PODCAST 153: Learning is the Best Way to Drive Sales Effectiveness with Paul Fifield

If you missed episode 152 check it out here: A Framework for Bringing Ethics into Sales with Paul Fifield

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Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:49]
  2. Fred’s Floors and other startup ideas that didn’t make it [7:02]
  3. Why learning on the job is a horrendous idea [13:20]
  4. How people process information [17:44]
  5. Why starting your own business isn’t a get-out-jail-free card [24:02]
  6. Predictable revenue [26:58]
  7. Sam’s Corner [31:26]

Show Introduction [00:49]

Sam Jacobs: This week on the show, we welcomed Paul Fifield, the founder and CEO of Sales Impact Academy. We dive deep into how investing in learning is one of the best ways to drive sales effectiveness, and why learning programs in the profession of sales and marketing have not existed to date. We also talk about how that’s hindered our professional development, particularly because sales is such a tough job.

Before we get there, I’d like to thank Outreach, a long-time sponsor of the podcast. They just launched a new way to learn. Outreach on Outreach is the place to learn how Outreach does outreach and how the team follows up with every lead in record time after virtual events. You can also see how Outreach runs account-based plays, manages reps, and so much more using their own sales engagement platform. Everything is backed up by data, pulled from Outreach processes and their customer base. When you’re done, you’ll be able to do it as good as they do. Head to outreach.io/onoutreach to see what they have going on.

Before jumping into today’s discussion, I’d be remiss not to tell you about Unleash 2021. On May 11 through 13th, we’re focusing on how to win all together in the new sales era. You’ll learn new go-to-market strategies, get deeper funnel insides, and actual takeaways for your entire organization from revenue leaders at high-growth startups and Fortune 500 companies.

Our very special guests are none other than Guy Raz, podcaster and author of How I Built This, and Carey Lohrenz, the first female fighter pilot in the U.S. Navy. Come save your seat for this high-energy online event at unleash.outreach.io.

Now for some other great sales ideas in my conversation with Paul Fifield.

Fred’s Floors and other startup ideas that didn’t make it [7:02]

Sam Jacobs: Tell us a little about yourself.

Paul Fifield: When I was at university, I almost ended up starting a floor sanding business. I actually went home one weekend, sanded the floor for my mom, really loved it, and thought, “I’ve got a huge sanding company.” I was going to call it Fred’s Floors. I designed some leaflets with the catchphrase “There are no floors in Fred’s Floors.”


Sam Jacobs: Why was it called Fred? Is your name actually Fred?

Paul Fifield: Just an alliteration with floors.

I printed 500 leaflets with my genius catchphrase, and they just sat at the end of my bed for about three years. That was my almost-first company. But I was doing computer science at university, and in the third year, I found out you could actually start your own company. I was like, “I’ve always wanted to do that.”

We started this web agency. This internet thing seemed like it was going to be really big. Obviously, back in 1999 it was very, very small, and we started this little web agency. A couple of guys from the course came with me, and we started building websites for acting agencies. And I just never went back. I still have to go and finish my last year of university.

It took us six months to even build a searchable database online. We did a search, I remember it, the result took three and a half minutes to come back.

Sam Jacobs: Google had nothing on you.

Paul Fifield: It started in a very inauspicious way, and I had two or three companies from that point, most of them abject and failures. Eventually, through a very meandering route, I ended up co-founding a tech company in New York in 2011 called Ceros.

Sam Jacobs: Tell us about Ceros.

Paul Fifield: That actually went well, after learning how not to run companies.

Why learning on the job is a horrendous idea [13:20]

Sam Jacobs: Let’s hear about the raison d’être, the reason why Sales Impact Academy exists. Tell us a little bit about the founding story, and about the passion behind it.

Paul Fifield: I was learning through those entire eight years across Ceros and my next company. I was learning on the job how to be a revenue leader. There was no real playbook. There was just this random smorgasbord of information scattered around the internet and various books.

You got this horrendous pressure to learn on the job whilst delivering these unnatural 200-300% annual revenue growth. It’s pretty horrendous because you feel deeply responsible to deliver, and it is quite a frightening experience if you haven’t done it before.

