Neal Conlon, Founder, The Press Forward Project

Scaling Up Services - 004 - Neal Conlon

Neal Conlon, Founder, The Press Forward Project

Neal Conlon is an entrepreneur with a focus on growth hacking, leveraging data, and purposely inspiring others to not let the obstacles in a rapidly changing world of tech limit their opportunities.

Neal has experienced a unique journey and this has created a unique and valuable perspective on tech, personal growth, and how to hack growing your business.


[00:00:00] Conference I called on your hosts and today we are speaking with Neal Conan. Neal thanks for joining us.

[00:00:05] Thanks for. Thanks for having me. Russo really appreciate it.

[00:00:08] And just to give us a little bit of background to everyone on.

[00:00:12] So you know when I think of me I've known him for a while and when I think of Neal I think of everything related to growth everything related to the data that using technology to make better decisions and really how do we efficiently functionally scale businesses. And Neil I've you've always been on my go to guy on sort of the analytics and the

[00:00:33] Big data driven decision making when it comes to sales sales management sales analysis.

[00:00:40] So it's really it's great to have younger overhead.

[00:00:42] Yeah it's good to be here.

[00:00:44] It's a really interesting time for folks who understand data because I guess people have referred to me in the past as kind of a mad scientist though sales and marketing. But really what it comes from is is that back from my financial services days I was doing a lot of data Wall Street stuff for a long time. And when it started to evolve into the world of sales and marketing and data I just kind of had more experience than the average person because I stepped out of the back room of the I.T. closet where they hide all the data nerds back in the day.

[00:01:18] But now it's about you know growth and how do you scale your business and the way to do that is to make targeted decisions that you have some kind of analytic or some kind of metric that makes the pivot go in the right place and not just another roll of the dice.

[00:01:33] Right. So what do you give people at your store in terms of so you came out of financial services you leveraged the sort of the work that had been done there in terms of the analytics and applied it to more these sort of earlier stage growth companies situations. Talk to us about that and Parko so a little bit about you know the changes in the pivot's that you went through and how you got to where you are today.

[00:01:56] Yes. I'll I'll even back up a little further than this. So I was always just a very naturally curious person and ironically I stem it back to after going through a bunch of Tony Robbins unleashed power within stuff. I stand back the fact my parents divorced when I was old as a young kid I was curious why did it happen. And and I never figured it out until I was much older. But like locked something subconsciously in me to have I have to understand why things work and how they work that way. So I make it through schools and then decide that I want to get away for a little bit so the only smart thing to do is join the Marine Corps and I join the Marines for a bunch of years and even the Marines people were like Why do you insist on having to know why things work the way you do.

[00:02:39] They didn't like it was a shrug. I say disrupted by nature because in the Marines I was always a guy of the question and obviously he didn't want to hear that. Hear that answer. So again Marine Marines in 2004 the economy is fantastic. I get an entry level job at a small hedge fund called Guggenheim Partners which I think now manages like 500 billion dollars or Bain Capital or some crazy number. And one day I was doing my job and I asked one of the portfolio analysts you know what are you doing in this thing.

[00:03:09] I don't know anything about anything in the world of data spreadsheets and he was showing me how they were taking geopolitical date data points tax and tariff weather patterns import export stuff like 10 different types of data sets and trying to figure out how many coffee beans they were going to buy. You know it was data analysis for commodities trading and it blew my mind that this guy was sitting here at a desk right having been deployed to the Middle East all over the world. This guy sitting at a desk with a bunch of numbers and he's going to make global decisions based on a spreadsheet. So then I spent a bunch years in financial services got really invested in data and leveraging all these different data points to make decisions and then I was at a data company listening to these sales guys talk about why their pipeline sales pipeline was poor and why it wasn't working. And I stood about his cubicle I was like nothing you guys are saying makes any sense to me at all. And because it wasn't scalable it wasn't repeatable. It was just Bob Noas Michelle. Michelle knows Bob had known each other forever. They're going to do deals together which is just which is just odd. Right. And to me it was odd at the time down the road further I would use some of that coaching and teaching that I do that rainmakers historically have not been scalable. Right. Even if you get in the early stages of the business and whether you're the CEO or whether you are a founder of the company you're not scale up the black box and you don't know how they work you don't know how to reproduce them right.

