#008 Sales Alchemy with Michael Schumann

Unlocking Revenue Potential Through Process, Discipline, and Empathy

Guest & Host

Michael Schumann & Steven Morell

Welcome to Speak Revenue, the podcast where we emphasize that revenue is not just a goal; it's a result. In this show, we shift our focus from the output to the inputs. We engage in conversations with sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their remarkable journeys. Our mission? To uncover the true root causes of success. Join us in this episode as we delve into the world of sales success with Michael Schumann. Discover the importance of process, discipline, and empathy in achieving revenue growth. Michael shares valuable insights and reflects on past challenges, offering valuable lessons for anyone looking to maximize their sales potential.

September 22nd, 2023


Steven Morell: Welcome to our new episode of Speak Revenue. Remember, revenue is not a goal. It's a result, but a result of what? In this show, we turn our eyes from the output towards the input. We speak with sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their journeys. Join us on our quest to uncover and learn the root causes of success. Let's unpack what works for them and what didn't. Today with our guest, Michael Schumann. Mike, so happy to have you in my show. Thanks for joining.

Michael Schumann: It is great to be here. Thanks for having me, Steve.

Steven Morell: It's exciting to have you. We chatted already. We knew each other a little bit, by that time. Our audience gives them a chance. Real quick intro, three steps. Who are you? What do you do, and why are you so successful?

Michael Schumann: Yeah, thanks. So I would say that I am a native Bostonian. Except I do use all 26 letters in the alphabet and that, and actually people around Boston don't feel I have an accent. But everybody outside of New England feels that I have a pretty heavy accent. So I'll let your listeners be the judge of that. What I do is I turn on the money printing machine for venture backed early stage companies. Those companies that have gotten out of the gate and started growing are still maybe below 10 million, but they've stalled. Something has gone wrong, something has changed, and I'll step in to turn them around. And I do that as a fractional CRO. And I think the factors largely to my success is a mixture of I'd say process, heart. Empathy. And really an acute ability to really listen and care. To listen and understand. First, before I start talking.

Steven Morell: Mike, you said you, you come in early. How early come you in? Is it pre-revenue, is it early revenue?

Michael Schumann: Yeah.

Steven Morell: Do you get from one or from…

Michael Schumann: Yeah. So typically what'll happen is an entrepreneur will have a great idea and they'll convince a group of investors that the idea is in fact terrific and then they quickly learn that it's time to prove that idea is great. But having it confirmed by people writing a check for it, and I can get involved as early as. An investor will reach out to me and say, look, really like this CEO, really enjoy it. We are having a conversation with them about early customer acquisition and they really are lacking in terms of sales and go to market expertise. Could you step in and get involved? And that's usually how it…

Steven Morell: Is that for the consultants in our audience? Is that how you acquire customers through your VC Network and Investor Network?

Michael Schumann: Not exclusively, VCs or investors. It can be from CFOs and other parts of my network. So I worked in different size companies prior to the early stage world that I dove into 13 years ago now. And I really just took what I had done and got very comfortable operating with very little resources, generating revenue from scratch really understanding sales and customer sales conversations. And knowing that and bringing that to bear for people that needed help if somebody needed help. 

Steven Morell: I sense there is a story there. How did you get into this?

