How Cursing Impacts Sales w/ Keenan

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This is a podcast episode titled, How Cursing Impacts Sales w/ Keenan. The summary for this episode is: <p>OH SH–T! Special guest Keenan joins the Gong Labs Live! to chat through how cursing impacts sales. This session is completely safe for work (just don’t tell our HR department.) Don’t want to miss out this Friday.</p>
How Keenan views cursing as a whole
02:15 MIN
Does cursing help or hurt your sales outcomes?
01:39 MIN
How you can make cursing actionable
02:22 MIN

Devin Reed: Going on, everybody. Welcome back to Gong Labs Live. I'm your host, Devin Reed, Head of Content strategy at Gong. Now we always like to start with a question, get you warmed up as the audience. So I want to know, what'd you have for breakfast today? Are you a cereal? Did you have your Wheaties? Did you just go black coffee? Maybe you had someone lovely in your life who made you pancakes, eggs. I don't know. You tell me. Personally, I just go with the protein shake, real easy, real quick, that's my style. Let me know what you're up to. All right. So if you are returning to Gong Labs Live, want to say thank you for hanging out with us on Fridays, we appreciate you. And go ahead and tag someone on your team who should know about the show, someone who will enjoy it, and we'll hang out with you and talk about it afterwards. If you're brand new to Gong Labs Live, here's what we're all about. Every Friday at 9: 00 AM Pacific, we get together to share real sales talk and sales data with sales experts, and leaders. It's that simple. So make sure that you save a spot on your calendar every Friday at 9: 00 AM, and if you're following Gong, you should get an alert, a little notification letting you know we're going live. All right, let's hang out with our guests, let's get Keenan up here. We have Keenan the creator of Gap Selling. Keenan, for those who don't know what Gap Selling is, what's it all about?

Keenan: It's the quintessential selling methodology of the 21st century. It just basically changes... It moves people from the old school product centric selling or solutions selling, which is just a fancy word for product, which people don't get, and teaches them how to put the buyer, and the problems the buyers are struggling with, at the center of the sale so everything from the sale on out is positioned you as the savior, someone who's going to solve the problems that are impeding their business, their life, whatever it is they're struggling with.

Devin Reed: I like it. Now I'm going to ask you the same question as everybody else, because I'm looking in the comments and I've got everything from a bagel, to terrible eggs, to shotgunning red bulls for breakfast. So what gets you going because we were talking behind the scenes and you were like, you were already up here, you're at an 11 energy, so I got to know, is it the breakfast, or is that just natural, or maybe both?

Keenan: It's natural. Not only is it supernatural. I've been really tired lately, really, really tiredly lately, to the point I'm a little nervous. Was talking to my doctor last night why I'm so fatigued all the time, but everybody still thinks I'm mad energy. So a lot of that just comes from the passion, I don't do much that doesn't have passion. So yeah, it's that. And I had, what'd I have this morning, I had granola with blueberries and kefir, whatever, inaudible say it.

Devin Reed: I've never heard of either pronunciations so I'm going to have to Google that afterwards.

Keenan: It's kind of a yogurt milk is kind of the only way to describe it.

Devin Reed: Okay.

Keenan: Right. It's kind of a yogurt milk so I pour it on top of that and it's fantastic for your probiotic and your digestive system, and all that stuff.

Devin Reed: Fantastic.

Keenan: But I eat like(beep) I ate McDonald's and all the time and all that stuff. So I'm getting old, and so, my daughter's like," Look, man, you've been eating like crap your entire life, you've got to do something to offset it." Because everybody's afraid of bad gut. Where I'm like," I feel fine." It's like," Just do it." I'm like," All right, I'll do it."

Devin Reed: You need to watch Supersize Me if you haven't already. That might change crosstalk.

Keenan: Oh yeah.

Devin Reed: Well, hey, Keenan, I wanted to hang out with you today because it a little over a year ago, we released our data on cursing in sales, and I think that's when we first interacted, you hit me up and you're like,"This is awesome. This is right up my alley." That's when I'd found out about you and started following you. And so I want to talk about cursing a little bit with you because it's pretty divisive.

Keenan: Yeah, of course it is.

Devin Reed: I feel you have people like me and you, Gary V is probably a little, little, further down the spectrum, which we use it casually, you think it's part of our brand, but I don't think it's even part of my brand I just view it as me being me, but people view it as part of our brand, but you'd probably agree. And then you get people on the other side of the spectrum which are like," It's blasphemous, you should never do it, not professionally, not casually." So I just kind of want to hear from you, what is your take on cursing as a whole?

