Join us in this episode as we sit down with Josh Braun, founder of Braun Training and a renowned figure in the sales landscape. Josh delves into his journey from teaching kindergarten to working at Nickelodeon Studios, exploring how these experiences shaped his approach to sales and content creation. Josh shares his insights on the evolution of cold emailing, the importance of storytelling in sales, and how understanding your customer’s problems is key to successful selling. He also discusses his philosophy on sales training, emphasizing the value of passion in what you sell and the crucial role of empathy and listening in sales interactions. Join us as we explore these fascinating topics and more with a truly remarkable sales mind.
Cross: Hello, and welcome to 73 and Sunny, the podcast about the journey of getting things just right. We talked to tech sales and marketing leaders about how they’re growing, dialing in best practices and getting closer to that sweet spot. We are honored to have the opportunity to speak with our guests today.
His content around sales. Detaching from the outcome and triathlons is prolific. You’ve seen him on your LinkedIn feed and he may have even snuck into your Tik Tok for you page. Founder of Braun Training, the man who can help you have fewer rejections and more conversations. Josh Braun. Thank you for being with us, Josh.
Josh: That’s a lovely introduction. You should, you should call me every morning and do that. I’ll be in such a good mood.
Cross: Yeah, I’m sure that I, we, we are so grateful to have you on. Obviously you’ve been in our, , our LinkedIn feeds for so long and, and. Your content is just engaging and everyone on our team is enamored with you.
So we’re, we’re grateful to have you. , one thing we don’t get to hear about is your background a lot. Would you mind kind of sharing just where you started out and how did you get started sharing your experience versus doing it? How did that process take place?
Josh: How did I get started as a salesperson or as a content creator, or where would you like me to begin?
Cross: That, that one, and then the next one. So where did you get started in sales? And then how did you get into content creation?
Josh: Yeah. So my first sales job was. Teaching kindergarten kids how to read and write, and it turns out that that’s a tough sell to antsy little five year olds. And what I learned from that experience is that teaching and selling have a lot of similarities because you have to entertain and inform people.
So my roots are in storytelling. From there, I went to Nickelodeon Studios where I worked on a show called Clarissa Explains It All starring Melissa Joan Hart, the teenage witch. And when I say worked on it, I mean I was. Cutting up cheese and fruit for her and tutoring her when she wasn’t running her lines, but again, roots and sort of entertainment and storytelling.
And then I accidentally fell into sales because I heard someone over talking in a gym about some startup teaching kids online. And I interjected myself into that conversation. I dropped out of my doctoral program. I was on track to be a principal. And he hired me as a salesperson, even though I knew nothing about selling.
Cross: Wow. That’s an incredible start. I had no idea. I never, people from my generation, of course, remember Claire explains it all. So, so you were teaching her, you overheard something about a startup for teaching and that got you into sales. And, and then how did you get into, how did you evolve from that into where you are today with content creation?
Josh: Yeah, so I, worked for child view and was mentored by a gentleman by the name of Scott Udine, who was one of these, I guess you could say natural born salespeople. And I just absorbed and watched what he was doing. But when I tried to do what he was doing, it never really felt good on my soul. He was a very charismatic guy.
He was selling in a very traditional way. The books he was giving me to read were the sort of traditional books, and it just never really felt good. Good on my soul. And so I started reading other types of books, , books on psychology, books on like marriage therapy, books on how to make people feel heard and empathetic.
And I started learning a little bit more about how to listen and how to ask questions without actually wanting anything. Initially, just sort of letting go of assumptions and letting go of the idea that we had something that someone needed, but to have a hypothesis. And it turns out when I started doing that, I don’t know, 15 or 20 years ago, people just opened up and had more conversations with me, which sort of naturally led to.
Sales, because the more, you know, honest conversations you have with people, the more they lower their guard, the more they share, the more opportunity you have to make sales. And so the approach that I had was sort of born out of this, idea that it just wasn’t feeling good for me, that the sort of books that I was reading and was trying a different approach.
And then the content creation, came when my boss asked me to start to teach sales to 1871, which was a startup incubator in Chicago. And I fought her. I didn’t want to do it, but she goes, Hey, you got a teaching background. You’re doing really well with sales. Why don’t you just teach people what you’re doing?