[00:04:44] And it's funny because at one point that was at a company and the rainmaker of the company the V.P. of sales would go over the rainmaker and say hey can you go take so-and-so out for drinks and so-and-so like basically go sprinkle your fairy rain dust on top of this and they'll just be the rainmaker and that's a huge investment for you know that you're talking like years of collaboration and mentoring to get all of those tools tricks tactics that the rainmaker has out of them and into another into another salesperson. And so that kind of set off this kind of sordid love hate relationship might have both with the Premier for a couple of years and that I would say I hate sales because I was hyper focused on marketing because at that point all of the Martek stuff is coming out all the CRM are rolling out. We're getting only theanine analytics. So it was I hate sales that it was I love marketing. And then I realized I had to learn a lot about the relationships and learn about really that the flow of how sales really works. And then it quickly shifted into a world of sales tech and now we have conversational marketing bots.

[00:05:50] What's your kind of deft working definition of sales versus marketing. How do you define it.

[00:05:55] I think I used to be able to find it really really well. Now I think it really is there's a blending of the two where you need apps you need to there symbiotic each other. Because I think marketing is a time consuming event and sales should not be entertaining meaning your in terms of people time into developing and managing the process.

[00:06:18] Yes I think because historically if you look at the Mad Men era right. It's like all this effort goes into creating this massive piece of content. And traditional marketers are they're really good marketers because they have an ego right and they're looking for a tap on the back for putting in an effort that case study into that web site into designing that thing and the sales guys mind.

[00:06:41] Is there ego is driven on the close the deal. I don't care what case study was really right. And so where there's that sweet spot is is that both those people become data driven and start to look at the points of where they acquired the customer what it was that got them across the finish line and then what got them to pay the actual bill. If you can put the egos aside and say here's these metrics here's the cost per acquisition. Here's the number of touches it took to get there. And here's the lifetime value customer. Those are scalable scaling the golf and the Scotch or scaling that really good lucky shot. You've got that case study because you're the right place the right time is not scalable at all and that's I think where a lot of businesses are trying to replicate things that are just not scalable.

[00:07:27] If you find that that the the people that are good at the durable older way or the less process less data driven way are they sort of convertibles too data driven process oriented strategies or are we talking about different kinds of wiring make up of people.

[00:07:46] I think it depends on the stage of the business because ultimately I know I just spoke to a really good salesperson yesterday and he does about four deals a year.

[00:07:56] But there are big enterprise deals. And so the golf and Scotch routine still works. And I think it's going to work forever.

[00:08:05] The difference is I think that if you're if you're building out a sales team and you're having sales people multiples and you're looking for real growth.

[00:08:14] The difference is is that the person that can do the really good salesperson who can adopt handing off tasks to some of the tools will be the differentiator between a really great scalable sales process and a mediocre place where it's hard to scale even give you a really a really good example because I've just finished working on this a couple days ago. It's like I leverage when I start to do outreach. I leverage Crystal nodes right which is a tool that gives me kind of a disk profile of who I should be speaking with or gives me keywords that those are used to. So tell me whether a person is more of an analytical thinker or more of an empathetic thinker.

[00:08:57] No I mean this is this is a fascinating one actually it's and I'm on this one but I mean this is the I mean I think some of the the idea behind the opportunity is when you start thinking of this from a from a data tool standpoint you know people are different and they may want to receive messages in different ways.

[00:09:12] Yet we're sending generally we're sending the same message out to the same person you know from a from a voice point of view from Hadaway. Right.

[00:09:22] So the idea that I could actually say well this is the essence of the message I want to send out something like Kristo can take that and say All right well you should take that message and spin it this way or if you craft it this way for this person and this way for this person based on who they are regardless of who you are and even of your brand and your voice it's understanding the more you understand about that person and how they listen and how they hear. That's fascinating.

