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Sales Leadership
PODCAST TRANSCRIPT: Leadership, “Interview with Jamie Shanks - Managing Rejection and Embracing Resilience to Become a Top Sales Pro”
May 19, 2017 | Canadian Professional Sales Association, Leadership Series lock
Tim Baker: 

Rejection and resilience. Two very important challenges that we all face from time to time, both professionally and personally. Learning how to manage rejection and embrace resilience early in life will better prepare you for your development as a sales leader.

Today’s workforce has multiple generations working together. If leaders work together to identify skills gaps and take the time to share experiences and learn from each other, we can be more productive and create a lasting culture.

Tim Baker: 

Our guest today is Jamie Shanks

Jamie is one of North America’s leading Social Selling experts. He has personally built Social Selling solutions in nearly every industry, ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 corporations.

Before starting his first sales agency, Toronto-based Jamie was the Director of Sales at two software companies. Jamie has trained 1,000’s of sales professionals from Fortune 500 companies to solopreneurs.

Tim Baker:

Jamie, welcome to the Leadership Series Podcast, brought to you by the CPSA. Happy to have you with us today.

Jamie Shanks:

Thank you so much for the invite.

Tim Baker:

Jamie, could you tell our listeners, tell us a bit about your career path and why you wanted to pursue a career in sales.

Jamie Shanks:

I actually didn't want to pursue a career in sales. I wanted to be a Stock Broker and I was convinced that being a Stock Broker was not being a Sales Professional, but I remember, when I was in grade nine, it was student follows their parent to work day.

My mother was a Neonatal Nurse and my father was a Geologist and neither of those paths I wanted to take, but my father's best friend was a Stock Broker, for now called, BMO Nesbitt Burns, then called Burns Fry, and I used to volunteer there. I used to hang out in their office. I would dress the part.

I was convinced I was going to be a Stock Broker. That was my introduction and I had only, through working at BMO Nesbitt Burns, recognized that I didn't need to be a broker of stock, I was a sales professional dressed really nicely, talking about stuff as practice and it changed my perspective.

Tim Baker:

Interesting. That's very interesting. Tell us, from that point until now, how did your career path take you to where you are now?

Jamie Shanks:

I was working at BMO Nesbitt Burns. I was 23 years old and I watched the boom and the bust of the dot com 2000 boom and crash and I actually remember how and why I decided to leave. I was working as a Junior Broker and one of the Brokers I was supporting, I don't know what they had been doing with somebody's account, but long of the short is, I was watching people who had no business being in the technology space of the stock market, lose a lifetime's savings and it disenfranchised me with the whole process and that same time, a friend had reached out and said, "Hey, do you want to go do your MBA?" And I said, "Wow, that sounds great. I'll do anything to get out of here," so moved to Australia, lived there for two years, did my masters in Adelaide, Australia.

Again, it was in marketing. It had nothing to do with sales and when I came back to Canada, I moved to Toronto, I needed a job so bad and I begged my way into a job into a corporate real-estate company. Basically, they had turned me down. I had six interviews. They kept saying no, I was too junior.

I actually got dressed one morning, watched the Receptionist leave her front post, walked through the office, walked into the CEO's office and stood there and he was grabbing a squash bag trying to leave the room and I said, "I'm the guy you've interviewed six times. I want to work here. I'll do whatever it takes. I'll start on the phones. You don't have to give me the same title as everybody else," and he said, "Okay, walk with me," so I walked with him from his office to the Cambridge Club and that whole way, I basically begged him like a dog. I said, "Give me a job. Give me a job. Give me a job, and he did and it turned out that I had a knack for selling and it started, being able to sell myself.

Tim Baker:

Right. Sounds like it. A lot of people, I've found in my experience too that, and I'll be the first one to say, "Ah. I'm not very good at sales," but people will say, "You know what? You are, because you sell yourself very well and if you can do that ... " because if you know yourself well enough, I think that's, in my opinion, that's a great foundation.

That's interesting and I've heard a few stories in the past too, about people who have said, "You know. I wanted to work at that company so bad, that I just marched right into the Executive or the CEO's office" and said, "Here's why you need to hire me," or "Here's why I should be working here and you know what? It works sometimes, to take that direct route and really pitch and sell yourself, so that's an interesting story. I like that.

Jamie Shanks:

I appreciate it.

Tim Baker:

Tell us a little bit about, in your opinion, what are the characteristics of a successful leader in sales?

Jamie Shanks:

A successful leader in sales, and I've only discovered this over time, is recognize that not everybody needs to use the same playbook you used, to be successful. I guess that's been one of the biggest changes that I've seen as myself, go from Quota Carrying Sales Professional to a Sale's Leader, to then a CEO.

My playbook, if you look at the personas in the book 'The Challenger Sale,' there are five types of sellers, from the lone wolf to the hard worker to the challenger to the relationship person, I'm the classic hard worker. I grew up in farm country. I worked on farms. I cut grass. I just could log more calls, cut more lawns, work longer hours than other people. Doesn't mean I work smarter and, in fact, I'd be the first to admit I wasn't working smarter, but that was what made me successful.