Michael Schumann: so I was working through some twists and turns after my MBA for a publicly traded company. I was hired by the VP of Marketing and her edict was to demonstrate that they could create revenue in new segments using this company's existing technology. So I was hired to finalize some of the go-to-market elements of this product. The product was built and had to go out and Sell it. And I walked into my first day, and that was my edict mandate. Nine months later, I walked into her office and said, congratulations, you've just generated a million dollars of incremental revenue. The channels are up and running and we're achieving our sell through rates. And right about that time that my first day, a new president who was elevated to c e o was hired and Saw what I had done. And I think when you do that for an older company it's a different skillset. So I ended up working with his office and a president that he had brought in evaluating products from outside the US market. I. And pulling together teams to do a quick evaluation and make a recommendation of a go, no go to bring those products into our sales channels. But this company was an early stage company. At one point there were still people walking the halls that talked about that experience. And we're living where we live now, which is literally equidistant between Harvard and m i t, where there are all these early stage companies. And I reached out to a couple of VCs I knew and said, Hey, I, this is what's going on. This is what I'm thinking about the early stage world. And they said, Mike you got a nice resume. You've done a lot. Clearly you know how to sell, but this is a completely different animal. And if you wanna do this and you wanna be involved in the early stage community, you have to prove to people that you can work within that environment. And I said, okay, how do I do that? And they said go find an early stage company. And get in there and help them. Gen starts generating revenue. And I looked at them and I said, That's it? Yeah. I'm like, that's it. It's harder than you think. Run along now and good luck and go with God and keep updated.

Steven Morell: So you've got no excuse.

Michael Schumann: That's it. So I dove in and the first company, Was, had a great idea. Half a product, $8 million in venture funding and no customers, and I got them from zero to a million in a r in less than 18 months. Back in 2014, the company's now worth $2 billion. 

Steven Morell: Mike, like you've been around the block a couple of times and acquired tons of expertise. Somebody hires you,...

Michael Schumann: Alleged expertise…

Steven Morell: …when somebody hires you, if I would hire you, what does day one look like? What's your standard operation? Procedure when your boots hit the ground?

Michael Schumann: I think people would be surprised at the level of questioning I do and not questioning meaning more inquiry. To really understand where they're coming from. What was the opportunity they saw? Who were they trying to help? Why do they think they helped them? And really starting from there, because ultimately what we wanna do is engage very specific personas and meet them where they are and show them that there is a way of accelerating a success as they define it. So what goes into that is it isn't necessarily that I come in with a rote a standard approach every time. There are a few conversations that happen with a client, before they become a client as we get to know each other, but I start to fully understand where they are in their process and I invest the time and energy learning So I can create a statement of work so that on day one we're really diving into those specific areas to deepen understanding and start executing against

Steven Morell: But on a more meta level, on a more bird's eye view do you roll out something like a 30, 60, 90 day plan, or do you just go along with them for the first 30 days and just learn and then start to.

Michael Schumann: Yeah. It's all unique to each engagement and it's all very intentional, but certainly there's upfront work that's done for sure at no cost to the potential client where I'm making some recommendations about where to start, where we're prioritizing those things together, and then the work begins. But a lot of it is really dependent upon Where are they? What have they done? What do I believe they need? What do we agree on as our priorities? And I absolutely come with a very strong opinion. I also wanna make sure that I. That is discussed and clarified with the client. So we're all on the same page. We're all in agreement that this is a priority or this isn't, or this can wait, or we should do this now because doing things in a certain order really does matter. You can invest a lot of time and energy in something that won't come to fruition for quite some time. Usually when you get that early investment, you, the clock is ticking. You got about 12 months.

Steven Morell: You told me in our preparation that the three pillars that you look at are process, discipline, and empathy. I wanna start asking you a question around this because I share the opinion that these are in fact the pillars. When we talk about processes. Which process is the first that you put in place?

Michael Schumann: Definitely top of funnel lead generation for sure.

Steven Morell: And what? In the B2B SaaS context. In 2023. Not in 20 14. I've been around in 2014 as well. I remember those days. But now in 2024, last quarter. What is your top of the funnel motion that you would recommend or that you would look to going into such an engagement?

Michael Schumann: Yeah. 2023 and I just sent out a hot take to a small group. Of my network that I keep in really close touch with is a hot take, but I think that old, like 2014, 2008 model of, blasting out emails and doing it at scale, like it doesn't work. So what I would say is what I would recommend for a motion of building top of funnel is a strong. Phone first approach, leverage those mobile phone numbers because it's now a different world and you can ring somebody's cell phone number and people become less and less annoyed. And by the way, those people are reluctant to change their cell phone number. So once you get that number, it tends to follow the person from place to place the other as I would follow that. Phone call up with some highly personalized digital outreach. Those can be emails. You can do it on LinkedIn, but you better do it right. And it better not be a connect and pitch motion. And then if you… 

Steven Morell: Do you feel the same? If the connection request contains even one word, it's spam, like real connection requests. Unless there is a nice chat on SaaStr.

