A long-time friend of the team here at Costello, Todd Caponi published The Transparency Sale in November of 2018 to rave reviews. With decades of experience in sales enablement and sales leadership, Todd’s professional background proved to be perfect fodder for a book that turns the entire concept of relationship selling back towards honesty and transparency. When Todd spoke with the team last year, he was just getting ready to release his book.
Today, after three months of traveling around the U.S. and Europe talking to sales teams and training professionals in the art of transparency selling, Todd is ready to share what he’s learned over the last few months. We hope you enjoy the following conversation with Todd!
Can you give us a quick refresher of what The Transparency Sale entails?
A while ago, while I was the CRO at PowerReviews, I came across a study that said that a consumer is more likely to buy a product with an average review score between 4.2 and 4.5. These lower reviews influence buying decisions more than a 5-star review because consumers aren’t looking for perfect, they’re looking for honesty. This ‘transparency’ message translates effortlessly to the B2B world.
In the words of Tyra Banks, sales reps need to embrace the flaws but still know the product is awesome, or “flawsome” as she calls it. My book explores this new B2B buying and selling world that is dependent on reviews and feedback. Companies can no longer hide their flaws because of the inherent honesty in reviews, but they can lead with them, and more often than not the results are incredible.
What has your book tour been like so far?
It’s just so humbling that I can get up in front of people and talk about a subject that I believe in so much and have surrounded myself with for so long – and these people actually want to listen to me! At first, I handled all of my own PR, publicity, and inbound interest, but I’ve since hired someone to handle that for me. I’ve been all over the country, from New Orleans to San Antonio to Santa Clara, as well as over to Europe, and the reception has been incredible.
One thing that is really resonating with those I’m working with is the theory of transparent negotiating. This basically says that you shouldn’t hide what you really want in a negotiation. Play your cards face-up, be open and honest about what you can offer, and you’ll be able to start negotiating based on real value, not perceived value.
Now that your book has been out in the wild for a few months, can you share some of the feedback from sales teams that have implemented transparent selling or negotiating?
Since the book has only been out for around three months, sales teams are really just getting started. Everyone I’ve talked to wants to know about transparent negotiation, which makes sense because traditional negotiation is so stuck in the past. When it comes to SaaS negotiating, it’s so simple: you just have to learn the basics, but then you can put them into play an hour later. Transparent negotiation in SaaS deals should be an area of instant value that increases deal sizes and deal forecasts in near real-time.
One reason that it’s taking some companies a bit longer to get up and running with transparent selling is that it requires the help of other departments, namely marketing. Transparent selling is about embracing the flaws and shortcomings of a product, but not to an extent that it’s detrimental to a brand. Marketing makes it possible to bring this ‘flawed’ messaging into the overall brand voice, and they can create content for reps to lead with this message in a prospect conversation.
What has been the biggest surprise during the book launch process?
While I don’t think I would go back and add anything to the book, I have been able to identify the ‘core tenants’ of The Transparency Sale message:
- Consumers are inherently wired to resists outside influence.
- When humans buy anything with medium-high consideration, we want to be able to predict what our experience will be, which is why we seek out reviews.
- Consumers make decisions based on emotions and then back them up with logic, but B2B buyers are looking for certainty in their decisions.
In the world of B2B sales, there is no way to create certainty if you’re just pretending everything is perfect. The book is about how transparency sells better than perfection, but after talking about it for a few months I’m finding some other areas of interest.
One new area he’s now researching is around the brain science of sales motivation. Specifically, sales compensation plans. Traditional sales compensation plans are “reactive”, in that sellers typically close a deal, then determine how much they’ll be paid for it afterwards. When the check comes sixty days later, there’s an endorphin rush, but it doesn’t motivate behavior…it merely satisfies it.
What is your perception of how the SaaS industry has changed in the last few years that has made selling harder than it used to be?
A couple of years ago I read an article on the top-ranked sales books of all time. I found that of the 20 books on the list, five of them were published between 1982 and 1985 while the other 15 were published within the last 10 years. This makes sense because, while the early 1980s represented the beginning of the ‘information age’, 2008 was the informal beginning of the ‘digital age’. Both of these eras required a new way of thinking, and now we’re entering yet another new era of sales.
Salespeople on their own can’t keep up with the incredible innovation in the industry, which is how sales enablement has become a department on its own. Now, these enablers and trainers can’t even keep up. The buying power is completely in the consumer’s hand because they can use online information and education to predict what their customer experience will be like without ever speaking to a sales rep. The transparency sale method is so important because it harnesses this proliferation of reviews in the B2B space and helps sellers connect with buyers on a deeper level outside of this ‘review-centric’ conscious.
Have you received any ‘Unexpected Honesty’ from buyers of your book?
The feedback has been incredibly eye-opening so far. In the book, the ‘unexpected honesty’ from sales reps is that buyers don’t expect you to reveal your flaws just out in the open. When a salesperson brings these flaws up on their own, it’s unexpected, refreshing, and disarms any resistance buyers might have.
One really funny thing is that my current review on Amazon is a 4.8 – almost a perfect 5! But in all honesty, the feedback so far has been incredible. I’m so humbled by the response and positive feedback and I’m so excited to continue sharing the Transparency Sale message with more teams over the next few months.
You can buy The Transparency Sale here.
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