What made me successful is, I came into the office on Saturdays ad Sundays and created prospecting lists, so that I was prepared on Mondays, where my colleagues weren't doing that, but I've recognized in my own sale's staff, that if I were to try and instill my playbook in them, most of them wouldn't make it, but they've found their own playbook, that has made them successful.

The ones that can't find any playbook to be successful, of course, need to leave, so it's recognizing that, even though you, the sales professional, were a great net-worker and that's what made you amazing, so you think that everybody else should be the same as you, that's not the case. I think that would be the most fundamental lesson that a leader could learn, learn about how to manage people.

Tim Baker:

I'm going to ask you to draw a little bit on your past, all of your past experience, and tell us a little bit about, in your opinion, what are some challenges that the young sales professional that's just starting in their career or on their way, what are some of the challenges they might face early, in the early stages?

Jamie Shanks:

Resilience and rejection and sometimes in the office, we joke about millennials versus Gen X. I'm born in 1978, so I'm a Gen X and we all tease and razz each other, but there's clearly these generalizations exist because there's some half truth to them and one of the things that I'm seeing in the newer crop of sales professionals, is the ability to handle rejection and the need for getting punched in the face day after day and still being energized enough to get back on the horse and keep doing it.

If you don't mind, I'll tell it through a story and this is the difference between somebody that is willing to go that extra mile and those that aren't and I think that's what makes a successful sales professional. I was six months on the job in a corporate real-estate engagement and we had landed a proposal or an engagement with one of the largest deals that that company would do, our corporate real-estate company would do, all year and the deal that commissioned was large enough, it was going to be six figures. It would pay off my MBA debt. I would be in a great financial position. I would be making six figures a year at 25 years old. Things were looking great.

The CEO and I, on a Saturday morning, had to go to the industrial space that was hundreds of thousands of square foot industrial building that we were negotiating and we had our customer and we had the land owner on this plot of land in the morning on a Saturday and I don't know how it happened, but our customer and that land lord got in an actual fist fight in front of us. I don't know how it happened.

Our customer pulled me into the back of his Audi A8L and he turned around and he only said two words, Donald Trump style, "You're fired," and I went home, I'm sitting on the couch and my roommate's looking at me, I'm sulking in my cereal, it's so early in the morning and he said, "What are you doing? Get up. Go earn his business back," and I credit him, he gave me the idea. He said, "I want you to go to the liquor store. I want you to buy the most expensive bottle of scotch you could afford and then I want you to drive to that guy's house and apologize."

I went to the liquor store, I bought a hundred dollar bottle of malt or whatever it was, drove to King City in the gated community outside of Toronto, hopped the gated community fence, walked up his lane way and he way sitting in a bath robe smoking a cigar. He smiled and laughed at me, brought me into the backyard, we had a drink and rehired me. I realized that there are people who that either fight or flight and the summary here is. I think generationally, I'm seeing a group of sales professional that aren't willing to put on the boxing gloves, as much as generations before them, as a generalization.

Tim Baker: That's a great story by the way. That is a risk/reward thing again too, but when you look at it, what did you have to lose?

Jamie Shanks: Right. If you're making zero, the only thing you have left is time and so, making even a dollar more, is better than your current situation.

Tim Baker: Right. Right.

Jamie Shanks: Yeah.

Tim Baker:

I think that's interesting you bring up as a generalization in generations, certainly with young kids too, in school, there seems to be less and less learning around failure or rejection. Now, maybe I'm off. Maybe that's a generalization. Maybe it's an older generation looking at the younger generation and making assumptions and stereotypes and whatever, but I do think there is something to that, that maybe the younger generation has not experienced enough failure and chances to experience failure, that it's not going to shatter your world.

It's just learning what it means to not have something go your way and then you either make the decision to get back up on the horse or walk away and then, to learn to deal with whatever natural consequences come from either one.

Jamie Shanks:

Yeah. Totally agree.

Tim Baker:

Let's shift a little bit here. You speak, and this actually is a good Segway into it, you speak often about the skills gap between generations with regards to social media and technology. I've watched some of your videos and listened to and read some of your stuff, so tell us, how can the young tech and social savvy sales leader help close the skills gap that might exist within their own organization, that they see, they observe?

Jamie Shanks:

Yeah. I was at a LinkedIn sales connect event recently ad it is a misnomer, that your younger millennials will naturally be better social or digital sellers, than as your older sales professional. For me, at 38, I'm what we call in the industry, a digital immigrant. It means that I was not born with an iPad in my hand.

I had to learn that skill, whereas, my 20-something counterparts actually leveraged these tools in high school, in college, so the long of the short is, you as a tech leader, you're sitting here and you employ people who are younger than you and you employ people that are older than you and you have to recognize that both have opportunities and then skill gaps.

The opportunity for the older generation and in fact, what LinkedIn proved through a study, was that those over the age of 40 were capable of outperforming their peers, who are younger, if they learned the skill of being social and digital because their networks ... This is a game of people to people relationships. At the end of the day, people buy from people they like, trust and so forth, so the long of the short is, those that are over 40 have friends, have colleagues, have past acquaintances, that are all in power positions. If they learn to mechanize the relationships, it becomes powerful.

