This is a transcription of our interview with Chris Beall, CEO at ConnectAndSell.
You can watch the original video interview here or just tune in to this episode on our Risk Management Show podcast here or via iTunes, Spotify and other podcast apps by searching "Risk Management Show"
Boris: Hello ladies and gentlemen and welcome to out interview with Chris Beall.
Chris is a CEO at ConnectAndSell. The company is based in Silicon Valley and makes work from home for sales teams practical. ConnectAndSell gives managers perfect visibility, control, real-time coaching and continuous improvement - without violating anyone's privacy.
Today we will talk about entrepreneurship and risk-related things like privacy regulation facing sales and marketing professional.
Chris, thanks for coming to our interview today.
Chris: Absolutely. My pleasure,
Boris: Chris, tell us a short story about yourself, your entrepeneurial path and what you and you guys at ConnectAndSell are up to these days?
Chris: Sure, absolutely. Well, I'm one of those guys that doesn't make a great employee. And I figured that out fairly early in my career, I started my first entrepreneurial exercise when I was actually working at Martin Marietta, now Lockheed Martin, and I saw an opportunity to reduce risk actually of losing contracts, of not winning contracts, by training all of our software engineers in the latest programming languages that were demanded by the U S government in particular, the ADA programming language and the Unix development environment and Unix operating systems.
And my approach to doing that was a little unusual as a 27 year old engineer. I started my own department and it was kind of like starting my own company and we built the department up and it gave me my first taste of what it's like to do something pretty big, ended up with the building of my own and thousands of people going through the training and having lunch with Norm Augustine, the CEO once a month. And I got so interested in that sadly, maybe for them and me, maybe not, probably they got lucky and they dodged the bullet.
I went off and started doing software startup companies. And my view of all of that is pretty simple, which is if you're dissatisfied with almost everything, it's easy to find problems to fix. And the easiest way to address the problem was to start a company to go after it. And what I've learned along the way is, and ConnectAndSell is kind of the expression of this is that we spend way too much time and we take on way too much risk of building a product we don't know will sell.
And so the smart move, the low risk move is to sell the product before you build it. And that's really what I've learned along the way. And I teach that to everybody who is willing to listen, but guys who can write programs, gals who can write programs, they like writing programs more than they like selling. So they tend to build the product before they sell it. But so many things to me in entrepreneurship and in business and in life have to do with the sequence of operations. One sequence of operations will be expensive and risky, and the opposite might be low risk and low cost.
And we often don't ask ourselves what if we just did this in the opposite order, whatever it is. So instead of make products, sell product, what if we sold the product first and then make the product that sold, right? That's that's I think the big entrepreneurial question out there.
Boris: Chris, you are a sales guy and your product is mainly used by sales team. But we live in the risky world of a GDPR, TCPA and other regulations. So there is no shortage of Risk to be managed. Could you perhaps tell us what are the major risks in your organization and how are trying to manage and mitigate them?
Chris: Well, first I'll speak to GDPR and TCPA in the opposite order because TCPA is the older of the two and ConnectAndSell is effectively a solution to a problem that TCPA put in place. So TCPA says among its many other things, I'm not a lawyer, so I'm not telling anybody how to interpret TCPA mind. You see, I have to reduce risks by saying I'm not giving legal advice, but I'm describing something. My understanding of TCPA is that it forbids parallel dialing by something that's automated by a robo dialer.
You can't do three, four, five, six dials at a time. But in the modern world, since it's about 23 out of 24 phone calls after navigating a phone system will go to voicemail and voicemail is a dead letter box in business. If you don't know me and you leave me a voicemail, the chances of me listening to it and calling you back are so close to zero, has to be not worth calculating. So here we have this problem, right? Voicemail shows up as a ubiquitous feature in the business landscape around 2003, it becomes dominant by 2005.
I'll say that everybody lets their calls to go to voicemail as a means of screening. This results in a collapse of what I call it the administrator economy. The number of admins plummets, because voicemail takes over the number one role, which is screening calls, you just screen them later. But the screening of calls changes to essentially reject all calls unless it's from somebody you know.
