ep. 25 - Tim Sanders: Internet Pioneer, Relationship Expert, & Bestselling Author
Tim Sanders is an Internet pioneer, best-selling author, and speaker that talks about the people side of the profit and loss statement. Based on his years in corporate sales plus exhaustive research about human behaviors, and using interactive media to grow business, Sanders offers strategy and techniques for top leadership and sales.
Tim advises Fortune 500 executives on leadership, marketing and new media strategies to grow their business. He was an early stage member of Mark Cuban’s broadcast.com. In 1999, broadcast.com was acquired by Yahoo, taking Tim with it, where he rose to the position of Chief Solutions Officer and named its Leadership Coach. Since leaving Yahoo, Tim has consulted with dozens of companies involved in business to business, government and consumer industries.
Tim has authored multiple books, including
ep. 25 - Tim Sanders: Internet Pioneer, Relationship Expert, & Bestselling Author
Gail Davis: Tim Sanders is an internet pioneer and relationship expert and a New York Times bestselling author. For me, Tim is a speaker that our company has worked with dozens of times over the past 17 [00:01:30] years. I love partnering with Tim because he's always building on his experience to provide new topics and value to our clients. We're really thrilled to have you join us today, Tim. Welcome.
Kyle Davis: Hey Tim, how are you?
Tim Sanders: Hey, I'm glad to be with you, Gail, Kyle. Looking forward to this.
Kyle Davis: Cool. Well, like we said before we got started ... Most people know the backstory, but for those people who are just listening or learning about you for the first time, if you can give them [00:02:00] the five minute brief as to your background story, before you start getting on to writing books and giving talks and everything else.
Tim Sanders: I've a checkered past, I'll be the first to admit that. Right out of grad school I had an opportunity to be a personal attache, aka personal assistant to the late great Ed Deming, who is one of the leaders of the quality movement from [00:02:30] the 60s, 70s and 80s. I learned a lot from him, not just about presentations, because I saw him do about a 100 of them. I learned a lot from him about the concept of design. How everything that is successful is designed. If you take a leap about 15 years later, I had an opportunity to be one of the first 35 employees at Tod Wagner and Mark Cuban's start-up "Audio Net" in Dallas, which on to become Broadcast.com, [00:03:00] which was eventually sold off for a trillion dollars. I'm kidding, but for a lot of money. Right before the market dot com crush in 2000. It's been an interesting career for me to go from something as basic as manufacturing quality to something as next generation as the birth of World Wide Web 1.
Gail Davis: As I remember, didn't you have interesting title at Yahoo, Tim?
Tim Sanders: I did, Gail. My title was Chief [00:03:30] Solutions Officer, which was largely modeled after the Harvey Keitel character in Pulp Fiction. You remember him. The wolf. I had a background with some significant study in psychology, so I was really good at dealing with critical situations. When I was working for Wagner and Cuban, I handled all the stuff that they thought was really going to go wrong, like crash. Because it was really [00:04:00] early. Like the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show, right? We were so early, that I handled a lot of high stress stuff, so at Yahoo as the wheels began to come off of the economy, I was just very adapt to getting on the plane and fixing something really important. That's what I did for a couple of years and five million miles. I hit the road and worked on really really tough problems.
Kyle Davis: One of the things that we've talked about, just a moment ago prior to recording was, you're so often asked [00:04:30] about your books and talk about your books, but the reality is you really have two topics and one of the topics is how to be more successful, and the other topic is the value of teamwork. One of the things that I just picked up a moment ago when you were talking about your attache experience was that you learned the importance of how successful things are designed. Before we get into those two topics of success and teamwork, I'm wondering if that design influence [00:05:00] had an impact on that?
Tim Sanders: It really does. It really does. Those that are familiar with the quality movement, it really starts when Deming is sent by General MacArthur to Japan after World War II to help them build quality radios, because Deming had fixed the census bureau. So MacArthur thought he could fix Japan. What Deming discovered and what we all discovered globally within about a decade is that the reason we produce such low quality work, half of it is defective. [00:05:30] It's because we think that we determine quality by inspection.
But Deming realized because of his statistical background is that no, quality is designed into the process and by the time Deming got finished with Japanese manufacturing, they were getting down to something in the neighborhood of 70 defects per million. By the time Motorola Six Sigma bunch here in the US grabbed on to this in the 80s, they got defects [00:06:00] down to six per million, okay? At the height of Ford's crisis in the 1980s, half of all their output was rework. That's why quality was job one for Ford.
So I learned that from leadership to being a top contributor success is not something that you figure out on inspection. As a leader you don't inspect your people's work to determine their quality, that's looking in the rear view mirror. You design the [00:06:30] work into the employee experience from how you hired, how you run the board to what the working environment and culture is like. That's why I see today those great companies that are beating the good companies, they are design oriented. Whereas the good companies are hard workers.