[00:09:44] Right. And I think what you have going on now is that when the sick I mean the Desales industry is really only like 50 years old right. As an industry of coaching techniques tactics strategies the Sandler trainings. Miller Heimann all of those type of methodologies are still very new right. So it's changed exponentially. And so in the beginning when we decided that we were going to split this B2B business right. And B to see we develop these Posada's and arch types and who are ideal customer ideal a prospect is. And now I think this ties into the question you asked what's the difference in sales and marketing because now is becoming the term I've heard often is B.H. which is business business to human which is if I know that you're an analytical person. Right. And I know you like you like numbers and I speak to you in the language that you want to hear because I understand that I don't have to put all the buzz words on top of B2B to see if there's a need for my services or my product from you and I can speak to you in a language that you can receive it.

[00:10:53] Well if there is an opportunity to purchase you'll purchase versus the layers and layers that we've built over the past 50 years trying to figure out the best way to scale and grow our businesses quickly.

[00:11:04] So there's I mean there's several different tools AI bot like things that I use day to day that make it so that I can be more authentic more original the type of content I create deliver the content on platforms that people want to receive in on and then ultimately that makes me be able to move as quickly as a team of six or score before we dig into the cold water sort of the axes are the variables that you're looking at.

[00:11:37] So you have kind of a platform you've got timing you've got you know when you look at kind of the data that you have available data you'd like to be able to see when developing a communication or a campaign strategy.

[00:11:50] What are the things that you're looking at what are the things that are really impacting on the line.

[00:11:54] So I think in order for legacy or for companies to be ready to scale and grow on their sales and marketing efforts they need to make it made it past zero to one great danger proven product market fit number one. But the biggest challenge I think is companies will try to fast forward that you know and then it becomes a matter of just meeting meeting people where they are right.

[00:12:19] And that's really with content that they will resonate with them about something that they are interested in and it's wild because the digital world is moving so quickly right. The first word in the term social media is the hardest thing for people to do in social media. Yeah I mean like it's three dimensional. If you look at the State of the market because we're going through this right now and this is a great question. It's like we went from being these three dimensional or four dimensional beings to being a flat screen and then being like you can now talk to everybody and everyone try to talk to everybody and then we say we've we've segmented off into these tribes called Facebook Linked In a snap chat wherever they are and then it became like well I can't convey how I feel. And now we've moved into the world of video you know video on social media being more valuable than just typing a few things. And now we're moving to the point where you know between VR and podcasting and just listening while we're doing it now I can hear people I hear their voice again I need to hear the emotion and you hear the the social the human sense of belonging to get there.

[00:13:28] So that's really the hard part is is that people will say OK we're ready to scale. All right let's get sales force because that's the cool tool.

[00:13:35] Or let's do e-mail marketing on Marchetto. And it's like we don't even don't even know if the percentage of people that actually open up your e-mails or industry like yeah that one seems like this one for me is always then kind of a challenge and I think that's often kind of missed or at least not fully resolved.

[00:13:54] You know as we've gotten these channels right and when we can we can now put ads on Facebook ads on Instagram and we can you know snapchat like we have all these ways of delivering messages but the contacts that these messages show up and are so different. You know it used to be you know I would advertise in an industry publication where I knew that a professional was sort of in a professional mode thinking about their business thinking about the challenges they're having.

[00:14:18] And I have an ad there that kind of fits or that that sits within a context that they that their mind is in. And I can kind of deliver a message in a way that they hear it now. You know I'm on Facebook you know having photographs of my children on Harod talking to relatives and also I'm getting ads you know related to things that are completely out of context. And as a as a communicator it's like that I don't see as being fixed right away.

[00:14:46] How do I control that or how do I make that work.

