The world continues to change and redefine the sales profession as we know it – just look at these past few rocky months. So what better time than now to learn how to develop your sales skills by trying something new and reinventing yourself?
This week on INSIDE Inside Sales, Darryl is joined by the unmistakeable Costas Perkas, Sales Director at Worldwide Business Research. Darryl and Costas discuss ways you can improve your sales by simply trying something new, such as seeking feedback from those you trust and respect. They also share valuable advice on developing new skills, giving yourself permission to fail, and focusing on positive outcomes. Learn how you can improve sales through reinventing yourself on this episode of INSIDE Inside Sales!
Host: Darryl Praill, VanillaSoft
Darryl Praill: So I was reflecting the other day, because I have so much time to reflect. I say that tongue in cheek. I’m sure you folks are the exact same way. It seems like you never catch up anymore. It seems like you’re always, well, in fact, if you’re like me, it feels like not catch up, but I’m always trying to play catch up. In fact, I think the most common expression I say these days is I’m sorry. I’m sorry I didn’t get you that email on time. I’m sorry I didn’t do what I was gonna do. I’m sorry it’s taking me so long. I’m sorry I dropped the ball cause I’m really, really busy. And so, I really am busy. So, I know, I know, I’m going through this process as I reflect, that I need to work better on my time management. I need to work better on my commitments. So what have I been doing? One of the things we talk about a lot in here is managing your time. And we talk about time blocking and had that conversation many times. And I do time block. My problem is I don’t, I don’t protect that time block. In other words, I’ll say two hours every day. I’ve done this. Two hours of my, it’s blocked Darryl time. Nobody else just blocked.
Darryl Praill: But then so and so, or somebody will come to me and I’ll know it’s important, I’ll know it’s urgent, and I will, I will let them schedule time with me together in the middle of Darryl time. And my calendar got to the point where I had so many Darryl times and all these other blocks beside it, and you know what I’m talking about when you look at your calendar, your diary, that it was, I got to a point and I said, what is wrong with me? Either I’m committed to Darryl time or I’m not. And I know I was so busy and there’s so many balls in the air and there’s so many commitments I have to do in my role with the company that I got rid of Darryl time, it’s gone. I made a conscious decision. So that means I’m working more hours. That’s not good. Hence, now I know why I was reflecting. But the other thing I was reflecting on, it was interesting. I did some posts online recently and really got, some posts do well, like you might imagine, other posts, not as much, and that’s fine, too. You don’t do it for the vanity metrics. At least you shouldn’t be doing it for the vanity metrics.
Darryl Praill: But that particular day, those posts did like amazingly well. And I got so many comments and so many new followers and so many notes of affirmation and so many notes of gratitude thanking me for my contribution, thanking me for the difference I made in their lives. And by the way, send us those notes, guys, cause I love ’em. They’re the highlight of my day. And I need constant reaffirmation cause I’m an insecure son of a gun. But I was reflecting, at that moment in time, cause I had that day, about how just like two or three years ago, I was starting my job at VanillaSoft, and yeah, I’d been on social media for forever, but I pretty hadn’t been on social media, if you know what I’m saying. And I wasn’t a rockstar at social media. I was just, it was a glorified resume, and I post occasionally just so I’d look relatively current, once a month, maybe, once a month maybe. And so I had to reinvent myself at that time because that’s what VanillaSoft needed me to do. That’s what we needed to do. And then I was reflecting further about how isn’t it amazing, cause there’s always this stereotype that you can’t reinvent yourself. You can’t. You get to a certain point and technology passes you by. You don’t understand it.
Darryl Praill: It’s the game for kids, as an example. And for sure, when you were raised with it, you were raised with it from, many of you from the crib on up where I didn’t touch, see, type on my first computer till I was in grade nine. And that was just like, yeah, that’s interesting. It was in grade 10 I finally got it going, and I remember the high school I went to, I think we had maybe five computers in the whole school. You know, we had a computer class. In fact, I’m gonna date myself, I had a typing class, and typing class was considered an art. It was an actual credit, going for typing school. That’s it tells you something, but hey, I’m not as old as you might think, cause my typewriters were electric. Oh yeah, baby. But my point being, I think about where I came from, I reinvented myself on social media. I’m trying to reinvent myself on my calendar skills.
