this stuff out. It actually is implemented and done. The implementation of a lot of this, I feel like you guys are doing on a pretty personal level.

It's like, "Let me talk to this individual employee with this individual style and this individual readability and readiness about this thing that we're rolling out." Managers are doing that for each of them, and then you're hopping in with the ones where maybe the rollout or whatever, it didn't match or didn't land perfectly, but you got to be able to adapt. That's a big part of selling is just like, "I just got to get on this person's level real quick and figure out this person's pain. Fuck what I want in the situation. It doesn't matter right now until I've crossed that barrier."

[00:43:38] Steven: That's where I think in sales and an HR curiosity is key. You have to just naturally, or not naturally I guess, want to know about the people you're talking to, the things they do, the stuff they're interested in. I'm not that interested in sports, but I know that for me to be effective in the workplace, I have to be vaguely conversant in what's going on in the NFL, or if I get lucky, it'll be hockey because that's what I grew up watching so I can at least reference '90s hockey in Philadelphia. [chuckles]

[00:44:13] Alexa: The virus.

[00:44:15] Steven: I know. Just enough to show that you can survive with this person, that you understand their perspective in the world. Or when I was in the industry in financial services, I don't know jack shit about trading infrastructure and markets infrastructure and order management flows and shit like that, but I just like listening to smart people talk about things they're passionate about, and so I could let you talk to me about forex trading for two hours and I'll just sit there be like, "All right, this is awesome. I have no fucking clue what you're talking about, but cool, you love it, so I love it. Let's work together."

[00:44:52] Alexa: Right, yes. Go ahead.

[00:44:53] Tyson: Wait, what are your thoughts then on understanding the business that you're working in?

[00:45:00] Steven: Oh, good call out because that's also critical to sales. You don't walk into a sales meeting, and in this case, we can replace the word sales with any HR meeting, whatever, you don't walk into an HR or a sales meeting knowing nothing about your potential customer. You have to have done your homework. You have to know what are they selling, what are they responsible for, who are they accountable to, what's going on in the industry. If you can find out what have they screwed up recently, what have they got done really well recently, is there anything nasty happening in their world, so like financial services.

I'm always reading the business section of the Times, The Wall Street Journal, a lot of Reuters just so I can be vaguely conversant in "Oh, yes, the S&P 500 dropped 1.53 points today, that sucks. I guess it's stressing you out. I don't have anything except for our 401K. I'm not fancy enough to be investing, but I certainly know that it matters to you and it impacts the work that you're doing and how your team feels and how your boss feels."

[00:46:02] Alexa: It's really funny because I feel like that highlights the thing about sales that as we get more LinkedIn bots and more robots is not scalable, which is also the exact same thing that's not scalable about this industry, which is personalization. Really, really good sales still comes down to like, "I did my homework, I know what's happening with you, I know what's happening with your industry. I read an article that affects you, I sent it to you. Didn't ask for a call. I just kept you like, 'Hey, I saw this, I thought it was relevant.'"

It's the same thing with the relationships that you are developing with employees and with teams internally and it frustrates people because to do it really well, there is no blanket approach. That's why fucking GaryVee, who I have come to love after not loving him for a while. I actually fucking love him because he's like, "I'm hiring" some stupid title like chief heart officer or something for VaynerMedia, but he's like, "Her whole goal is to watch this shit because I know it's not scalable as the owner of this business.

It's fucking impossible for me to take care of this many employees on a one-on-one basis, but we have to fucking try, and so it's her whole job. That's all this woman does." By the way, she's a fucking executive and you're like, "At least he recognizes that this is not scalable."

[00:47:11] Tyson: Yes, come on the podcast, chief heart officer. [chuckles]

[00:47:13] Alexa: I know. Claudia or something. They're both fucking rockstars.

[00:47:17] Tyson: The best companies are coming to that realization, though, because we often talk about what's the ratio of HR to employees? I don't know what the magic number is, but what we're seeing now is where we had an HR business partner that had like X amount of clients, that number starting to go down. That number started to drop. You're not expected to have this huge portfolio like it once was. I don't know how you see that.

[00:47:40] Alexa: Customer success, people used to try to find the perfect ratio of clients to customer success because then they could tell the VC firm like, "Oh, we only need exactly this many people. We have exactly this many clients." It's like, "Some of your clients, it's like 80/20 rule, man, 20% of your clients take up 80% of their time." If it's a key man account, you want one person who just works on that account, that's it.

[00:48:00] Tyson: Exactly.

