Buckle up ladies and gentlemen, you’ll be at the edge of your seat as you listen to the latest episode of The Abstrakt Podkast featuring Kevin Hopp, CEO of Hopp Consulting Group and host of The Sales Career Podcast.
In any company, everybody should be able to talk the talk. From SDRs to customer service reps to managers.
Think about it …. can your employees really tell the story of how the solution is valuable to the customers you serve?
In sales, that’s the core of cold calling.
The person that is expected to tell the story about your company is the newest person in the door. So if you’re a leader or founder, how do you pass that institutional knowledge down? Can you take all of that and boil it down to a sentence or two?
Kevin talks all about cold calling, SDRs, tech stack, and so much more.
Greg Reffner: [00:00:02] Cool. Hey, buddy, this is Greg Reffner on the Abstrakt Podkast as I drop my pen to kick things off. And joining us is Kevin Hopp, CEO of Hopp Consulting Group and host of the Sales Career Podcast. Kevin, please say hi, sir.
Kevin Hopp: [00:00:16] Hi. Hi. Thank you for having me. Greg, I really do appreciate it. We were just talking a little bit about how we have been connected and I have known about Abstrakt for a while, so I’m really looking forward to the discussion. And thanks for having me.
Greg Reffner: [00:00:28] Yeah, absolutely. My pleasure. We’re so. I started my career as an SDR and I had like all of 37 minutes of training on how to cold call before they basically said, here, go have success called volley looking back. That’s kind of the genesis of abstract. But you’ve chosen to focus your career and your brand on helping making cold calling suck less. You’re coming out with a course soon and that’s kind of your brand is around cold calling and helping individuals be more successful. So we’re going to focus our time together on that topic. Before we get started, I would like to give our listeners some background, like why? Why should we listen to Kevin? Right. So kind of walk us through your career, how you got here, why this is so important as a as a foundation for some of the questions we’re going to answer. We’re going to ask you here a little bit.
Kevin Hopp: [00:01:28] 100%. So let’s start at the very beginning. So when I was in when I was in college, I did two internships at venture backed software companies. And this was right when Silicon Valley, the show was coming out. So I had big stars in my eyes, like I was like, I’m going to be in Silicon Valley. I’m going to work for like SAS companies. I’m like venture capital. What is this? We just got 25 million cool free beer in the break room. Like, I loved it. So the first job I got out of college was being the first hire at a seed stage seed stage startup. So I got to do everything involved in a software company. I was the product manager, I was the support manager. As the sales manager, I traveled, I went to conferences. I was writing for the blog. It was really, really an awesome introduction to the business world and to startups in general. After that experience came to an end, I had to pick something. I wanted to pick something. I was like, What am I going to do? And I figured out that not everybody likes talking as much as I do, and they don’t like talking to strangers as much as I do. I genuinely make friends kind of everywhere I go ask my wife. She rolls her eyes every time.
Greg Reffner: [00:02:35] So like you, I was an SDR. At a venture backed software company downtown San Diego. Raised a ton of money, hired a ton of sales reps, and we didn’t have a VP of sales and we had a 14 person sales team with no VP of sales rolling up to a CEO who was so excited that he just raised venture capital that he was never around. So I had no training. I no training absolutely thrown to the wolves trying to sell enterprise software, calling other companies, manufacturing companies. And I hated it. I would lose sleep over it, over how bad it was. So the way I escaped was I did so well at it that I got promoted and I said, Thank God I’m a closer now. I left all that SDR stuff behind me like, this is great, I’m a closer, where am I leads? And anyone listening to this, yeah, anyone listening to this is going, yeah, yeah. That’s, that’s not how it works. So I spent a few years of my career continuously thinking the grass is greener. Moving from company to company. Every year I change jobs. It became a running joke in my family and friends and everything. Hey. Hey. You still working there? Probably not. Where are you working now? Right. Every time I’d find a really cool way to get a sort of cross promotion, I’d make more and more money every time because your.