Kyle Davis: For people listening, Tim and I have over the last ... I don't know, actually 10 years ago you spoke for one of the companies I worked for. And in my recent past, when I've been working in tech before moving back [00:07:00] to Dallas, we had a couple of interactions as well, when I brought one of my teams from New York to come hear you speak. And I can say, at least for my end, that the companies I've been most proud of to work with have been really designed centric and designed focused making the experience really as amazing as they possible can, for the customer.
That trickles down into other things that they do, making a seamless onboarding process to an easy customer acquisition [00:07:30] process and everything else. It's just clean and quote sexy. I've also seen it be where people are all about output and just they're listening to what the customer want and they're building it and it's sloppy and it's gross and no one likes it.
Tim Sanders: Yeah, either you are managed by KPIs or you are managed by design, as my manager would say. Key Performance Indicator. When I think of what do you mean when you say design oriented? What I mean is that you are constantly solving problems [00:08:00] with empathy. Think about Apple and how the design the iMac. Remember the iMac? It changed everything. It was the first appliance internet that was beautiful. It came in multiple colors. Jobs constantly solved the problem of how can he replicate a beautiful toaster oven by Stark that he saw in Paris. Yet retain the technical functionality of the IBM Windows computers. That's what he did. [00:08:30] He constantly solved that problem, but he had a high degree of empathy for the end user, which no one had really done in computing before. That's why it was such a breakthrough.
That's why I tell leaders, "I want you to constantly solve the problems of creating high profit but putting your people first, but I want you to do it with empathy." That's how the can intentionally create strong cultures that produce some fabulous results. That's where I apply design thinking to leadership.
Kyle Davis: For me [00:09:00] I think having people who have a design focus, that go into building something and really mocking it up and really focused on the design and the workflow ... We're talking from software, it could be ... Not just software, it could be hardware stuff. Let' use one of my previous companies "Square" as an example. They're both a hardware manufacturer and a software manufacturer. Because hardware is the stand and the little dongle that you put into the phone ... They're beautiful, they are catchy, [00:09:30] everybody knows what it is. Then you go to the app and they could have a million feature releases to make it be what everybody else wants. But instead, just like you said, they build with empathy, they make it seamless, simple. It is straight forward design. Even with their pricing, everything is simple and straight forward.
Tim Sanders: Yeah. I was at a meeting 20 years ago at Sony. At the time the Chief Designer for their electronics division, fabulous products, right? He said, "great design is putting the power button where the user expects [00:10:00] it to be."
Kyle Davis: I love that.
Tim Sanders: Doesn't it great? Let me apply this to what I typically talk to companies about a lot. One of the things I talk a lot about is that you can improve the experience, whether it's the employee experience, which is important, or the customer experience, which is important. You improve them by segmenting the experience into multiple transactions. What I've learned is that your customer doesn't have one experience. She has a lot of little experiences that add [00:10:30] up to an overall impression, right?
Kyle Davis: Right.
Tim Sanders: That's why there is an old saying in the eatery business that says, "Great food unremembers bad service" right? What I talk to companies about is that you've got to figure out all of the little experiences your client has from the beginning to the end. As you define more discrete experiences statistically you are likely to innovate and get better at your net promoter score. To illustrate, I was working with one company [00:11:00] in insurance industry and when we started they said, "We think that our customer has exactly six different experiences. We market to them, they reach out and talk to us, we bind them", it's the insurance term, "Then we notify them of their coverage, we build them. If there is a claim, we fulfill the claim and we're back to renewal." And their net promoter score was pretty low. I said it's because you haven't thought correctly about the experience. You put so much emphasis on the claims process.
A year later [00:11:30] they defined 32 distinct experiences for each of their major segments. Say like weather insurance, like for your house in a hurricane area. As they went to 32 they increased their net promoter score by 30%. You see, because when you identify all those experiences, all the pain points and signature moment opportunities present themselves to you.
Kyle Davis: Now, I'm quite familiar with net promoter scores or NPS. But just [00:12:00] in case people are wondering, can you give them just a general round about of an NPS score is?
Tim Sanders: Yeah, sure. Scale of one to five how likely are you to recommend our service to any of your friends.
Kyle Davis: There you go. Sometimes it's one question-
Tim Sanders: It is-
Kyle Davis: Yeah, go ahead.
Tim Sanders: It's the best way, probably, to measure the quality of your customer experience, because it's forward looking, it's not reflective.
Kyle Davis: Exactly.
