Digital Chatter Episode #012: Brendan Alen Barrett
Eric: Hello and welcome everyone to today’s Digital Chatter. I’m Eric Sharpe and we have our guest today Brendan Alen Barrett. He is a sales coach, trainer, and a podcaster, and a father and he’s going to tell you a little bit more about himself. So Brendan take it away.
Brendan: Hey, thanks Eric. Thanks for having me. Yeah, so I do a bit of training. I do a bit of coaching. Hm, probably.. The people that I work with most are entrepreneurs, early stage entrepreneurs or people who own larger businesses and either they need help selling themselves because they’ve got a craft and that craft is out selling. Right. But they need customers. Or they’re trying to grow their sales effort by adding sales people or adding sales development reps to help feed opportunities to their salespeople.
Brandan: But probably what I’m most excited about lately is my podcast project which started out as Facebook Live and we’re getting ready to ramp and launch to iTunes. But that’s The Business of Family and Selling and that kind of marries my two worlds, my home life my professional life. And on that show we talk about the shared experiences of people who either sell for a living as people or run their own organization. And you know the dynamics of being a family first seller, somebody who’s got kids, a spouse to, you know, that they want to show their affection and love and support to. But also a business that’s also kind of maybe their baby or a book of business that they need to grow and nurture. And how do they either balance or integrate the two.
Eric: That’s awesome. And I’m looking here at your bio on her Website you’ve got your beautiful son. Right?
Brendan: Yes. Yes.
Eric: And so you know you’re in Phoenix, correct? So you live and work in Phoenix and I
Brendan: Yes, sir.
Eric: Checking out your, you know, we’ve checked out your stuff before the interview but you know tell me kind of how you got started with all of this. I mean what’s the background? You didn’t really start out by doing sales in the beginning, did you?
Brendan: Well my first.. I guess my first sales training was my junior year of college. I accepted an offer to do one of those Student painter internships, I was actually working with student painters which is basically it’s an opportunity for kids college students to learn the skills of entrepreneurship through the exercise of managing and running a branch of an exterior painting business. So that was my first sales training. Once that summer was done after, you know, being in charge of going out finding the work, selling the work, organizing the work, managing the production, closing out the projects.
Brendan: I went, I got a job selling at RadioShack you know commission retail sales. Upon graduating from college where I started pursuing a degree in econ and then decided I didn’t want to go to graduate school right away so I switched to communications with an emphasis of PR. But then upon graduation moved to California thinking I was going to get a job in marketing communications you know start low level work my way up couldn’t find a gig, first serious offer I got was a sales gig in construction and so I’ve been working in sales ever since. About a year or so after landing in California relocated to sunny Phoenix and..
Eric: There must have been a reason behind that. What was the reason for relocating?
Brendan: Better salary. So I was working you know, as an employee salesperson and they had an opening in the territory, they wanted to you know expand, put a new office but they needed the revenue base to fund a new office and new equipment in the area. So they wanted to put somebody there permanently because for half the time I lived in California I was splitting my time between a territory from basically Long Beach up to Ventura and then the entire state of Arizona. So I was back and forth, back and forth, and then the boss man came in and said “Brendan I think it’s time for you to move”. And I said how much. And he gave me a number and I said OK.
Eric: That’s awesome. It is nice when the boss comes to you like that. Sometime the boss doesn’t come to you like that. Hey you know I got some extra money I’m dangling a little carrot here. Are you ready for it.
Brendan: Yeah. So I landed in Arizona continued to work. Kind of bounced between independent sales reps, so 100 percent commission and employee with a couple different organizations marketing firms, contractors. And about two years ago, year and a half, two years ago I kinda, I cut the umbilical cord and I said I’m going to do it myself. You know I love working with people that I’m working with but it doesn’t allow me to do all of the things that I want to do. You know our lives overlap, our missions overlap in certain ways but not in others. And so to be an employee doesn’t make a lot of sense for me. I started dabbling in content marketing, started to work on those communication skills, mass communications, and public relations skills and writing skills that I had basically parked since college right, uh started..
Eric: You picked that book back. You’re trying to take a look at, you know hey look I got a little bit of free time here I’m kind of you know able to handle this job just fine. Let’s maybe pick up my skills.
Brendan: Well what I what I realized, and this is about the time that my son was born, was that you know this hustle mindset, this working 10-12 hours a day to compensate for my lack of experience and skills as a salesperson. Well it was working and I was performing and outperforming a lot of my peers who had been around a lot longer. It wasn’t sustainable. Right. There was no more hours in the day, and in fact, becoming a father meant there was less hours in the day and so trying to find ways to continue to grow my book of business, continue to grow my book business in a way that was more scalable.
