David Priemer, Founder & Chief Sales Scientist at Cerebral Selling, joins us to share his sales story. Find out how he became so passionate about sales, and what has pushed him throughout his journey to get him to where he is now.
David Priemer, Founder & Chief Sales Scientist at Cerebral Selling, share his sales story and tells us how he became so passionate about sales.
Joseph Fung: Hi everyone, I’m Joseph Fung, and today I’m joined by David Priemer. David is a Founder and Chief Sales Scientist at Cerebral Selling. He also happens to be the author to sell the way you buy. He is a number one bestseller, most given book on management on Amazon. David, thank you so much for joining us today.
David Priemer: Oh, pleasure, Joseph, great to be with you.
Joseph Fung: So I need to ask how are things with the book going? I remember posting. You posted that picture of hitting number one and in the most precious cake that your daughter had baked you it’s so amazing.
David Priemer: No, look, it’s great the book launch has been great; you know a lot of my clients. Obviously have bought the book. It’s a great add-on to my business and my training, but it’s amazing, actually. You know the publisher was mentioning that we’ve pre-sold thousands of copies. I mean, it’s available now, but when it was in presale, thousands of copies were shipping all around the world. So super grateful, but it’s funny to your point about the launch. You know we had our launch on April 7th during the old quarantine and isolation. So yeah, my kids were great, my family may be feeling really special with my daughter baked me that wonderful cakes. it is great.
Joseph Fung: That’s awesome, so just thinking a little bit about the book about the website. I know that this isn’t a podcast about pitching, but I would love to understand. What would be the elevator pitch? Why should somebody go and hit Cerebral Selling calm right now and check it out?
David Priemer: Yeah, well, I mean, as far as Cerebral Selling goes, you know I actually started writing my blog years ago when I was back at Salesforce. There’s a ton of content there now over the years from the sales trenches, my personal experience, and all the kind of science and empathy and tactical research I’ve done over the last 20 years is all there available for free. You don’t have to register for anything, so that’s probably the biggest selling feature to head over, but you know that one of the reasons I started the business in the first place was just because I was so passionate about this area of sales and selling and modern selling specifically. So hopefully, you get a sense of the kind of fun and passion that I have for the profession and some great content that can help you along your journey.
Joseph Fung: Okay, so I’m going to make sure that we include that link to your website and your book in the description but let’s decorate it. I love the way you phrase out your passion for sewing, but in your book, you speak about how you never thought you’d end up in sales. Maybe you could start with what you studied in school and what you planned to do.
David Priemer: Yeah, well, you know, like everyone who ends up as a professional seller in the kind of their career. You know we don’t think about ending up in sales partially because we actually don’t teach sales that many you know higher, and you know places of learning and so it’s not something that people often think of as kind of their long-term sales career, and so for me, I was no different. I started my career as a research scientist over 20 years ago, so I graduated with an undergraduate degree in chemistry and atmospheric science ended up doing a master’s degree in chemical engineering at the University of Toronto. Around that time, you know you’re kind of you’re in school. You’re learning all these things which are great you know kind of hell I always say like learning how to learn which is the most crucial thing, you start thinking a little I wanna be when I grow up, I had this exposure back at the University of Toronto to a whole bunch of engineering students that had gone on to do things in business, and that’s kind of where I first kind of got the bug and then a great catalyst called the dot-com boom. For those of you who remember, in 1999-2000, happen, and companies were just hiring all sorts of you to know technical people you know engineers scientists. Generally, people who you know had good educational backgrounds to do all manner of things, and that’s kind of when I got swooped up into the sales world.
Joseph Fung: So you mentioned in your book as well how during that time during your studies, you actually became a certified meteorologist; as a result, do people actually crack jokes about forecast accuracy.
David Priemer: They do yeah, you know it’s a good fun fact when they’re like okay you know you’re trying to break the ice like what’s one thing no one knows about you, and usually that’s one of the two things I say is yeah I’m a certified meteorologist you know. Still, it’s actually interesting because there actually are quite a lot of similarities too. You know, forecasting the weather and forecasting, you know your sales the biggest thing is just that there’s so much error built into all of the estimates that are put into, like even like the equations that govern, you know wind flow and system movements a lot kind of stuff same thing happens in sales. There are so many margins of error that get crept into our sales forecasts. For the same reason, so yeah, there’s a lot of comparisons for sure.
