Sales Legend John Barrows on How the AI Revolution Will Reshape B2B Selling
What does the future of selling have to do with Ironman? You’ll have to join Gautam for a fiery conversation with sales legend John Barrows to find out. From why prospecting is a critical skill to the drawbacks of the predictable revenue model, to how we’ve turned SDRs into robots and how AI will fundamentally alter the sales landscape, this is one glimpse into the future of selling you can’t miss.
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About our guest:
With over 25 years in sales, John Barrows has done everything from making 400 dials a day to leading a self-funded startup to a 9-figure exit. Now, he leads his own sales training company and has worked with industry giants like Salesforce, Amazon, and Google. JB’s mission is to elevate the craft of sales and we were lucky enough to have him as a guest for this episode of the OneShot podcast.
Key Take Aways:
- Prospecting is a critical skill for all salespeople: And it’s not just for SDRs. John explains that for AEs and other more senior sellers, when you know how to fill your own pipeline you make your own success. After all, according to John a big fat pipeline is the solution to pretty much every sales problem.
- The predictable revenue era is coming to an end: The introduction of AI into the sales process has exacerbated the flaws in the predictable revenue model, especially from the customer experience standpoint. This new era of AI-enabled selling will likely see a shift back to full-cycle salespeople.
- We’ve turned SDRs into robots. And now they’re being replaced by robots. And it’s not their fault—it’s sales leadership’s fault. Today’s junior reps believe hitting 50 cadences a day is what they’re supposed to do, because that’s what they’ve been taught. A lack of fundamental sales skills like business acumen, curiosity, and EQ have done new salespeople a disservice.
- The state of modern outbound prospecting: John makes a compelling case for burning everything we know about outbound and starting from scratch.
- The need for sales hackathons in the age of AI: Hackathons have long been a focal point for engineering innovation. So why not encourage sales hackathons? John makes the case for turning the sales team into a lab, testing new technology to find innovative approaches to stale processes.
- What the AI-powered sales rep of the future may look like: And why it’s closer than you think. Plus, why a comparison with Ironman is apt when thinking about the future of sales and selling.
- The hockey-stick growth and speed of AI development. Why it’s not slowing down any time soon, and how learning and leaning in is the only way to get ahead of the coming wave.
Gautam Rishi: Hey everyone, I'm excited to be joined by the legendary John Barrows from JB Sales. We'll be discussing sales, pipeline building, and prospecting, as well as John's views on the current state and future of the industry. John, please introduce yourself, and then we can dive in.
John Barrows: Thanks for having me. I'm John Barrows, CEO of Sell Better by JB Sales. I've been in the industry for over 25 years. I've consistently been a practitioner, training some of the fastest-growing companies, including Salesforce, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Amazon, and Google, primarily in prospecting training, which I continue to do daily.
I strive to evolve with the innovative tools available, like what you all are developing, and aim to help sales reps remain relevant in this ever-advancing tech world, which is increasingly challenging.
GR: Diving straight into your background, I noticed on your LinkedIn you started with selling tools. Were you actually selling tools, or was it more about live events, and then transitioned into tech? And did you also work at Xerox? What type of selling was that?
JB: I kind of fell into sales like many others. I got my degree in marketing because I didn't know what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I had quite the time during my four years of college. When I began looking for a job, the marketing options didn't appeal to me. That's when Black and Decker, out of Maryland, caught my attention. They recruit heavily from the University of Maryland and had this opportunity with DeWalt, which they own.
They had this "swarm team" idea, which was basically an event marketing team but under the banner of sales. I was part of this for a while before moving on to work with Home Depot. My role wasn’t about hard selling; I showcased products, saying, “If you want it, go buy it.” But the real challenge began when I had to increase orders for Home Depot.
Then came Xerox, where I got a deep dive into sales. Selling copiers to the government was no easy task. Here, I learned about solution selling. Xerox pioneered this concept back in the late 70s and early 80s. I also understood the essence of relationship selling and the necessity of a bottom-up approach, given my constraints. It also taught me how to handle rejection.
Later on, I co-founded Thrive Networks with some friends from high school. We provided outsourced IT services to the SMB market. At 23, and without much experience, I consumed all the training I could find, including from Sandler, Millerheim, and TAS. That's when I stumbled upon Basho. Their tactical approach appealed to me, and it significantly aided our growth. Thrive Networks became a notable name, leading to our acquisition by Staples. However, the corporate world wasn't my scene. I value candidness, and my aversion to office politics led Staples to offer me a different position, which was their way of letting me go.