Brendan: That meant not just putting in more hours but working smarter rather than harder. So that again momentum could continue and then I kind of got on the kick. Well I’m still even so I’m still very much self-employed not building a business and so I started to move the way of building a business and offering more services other than just, you know, closing deals for people, finding opportunities for them to sell their thing. Started to put out other offers and ultimately that’s where coaching, and consulting, and training came about was you know I had started this blog it was started in Phoenix was an experiment you know in my own education as far as content marketing goes.
Brendan: That took a pivot towards sales because it started out very much professional development. Very vanilla, very bland. Turns out the people who are most interested in that kind of content are wantrepreneurs, entrepreneurs and sales people so we made a pivot as people are starting to ask questions about prospecting and follow up and making cold calls and you know should I be making cold calls. How should I be selling over social media. How should you know how do I get in front of the people without you know totally expending all of my bandwidth. Because a lot of folks, again especially the wantrepreneurs and early stage entrepreneurs, you know they’re the doers seller, right. They’ve got to sell the thing and then they’ve got to do the thing. And when you split your focus you know that that can be tough. So again..
Eric: It’s extremely difficult. Yeah. I mean I- we’ve all done it I think at some point in time if you are an entrepreneur. But the ones that eventually wise up to the game they realize okay, I’m either good at doing the thing or I’m either good at selling the thing. You know I got to hire someone to do the thing I’m bad at doing, you know.
Brendan: Yeah. And so I’ve done a couple of different things for a couple of different, you know, for different folks right. And so for some of them it’s you know I’m so early on, I need to, I need to learn some of these skills so that I can get myself to a point of cash flow that I can outsource. And other folks it’s I know how to do this. I just, I don’t have the bandwidth, we have sold all this stuff and I know if the prospecting activity stops or the marketing activity stops that we’re going to finish these contracts and not have anything to replace it. Right. So we need to outsource. We need to do it now.
Brendan: And then other folks either they’re at a similar point. But they’re big enough to be able to shoulder the expense of hiring people full-time to do that. But again they’re not the all star sales person. They don’t have the bandwidth to train. And so either I’m training them to sell for themselves or I’m helping them, I’m taking some of that workload and putting them into more meetings. So they can focus on a higher level conversation rather than all of the phone tag, email, social media things that take to qualify a person and get the permission to sell and then set up that first meeting or discovery call. And then there are other folks who again want to do that all in-house but need somebody to help get the ball rolling and keep their team sharp by revisiting those ideas and being the mirror so that they can see their own blind spots.
Eric: So I’ve got a question for you. So say you’re an entrepreneur, you know, it’s just you and only you. Maybe, maybe you got a virtual assistant, maybe you have a spouse helping you out, you know maybe on the backend, finances or something like that. But you know how do you find out whether you’re good at one or the other thing? You know, I’m sure you’ve trained enough people where you realize look at a certain point you’re just not a good salesperson, you’re better at hammering a hammer. So how do you find these things out?
Brendan: I think, really. You could become good at whatever you want to be good at, right. I mean we all have natural aptitudes but it really comes down to what excites you. You know what challenges you in a flashy way. And you know if something is exciting and challenging to you, you’re going to want to drop, jump down that rabbit hole in trade the nuance for the next- of that that one area for the you know the next shiny thing that comes along and you can get really good at it.
Brendan: Typically an entrepreneur has already identified that thing that they want to get really good at and it’s not sales. I mean if you’re me. So it’s sales and selling stuff, right. But for other folks it’s you know they’re an accountant, or they’re a content creator, or they’re an editor or you know they’ve got the skill set. This is something that they’ve worked on for a while and they’ve probably done it for somebody else. Now they want to go out on their own either out of necessity because you know they’ve become too high priced to continue to work for somebody else or they have a bigger vision than the people they can find work with. So they want to go do it themselves.
Brendan: You know if if that’s the case, yeah probably learned some things about sales and marketing so that you can manage your own marketers and your own sales people. But you don’t need to be the all star sales person,. right because your skill set, you know you only have the bandwidth to be good at some of these things.
Eric: This is very true. Yeah. Especially as a father and a family man, it’s definitely definitely tough. So tell me a little bit more about why you do what you do. You know what’s the whole point of doing all this? You know, what are you trying to leave on this earth so to speak?
Brendan: Well I try to run my life and run my business on a few pretty simple principles. You know I want to be I want to be a helpful guy. I want to be you know a guy who brings value to the table to every working relationship. You know I don’t want to be a leech. I want to be able to help people get where they’re going you know through this set of core competencies that I have. I also want to be you know ultra transparent. I also you know there may come a point where our lives don’t match up or our businesses don’t overlap in the way that they once did. And we need to go our separate ways. I would like to- I would like to know that the work that we did together is not lost that from that work you have a foundation in which you can catapult yourself to the next thing, with the next person or completely on your own.