So I put together like a little deck. And I taught people how to cold email, had a cold call, and I really enjoyed it. Like, it really lit me up because my, my roots are in teaching and, , it was very fulfilling. And I started like codifying that stuff into a guide and, , started putting some of that stuff on LinkedIn and people, you know, liked what I was writing and that made me feel good and I kept doing more of it.
And so that’s kind of, that’s how it got going. So I got going.
Cross: That’s really interesting. I have a teaching background too. I have a master’s in education technology and I found the same principles. And now, when I think about the content that you put out, it does still follow a lot of the same. Methods for how you put together a lesson plan, where you introduce an idea and then you model it, you, you’re always doing modeling.
So it’s fascinating that that’s, that’s where it came from. Cause I think about that all the time too. And, and how, you know, how you might even lay out a presentation would be to make a statement to, to model how, and then check for understanding, right? You’re always, you’re always doing the same thing. So the, the, the exact way that you would design a.
A lesson plan is also kind of the way that you’re teaching online too, which is interesting.
Josh: Yeah, it’s a little different. Like online. What I do is I am constantly collecting stories. I have a spreadsheet on the left hand side are stories that I collect. Sometimes it’s a guy that knocked on my door trying to get me to trim my tree.
Sometimes it’s something my wife said. Sometimes it’s something I read a billboard that I saw and I collect these stories. And then the second column, I have an idea of how to relate it to some sales thing that I want to teach, and then all I do on on post mostly is I’m for the most part bridging the story to the lesson using some kind of phrase like, Why am I talking about this?
What’s the lesson here? What’s the point? Why am I mentioning this? I’m constantly on lookout for stories only because I know That stories are, they’re a really good mechanism to teach things. You could, you could teach things by telling people things on a PowerPoint slide, or if you wrap it up in a story, it’s just a little bit more interesting, a little more memorable.
Sometimes if my wife will say something, I’m like, you know what, John, we got to, we got to get on video and I have a great way to teach this concept that you just, you know, you got into this big discussion with your mom and you guys had this argent. And we can use this as an example and how to change it or whatever.
And so I’m always looking for ways. I’m just constantly on the lookout. The antenna is always up for like, whether it’s my dog or a knock on the door or my neighbor or something, it can get a little tiring. I mean, sometimes I’ll be at the dinner with my wife and they’ll give us like a tiny little napkin.
I’m like, you know, it’s interesting. Why is this a tiny napkin? She goes, not everything has to be a post. We could just, we could just enjoy the dinner.
Cross: And he asked if you want dessert and you go, go on.
Josh: Right. All right, go on.
Cross: So I wanted to get your take. I’ve noticed, and I don’t know that this, this might be anecdotal, but I’ve noticed that there’s a sentiment on LinkedIn and on. Feeds for people who are in business and in sales that, , it’s getting harder to book meetings that the same traditional outreach cadences of emails and calls and, you know, LinkedIn connection requests and those things that worked in the past are, aren’t working to book meetings today.
Do you accept that premise? And if so, what’s changed?
Josh: Well, the one thing that’s changed is that it’s more crowded. So back when I started doing this 15 years ago, maybe longer than that, it was There weren’t tools to automate, for instance, follow up, and there was not that many people sending cold emails.
So if you sent a really good cold email, and I have these in my guide, you can see the emails I was sending 15 years ago to Prudential and Geico and McDonald’s and Disney. These were not like emails with follow ups. These were like emails and people responding, you know, because it was a little bit unique.
There’s a really famous graph graphic that I show when I do my workshops. It’s a heat map. Of a website and it shows the banners on the top and the copy in the middle and it shows that all the eyeballs were on the banners when they first came out because they were animated. They were kind of new. So when someone got a cold email that was highly relevant and personalized, that was kind of a new thing.
They’re like, wow, this guy’s really thoughtful. And those emails were very thoughtful. I mean, they were, they took about 15 minutes each to write. They were heavily researched. They were very thoughtful, very selective of as to who we were going after we weren’t mass blasting like 100 people.
I had like, okay, these are the 20 people. These are the 30 people. We were very thoughtful and deliberate, and we put a lot of work into the emails and even showed like little proof of concepts. We had like a 70, 80 percent response rate. So what ends up happening now is there’s so many tools that make it easy.
