IntroductionHarry: Hello, everybody. Thank you for joining us again on our next podcast on our new episode of B2B sales trends. My name is Harry Kendlbacher, the CEO and founder of Global Performance Group – a company that implements behavior change within organizations to help people deal with stakeholders more effectively, especially professional stakeholders like procurement and other people in their sales processes. Today, I have the pleasure to introduce to you Hang Black. Hang is the VP of revenue enablement at Juniper Networks. And I’m so thrilled to have hang today with us. So Hang very welcome to our latest podcast episode. Hang: Well, thank you so much for having me, Harry. It’s an honor to be here. Harry: Great. Let’s dive right into it, Hang. I’ve done quite a bit of research about you and you are a fascinating personality, to say the least here and on your linked in profile I noticed you have an interesting nickname. It’s black ops. Can you explain a little bit about that great nickname that you have and why? Hang: Absolutely. I’m actually very pleased with it. My father was ex military, so I’ve always been, um, fascinated and quite respectful of the military. So in my career, I have had, um I’ve had the pleasure of being having about a decade and engineering a decade in marketing and now about a decade in sales between my marketing and sales stints. I did. I did have a consulting agency and I consulted for about two years with about 30 or 40 different companies in the sales and marketing space. So anything. Sales ops, marketing ops, field marketing, sales enablement you name it, I did it. And the fascinating thing was consulting for so many companies. I learned a lot about small business, large business, um, B2B B2C. And I would get hired in to kind of look a lay the patient on the table, see what was wrong. Um, figure out what we need to rip and replace. Figure out what we need, what we need to just fix. So I got this reputation for coming in being a whirlwind and very precisely executing on what needed to be done. And so I got the nickname of black ops, which I love so much I decided to keep it.
Building Resilience in the Sales OrganizationHarry: What a great nickname. And the explanation, especially, makes a great story. Wow. And your story also. And I’ve been doing a little bit of reading up on your story. It is amazing. And it really seems like through the steps, not just within your career, but also your personal life. You’ve gained immense resilience. And obviously the podcast is called B2B sales trends. So if you wouldn’t mind switching a little bit to focus on the B2B sales arena now. And talking of resilience, is that something that sales needs in your opinion or a good sales organization needs? Hang: Absolutely. I mean good sales. You really have to focus on where the customer is in their journey. And let’s face it, we get a lot of no’s and we should get a lot of no’s. Our goal is to win over the customer with trust, and that takes persistence and it takes resilience and it takes it takes diligence. So absolutely, we need to bring that to the table. I actually think that we are. We’re at this point in time where we’re shifting the persona of who we’re hiring. We’re not just hiring relationship managers. We’re also hiring data seekers, people who can bring value to the customer by not just, you know, giving them information about why our product solution is great. Let me ask you something, Harry. When you go to the grocery store, how do you choose your soda between Coke and Pepsi? How do you make your decision right? Harry: Based on my taste. And I guess my experience as well. Hang: Absolutely, so both vendors, they’re going to tell you, Mr Customer, I know what your problem is. Here’s how I solve your problem. Both. They’re gonna present data that’s correct. But how do you make sense of that data so that the customer feels good about their experience at the end of the day that they have made the right decision. Harry: I like the term data seekers. I haven’t heard that before. That’s a brilliant, brilliant way of relating to it. Hang: It’s a large part of the recent study released by Gartner. The future of sales in 2025 we’re talking about, you know, we used to think about buying has become much more complicated. Therefore, selling has to keep up with the buyer’s journey. And if you think about it, the customer doesn’t want to know all the sausage making in the factory. They just wanna have one seamless experience and feel good about their decision. So, they have to have that partnership. Most customers actually don’t even want to have interactions with their sellers. So now once we earn the privilege to be in front of a customer, we have to have the right argument. So in that sense, we absolutely have to be resilient in how we approach them, how often we approach them when we approach them and what we approach them with.