Tim Sanders: Whatever you are trying to make better with design, just break it into smaller pieces and look for the pain points and find those signature moment opportunities. [00:12:30] For this insurance company, one of the things we realized is that experience number 27 was the game changer and that is when they are going to present 10, 30, 50 thousand dollar check to replace someone's roof, they don't just mail it. The agent shows up with one of those oversized checks like you see at a golf tournament, okay? They make a big deal out of it. The neighbors come out and put it on Instagram, because what we have identified in a research is that the important thing about this particular experience is that when you give the big check, you are restoring the consumer's faith [00:13:00] in the insurance industry in the world, as we know it. They realize they need to make a bigger deal out of it. It was a signature moment opportunity.
Whereas, in the hurricane segment, experience number 13, which is called the near-miss experience, that was a pain point they didn't even know they had. That is when you are in a city, say like a Houston-Galveston, and they are expecting a hurricane and everybody goes underground and they bore down their windows, and it doesn't happen, that's called a near-miss. [00:13:30] Okay? During a near-miss the insurance company has an opportunity the pain of angst by being the notification center when the all clear happens. So they partner with weather. Com and [inaudible 00:13:42]. They were the people texting people they could come out of their houses again, during the near-miss.
It's just interesting how relevant they became in that moment and by breaking it all down by segment, they figured it all out. That's how design works.
Kyle Davis: Wow. Know all your touch points.
Tim Sanders: That's right. And involve [00:14:00] everyone to their front desk in this collaboration, okay? Because your people on the street, your people in the field, your people in the edges, they know what's really happening in terms of multiple experiences a customer has.
Gail Davis: I love your book "Deal Storming", where you talk about a power of collaboration. Particularly in mega deal pursuits. And you encourage people ... You think that sales and mega deal pursuits, let's bring the sales team. But you are like, "No, bring in the accounting department. They [00:14:30] are going to have some say here on how this can be more successful." And I love that theme of collaboration.
Tim Sanders: Yeah, I think that the key question is your team tall or is your team wide? Because if you have a team of just sales thinkers, all you have is sales perspective. Everybody in the room operates with the same set of constraints, everybody in the room operates with the same greatest tips, and there is no innovation. When you increase the number of perspectives sitting around the table, our research says you can increase [00:15:00] your chance of solving the problem during that meeting by 300% when you get to the magic number, which is four perspectives. Sales, marketing, service, operations. You have those four mindsets in the room and you are 300% more likely to walk out of that room with the next play.
Because what I've learned about deal making, especially like in enterprise sales and technology or B-to-B sales is that in that world a done deal is a 100 problem solved. [00:15:30] There is no magic pitch, there is no Glen Gary, Glen Ross close. There is too many decision makers on the other side. It's too complex, the new world sales person is more of a quarterback, than a hunter farmer. So really the secret to success is rapid problem solving, okay? We've learned that when a company gets fast at solving problems, they can take two months to five months out of a one year sale cycle. That's dramatic! What happens then is when you organize a conference call or you organize a meeting [00:16:00] to solve some deal problem at some level of the sale. If you hit the magic number of four perspectives, 300% more likely you are going to walk out of the room with the next play to solve the next problem in front of you. By the way, even having two perspectives in the room increases your chances of solving the problem by 50%. So going a little bit wider, is always a good idea.
Kyle Davis: One of the things that we did for this company that I was working for in New York, after we came and heard you speak is we started [00:16:30] including our account manager in on our sales calls, because she would be the person that we would hand the account to, to help service it in the duration and in a long-term. Because she was a female, and all-male sales team, she was helping it out. But more importantly she came out of this empathetic, we're going to help you out, don't worry about it, we're going to handle this, on boarding, it's going to be simple, here's the steps to it. It added one more point of validity [00:17:00] that helped increase our conversion rate.
Tim Sanders: Exactly. You know what, it probably brings in to the room is the different set of constraints, different way of thinking what we cannot do. As well as different set of opportunities, things that might work, right? What I've learned is that companies and products don't become obsolete, the constraints by which they do business with, those become obsolete. They think that doesn't work and the in turn, all of a sudden, one day that works. And when you start inviting people in from the edges, that's how you update [00:17:30] your perspective. You know what I'm saying?
I think the other big issue here is that when you invite people in that have to deliver and you invite them in early, when it's still a sales challenge and not a delivery crisis, you'll be surprised how much more innovative and thoughtful and engaged they are. There is actually research that supports this idea. MHI, Miller Heiman Institute, they did a bunch of research and they found this type of company, they called the World Class Sales Organization. [00:18:00] They are beating their competitors by 20% across all the key metrics. And they found that it wasn't quality of the product or even the quality of the leadership that they all had in common. It was all over the board.