To send all emails to people and quote unquote personalize them at scale, but you lose that caring part of it a little bit, and I think it comes through because you end up rushing the thing that matters most, which is why should anyone care about this relative to what they have? This is not about personalization.
No matter who you reach out to, someone is getting the job done today, and most of the emails that I see written are trying to sell sneakers to people that already have sneakers. There’s nothing meaningfully different about anything you’re bringing to the table, right? It’s almost like, hey, Josh, we got these great sneakers.
Well, I have sneakers already. Got this great, I got one of those. No matter what you’re selling, someone’s getting the job done today. So what’s missing is what I call poking the bear. This idea of being able to ask a question that shines a light on something someone does not know. About a problem. They might not know they had right.
So the example that I tell about this and I think it’s really relevant for cold emails is I don’t know, four or five years ago I was in the mall with my wife. I didn’t need anything. I was killing some time. We were going to grab some dinner afterwards at True Food in the mall. I just walked into a fit to run store, not needing anything.
So if the store associates said we got these new sneakers, which is what most cold emails say, I would have said, I’m not interested. I got sneakers. If she said they’re on sale, they’re half off. Not interested. If she said they got this new carbon sole, they’re stiffer, not interested, don’t care. But she didn’t do any of those things.
She looked down at my sneakers. She goes, are you a runner? I said, yes. She goes, you training for any races? I go, actually, I’m, I’m training for my first half marathon. And then she said, have you ever had a running gait test? And I said, what’s that? And moments later, I’m on a treadmill. And I have video of this if you want to see it.
She freezes the frame and zooms into my ankles and goes, notice anything about your ankles? And I go, yeah, they’re a little over pronated. She goes, yeah. I go, so? She goes, well the problem is if you run in sneakers that are not made for pronated feet, you can get injured on long distance runs, you can get plantar fasciitis, runner’s knee.
If you’d like, I could take a look at your sneakers to see if they’re made for pronated feet. And about, I don’t know, six minutes later, I’m spending 180 on new sneakers and insoles. That’s what’s missing in these cold emails. The, the sort of like what’s different relative to what I have and why does it matter?
And I think if you’re able to zone in on that and a carefully crafted email, I don’t think it’s actually harder. I think it’s easier because most emails don’t do that. Most emails are rushed. Scaled and, very generic, but if you’re a little thoughtful about who you select and you actually have a meaningfully different idea related to a problem people don’t know about, you actually will be able to stand out in the sea of same.
Cross: it’s interesting because the alternative, which has been accepted is it’s easier to send a thousand emails that have zero personalization and zero relevance, but that are going to get a You know, an 11 percent open rate and maybe a 0.
7 percent response rate or something, then to go through one by one and find something for 15, you know, that’s going to take 15 minutes to put together, you know, will ultimately net you the same amount, but you’re, you know, the, maybe the, the next part of the relationship was harder. , my, my question, you know, your strategies on what you, what you just mentioned, which is kind of really listening, being present, detaching from the outcome, asking questions that eliminate illuminate a problem.
This is inherently difficult to automate. So where do you see, or how do you see AI affecting the engagement and follow up process or the sales process?
Josh: Yeah, I think every, everybody, wants to automate and scale, everything. So if you go ahead and blast out. Your emails in an automated way, you might get a 4 percent response rate, but that means 96 or 98 percent of people aren’t responding and you sort of burn through your total addressable market.
I would think less about scaling and more about understanding the problem. Most sellers, when I give them, we could talk about this, the infomercial test, which is tell me a little bit about how they’re getting the job done today specifically. And what sucks about it and why it sucks and tell me so that I could actually see it and we can go through this if you want to give me more detail, but most sellers can’t do that.
So if you if you can’t understand their current state and why it really sucks and you can’t visually make me see that you’re not going to be able to write an email that’s going to be relevant. I’ll just give you a quick example. Imagine that your ICP is a guy who loves to cook four days a week.
Specifically, this guy loves to make tomato caprese salad. So let’s watch him make it. Okay, there he is in the kitchen. He’s wearing a brand new white apron. His name is Max. He’s got a little beard and he takes out his beautiful tomatoes and he puts them on his white countertop. And now he takes out his knife out of the butcher block and he’s about to slice a tomato.