The Evolution of the Buyer Journey and Newfound InnovationHarry: I love the fact that you say that, you know, buying has changed so much, and we and people think that selling has changed. I have a strong opinion in the fact that you know, in terms of sales skills and how you interact with the client, it isn’t rocket science, and you shouldn’t think about 25 things you’re doing. Think about five things you’re doing, but make sure you’re doing those really, really well. Hang: Absolutely, absolutely 100% agree with that. Harry: How do you bring? How do you bring innovative ideas to the table to the customer and help them to make their decision? Hang: I think now buyers have gotten more savvy and ex sellers have gotten more savvy. And because of both sides of the equation, just, you know, being heftier, we have to be able to crowd source and collaborate better. I much prefer when a vendor is selling, um, is feeling it makes me feel like I’m making the decision to purchase versus I’m being sold to. I love it when I can have a conversation with them, and we can provoke curiosity and crowd source innovation between the two of us, rather than being just talked at. Harry: One of our customers once said to me, You know, a lot of people talk about putting yourselves in the shoes of the customer. A lot of people do that. Very few people actually do it. To really start looking through the lens from the customer’s point of view, and I still think that that’s one of the key things. If we can really put ourselves into the shoes of the customer Think about how they would want to buy. How would I want to buy if I were in their shoes – that has transformed a lot of our sales processes anyway. Hang: Yeah, absolutely. And, you know, I think we just have to keep in mind that we need to continue to be innovative. Selling is not stagnant. I mean, this past year, we’ve seen that most of the selling motion has been digital and over zoom. And how you speak over zoom is very different than how you would speak in person over a video conference call. You absolutely want to make sure that your camera is on even if the customer is not because you want to trigger that near linguistic programming and trigger theirs when you smile. Humans have innate body mimicry, so they internally smile as well. When you’re presenting in person, you would wanna have, um, some gesturing and arm movements to make sure that you’re keeping the customer engaged. Over video, you want to do that much less so because you want to keep eye contact as much as possible. When you’re in person. You wanna be sort of, you know, in the right in front of the customer. When you’re recording a video, you want to be a little bit slightly to the left or right, so that if they hit the play button, that giant arrow is not in front of your nose. So there are a few tips and tricks we have to keep learning to innovate again, to interact with the customer the way that they’re going to be receiving it. Harry: That’s really good input. And I’m a little bit conscious now of turning on my camera, I have to say, but it’s really interesting that you mentioned that. We used to do everything face to face. Now everything suddenly is virtual, and I always get asked by clients you know what is different now than it was a year and a half ago. What do people need differently in selling virtually versus selling face to face in terms of skills. I don’t think there is a lot of difference. They just need to be much, much more prepared in terms of their skills. They can’t wing it anymore. They have to be precise and really, really good. So when you think about their positioning statement, all their questions and all these wonderful things, you just have to be really good because you don’t get a second chance with it. Although those points that you’re making in terms of how to run the call, I think that’s a winning combination there. Hang: Absolutely. And you know, there’s some things that definitely haven’t changed. You still need to be able to ask good discovery questions. You need to be able to ask good Ted questions. You know, Tell me. Explain, Describe that. Leave an opening for the customer. Um, you still need to exercise effective listening, and strong negotiation skills. But some of the things that have changed in the digital world, we’ve actually had to become a lot more personal and human. So if you think about it on video calls, you’re getting an impersonal window into everyone’s personal world. So you see their Children running in the background. You actually have to ask them how the weather is, where they are. Um, you know, you actually have to ask them a little bit of their home life. You have to respect the hours that they’re working because it’s not like you’re setting up a meeting where it’s clearly, you know, they’re in business mode. So, you know, definitely for me, I get extremely irritated when the seller assumes that I could take a call at any time and they scheduled it for three o’clock their time. But it happens to be nine PM my time. You know, that’s just not very respectful. So there are things that we have to think about differently. We have to do our homework a lot better. You know, if 44% of millennial buyers do not want to talk to the seller even one time throughout the whole transaction, that means you have to do your homework and contact them over LinkedIn digitally, with some thought leadership to hook their interest in the first place. Before you earn the right to that very first meeting and the traditional sales person just doesn’t know that. And they’re just not used to it. Harry: So they really have to get out of their comfort zone and communicate in that different way, right? Hang: Yes. And I feel like I’m giving away my secrets a little bit.
Buyer Journey AlignmentHarry: But that’s why you know we made this Podcast. It is about sharing ideas and making people better. And that’s that’s the idea of it talking about that. You know, you’ve been obviously a super pro in the sales enablement space and with your role as VP of revenue Enablement. Tell me a little bit about what were sort of the key changes that you’ve made to your team sales processes and on approaches to align with the buyer’s journey, so to speak? Hang: Well, as I mentioned, you know, at Juniper – we actually think of sales enablement as a competitive advantage. We always look around corners, so with sales enablement I’m planning for my sales teams. I’m looking at sales trends from the different, um, analysts and working towards you know, what does the future look like tomorrow? So what we think about is that sales is no longer, um, just a single interaction, right? Sell, sell, sell, transact and then exit. It’s no longer a linear transaction. Once you’ve got the first contact from marketing and then you nurture them and then you get a conversation, you extend it to your technical team. Then once you sell, we’ve got to make sure that they’ve got a good experience through the procurement process through the legal process, and then we hand off to global services, and then we continue into upsell cross selling renewal. So there’s what we call an infinity curve where the customer can enter or exit out at any given point in time and again. How do we make their experience seamless, so they don’t see the sausage making behind all of those different transactions, and they continue with us throughout their life cycle and return back to any entry point. So we’ve looked at our processes, and as far as you know, how do we modernize as much as we can? How do we digitize as much as we can automate as much as we can so that the human interactions are extremely smart, concise and thought provoking and keeps the customer coming back.