But what they all had in common is the conscious culture of collaborating when they got stuck as a first response, not a last resort. They usually did it across departments. The bigger the deal, the wider the team. It wasn't, just like I was talking earlier, it wasn't just because they were more agile in solving [00:18:30] sales challenges, it's that they involved everyone so early they were great at delivery and they had higher renewals and a better reputation in the market. As one person I interviewed told me, he says, "You can turn the police into the pep squad, if you bring them in early enough and make them part of the deal." HE's talking about finance and this situation.
That's exactly what I've learned is when you get stuck, you have to ask yourself who had the stake in how we play this, [00:19:00] who has the stake in how it turns out? Those are your blockers and tacklers. And then at the end of the process you ask, "Okay, who is an expert about our problem?" And think of that as a skill player in that meeting. IF that's the way you put the teams at work, you're going to find solutions quicker than others that do it all within their tall silo.
Kyle Davis: I completely agree with that.
Gail Davis: What other components, because I know how much you value teamwork and I know that's one of your primary topics. Other than collaboration, [00:19:30] what are some other key things for people to consider in building strong teams?
Tim Sanders: Firs of all, you don't invite people to come to a meeting, you invite people to join a cause. It's really important that you understand the bigger "why", behind why you are trying to win. Whatever you are trying to do, you got to understand the why that's usually bigger than the money. What it means to the company's reputation? What it means to the company's vision or breaking into entirely new market? The bigger the why, the more [00:20:00] engaged people are outside of the sales department. I've learned that's the first thing.
The second thing is I believe that you have to champion the concept that ideas can come from anywhere. Because in fact, the best ones usually come from the edges of the organization. I think that the third thing that's really important is you got to keep the team in the loop, step by step. They deserve to know what's going on. They deserve to know what happened with the last meeting or what it meant. The more that we [00:20:30] are very good at keeping teams in the loop, the longer we can keep that team together.
I'll say one more thing here. I think the greatest teams are resourced against the problem. We have to really step back and ask ourselves how strategic is this problem to our company? And then we have to ask ourselves how difficult is this problem? I think those answer will help you understand if you are building the fantastic four or you are creating [00:21:00] the justice league. I think that's a really important thing too, because teamwork in companies is really important. But there is a cost to collaboration.
And as one leader told me, without a process you get a goat rodeo, right? You get a mess. It's really important for us to qualify the opportunity to create teams, we have to make team leadership a center of excellence in our company, we have to stop being addicted to sports and military experts to teach us teamwork. Many of which have never worked at a company. [00:21:30] Teamwork at a company is not the same as the teamwork on a plane field or on a battle field. They are just different. That's one of the main things I [inaudible 00:21:39] with is that we get so many motivational metaphors and teamwork, people don't understand getting back to the top of the discussion.
Teams are designed, meetings and deal briefs are designed, execution is designed to base on prototypes. The entire process looks like a quality circle, not a chess match or NFL football game, and [00:22:00] I think we have to understand that company leadership is different. Company teamwork is different, because we have different goals, different risk and we have a really hard time developing the same shared interest that leap from me to we. When it's not life threatening and violent.
Kyle Davis: I think having a shared interest or even having a shared consensus as to what you are going to do is very important, when leading a proper meeting.
Tim Sanders: That's good, yeah.
Kyle Davis: One of the things that I learned really [00:22:30] quick in sales was that you could go into a meeting and if you are one of those natural sales people, which I fancy myself as sometimes. Sure I can talk circles around somebody and I can get them to buy whatever it is that I'm buying, but it's a transactional, not a big thing. So then when I got into the long duration sales cycle and the higher dollar amount, if you will, it started becoming into [00:23:00] this having to design the meetings, thinking about the question that they are going to ask before they even ask them, or just being upfront and saying, "Hey, what do you want to talk about during this meeting? Send over the questions, and then I'll send the answers and then we can discuss it prior to that."
One of the things that we did was we would just design these meetings and we would spend more time designing the meetings and thinking about the things that would be said than the actual meeting would occur. But it made the sale cycle so much easier, once we thought about it before [00:23:30] hand. We would go into these meetings with myself, my sales manager and the account manager, and we had the shared interest in getting the client, but we also had a shared consensus in how we are going to move about the battle space, if we are going to use a military terminology.
Tim Sanders: Two quotes come to mind. The first one is Abraham Lincoln, "I got eight hours to chop down the tree, what do I do? I spend the first six hours sharpening the ax." I love that.
Gail Davis: I love that.