So the phone, which is what we built the 20th century economy on, the ability to talk to people remotely and have an emotionally rich conversation with the human voice collapsed in 2005, unbeknownst to everybody.
So ConnectAndSell is formed in 2007 to bring the human conversation, the emotionally rich conversation back to business. So if we can’t build trust, all you have is Risk. I mean, if you don't trust somebody, your view is they're too risky to buy from. That's all there is to it in business because we Risk our careers when we buy a business. So ConnectAndSell is effectively the response to TCPA by putting humans in the loop on every single call.
So now instead of it being a robo dialer, it's humans navigating phone systems on your behalf, but they're specialists, all they do is navigate. They never talk to the target. They can listen to the target. Here, I'm on your list, I answer the phone, you're using ConnectAndSell. This is Chris. Boom. Next voice I hear is yours. Chris, Boris here, I know I'm an interruption. Can I have 27 seconds to tell you why I called? I got to shut. Go ahead and shoot Boris. Right? So now we're TCPA compliant because we've taken the problem of the robo dialer, which is illegal.
And by the way, it doesn't navigate phone systems or talk to the gatekeepers. We've enhanced it to navigate phone systems, talk to the gatekeepers and to be legal. So this is a technical response to a Risk situation, which we often have in business.
There's some technical response to the guys at Boeing, know a lot about technical responses to Risk situations in business. You can't buy an insurance policy against TCPA violations. If you're going to violate, willy-nilly, right, you got to do something about it. Your D&O insurance is only going to go so far if you are not mitigating.
So we are a mitigation. Think of us like antilock brakes. There is a point in the U S car industry where if you didn't have antilock brakes and you are a manufacturer, you could have had them and therefore you could become accountable for the accidents that could have been prevented, right? Because of the state of the art was there. So we play a similar role for companies that want to do outbound phone calling.
When it comes to GDPR, its fascinating because GDPR basically harms or attenuates our ability to use email unless we have opt-in, unless somebody agreed to be emailed, it turns out it's very easy to get up and just talk to somebody, just give them a call on the phone and talk to them, right?
But if you can only talk to two people a day, you can't get very much Opt-in. So ConnectAndSell is super popular now in Europe because of GDPR, because it has an efficient way of talking to 30 or 40 or 50 people a day to get opt-in almost every single time, because you just say, Hey, I know you are not interested. Is it okay if I send to you some information, boom, and you have the record of the opt-in with the human voice and you good.
So it's kind of ironic that GDPR, which a lot of people said to us, man, this is going to hurt your business and I said, well, it's only going to hurt my business if it becomes illegal just to call somebody on the phone and I think it's okay. As long as they say take me off our list, you do it. Right. So it's ironic, I guess this is the value.
Boris: So you are a GDPR enabling company just by switching from email first to call first. Right?
Chris: And here's the other irony is that when you send an email, your chance of a reply is almost zero, but when you speak with somebody and you send them an email, the reply rate goes up by a factor of 14. Interesting, 14 times better. So suddenly your email actually not only is legal, it starts working.
Boris: This is interesting, but what are your tips on selling into highly regulated industries, such as insurance and banking? Because I know they're a different stories to tell about selling to small shop like five, 10 people or a big bank or insurance company which is regulated.
Chris: I don't know if there's a difference other than you need to start high when you sell it into a regulated industry to start your first conversation with somebody who is able to speak for the company. If you started at a manager level in regulated industries, you'll tend to get the response like “I'm sorry, I can't really do much for you, I can't really explore this” because regulated industries tend to have more approval required for purchase actions.
And so you've got to be able to start high. So I have a friend right now who was with an insurance company and insurance brokerage, not yet free to say who they are and they're calling only chief financial officers and primarily in regulated industries. And so that's a safe call because the CFO is free to speak with you about their business and what its relationship is to it's regulatory environment and it's regulatory stance. Whereas a manager on the business side might not be and they're going to have to seek that approval.
So my advice to folks selling into regulated industries is just make a first call and you're going to have to endure a lot of dials. I mean, you can use ConnectAndSell and you don’t need to push a button. But you know, you're going to endure a lot of dials because these people are not easy to get ahold of. But guess what? Nobody is calling them. They're very easy to talk about.