Darryl Praill: When I began life doing marketing thing, I would do a $30,000 print ad, and I would have a professional agency, and they would come to me and they would put hard boards with custom ad campaigns on the floor and I’d see a dozen mock-ups, and they’d be lying there on the shelf or on the floor. I would walk back and forth and the designer would walk me through them. And this is a very expensive Madmen type agency. And I would pick it out and I would drop the ads, and we would have bingo cards to watch results. And we would actually measure how many phone calls we got. I’m like, who does that now? Now I use Canva. Or do it myself and put it on Instagram, throw some filters in there. Bam, you’re done. No more agency. So you had to reinvent yourself. I’ve come from such a different place than you will ever know. And I had to adapt along the way.
Welcome Costas Perkas
Darryl Praill: So what does all that matter? Cause this is not the Darryl show. Well, what it matters is this. And this is why it matters to you. We all get to a point in our career where what we, was working, what we were comfortable with no longer applies, no longer works, no longer matters. Maybe you were kicking ass last year on email and now nobody’s opening your emails. Maybe your pipeline was full last year and now it’s not. Maybe you understood Facebook, but you don’t get TikTok. You know what I’m saying? Life moves on. When that happens, you need to reassess. Just like I was doing. And that reminded me of a post I read. And I went back and I found the post. And that post was written by Costas Perkas, who ironically was on our USA versus UK debate we just had.
Darryl Praill: Ask him which team he was on. Hint, his team didn’t win, but he was a rockstar, just between you and I. And he actually talks about how, when you get to a certain point, you actually have to break some eggs. And what he gets at in that post is some of those eggs are your eggs. You had a beautiful omelet last year, but now it doesn’t taste so good. Now it’s not working. You’re not, you can’t cook an omelet to save your life. You’re not getting the results. You gotta break some eggs. You gotta try something new. You gotta reinvent. And I said, Costas, he’s the man. Costas is the man to talk about this, to help you guys reinvent yourself and just figure it all out. So he and I are going to play counselor today. Let’s get him on the show. Costas, my friend, welcome, welcome, welcome my friend to The INSIDE Inside Sales show. I am so pleased to have you here. He’s got a big smile on his face.
Costas Perkas: It’s absolutely a pleasure to talk to you, Darryl, and thank you very much for the invitation.
Darryl Praill: He is, okay, so Costas is like the nicest guy going. He’s just so magnanimous. So please follow him. Check them out on LinkedIn. He’s a machine. He, I have a lot of time for Costas. He’s the sales director at Worldwide Business Research, and he’s based out of London. So don’t let the accent full you. Now, Costas, your Greek originally? Is that not right? Am I getting the accent right?
Costas Perkas: Yep.
Darryl Praill: Yes, so I love it. We’re talking to a native Greek living in London who’s a sales rockstar and was recently the captain of team UK. So that tells you something.
Overcoming the negatives
Darryl Praill: Okay, so Costas, I’m gonna back up for a second and say, now you wrote this and I love how you said it. You said you want an omelet. You set the stage. Do you want an omelet? In other words, sales reps, do you want a kick-ass sales career? Do you want success? Sometimes you gotta crack some eggs. Now is the time to try new things in your sales approach. And then you go on and talk about why you should do this. And yes, there’s gonna be risks involved. And how can you manage those risks? In fact, you even invoke the great, the late great Bruce Lee, attacking those risks. So what was your catalyst for this? I mean, was this you? Are you speaking? Is this your own personal story? Are you seeing this with people on your team? You seeing this with your peers? What provoked this post?