Tim Sanders: There's a variety of versions of that quote, but he did say this. That's [00:24:00] the first thing I think about. And then, the second thing I think about is Louis Pasteur, right? "Chance favors the prepared mind." Here's the thing. What I've learned in working with a lot of companies on their sales challenges is that in today's world it is a miracle when an account executive gets a face to face meeting with the decision maker or a group or a committee or a prospect. It's a miracle. Getting through on a call or an email [00:24:30] and getting that all the way to someone blocking out an hour on their calendar in 2017, I'm going to repeat, is a miracle. The conversation rate, if you thought about it through the funnel ... You're more likely 10 years ago to sell me something through direct mail, then you are today to get a meeting with me, okay?
When you get a meeting, which we've determined is a miracle, you have to understand that ROA is the secret to success. Return on attention, okay? They need to walk [00:25:00] out of that meeting feeling like it was a really high value hour. They need to feel smarter, they need to feel inspired, they need to feel hopeful. But most importantly, they need to feel like you respected their time. And when you walk in with all that preparation that sends a powerful message that if we do a deal, if we have a relationship, I'm always going to be looking out for you.
When people show up at a meeting, and all they've got is their power point, which is slightly being customized to the company's [00:25:30] name and industry, and they spend the first 45 minutes pitching, and then they kind of ask for the order and handle objectives quickly for the last 10-15 minutes, that's not preparation. Okay? That's desperation. I do believe that when you get a meeting, however long it is, you really should spend three to four times more on preparing than you do actually a meeting. I think it's an excellent point, Kyle, and I think it gets back to design again.
Gail Davis: It does.
Tim Sanders: Because when I look at [00:26:00] a company sales pipeline, we kind of figure out what's it going to take to solve your economic or business challenges? You know what, it's always the same thing. We got to get more meetings, or we've got to get more video. That's the thing I've been noticing lately is that the future of everything we do is going to be video. The future of great leadership is going to be done by Face Time, not by email. The future of selling is going to be the ability for one company to get the prospects on video chat, because you know [00:26:30] what happens. People see you, they like you, you don't interrupt each other, they have to pay attention to you, because you can see that they are doing five things at once, otherwise.
I think the future is either video or in person. The problem with most organization is that they don't get that high touch very much. Everything is a fast phone call or a bunch of emails. I know you guys experienced that in your business too.
Gail Davis: We did. You just hit one something that I would love for you to talk about, Tim. And that you said they need to like you. You actually wrote a book called [00:27:00] "The Likability Factor." Talk about the importance of people just liking you, and what individual can do to have a leg up. I think you even may have coach someone how to be american idol contestants on the likability aspect. I think it's very important.
Tim Sanders: So you likability factor is all about your capacity to consistently produce positive emotional experiences in every interaction. Even when you are giving bad news, even when you are giving tough love and coaching, even when you not telling them [00:27:30] what they want to hear, you have to maintain the capacity to be an emotionally appealing person. It's important in the world of business, because say, in the world of sales, when someone like you a lot and has strong emotional value proposition, they don't know it, but they give you inside information to win. There is a study that actually found that to be the case. Many of you that are listening, you know that the request for paper, aka the IFP doesn't have a lot of good ammo [00:28:00] in it for you to really tailor to the opportunity. But if you have a warm relationship and they like you, they will coach you.
I'll give you another example of why this is important. In the 1970s UK professor Donald [Broadbin 00:28:14] posited a theory which he spent decades studying. The theory is this, as more people try to get our attention and sell us and pitch us and persuade us, our brain develops a dense filter. He calls it "Broadbin's filter." Basically, at the time [00:28:30] he was doing the research, I think that every day the average Londoner was getting accosted for their attention 15 times, which was overwhelming. The brain was adapting. Think about what Seth Godin says, right? Every day, and this is pre-social media, your attention is being grabbed by 500 different organization and people and situations. Just everywhere.
Again, it gets back to the miracle word, it is a miracle anything gets through the filter. What Broadbin believes is that 99.5% of all the things that we [00:29:00] heard, we either ignored, we stored in temporary access or we didn't believe. What he did determine is that there's one velvet rope around the filter, and it's called the amygdala. The emotional seed of the brain. It's 35 times more powerful than the logical brain. He determined, and this is the punch line, the shortest distance between two people and the right message is one connection. When people feel the connection to you, they listen at a higher level. This is really important [00:29:30] not just for sales people, but for leaders. Leaders, if you find yourself repeating yourself all the time, you need to look in the mirror and understand the fish things from the head.
Kyle Davis: You could apply it to a lot of other things in your life as well, too. One of the things we've talked about, and you've mentioned this, but it's how do you become a good option ... How do you go from being a good option, just being this option that's out there, that doesn't have this warm relationship, that doesn't have any context [00:30:00] or understanding or empathy towards your client, because you are not paying attention, or your users or anything else. How do you go from that to being suddenly that's so essential and understanding that.