And as he’s slicing it, we can see that that knife isn’t really that sharp. So as he’s cutting into the tomato, it makes this splat sound. It gets all over the white apron. It’s a little messy on the countertop and he serves it and it’s a little messy too, but it’s just for his family. So it’s like no big deal, so he just keeps doing it that way, until his wife one day says we’re having the Jones’s over and I told them you would make the tomato caprese salad and Mr.
Jones wants to watch you make it, and he panics because he doesn’t want to embarrass himself with a knife, so he goes to the mall Williams Sonoma. And he sees all these knives, and there’s so many of them, he doesn’t know which one to select. They’re all like 800 bucks. They’re all Japanese steel. He’s like, you know what?
I can’t even decide. I’m just going to go back, and I’m going to use my current knife, and I’ll just deal with it. But fortunately, at 11 o’clock at night, he sees this commercial for this knife that looks like it came from the future. It’s cutting through cans. It’s called the Ginsu knife, and it’s like half the price of these knives that he was looking at William Sonoma.
He buys it now. When I was telling that story, you probably saw that visually in your head. When I give salespeople that test, nine times out of 10, they can’t do it. They’ll say things like, well, we streamline the process of the 360 degree workflow. I can’t see that. That means you don’t really understand it.
That’s because companies do product training, but not problem training. So what they should be doing is bringing in a customer and doing what I call a show and tell, meaning have the customer show salespeople, not tell them on a PowerPoint slide. But show them how they were getting the job. Open up the Excel.
Show me how you were calculating and running commissions before. Like, show me the tabs. What was the problem with that? Oh, how’d you resolve that? Oh, the salesperson had a dispute because they thought their comp was wrong. They couldn’t see it. How’d you, how’d you deal with that? Oh, you had to go into the formula and look at, see what happened?
Oh, you cut and pasted it wrong? Oh, you start to see like, oh my God. Then you can write an email that says, Bob, you’re running comp for 100 plus people. You shouldn’t have to open up five tabs, cut, copy and paste things from Excel into this. To determine payouts, right? You can get very specific. And then when you do that, people are like, Oh my God, that’s my, I do that every day, like, and then the brain naturally goes to, what do you have?
Right. So you’re kind of skipping a step if you want to get to scaling and using AI. There’s there’s, those are tools. That can be useful, but you’ve got to start before that. You’ve got to have some of those fundamentals. It’s like, I’m taking the piano now. I just got a piano and I’m taking lessons.
And the first thing I said to my teacher is I want to learn the river flows in you, which is a fairly beautiful piano song. And she’s like, dude, slow down, buddy. You don’t even know what a C, you don’t even know what a C chord is yet. So I am literally. Learning basic piano technique, having the wrists the certain way using only the right hand and only the left hand.
There’s fundamentals that are missing in this, in the cold email copywriting stuff, because it’s so fun to scale stuff and automate stuff and, and the geek out on, you know, chat, GPT and AI.
Cross: And so it sounds like before you, before you do try to scale and automate everything, get your fundamentals down.
Josh: If you can’t get people to respond without scaling, you’re not going to get people to respond when you do scale.
Cross: So on, on the topic of, of scaling those skills, you have something very entertaining that, a segment on your social channels. I think it’s mostly YouTube, but you can correct me that you call “I teach my wife sales” where you and your, you and your wife act out sales scenarios. It’s fantastic.
It made me wonder when I was watching her, cause it really is great to see the two. The two kinds of personalities, , it made me wonder, is there such a thing as a born salesperson or do you think anyone can do it with the right training? How do you feel about the nature and nurture
Josh: aspect of sales? I do think some people are, they have a natural ability to be better listeners and more empathetic than other people.
I think there is some like, you know, natural ability to it, like I think in anything. But even if you have that natural ability, you can get very far if you find a product that you’re really passionate about, right? So many salespeople that quote unquote don’t think they’re doing great at sales. It’s because they don’t really know about the product.
Like I’ll just give an example. There’s a popular company that I do some training for called Snowflake, great company, and a lot of people work for them because they think they’re gonna have an exit. And they’re going to get like to be millionaires, but they don’t really know like What a data analyst does or a data and they’re cold calling data scientists.
And they don’t really like, I guess they think the product’s okay. They don’t really like feel it. They don’t really like, they’re not excited or passionate about it. Versus like when I sold before I became a sales trainer and coach, I was selling for a company called jelly vision. The guy that created that company founded a game called you don’t know Jack, which I played growing up and I got to meet the guy and he’s like, Hey, we can use this same approach to teach people about employee benefits.