Kevin Hopp: [00:03:55] Your value to someone else is potentially greater in terms of base salary. But I have the same problem, same problem everywhere I went, which is where’s my next deal coming from? I did a really good job, believe it or not, of selling myself, talking myself into situations where I’m the youngest, most immature sales person in the room. Consistently that happened to me three separate times and I didn’t have a little black book, I didn’t have a book business, I didn’t have anyone to call, and I had no LinkedIn presence. I didn’t have a brand, so I had to cold call. I had to figure this stuff out. But the reason I’m telling this whole long winded story here is just it was consistent theme of having this problem. And I got so obsessed with the problem that I came up with the solution. So I went into I went into consulting. The first thing I did in consulting was I was a gun for hire. Like, I’m naturally really good at cold calling. I enjoy it and it really gets me going. So I did that for about a year. I made a lot of money doing that, actually. Like stars out there, if you can get really good at cold calling and you can prove it and you find the right partners, you can make a lot of money just cold, calling for a few hours a day on autopilot.
Kevin Hopp: [00:05:04] Then I evolved to running an outsourced Legion team that had at one point I had 12 stars that were all calling all day using my techniques. That was about a fun year or so. And then I’ve kind of moved into what I’m doing now, which is strategic advisory, which is really, really where I can combine all my experience of being the new kid in the room and all these startups with what I’ve done in consulting, which is work with 40 different companies in two years, helping them build outbound messaging process and structure. So what I do today is I do one of a few things, which is advise founders that want to go outbound and don’t know where to start. Advise teams to have reps calling aren’t converting very well and then coach those, coach those reps, right. So when it comes to like absolutely cold calling, it’s really hard to find anyone out there, anyone. And if Ryan Reiser is listening, I will I will fight him on this. I think I’ve made more cool calls than any other LinkedIn talking head out there probably combined. So that’s who that’s who I am. That’s where I came from.
Greg Reffner: [00:06:06] Nice. Okay. So it’s so interesting because you brought up that founder just raised 25 million. And it just it made me realize, as I’ve built abstract, I wanted to get out of the world like you. I wanted to become an enough prospect. And cold call ended up still having prospect and call it golf. I wanted to get into sales leadership because I didn’t want to get I wanted to get out of like closing deals every single day while you’re still closing deals every single day. I was like, Oh, I’ll start my own company. I won’t have to click on Prospect or Close Deals anymore. Nope, you’re still doing that because now you’re trying to find your fundraisers or your next employee like you’re always trying to, even in life in general. To be successful, you have to be able to kind of get somebody’s attention enough for them to give you 2 seconds to listen to you and then form a relationship quickly. And so the skill of cold calling, I think, is applicable across every part of a company and in life in general.
Kevin Hopp: [00:07:09] I would tend to agree in the way that I tell that part of the story of why cold calling is so important is in a company, everybody should be able to talk the talk. What does that mean? You know that elevator ride? What do you guys do on the 12th floor? Can they really tell the story of how your solution is valuable for the customers you serve? What business challenges? What business problems are you addressing and how does that change what your customers are doing today? How does it really affect them? That’s talking the talk. And that’s the core of cold calling.
Greg Reffner: [00:07:44] Yeah. All right. Well, let’s get into that. So. As I promised, we’re going to go off on a little tangent. Whether you are a seed stage company with maybe one or two sales reps or maybe a series A and you’ve got 2025 reps or your public and you got hundreds of thousands. The same struggle remains where the vision of the CEO kind of the elevator pitch is really difficult to pass down to that front line person in a way that they can kind of make their own and use in a repeatable fashion. Let’s start with that problem. Why is that so hard to get down to that person who’s making the phone call so that they understand it and can have the confidence to deploy it every time someone actually answers the phone.
Kevin Hopp: [00:08:37] It’s a great question. It starts with the basic tenant that every single company has, which is skills are entry level jobs. So it and especially with the pandemic, what I’ve seen when I ran the company, the outsource company that I was doing, we hired a lot of people from our bootcamps. So it wasn’t like it used to be like a lot of kids that were like me and you probably at the time, college educated, 20 something young, twenties. Here’s your first job. You’re a cold caller. Go get new business. Then it shifted during the pandemic to, hey, I’m a 45 year old valet driver who can’t drive valet anymore. I’m a 38 year old mom of three, and I used to do bookkeeping in this big office, and I can’t do that anymore. Now I’m an SDR. So that in itself means that the person that’s expected to tell the story that the founder founded the company on is the newest person in the door at any given moment. And they probably have the least amount of experience in that market with that company serving those kinds of customers. That’s why it’s so hard, right? Because they’re going from 0 to 1. And the founder, a good founder, emanates the problems and challenges and the benefits of what they do. Like, just it just flows out of them. And I’ve worked with quite a few companies. This is a very common problem where the VP of Sales or the founder can talk on and on and on and on and on about how great their stuff is. But they can’t boil it down to a sentence or two. And that is like it’s this art and a skill, right? And that’s where, you know, that’s why I’m here.