Tim Sanders: I think the retention is the biggest problem for everybody I talk to in business. Whether it's retention of talent or retention of key clients. That's it, that's the problem they face. I always tell them the same thing, "Your issue is that you are a very good option." They go, "What's wrong with that?"
Gail Davis: [00:30:30] Right.
Tim Sanders: I go, "Do you even know what Yahoo stood for?" They go, "No." I said, "You always have other options." And we did and they did and Google came along. Very good options are disrupted by essential ingredients. Do you want to be chocolate ice cream or water? I say this all the time, because when you look at why a person stays at a company, they stay at a company because it's a platform for future success. [00:31:00] You know why people left a company? Because it was a good gig. The reason a client leaves you is not necessarily because your service isn't good, it's because something came along that was slightly better, slightly cheaper, slightly faster.
But what we found is that when people consider you an essential ingredient in their life, they will give you time to catch up with the shiny new object. They will fight for you, even if you are 10% cheaper or 20% [00:31:30] slower. We find that only those that aspire to be essential ingredients for those relationships that matter most, only those are disruption proof in the world we live in today. It's hard, it's really hard to be that essential ingredient.
I don't want to go Big Bang Theory Sheldon here, but to apply an atmology, if you look at the middle English root of the word "essential" it is of the highest degree. That's why we call [00:32:00] that the best of the best of an item, the essence of an item. What we mean is that, use the sales example, if you are a financial advisor, that investor would say that Kyle is an essential ingredient to my success. He's not just a trusted advisor, he's an essential ingredient to my total success picture. Here's what I think. You become an essential ingredient when you do three things. You are the fountain of knowledge. [00:32:30] You are the connector of dots. And you are the sounding board. That's what my research says, when we find someone who is essential to a client, we interview the client, why is he essential to you?
When we find someone who is essential to an employee, employee I'm never going to leave this company with. We asked them. It always came to those three things. They tell me what I need to know exactly when I need to hear it. They find opportunities that are plainly in front of me and connect them and they are [00:33:00] empathetic deep less nerves. I've learned those are the secrets to becoming that essential person in the client's life, or that essential person in the employee's life.
Gail Davis: It's almost like it goes back to your very first book, "Love is the Killer App."
Tim Sanders: Absolutely, right?
Gail Davis: 15 years ago.
Tim Sanders: Exactly, a million copies in print now worldwide. So it's come a long ways. Back then when I was just an individual contributor, I came up on this discovery that changed my life and that is if I promote success of other people, [00:33:30] by sharing my intangibles, my knowledge, my network, my compassion, they will out give me handsomely in life. Especially if I expect nothing in return. It changed the way I did business and you know me, Gail. I went from account executive at broadcast.com to Chief Solutions Officer. That's 11 promotions in less time that it would take to graduate from college. The system worked.
When the book came out I think it inspired a lot of people who worried [00:34:00] that there was some conflict between success and significance. You had to be a bad guy to succeed and I learned that the nice plus smart people were the ones that actually enjoyed their success. They may not be the billionaires we all talk about, but they are absolutely the satisfied people who developed careers and ... As I've traveled around the world, and talked to so many organizations about that book, what I've learning is that really what I'm talking about is what's the [00:34:30] blueprint to become an essential partner to everyone that you do business with?
I really matured a lot in my thinking about these things, so when I talk about being a fountain of knowledge, I say it versus being a firehouse of information. It's not the same thing. What I think about now is that as a business person, you need to be a curator of insights and a matchmaker of opportunities. Those are fine skills. It will take a career to develop. What a great [00:35:00] path to be on.
Kyle Davis: It's almost like ... In a speaking industry I can just think of in our back office. I think we can give you information on 5,000 speakers. You name it we can tell you, who member ... We can give you whatever information you want. The people that we know and really love, those are the people that we continue to bring forth every single time, because it's like you said, we are like these curators of knowledge. You want this person just [00:35:30] rip roaring, just kick ass, it's going to be Tim Sanders and he's going to go out and do it.
Tim Sanders: You know, curator, it's an interesting idea. Not to go Sheldon again here, but when you think about the origin of what it means to be a curator, the curator is really the original futurist, okay? Whether it was art or technology, what the curator was good at doing was understanding what's coming just next and how to deliver what's coming [00:36:00] next with a sense of taste, that makes next a little bit better than it would have been. That's the essence of curation, right? When you are curating insights to share with employees or customers, you are able to tell them what's really coming just next but you are framing it in a certain sort of way, that makes what's next actually a better world. And that's what I mean when I say curate insights.
Gail Davis: Speaking of curating insights, I know you to be an extraordinary generous person. [00:36:30] I'm going to ask you a very specific question for all my event planning, conference designers that are out there. You've done a lot of speeches, what advise would you give someone who's really trying to up their game and plan a very successful meeting?