Like we’ll use our snarky voice. We’ll do like a Q and a I’m like, Oh my God, let me loose. Like I was like on a scale of one to 10, I was like an 11. Like I really believed in that product. And so I was, that comes through in your desire to get better versus if you’re selling a CRM, you got to have some belief.
And then of course, just like learning piano or anything, there are skills that you can learn the most of which is, is connecting dots. Listening, not being pushy, you know, you can learn those skills, but you have to believe in what it is that you’re selling. Otherwise, it’s you kind of go through the motions.
I’ll give you just a quick story on this because it happened fairly recently that the place called Tin Muffin Cafe in Boca, it’s on Palmetto Park Road. And I was eating lunch with my wife and I normally never get dessert. Because the servers say that you want dessert, and I always say no. But this server, , I think her name was Debbie, I think.
She comes to the table, and this was her line. She goes, are you afraid of dessert? And I go, well, I’m not afraid of it. She goes, , I go, what do you have? She goes, well, we’ve got a lot of things, but the banana cake will change your life. I have two kids and two cats, and I don’t even like bananas, and this is life altering.
I have no idea if we have any left. If you’d like, I can check. I’m like, yeah, bring it. It was amazing. Right? So she loves the banana pie, banana cake. Like she loves the banana cake. You don’t have to be like at an 11, but you can’t be at a two. You gotta be like, you know, I kind of, I’m a little excited about this.
And I think a lot of salespeople aren’t selective of what they sell. They just like take the first gig. They think, Oh, snowflake or whatever. They’re going to, they’re going to turn public. , but you gotta sell this thing for a long time, so you may as well like what you’re selling.
Cross: Yeah, that’s really interesting because it does allow people to within the sales world to follow what everyone says, which is follow your passion and do what you care about and you’ll, you know, if you love your work, you’ll never work a day in your life.
Well, that’s not going to be the case every day, but if you are selling something that you honestly like being around, I remember one of my first jobs was working at the surf and working at a surf shop and. , they allowed you to use your paycheck for, , goods before tax. So you could buy, I don’t think I ever received a paycheck in the two years that I worked there because I’ve got, but I got wet suits and surfboards, but none that never seemed like work.
And obviously it was a part time job, but I was, if I could get into the back and talk about surfboards all day with people who are coming in and shopping surfboards, it was the idea of heaven for me. So, totally, you know, it’s one of the underappreciated things, potentially looking at what you’re selling and some, someone could say, I can sell anything and you could, you probably put them in a position and if they, if they’ve gotten all the hard skills, , that you, that you talked about, like in technique with piano, they can probably sell anything for
Josh: how long you want to, I’m not saying, I’m not saying, I want to be very careful here, I’m not saying you have to be like, Follow your passion, because I think if your passion doesn’t make you money, that’s a, that’s terrible advice.
Okay. If you’re passionate about piano or guitar or surfing, go do that. If you can find a product that you are passionate about, maybe not you would use like, but you’re, you’re excited about it in some way, like this is a pretty cool thing. , same thing when I worked at base camp with Jason Freed, I was like, this is a great, like a departure from normal project management software.
It’s easy on the eyes. It’s simple to use. Like you have to have some semblance of like, I really like this. Because you’re going to be selling it for a while.
Cross: Okay, so this is a, this is a question. It’s obviously a hypothetical, and let’s assume there’s some, there’s some, , technological backup. But if you’re on a deserted island, the only thing that will get you rescued is meeting quota.
What tools and software do you bring and let’s assume you have some Wi Fi and assume you have a laptop. What tools or software are crucial to you in doing your job?
Josh: Okay so I’m gonna substitute tools and software because I know everyone loves tools and software for understanding the prospects problem at a deep And crispy level understanding the terrible, no good, very bad thing that happens if they stick with their current solution at a very.
detailed and crispy level. I’ll give you an example. Let’s say I’m on this deserted island and I have a product that solves one of the biggest problems that people washing their car have and don’t know. So if I’m going to reach out to someone that’s washing their car and I’m going to call them on the phone, I’m going to say something like this.