Boris: So how, how does it work? You have a list of a people you want to talk to and you just feel it in the system and you wait there in your headphones and people come to you.
Chris: You've got it, you load up a list, you dial a single phone number and you pick the list, and that's it. When you want to talk to somebody there is a big green Go button, we made it green because the color of money. And when you want to talk to somebody, you click that button. It is identical to calling a Lyft or an Uber or whatever. There's no difference, but you get a conversation instead of a car. So what's more valuable conversation with the CFO of big company you're trying to get a hold of or a car and that the car can't take you anywhere anyway because the COVID so the conversation's got to be worth more.
Boris: Tell me how is your team structured? How do you manage your IT structure? Are they outsourced, partially in the United States and what you recommend for startups planning to create a SaaS tools that will dominate markets as your tool with regards to finding and managing the IT team.
Chris: Well, number one, I think everybody knows this, go to a public cloud right at the beginning. I think everybody knows this, go to Amazon and go to Google cloud, go somewhere. So their regulatory work, which is massive to your benefit, with regard to physical access to the computer, as far as the servers managed, blah, blah, blah.
Number two, this is hard If you're not technical, like your technical, you have a technical background, right?
I've written a million lines of code myself. So I actually know what the issues are. And it's very, very tricky to take advice around this kind of thing. So my advice is do pen tests, early penetration tests early because guys like Bugcrowd will come in on your very first product and it seems expensive. It's like crazy. Oh my God, I'm not going to spend that much money. But what they're telling you very early on are things that you can bake into the architecture and avoid entire classes of problems.
Because frankly it's not just the appearance of Risk, there's real risk. Once you get interesting there's real risk. And where are the development has done? I don't think is particularly important except to work with somebody who is really reputable and does products not support. So if you're going to go outsource overseas, like we work with a company called Coditas in Pune India. We worked with Coditas way back in the day, even before I was at ConnectAndSell.
My CTO and I worked with these guys to set up leading edge product development in India. There's IT guys are really, really bright, but they needed to be brought together to focus just on product development. So don't try to repurpose an offshore support team of some kind or whatever. You need top hands, right?
You had mentioned that you had taken the mathematics Olympiad when you were in Russia. My friend Vladimir, a Chech guy got the silver medal in that thing back in the day. Well, how hard was it for me to hire him? It was like a two second Interview.
I look at his resume. There's this guy, silver medal in the mathematics and physics Olympiad, you are you're in, unless you are like a murderer or something. And even then I might just have you sit a little farther away. So you want real, real top people. A software development should never be done for serious products, except by the very, very best, because one person is 10 people, and you keep the risk down, oddly enough, by keeping the size of the team down.
And then the fourth thing is if you're not technical, make them explain it to you anyway, you know, have regular meetings where you get walked through the architecture and make them explain it to you like you're six years old. Because frankly, anything could be explained to somebody like they're six years old and it makes safer products.
Boris: Absolutely. There is a saying that if you are trying to build a product, you're wasting your time, but you should be building a team instead, a team of talented developers, developers, marketers, customer success agents, salespeople. You just told that you have an offshore team in India. How your team has been built, how the product was built and how are you selling it? So you first find the some top guy like a CTO, then he developed a team in India and then you start testing your software?
Chris: Yeah, I was lucky here. This product 1.0 has already been built. I joined the company five minutes after meeting Shawn McLaren, who was the CEO at the time. And I joined just because I couldn't believe that this existed and that I didn't know about it. I was embarrassed. How could I not know about something that gets something in business to happen 10 times faster that's important, which is talking to the target. How could that be? So I just joined, I just told Sean, look, I'm working for you now.
He said, what if I'm not hiring? And I said, you know, it’s a personal problem I'm working for you, it's a free country, right? So I said, it's up to you if you pay me or not, you know, he laughed. I said, I recommend paying me. It stabilizes the employer, employee relationship. It's a good thing. So I had a team, we ended up shifting that team out and getting a US team that I happened to already have.
