#048 Game-Changing Sales with JR Butler

Athletes and Veterans Redefining Success in B2B Sales

Guest & Host

JR Butler & Thomas Miltschuh

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 of Speak Revenue as we explore the dynamic world of sales success through the lens of elite athletes and veterans. Our guest, JR Butler, CEO of Shift Group, unveils the transformative power of intangible characteristics and mindset in crafting top-tier sales professionals. Discover how resilience, competitiveness, and teamwork propel individuals from diverse backgrounds into the realm of B2B sales. JR shares insights into breaking stigmas surrounding sales careers and highlights the unique value that athletes and veterans bring to the table. As we delve into the intersection of sports, military experience, and the sales arena, JR provides a candid view of the challenges and triumphs in his entrepreneurial journey. Get ready for a conversation that challenges perceptions and uncovers the untapped potential in sales.

December 7th, 2023


Thomas Miltschuh: 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 inputs. We speak to sales leaders and entrepreneurs about their journeys. Join us on our request to uncover and learn the root causes of success. Let's unpack what works for them and what didn't today with our guest, JR Butler. Hey, JR, great to meet you. Great to have you.

JR Butler: Great to meet you, Thomas. Excited to be here today. 

Thomas Miltschuh: Awesome. Let us know who you are. What do you do? Why are you so successful?

JR Butler: I run a company called Shift Group. Now for the last 18 months we are a training and recruiting platform. So essentially we help. Folks that played college sports or higher or served in the military successfully transitioned into sales professionals. And we work with over a hundred companies across the world that hire entry-level salespeople from us that have been through our program.

Thomas Miltschuh: Awesome. So what kind of athletes and veterans or when it comes to athletes is it about professional athletes rather, or how can you define that?

JR Butler: Yeah it varies. The only requirement to get into our program for an athlete is that you have to have played at least one year of college sports. We call 'em elite athletes. We think anybody who makes it to that level is elite. And I can share the data behind why we think that. But we get folks that have played 10 or 15 years of professional sports too. So it varies between, your division three walk-on to your NFL punter and everything in between there.

Thomas Miltschuh: Awesome. So I know sales is very competitive and sports usually as well. I am not a veteran, but it's maybe a bit similar to yeah. Military people. How do you think there is a good fit of veterans and athletes for the sales area?

JR Butler: It. It's a combination of two things. It's intangible characteristics and mindsets. Those are two things. You can't teach somebody, you can't train somebody on. There's no onboarding that teaches someone to be a good teammate. So when we look at athletes and veterans, the reason we focus on that part of the population, on the intangible side it's what you said, competitiveness. It's resiliency, it's coachability, it's work ethic, it's accountability, and it's teamwork. Really simple. When you serve in the military, when you play sports at a high level, you have to develop those characteristics to get to that level. Full stop. On the mindset side, the example that I always use is being dialed in. If I say being dialed in to an athlete or to a veteran, they know exactly what I mean. And it means they know how to develop a purpose. They know how to use that purpose to define their goals. And when they define their goals, they understand that they have to get really passionate about becoming excellent at something to achieve those goals and they need to practice. Those are the kinds of areas why we've decided to focus our program. Around this specific part of the population because of those two things, intangibles and mindset. 

Thomas Miltschuh: So that's why companies should basically hire or focus on hiring veterans and athletes, right? I think resilience is a very important part because especially in sports, it's, you fail permanently, right? It's just how it works in order to be really successful in sports. Failure is one main part, right?

JR Butler: Yes, that's exactly right. A good example is baseball. If you fail seven out of 10 times as a baseball player. You go to the Hall of Fame So yes, failure is 100% part of the experience of being an athlete. 

Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. We talked to prepare for the set itself. We talked a bit. And you mentioned there's still a stigma on sales. Could you elaborate on this a little bit? I personally don't really feel like it, but maybe I'm too much into the topic and too much surrounded with other salespeople.

JR Butler: I am glad you asked me about this because there's actually two stigmas. Let me know what, let me explain what I mean by that. The first stigma and maybe this is an American thing, I don't know, but most people when they hear the word sales. They think of a used car salesman, high pressure tactics, pitching products, lying, right? So that's one side of the coin. There is a stigma around that and you and I both know, and we can get into why that's not true on the other side. This is really specific I think, to technology sales. Over the last few years there's been a little bit of a push to say, Hey, you can, technology sales is the best career in the world. Because you can make hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can work remotely and you really don't have to work that much. There's a lot of great work-life balance and a really high pay. And I think those people that got into the career because of that are realizing very quickly that is absolutely not true. So that line, we have to walk the line between those two stigmas that exist in my opinion. So that's when I said there's a stigma, that's what I meant.