Costas Perkas: Well, personal and business. I mean, we’re in the, we organized the best B2B conferences on the planet. And as you can imagine, and we’ve been badly hit because of the crisis. So as a business we had to pivot and had to do things differently. And obviously we have to do things differently with our teams. That got me thinking why, what is the reason? What is the main reason why people will try different things? And then the second thing I was thinking is like, what’s the easiest way to advise someone to go ahead and try something new? Different and innovative. And I realized that when I want to try new things, the first thing that comes to my mind is procrastination. What’s the reason why people procrastinate? It’s two reasons in my mind. One of them both of them are fear based. One is fear about the outcome. So people focus too much about the outcome. Will I be able to achieve the outcome? The second thing is fear of making a decision. Will this be the right decision? Would I be judged against my decision?
Costas Perkas: So my thinking is very simple. I’m a very simple man. Because of my military background, I like military figures, and how they come across, how they come with decisions. Colin Powell is a favorite of mine, and Colin Powell talks about how to make decisions in situations of crisis, which is what you are in a battlefield. And he says that you probably need no more than 70% of the information and no less than 40% of the information. If you have less than 40%, you’re bound to make the wrong decision. If you have more than 70%, you’re going to be a bit late. So the first thing is look, if you have, let’s say 60% of the information of this is an option that may work for you, you gotta take the decision and you gotta move on. The second thing is obviously, like I said, is that people procrastinate because they are scared to put their name next to an outcome. I never thought of myself, I never committed to any results or any outcomes. I committed to following a process, a plan.
Costas Perkas: And that is my accountability, to follow that plan, to deliver that plan. The outcome, it will be too many reasons why an outcome would be achieved or not be achieved. So that doesn’t bother me. Also outcomes live in the future. I do not control the future. I control today and what I can do about it. So that was the main reason why I posted that. And I’ve seen, not because of my post, I’m not that vain to think that people take my post more seriously, but I’ve got examples in our professional life. One of my directors, he was very reluctant on using LinkedIn over the years, despite those like me telling him you need to do it. And I think you took the leap in the last three weeks. Now, what this guy who wants to do is, wants to actually be perceived as, as a leader in an industry that he doesn’t work in. So he wants to be perceived as a leader in the procurement industry.
Costas Perkas: And when he did, he put himself out there. He started educating himself about the subject of procurement. He started speaking to our clients about what procurement is exactly and what are the topics that they will be discussing. And in three weeks it took me over nine months to be invited to podcasts or webinars. It took him three weeks to be invited to two webinars for a subject that he does not know 100%. He’s learning about it right now. It took me nine months to be invited to webinars about sales that I’ve been in for the last 20 years. What caused this is that he thought, listen, I cannot speak to my clients. I cannot reach my clients the way I used to. I cannot sell my product unless I understand their problems and what a better way to understand their problems than speaking with them, being invited to the same webinars they do.
Costas Perkas: So he invested a lot of his personal time to go to webinars, time difference takes into consideration, just educate himself. And I’m really, really glad he did that. Because, again, like you said, if you want to eat omelet you gotta crack some eggs nowadays. And the other thing I want to focus on is that people over complicate things. Bruce Lee, for me, that’s saying is I live by it. Bruce Lee said, one thing, “Do you research? Learn everything there is to learn. Apply only the things that are working for you. Get rid of everything else. And then adjust what you’ve learned, so you can make your approach uniquely yours.” And for me, that is a lesson that when you want to try something new is pretty much those three steps. Do the research, get rid of what’s not working, keep what’s working, and adjust it to make it sure that, feeds your personality, you as a person.
Darryl Praill: So you said so much there that really resonates with me. I was feverishly taking notes, cause I didn’t wanna lose the thought. Let me tell a story, for the audience, my career. So my career, because you’ve talked about a number of things here, I’m gonna speak to that. My career, when I was just a marketing specialist, I wanted to be a marketing manager. When I was a marketing manager, I wanted to be a marketing director. When I was a marketing director I wanted to be a VP. You get the idea. I always wanted the next step. And I had two options. One is I could physically wait to be promoted internally, or two is I could change jobs. And I could be promoted into that next level, at another company.