It boils down to the fact that because of this dramatic lack of education in our profession, which means we’re all totally learning on the job. Everyone in the whole org is learning on the job, and that’s a pretty shocking state of affairs.

Look at major professions, like law, finance, or medicine. Hundreds of billions of dollars have been invested over decades and decades and decades into these professions.

In the sales profession, we got nothing. And that is an absolute crying shame because we are mission-critical. If we get it right, companies can be valued into the billions. If we get it wrong, that’s it, companies go bust.

The stats are pretty horrific — 90% of startups fail and 70% of series C companies also fail. It all comes back to this complete and utter lack of education.

How people process information [17:44]

Sam Jacobs: But also, it’s not just that there’s a lack of education, it’s that the current solutions for learning are flawed. Tell us what you’ve learned about how people process information, absorb it, and make it useful.

Paul Fifield: You’ve got the internet, right? You’ve got this paradox of infinite access to information. It sounds great, but actually, it’s flawed because there’s so much of it, and it’s just scattered everywhere. There’s no structure. There’s no way of understanding or assessing quality.

Books. Sam, could you honestly say, “I read that book, and literally implemented 70% of it, and it transformed my life?”

Sam Jacobs: Absolutely not. In fact, I read a lot of history books, and I figured out that I need to read three to four biographies about a specific person before I remember anything about them at all.

Paul Fifield: Same thing with webinars. How much do you take from a webinar and then translate? Because it’s not structured, that adds another layer of complexity.

Like you said, going back to the, “We’ve got to learn on the job and we’ve got to deliver this.” As we learn on the job, even that bit of what we do as revenue leaders, even that’s inefficient, because it’s just really hard to do. We’re up against it.

What we’re trying to fundamentally do is learn. But this is a deeply inefficient way of doing it.

So, we’ve been thinking very, very deeply about the actual learning experience.

Why starting your own business isn’t a get-out-jail-free card [24:02]

Sam Jacobs: There’s this idea out there that if you start your own business, you can unlock complete freedom for your life. You take issue with that?

Paul Fifield: When I hear people say, “I’m going to start my own company so I get total freedom.” I just laugh, because I know what it’s like. A little bit like you need to get a driving license to drive a car, I think you should get a license to be a CEO because you have such a deep responsibility for people. I’d say 80-90% of CEOs are just total f***ing dicks that should not be running a company at all. Like, at all.

But one thing is for sure, it’s not a feeling of freedom that I get, particularly in fast growth, maybe if you’ve got a lifestyle business and it can tick along. But even then, you’ve got a responsibility. You have to make sales to get the business going. That’s always stressful. You invest so much of yourself in your own business.

Predictable revenue [26:58]

Sam Jacobs: This is the part where we like to pay it forward. We like to hear about your influences.

Paul Fifield: The book Predictable Revenue probably influenced most revenue leaders in the Revenue Collective. I struggle to think of a book that’s had as big an impact as Predictable Revenue.

If you think about the million plus SDRs in the U.S., I know the concept of SDRs is perhaps around before the book, but it was just so accessible. You have to hand it to the authors for that.

I’m just a massive fanboy of Mark Roberge, too. What he really did in terms of creating an epic data-led approach to running a revenue function. There’s no one that had a bigger impact on running the whole org, rather than just how you build an SDR function. His book, Sales Acceleration Formula, was absolutely fantastic.

Sam’s Corner [26:02]

Sam Jacobs: I really enjoyed that conversation with Paul Fifield. The main takeaway, I think, is why Sales Impact Academy exists. We’ve got to invest in professional development and workforce training. Some companies don’t have the resources to develop their own training on how to be a great salesperson, or great marketing person, or a great finance person. And, frankly, that’s not their responsibility.

But how are we going to really become great at all the things that we need to do remotely, such as become great salespeople, marketing people, or finance people? I think you need a couple of things — community and training. And that’s what Sales Impact Academy is delivering.

If you want to get training at Sales Impact Academy, that’s included in your Revenue Collective membership.

Don’t miss episode #154!

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If you want to get in touch with me, you can, linkedin.com/in/samfjacobs. Again, sign up for the Sales Hacker community at saleshacker.com.

I will talk to you next time.

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