Thomas Miltschuh: Oh, okay. Yeah. Do you see the stigma or are those different levels of stigma a lot with your clients? with the people who contacted you?

JR Butler: Yeah, on the athlete veteran side, there are people that come into the program almost as a last resort. Like me, I can't do anything else. So I guess I'll do sales. Those people we have to help understand that this is one of the best professions in the world. Then we also get people that come in, especially younger people that have been on TikTok and Instagram and have heard, oh, I can make hundreds of thousands of dollars here and also have a side hustle. Also, check out work at 3:00 PM every day. So we also have to tell those kids, no, this is not the career for you. Go be a teacher. So that's the gap. 

Thomas Miltschuh: What do you tell them, what is the right way to frame it?

JR Butler: Number one, sales is 100% of meritocracy. You get rewarded for your effort and your results. So yeah, you can work six hours a day, but you're not gonna make very much money and a career, choosing a career where you lose most of the time and you don't make good money, not a great choice, right? Number two, we explain that a sales professional's job in the B2B realm, whether you're selling software or office furniture, is to understand a customer's problems, show why your solution can help solve those problems uniquely and then educate a customer on the value of solving that problem. Full stop. And I don't, again, I don't care what the product is. Is what the role of the sales professional is. So we educate both sides. And by the way, all that stuff that I just described is really hard and you gotta work really hard to do it, and you gotta work really hard to make a lot of money doing it. 

Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah it. sounds really simple and easy, but it takes some steps to really make this a habit. 

JR Butler: That's right.

Thomas Miltschuh: And to apply it. Let's talk about your business. Maybe about a big picture. What are your goals for the remaining year and for next year?

JR Butler: Yeah, we're in this really interesting time in our business where we started, we, I bootstrapped the company. We did over $2 billion of revenue in our first 18 months as a services company, right? Typical. 

Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Yeah. 

JR Butler: Typical staffing and recruiting model. You hire from us, you pay us a percentage of your candidates base salary. We self-funded a software platform that now we're going to market and selling as a subscription. So in the next two months of Q4, the goal is to start transitioning over our older customers into this subscription model and then moving forward, expanding the number of clients that are paying us a subscription. And part of that expansion is moving out of the industry we've been focused on, which has been technology sales and into other markets like pharmaceutical sales, medical device sales, any kind of high ticket B2B sales career where sales reps can make six figures consistently. We want to be a platform that athletes and veterans can transition into those industries. So that's big. That's the big push for the next, 14 months for us. 

Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Makes sense. Health and also pharmaceutical, this pharmaceutical sector is really growing worldwide. It makes sense. So focus on this, but how does the platform work?

JR Butler: A customer is like a manager, a VP of sales or a hiring manager. Logs in. They put in their geography, geographical requirements, and then immediately they're able to see dozens in some geographies, hundreds of candidate profiles. It's like LinkedIn on steroids. Essentially they go into the profile. They can read about the candidate's background, and then most of it is video focus, so they can . Listen to a candidate, tell their story, explain why they want to do sales as a profession, explain why they think they're well suited for sales. And then depending on the industry, they can watch, we call it game tape. So just like sports, they can watch game tape of a candidate doing a cold call, presenting an account research assignment. Presenting a cold email, presenting their 30, 60, 90. So it's a much more transparent way to go out and build out an entry level sales force.

Thomas Miltschuh: Sounds like a nice approach. So it's not only reading stuff about people, but really actually see them perform nice. Let's talk a bit about sales as you are a really experienced sales leader. Let's talk about sales processes a bit from lead generation or we're closing to upsell. What's your process?

JR Butler: So it depends, right? And anybody who doesn't answer that way is in my opinion, full of crap, right? For 16 years I grew up in enterprise IT sales, right? So selling is mostly into infrastructure CIO down with Unbudgeted, big ticket software. So that's a process in and of itself. And now I run a company. We have a very low SP and our target ICP are our VPs of sales, chief revenue officers. Much different approach, but for us it's about identifying needs and then positioning our value proposition to them. Quickly. Our sales cycles are very fast, as you can imagine. And our ability to get salespeople on the phone is very easy because sales people always pick up their phone because we could be a customer calling. So definitely it's been cool to experience the two worlds.