Darryl Praill: So my wife and I made a conscious decision when we were young, that one of us would stay home with our kids when we had kids. So as the career progresses we could see pretty quickly that my career was gonna pay more than her career. Therefore, the decision was made that she would stay home for the first couple years. So why does that matter? Well, that matters is that I needed to get to an income level that I could support the whole family and all the related expenses of having kids on one income. Boom, that was the stage. That was my level. That was my motivation. So whether you want a certain income or you want a certain result. You want a certain pipeline. You just want a conversion rate. I had my goal clearly in mind, what I needed to set.
Darryl Praill: And then what I would do is I would be in a job for a year or whatever. I would get the lay of the land. Am I gonna get promoted anytime soon? If I’m not, I would start looking around. I would take recruiter calls. And if I was a manager and there was a director position available I would apply to it. Now, this is where I got crazy. I don’t suggest you do what I did. But what I would do is my resume would say, yes, I’m already a director, even though I was a manager. And then I would go to these interviews to be a director somewhere else, and they would say, well, talk to me about your job and what you do. And I would have done some research and I would look at the directors in my company and I would say this is what we do. And I would get hired. And then I would do the job.
Darryl Praill: My wife, so I was not afraid to take that risk, cause to me it was a controlled risk. My wife was just like aghast. She goes, “How can you do that? You’re lying, you’re misrepresenting.” She goes like, “You don’t have those skills. You don’t have those capabilities. You don’t have those results. You don’t have those life experiences. You don’t, you don’t, you don’t.” And my reaction every single time was, I don’t, but I know enough to know I can do it to start. And I know here’s the kicker, Colin Powell, I know I can research it when I get there. So I’m not wanting to be president of the United States at 18 years old. That’s outta my league. But taking that one step forward, I can do one step. I can research that. Fear was stopping my wife. Fear wasn’t stopping me. What I did, though, so the reason it didn’t stop me is because I, to Costas’s point, I gave myself permission to fail. I gave myself permission to stumble because I was going to learn along the way. All right?
Darryl Praill: So that was his point. I loved his point about focus. He said, focus on learning, and on positive outcomes, and on optimizing what you’re doing. And he also said, don’t worry about the outcomes. So I gave myself permission. Don’t worry about the outcomes. If I fail, I’ll get another job. Okay, simple as that. So I gave myself permission to take a risk is really what I’m getting at. And once you give yourself permission and you don’t worry about winning, you’re learning about learning, you’re worried about getting just better, then all of a sudden, it’s a lot easier to do. It’s a lot less fearful. Like his colleague, like his colleague. How many of you are not giving yourself permission? How many of you are afraid? How many of you are stuck and don’t wanna try something because you’ve not done the research? That’s an honest question. That’s where it starts. Self-awareness. We’ve had that conversation. We’re way overdue for a break. We’re gonna take one. When we come back, we’re gonna go fast and furious on a whole bunch of different tactics you can do to try to break out of your rut and make things better. We’ll be right back.
How to develop your sales skills by trying something new
Darryl Praill: Okay, Costas, in your post you specifically list one, two, three, four, five, five points followed by rinse and repeat. I love that rinse and repeat. Bruce Lee style, when you gotta mix it up because whatever you’re doing wasn’t working and you’re in a rut, you’re stuck. We’ve talked about the fear. We’ve talked about researching, having just enough data, giving yourself permission. Here we go. Number one, you say, try new emails or introductions or questions or call to actions. So how is that gonna help me possibly improve my game? Give me an example of why I would wanna do that?
Costas Perkas: Well, I’ll tell you what we did with our guys. We wrote emails. I’m not a guy that likes to use other people’s work, but I like to be influenced by other people, ideally other industries. And we selected 20 emails that we felt they’re closer to what we want to actually approach our customers and our clients in these times. We did a lot of testing in terms of sending them to each other, writing the email, altering things based on our personal styles. And we end up with three templates. One which was for outreach to new clients. One for outreach to, sorry, to prospects. One for outreach to clients. And one for outreach to incoming inquiries. So that’s, the point I want everyone to make. I’m not going to actually suggest a template as working for everyone. I don’t believe, like I said, in templates but I believe in researching, pick it up.