Michael Schumann: Yeah.

Steven Morell: was the dude with the yellow shirt. Ah, okay. Yeah, I remember. But everything else is the moment, there is something in the connection request.

Michael Schumann: Unless it's like really love your background and hope our paths cross. But in the meantime, let's connect here on LinkedIn, right? Or I'd add you to my network. And I would say that, lastly, if your heart is set on doing something at a volume level think about a very specific segment, think about a very specific persona, and think about the people in those roles and what they're responsible for, and speak to those things that, that they're accountable for, that you think you could help them with. So if your heart is set on doing it at volume, it's not gonna be in one of these massive, we're gonna hit every single VP of marketing, segment it down, be aware of what's going on in their world, invest the time to understand that. I think it will go a long way so

Steven Morell: Quick question. One of my guests talked privately. I'm not naming anyone about a tactic. It's really tactical addressing the problem that nobody picks up the phone if there's an unknown number nobody picks up the phone. So what they do is they call it a triple tap. They call three times in a row. So people start thinking, what is this? It's like the same number for the third time. Maybe something happened to my kids or something and then they picked up. I don't know how they come back from this, but apparently it's their only way to get somebody on the phone. What's your take?

Michael Schumann: I don't know how ,one, I have no empirical evidence to back up whether or not that's successful or not. 'cause I don't have it. For me personally. I would be a little disappointed. I was in a state of panic and that's why I answered the phone. That's not a great place to be starting a conversation with somebody when they have a heightened level of urgency or, they got the energy, the adrenaline pumping through their veins because they're scared. I don't know. I would say, however, to counter it, you leave a very good voicemail. That speaks to their issue or references something that you reached out to them for a very specific reason about something that you have a hypothesis that they care about or that they're needing to address and solve. I like good voicemail. It, because I think it, does explain what's going on. So

Steven Morell: Yes. I think what also helps is send a text, do a double tab, send a text, try it for the third time. It's linkedIn message, email, send a text. Probably more likely.

Michael Schumann: Yeah. I would also say that in terms of and this is a little bit of a slower burn, people are curious. And I advise clients to get involved with these different communities and participate and really add some value devoid of what you do specifically, or avoid talking about your company or your product, or the way you know your product would do something. But speak to help people solve the issues they have or the questions that they're raising, or a topic that is hot or top of mind. Be somebody that shows up and gives and provides some real value, not a, I'm gonna tease you a little bit so that I can tell you about my product, but genuinely show up and let people ask tell me about what you guys are doing, or, who is this guy? Steven what does he do? Oh, okay. What's this all about? Oh, and make sure your website conveys very simply enough information. And by the way, for the marketers out there, if a six year old can't tell you what your company does by reading your website, will you please change the text? Because it's all sometimes very confusing to me and I'm like, I don't know what you guys are trying to do, but I don't understand anything about what you solve.

Steven Morell: Yeah. Tactical reduction. Yeah. My wife is a teacher. She does that all day long. And whenever I have a web copy, I show her and she goes down.

Michael Schumann: Yeah.

Steven Morell: Yeah. So we spoke about outbound. Somebody said to me, there are essentially only four ways you can tell people what you do. There are people who know you and people who don't know you. It's like only those two. And you can do this one-on-one and one to many. So when you do billboards on, on a highway or on the street, you're doing one to many with people who don't know you, right? If you're sending email to completely cold email addresses, Then you're doing one-on-one. Even if it's a thousand emails per day, it's still one-on-one, right? To people who don't know you, if you post on LinkedIn, then you're doing one to many, two people who know you. And at the end of the day, if you start out chances are that somebody who knows you will buy . Are so much higher than chances that somebody who does not know you will buy. So the advice is talk to people who know you, not people you know, but they need to know you. Huh? What's your take on that?