You know hiring experienced people like myself is a cheat. It's a good cheat because we come with all this talent that we know about. So I had from my previous two companies before that was ready to come on board as VP of engineering. So we did a 2.0 and it purpose was to scale and took it to the web. This was an actual a desktop product and it needed to become a browser-based, which was very hard for this product, by the way. We solved those problems and then we made a 3.0 almost from scratch. And we did that in India with the Coditas team and it was another team to start with.
So I think it's an iterative process often. And we did this all while servicing our customers, some of the biggest companies in the world, IBMm SAP folks like that. So we took the product apart and put it back together repeatedly. And one thing we've done, which is not available to everybody, but if you can do it, do it, we only use our product to sell our product. So we're so utterly dependent on it that we don't do anything else.
We don't send the email. So we don't advertise. We don't do anything else. We just use our product. And so we must make it work or else we fail before we get started.
Boris: Fantastic. So when you, you don't have to hire to make a lot of advertisement, hire a lot kind of expensive marketing teams. Just use your product to sell your product. This is kind of the perpetual mobile.
Chris: Can you tell me I'm an old physicist, man? I don't believe in perpetual motion, but I believe in reducing friction to almost zero.
Boris: This is the word. So let's talk about your personal opinion. You are doing a lot in the sales and marketing business. What is commonly held beliefs, for example, in a sales industry that you are strongly or even passionately disagree with
Chris: That you can sell in business to business with digital means only, I think it's a crazy proposition and the reason is simple. The business buyer is inherently risk averse because they're risking their career. So the company's Risk is secondary to their personal professional risk. And as a result, they must trust the seller more than they trust themselves because the seller is en expert. How do you get to that level of trust? You can't do it by sending but it seems like digital sends a lot of information.
But think about this in our conversation right now, we're conversing at a bit rate of a minimum of 20,000 bits of second, right? And an email only has 5,000 bits in it. So if I send you an email and you read my email, and then it takes a certain number of bits for you to trust me, say 600,700,000 bits. That email has 5,000 bits. I've got to get you to read 30, 40, 50, 60 emails in a row, understand each one perfectly and then grow to trust me, or I can talk to you for about 20 seconds, right?
So the human brain is built to evaluate trustworthiness of people based on their voice. So what it's built for, it's an ancient capability. We all do it. We're all really good at it. And almost nobody can fake it now. Sure. There are psychopaths who can fake it. So look out for them. But most people actually express their sincerity. The fact that they're on your side and they're competent through their voice, through the tone of voice and the way they choose their words.
And it's very different. So digital techniques only have one advantage, they're cheap. And like everything that's cheap Gresham's law tells us bad money drives out good. Cheap communication drives out good communication in business and so we get flooded with emails. We get flooded with social. Oh, now I have InMails. Great and you get flooded with InMails. Oh, I have social outreach on LinkedIn. You get flooded with that. You get flooded with cheap stuff.
Podcasts are not cheap. These are expensive, right? You have to be set up. That's why people gravitate. That's why people come to Clubhouse. Clubhouse is expensive. I have to spend my time and there is no recording. And I hear those human voices. So I think human voices is the essence of beginning trust relationships and without trust we can't ever do business, especially if we're innovators. The number one risk to the innovation economy is lack of correctly conducted first conversations with people who might eventually become buyers.
Boris: Fantastic. So looking broadly into your industry, what are the major trends or you see, what should we expect from you guys in the future?
Chris: Well, work from home is here to stay. And it's because in the big companies, the major executives have moved away to their retirement home, keeping their jobs. It's a brand new phenomenon, never happened before in history. And these are the decision makers. So are they going to decide, like we just bought a house in Tucson, Arizona, South of Tucson. We bought that house because she doesn't have to go to a Microsoft headquarters anymore. So she manages a pretty substantial quota.
Think, a nine figure of quota, maybe its 10 figure quote at Microsoft. So she was free because Microsoft is going to work from home. So we bought a house two hours away from headquarters and now we bought one all the way on the Mexican border with coyotes right over there. So you know, that work from home thing that's happened, I call it a mouse trap in in the economy, it is snapped, it will never be reset.