Brendan: So you know whether I’m doing training you know there’s a lot of things built in for customer success after the engagement is over. But then you know if I’m doing outsourced legion or prospecting activity for somebody you know we’re going through the process of building lists, and doing a bunch of research and setting you know scripts and everything else to start these conversations and queue people up for higher level sales conversations. Regardless of our results, those things are typically deliverable as well. So you’re growing a database that you can then use to you know cycle into your more formal email marketing rather than sales email messages, or you know carry on the prospecting activity yourself, in-house or with the next person that you decide you’re going to contract with to take that activity.
Eric: Okay. So Brendan this sounds a lot like you know what you’re you know what you’re trying to do like business wise and that’s great and that’s something you’re going to know. You’re a phenomenal growth artist, if you will. I mean you’re great in helping get people on the next level to the next step and you probably provide a lot of breakthroughs for a lot of people really. I’m still curious you know digging a little bit deeper into more of personal passions and everything. You know it’s like you know you got a picture of your kid here you know in this photo here and in your “about me”. You know, what.. You know really there is no such thing as sales anymore. You know what. You know what really drives you ultimately? I mean, what is what is kind of one of your higher purposes?
Brendan: Yeah I mean I get really excited about learning about things you know. As a kid, you know, I wrestled from like kindergarten or first grade all the way through my freshman year of college right. And you know I was always diving down that rabbit hole trying to pull back the layers and find new things new ways of doing things that were easier or more effective than the last way to do the thing. And you know business is kind of that sport, and sales is kind of that sport that I’ve traded up for. Right.
Eric: A new challenge. Every day is a new challenge.
Brendan: Yeah I mean I love spending time with my family. You know my little boy just turned 3 here in August. And you know that’s super exciting. Lindsey and I, my fiance, we’re getting married here in November. That’s a pretty exciting milestone.
Eric: Congrats, yeah!
Brendan: It’s going to be an opportunity to bring the family together. You know, because I live here in Arizona. I’m 3000 miles away from my parents. Lindsay’s immediate family. You know her brothers, her sister, her mom and grandma all live here in Arizona. But much of the extended family actually lives in Arizona. She was born in the same state I was born, we met here 27 years later. And so like bringing the family together gets me excited, having excuses to bring everybody together and have that connection that and that and learning those are things that really excite me.
Brendan: And so you know in the grand scheme of things doing more of that is what Lindsey and I are trying to set up. And so I try to do it on a micro level everyday in my business. But I also try to organize my business to allow me to do it on a much larger scale as we move up and get bigger. I moved 3000 miles away from my parents. My kids are going to move at least 6000 miles away from me. So Lindsay and I have to find a way to fund traveling to see them on a weekly basis.
Eric: There you go, set it up right, sure. Brendan tell me what are some of the pitfalls you see when you coach people and tell people about you know developing a family business. Because back in the day, you know, 50 plus years ago family businesses were more common. You would eventually learn and do what your father or mother did. But nowadays it’s becoming more and more rare. You know, maybe answered this in a two part question you know why do you think family business kind of drifted away? And then what are some of the pitfalls for people who are trying to start family businesses now?
Brendan: So like I had an interesting conversation about this with Tony Vantaa on my show a couple of weeks ago and he grew up in a family business, you know went out to do his own thing and started helping his mom with her latest business. It ultimately got to a point where they had to close the thing down and help all their employees find new work. So he’s seen the pluses the same the negatives. Now he’s doing his own thing. His fiance works with him part-time and the other part of the time she’s working in her family’s business and they’re trying to transition her into that into their business together, right fulltime.
Brendan: And you know, to be honest, like a family business for me scares the daylights out of me. And I, you know and I, and I’ve been advised by certain folks you know don’t bring your spouse into the business. Don’t bring these people that you have to go home to into the business because you’re not going to be able to unplug. What happens at work yeah it’s stressful but like going home to you know a completely different environment helps you recharge and be excited for the next day. So don’t mix them because you’re never going to have that opportunity to recharge and get excited again.
Brendan: So there’s a couple of different things there. I think what, the more I learn about myself I think my fear is trying to plug a family member into the business just because they’re family is a recipe for disaster. And so like you know that anxiety that I get about plugging family members into my business comes from well there’s not really a good fit for them, either ever or yet. Like the things that get them really excited that doesn’t exist over here yet. And so like plugging them in doesn’t make a lot of sense it’s just going to create stress.