Keenan: So this might surprise you a little, I don't have a take on cursing. I really don't. I mean, I guess if you forced me to, I guess my take is that I don't have a take. Cursing as a thing, I have no real take on it, it's just a word, they're just words, and it's how people choose to express themselves. Look, we give meaning to pretty much everything. I mean, that's the bottom line. What we're talking about is what meaning are we going to give words? So I'm well aware that certain words are triggering, certain words drive emotion, because we've been told they should, or because of how they're used. So I use cursing as a way to express myself in passionate ways, or to get a message across, or to highlight an emotion, generally speaking. So to me, it's really about authenticity more than it is about the words or cursing as a concept.

Devin Reed: Gotcha. Well, so I'm curious, so I'm a new dad, and I used to curse all the time. I've got an eight month old now, so I got to watch it.

Keenan: No, you don't.

Devin Reed: You've got two, you have three kids.

Keenan: No, you don't, curse away.

Devin Reed: Do you curse in front of them? Did it change you at all?

Keenan: I have three daughters and curse like a( beep) in front of them. Boom, boom, boom. And let me tell you what's never happened, never once has a teacher called me up and said," I got an issue with your daughter's mouth, she cursed, she did this, she did that." This is all three girls. Never once. Why? Because it was never taboo. The girls know when to use it, know how to use it, they know when it's appropriate, they know when it's not appropriate. And so they do it.

Devin Reed: crosstalk.

Keenan: Now around the house. My oldest is almost like me. I'm like," Babe, did you really need to drop the F bomb right there? What was your point?" So I have conversations with them, I'm like...

Devin Reed: You don't have to go to 10 every time.

Keenan: Yeah.

Devin Reed: crosstalk you don't need to go to 10.

Keenan: Yes! That was the conversation. So really, like anything else because look, you and I both know that very rarely in any situation is a kid going to grow up and never swear. So just treat it like everything else, teach them how to use it, and move on.

Devin Reed: crosstalk. I like it. I've got a swear jar in the kitchen for mine, because not in front of the kid, we decided not to, at least, for now she's very young, we don't want the first word to be a curse word because of dad. So all I can say is that the curse jar is very full and the goal was to take her to Disneyland eventually, that's the money we'll use for Disneyland for the first time. At the way we're going, it might be Disney world, it's pretty filled up there. I want to ask a question to the audience. So we're going to pull up a slide here because what we did is, at Gong, we looked at how sales inaudible cursing in sales calls impacted win rates. So I want to know what you think, do you think that cursing helped or hurt? So you see this 8% gap. No pun intended for you, Keenan. 8% gap here. Do you think that cursing improved sales or decreased sales? crosstalk into the chat.

Keenan: Oh, sorry, you were asking everybody else.

Devin Reed: Your moment's coming in second, Keenan, I'm going to get to you.

Keenan: All right, sorry, my bad.

Devin Reed: Folks in the chat, do you think it hurt or helped? Maybe that's what you can type in, hurt or helped. That's an easy one. Wait a second, I know there's always those nice delays when you're doing live shows and commenting, we'll see if folks want to jump in there or not. inaudible. All right. And so let's go ahead and jump over to the response. So here's what we did, we analyzed a couple of hundred thousand sales calls and we looked at does cursing hurt or help your outcomes? Because I was curious, I would curse on sales calls sometimes, sometimes it would kind of slip and I'm like," I didn't really mean to do that." Other times people would curse, luckily not at me, but buyers would curse just kind of in passing. And it always kind of felt like a good thing. Okay, here we go, we got our comments coming in. Helped, helped. Evan says it's helped. Jason says it depends on the situation, read the room. John says it helped. crosstalk.

Keenan: I love the set. Nothing but love for the set baby. Kiss you crosstalk.

Devin Reed: Yeah. All right. So we've got a bit of a split room. I'd say about 75% says it helps. So let's get to what we found. So here are the results. And it looks like both cursing helps. So here's what we did, we looked at simply, okay, when the rep curses and when the buyer curses. So when you see no cursing at all, that's when you have your lowest win, less than 8% or minus 8% from both. When only the prospect curses, it bumps, when only the rep curses, it bumps a little bit more. But the best scenario was actually if both curse, rep and buyer. All right, so now I'm going to get to you, Keenan, what do you make of this when you saw this for the first time?

Keenan: To me, it's plain as day. And again, it has nothing to do with the cursing, in my opinion. It has everything to do...

Devin Reed: What do you mean by that?