Striking the Balance Between Human Interaction and AutomationHarry: Now, with all the automation so fascinating and the digital sort of environment that we’re in, you know, there’s an old school saying that people buy from people, right? Um, what in your opinion, is the level of importance of that human interaction? Next to the automation and digitalization and so forth? Hang: Well, people buy from people, but again, the interaction is different. You know, 30 years ago we didn’t have the Internet, and that is absolutely changed. How we ingest information. I can tell around the dinner table the generation that people are in because you have one group that barely uses email at all. You’ve got another group that uses Facebook, another group that uses Instagram and another group that uses ticktock. So we’re still interacting with each other. We’re just interacting with each other very differently. So that’s what we had to account for. How do we transact with our customers where they want to live? You know, we were talking about the Gartner report earlier and how over time we’ve seen that the buying committee has grown quite a bit. We now see. I would actually argue that the selling committee has to grow quite a bit. And what I mean by that is when I’m interested in a vendor, I definitely look them up in their digital space. I look up the LinkedIn profile of my seller. I look up the company and their innovation into solution, but also what it’s The C staff personally and what they stand for as far as social values. So when I’m buying, I’m actually looking at the many, many personas from the people of the people I’m buying from. But I’m doing all of that asynchronously. So I’m still buying from people. I’m just doing it, you know, in stealth mode asynchronously so that when I get in front of them, the buying team meets the selling team. We all already know who we are, what we stand for and what we’re selling.
Application vs. Knowledge ConsumptionHarry: Nowadays, you know, information is everywhere. Everybody everywhere can consume the content. It’s not about negotiation skills anymore. Type it into YouTube. You get 20,000 videos, right? It’s not a lack of content. It’s not a lack of information. What I really believe is it’s a lack of how people are doing it well. And how do you move away from this consumption frenzy to let’s just get our people to do and execute the content. But, well, it’s not. It’s not about consuming it. It’s about doing it. I guess that’s what it comes down to. Would you agree with that? Hang: Yeah, And again, if we go back to the Gartner report, what they’re talking about, there’s not only a lot of information out there, there’s too much information out there. I recently listened to Daniel Pinks, master class. And I loved it so much. I listened to it twice, and he has this great analogy. In there, access used to mean information, but now information is commoditized. So if you think about it at one point in time, we used to go to the doctor and whatever the doctor said was biblical, you know, we trusted them completely. Then when information became readily available, you would go into the doctor’s office and tell them that I want this medication. I’ve heard this, um, this medical report and the doctors would be very annoyed about it. They’re not used to that today because we’ve had many years behind us. Today, when people come in with information, I want to take this medication. Um, you know, I disagree. Because of this report I read, The doctor can actually help them with that data. Yes, that report was accurate two years ago, but here’s another report that’s recently come out. That that is better to refute or is more relevant is more recent. Yes, this medication may work well, but for your particular situation, it may not work as well because you’ve got these other medical issues that you’ve got to counteract. So in that way, the doctors have adjusted and we essentially have to do that with our customers as well. Harry: So how do we provide ongoing nuggets of value? How do we guide them to the right decision based on a lie? The knowledge and all the senses they have basically already consumed and they don’t know? Hang: Yes, And then and then, you know, as getting back to people buy from people. This is where it takes the human to go in and do the homework. You know, with the augmentation of AI to do the homework to say yes, these here’s Coke and here’s Pepsi. Here’s why. You might like one more than the other based on your very personal profile and very personal use cases.