In the midst of job searching again, Basho offered me a training position. I was initially reluctant because of my perception of most trainers. But they assured me that I'd be using and teaching the same techniques. I loved that philosophy. I joined Basho, handled some significant accounts, and when things went south there, I took charge. Now, I'm on my own, working with these great companies, and trying to stay ahead in the industry.
GR: And looking at that background, you fell into sales. I've noticed salespeople typically fall into three parts, right? Building, maturing, and then closing. They excel in building pipelines, maybe maturing them, and then there's that specialized skill set around closing. Your passion seems to have gravitated towards top-of-funnel prospecting. Do you feel that was from Xerox, or was it influenced later?
JB: No, I really believe it started at Xerox. There, I had a kind of dual role. I managed existing accounts and upselling, but I also had to chase new accounts. I think the balance was something like 50:50 or maybe 60:40. So I did have to pursue new opportunities, but equally, I had to keep an eye on my base. Given that I sold to the state and local government, I wasn't pushing small individual copiers. I was selling those big multimillion-dollar units—the kind that handle your mailed-in checks. That's where I really got my grounding in the bottom-up approach.
However, one challenge was that in my territory there had been about five Xerox reps over three years. As a result, trust was a major issue. When I'd go in, where many of my private sector colleagues could make sales right away, I'd often get responses like, "We'll probably see another one of you in six months." They didn't trust me. I had to start from the very basics, walk the floors, engage with everyone, understand their workflows, even down to their click-through rates. Only then could I build a convincing plan for the executives.
It was tough. Nine months in, I hadn't made a sale. My boss even questioned if he'd made a mistake hiring me, considering they'd placed me in one of the hardest territories. But I believed in the groundwork I'd been doing, and eventually, it paid off. I was able to present plans to each of the executives and secured substantial contracts. So, it was more about relationships there.
Then came Thrive Networks. We were unknown, a startup, and self-funded. Plus, at 23, I was still green. I knew there were more seasoned sales professionals out there. But I had a drive. I had work ethic. I was confident I could outwork anyone. So, for a time, I just threw myself into it, focusing on sheer volume, seeing what would stick.
You know, look, I train on negotiations, I train on all that other stuff, objection handling and everything. But there's one solution to all those other problems at every other stage of the sales process, and it's a big fat pipeline. If you get a big fat pipeline, you don't have to try too hard at the rest of that shit because you put yourself in a position where you want the business, you don't need it. And when I want the business, I sell the right way. When I need the business, I do some shady shit. You know what I mean?
And that's what happened to me in Q1 of this year too. Q1 this year, the bottom fell out of the SaaS industry. 95% of my revenue comes from the SaaS industry. And I've always sold but like not hardcore sold for a while because I had built a business and everything else. Q1 I had to go back to hardcore selling. So I put my sales hat back on and just went to work, cold calling, email, LinkedIn, networking and I ended up generating like 49 meetings in February and 70 meetings in Q1. And it helped drive the momentum to get us through Q1 and Q2.
So I think the skill of prospecting is one of the most important skills to perfect, to get great at because if you do, you'll never go hungry. Like you'll never have to worry about feeding yourself if you know if you genuinely know how to prospect as opposed to like a lot of these SDRs who are just trying to skip to it to get to the AE because that's where the real sale is or AEs who think prospecting is beyond them or they're better than that. Like I quite frankly If I was a VP of sales these days and an AE came into my office and they missed their quota and the reason they missed their quota, they said, was because they didn't get enough leads from marketing or their SDR, I'm pretty sure before that sentence came out of their mouth, I'd fire them because I don't understand the mentality of somebody relying on somebody else for your success. I just don't understand that. I didn't grow up that way. You know what I mean? I didn't grow up in the predictable revenue model. I grew up in the full sales cycle model. So to me, like having an SDR is a dream come true for me, but that's the icing on the cake. That's not the cake. I'm baking my own cake here. So if I don't figure that out, I don't see what the worth is of you as a sales professional.
GR: I was reflecting on this recently. Everyone keeps saying "full cycle, full cycle." It makes me wonder, when did AE roles stop being full cycle? Was there a time when an AE simply didn't prospect and just waited for leads?
JB: Predictable revenue. Predictable revenue ruined it. I mean, look, predictable revenue was a great model for the SaaS industry for the companies themselves, right? Because it was a great way to scale an organization. And the whole segmentation of rules, I mean, the one thing that's really hard about sales, obviously, is managing the entire sales process. Because you just don't... Like, some people are better at certain components than others, and it's hard to juggle, like, if you really break it down into the three components, right? You have to process, you know, opening, processing, closing, right? You gotta find it, meet with it, and close it. Everybody's skill is a little bit different in each one of those areas.