Dan, I know you wash your car. Do you use when you wash your car, Dan, to use one bucket or two?
Josh: A lot of people use one bucket. What happens sometimes when you use one bucket is dirt settles to the bottom, can get on your sponge and scratch your car. How are you reducing the risk of that happening to you today when you wash your car?
Cross: I’m not.
Josh: Yeah. So what I’m doing there is I’m asking a question. We didn’t rehearse this, but I’m asking a question. They might say, well, what do you mean? Or I’m guessing I’m just walking in there. So what we, well, have you heard of a grit guard? No. Okay. Now we’ve started a conversation with, with a grit guard.
It goes in your bucket. It’s like a little grate and you rub your sponge on it and the dirt settles to the bottom of the bucket and off your sponge. Does that sound generally speaking like something you’d want to check out or not really like, see what I’m not filling your head with anything. I’m drawing it out of you.
So I’m not starting with tech and I’m not starting with software. I’m starting with identifying something that’s meaningfully different about a problem that prospect might not know about. From there, everything is easy. Then I construct neutral questions that get people to think differently. If I’m making a cold call, Hey, Josh, when you edit your podcast, this is for a company called Descript.
When you edit your podcast, are you using tools like Riverside or actually I could ask you this or your tech guy when you guys are doing your podcast, are you using tools like Riverside, Adobe Audition and like a Final Cut Pro to like edit and promote your podcast?
Josh: How’s that been going?
Cross: Good. Generally,
Josh: you’re probably familiar with Descript.
Cross: I’m not. No. What’s that?
Josh: I’m sorry. Are you being genuine? Do you not know what it is?
Cross: No, I don’t.
Josh: Okay. So that’s great. So now what I’ve done is I’ve created an opening. So Daniel, you know how, when you edit your podcast, now you have to edit waveforms, with Descript that turns it into a doc and you can edit it like a word doc, which means you can edit them in like seconds versus.
Minutes or hours, you can remove all the s and ahs with a click. Generally speaking, does that sound like something that might be of interest or you’re too swamped to even take a look at something like that right now?
Cross: Yeah. And what I liked was you didn’t say, are you using an editing software for your podcasting?
You’re saying you’re, you’re probably using one of these three. Did you know X?
Josh: Yeah. And the reason for that is, the number one objection people have when they make cold calls is I’m using Riverside for that. I already have a podcast. So I’m going to call that out. Hey, are you using tools like A, B, and C to do this?
How’s that been going? Sounds like it’s been perfect. You’ve probably looked into Descript. And then what does Descript allow me to do? It allows you to edit podcasts, like word docs. Instead of waveforms. So if you have all these s and ahs, let’s say this is actually pretty interesting. You might find this interesting.
Let’s say you mispronounce a word. What you have to do now is you have to go into your editing software and rerecord it, splice it in with Descript. You actually just type in what you meant to say, and it records it and puts it in, in your voice without having to record. It’s unbelievable. It’s magic.
Cross: Yeah, that’s really cool.
Josh: Yeah. So that’s the idea is that you have to have that point of view before software and tools.
Cross: Well, we, we, we only have a couple of minutes left. And again, we’re really appreciative of your time. I wanted to give you a chance, I know you built a reference book for salespeople that gets rave reviews.
Many say it’s the best money they’ve ever spent on sales training. It’s not even a subscription. What you’ve built is a, a one time purchase that gets updated. And so you, you buy it and you get to keep, you know, rather than having to pay monthly. Can you tell us about the badass B2B growth guide, , and, and maybe tell people where to get it and we’ll put a link in the, in the comments as well.
Josh: Yeah. Ever since I started out in selling, I would put things that were working for me in a doc. So here’s a cold email. I wrote, here’s a positive response. I bought, here’s something I learned that worked really well for me. These are like plays. This is not a course. That’s an ongoing book of things that have worked for me.
They’re compiled, they’re categorized. I keep adding to them. I keep taking things out. It’s a one time fee, 197 lifetime access, and if you have questions as you’re going through it, I will answer them. And it’s on my website, joshbraun.com/shop.
Cross: Awesome. Thank you so much for joining us. It was extremely generous of you.
Please follow Josh on LinkedIn, check out the badass B2B growth guide, and thanks so much for being here, Josh.
Josh: Thanks for inviting me, Daniel. Appreciate it.