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Interview with Frank Bastone, CEO of The Social Expert

Nerdwise Partner Interview With Frank Bastone

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Frank Bastone has been working with Nerdwise for some time now, and the two sides have managed to develop a warm and comfortable relationship, that overcomes the business environment. 

Here, we will present an interview which Patrick Baynes from Nerdwise had with Frank Bastone. 

The Introduction

Patrick: “Welcome Frank Bastone! It is great to see you, great to have this opportunity to speak with you. I’m going to introduce you in my own words really quickly and then I’m going to turn it over to you because I’d love for you to introduce yourself and the social life spread. 

Tell us a little bit about your business, what you guys do, maybe how you got started, and then how you got started into sales and helping people sell and sell more. But my own personal introduction of Frank – Frank, is a partner, a very close partner with Nerdwise. Started three years ago as a client representing some other businesses. And that we were reaching out to. 

Frank hired us on a couple, turned into a few more, we found this great synergy working together. Now Frank works with a lot of Nerdwise clients. We introduced him as part of our process to meet with presidents and heads of sales and salespeople to find ways that they can improve their process. 

So I’m very excited to talk with Frank. He’s become a close friend and great partner of Nerdwise. So anyway, Frank, it’s great to have you here. If you wouldn’t mind, just tell us who you are, what you do, and about your business. “

Frank: “Awesome! Thank you very much, Patrick, that’s very kind of you. So I’ve been a partner with Nerdwise for three years and it’s been a great ride. Our businesses work very closely together. 

I have a company called The Social expert, and we are sales consulting company out of New York City. What I do is I help companies, early-stage to midsize companies, organize their sales end to end, so I do everything from recruitment of salespeople, and putting in best practices, writing job ads, doing the actual interviews, bringing somebody on, onboarding salespeople, and then actively managing salespeople. 

Also, on my team, I have about five full-time people who do phone calls, SDRs that I rent out to clients and I work with clients’ brands from end to end – as soon as we start to think about having a sales team, to what it looks like to get a referral once you’ve gotten the sale. And there’s so much inside of there to be unpacked with salespeople and the whole process put together, it really changes the game for companies, so there’s a lot of great wins you find in that process.”

How Did It All Start?

Patrick: “Frank, I know you touch all parts of sales, which I love, and in you as a consultant and consultants in general, you’re not afraid to get your hands dirty, jump on calls, make the calls, you work on the process, train, hire, you get the job done, which I love.

But what is it that propels you, because you clearly love what you do you enjoy sales and you enjoy working with people on their sales? What propels you to love, why do you love sales? What got you into it? And yeah, talk a little bit about what it is that makes you excited to talk about sales.”

Frank: “Yeah, I can talk about sales all day every day. And it’s really exciting. I had my first real sales position in Equinox fitness and I had just lost 100 pounds. So when I was 18 years old, I started lifting weights. I lost 100 pounds that year. And two and a half years later, after being a personal trainer, I wanted to be in sales. 

Equinox fitness back then had 16 gyms, now they have, I think 150. So it was a much different company, but I was just so excited to be able to go in and get this job. I got paid $65 per person that I added on and I just took to it like a fish to water and I had my picture, my fat picture, and my in shape picture on the desk. 

I love people so I started making phone calls. Being there all the time, being very excited, a lot of the management came in and said:  “Frank, why are you doubling and tripling sales of everybody else?!”, and I was so enthusiastic, so I started to really think about why I did it. And there were certain things that I did again and again and again. 

Naturally, some people say you have this natural thing, that building relationships and asking for referrals and working out with people getting to know the neighborhood, and going out for drinks afterward. So there was a lot of this building of networks, which has done me well for my entire life. It’s how we met, you know, so it was really about building networks. 

Then the management came in and said: “You think you could train some people?” So I brought a few people in, we did a little training and they started getting better. And then they said: “Do you think you could do some corporate selling?”, and I started selling on a higher level. 

It’s a company, so Google and Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers, opening up those accounts, got me excited, I loved it. I could generate my own income and I could make myself a tremendous amount of money. Like more than I ever thought I could make, in the first year, and it was amazing. 

So the harder you work, the more money you can make. And, you know, the more people that you know, the more you can monetize that and add value to that and increase yourself. That’s why I love sales.”

About The Social Expert by Frank Bastone

Patrick: “It’s clear that you like people too, and you like talking to people and getting to know them and asking questions. I mean, I sometimes, when I’m telling other people about you and giving them your phone number or introducing, tell them that you sleep with a Bluetooth in. 

You can call Frank anytime, he’s ready to go, and I think that is something that you can’t teach. In some cases, people who are that have that comfort level, that sort of social extra, they’re extraverted, more social than others. So I’m guessing that’s what you like about the name of the company. The Social Expert –  is that social part of?” 