The advantage for the younger sales professional is clear, that this is easier to indoctrinate into your day to day cadence, so if they learn how to centralize that process and minimize the distraction, that's the big part. What we teach is, social selling routine, that if they can condense what they were probably doing in four hours, to do it in 30 minutes and to harness that power into something meaningful, that means that they leave more time in their day for core other selling skills and that's where you can also improve that skill gap.

Now, you've improved the strengths of both. For the older generation, it's learn to harness and mechanize relationships. Then, for the younger generation, it's basically, centralize that laser beam and concentrate it into something meaningful. Then, you've got a powerful workforce that could be social and digital.

Tim Baker:

Like yourself, I'm a Gen X. I'm a digital immigrant. I am very social, tech savvy, social savvy, that was something that is very important to me and I made it a priority to learn. It was important for me as a consultant to leverage social media as a way to network and to meet people and to get involved in conversations. I started out most of my social media networking on a professional basis, not so much personal.

I know that the digital natives, the younger generations, will likely already through social media, have personal networks. As they transition into their professional career, how, in your opinion, can they leverage that network that they already have, that's probably the majority of it's personal based, how can they transition that or leverage that to lead into referral-based selling, in your opinion? Give us some thoughts on that.

Jamie Shanks:

I'm going to give you a really great tactic, so here's a tactic that they can deploy: Most of those sales professionals went to college or university, at each one of those college and universities, people before them had shared a life experience.

I'm going to use myself as an example. I went to the University of Ottawa for my undergrad. At the University of Ottawa, every single profession, it doesn't matter the degree, for generation, drank and ate chicken wings at a place called Father's and Son's, tens of thousands of people a year, every year for generations, and if I were to even just mention the naming Father's and Son's in an email, or in a voicemail, or in a social message, to an Alumni of the University of Ottawa, they would laugh, giggle and bring up the fondest memories.

I'm a young sales professional who just graduated from Queens, or from Western, or from Wealth, or where ever it is, the reality is, that there are people who have walked a mile in the same shoes you have, just at different ties in their lives.

There's a tool within LinkedIn, it's under my network and you can drop down and it says, "Find Alumni," and it allows you to dissect the school you went to and you can sort by any city in the world, any company in the world, any current job title in the world and now all of a sudden you can pinpoint, either a named account or pinpoint an industry or geographic node that you want to focus on, say, "Okay. My named account is Oracle. I want to see if there's any university of Alumni that work at Oracle," and in fact, there's right now, 82 people.

There are 82 people in the Oracle ecosystem that could help me and be an advocate to get me in the door and my conversation starter is going to be something with what we call is within their sphere of influence. It means that it has a personal connection to them and that's going to be at the university level, so that's where you could start. You might sit there and say, "Well, I just graduated school. What value could I bring?" The value you could bring is that you have a brother and sisterhood of people who also shared a life experience with you, that you could use as a door opener.

Tim Baker:

That's a great story. You know what? I can relate to that. I go to a lot of networking events and that sort of thing and a lot of times, my first conversation with someone, even if I didn't know them previously, or maybe I did and I found something in common, "Oh, you went to this school?" Or "You worked here just before I did," or whatever, is that our conversation starts on something that we have in common and it has nothing to do with whatever it is that, services or products that I eventually want to either sell to them, or have them get me in the door, the conversation is around something tat we have in common. I love that answer and I can relate to that specifically.

Jamie Shanks:

The younger generation sales professional will not have lived through this era. I was on the tail-end of this era, but I was still the boots on the ground, meaning every meeting I took was in a physical board room or an office, before the era of digital. You probably saw it in movies, but when you walked into somebody's office, you were taught, look around. Do you see a golf bag? Do you see a little toy Ferrari? What do you see that you can humanize the conversation?

For me, as a car nut, I would pray that every meeting I took, I walked in there and there was some model car or some photo of a car that I could talk about because it was something that I was passionate about and I knew they were and we could steer the conversation away for a brief moment, humanize ourselves and then talk business.

Tim Baker:

That's a huge part of it. Thank you for that. Can you share with us, I'm just looking at the time, share with us a little bit how our listeners can reach out to you, how they can connect with you, which I think is probably obvious, but

Jamie Shanks:

Yeah. You can connect with me on LinkedIn and Twitter. Our company, so we've built the world's largest sales training curriculum on the topic of social selling, so we help sales and marketers around the world become more digitally savvy to book meetings, drive business, create greater depth in accounts and you can reach out LinkedIn and Twitter, but as well, we have just published a book called 'Social Selling Mastery.' You can get it at and connect with us that way as well.

Tim Baker:

Wonderful. Jamie, thank you so much for taking the time today to share your thoughts and insights and experience with us. I know that our audience will value this, for sure, so thank you very much for your time.

Jamie Shanks:

Thank you for the invite and I hope I can come on at another time.

Tim Baker:

Absolutely and to our listeners, thank you so much for listening. This has been the Leadership Podcast series, brought to you by the CPSA. Talk to you next time.
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