Tim Sanders: Start with the problem. Every great movie starts with the problem, right? When you have a meeting, don't just put people in a location and expect magic to happen. [00:37:00] Understand the problem the company currently faces. Design the meeting to solve the problem as best as you can, in those one, two, or three days through content delivery, through networking relationships, and through very expressed culture building. But it starts with the problem. When I talk to planers that start with the theme, I feel like we are on rotation. It's like this year it's Orlando, this year it's [00:37:30] teamwork. Next year it's going to be Las Vegas and next year it's going to be the experience.
Often time I'll go four layers deep and do my own research and talk to the actual stakeholders. Oh that's really not the problem, let me tell you the problem. The problem is recruiting new talent, okay? That's really important to build the event around. We're going to build a culture of a strong employer brand, we're going to do it everybody in. However you think about that, start with the problem. That's the first think I would say.
The second thing I would [00:38:00] say is, as far as the content for your event, understand that one bad speech is going to mark four good ones, in my estimation. A lot of times we want to fill our conferences with panel discussions, we want to fill our conferences with free speeches by customers, etc. You should be as worried as Chris Anderson at the TED talks about [00:38:30] every piece of content you roll across in transom. Because it affects the attendance, it affects the credibility of the event. But most importantly it impacts whether the event can solve the problem.
There is one thing I tell to every person I talk to who owns a meeting or runs a meeting, and that is especially for outside speakers, you should expect a detailed outline of what they're going to say, at least two weeks before they come speak with you. And you should be willing to give [00:39:00] them very candid feedback and request changes. I don't care if you are hiring a New York Times bestseller or the X NBA all-star. If they can't give you an outline of their talking points two weeks before the event, they are going to give you a can speech, okay? That's what you are going to get. They are going to get the name of your company right, they are going to call them account reps, instead of account executives, because you told them that. But they are not going to connect with them. I think one of the greatest way you'll increase quality is by getting a higher level of collaboration with [00:39:30] your speaker and really putting pressure on that speaker to truly lend his or her expertise to your problem.
By the way, this is not an unreasonable request. Your speaker is the most overpaid vendor at your event, okay? So you should expect them to come to your reception, dance on the table, be the referee for karaoke, give that key note the next day and most importantly, give you an outline of what they are going to say and be humble and hungry and smart enough to be willing to make changes.
[00:40:00] The people I know are the best at what they ... In a speaking industry, like our good friend Peter [Shien 00:40:11]. That's not going to bother him, because he does that anyway.
Gail Davis: Absolutely.
Tim Sanders: But what does not work for me is the idea that a speaker is just going to give you a five minute overview of some of his or her talking points and maybe Dropbox you their slide deck. The worst thing that ever happens at an event is when the executives that care the most about the event, are shocked [00:40:30] by the content of the speakers, okay? When it comes to these things, surprise is only a positive emotion when followed by happy birthday. If you want to be really successful at managing the complex cultures of your company of your association, get those outlines, circulate it in everybody who cares. You'll be shocked at how much more excited they're going to get about the speaker, how much more effective the speaker is going to be at solving the problem.
By the way, [00:41:00] Gail, every speaker I know that doesn't do this hates it when I talk about it, but you and I both know that the more work we do on events, the better the event. And it's really up to that event manager, that meeting planner, that sales leader running the meeting, that demanded this out of the speaker and not just expect them to do it.
Gail Davis: You mentioned Peter, and the two of you stand out as two speakers that I can send the problem to, and both of you will take time to write back on how you would address that problem. And it's never canned, [00:41:30] it's always customized for exactly the problem that I described. So, I know it works and I really appreciate it.
Tim Sanders: It does. Yeah.
Kyle Davis: Which kind of goes into something that we've talked about prior to recording, which is something that makes you very unique and that's the fact that you were to mentor with actual customers themselves. Can you speak on that?
Tim Sanders: I care about meetings. Meetings are changing the world. The only reason to have a meeting is to change the world. I think that meetings are like the movies of our business lives. They are produced, we experience them, they are filled [00:42:00] with story telling, some of them they are transformative. I was changed by the first Yahoo sales meeting. It was os well done and it really changed the way I saw the world. Yeah, I'm passionate about meetings being effective. That's what I do for a living and done 750 or so of these. So, every time I get a chance, even though I probably come across like Yoda meets Dr. Phil, I'm going to give my client advice on how to be better at what they do.