[00:14:48] And that really comes down to the effort. Right. A lot of times these companies you know will say it's easier for us to spend 10 grand a month on an ad spend and get a bunch of leads and you know spend our time separating the wheat from the chaff and then hopefully at the bottom of our pipeline we're going to get a couple of wins. Right. And that's it just effort. And one of the things one of the things I think that is the challenge of the sales and marketing team's not aligning is I always tell people unless you can unless you can follow a client from what I call first touch to first check you really just don't know why they buy it. And so it goes back to if if I go and reach out to somebody of my network and I bring in somebody and I close the deal because they're part of my network. If I can do that hundreds of times it's great and for a small business me that works. But if 50 percent of the reason why they bought was because of the trust factor in our relationship eventually you're going to exhaust all those relationships and you really want to grow your business past you know a certain threshold. You can't keep on doing.

[00:15:54] Not here. OK. So. So let's take the example of a you know a situation where you know I've got a service based business right.

[00:16:01] Currently they're doing most of their sales through maybe the partners or the CEO or the senior folks that have a reputation in the industry.

[00:16:11] They've got you know a good but limited network.

[00:16:14] You know oftentimes I find in those situations that they kind of tap out are they maxed out they have a ceiling of growth because they just don't have they can't it's hard to reproduce those. And those people only have so much time and they only have so much homework.

[00:16:27] What are some of the strategies or what some of the techniques directions that you might look at in terms of adjusting or pivoting their sales process to make it a more scalable sustainable measurable tool that they can use to produce produce leads and produce lines.

[00:16:44] Yep. So I think the first thing question I always ask teams is I say what's going to be what's going to be the thing that that sets the team up for success the most. I think there's a lot of CEOs and founders that that feel that stress of the growth rate they have to grow. And so they go out and find the consultants they find the strategies they come in and shit show and I've been through this before myself. They've come in and said we want to grow to be around 10x our business in three years. What would you do. And we come in and throw tools and tactics and tricks and in six months the whole team is the shovel because they knew the new websites not done because the requirements were crazy. They can't do this they can't do that. So I always start off with the need to have be leveraging things that the teams that is actually going to be doing day to day can actually be set up for success. They're right that's the first piece. The second piece is the traditional one is to put in less the traditional way people are doing things still today is we're going to do the thing that has the least amount of effort to it. That is just scalable. So that's where people will put 10 grand a month on Facebook advertising and just let it run rampant for months and then not try and tweak it or play with it or understand why it happened.

[00:17:59] And so what I'm getting to is I feel like you're coming out and starting out like that people need to invest time in understanding being more agile in sales and marketing and be willing to kind of day trade back and forth in a bunch of different places and see what really what works right there. I mean there are everything from there still a place for email marketing. There's still a place for for cold calling. There's still a place for you know creating content like case studies and publishing them. There's still room for mail. Yes there really just knock it too heavily like get too heavily invested in the delivery channels of your content like work on the content below really really great content. But I don't think that just because you tried something on one channel that it's not going to work other places because the thing that I hear almost every day is I go and speak to somebody and they say well here's our problem here's what we're doing. I was like oh you guys should totally do this. And you're like yeah we tried that didn't work. And it's like you tried it for a couple of months and you gave up. You just kind of like you said ran back to whatever worked. Yeah because of the stress and anx of trying to grow a business.

[00:19:07] I think that's a really good point because I think that I mean a you know I'm treating it like that and and like how do we figure out what are unknowns are how do we test something that's going to give us real data that we can we can or reuse them at a reasonable level certainty and say it is working or it's not working or it's undecided and we need to run it and experiment.

[00:19:25] But also just you know that willingness to try those different channels because different businesses you know are going to find success on different channels and I think a lot of people just they go to you know content marketing and assume that that's going to work for everyone every time.

[00:19:38] And we actually recently had a client where just the particular nature of what they were offering and where they were with the business and what incremental revenue we needed. We actually looked at subway ads in New York City because we realized that we could we could really target those to some particular key locations based on the target customer the target audience that we had. And and we ran a few of we actually we what we hope what's going to happen didn't happen but some other things happened that we didn't expect that actually give us a lot.