Frank: “Absolutely! You know, it all starts with a relationship. And the next person that you meet could be your next boss, your next big client, your next husband, and your wife. The people that you meet in the world change your life every day. 

And I think that if you develop a system for finding these kinds of people, which I do want to recruit, with a series of steps, you can find people who are really natural. You throw them in the water and you give them a good plan and you onboard them correctly, which is something that many companies don’t do. 

But you can really get a huge result from a younger salesperson, or somebody who’s new to new selling. I ask presidents, you know, what is your customer journey? And their eyes light up and they say my customer journey looks like this and this. And I say what is your salespersons’ journey like? What are the first 30 days like? Where are their scripts? Where’s their training? And they just go blind. 

You’re your business and your greatest sales. You drive sales for your company, but some people are not as social as you are, and some founders are not like that. So when you ask them about their sales side and there’s no structure there. 

You have new salespeople who come on and they have like buyer’s remorse. You have this young salesperson, they come on, and there’s no plan. There’s no leadership. There’s no strategy, there’s no mentoring, and that’s kind of the things that I like to provide for these companies. “

What Makes a Great Salesperson?

Partick: “You touched on structure and onboarding and I think, in some ways, those go hand in hand as being important factors in the success of a salesperson. What do you think are the top one or two things that make a salesperson great, like what makes the very best salespeople? What are the things that they do differently? Or what makes someone go from being a good or an okay salesperson to a social expert?” 

Frank: “Attitude, positivity, optimism, those things are huge. We deal with a lot of rejection in sales, and there is a lot of salespeople, especially in this market, right now with the changes that have happened with Covid, that are out of work, and there are a lot of salespeople that are really strong, they are so-called farmers and hunters, people with stronger customer service. 

But there are a lot of salespeople out there who have great sales resumes and can do great sales speak, but when it comes down to it, they’re not a hunter, and a lot of young companies need hunters. Their energy, their enthusiasm, and the way they look at life are a little bit different. 

So what I try to do is help companies not fall into the trap of seeing a great resume, meeting somebody and liking them but not asking them some deeper questions, and have some more processes. 

And one of the things I do is even get people the Sales Assessment Test, which is a pretty interesting tool that you bring in. But, you know, a lot of times, if you identify this killer instinct with this optimism and this excitement for life, and being able to take a bunch of rejections, there are times you get rejected every single day, and to say I learned something or this person is gonna think of me or whatever, I think those are the top things I think about when I think about a great salesperson.”

Patrick: “Yeah, that makes sense. I mean, it’s true. It’s true of anything too, but especially sales, where you’re taking point hits, left and right. And you have to be able to deal with a lot of rejection. And if you don’t have the attitude that you’re getting to your next.

Every NO for me is closer to a YES. Every time somebody doesn’t move forward, I’m one step closer, the one that’s going to. That type of attitude is yeah, it’s critical and that’s the stuff you can’t teach. Which I love.”

The Greatest Advice

Patrick: “Was there ever somebody who either gave you, you know, great advice or even bad advice that sticks with you. I can look back and remember sometimes someone told me something, and it didn’t connect with me and it actually did the opposite. I kind of heard it. But good or bad, is there some advice, either you received or that you would give as the best sales advice or just great professional advice that guides you?“

Frank: “Yeah, I had a few great managers and mentors that I’ve worked with, and one of them was at Equinox. I would get really upset when people weren’t living up to the standard. So the salespeople I was managing, were not catching on or being lazy or they would send an email late. 

And he sat me down and he says to me: “Assume good intentions”. Like, what you’re doing here is, you’re saying they’re lazy, and they may be, but always assume good intentions. When someone doesn’t get back to you right away, always dig deep and think: “Let me assume that the intention is good here, let me assume it’s not malice, and let’s try to fix the problem.” 

And I used to go off the hand a little bit. So that was, that was some great advice that I got. And it really helped me to reframe things. So when someone’s not getting back to me, I always say well, maybe they’re stressed out, maybe they’re busy.

Those are the kinds of things that stick with me. So assume good intentions is what I’m always trying to do when I’m in a situation where I feel like somebody is not following through on something. It changes my frame of mind, and it makes me deal with the problem better. So that was a good piece of advice. “

It’s Not Only About The Numbers

Patrick: “Yeah, that’s great advice. And definitely resonates. I think you also attract what you’re putting out too and so you go at it with a positive attitude, you can have a positive outcome. And I love that. Do you have, I hate to go back to back on advice questions, but sales advice? “

Frank: “Well, I have a bad piece of advice. Okay. So I had another sales manager come in. I have a great relationship with my team and it is very important to have good chemistry within the team. I always say this, in leadership, in sales. One of the VPs we came in and said: “Guys, it’s about smiling and dialing”.