[00:48:02] Alexa: It's not a perfect ratio, it's all context. It's hard to scale.

[00:48:06] Tyson: Exactly.

[00:48:07] Steven: Even if you're not attached to one specific account or one specific remit like a HR business partner, your time allocation shifts with the, we'll call it the sales cycle, I guess you could say the season. In my role right now, I probably have got like 30 clients. We'll use the term client. I think recently, maybe two of them have taken up the overwhelming majority of my energy and I'm giving them all my attention, and whatever they need, I'm helping them out. The other 28, they're still there, I'm still checking in with them, but it's a light touch. They don't need me, I don't want to get in their way.

Let's focus the energy on the customer who really is in a high-pressure situation again because either I'm going to sell them something in that high-pressure situation that they need to solve their problem, or they'll just appreciate the fact that I was there for them in a difficult time, and then 6 months, 12 months when I want them to do a comp review and maybe have some difficult conversations with people, they will know that I helped them out, I've got their back, and they're going to come through for me.

[00:49:15] Alexa: I love it. All right, well, this makes me sad because I can talk about this all fucking day, but I think we have to move to our people problem.


Tyson, you got a people problem for us?

[00:49:35] Tyson: I do. This is going to wrap everything that we've talked about into a nice shiny bow. The question from the listener is, "The C suite doesn't want to invest in an HRIS. They have 30k employees, $950 million," so a big company, "How do I sell the need for this HRIS?" [chuckles]

[00:49:57] Alexa: Wait, there's a 30,000 person employer that is not using a fucking HRIS? Did I hear that right?

[00:50:06] Tyson: I don't know what they're using.

[00:50:06] Alexa: Are they using fucking paper?

[00:50:10] Tyson: I don't have a context on that.

[00:50:11] Alexa: Okay, yes, let's walk back.

[00:50:13] Tyson: Let's just say it's they have this crap HRIS, it's not cutting it anymore and they need a bigger HRIS because they've got that many people. Let's make that the example because, again, some of these just don't have enough context. Let's say you're trying to sell a new HRIS system that's going to be bigger and better for X amount of reasons, how do you sell the need for the HRIS?

[00:50:35] Steven: I think the phrase that comes to mind is when you're doing really good selling is there's solutions looking for problems and there's problems looking for solutions. The person asking this question sounds like they have a solution without an identified problem. What I would be doing here is I'd be going back to the executive team and getting them to quantify or describe in as much detail as possible what pain points they're experiencing around people data or people management or employee life cycle. Then I would be going back with that information about their pains and trying to find a solution that effectively speaks to their problems.

This sounds like it's the other way around. "I've got my refrigerator over here that I think you should buy because it's awesome and it makes ice, it has three separate freezers, one is solely for ice cream," but the customer here doesn't eat ice cream and they don't really like ice, so why are you selling?

[00:51:37] Alexa: 20% of the foods they eat need to be refrigerated, so it's not a big concern. Yes, I love that. Yes, I think you've got a solution without a problem. However, it could be in the way they asked the question, right? We've learned that the way that we get to phrase the question is not always the question that maybe the listener was hoping they'll ask. I think a couple of things. One, he said the P-word, I'm not going to belabor it. You've got to find the pain, why do you need to switch to the HRIS system? Usually, the easiest way to find the pain is ask yourself what you're not able to do if you don't fix the problem.

Imagine a world where you never get an HRIS system. You don't get the sale, you don't get it. What is a goal, a metric, a revenue target, a project that your team and/or your executive team or your whole company cannot get done because you didn't get this sale? What's going to get you from what are your goals as a company, how is having the HRIS system maybe going to aid you in that, or how is, the way people feel pain is by picturing the end or the fail, which is what's going to happen if you don't solve the problem? Then I think you walk it to, okay, what's the ROI?

I hear HRIS at a company that big, I don't give a shit if it's 30,000 employees or it's 300 employees, as soon as you say HRIS, I hear big, nasty, disgusting, 12-month long project that's going to take the whole fucking HR teams like 80% of their time. One project can take 80% of their time for a year, potentially. Six months to a year. It's a fucking nightmare. The question is, you not only have to sell the cost of the product, you have to sell the cost of the pain of implementing that product. You're going to piss a lot of people off. It's going to be messy, it's going to be gross, but what is the pain?