Top Buying Behaviors so far in 2021Harry: Mhm, mhm. A lot has changed in the buying and selling world. And what in your opinion, in terms of buying behaviors, were the top three that have changed in the last few months? Hang: I think people I don’t know about you, Harry, but I have never been more simultaneously busy and bored, you know? So people are spending a lot of time on their computers. They are doing a lot more of their own research. On Daz, I mentioned they’re going to do the diligence of researching not just the individual salesperson that they’re talking to, but the other personas. And I actually think that the way the world has been going in the last four years, people also really want to understand a company’s social values. I actually think that’s more important than what we are giving credit for. Um, diversity and inclusion has become really, really significant. And when I look at a company, I’m also looking at their diversity inclusion practices not just because it’s the right thing to do, because it’s an indicator to me of how innovative that company is gonna be. Yes, their solution may work for me today, but will it work for me tomorrow because they’re crowd sourcing from all different areas of thought, How creative will they be? So, for me again, I’m not just buying today’s product. I’m buying, you know, the potential of what tomorrow’s products may look like.
Diversity Best PracticesHarry: You mentioned the different practices that you’ve seen in the diversity and inclusion space in terms of different companies. What we find a lot is that it’s really important to implement a culture within organizations, and that’s difficult to do. I’m curious to find out what practices have you seen in other organizations in regards to diversity and inclusion that you think are outstanding? Hang: Well, I think it’s really important that with diversity inclusion that it’s not just a program that people don’t just talk the talk, they actually walk the walk. And what I mean by that is to question is to make sure that everyone challenges their own unconscious biases. I actually, because I’m a diverse woman diversity begets diversity. So my teams, I attract a lot of diverse talent. I actually have to make a conscious effort to ensure that I hire white males to make sure that I still have that cognitive diversity. So I will often challenge executives: who’s in your 3 to 5. You know, your circle of 3 to 5 confidants. Do you have representation? And if the answer is no or there’s not enough people, then I challenge them to go find that pipeline. “Well, I don’t want to do that because I’m looking for the best talent.” Okay, but what is your definition of best talent? Does it include some unconscious bias in there? You know, there are a lot of people who are biased towards certain universities. Um, I would challenge people that there are a lot of good students from other universities that are just this great. And they might have gone through a little bit more adversity, which means that they have to be more resourceful and creative. Um, so, you know, making sure you question everyone’s inner circle is one. The second thing is, who’s leading your diversity program? Is it a diverse person? Is your executive sponsor for that person? Someone who can translate that human experience? You know, I often walk into diverse diversity programs where the executive sponsor is a white male, and it’s a little bit uncomfortable, because where is he getting his feedback from? Is he in an echo chamber where people are trying to accommodate him and be nice to him? Whereas does he have someone that can actually translate to him that human experience? So, you know, I always say JFK would never have been successful without an MLK. They were equal partners in that equation. And, you know, the third thing would be to make sure we talk about mentorship and sponsorship on a very individual basis, And that’s really, really great but I also think we need to start talking about allyship and role modeling. Do you have people who will help bring up the rest of the class? So if we talk about again JFK, he wasn’t just advancing MLK. He was advancing the whole class and supporting the whole class of people. And then do we have role models? Do we celebrate them? Do we have enough people of color? Do we have enough women at the top? And when we do, do we celebrate them more because there’s less of them so that people have something to look up to and something to aspire to. Harry: So in essence, the three steps are key leadership from the top. And in order to accomplish that, you really need the leaders on a manager’s level to support and lead by example there. And there are some three big challenges right there with this topic, right? Hang: Absolutely, absolutely. And I do think we need to top being afraid of tokenism, which is hiring one person you know to kind of tick the box. We have to be not afraid of that because all studies show that you don’t actually get good behavior until you have at least three. So without that first token, you’re never going to get to 2 to 3 to make sure that there’s a balance of power and conversation. Harry: Mm, I love it. Absolutely. We’ve got a piece that we call constructive challenge that we implement within leaders and teams, and our line with it is first, you’ve got to challenge yourself to earn the right to challenge others. And then together you can challenge the status quo. Let’s switch gears here and I want to hear about your book. I have read a lot of the LinkedIn posts, not all of them. That will be not telling the truth. I’ve read some of them over LinkedIn. You’ve got a new book out called “Embracing your edge”. Um, I’ve looked it up. It is available even on German and Austrian Amazon. Very interesting. Hang, tell us about the book and what made you write it? Hang: Well, thank you for asking. I’m actually, uh, pleasantly surprised that we’ve actually sold into the UK German French markets, including Asia. We’ve reached as far South Africa so for me I wrote it because in my career it was just way more difficult to climb than it needed to be. Some