Thomas Miltschuh: What is, let's talk a bit about the unbudgeted sales approach. What is the main difference to your current approach?

JR Butler: Number one is what you're selling is a solution to a problem that a customer doesn't even know that they have. That's why it's not in the budget. If they knew they had a problem, it would be in the budget. So a huge part of the sales process is . Initial education, right? And it's a heavy outbound motion because customers aren't out Google searching for this solution, right? So you've gotta get in front of these people and you've gotta know how to ask the right questions to help them see the world through your eyes, right? But it's gotta be in their own thought process in the context of their business. So that's really when I think about the start of the sales process. Number one is education, and education happens through content, but it mainly happens through conversations and asking the right questions. So that's number one. When it comes to unbudgeted software, you have to be really good at asking customers questions and getting them to think about the world from a different perspective than what they've been trained on for the last or 30 years of their career. 

Thomas Miltschuh: And we are talking about rather high deal volume, right? Yeah.

JR Butler: Yes, a hundred percent like large, large deals that are transformative to the way an organization is running a critical process in their business. And in my case, for 16 years, it was about it and how they were approaching things and getting them to think about forgetting about finding the best product to approach the problem the way you have. Let's change the approach. That is a hard thing to sell, as 

Thomas Miltschuh: Yes. Yeah. Yeah. I experienced that as well in the past. I don't know what you're talking about. reAlly important to take all stakeholders into account and get to know who has any influence into the decision. Maybe it's the person who never says anything and is joining video calls without the camera turned on. And in the end, you. Just miss out and lose the deal, maybe just because of not taking into account this one person. Is there any framework you would like to suggest that helps on those deals?

JR Butler: Yeah, I think, so the sales process and qualification methodology are two separate things that I think sometimes people get bundled into one. I think your qualification methodology. Needs to drive your sales process. I grew up personally leveraging MEDDIC as a qualification framework, and that always drove my sales process. It's like, I know to get a deal done, I need to know these things. How can I approach this sales process in a way that organically uncovers these things through my sales process? So MEDDIC is when it comes to large unbudgeted software, that's the framework I go with.

Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Talking about team development and yeah. Maybe frameworks. Do you think there is a difference in coaching, training veterans and athletes compared to other people who have been athletes or veterans? And if they're together in one team, how do you handle them, that they probably perceive things in a different way and are used to other training approaches than people that just have been mainly, primarily in business, never earned money with sports or military engagements.

JR Butler: I think the number one thing is that athletes and veterans like to be challenged, right? So you've gotta create an environment where they're challenged. I think they are competitive. So having a scoreboard, which most sales organizations do both of those things anyway. I think the difference is typical and it's not all athletes and veterans, but for the most part, it's like the old saying, right? Mediocre people don't want to be coached. Good people want to be coached and told what to do. Great people want to be told the truth. So with athletes and veterans specifically where I've had success is telling them the truth. Hey, you suck at this and you need to get better and here's what good looks like. So I think from a coaching perspective, specifically, very blunt, very candid feedback is where the type of A players that have that type of background are gonna shine and honestly, they don't even need to be athletes or veterans if they're an A player, that's typically how you need to coach them anyway. They don't want the glove, the white glove treatment.

Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Yeah, that's interesting. Let's talk a bit about Tech Stack. Is there any general recommendation you've got regarding tools or maybe specific suggestions?

JR Butler: I think I've been out of the BDR role for 16 years. But I'm always a BDR, right? Even as a CEO, I'm still cold calling and sending cold emails. We have a program where our kids get on the phone. We built a tech stack around LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Phenomenal, phenomenal tool. And they're adding to it all the time. We obviously use a data system specifically. We use Seamless. And then to make calls, we used a dialer and we went with a phone burner. There's a lot of great dialers in the market, by the way, but the amount of productivity You can drive with a really good dialer is wild to me. I used to make a hundred calls a day manually back in the day. Like literally an IP phone, look at my CRM and 1, 3, 4 and pick up. And I still like high activity. We have people making a hundred to 200 dials in two hours. It's crazy. So I think, you've gotta, you've gotta first define your ICP. Define your message. Your value prop. Once you have that down though, there's a lot of different ways to drive activity specifically on the phone, which I still deeply believe in.

Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. It depends on the business, right? 

JR Butler: Totally.

Thomas Miltschuh: I regularly see people mentioning. Cold calls are dead. It doesn't work anymore, but it really depends on the ICP, on the business, on the specific individual strategy. It can't be generalized. 