Greg Reffner: [00:10:23] Okay. So let’s I love that you talked about valet driver bookkeeper, because I just interviewed an SDR this morning and she got on and she was all I am surprised you entertained talking to me. I’ve worked at a audio install shop behind a Best Buy. I was a valet driver and I worked at Claire’s as a general manager and I was like, in all those roles, you had to talk to strangers. You probably had to sell them something and you had to be likable in a very short amount of time. Is that true? She was like, Yeah, absolutely. So I think that there’s some opportunity in kind of exploring backgrounds of people that don’t necessarily fit a stereotypical SDR, right? I think at 35, 40 years old, you have more life experience and you’re more relatable than an SDR coming out of college anyways. What can that founder, VP of Sales do? What exercise is without giving away kind of your course? Kevin What are maybe one or two tips or tricks that they could do to kind of help them get to that one or two sentence value drop in a quick enough time to where when they are hiring stars, it becomes impactful.
Kevin Hopp: [00:11:51] It’s a good question. You know, I would the classic thing of, like, explain to me, like, I’m five years old, right? You can’t explain what you do to a five year old kid. It’s not going to be able to be easily pitch to someone on the phone. And I think the missing piece is that when you become a CEO or you raise venture capital, you are somebody. You’re now somebody and especially with LinkedIn. I’ve watched LinkedIn go from like it wasn’t a big deal to now it’s like massive. Everybody’s on LinkedIn. You can gather a huge following very easily. You become somebody now when you become somebody and you have this what we call ego inside of you. It’s very, very hard to even think about talking to someone who doesn’t know who you. I’m Kevin. I’m the CEO of Hop Consulting Group. We’ll take my call. But what? I didn’t ask for this call. Happens all the time. All the time. So one of the things that is essential to how I train cold calling in general, giving away part of the source of the course. I don’t mind. Like if you disagree with this, that’s fine if you agree with it by the course. But the source of the course is let’s like de-risk that whole situation by only having conversations with people who are ready to talk. Number one, I think the number one problem with cold calling is false negatives. Okay. Hey, I call Claire. Hey, Claire. How’s it going today? Oh, I’m okay. How are you? Yeah, I’m blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
Kevin Hopp: [00:13:26] And here’s my pitch. And then they hang up and they say, I’m not interested in the hang up. That’s the number one problem, because Claire wasn’t ready to have a conversation. We didn’t clarify that. Things like that. But the next piece of that is to be able to have a business level conversation, right? So I teach a very conversational technique. I don’t teach a pitch or people go, Yes, oh my God, this is what I’ve needed for five years. Sign me up today. A lot of people think cold calling is about selling. I am selling my product. When I cold call, I am selling this stuff. You’re not. And my course is all about how you should be able to have a business level conversation which drives curiosity and intrigue. Which sells the meeting, sells another time to have a sit down conversation. There’s no egos involved because they agreed to meet with you. You can do research on them. They can do research on you. You have this business level conversation about a business challenge or problem, and that should be the focus should not be I’m selling the whole vision of what’s going on here in this discussion. So to put it really straight forward, like the one liner to answer your question is CEOs sell the company and sell the product, still sell meetings. You talk about that they don’t sell the product. If your stores are trying to sell the product, CEOs can’t really sit teach the how to sell the meeting as well as they can sell the product. You know.