Michael Schumann: I would say that it's good to have those adjacencies for this me meaning it doesn't have to be just people that my, my teams know it could be people that have made introductions and all you're looking for is just a shred of credibility, right? Maybe there isn't a level of trust, but at least there's a sense of Credibility that you get because, look, Steven's a good guy. He's not gonna introduce me to someone who's a, a jerk or who's gonna be a charlatan or someone who's gonna, try to run a scam on me. And that's good. So you can get that credibility to get them to speak with you. It's your job at that point to really figure out. What is most important to them right now and how do I show up in their world e lubricating their path to achieving those things that they neither they want to either accomplish or avoid, and getting the heck

Steven Morell: Yeah, I like to think none of it as, as we talk about trust and relationship and so forth. In the end, nobody wants a relationship with me. For my customer. That's not entirely true. There are some people who wanna have a relationship with me. My wife, I think, wants to keep the relationship with me. No, I'm kidding. But it's not about building those relationships, it's about increasing the likelihood that what I promise I will actually deliver.

Michael Schumann: Yeah.

Steven Morell: And there are many ways of building this likelihood, this perceived likelihood testimonials, a logo wall a guarantee money back guarantee. If they give a money back guarantee, it's probably gonna work. How else do they do this? There are many ways of building this likelihood, this perceived likelihood that the dream outcome that I'm promising will actually take place and. I think that the formula here is dream outcome times likelihood that you will get it divided through price. I think I would have to write that down. Let me ask you about discipline. We spoke about the process we spoke about outbound. Let's talk about discipline. What is discipline in, in, in that context? Getting up at 6:00 AM, meditating for an hour, reading half a book , doing a cage fight and showing up at seven in the office. What is it?

Michael Schumann: So, I think routine to what you're talking about, Supports discipline and whatever routine people decide to have. I think that there is something, that discipline is more of the ability to do those things that you don't necessarily want to do, you need to do them well and do them consistently. And that, to me, is discipline. Discipline is also following a process and not circumventing it. Even when the customer tells you that no, we can just zip right past we don't need to do that. And having the discipline to say, okay, can we take three minutes? Just to check this off because I think it's gonna help us out having, following that, that process. So it's doing those things, even the hard things consistently, then also avoiding any shortcuts when it's recommended by the other party, if you know that it's a critical role. Or it tells you, I think about it in terms of a sales cycle, and somebody's saying no, we don't need to talk to them, or we'll catch up with them later. Look, if it's part of your process and you need to do it, and you need to have that information to score this deal, then you have to do it and you better figure out a way to do it. Or we're gonna kill that deal. It isn't gonna work. You can tell me all day long that you're gonna get this deal done. Maybe you get one out of 25. But I'm not gonna, I'm not gonna forgo an ability to forecast effectively because someone's gonna go off and do things their own way.

Steven Morell: What you said reminded me a lot of what Kim Scott writes in her book, "Radical Candor". She talks about superheroes that do amazing things that nobody has done before. But the bread and butter are what she calls the rock stars. And they're rock stars because they show up every day. They do their work solid like a rock, and you can depend on them. They will follow the process, they will pull through. They will go this extra mile. They will just do their job. And I like the way she defines the term rockstar. Solid as a rock and how she puts the emphasis on you needing those people. You cannot build a business. You can grow a business, you can make this leap of faith forward with a superhero. But you need your rock stars.

Michael Schumann: I completely agree, and I think that speaks to consistency, right? That execution…

Steven Morell: Yeah.