were external forces and some were internal limiting behaviors. And I thought about, um, a lot of the diversity books that are written out there or how to succeed. So many of those books were written from a different perspective. They weren’t written for me because they weren’t written by people like me. Um, so again, we talk about role modeling. Being a woman brings a unique experience. Being a person of color brings a unique experience. Being an immigrant brings a unique experience, and all of those layered on top of each other just made things a lot more difficult when you do not have access. So the way I describe minority just means the smaller group of people in the room. So in certain communities in certain engineering communities in the Bay Area, a white man may very likely be a minority in the room. There you may have schools and classes where a privileged person is a minority in the room, or or non privilege. Or more likely, a non privileged person is the minority of the room. So I want to challenge how we think about what a minority is. A minority is simply the lesser group, a smaller population of people in the room. Now why I bring that up is a lot of it also has to do with access. When you’re in the majority of the room, you have more access to people, you have more access to resources, you have more access to voice, so let’s talk about it in terms of access to voice and access to choice. I wrote the book because I grew up as an immigrant. I grew up in a very black and white world in the Deep South. So I didn’t belong to either class. Um, as I went into, you know, I grew up between the Eastern philosophy of authoritarianism and a Western philosophy of autonomy. I was never included or excluded. I had the gift of observation and the gift of kind of pulling the best out of all worlds. As I went into engineering, I started to see more color but less gender diversity. As I started to move up the ranks, I saw much less color diversity. So, um, the road was so difficult because people didn’t understand me and a lot of the coaching that I had gone to or a lot of the books that I read. It is meant to make people look more like white men. And it’s not malicious. It’s just the perspective that it was written for. So I wanted to create an experience for more people like me so that they can feel uplifted and heard that they wouldn’t feel so alone. At this point in my career, I’ve had 30 years of reading books going to conferences, um, having personal therapy, going to executive coaching. How do I give that gift back to other people, to a much younger version of myself who doesn’t have that access to voice and choice? Um, you know, and It’s written with a lot of very personal stories, but I do believe that as women and immigrants, our personal decisions have a much higher impact on our professional careers. And Decisions in our careers have a very high impact on our personal lives. So it’s written with the perspective to, you know, give a gift to the people behind me, but also to the majority to help them understand us a little bit better. Because again, in general, I don’t believe that anyone is coming in with malicious intent. I think we just need to do a better job of understanding each other. Harry: Absolutely, absolutely. That’s very well said. I love it. I watched an interview with you on YouTube in preparation for this, and there was one quote that you’ve mentioned that I absolutely loved, which is I can always walk through the fire and emerge better. Tell me a little bit about that statement and your thinking behind that? Hang: Well, you talked about resilience earlier, and, you know, I’m a child of war and grief. My family made critical decisions. Um, you know, very, very quickly. So I’ve learned that, you don’t have forever to make a decision. I have had so many hurdles thrown at me in life that not much scares me, except for stagnation. Everything that I do. I see that when I’m afraid when I’m not authentic, I’m not the best version of myself. When I challenge myself when I push through, I can always emerge. The Phoenix can always emerge from the fire, but otherwise you’re just standing on the side, watching the fire, getting singed. It’s a mindset. It’s a mindset that you can pick up. It’s a mindset that you have to work hard for, I believe. Harry: And that’s why I really, really like the quote that I can always walk through fire and emerge better. And you’re right. It has absolutely to do with resilience for it. I love it. You are a true thought leader. Wow, I’m almost at a loss which doesn’t happen very often. I’ll tell you that. Um what other great projects do you have coming up and anything you wanna share with the audience on the great things that you currently doing? Hang: A lot of what we’re doing again. It’s around digitalization and really, how we use AI to augment the human experience. So we’re looking at what we can automate and what we can pull from that automation in order to give our sellers more access to not only information but the right information at the right time. Um and how do we bring the customers into that journey as well? So that they are part of the collaborative process? Because again, I truly believe that in all aspects of our lives, whether we’re selling whether we’re living, that we’re truly better together. Harry: And you gotta bring a certain level of authenticity and vulnerability which, by the way, also nicked from that interview that you did to the table here to have a true dialogue with the customer. Love it. Fabulous. Yes. Hang. You’ve been an absolute superstar in the last half an hour, let me personally thank you for your time but even more for sharing your incredible story. You’re a true thought leader. Thank you so much for sharing your expertise and your opinions with our podcast B2B Sales Trends. I really appreciate it. Hang: Well, thank you so much for having me.
Harry: Thanks, everybody. This was Harry Kendlbacher from Global Performance Group on our podcast, together with Hang Black, the VP of revenue enablement at Juniper Networks. Thank you so much for tuning in to our episode. Bye bye