Greg Reffner: [00:14:54] So one of the best pieces of advice I got was from a guy named Michael Tomei was he said, if you can make it through an entire phone conversation as SDR without talking about your product or the benefits of your product, and focusing exclusively on driving curiosity or uncovering pain points that a prospect has, you’ve done a great job, and I kind of took that to heart, and maybe I’ve taken it a little bit, kind of maybe too far in that direction, because sometimes I feel like, you know what? Where’s that line where you maybe need to give a little bit? But I think that that mind shift of sell the meeting, not the product. That permeates there’s so many problems like an onboarding today where they’re told about the product, here’s the features, here’s the case studies, here’s all the cool widgets that we have, that competitor X, Y or Z doesn’t have. They’re never told sell the meeting. They’re kind of like infatuated with how cool our product is and our G2 crowd position and our fancy VC backed funding. Right? Like it’s a, it starts even like day one in the training. And I guess that I’ll stop that. I’ll kind of start at the top from CEO down, right.
Kevin Hopp: [00:16:13] Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. It’s it’s one of the things that, like, I believe that you have to teach the art of the cold conversation separately from like actual even sales training. Right? Like one of the, one of the kind of hotter takes I have is that really good closers shouldn’t be cold calling. They should be focusing their skill set on other things and really developing their skill set and really leaning into that in a totally different way. And I think there is a little bit too much of the old school like source 50% of your own deals at all times, which puts pressure, right? Which goes to another like evolution that I am currently working to undertake, which is demand generation and outbound need to form an awesome base pillar for all of your sales. So demand generation, the idea that you go to the market and you educate them on what you do and you actually generate leads like people actually come to you because your marketing is developed in a way that people say, Huh, I didn’t think about it that way. I guess I do want to have a conversation about that. You combine that with good quality outbound conversations. Now all of a sudden you have people who are really good at selling, building relationships, proving value, driving deals, doing that. And you need you need both if you’re really going to scale, right?
Greg Reffner: [00:17:42] So talk to me about why we’re tangent number two. Talk to me a little bit about why if I’m if I’m outbound prospecting, let’s say you, Kevin, I’m calling you immediately, your voicemail. I shoot an email. I feel like there’s companies are almost all also doing a disservice and not helping kind of support that effort because. If you’re doing outbound really well, you’re probably using messaging that might not be the same on a website selling features, benefits, things like that. Do you ever work with your clients on kind of sales and marketing alignment to help aid in? Cold. I’m doing a little bit from cold calling, but more like just cold outreach in general.
Kevin Hopp: [00:18:34] I try. I try. I try. I just ended an engagement with a client. Longstanding client is great, but the biggest problem was I was hired to be the SDR guy. I did my job. I went from 0 to 4 stars, zero closed one to over six figures and close one four stars all in six months. Right. I did my job, but I kept I saw the bigger problem. The bigger problem was that their marketing department wasn’t playing the same fiddle as the sales department. And trying to drive that alignment is tough, especially if you have marketing leaders that have never empowered sales team. Like the other thing about like marketing is you could be in marketing and not be good for a marketing job at a software company that’s trying to scale. Sure, there’s basics of marketing like messaging and positioning, and the website needs to be good SEO like check the boxes. But how to empower a modern outbound sales team with marketing? That’s different. That’s fair. That’s the man again. Demand a really good demand. And marketers are like they should. They should. I know a few that are comped as well as salespeople, like really highly compensated people because they see it, they get it, and they know how to go across the aisle and put their arm around a guy like me and say, Hey, Kevin, here’s how we’re going to go to war on this. He’s going to go outbound with this message. And if everyone’s playing the same fiddle. Incredible growth. Yeah.
Greg Reffner: [00:20:07] So, I mean, we keep coming back to this idea that you have multiple influences outside of just that STR. You have leadership, you have enablement, you have marketing. There’s so many other pieces just to the piece of the puzzle around cold calling that honestly, up until our conversation I wasn’t really kind of thinking about on a regular basis. I think it’s easy to point the finger at an SDR. I’m like, Oh, you suck at cold calling, but there’s so many other influences. And so as part of the consulting that you do, I think anybody who engages with you and uses your service should be open to kind of having you do an audit around the business to see is there anything that’s fighting these SDR? There’s anything that’s causing friction with their success. Um. That’s right. There’s there’s my plug for your business because.