So fundamentally, it does make sense to segment out those roles so you can specialize, right? And that's brilliant for a business because I can bring in relatively cheap talent, beat the crap out of them, you know, pay them, you know, not that much, but then they grow into full cycle sales reps. So that model worked when money was free. And the SaaS industry was growing like a fucking weed and nobody cared about ROI. And so what happened though, if you really flip it was no but like the predictable revenue models a disastrous model from a client experience standpoint. Because who the hell wants to be handed off five times before they actually talk to somebody who knows what they're talking about? You know what I mean? You got some SDR kid who's going to call with some generic piece of crap value proposition and ask a couple of BANT questions, right?
Flip it over to an AE who's probably going to have to re-qualify because that transition was a disaster. And then they're going to drone through some canned crap demo. And then when they actually have to learn something, they have to bring an SE in to then educate them. Right? I mean, you're three steps away from getting value out of a conversation with somebody when you're interested in a product. Like, come on.
And so I think that's what happened. We bred this growth at all costs. 60% butts in seats is better than zero butts in seats. Money's free, who cares? Clients didn't really care about overlap of tech stacks, so that's why they just bought whatever. And we skipped the fundamentals and we got the AEs to be lazy because we were filling their funnel with all the new opportunities that marketing was generating for them. And then all of a sudden it became like, they became better than prospecting, right?
And now we're in this mess because now that the tech stack has the tech industry has fallen apart. Everybody's going, you know, like it's hard to sell now, right? Like there's consolidation of platforms. Nobody wants these weird point solutions. Money isn't free anymore. So these kids don't have any fundamentals to fall back on. They're losing that and they don't even know how to have a conversation.
SDRs have turned into robots. And guess what? Now they're getting replaced by robots. And actually the robots are doing it better than they ever, because when an SDR uses like a Salesloft or an Outreach or something like that, like, you know, I used to get in arguments with the leaders of their, like, I'm like, could you please stop with this personalization at scale shit, because just because you changed the name, the title and then the industry on an email, it doesn't make it personalized. But now you're seeing real personalization at scale. I mean, some of the stuff I'm seeing out there is like, holy smokes. Like that is a legitimate personalization scale done by a robot. And so now these tools are doing it far better than a rep ever could. And so now you've got to ask the question, like what's the, and if the rep isn't picking up the phone and actually making a cold call and having some type of personality to it, what's the point? I could automate the whole thing. So I think that the whole SDR model is breaking down right now. It used to make sense when the SDR stayed long enough at the organization to become the AE and then stay for three, five, 10 years as an organization. But now the average SDR stays in the company for less than 14 months. Forget about the role, they stay at the company for less than 14 months. So now as an owner of a business, you're going to invest a bunch of money into SDRs who are way overpaid and get a miserable conversion ratio so that they can leave in 14 months and go find another job? Like that doesn't make any sense.
GR: There's a noticeable disconnect between what senior leaders—CROs, CEOs, and VPs of sales—believe their SDRs are doing and the reality on the ground. These leaders often claim, "Our SDRs research every account meticulously. We've provided them with thorough training, and they're well-versed in personalization techniques." However, the truth is far from this. Perhaps 5% might be adhering to these standards, but the vast majority aren't executing as assumed. When the results are disappointing, a deeper dive into the data often reveals the truth: we're essentially paying staff to endlessly "add to sequence.”
JB: So, and I don't understand why you pay for that. Like when I could pay a marketer to do that, even before all this AI stuff, a marketer could do what they're doing a thousand times better and way cheaper and actually look at the data and the insights and make the adjustments necessary to tweak it, right? Cause that's what marketers do. They look at the data. Sales reps don't look at the data. They're just gonna go, you know what I mean? And again, I wanna make a point about this.
It's not the sales reps fault. It's actually the leadership's fault. Because—it's like the trophy generation, right? Yeah, everybody, you know, kind of rips the trophy generation. The kids all want trophies. But it's like, okay, well, who gave them the trophies? Like when you and I grew up, okay, I'm betting you were similar to me. Like if I came in anything more first, second or third, like anything other than that, I was upset. I was upset. I was bummed out. But my parents were like, Well, okay, well, figure out how to get better. Like, if you want to be better, then you gotta work harder at it, right? Whereas now somebody comes in 10th place and they get a trophy, they get a you know, whatever it is. It's so they both we and I felt bad. The kids today feel bad when they lose. But when we felt bad, our parents said go figure it out when they feel bad. Oh, I'm sorry, it's okay. So it's not their fault. They're the trophy generation. We turn them into the trophy generation. It's the same thing with SDRs and BDRs and AEs.