Eric: Sure. That’s good advice.
Brendan: And you know, I think in and you know I’m not a historian but my gut tells me that people have gotten away from family businesses for that reason. Kids grow up. They want a job. They get hired, so they don’t have to go out look for work elsewhere. Like if the kids don’t have the skill to be plugged in and the parents don’t have the time to teach them that skill like they should go work for somebody else who has the time to teach them that skill. And if that evolves over time into something that gets them excited that they can plug into the business then great. But if it doesn’t happen nobody should be upset about it either. Right.
Eric: That’s true. That’s true. And you know certainly there’s plenty of doctors who want their kids to be doctors. You know they don’t want to do that. They want to be a lawyer. They want to be an artist, whatever.
Brendan: Yeah. And that’s you know I focus a lot of things through the lens of sales and marketing and business development right. And so that core principle there like what do you want to do? What’s going to get you excited? What’s going to you know age you and being greedy? Allow you to withstand, have the perseverance through the not so awesome times and the grind that is inevitable and anything that you pursue. Sometimes the sun doesn’t shine.
Brendan: And if you’re not totally on fire about this thing you’re not going to be able to get to that sun in your day, you’re just going to call it quits and you get to go do something else or you’re you know you’re just going to implode. Right. And so when I worked with folks about sales or you know prospecting activity you know I start with why. Why is this important. What do you want to accomplish. From there we’re going to orient our activity to feed that higher purpose because when that happens and you see momentum towards that thing that fire is going to grow. Right. And the bigger that fire gets the more you’re going to be able to withstand the time when there isn’t all that much wood, defeated fire. Right. Because it’s bigger. It Is already big enough to withstand. So I don’t know if that was too woo-woo for ya, but..
Eric: Totally get it and I’m sure that some of the people watching get it as well. So that’s awesome. Well you know first of all thanks so much for coming on here. Do you have any kind of wise wisdom words you want to leave us or you know what. What would you tell yourself 5, 10 years ago that you wish you had known?
Brendan: I guess five, ten years ago. It would be you know find opportunities to step outside your comfort zone. You know, for me growing up in a blue collar family and having you know immigrant relatives and all these people who you know didn’t work in sales didn’t have- there weren’t a lot of white collar folks around. Like sales people were dirty people. They were slimy. Everybody had that image of Danny DeVito and Matilda. You know the used car salesmen that nobody wants to deal with, who’s conning people into cars that they don’t want or you know paying too much for a lemon, like that was the idea that I had and because of that I was afraid to initiate conversations. Like sales, especially like pre-sales activity, prospecting activity like that’s a fact finding mission. You’re out there to learn things. It’s really cool if you learn that hey this person has a problem I can fix and they’ve got the money to fix it. Like we could do business. But that’s not the only victory from starting the conversation. I learn about them, I learn about how I can better target you know new prospects. I learn about questions that I’m going to have to answer that’s going to help me land in a real sales conversation, a discovery phase sooner.
Brendan: But that starts with you know saying no to the mental junk and putting yourself in that uncomfortable situation that that just beyond your comfort zone. And if you do that every day or at least every week you’re going to see progress, you’re going to see momentum. And in my world you’re going to close more deals. You’re going to find more opportunities, close more deals and be able to grow those accounts over and over and over again.
Eric: Perfect. That’s perfect. Thank you so much Brendan. So how can people follow you? Where do they go to get in touch with you?
Brendan: So every- just about every week we stream episodes of The Business Family and Selling live to Facebook so you can like us at Start in PHX on Facebook. And of course you can comment and ask questions as we’re live or folks can actually submit questions for future episodes by stopping by Start in Phoenix. So that’s startinphx.com/family. And when you actually submit a question to be answered at a future episode of the show you actually get access to my 7 days sales challenge which walks you through a lot of what we’ve talked about. Starting with why, who you are. What’s important to you. What you should be selling based on that. Who you should be selling it to and how you should be going about this the task of selling.
Brandan: And then you know how do you take your current offer and add lower rung offer, you know break it down into a lower rung offers so you can get paid to sell your bigger offer or your main offe,r and how you can grow those accounts beyond what your primary offer today is so that you, again, can sell more and more. Increase your revenue by focusing on a few folks you can help really well and selling them more things that they appreciate, at a higher price point rather than having to pull your hair out running around trying to sell more of the same nickel and dime deals to people who don’t appreciate you, don’t appreciate your time and don’t really appreciate your thing. So you get free access to that at startinphx.com/family when you submit a question to be answered on a future episode of the business of family and so on.
Eric: Awesome. Thanks so much Brendan. Appreciate you being on the show.
Brendan: Thanks Eric. It was a pleasure.