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Podcast 112: Transparency in Sales with Todd Caponi
transparency in sales
By Kelly Driscoll | August 26, 2019

This week we’re honored to have Todd Caponi on the podcast. Todd spent 3 years building PowerReviews, as well as being a part of ExactTarget’s executive team through their IPO and eventual exit to Salesforce back in 2013. In the last 18 months, he’s focused on his book, The Transparency Sale and promoting it. In this episode, Todd talks us through the science behind decision making and how transparency at a high level moves the needle…

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • The science of decision making
  • Transparency in sales
  • Transparency in negotiation

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The Science of Decision Making

Todd Caponi: Did you know that G2 Crowd is the top 250th most traffic website on the Internet? It’s amazing. I mean that volume of reviews we’ve always associated with B2C. Reviews are exploding into B2B and changing the way that we buy. But 2 things I have found about this surprised me. 82% of us look for the negative reviews first. You go through and you’re just like 5 stars. That’s all bullsh*t. Where’s the lower ones?

So 4 of the 2 stars works better than 1 of the five star reviews. People believe it more. That led me into the brain science around why that happens. As a CRO, I had 61 people on my team at the time. I’ve been teaching these people to sell as though were perfect. And basically we hide the flaws and hope that the buyer doesn’t find out. What if we flip that and we fed the consumer’s brain? Instead of positioning ourselves as  5 star, let’s call ourselves “Flawsome”. Embrace our flaws. I’m not telling anybody to open with “Hey, this is why we suck.”

The first time we tried it was with Calvin Klein up in New York. I talked about competitors. Who’s better and in what ways. I decided to flip the script and start with how they’re better than us. They were working on something that is not even on our road map and the results were magic.

The decision maker kicked everybody out of his office 15 minutes later and we got straight down to the key stuff in the deal. He opened up everything about their situation and what was needed, not needed and budgets.

And they bought two weeks later in what normally should have been a six months sales cycle. When that happened I had to look further into this and why it worked. I partnered with a Neuro-scientist at DePaul University here too, cause I’m not a Neuro-scientist.

Pretty much right away I thought that I needed to write a book on this. These ideas need to get out that it’s no longer acceptable to hide our flaws and expect to get away with it. But the brain science also tells us that when we lead with our flaws, regardless of the proliferation of reviews, it’s speed cycles, increases win rates, helps us qualify deals in faster, helps us qualify, deals out faster. We’re going to lose anyway and makes it incredibly hard on our competitors that compete against us.

Transparency in Sales

John Barrows: Why do you think authenticity is such a competitive advantage with that “you’re not full of sh*t” feeling that comes with it? The fact that you’re not full of sh*t should not be a competitive advantage these days. But it is.

Todd Caponi: Yeah, I dug into the brain science around all of this. 1 of the things that I stumbled on, which was another counter intuitive thing to me is this idea that we as human beings make all of our decisions based on feeling and emotion. And we only use logic to back it up. Logic is only used to back up a feeling or emotion. And when we lead with logic, we lead with ROI. We lead with data. It’s actually polarizing to an audience.

You’ve got to lead up to it. The realization was that feelings are about love and hate, but there’s another level of complexity on that. You can’t make someone fall in love with a new way to do something they already do. Or hate the way they do something and be desperate to change it. There’s this Neuro-scientist, his name is Dr. David Rock and he has this thing called the scarf model.

It’s the 5 feelings that drive decision making. And I thought wow, this is a goldmine. The S is status. So we make all of our decisions based on wanting validation, feedback and recognition.

The C is certainty. And this answers your question here is that we’re looking for predictability. We’re looking for realness. That’s why we look for the negative first. We’re trying to predict what our experience is going to be like in every circumstance.

The A is autonomy, which is when we’re looking for things that are not going to take control from us. We’re looking to maintain control.

The R is relatedness, which is the mission, the society that I’m my fitting in. How does this make the world a better place? And how does this make me a part of a group?

And then the F is fairness. Meaning are the resources that I’m putting in (time and dollars) equating to the result that I expect to get back. That certainty though, that realism, we’ve just entered this era where you can’t hide anything. And when you lead with being real, you’re actually creating a predictable environment for people to actually absorb what you’re saying.

Transparency in Negotiation

Todd Caponi: Well, I believe that transparency begets transparency. Meaning when we lead with transparency in sales, the whole discussion becomes easier. From the first conversation that you have with a customer all the way to the point where you’re negotiating the deal. And what I’ve found is when I first got started doing this, so the book came out. I had no preconceived notions as to what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. But it’s turned into a speaking and training business. And my first customers asked “how much do you charge?”. I just threw out a number. I found very quickly that the way I delivered this lacked confidence. And second, that I openness was appreciated. Not dodging and trying to present one more value proposition.

The levers roll your own deal. When you’ve got a full pipeline, that makes a big difference, it helps you with your confidence. I’m doing well now, so I can go in and turn things down confidently if they aren’t right. The only thing I have in inventory to sell is my time. You make a good point about being away from your daughter and I’m the same way with my kids. I’ve got a limited number of inventory slots and I’ve got to maximize the value of that while I can. And so deliver it with confidence and that transparency need goes away.

John Barrows: Well, I think that it’s funny because I tell kids all the time, I love sales for a lot of reasons. I think one of my favorite things is you can literally practice sales everywhere you go. People have heard me say this plenty of times when I go to a hotel. The first thing I do is I ask about their occupancy rate. Just out of curiosity.

And they stumble, it’s not a common question, I guess. My follow up is about are you filled up tonight? Usually they’re not, and that’s cool. So you’ve got some suits going on upstairs that are going unused and stuff like that. Of course, you ask if you can get put in 1 of those but they quote the upgrade price.

That’s awkward because I didn’t ask for an upgrade and they have to say no. I do that to build some confidence in asking awkward or tough questions.

That’s a wrap. Join us next time!

If you made it this far, you’re the best. Thanks for reading and listening to this podcast. We hope you gained a ton of value from it and will listen in next week too.

If you have some feedback, connect with us on LinkedIn. And don’t forget to share the podcast on social media.

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