We've turned them into these robots who think that hitting 50 cadences a day is what they're supposed to do. And we've ignored the fundamentals, business acumen, curiosity, you know, EQ, those are the types of things we've stopped even trying to engage with. And you add the fact that now we're in this virtual world. And they don't even mean, when I was in sales, when I first got into sales, I didn't get a ton of good training or any of that crap. But I was in the bullpen. And I was learning through osmosis because the other sales reps were around me and there were other senior reps there. And I'd be like, oh man, that like I might not have even known I picked up on some stuff, but I would hear a conversation or my VP would come over and start having a conversation about a deal that they were working on and I could listen in on it or whatever it is. So I learned just by being around sales professionals. We've lost that completely because of the remote world. So you had the remote world of lack of, you know, osmosis. You had AI into this mix and what we've done to these poor reps over the past 10 years. And you have this tsunami of shit that is all crumbling down now that the economy is hard to sell in.
GR: From what you're describing, the current state of the industry seems pretty dire. We have numerous young professionals mechanically adding to sequences. Then, there are countless posts on LinkedIn about enjoying the review of gong calls with their teams, but realistically, no one's replaying those calls. And now, with companies realizing that productivity and enablement have dropped— with employees watching Netflix for hours—many are transitioning back to the office. It's not surprising; we all suspected that was the case.
Given all this, where does that leave us? After navigating through this phase, with heavy marketing spending and rising customer acquisition costs, what's the current state of prospecting? As someone who works with many growth-focused companies, what does the future hold for outbound teams, whether you're building a new one or revamping an existing structure?
JB: It sounds like we're addressing two separate questions here. First, there's the question of how to manage the current mess we're in. Then there's the question of starting from the beginning. Honestly, there's a strong argument right now to just burn it all down and start fresh. The strategies that got us here won't take us to the next level. This is why I keep pointing companies towards those sales assessment tools.
These tools can help them really evaluate their teams, aligning their individual assessments with the company's forward growth strategy. Given the way we've conditioned them over the years, I'm not sure many of us have the right people onboard anymore. And if you're asking if I'd set up an SDR team from scratch? You've got a better shot at seeing God than me doing that. Not happening.
Instead of hiring a slew of SDRs, I'd bring on two or three sharp, tech-savvy kids who have some business acumen. I'd then equip them with the necessary tools and emphasize true personalization at scale. This approach might be easier for startups as they're less burdened by security concerns. Many big companies are wary of embracing AI on a large scale due to these security worries.
But once these massive corporations get their hands on their own large learning language models? That's when we'll see some significant shakeups. They'll be more open to experimentation. In the interim, companies need to navigate a transitional phase. My current suggestion is that companies should start viewing their sales teams more as a "sales lab."
You know how engineers host hackathons? They pick a topic, dive deep, and aim to find a solution. I propose we treat our sales organizations similarly, transforming them into "sales labs" and conducting sales hackathons on a weekly basis. Take Salesforce's report on the state of sales, for instance. A notable statistic reveals that sales reps only allocate about 27% of their time to actual selling. The report further breaks down how they spend their remaining time. Interestingly, when you examine those tasks, it becomes evident that AI can handle most of them more efficiently than humans. Today's sales reps are acutely aware of this reality. Many are already experimenting with AI tools, anticipating the next shift in their roles. Why not channel that energy more productively?
Imagine dedicating, say, Friday afternoons from 2 to 4 pm for the entire organization to come together. Involve product teams, sales personnel, and more. The task? Choose an aspect of the sales process that might benefit from AI automation. This could range from researching accounts, crafting account plans, understanding ideal customer profiles, to sending post-call summaries or even role-playing scenarios. Then, break into teams, each focused on identifying an AI solution that outperforms current methods.
This approach fosters collaboration between seasoned and newer reps. Senior salespeople contribute their deep business knowledge, while the younger generation brings in fresh perspectives on AI and technology. Not only does this promote team bonding and elevate employee morale, but there's also a chance to discover solutions that could streamline operations and cut costs. In essence, this strategy aids the transition towards a more AI-centric sales world.
Because we are, we are going to a point where it goes back to full cycle sales. And I think SDRs and BDRs are going to roll up right under marketing and operations, and they're going to be playing with all these tools with AI to create real intent data, going back to a full cycle sales rep sitting in front of a dashboard. And instead of me trying to think about who, you know, when I log into my system about, man, who should I call today? Or what cadence should I run today? It's going to, no, John. You need to call Sarah. And you need to call Sarah because these things just happened. She just did this and her business just did that. And here's a couple of things that just made sense. And by the way, you need to call her instead of emailing her because she likes to be on the phone. Her personality is more about phone than email. Oh, and by the way, here's like three snippets of things you should say when you talk to her. And here's two or three questions you can ask her, go. And then I'll have that conversation because all that will be fed to me and I'll have a very thoughtful, very real conversation with you. And it'll look like I'm fully prepared here. But all that stuff's gonna be right next to your face saying, hey, say this, ask that, do this, whatever. And I'll be recording it. And then when we're done here, it'll summarize that conversation, fire it off, implement it into the CRM and allow me to go back to do my, you know, the next one. And I think that's what the vision is.