Michael Schumann: …and I've had too many experiences with people that came in with a tremendous amount of the industry. Experience in an industry, they knew better than you do. Like I, I know I, I hear what you're saying, but yeah, I'm just gonna do this. My way never works. And conversely, I've had the pleasure of mentoring young professionals early in their career who were eager to learn. They weren't interested in shortcuts. And they knew how to, they would execute. I'll tell you, if you wanna hire somebody, good, I'll give you two things you gotta look for. Look for someone that's been promoted preferably in the same organization. Second is when you interview 'em, give them feedback and see how quickly they use it. Determine how coachable they are. You get those two things, you will not

Steven Morell: Yeah. I feel like I should do a whole series of episodes about hiring in, in our space, because I. I was over years, over decades. I was totally in the dark about how to hire. I still feel I'm not and by the way, I believe that a lot of early stage companies could be punching way above their weight if they would have a good hiring process in place. Any process for hiring in place because that attracts big talent and big talent is what drives the success. But in this episode, I want to get to the third part. You said process discipline and empathy. And here's how we're gonna talk about empathy. You're gonna tell me the biggest screw ups and failures you had, and I'm gonna show some empathy for you. How about that? 

Michael Schumann: I love it. Yeah, I've, and I've had I've had many I would say fortunately I've learned from each of them, I'll say a couple of things. One is you get to a certain level and you're able to generate A certain level of success in one kind of environment, and that could be selling to people that give you credibility. I think that when you have to sell to strangers, you better have your game tight, social proof, overwhelming value, quickly being able to show impact. Because what happens is if you have early success, and I've experienced it and I've heard of it happening to a few companies and the board gets excited, then they start setting these lofty goals to try to push the organization, which is what they're supposed to do. But you need to be prepared to govern, meaning turn down their enthusiasm a little bit and say, look looking at these numbers and what would be required to do this is a big bet, and it's too early to And you just need to have the gumption, the gravitas, the conviction to say it. Not speaking up can cost you. 'cause it's cost me, I'll have those times when I'm sorry to maybe disappoint. I'm sure some of the revenue based people will cheer, but some of the product people won't be too happy. But product, product. Listen to the prospects, listen to the customers, and build something that thrills them. You have no…

Steven Morell: I still agree. 

Michael Schumann: You have no business being in conversations about pricing. You have no business getting on early prospect calls because you just want to hear, you can listen to a recording, but you're not there to speak because somebody's there to do a job who's accountable for that revenue. And I think that product needs to be kept focused on what they need to do and deliver and…

Steven Morell: Product is a revenue team.

Michael Schumann: What's that?

Steven Morell: I said product is a revenue team. They carry responsibility for revenue.

Michael Schumann: They may carry responsibility, Steven, but they're rarely accountable for it.

Steven Morell: Yes, true. 

Michael Schumann: So there's a big difference there between, being responsible and being accountable.

Steven Morell: Yes.

Michael Schumann: They don't, they, and I'm sorry, but they don't operate at the same urgency with a guy that's got a quarterly quota, right? A monthly…

Steven Morell: That's true. Let's go quota is another topic that we should discuss. I think it's nonsense. I have a very unpopular opinion. I think it's a result and Quarter leads to the wrong incentives. But that's a topic for a different episode and I hope you join me again one day. There's tons of stuff I'd like to discuss with you. I liked very much what you just said about and I've got to break it down to the ability of the founder to say no, not only to his team, but to his investors as well, and to his board. Yeah. Alright, Mike, it was so interesting and so much fun to have you here. Thank you for coming to the show. Yeah, everyone. This brings us to the end of this episode of Speak Revenue. I want to thank Michael Schumann for joining me. Today and sharing so valuable insights, a huge shout out to our listeners, your support means the will to us. Remember to check our website at speakrevenue.com for a full transcript and additional resources. And if you enjoyed the show please leave us a review on Apple Podcast of wherever you go for your listening needs. It really helps to get the word out. Also, follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, and since today on YouTube, we'll be back soon with another great guest. Until then, stay curious and keep listening and learning. Talk to you soon.

Copyrighted © 2022-23 Jaxx Technologies, Inc.

Copyrighted © 2022-23 Jaxx Technologies, Inc.