JR Butler: I couldn't agree more. And we built the tech stack. We built because of who we call salespeople, they pick up the phone. If I was calling chief information security officers, we'd be taking a different approach . 

Thomas Miltschuh: Definitely. Yeah. Makes sense. Maybe looking back there's probably something that didn't work. Some project or approach something you've tried out. What comes to mind? Anything you would like to mention.

JR Butler: Yeah we started our business in winter 2022, right? Beginning of the year. And if you remember, the job market then was crazy, right? Everybody was jumping, everybody was hiring and overpaying and, I was like, wow, this is gonna be a hundred million dollars company. Then all of a sudden summer 2022 hit and we ran into a wall. Initially when I envisioned the business, I thought a lot of our customers were gonna be really big, publicly traded companies that hire a lot of salespeople. I learned very quickly that they have large talent teams and they have people fully dedicated to the type of roles that we can fill. So you're immediately putting yourself in a position where you're competing against internal politics and you know that poll. So we pivoted in the summer of 2022 and we focused on venture-backed companies. And they don't hire at the same quantity, but they need help because they're hiring 40 other roles while they're also hiring an entry-level salesperson. Going back I probably would've initially focused there right from the jump versus trying to bang my head against the wall and get. A Fortune 100 company gives us money to hire. That wasn't a good use of our initial time, energy, and focus. 

Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. How much time did it take to realize? 

JR Butler: Probably about a quarter or two.

Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Yeah. And when exactly did you realize, do you remember what the situation was? How did you find out?

JR Butler: We had probably had 10 customers at the time and four of them were publicly traded companies and all four within three days. Got, I got reached out to by our contact and talent that was hiring from us and they said, Hey, I just got let go looking for a new job. And I was like, I knew immediately. I was like, huh, that well is dry now. Like we need to pivot. So that was kinda, it was a very easy way there. There wasn't a hidden signal.

Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. Okay. pretty obvious, right? 

JR Butler: Yes. 

Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. And is the tool the platform you're developing. because of the situation as well, is it there like a reaction to the changes on the job market? 

JR Butler: No. It was the vision from the jump, right? Like I, I set out with the knowledge of hiring entry-level salespeople for the last 15 years. 

Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. 

JR Butler: Seeing paying a recruiter 20%, because they sent me someone's resume who just got outta college, never really made much sense to me. And entry level sales is the highest attrition of any profession in the world, right? Three, three times higher than average. So the way that people are hiring is that's not a people problem, that's a hiring problem. So we know, we believe that the way we're gonna approach it with our platform. Can reduce that number exponentially. That's the problem we're gonna fix.

Thomas Miltschuh: Okay. Okay. Nice. Any other lesson learned that you would like to share with the audience?

JR Butler: Yeah. And this is a lesson for both sales leaders as well as entrepreneurs, stay focused, right? 

Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. 

JR Butler: It's really easy to go chase this shiny object, especially when that shiny object . Has revenue attached to it. If it isn't in the core of what you do best, and it isn't aligned with what your mission is when you started your business or you know what product you're selling as a leader, you've gotta say, no. It's hard. I get it. I know this lesson because I learned it, right? We get approached by companies that say, we want to hire a leader from you, or we wanna hire a more senior role. The second we spend time and energy on that, we're getting away from our core that we're really good at. So stay focused. That's my biggest…

Thomas Miltschuh: Yeah. And even, I think even if you stay focused that there is. Enough room to optimize and to find things out and still so many things to fail at. Yeah, the more you get distracted, it's just, it increases the possibility of failures.

JR Butler: Totally, a hundred percent. 

Thomas Miltschuh: Great. I think We could go on for a much longer time. Maybe several more episodes, but unfortunately we are at the end of the episode. So we should record another one in the future. All right, so we are at the end of the episode of Speak Revenue. I want to thank our guest, JR. Butler for joining us today and sharing such valuable insights. A huge shout out to all our listeners. Your support means the world to us. Remember to check out our website at speakrevenue.com for a full transcript and additional resources. If you enjoyed the show, please leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you go for your listening needs really helps get the word out. Also, follow us on LinkedIn at Instagram or on YouTube. We'll be back soon with another great guest. Until then, stay curious and keep listening.

Copyrighted © 2022-23 Jaxx Technologies, Inc.

Copyrighted © 2022-23 Jaxx Technologies, Inc.