If you almost look at, you know, I'll shut up after this is, you ever remember, remember a minority report with Tom Cruise, right? Where he had those gloves and he was just kind of swiping shit back. Yeah, yeah.
GR: The new Apple thing coming out looks like that as well.
JB: And that's, that's what I think we're all going to have. I think the best sales reps out there are going to be iron man, iron woman. And they're going to have, cause if you think of iron man, right, you get Tony Stark as the human and he's, you know, Tony's got everything. He's rich. He's, he's good looking. He's super smart, right? Jerk. But anyways, um, but as a human, Tony, if he goes out there and tries to fight these aliens, we'll get, we'll get his ass kicked, right? So he has to have the suit and the suit, the suit's cool, but without Jarvis, that suits just a hunk of metal. And so if you think of the human, the suit, the technology and the AI and put those all together. Now you can do some damage. Now you can go out there and fight this fight and win.
GR: Yeah, I love that. There's two and then we just discussed two different things that are completely like the current state of sales, which is, is a complete shit show today. And this Nirvana of potentially where we can end up within the next 12 months, 18 months, six months, even I'm not like five years away. This is like a human. So we can research every prospect, have meaningful conversations, and find accounts within our ICP and TAM. We would never have touched, focus on high value activity that's going to make us develop as sales individuals versus just add to cadence, add to cadence, add to cadence. Where's my pay rise? Where's my, when am I becoming AE? Yeah. So I think that the future looks bright.
I think that it's funny, the UK government, there's lots of stuff about AI going crazy. And the main story about AI is how can we control it? How can we control it, regulate it? And then there's the other arguments like. What about schools right now? There's no one within our schools learning about AI. Like there's kids going in, they should be learning about this right now. By the time they bring it into the education system, maybe it's like two, three years away. I think China is already doing this, other countries are already bringing this in. In general, the West is already behind. We're not enabling our kids with this.
JB: Oh, we're way behind. We're way behind. And that's why when people talk about regulations, like you're out of your mind, you can't regulate this, because the cat's already out of the bag and China's not going to regulate it, Russia's not going to regulate it. So if we regulate it, we will obviously impede our growth and our understanding of this stuff. And so you have to let it go. You just have to hope that the good AI outweighs the bad AI, you know what I mean? And we can point these robots at each other.
But as far as you, I mean, you're spot on as far as the education system here. Our education system has been shit for years for crying out loud. We're still teaching kids back in the industrial revolution age for crying out loud about how to sit in the classroom and memorize shit. Like I like that doesn't make any sense to me. And I think colleges are a joke. I think about our higher education right now, like I'll be shocked if my daughter goes to college. She's 12 years old right now. I don't think I want her to go to college. You know why? Because they're not, well, don't get me wrong. I think college is a really good social education. I think it's a really important phase of adolescent development from a social standpoint. But from an education standpoint, are you shitting me? You're going to drop three, $400,000 on a job that you're going to get for $40,000 a year that's going to be irrelevant and probably next month for crying out loud based on what AI is doing. And we're not. And that's why the teachers like banning AI from the school. You're out of your fucking mind. You need to adopt the shit out of it and show them and then use AI to then QC the AI work that the reps are, you know what I mean? What the team is doing or else you are significantly inhibiting the growth of these children and not putting them in a position to be successful at all. And that used to be okay because the system still kind of ran the way it ran, right? You did kind of need a degree to get a decent job and… whatever, right? People are still looking for where to go to college, which I still think is stupid. Right? I mean, I don't, has anybody ever asked you where you went to school, you know, or what your GPA is? Like, like, maybe first year out of college, right? Maybe that's, you know, my first resume. But GPA, like, are you shitting me right now? Like, whatever. So now, you know
how to think critically, how to leverage this stuff and how not to be replaced by it, I think is imperative, but it's just not happening. Because our education system, our government and everything just moves so painfully slow that they can't keep up with this, unfortunately.