Quantify that, however you want to call it, whether it's dollar amounts, whether it's time of your team, whatever, quantify it, and then make sure that the pain you've identified for the internal problem is bigger. Usually, the sales rule is at least three to five times bigger than the pain that you're going to experience in buying and implementing that system. Let's say you quantify, I'll just keep using math, let's say you quantify that implementing your HRIS system, including all the time it's going to take your team is $100,000 problem. It's going to cost you $100,00 to do this, your pain that you identify needs to be at least $500,000 worth of pain because then it's worth spending $100,000 to fix it.

It's big enough and the solution is easy enough and cheap enough that people are going to say, "Okay, the disparity between the pain I'm taking," which is the cost and the time and the people and the shitty system integration process that everybody fucking hates, "Is $100,000 worth of value compared to a $500,000 problem." Like, "Oh my God, we'll fucking take that all day." It's easy, it's a no-brainer. You've got to think about quantifying, not literally always with numbers, so if my example articulates that, the pain you find has to be significantly bigger than the pain of the solution or the cost of the solution in perceived terms.

Because, otherwise, if you're just saying, "Oh, well, it's it's neutral," that's where the emotion comes in. "Oh, well, if we switch to an HRIS system, it's going to be painful, it's going to be shitty," it's going to solve the pain, but it'll feel still just as crappy at the end. It's going to be very hard to move people off that status quo and nobody likes that. You have to remember when you're talking about emotions, especially negative ones, the solution has to be way better, way better. It can't just be a little bit better, it can't just be better because it's newer, it's got to be way better, so you've got to paint that picture.

[00:55:12] Tyson: If you truly don't have an HRIS with 30,000 employees, that's painful.[laughs]

[00:55:16] Alexa: Yes, send your fucking CEO to us.

[00:55:19] Tyson: We all responded with pain in that question.

[00:55:19] Alexa: Yes, just send him the clip of this podcast where we all went, "Wait, what?"

[00:55:24] Tyson: Wait, what? [laughs]

[00:55:26] Alexa: Yes, what the actual fuck? That question was literally why the phrase "what the actual fuck" was invented because I can't believe that's possible.

[00:55:35] Steven: If you want to sell an HRIS and if you want to watch anyone, even--

[00:55:39] Alexa: Salespeople.

[00:55:41] Steven: I was going to say, if you want to watch anyone, including most HR people, myself included, if you want to see their eyes glaze over, and them just die, just mention HRIS and the features of an HRIS. Business leaders, CEOs couldn't care less.

[00:55:55] Alexa: Don't sell features. That's my other takeaway. Never talk about features. If you're talking about the features of something as a salesperson, this is a great takeaway for this listener, if you're talking about the buttons this fucking thing has or the cool reports it will run, you've missed the fucking mark. You've got to stay with like, "We can't keep people, we're losing people because of these data issues. We don't have any visibility on this, which is costing us X, which is causing Y." You've got to stay story level with your articulations of why. If you start talking about features, you're going to lose everybody.

[00:56:31] Tyson: It's funny you say that,-

[00:56:32] Alexa: People don't buy buttons, they buy problems.

[00:56:34] Tyson: - but literally, the only thing that I care about from an HRIS perspective is the report that it can bore me because pulling reports is a fucking nightmare. [laughs]

[00:56:41] Alexa: Yes, sure because it's so hard. I don't know why it's so hard.

[00:56:47] Tyson: No, it's so hard. Literally, I'm getting messages on my mat leave about reports to be pulled, so anywho.

[00:56:55] Alexa: Yes, maybe not the best of examples, but don't talk about buttons. Nobody buys buttons, they buy solutions to their problems.

[00:57:00] Tyson: Right, yes.

[00:57:02] Steven: They buy the time the managers will get back from not having to search an Excel files or shooting an email to an inbox for somebody who's going to manually handle this or the time an HR ops person, they'll get to go home at five o'clock instead of 6:30 because they were able to get their tasks done.

[00:57:18] Tyson: Yes, what can we automate in the HRIS system?

[00:57:20] Alexa: I would say, and look, for this, one of the things that's interesting about this is sales and product research are not actually that different. You're actually just asking your user, "What are your biggest pain points?" and then the salesperson just is like, "Hey, let me solve them" in the same conversation, but product people, and we're doing this internally with some stuff right now, is they're just sitting there asking you what your pain points are.

This person should go and internally find the biggest stakeholders for getting this fucking HRIS system implemented and ask them, "What are your biggest pain points? What are the biggest problems you have right now that you cannot solve?" and then shut the fuck up and let them listen. Because the way that you would sell this problem and the way that you would talk about the solution might be different than the way the people you're going to go pitch this to internally would hear it, so you need to use their language. If someone says, "Oh, my problem is retention," and you say, "Oh, your problem is keeping your employees," no.