Joseph Fung: Nice I’m sure that it’s one of those jokes that gets old and doesn’t at the same time but thank you for humoring my question
David Priemer: Oh good
Joseph Fung: You had an interesting journey where you stepped out of engineering into sales engineering solutions, consulting a lot of sellers these days. When they’re making that move, they’re stepping into kind of an SDR or BDR rule, so they may not be as familiar with a sales engineering role and how that folds into the organization. Could you share a little bit about what that role was like, what that experience was like stepping into it, and the role that it played in the organizations you are at.
David Priemer: Yeah its interested so I actually didn’t know that that was a job that you could do like a functional Technical Sales products expert coder you know I’m didn’t know that was a thing but it seemed to mesh really well with my background kind of having been in the engineering ranks and having to explain complex you know kind of technical concepts and the in a very, you know in a very simplistic way or way that other people could understand lent itself very well to kind of the functional technical arm of you know a sales organization and you’re right it’s actually not something that people think about as like their first entree and you know in retrospect you know I didn’t necessarily think of myself as a sales person rather someone who was just really enthusiastic about the product and the solution and the problems that could solve and I realized now in retrospect that was kind of like my sales team the rest of my sales teams if I can call that secret weapon meaning like they would put me into these kind of selling situations where I would be very enthusiastic about what I was talking about and just really you know into the solution and the problems I could solve but the customer didn’t necessarily think of me as a sit the salesperson right. It allowed me to have these like very good authentic conversations whereas the kind of like, the quote-unquote salesperson was the one kind of navigating the deal. And you know negotiating the contract and all those kinds of things, but I absolutely felt like I was a huge part of the success of winning that business, and you know, I still think today it’s a great entree for those trying to get into sales who don’t necessarily want or can be a dedicated quote-unquote kind of closer role.
Joseph Fung: That Idea of being enthusiastic for the problem in the solution as opposed to enthusiastic just for closing the deal. I imagine it was very infectious and effective in your conversations with customers.
David Priemer: Yeah, well, as you know said, you know, don’t forget I was 25 when I started right. One of the biggest actual challenges and in what my company actually did we sold enterprise workforce management software solutions. So think about, you know, a bank and airline a big retailer trying to schedule their employees trying to calculate pay rules and time indices and all this kind of stuff when people leave work they show up to work and all that kind of stuff in between. that’s what we did so that I would end up in boardrooms with, you know, people who in it you know I talk about this in my book as well, but sometimes I would end up in a boardroom with a group of people that would joke about how the systems that I was there to replace had been at that company longer than I’ve been alive right you know you get some of these companies that I’ve been using the same system for 30 years so I had to overcome that I talk about in my book I call it experience asymmetry which is this imbalance that gets created when you have like a younger less-experienced seller selling to like an older more experienced customer whose job they’ve never done, and so that was something that I had to overcome, but to your point, it was the enthusiasm that I had for my solution for my space for the problems I can do I know I could help my customer solve that that was contagious right that ended up kind of transcending my age and helping me convert a customer
Joseph Fung: So you clearly had a ton of success with this in terms of overcoming that challenge selling with enthusiasm and selling great solutions and the working brain journey you know it expects to that success, but if you reflect back on it we always learn things what would you say was the biggest surprise you know in that journey
David Priemer: You know I’d say like the biggest surprise is you know and it’s kind of funny to say but like selling is hard right like selling is hard and it continues to evolve like unlike a lot of professions I mean look there’s perfect like medicine dentistry beasted law these things do evolve over time but you know I do feel that sales evolves so much quicker because the realm of buying actually evolves so quickly and sales people are kind of forced to catch up so in retrospect. I think that’s the biggest thing is that you know the salespeople who are ultimately less successful are the ones that are kind of stuck in the past or stuck in the old way of doing things and there’s still lots of people that are like that you know you’re kind of pushing up against a lot of history of buying and when people close their eyes buyers close their eyes and they picture sales people they don’t picture people they want to talk to you very much right so just the evolution this your pace at which the industries change is something that in retrospect you know have a much deeper appreciation for.