GR: And you're basically giving them like this superpower that they can start like, oh, I want to build an app that does this, that helps these people. I can monetize it in this way. And they can do that today. And if you start like that, it's like kids who learn new languages. Like everyone knows, like, you know, if you can start them early, but same with sports as well. You start them early, they have less fear of failure. They take it on, they absorb it. We're literally holding them back by not enabling them with this tech and the education system. Can I come in, coming on to the final couple of questions here? We've touched on a few points here. We've got what future sales development should look like, what the history, what it's looking like today. What about these kinds of AEs and SDRs? Good, good apples who just joined the companies during this really bad phase, you know, smart people who've become lazy, you know, potentially, you know, they've got five to seven years experience, their resume looks good. They've got some nice deals there, promoted from SDR to AE. But fundamentally, they've never prospected. Those deals were just order taking. There were inbound leads, hot inbound leads, a VC introduction. How do they, and I'm into it, can those people be fixed? Can they be fixed? Can they change the way they work today? Everyone knows who they are.
JB: Anybody who's gotten out of shape can get in shape. They just have to make the fucking choice. I do my training these days. The analogy I use here for people is that I try to wake them up with my training to which I started all the time because I do that. I did this one time where I was in front of about 500 people doing a session and at the end I did a Q&A. And at the end, one of the reps asked, Hey, John, we see all those logos up there. And quite frankly, all those logos are competitors of ours. So if you're going to train us all on the same stuff, how do we differentiate? And my answer to him was 10, 60, 30. And he goes, what? I go 10, 60, 30. I think 10% of you in this room are going to take what I tell you and execute at the highest level, because that's the type of people you are. 60% of you in this room are going to do something different because it's easy. And it makes sense. 30% of you in this room ain't going to do shit differently. So the question isn't how many people can I train? The question is, what percentage do you want to be?
And I focus on that middle 60%, right? Just like everybody does. But I think there's an upper end of that 60% and then a lower end of that 50%, that 60%. The lower end of the B players that are always gonna be B players because they don't have the drive, the ambition to get better, they're comfortable with where they are, they, you know, whatever. Unfortunately for them, they used to be able to hide. They're not gonna be able to hide anymore. They're going to get replaced. The ones who are going through the motions, 100% are going to get replaced. And I don't by the way, I'm not just talking about sales. I'm talking about every other profession on the planet. I mean, think about health care, think about legal thinking, I mean, think about lawyers, right? lawyers, the way you become a lawyer to stand in front and do your thing, you have to do a shitload of bitch work at the beginning, right? And it's all case precedent, you're doing research and all that other stuff. All that's completely gone at this point, I can go to Chachi BT and say, Hey could you go find, scan through the Library of Congress and find me the three cases that are most relevant to my case to help me get my client off. And they'll find something back in 1898. You know what I mean? That's like, hey, this case did that. And you can goodwill hunt it all day long if you want to. So I think they're in trouble. But the one that I'm trying to speak to is the top end of that 60%, the ones who wanna get better, who are willing to put in the work, who are willing to learn new things and get uncomfortable and make mistakes and learn out loud like I'm trying to do right now. You know, I've never actually put myself in the top 10%. I'm not, I'm just not like when you look at sales professionals out there, right? I think there's probably about 5% of us in sales that are like the natural born salespeople that are in I and I mean that in all the right ways, right? They just know how to relate to people. They know how to spend their time. They know how to run conversations and manage, you know, big complex things. I think there's like 5% of us there. I'm not one of them.
I got to work my ass off in sales, but I'm willing to put in the work. And I think that's the big thing that I'm afraid of right now is that we've beaten this out of these kids. Like the work ethic part is the part that concerns me the most out of what I've seen this trend happening. And I don't want to sit here and shit on millennials and Gen Z or anything like that, because they get too much shit anyway, but it is blatantly apparent to me that work ethic is so far gone from what I was used to.
I mean, I train like I do when I do training, if I do on site, you know, I usually do 8: 30 in the morning to 4: 30 in the afternoon, right? And then at 4: 30 to 5: 00, I usually do a little, you know, reps asking me questions. And around five to 5: 30, I kind of open up my laptop, get ready before I get on the plane, right? By the time I leave every single office, and this has been going on for five, six years at this point, every single office by the time I leave at 5: 30 is a ghost town. And this was before remote work. This was before COVID happened. You know what I mean? I just don't understand that mentality. I don't understand if you're just going to punch, you know, check the box, go get a salary job, if that's the case, go get a salary job and unfortunately, a lot of the people that have been in sales because we've allowed them have treated sales as a salaried position because they're based salaries. I mean, I'm seeing SDRs get a base salary of 70, 80, 90,000 fucking dollars. Like, are you shitting me? You're going to give them a base salary of that to make cold calls and then commission. Yeah, it's set like, what the fuck? Like, sorry. So like, they've been comfortable with that and sales, you should not be comfortable on your base salary, but sales reps are comfortable on their base salary. That is not, that is the exact opposite of how sales should work. So there's no motivation. So they've been comfortable. And now they're not willing to put in the work because they're now entitled because it's like, where's my training? Where's my technology? I didn't get any good leads.