When they do [00:42:30] crazy things, like running a live Twitter feed on a screen while a speaker's speaking, I say "Stop that. Stop that." Or when they design a room that's a football field long and 15 feet across, I say, "Stop that. This is like the worst airline experience we've ever had in our life. This is like being on an airplane with 1,985 in row 39F, design rooms wide, right?" I know it's kind of wonky and technical but every time I have a chance [00:43:00] and I think everybody should this. You just have to contribute a piece of design feedback into how you talk about the meeting. Believe it or not everybody's open to that.
I've only had a few people that were 'Well, this is how we've been doing it for 30 years." I go on about my business, when those things happen but more often than not, people, they want that feedback, because let me tell you something. The surveys that people fill out after a meeting, that's not helpful feedback, that's cover your butt documentation, okay? It's not [00:43:30] helpful to anyone. It's like asking someone, "Are you satisfied with your current car?" Go talk to anybody in Detroit, they'll tell you, that doesn't tell you whether they are going to buy your car again.
Gail Davis: Right.
Kyle Davis: Yep.
Tim Sanders: They change brands because they want something new. There is a bunch ... Kind of gets back to the net promoters course. There's just different ways to measure things, different ways to find feedback and if you want to apply that to outside of speaking, ask your suppliers of services and products, how you can improve your business and you would be shocked [00:44:00] at how smart their advice would be. Even if you'd say, "Can you help me improve my experience on how I deal with vendors?" They'll give you great feedbacks. If you are open to it, you can learn a lot.
Kyle Davis: Always keep your ear to ... Actually, what' it fair ... Why am I keeping the ear to the ground?
Tim Sanders: That's it, yeah.
Kyle Davis: God. Okay, cool. I know that, just to wrap things up and to put a pretty little bow on it, I do know that we hinted at this at the beginning. [00:44:30] But your first couple of books was about going from a good option to an essential ingredient and now, in the near future, you have a new book that's talking about that as well. Can you just hint to that just for a moment?
Tim Sanders: Yeah, we are doing a lot of research right now to really understand the percentage of business people in the world that are actual essential ingredients to their key relationships. I'm going to tell you, it's probably in the neighborhood of four out of 100 professionals. It's that small. [00:45:00] We are understanding what it is about them that makes them different than everyone else. And so, I head so much about disruption and dealing with change and I feel like there is a better way for us to deal with disruption especially when it comes from out top talent and our top customers, and it comes down to giving more value. I think that they key to avoiding disruption in this world is every day when you get up, build value and find ways [00:45:30] to share it unexpectedly. I think if that was our focus as leaders and top contributors at organizations, we would be much more in control of our destiny and we would rely on luck a whole lot less.
Kyle Davis: I think that's a good way to wrap that one.
Gail Davis: It's a good way to design your future.
Tim Sanders: There you go!
Kyle Davis: To that point, I can't tell you how many people I've met that just do not add value. I know that sounds like a negative weird thing to say, but you'll meet [00:46:00] people and they just go through the motions and if they didn't just go through the motions, but the actually just put some thought into it, it would provide so much more value, it'd be a much richer experience.
Tim Sanders: It wouldn't. Kyle, to give you how I think about that is that the people in our life that add the most value, they think about our most highest order problems. When I come to you and I say, "Hey, Kyle, I need to find out if your new piece of software can [00:46:30] solve this problem I have on pricing forecasting." And you are going to answer that question, but meanwhile you are looking beyond that and you are saying, "Why is that important?" Pricing forecasting is important because he is in a business that holds a lot of inventory. Why is that important? Well, it's a manufacturing business that's judged on quality. Why is that important?
All of a sudden, you might get to the high high high order problem and that is "I run a business with slim to no margins." You are going to mentor me on that. [00:47:00] You are going to help me think about that higher order problem. In many situations I don't even know, because of the job I have at the company. I don't even know that's our higher order problem. All I know is that I need a better piece of software, so I do a better job at pricing forecasting. When you show me that thoughtfulness to a higher order problem that produces even more of a transformation at my company, you are essential to my life.
And from financial advice to software as a service, to consulting, that's what the best of the [00:47:30] best do. They don't accept the problem as presented, they assume that what's presented is the symptom and they go about finding the root cause, and that's how they change the lives of people that they do business with.
Kyle Davis: Good on that. Listen up people. Provide value. Be empathic and become essential. Right?
Gail Davis: I love it. Perfect.
Kyle Davis: All right, cool. Hey, Tim, thanks so much. If you all are interested in booking Tim for any of your events, feel free to give GDA speakers [00:48:00] a ring at 214-420-1999 or visit GDAspeakers.com, If you want to read today's transcript you can do so by going to GDApodcast.com. Again, thanks Tim.
Gail Davis: Thank you, Tim.
Tim Sanders: Absolutely. Thank you.
Kyle Davis: Thank you.