Future-Proofing Sales: How to Become Indispensable in the Age of AI with John Barrows

We’re back this week with a special feature from another fearless leader in the game, Mr John Barrows. I’m writing to you from Hong Kong, after spending a busy week meeting with 40+ local family offices, institutions, and HNI’s to build bridges for the future of the fund and talk through the current VC landscape.

Such a surreal experience, and I couldn’t be more grateful for it.

Next stop, Bali🌴

Keep the list of must-do’s coming!

Alright, this Newsletter is a tad lengthier, so let’s jump right into it.

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We ran an internal GTMsession for our community last month with John Barrows and figured it may be valuable to share our learnings with our wider audience.

If you haven’t heard of the infamous John Barrows, he’s the CEO of Sell Better by JB Sales. It’s an organization focused on elevating the people and profession of sales through training, content and events. So do go make sure you check out one of their webinars. They have digital trainings and they really do train some of the world’s fastest growing sales teams like Salesforce, Zoom, LinkedIn, while also supporting a community of over 5,000 sellers.

And I know John, maybe you can touch on this a little bit more, but you hold this ethos and mantra to change the negative perception of sales and help sales professionals achieve success by doing it the right way. What does doing it the right way mean to you?

John

Yeah, I think that’s a subjective thing. I think sales at the end of the day is about helping people solve problems and achieve goals. And if you’re trying to convince anybody of anything in sales, I think you’re doing it wrong. So I think it’s about integrity, it’s about not being what the perception of sales is, right? That’s actually why I wrote the book with my daughter. I Want To Be In Sales When I Grow Up because no kid ever says that when they’re growing up because it’s such a negative perception and it’s an unknown. Yet it is the number one profession on the planet, and the unfortunate part is that it’s the default profession. We all go to school to get our degrees and then we realize either, oh, I don’t like this or I can’t make enough money doing it, so let me get into sales. And unfortunately we get into sales because there’s low barrier to entry, but we get very limited training.

I don’t want to go into too much long winded detail, but we are watching sales reps die a pretty painful death right now. And I mean the ones who are going through the motions… The ones who are acting like robots are getting replaced by robots, and we’re literally watching it as we speak. Look, SaaS has not really been that hard to sell in over the past ten years here. Let’s just be honest. Most reps could get away with blasting out a bunch of template, cadence emails, setting up demos, asking bant questions, droning through PowerPoint presentations, using their Solution Executive do the majority of the work, throwing a proposal and then offering a massive discount. That’s basically been the sales motion for the past ten years. And it’s been great, right? It’s been a lot easier just to be able to close that type of stuff. But now that things are retracting, and the economy is taking a downturn, specifically for the SaaS industry, we’re seeing that skipping those fundamentals is having a real impact because a lot of these reps now don’t know how to actually fundamentally sell.

Look, I’m not going to teach you how to negotiate. I actually think it’s insulting for somebody to say, “hey, after selling for 20 years, stop doing it that way, do it this way now”. It’s not what this is. What this is is for senior reps it’s going to be a mirror to your gut. Your gut tells you a deal is in good shape, Okay cool, let’s score it and see how that score marries up to how you feel about it. For junior reps, it’s legitimately going to be a roadmap. When they ask for this, ask for that. And then from a coaching standpoint, it’s going to give you something to objectively look at and have a conversation around as opposed to story time. Because those fundamentals are what’s going to get us to evolve here and save us from AI.

The image that we want is to be Iron Man / Iron Woman when it comes to sales because it’s the person, it’s the tech, and then it’s the AI. Using all three of those. We can now put ourselves in a position to fight this battle right now. But without those fundamentals it doesn’t work. So the two things I want to have make sure that everybody from a conceptual standpoint carries through this. One is context over content and the other is science over art.