Oh, my company doesn't invest in me. I need a mental health day because I had a bad fucking day. Like I'm sorry, like, and you can look at my history and anybody listening to this, you would probably shred me on social for this. You can look at how big of an advocate I am for mental health, for real mental health problems. But just because you had a bad day does not mean you need a mental health day the next day.
Like sales, you get 99 bad days in sales out of 100 suck it up or get out of this profession, because you're going to get removed anyways. So you just have to make a choice. What percentage do you want to be in? And that's the choice you have to make. So the long winded answer to your question. Yes, they can be saved. But it's just like that massively obese person who says, Oh, I know, I'm sorry, I have glandular problems. No, you don't. No, you don't. You don't, there's no actual glandular problem to make you fat. You just, and a good example of this is, remember the movie, or the show Biggest Loser? Right? So Biggest Loser, I first thought it was like, oh God, this is gross, right? But I actually thought that was a fantastic show because it proved that all it took was a little bit of hard work to get down to a reasonable level and some discipline to do it. Right. And I think that's what sales reps need to do. They need to go to the biggest loser, you know, you know, bootcamp, if you will, and say, all right, do you really want to be successful here? And do you really want to stay in this industry? If you do level up.
GR: Yeah, it's funny. Like sales, sales is fundamentally a hard and difficult job.
JB: And it should be.
GR: And it used to be that other departments would be like, Oh, I don't want to go into sales, I'm scared of going into sales. But have you noticed the transition of like the CS people and pre-sales people who have now moved into sales? Because they've seen it and they're like, Oh my God. He just made 50k and he does nothing all day. Oh, you just have and they take the pre-sales that they actually have been trying to jump into because they're like this is easy money. They've seen this is easy money and it's no longer those days are gone and it's funny you mentioned another point now like and I think COVID I think another thing is happening is like COVID has meant anyone can work from anywhere like we hire remotely like UK we've got employees in Canada, US, UK. other parts of Europe and it's like whatever, it's cheap. I'm just trying to find good people. And now you have like remote hiring is so easy now. I'm going to pay significantly less hiring in certain parts of the country. And on top of that, we now have a GPT chat. So you're enabling those people. And if everyone's at home anyway, like this is, so this is real. So I think coming back to like discipline, hard work, people just have to do that now.
JB: Put in the work. They just have to start, you know, it's funny people ask me, John, well, how do I get started with ChatGPT? I'm like, you know what? That's a great question. Let me ask ChatGPT. Like literally go in and say, I'm a 47 year old man. I live in Boston, Massachusetts. I'm a CEO of my own sales training organization. I have no idea how to use ChatGPT. What are some suggestions? And it'll tell you, and then you just go down the rabbit hole. Now, what you have to do, I think, is you have to compartmentalize it again. You have to almost bake it into your routine. so that you're not going down the rabbit hole and just going down random things like so for maybe 30 minutes a day, grab a new tool, jump into ChatGPT, ask it a question, use it to prep for a meeting, use it to do some research just to see and get used to it. Because that's the big thing I'm worried about here is that there's a lot of people who are just thinking it's a trend or it's not going to affect me or whatever. And it's going to this isn't this isn't this look, you and I have been through some crazy stuff here over our business careers, right? We saw the internet, right? I mean, I graduated college and I was still working in a computer lab, you know what I mean? I didn't even have my computers and email was like, you know, in 1998 email was okay, but it was still hardcore, right? So the internet, holy smokes, but the internet was still kind of this. Yeah, it made an impact, but it wasn't like this exponential holy shit thing. Then we got DSL, right? So we got high speed internet. And that was like, Whoa, look at this. This kind of kicks us into high gear. Then we got cell phones. It was like, all right, you know what I mean? Like, or the iPhone, it was like, Oh, look at this thing. Now it's right here. Right. But all of that kind of did this to our evolution and it did displace jobs, but create jobs. Right. It, it, that type of thing.
This, this stuff with AI is, is exponentially different. It is because it is learning on top of itself. It is compounding its knowledge and it, it's doing it faster than any of us ever could or would be able to. And so it is this hockey stick of, I think this is going to, yes, it will create some new jobs. There's no question about that, obviously. I think it's gonna displace way more jobs than it's going to create though, unfortunately. And so for those who have at least started playing around with it and getting used to it and understanding it and respecting it, quite frankly, I think they're gonna be the ones that last a lot longer than the ones who are just saying, ah, I'm just gonna keep doing what I'm doing.