Costas Perkas: What’s closer to what you, how you want to be communicating with your customers? And then adjust that email, that 35 seconds opening a call. And to do this, there’s no one person is able to choose what is the best template, you need to put it to the test through asking a lot of people what do you think? Which one do you feel it was a better approach? So that was the first thing we did. When we talk about new things, I like to try new things that, I don’t like to try things that scare people, but like, or stress people, but I like to try things that stretch people. So we did a very funny exercise because I wanted to switch my guys to sending video messages. It was something that I wanted to do since last year, there was no reason like I said.
Costas Perkas: Booming times, no problem money-wise or bringing the sellers in, but this time I thought, well, listen, we need to be more face-to-face with prospects that are staying at home. And they probably crave interaction, human interaction, crave human interaction more than email or even a call. And it was funny because we had 38 of our guys, all of them doing their videos, really testing themselves. They haven’t done something like that before. We give ’em some guidelines, and you know what? We started getting out in the market, and what I could see based on the examples they gave me, I could see a lot of happy faces, fairly young individuals. I mean I’m the dad of the department, as you can appreciate, at 47, but fairly enthusiastic people delivering a minute and a half of video messages, something they’ve never done before.
Costas Perkas: And two things happened. One is that we started getting, because what does a video message do? It provokes familiarity and reciprocity. So people felt obliged to reply. Now it may not have been the reply that we expected, but it was a reply nevertheless. And that does affect things. So all the guys felt really confident that that’s the way forward, at least to get some response from people in difficult times. The second thing is like, they started becoming better. They started shortening the message, alter the message to get it within those 45, 50 seconds, and it’s a new skill. I’m reading a book, currently, it’s a great book. And it said that why some parts of training, you completely forget, but other parts you always remember.
Costas Perkas: And it’s because it says that you only learn when dopamine affects your brain because dopamine is the same pattern of the brain. Because they were doing something new, because they were seeing results, and they were feeling as if they were learning, they want to do more and more of that. And I really, really like that approach that we took. So again, my advice is like figure out if that is something that everyone is saying that you should try, do not go down the route that everyone else has taken. Then what is to learn? Same examples, find the examples of other people who have been successful and adjust it, and work on becoming better and better and just make it yourself, making your own story.
Darryl Praill: This actually totally aligns to some of the other podcasts we’ve just had recently, Morgan Ingram, Scott Leese, et cetera, and Morgan talked at length about video. He said you gotta use video. Whether it’s video on LinkedIn, video in an email, whatever, lots of ways to use video, you gotta use video. And you’re hearing Costas say he and his whole crew had never used video. So that was an example of trying something new and experimenting with it. And he said they got better over time. They got better. And then what that did was that instilled confidence. So they went from being in a slump to be excited again. And because they’ve got a new skill now, too. So that’s huge. So, and all the points Costas makes here in his posts. I mentioned there was five. Well, he just actually hit, I think almost four of them. He said try new emails and intros and questions and call to actions. That was his big one. Try, try, research it, experiment.
Darryl Praill: Did you hear what he said? He said, they all went and researched. They didn’t even try to reinvent the wheel. They just went and researched others. And then they send it to themselves to say, what did they like? How did they react to it? And then they adjust it. And then they went out and they did some testing and they gave himself permission. We talked about that. They got rid of their fear, gave themselves permission to mix it up. In these posts he says, keep what’s working, which they did, get rid of what’s not, which they did. The only way we can do that, folks, we’ve had this conversation before, is AB testing, and Costas mentioned that. He was always testing to see what worked. And then the last thing he just spoke to, it was also in his post here. He said, “Make adjustments that suit your market and your personality.”
Darryl Praill: He talked about the ICP. He talked about getting, having those conversations. He talked about his colleague getting into an industry he has no familiarity with, but he needed to understand them. So he started reaching out to them and talking to them if you wanted to have that. So again, fear is simple when you just go away and you say I’m just gonna talk to an expert. I’m gonna talk to somebody smarter. I’m gonna listen to the INSIDE Inside Sales show and see what they have to say. Costas gave you a whole bunch of stuff right there. You know, it’s as simple as this, just do it. Nike made a million, millions doing that expression, just do it. There’s a reason.