Keenan: Look, it has everything to do with the connection that's being created and the level of comfort each other feels with each other. Look, let's keep this real man, I don't need to make this(beep) up, especially not me. When you take the average Joe, the average person is someone who is risk averse. The average person puts on airs, they're trying to carry themselves in a way... A bunch of people said," Read the room." Basically when you say," Read the room." What you're trying to do is say," I'm going to adjust my behavior to what the environment tells me to do." So when people get to a place where their behavior is adjusted to each other that they feel comfortable enough to swear, that means trust has entered the conversation, that means trust has entered the relationship. And now we could talk all day long, but the level of trust, that's a different story, but the comfort level driven by trust has entered the conversation. And once that happens, you have more of a basis to drive the sale because they trust you, they believe you, they feel comfortable with you, et cetera. So to me, it has nothing with cursing and it has more to do with the relationship.

Devin Reed: Yeah. I agree. I think mirroring is kind of what we're seeing. Is did the guard drop and then we kind of mirroring each other's language. So when I was a seller and someone would curse... I pretty much never cursed first, unless it slipped. But for the most part I waited, but when I'm talking to a VP of sales and they start cursing, again, not at me, I always thought that was a good thing. I'm like," Oh, the guard's lowered, trust has risen." And then I might choose to reciprocate. And again, I think it's important to say, I have to say it because ever since I published this people are like," You should never curse out at buyer." Obviously. You're not calling people names...

Keenan: Technically speaking, you shouldn't curse at anybody, technically speaking crosstalk-

Devin Reed: Yeah, exactly.

Keenan: it out of anger, but you, technically speaking, shouldn't curse at anybody. So, duh.

Devin Reed: Exactly. I agree. Okay. So what is your approach? I mean, so me personally, I'm thinking people want to make this actionable. My thought is if cursing is not your style, if it's not authentic to you, if it doesn't come naturally, don't force it. If you're selling Keenan's cursing left and right and you're trying to curse and it doesn't feel natural, it's going to get picked up. So what's kind of your process there, Keenan? What should reps do? What can people do to make this actionable?

Keenan: I don't think there is anything actionable here. I think this is a... I don't even know the term. I don't want to say bellwether. That's not the term, there's a term I want to come up with. I don't know what inaudible so I'll just skip over it. Look, I just think this is a piece of data that circles the wagon and makes a suggestion. But I don't think the issue there is what's my action to curse or not curse? Again, I don't think it's about cursing. I think it's about being authentic. Just be crosstalk people, just be you! Okay? Just be you. You shouldn't thinking about cursing and... Look, if left to their druthers and you just went through your day and you never cursed, then when your buyer curses, don't you curse too. Don't curse too. You don't curse. They'll see it as awkward, they'll see it as not right, it's about you. If you curse all the(beep) time and you're talking to a buyer, okay, then curse when you curse, because I curse a lot, but I don't just get on the phone and say," Hey, what's up( beep)." I don't do that. I'm talking, we're having a conversation. I get excited. And if it fits, I go. Listen everybody, I don't subscribe to mirroring. Now I can see right now a whole( beep) load of you, and especially a bunch of old dudes, because old dudes are always the worst, and I'm old so I can say this now, by the way, inaudible 53, so I'm old. Old dudes inaudible you get stuck in your ways. Women aren't as stubborn, but this idea of mirroring is a joke. Stop it. Because basically what you're doing is you're trading authenticity for copying and now you're fake and it doesn't endear trust, it doesn't endear confidence, it's fake. Stop being fake. Just be your authentic self. Now, I don't mean go stir the pot where you go every time. When I first meet someone, like Devin, he's kind of a quiet guy, kind of like it. So when I first start talking to Kevin, I'm just going to just kind of be myself but a toned down version, but as the conversation goes, and he asks me questions, I'm going to be me. And if that means I go up and he stays here, so what. And inaudible I pulled him up, by my being my authentic self, I pulled him up a little. There could be different situations that are more somber or more serious and I'm like," I like what Devin did." And he brings me down. But if we mirror each other none of us are doing our jobs, we're not being ourselves, we're just playing off each other, and that doesn't help anybody in any way, shape, or form. So just be your( beep) self, end of discussion. Sorry, Devin.