Joseph Fung: I think the way you spoke about its evolution in buying leading the evolution and selling is so true. The way we and our customers are all buying now has changed so much its incumbent upon us to keep up with it. We like that you brought that up, thinking a little bit about your journey. One of the things that also stands out is you went from being an individual contributor to sales. An engineer running the whole sales engineering organization pretty quickly, could you share a little bit about what that was like how that came to be.
David Priemer: Yeah, well I mean part of it was precipitated just by the share growth of the company so when I joined there were 20 people at the company and then when you know when we got acquired, and ultimately I left seven or eight years later there were 700 people like at the peak, and it was a hundred million dollar business so when the business is growing that and we actually IPO three years into the business in 2003.
Joseph Fung: Wow
David Priemer: So when you have a business that’s growing that quickly, you know you need people to just kind of grow and expand into new roles and so. Yeah, like within, you know, I think probably a few years I had come to my first regional manager role we within the solution engineering team as the team began to expand. And you know it’s challenging it when you when you’re putting a leadership role a lot of I was really good as an individual contributor and those people don’t always make the best leaders right. So I was kind of conscious of the fact that the skill set that I needed to develop as a leader was different than kind of you know what got me to be a really good individual contributor, so there is very similar to kind of you know learning the sales profession there was actually quite a lot of learning that goes into what it takes to be a good leader and a lot of it is trial is a lot of learning but a lot of trial and error a lot of mistakes made along the way, but you know like anything else the mistakes helped you become the person you ultimately you know become at the end of the day.
Joseph Fung: So on that reflecting on that journey and kind of the person you become you’ve had such a remarkable journey you know leading sales and sales consulting in so many organizations running your own business you know writing the book is there anything that sticks out to you as a bright spot is there anything that you’re most proud of in terms of the accomplishments you’ve had so far
David Priemer: Throughout everything yeah let’s say that journey so far I know it’s a tough one where’s the bright one oh man you know what it is and for those of you who are looking to get into sales leadership and I say this all the time actually I teach sales leadership runner in my practice but also at the Smith School of Business at Queen’s University and you know people will say like what’s the secret to like being a good leader and the number one thing that I tell people care just care like care about the people almost more than you care about the quota and it’s interesting kind of you know over the course of the years and time like I still am friends with for example that the team members and leaders that report it to me we still text online going basis we still keep in touch they still ask me for advice you know from the standpoint of their careers and you know and I and we still feel connected I actually I think that’s probably one of the things I’m most proud of is just the relationships built along the way and the kind of the quality and the longevity of those relationships
Joseph Fung: That’s fantastic, and you know you’re in many ways still at the beginning of that journey and if we cast our eyes forward and think about where you’re heading next if you were going to talk to future David, you know, let’s call it 10 years out what’s something you would like to congratulate yourself in the future for having accomplished what you still aspire to do
David Priemer: Like you know 5 10 years from now, what will I be congratulating myself on
Joseph Fung: Yeah, exactly
David Priemer: You know what one of the things I’d really like to do that’s kind of on my bucket list per se is do a TED talk, you know, and not
Joseph Fung: Nice
David Priemer: And I say that not just because you know oh I have something that’s so important to say I need to say it on the TED platform but I actually I feel that being able and required to kind of shoehorn like a really big idea into like a 13-minute talk and have it come off as seeming very you know profound effortless I think that’s like a huge and very difficult thing to do and so like I almost feel like it would be great if I have something worthy enough to be considered into that category that I could go through the exercise of shoehorning into like a 13-minute topic I actually think that would be a really great a really great thing to do.
Joseph Fung: I love how that works at both levels you’re both aspiring to have something so profound but then also accomplishing that difficult task of delivery. I love that that’s a great one. Thank you for sharing.
David Priemer: Well, it’s funny when you think about like the book you know one of the things that I even tell with my kids it’s good to do things in your life that not a lot of people do not because it’s necessarily difficult or hard but rather because it takes time and attention and focus and I think the book for me is one of those things you know it the book is I’m super proud of the book it took me a long time to write it, but I know a lot of people don’t write books and so I said you know what I’m gonna do this and if you if I can I’ll share a little secret with your listeners that I’ve not shared with anyone else but I took when I took the first book out of the box when I got obviously there I’m super excited to get it but in the context of young people are asking me to sign books oh can you sign my book and you know all this kind of stuff I signed a book to myself saying you know David you did it congratulations I signed it to myself
Joseph Fung: Oh, that’s so brilliant. I love that Idea. I know that I lack the drive determination to pull a book together, and I have so much admiration for it, but if I ever managed to squeak one out, I’m going to have to bro that Idea well.