I can’t stand that term, it makes me sick. It’s about smiling and dialing, just get the numbers in. And what I had my guys do is do some call research. What I do in my practice is intelligent calls. We have a script that we follow, we have a research, a methodology where we are speaking to someone, adding value and those calls take a little bit longer but they’re much more quality calls. 

And they used to come in and say this is bullshit, they are only on 40 calls and, you know, they should be on 85 calls. And I told them, my calls are four times more effective than the stuff that makes you pedal in. It was such bad advice. 

When people get hired today at a new firm, and I speak to its founder, it’s just about the number, you know, numbers, numbers, a sale is just about the numbers game – it isn’t! It’s a numbers game but it’s about the quality game too. And people get away from that, sales is a numbers game and I want my guys to do a lot of calls. What’s the quality of those calls? And I always tell people that yes it is the numbers game, but if it’s not a sales and quality game, you’re missing a lot.” 

Patrick: “Yeah, I saw a number that scared me the other day, and it was going viral and data being shared as though everyone agreed was that converting 1% of your leads is becoming like the norm minimum for the SAAS businesses. No joke, there’s a video out there and it disguised even doing math and talking about these lead sources and where the problem comes from, but everyone’s accepting this 1% rule. 

And I couldn’t believe that you know, and it could be, you could say the lead quality and whatever the case is, but the numbers game doesn’t always mean more, it means a good ratio of leads to opportunities to closes and deals. And yeah, so it’s important. 

It’s good to know, that’s what we love about the partnership with you guys is, it helps the clients maximize the value of those leads, those opportunities.”

The Future

Patrick: “I want to maybe look ahead a little bit Frank and what does your business look like for you in this next year? Where do you see your growth coming from? What types of things are you guys looking to do in the next few months and throughout the year? Can you talk a little bit about the plan for what’s coming up?”

Frank: “Sure. Super excited about 2021. COVID has been hard on a lot of people and it’s been a tough thing for the country. But looking at the bright side, which we do as salespeople. It’s displaced a lot of great sales talent, and I’ve been able to find people who would not normally be free in the market and employ those people. So I’m building my own team. 

And as the office people are not going back to their office spaces, the remote work world is going to continue to grow, and the training methodology that I use and the structure that I have around sales teams are more needed now than ever, before COVID. So I see a lot of growth. 

I would like to have by the end of 2021, I like to have 15 to 20 guys, guys and gals, making phone calls and supporting them outside and then just keep increasing partnerships with the companies like Nerdwise and adding value, but I see a lot of growth because so many founders are so smart and so talented.

I speak to them all the time. And they love what they do. And they say: “I love what I do. I have a passion for this software or this methodology and product and you know, I can sell it”, and they told me a lot of times I can sell it so when I’m on the phone, my conversion rate is 80%. 

But then there’s something about talking to matter experts. So when I asked him, you can sell it, great, but can you teach somebody to sell it and have you thought about that, that’s where a lot of them stumble. So that’s where I can come in and pick it up. So I think that there’s a tremendous amount of growth. And I’m really optimistic about 2020.”

Patrick: “That’s great. And you know, you say that and I just think of myself as a founder. I didn’t know how to sell until a few years ago and I’m proud to say that because now I learned, but I thought I knew for a long time. At least I observed a lot of great salespeople it was always part of the process but never had to be in the driver’s seat. 

So I think even those who think they know if you don’t have if you’ve never created a system, process, transfer that on to someone else and seen them do it. Those are the things, sometimes there’s magic in being a founder or a president or a person who can get something done. But there’s also it’s a different skill set to develop. The process that is can be someone’s full-time, dedication around driving opportunities and conversion. 

I’m sure there are still a lot of founders and presidents and budding sales teams out there that need your help. Frank, if you wouldn’t mind, tell us how people can get a hold of you. What’s the best way to get in touch with Frank Bastone?”

Frank: “Sure. So and I’m on LinkedIn, Frank Bastone, it’s pretty much it.  There’s probably a link there on everybody’s website, is there?”

Patrick: “Well we’re going to drop one in the video as well. And then of course, if you’re in the Bronx or the greater New York City area in the Bronx, right?“

Frank: “It’s the Bronx. It’s on the border of Queens.”

Partick: “I think I said Brooklyn one time and got corrected. So yes, they’re not the same. Frank, thank you very much for the time. Great to see you as always, and I look forward to doing more work with you. “

Frank: “Awesome. And thank you so much for the time. I’ll talk to you soon.”

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