The mouse is dead and it changes everything about business. So for instance, somebody might say, well, travel comes back after COVID. So can't I go knocking on doors of companies. Well, no, because you don't know if there are people working or they're working from home. So your risk of knocking on an empty door goes up so high. You won't get on an airplane. So now you need an appointment, but you may as well meet at the restaurant. So it's huge what's going on. Everybody in business is betting too small on the impact of work from home.
They think they are making bets, but all they've made so far as the adaptation, the big bets are yet to be made.
Boris: Fantastic. So let's summarize. If someone who is listening to this interview, would like to walk away with one or two major takeaways. What would that be?
Chris: Number one is look at the role of conversations in your organization. Are your people talking to enough people? A good standard for top of the funnel sales reps should be talking to 30 to 40 decision makers a day. Yours are probably talking to two or three. So you're taking a 10 to 15 times Risk that you shouldn't be taking. Your pipeline is at risk. I know somebody in the insurance industry, that's actually fielding a product that is addressing pipeline Risk directly because they're saying it's the number one risk to growth. And if we don't have growth, we risk everything in business. So that would be number one.
And number two, ask yourself as a leader. Am I having the most of my conversation internally or externally? Just look at the proportion, take your day and map it out. What percentage of the conversations you're having with folks who work for you? What percentage of the conversations you are having with people who are your existing customers and what percentage with folks who are potential future customers. And if you're not having 60% of your conversations with potential future customers, including those, you don't think are important because those are the ones who will turn out to be important, adjust your schedule.
Boris: Fantastic. So I think, these were all my questions. If I forgot something and you would you like to add something to our audience?
Chris: You know, I have a podcast on my own called Market Dominance Guys. If you really want to hear it, you want to hear some weird stuff, we're at episode 75 and it's a cookbook on how to dominate markets. I believe you either dominate or you go out of business. So my view is that the number one Risk issue in business is lack of market dominance. And most folks don't even have a plan to do it. So it's a cookbook for dominance.
Boris: I will certainly, I will subscribe because I am looking to grow my company. And I think you are doing what you're saying. I think you are one of the guys that not only teaching the staff but actually never sold anything in the real life, but you're actually doing this stuff that you are talking about.
Chris: Yeah. Thanks. I try.
Boris: All right, Chris, thank you very much. I think it was fantastic to hear your opinion. It's a different world, but as you explained, we converge on that as the biggest risk that we don't sustain our business with a great pipeline. So your tool is actually a very fantastic that can be a help of a risk managers as well. So I think we will talk probably maybe next time about your progress in a few quarters.
You extend in to expand into Europe as well as IT, as you told me,
Chris: Yeah, we're expanding into Europe and I'm working with the guys at HUB International on really a market dominance program for the commercial insurance industry. They're view is that sales pipeline is the bottleneck of their business. They have generated using ConnectAndSell on the first two months of this year 551 meetings with CFO's to talk about a global risk reduction program.
That includes reduction of pipeline Risk. And we are seriously talking with them. That's their idea, not mine, about revenue insurance, about going to somebody who is a little adventurous, like Lloyd's of London and having enough data that we can generate on a company's pipeline through close that insurance policies can be written against revenue shortfalls.
Boris: Oh, this is something that I never heard of? I heard about gong.io, they analyze effectiveness of sales conversations, but they just improve performance on the sales team. But I never heard about revenue insurance. Well, it's a completely new world.
Chris: Yeah. Well, we'll see if we do that one together, they're very serious about it. And these guys are serious guys. I mean, their Chief Strategy Officer is really smart and their Chief Sales officer is a beast. So he just called me right before this to complain and he said, Hey, for our blitz this morning that we're doing with our 35 people, I was in the waiting room for two minutes.
And your guy didn't let me in for two minutes. I said, I apologized to him. I said, it was a new guy, you know, just call me, I'll make sure that you do. And he says, okay, but two minutes is two minutes. I like you.
Boris: Thanks so much for your time. This is really great.
Chris: I'll talk with you later. I look forward to the show being out.