In sales, you always use their language, so you always say, "Oh, yes, you have a retention problem." You always parrot it back to them. You've got to do the same thing when you're doing this internally. Whatever your CEO if they're the gatekeeper here is saying their biggest problems are, find the language they're using to describe that problem and use it in your pitch. You have to match them.

[00:58:32] Tyson: Don't be jargony. Oh, I hate HR jargon.

[00:58:35] Alexa: Don't be jargony, but frame the problem the exact same fucking way as the stakeholders because using different language, you'll miss them for no reason when you're like, "Oh, I say that all the time. That is a problem I have. I hate that. I get angry about that. I want to pay money to fix that." That's how you win people over. I fucking love this topic, Steven. Thank you for coming on and talking to us about this. I fucking love it.

[00:58:56] Steven: I love it too and I love talking to other HR people about it because it's always such a revelation for so many of them. I didn't even know that I would like sales several years ago before I got into doing that. I always thought it was that guy selling you a used car, and then I met the right kinds of salespeople and the right kind sales leader too.

[00:59:15] Alexa: The best salespeople are the people where at 20 minutes after, you're like, "Oh, fuck, I just got sold." You don't even realize in the moment because you're just like, "Oh, yes, they're helping me, I really want to solve this problem. Yes, of course, they want my credit card to make the bags on my eyes go away," and then all of a sudden, you're like, "Fuck, I just spent $200 on face cream. Shit."

[00:59:35] Steven: Then, I would say, the really best ones make that person after they went, "Fuck, I just got sold," they went, "Thank God." [laughs]

[00:59:41] Alexa: Yes, exactly.

[00:59:44] Tyson: I love that.

[00:59:43] Steven: Because something about their life was made better or easier.

[00:59:46] Alexa: Exactly, "Now I have the best face cream and I'm going to keep it for 30 years, thanks for solving my problem. High five."

[00:59:50] Steven: Yes.

[00:59:51] Alexa: Yes, exactly. I love that. Steven, speaking of liking to help other people, where can they find you if they like what you have to say?

[00:59:57] Steven: I am on LinkedIn. It's just Steven Baker, Steven spelled with a V, and that's how most people can get in touch with me if they'd like to.

[01:00:04] Alexa: I love it. Any patting wisdom?

[01:00:06] Tyson: Everyone needs to go back and take notes. I know I am.

[01:00:09] Alexa: Yes, go back and take notes. Take a sales training, I highly fucking recommend it. It's also just fun to learn new shit.

[01:00:16] Steven: There's a lot of good books out there.

[01:00:18] Alexa: Tons.

[01:00:18] Steven: I'll just try to drop two classic ones. Hope Is Not a Strategy is one of my favorites. Another one is called SPIN Selling, S-P-I-N.

[01:00:27] Alexa: SPIN Selling is, whoo.

[01:00:29] Steven: Classic,-

[01:00:29] Alexa: Classic.

[01:00:30] Steven: - but also, very useful in the HR world.

[01:00:32] Alexa: I read that early in my career. There's also another one called Predictable Revenue. It's all about how you prospect people and you ask them for help. It's pretty good, it's pretty old now. It was when email marketing was new. You don't even need to read or take courses. You can just sign up for a sales trainer's blog and you'll pick up so much shit just reading their little tips and tricks. I don't know if he's still around, but John or Josh Barrows is a good one. There's a bunch.

Zig Ziglar or How to Win Friends and Influence People is like 90% of this shit, but yes, there's so much good content out there. Steven, much appreciate it. Any parting wisdom for the world that you'd like them to know? Any last words?

[01:01:11] Steven: Gosh, you just put me on the spot here. [laughs]

[01:01:15] Alexa: Is what I'm here for.

[01:01:16] Steven: If you care about the people that you're working with and working for and you care about their wellness and their happiness, you'll be an effective seller no matter what, you'll be an effective HR person no matter what.

[01:01:26] Alexa: I love that. So helpful, I love it. Awesome, Steven.

[01:01:29] Tyson: Love it. Thanks, Steven.

[01:01:31] Alexa: Thanks for being here.


This episode was executively produced by me, Alexa Baggio with audio production by Elle Brigida of Clear Harmonies. Original music was also done by the wonderful Elle Brigida of Clear Harmonies. You can find more information about us and future episodes at peopleproblemspod

[01:01:44] [END OF AUDIO]

#notHR #hr #humanresources #besthrpodcast #hrpodcast #peopleops #peopleoperations #hrpodcast #funnyhrpodcast

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