Don’t forget to ask for feedback
Darryl Praill: Okay, now, fast and furious, Costas, I wanna talk about this, cause you have multiple other posts that relate to this specific point, as you’re trying to break a few eggs and get better. You say, “Ramp up your learning, get better coaching, seek feedback.” Talk to me quick and dirty, we’re tight on time, on how I should approach that if I’m a sales rep so that I get the most out of this? Cause sometimes there’s, expert A will say to do this. Expert B will say expert A is wrong. You should do it this way. It can get confusing. What do I do? What’s the best way to figure out what works for me when it comes to coaching and learning.
Costas Perkas: Very quickly, I will advise everyone to practice deliberate practice. Now deliberate practice, like practice, focuses on the outcomes, but also requires instant feedback, if possible, but definitely feedback, and also focuses on technique alongside the outcomes or the objections that you set yourself. So I will never, ever, I will always suggest to people to read books, blogs, webinars, podcasts, whatever, absolutely how other people learn, audiobooks, whatever it might be, but you need to actually be smarter than the average individual. So what I’m suggesting is, especially with LinkedIn, back in the day, we didn’t have that opportunity. Let’s say with LinkedIn, you see someone that you like their style. You see someone who is already doing what you’re hoping to be doing in a year’s time, two years’ time, three years’ time, I say seek their feedback.
Costas Perkas: My post the other day was prompted by me being 47 and spent, I don’t know, 30 years in leadership, military, university, sales, and at 47, two weeks ago, I reach out to two people, one of which was you, Darryl, to ask for their feedback. Why? Because I felt that Darryl is better than me in something that I wanna get better at. I have nothing to lose by just reaching out to Darryl. Now there’s two things that can, two ways this can go. Either Darryl will not reply to me. It’s fine, I tried, I’ll find some else. Or he will give me feedback, one minute, one word, and I can work on that. But what I do, I dip into my experience and then I dip into your experience and then I’ll do the best for me.
Costas Perkas: Feedback is, but as long as people understand that feedback is two ways. Feedback is to improve you. And the other one is to correct you. I’m not talking about the correction feedback, which is about your blind spots. I’m talking about you taking a proactive action, and say, look, I know that this guy’s better than me. I want to be able to do what this guy’s doing, the job, whatever it might be, I will reach out and I will ask for their feedback. And I will get to know these individuals. So that would be my advice. I get this all the time on LinkedIn because it’s an open forum. And I really, really respect that. When new young people, now they take control of their future, of their career by asking questions, I really like that. So that would be my advice.
Darryl Praill: So let’s recap what we’ve talked about here. We talked about sometimes you get in a rut. Sometimes you’re not happy where it’s at. Sometimes you’re frustrated. Sometimes you’re frozen by fear. Sometimes you don’t know what to do. Sometimes you’re at the end of your rope and you just seem to be in a state of inaction. So what do you do? You try something new and then you try that new email, new intro, new script, new questions, new call to actions. You seek, you research it, you get enough information to start doing it. You don’t need an expert in it, 40 to 70%, as he said, Colin Powell. You seek people you trust for their feedback because you recognize they might be more skilled there with you. You reach out to your customers and understand better what they’re doing and how that matters.
Darryl Praill: You keep what’s working. You get rid of what’s not. You iterate by making constant adjustments that suit you and your market and your personality and your desired outcomes. And you give yourself permission to fail. And when you do this, you celebrate the victories. You celebrate the victories. And then the last thing we didn’t talk about is you pay it forward. When you learn something right you share it with somebody else. That’s it. My friends, two posts from Costas Perkas, two posts, talk about learning, talk about what do you do when you’re in a rut? My goodness, this man, this man, this man is wise. Follow him. Costas, thank you so much for your time today. We’re outta time as we always are every single week. But in the meantime, that’s my guest, Costas Perkas, follow him now. My name is Darryl Praill. Sometimes if I’m with VanillaSoft, today, though, I’m at the INSIDE Inside Sales show. We’ll talk to you soon. Take care, bye-bye.