[00:20:06] You know so just the willingness to go out there and try these different things and you know in an experimental ways and learn from that and not just that it worked at the now but what have we learned from that. I think is really really important.

[00:20:16] Yeah I think it's super important and also I think that again I think the sales and marketing industry as a whole is just shifting so quickly. Right.

[00:20:24] The the whole digital ecosystem is changing so rapidly that when I always mention to folks is the e-mail before you or after yours in the inbox or the Web site and go to before or after yours could could be a win or a loss for you. And like really like if I go look at some crazy block chain Web site and it's amazing. And then I get to go to a plumbing Web site and a plumber from my house in the plumbing website. Has it been updated in 10 years. I mean meatiest immediately displaced from that and the two have nothing to do with each other.

[00:20:57] Well it's except that they are the path of the user kind of experience and then the user's perception and I think yeah it kind of goes back to that like how do we control or how do we understand or appreciate that these messages that we're delivering are within a frame or within some kind of context either literally or figuratively.

[00:21:15] You know the headspace of the customer and our temporal Rhymin would be something happened before them and after them and I think that people that they think are that out and b find ways of actually impacting that in some way tend to have more more kind of breakthrough in terms of the and around marketing it's here that's it's Remmel you know. Absolutely.

[00:21:39] So what. So you mentioned a couple of tools. I'd be curious to hear what else you're working with those needs as you mentioned Crystal. What else do you see out there right now that is going to be there. You know interesting is kind of you know using interesting technology or interesting systems or you find us really effective practical something that you tend to go towards.

[00:21:58] I think the in the world sounds a marketing. I think that you know scheduling once you get someone's attention and activate the prospect that scheduling is hard.

[00:22:07] Right. It takes a lot of effort if you only do so much of it. So am I. I tend to think that artificial scheduling assistants are very good things like count we are very very helpful. I think that extra AI or Aimi is a pretty impressive one. There's also another a new one out called flamingo dot AI which is actually Australian based but they're doing more contextual sales virtual assistant stuff. So the assistant can actually ask answer prospecting questions while it's doing scheduling to kind of requalify the opportunity so that you can get a sales person can actually validate that.

[00:22:45] Not only did did a person qualify them but it was being revalidated so it kind of heightens the score of this is a real opportunity for someone just going through my pipeline of curiosity.

[00:22:56] That's an interesting one because I think one thing I've found is that I'm in some anecdotal no prospects Lean's low got hot and cold over time. So I think a lot of times you'll be very warm and then you know a week or whatever a couple of days will go by we will go by and you'll kind of get into the next step and go hold. And I think a lot of people end up saying oh well it's cold I'll put it away rather than okay it's cold. But how do I monitor it. How do I can I keep checking on it for it to warm back up again and that can happen quite suddenly and I like the idea that there's a I thinking about how do I use that whole logistic logistics process to kind of measure that and potentially adjust what I'm doing based on that feedback on getting yet.

[00:23:36] And I think that that I mean the the world of AI in sales really is is that there's only so much mindshare a salesperson can work in so many deals of time. But Feazel taskmasters that can kind of do the the percolating information to the top of the pipeline that can remind you that can schedule things for you really where lots of people will say well that's going to make these things will make sales go away. And as a person who I consider myself an early adopter of this stuff it does the exact opposite it allows me to be more present for the conversation to make sure that the real qualifying questions that need to be asked and the relationship can be built actually can happen. I mean I'm sure you've been through this. How many times have you been on the phone with somebody trying to quantify an opportunity and you hang up and then you go and tell your boss your partner someone you work with and the four questions that they ask you right away were the four questions you did not asked this opportunity because you were so excited it was going well right. So if you can take half those questions off your list being ones the next call are going to be you know and a couple more. It just narrows down what you need to be present for in that conversation which is the real value add stuff which people tend to really appreciate you not wasting your time with that hour long phone call or qualifying and jieling and what's next steps in this. Let's have 30 minutes. Let's get to the beans and the bullets and let's work through it.