David Priemer: I didn’t tell anyone, and this was you know this is the first time I even mentioned it to my wife you know like weeks after it happened I just am like this is just for me right like I didn’t you got to do things I mean people do, and I’m a big fan of Dan pink, and his book drive and he talked about why people do things it’s for autonomy mastery purpose you know from writing a book to you know for those of you who are who love to play video games, and you sit in your basement or your couch playing video games there’s no reason why you should be doing that it doesn’t drive society forward it doesn’t make you more productive and yet like you still do it because you’re trying to achieve this mastery you know there’s a lot of satisfaction in that, and you know for me it’s writing a book for someone else that’s something else, but you got to celebrate those things along the way
Joseph Fung: well, I don’t know if there are many ways that we could top that, so maybe we can let you go with a couple of rapid-fire questions you’re getting for that…
David Priemer: Sure, absolutely
Joseph Fung: Awesome, so we’ll do these three quick back-to-backs. The first one, what’s your favorite sales tool?
David Priemer: You know I love zoom I love zoom you know I’m. it doesn’t need to be too fancy I’m actually quite a big fan of this Idea of removing abstraction and what I mean by that is you know, one of the biggest problems in modern selling is that customers see you as the enemy and there’s actually a lot of good reasons why they do, and one of the biggest ways is to remove that stigma is to let them see you right when you’re, and I actually feel with everything that’s going on in the world now the more video conversations that are happening actually I think will help the sales profession because when you see someone in person something magical changes and they cease to be the enemy that you can picture however you want, and they become a person, and so I love zoom for that reason
Joseph Fung: I completely agree with the video. My clients, my partner’s my students say I’ll get to see when my kids kind of fly us into the room since we’re all working from home; that’s great. It’s a hundred percent much more you dad empathizing. number two what’s your favorite movie
David Priemer: So it’s funny, you know when it comes to movies I in my kids teased me about this all the time I don’t have a favorite I don’t have a favorite movie don’t have a free don’t have a favorite play, but you know someone asked me you know what’s your favorite sales movie and I’ll tell you what one of my favorite sales movies is Tommy Boy and one of the reasons.
Joseph Fung: wow
David Priemer: it’s one of those movies people don’t think about as a sales movie people that all the world hold Wall Street or boiler room, but the thing I love about Tommy Boy is that you know you have this guy who is what I call an unconsciously good seller you know there’s this guy he’s kind of a bit of a dimwit as the lead character, but he’s really good at selling when he’s not thinking about selling when he’s just being himself when he tries to sell it becomes a train wreck, so I love that movie because it’s a great reminder to all of us is that just being yourself and being authentically passionate about what you do is a great the best selling tool ball
Joseph Fung: That’s awesome I’ve got one last one for you know we didn’t you studied science and engineering, but when you were a kid, what did you want to grow up to be
David Priemer: If you know, it’s also one of those things like I don’t think a lot about that stuff I if you said you know you get to choose something I think it was probably a scientist you know I loved science.
Joseph Fung: Scientist?
David Priemer: You know, I love figuring stuff out. I was always very curious, you know, taking apart things and doing remote control cars and building models and so I thought like wouldn’t this asks me to get to be a scientist you get to like help people and kind of be on the forefront of things and work with test tubes and you know that’s like that’s probably what led me to that first step of my career so yeah I think curiosity-based science work is where I want to be.
Joseph Fung: David, this has been awesome. I know I’ve kept you longer than I promised I would, but I appreciate the time you shared with us. Thank you so much.
David Priemer: oh my pleasure, thanks for having me, Joseph
Joseph Fung: And for everyone that’s you know listening in to this quick reminder that if you check out David’s site at Cerebral Selling com, there’s a ton of great free content including those comments on experience asymmetry that he mentioned David I’m looking forward to our next conversation thanks again, and I wish you all the success especially with those future goals and getting the TED talk end.
David Priemer: Thanks so much, Jose if it’s pleasure.
Joseph Fung: I also take care, ciao.