Kevin Hopp: [00:21:12] I appreciate that. So so what’s interesting is there’s a lot of perspectives, but there’s no perspective like the front lines.
Greg Reffner: [00:21:21] Yeah.
Kevin Hopp: [00:21:22] Right. Because there’s, there’s like. What? Oh, I came from a competitive business. I’ve been in this for 5 to 7 years. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Here’s what we should be positioning it as. Then there’s me saying, Hey, I actually shadowed all 4 hours making calls. This week. I heard 17 different decision makers talking about this business problem. And they didn’t talk like that. Yeah, no, there’s no like you can’t fight with that. Right. And I think I think this should go full circle to plug Abstrakt. Right. Which is understand what’s going on in your course and then learn from that and take what’s going on, your calls to do better and what’s going on in your calls. And the conversations you’re actually having with your market should be more important than an opinion.
Greg Reffner: [00:22:13] Mike drop. Do you have a mike you can drop on the floor? Yeah, I love it. Absolutely. I mean, I couldn’t agree more. It’s use. Yeah. Yes. I’m just going to say yes. All right. So we didn’t cover basically almost all of the questions I was supposed to ask you, Kevin, on this conversation. So apologies for that. I kind of want to wrap it up, though, just from a time perspective. I 100% agree with the direction of you think cold calling needs to go. I think it’s applicable across any company size. I guess my kind of final question to you can only be if you have advice for our listeners who are maybe trying, maybe I’m not SDR and I see the disconnect. Like, what could I do to maybe start to try to initiate some change within my company or maybe just within my team to help me be more effective at my job?
Kevin Hopp: [00:23:21] It’s a really good question and it’s something that I struggle with my career. Right. Like if I as a rep, as an individual contributor, if I had better voices above me that would like listen to what I would say about what was going on on the front lines. I probably would. Maybe. Maybe I’d still be at that startup. Right. Like I recently saw a startup that I quit working at. They raised their series at like six months ago at a big valuation. They’re like actually starting to take off now. And I sat there, I was like, man, if I had had, like, you know, like better leadership. I didn’t have a I had a I’ll be honest, I had a 63 year old VP of Sales.
Greg Reffner: [00:24:01] Which I hadn’t told since Dinosaurs Walk the Earth. Got it?
Kevin Hopp: [00:24:05] Yeah, like, it was just so different. And then I. The reason I quit that job is because I was like, I’m not speaking. I’m not playing the same game as this leader, great guy, but hanging out with them and all that. But man, I just didn’t see it the same way. So it is it is tough. Like it’s tough to fight that that uphill climb. Right. In terms of like how do you drive change in the organization? The number one way to like have an opinion on something is to back it up, right? So if you’re not using call recording software, you should like very basics, right? Almost all of the platforms do allow for it in some way, shape or form. But like when I was in SCR, I would use call recordings very frequently to prove a point about like how to have these conversations. And then now with the software that I recommend to my clients, it’s all like tech stack is a must. I don’t work with anyone who’s not willing to spend a lot of money on tech because the tech will accelerate. Helps you go from 0 to 10, which is what everyone wants to do way faster. So there’s a lot of really, really good software out there to do that and then of course have conversations the right way. Go to Hopkins PulteGroup dot com and get the course. If you have conversations the right way, you’re going to get that quality insight. You need to prove your point. If you’re going to have a point of view.
Greg Reffner: [00:25:28] Love it. Awesome. Well, how do how do our listeners go about getting in touch with you?
Kevin Hopp: [00:25:33] Well, check out my podcast, the sales career podcast. It’s it’s not a tips and tricks show. So it’s about the real life story of salespeople and what you can learn from that. I’m trying to go like more inside the Actor’s Studio than inside the Actors Studio slash Joe Rogan than I am the Revenue Podcast. Like, it’s just not it’s not it’s not that show. So if that’s ever interesting to you, check that out. But other than that on LinkedIn, Kevin Hop, happy to connect with anyone.
Greg Reffner: [00:26:00] Cool, man. Well, thank you for joining our podcast today. It’s been a pleasure and hopefully our paths cross again in the future.
Kevin Hopp: [00:26:08] Thanks for having me on, Greg.
Greg Reffner: [00:26:09] Thanks bye.
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