GR: Yeah, it's like crypto. I think a lot of people will be like, ah, it's just another fad. Everyone's doing this from crypto. Everyone's on Coinbase buying all these coins. And I know blockchain is still there, but AI, this isn't a six month, nine month, 12 month cycle. This is changing, yeah, and you have to use it.
JB: I thought the same thing NFTs and cryptos like people are bundling them into this AI thing that you're wrong because the reason and I would n't get me wrong, I fell into the crypto thing and I fell into the NFT thing too. But the crypto thing I logically understood that it was always a little weird to me. I'm like, okay, crypto blockchain, I get it. You know, it's fake money, just like Wall Street is. But the problem is, it wasn't regulated. And when you're dealing with somebody's money, it has to be regulated. Because like when Capital One, when somebody steals my credit card and puts a bunch of shit on, I can call Capital One and say, give me my money back and they'll give me my money back, right? When somebody steals your crypto, it's like, who are you gonna call? The blockchain police? You know what I mean? Like you're not getting, well, it's on the blockchain. Like, yeah, I don't give a shit. Like how do I get my money back from that person that stole it from me? So that's why I kind of inherently realized that this isn't going to take off until there's a regulatory body that manages it, right? AI is… different, it's a hundred percent different because it's not money. It's not, it's information. And when you open up information to people, it's, the sky's the limit.
GR: Yeah. John, amazing. That chat. Thank you so much. I think it's good to have a really good to understand that the past, where we're at today, and the future, I think like where we are, it is quite depressing where we are today, but I think looking at the opportunity of the future, I think, yeah, wherein if you enabled and if you have the appetite and you, if you're willing to invest time into it. You could do something great in the next two to five years for sure.
JB: And I think that's the mentality switch. You have to have that. The last thing I'll say is this, you know, the analogy that I use, have you ever seen the movie Hidden Figures?
GR: No, it's a few years old. I haven't seen it but I know about it.
JB: Yeah, so watch it. First of all, it's a great movie. It's about us going to the moon, right? It's the first time we went to the moon. And there's a subplot in there where these women, these black women were called, they were literally called computers, right? And they were way in the back, right? They couldn't go to the bathroom. And what it's so this is obviously oppression and everything else. But what was interesting was the head of the computers, one day was in the main office, and she walked by this big room, and there was a huge IBM mainframe computer that just got installed. And a computer again, they were named because they were called computers. And she looked at that and she said, Oh, that thing's here to replace us. And so she had two choices. One choice was to go back to her team and say, you know what? They just invested in this technology thing. Screw that technology. We got to get smarter. We got to get better at math. We got to get faster at math. Come on, let's improve our skills in math so we can beat that computer. Right. That was one choice.
The other choice? She picked up the manual and she started learning how to turn it on, how to maintain it, and how to use it. And then she brought it back to her team and taught them how to turn it on, maintain it and use it. And so when the IBM technicians came to turn that thing on, they didn't even know how to use it. Guess who just went from being a hundred percent replaceable to indispensable. So all I'm telling people right now is pick up the fucking manual and start learning how to play around with this stuff. Because if you don't, you will wake up one day and you will be shocked when you get replaced because you'll be doing an okay job, you'll be doing an average job, you'll be doing, you know, slightly good work or whatever it is. And then one day some capitalistic CEO is going to look at the bottom line. Look at all the problems that you bring to the table as a human. HR. Healthcare. Days off. Nine-to-five. And they’ll say… yeah, sorry.
GR: Yeah great advice. Just use it. I think that's it. Like I think people who embrace it, you know, just playing around with the prompts, feeding it some data, just starting off with some light stuff. Once you can't go back and the power it gives you, it's going to make your life better. Like immediately on day one, not even like anything other than day one.
JB: It's inevitable.
GR: John, thank you so much. I know you post a ton of content on LinkedIn. So I think anyone listening like you can we can find you on LinkedIn, follow and reach out. I know you'd offer like I know companies who've done your training speak very highly. So get the training to speak to John. Yeah, thank you again.
JB: Yeah, thanks man. Just a real small little caveat on that. Please don't try to connect with me on LinkedIn. I got, I hit the 30,000 limit and it sucks. So I can't accept any more connections there. And I have to go through and respond to everybody saying, sorry, I can't do this, but you can follow me on LinkedIn. And, but the fastest way is actually Instagram. So if you want to hit me up on Instagram is @johnmbarrows, that's my handle there. And that's where I do all the free consulting and everything else.
And then if you go to my website, jbarrows.com, that's where you'll see all the other information that I put out there. And then I also got a podcast. It's the Make it Happen Monday podcast that we have some fun on as well, trying to talk about some of this stuff and guide people through it. So appreciate the opportunity here.