I stole this one from Gary Vaynerchuk. I met him at his 4D session in New York and one of the things he says is, everybody talks about content is king, content is king. He says, fine, if content is king, then context is God. And that got me thinking about marketing and sales. Which is that Marketing is content, and Sales is context. If we as sales professionals are not putting any context around our content, we’re no different than marketing. And I have no idea why we’re getting paid to do what we do. Blasting out template, emails, that’s content. I don’t need a sales rep to do that. Droning through PowerPoint presentations, don’t need that either, right? Pressing play on demos, all that stuff is unnecessary at this point. Context is taking that marketing material that marketing comes up with and before it hits my inbox, telling me why you think it’s important to me, right? Sharing stuff on social, not just sharing an ebook, but what are your takeaways from that ebook and what are your questions about it?

So we need to think through of how to layer in context over everything here, because that’s where we can shine as humans. The data, the technology right now can take care of most of the content, and it’s getting more and more personalized. So that human element of context is going to be critical. What I want to focus a lot on is Science over Art.

Obviously, sales is a science and an art, right? But I think sales should be more of a science than an art. And the reason is because the science lays the foundation for the art form to be that much more effective. The structure, the process that we put in place, right, that allows our art form to be more effective. And one of the things somebody asked me recently, “John, if you could go back and tell your 22 year old self something, what would it be?” My number one answer to that was AB split test. Everything you do. And I mean that. So say you’re making cold calls. Say they’re going to CIOs in healthcare. Well, come up with two different messages to CIOs in Healthcare. Make 20 phone calls with this approach, make 20 phone calls with that approach. See which one yields a higher response rate. Subject lines say you’ve got one email that can go out to 50 people, break that up into 25 and 25, and tweak the subject line, see what happens.

There’s no rocket science to objection handling. It’s just science. You just write down an objection that you’re getting smoked on right now, and literally Google “best way of handling that objection”. Come up with two approaches that you like that fit your style.

That’s going to put us in a position where A, we can learn a lot faster, and B, you and the reps are going to be able to stay motivated.

You have to find ways of staying motivated. And being a scientist will do that. Because let’s paint this picture. Say you make 50 dials in a day and you get no meetings.

It’s a terrible day. 

But say you make 50 dials and you do 25 with one approach and 25 with another approach, and you still get no meetings.

To me, that’s not a bad day.

You just figured out two approaches that don’t work. Tomorrow you come and try a couple of new ones. If you could say at the end of the day that you learned something, you’ll get through this, and the reps will get through it better and learn more. So with that as context, next week we’re going to dive into negotiations, because I think a lot of people would find value in what it actually means to negotiate.

If I could leave you with one thing until next week is, if you haven’t already read Chris Voss’ book, Never Split the Difference, I highly highly highly suggest you do. There’s no better book to equip you with the ultimate guide to negotiating.


👀 More for your eyeballs


👂 More for your eardrums

We had Scott Leese on The GTM Podcast this week. Scott is a 6x Sales Leader, 4x Founder, 3x Author, a Sales Consultant, Advisor, Solopreneur, and Community Builder.


🚀 Start-ups to watch: 

Vanta has not only taken off on a rocket ship, but their CEO and Cofounder Christina Cacioppo also just made it on Forbes’ Richest Self-Made Women in America list this week👏. A wildly impressive and humble entrepreneur. Check out the full article👇


🔥Hottest GTM job of the week: 

Product Marketing Manager at Mutiny, more details here.

Check out more of our jobs here.


That’s it for this week!

Looking forward to digging deeper into negotiations with John Barrows next week.

Happy weekend.

Barker✌️

Before helping found GTMfund, Scott spent 4 years at Outreach as Director of Strategic Engagement. He was in charge of aligning key relationships with VCs, BoDs, ecosystem partners and community members to drive revenue and strategic initiatives across Outreach. Scott initially ran revenue/partnerships for Sales Hacker (which was acquired by Outreach in 2018). Prior to Sales Hacker, he led and built outbound Business Development teams at Payfirma and MediaValet. Scott also advises for a number of high growth start-ups and is the host/author of The GTM Podcast and The GTM Newsletter. At GTMfund, Scott leads all fundraising efforts and runs the media arm of the firm. He’s also responsible for assessing investments, team management, LP/community relationships and GTM support for founders.

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