[00:25:07] And again back to the idea of the crystal and the personality type as you know who are you. And do you want to have the bullet point conversation you'll want to have. You know a big you know a 20 minute get to know each other.

[00:25:18] You know hey I could start to figure some of that out for me and give me a little profile or give me some prompts or some cues or at least some insights on what that might be. Can dramatically improve my fighting those when I'm actually in that crosswalk yet.

[00:25:32] I'll tell you a really really impressive fantastic quick story about how well that that actually works. I was in a meeting a few weeks ago with a founder of a very very company that is performing very well and making a lot of money and looking for the strategy to move to the next level. And the person I was tag teaming in the conversation and they were explaining the value of brand and how the company needs to redo their brand. That's going to be way there where their growth comes from when that brand resonates and right now their brand just doesn't resonate with their customers and they're working really really hard. But the shift is going to be getting your brand out there more. I was watching as this as this young CEO just couldn't wrap his head around like why were we pushing email marketing why weren't you pitching Facebook advertising or something like that. So I quickly go on Crystal and throw his profile in there and it tells me about how he's athletics minded and how he's heavy sports fan and likes teams. All this stuff about sport sport sports and I can see that the conversation was not going in a good direction when the person I was in the meeting with was trying all everything everything that she had yeah it well but it just wasn't going there.

[00:26:46] Every play of the book.

[00:26:48] So I every so I go can I can I interject for a second. I go what's a Yankee. And everyone looks at me puzzled they go what's a Yankee. I don't know. Yankee is. I mean I know. I know what the term is like. Jokes and movies and stuff like that but really was a def is Ranki and they're still just like. Where are you going with this. I said well why why do you go to a Yankees game. Why is the Yankees team the best team that there is. What makes them actually any different than any other baseball team. Why did they ever want to play the Yankees their brand. They've built a brand that is unsurpassed in the major league baseball. It's more easier for me to wrap my head around what an Oriole is what a shark is what a cardinal is. What's a Yankee. But the brand is so strong the brand voice resonates so much. And he watched it click.

[00:27:32] We've dug back into what he's reengaged and right there will be a lifetime customer this receipt you should probably pay for the lifetime of right.

[00:27:42] I mean like obviously you need to adopt it and think about it like that. But that's exactly a perfect example of being able to be a little bit more human by using a little bit of tech.

[00:27:53] Yeah yeah I think that it's really kind of salespersons capabilities inside apps. It's the data that I think is really the powerful stuff rather than look I think the automation stuff is great.

[00:28:07] I think you can you can offload a lot of work and you can speed up a lot of things but you're not going to completely automate everything that goes into service based companies where you're dealing with relationship upselling it's just not going.

[00:28:18] But the idea of augmenting having kind of the almost the Byronic salesperson where they've got access to these tools and access to this insight when they need it you know at the right time is is really happening.

[00:28:29] Yeah. And again even saying it out loud right. The ability to leverage tech to be a little bit more human is really is really interesting because we've gotten a little lost in how the tech works why it should work.

[00:28:42] Should it work. Why doesn't it work. Is it just evolving so quickly. There was a great conversation we're going to hit time here in a second.

[00:28:49] I want to give you a chance to let people know if they're interested in speaking with you more about some of these topics. Learn more about the work that you do what's the best way to get all of the gears how quickly the growth starts.

[00:29:01] Just google my name like I mean because maybe you don't maybe like LinkedIn maybe like Twitter maybe like Facebook. Not all of them just google the name. I think about replacing my business card with just my name with an ad symbol on it just a call.

[00:29:14] All right so you heard that people look them up get in touch with whatever platform whatever device whatever technology like Neil this this been great. I'll make sure that I make sure that the stuff you get all your information bio and everything else on the show notes maybe that will come up in the Google search as well. But this is this has been a playground look forward to getting in touch on this. I think there's going to be a lot of great things over the coming years.

[00:29:38] Also appreciate it Bruce. TIME AGAIN. Thanks again.