Devin Reed: I like the... No, this is why I brought you on, Keenan, I wanted to get your opinion here. I wanted to get a different perspective inaudible kind of mirroring, yes. I agree with mirroring in some ways, and I think you kind of touched on it, which is just kind of a time and a place or a realm, don't feel like you have to match someone exactly. As I was doing the research for this post, there's data around people who curse are more authentic. And what was the other one? I think they're more trusting, I don't know if that's true or not, but that was pretty interesting. So there's a lot of different angles that you can take and mirroring has similar things too. There's science that says mirroring is natural, humans are wired to mirror. And then there's data that says it's not. So that's kind of the fun part is when you're looking at science, whether it's cursing in sales, whether it's global warming, there's always two perspectives and it can be data backed. All right, man, let's get into the hot takes here. It's kind of hot takes, it's really more of rapid fire. All right, rapid fire question. Oh, this is from you so I looked this up. What exactly does it mean when people call you the finder of the elephant in the room?

Keenan: Oh my god. That's a great one. Dude, look, it's a great question inaudible we just talked about. In our Western culture, particularly in the US, but maybe all over Western culture, but for sure in the US, when things are very uncomfortable conversations, when things are very difficult conversations that could expose uncomfortable truths, that could highlight things that we just don't want to accept, everybody likes to dance around the elephant in the room. Nine out of 10 times if you can find( beep) elephant in the room, you can actually solve the problem, you can make... Watch this, Devin, this is an inside joke for Devin. Devin, you can actually resolve the issue. If you can find the elephant in the room that everybody's afraid to talk about, you can actually resolve the problem and create progress. But because people are uncomfortable with the elephant in the room, they don't call it out, everybody does dance around, comes up with stupid solutions that inaudible half- baked, half- assed, and it just( beep) fester and prolong. So I take pride in the fact. Let's find out what the(beep) is going on and just fix it because I don't like this either so let's just... I'm the guy that says," Rip it off, do what you got to do, and move on. Don't just..." No, so that's the elephant in the room, just find it and go.

Devin Reed: I like it. Some people call it the unspoken objection. inaudible were talking about is confrontation, people don't enjoy confrontation. All right, next questions, Keenan, you got five seconds or less, you ready?

Keenan: Yeah.

Devin Reed: Who is your sales role model?

Keenan: Don't have one.

Devin Reed: I think you might say," Keenan." One piece of advice you'd give to other girl dads?

Keenan: Don't treat them like girls, treat them like people.

Devin Reed: crosstalk helpful.

Keenan: Treat them like people.

Devin Reed: I think I know the answer. What's one sales book everyone should read?

Keenan: Well, I'm not going to see mine.

Devin Reed: That's what I was thinking. It's an easy plug, there's three signs behind you crosstalk.

Keenan: I appreciate it, but yeah. Challenger.

Devin Reed: Challenger's a good one, I've read it. What's your definition of value in sales?

Keenan: I don't have a definition. The definition is it's an agreement. There's no such thing as value until your buyer agrees that there's value and you agreed with them that that value is there. There's no such thing as that before then.

Devin Reed: I agree. Value's in the eye of the beholder. What's the one question you get asked most often by salespeople, and what's your answer?

Keenan: How to keep people engaged and how to get them to go on the journey with you. And my answer is, stop talking about your product or service. Stop thinking it's about you. The answer is get good at being able to diagnose problems and help that buyer understand the size of their problems and realize you can help them fix it.

Devin Reed: I like that. Make it about them. All last one. What's one thing you do every day to get better at life or work?

Keenan: I self- reflect everyday. You'd think I have less confidence than I do, but I'm constantly... And I actually call myself in the third person, I don't use, Keenan, I say Jim or Jimmy, I'm like," Jimmy." And what I do with that is I'm constantly asking myself am I parenting well? Am I doing the work I need to do? Why did you're lazy not get that thing done? Why aren't you getting the..." I hate proposals," Why aren't you getting your proposals done? You're going to lose money." I'm constantly berating, not berating, but really constantly...

Devin Reed: Holding yourself accountable.

Keenan: Yeah. And assessing. Constantly self- assessing.

Devin Reed: You know what? I think people get mixed up or they get miscued by cursing. I think people can get caught up in cursing inaudible not you specifically, Keenan, but unprofessional or over the top, but there's really a lot of thoughtfulness. And sometimes, like you mentioned at the very beginning, cursing is just an amplifier for the things that you can be passionate about. So I want to say thank you, Keenan, for hanging out with us. It was great chatting with you. And that's it for our show here. So for folks, hope you enjoyed the show. Hope it woke you up this Friday morning. I know I am. Make sure you follow Gong on LinkedIn, you'll see upcoming sales research as well as more episodes of Gong Labs Live. And you can also check us out on demand, you can see all the previous episodes. So Keenan, on the count of three, we're going to count down to end the show, our favorite curse word. So on the count of three, are you ready?

Keenan: Yep.

Devin Reed: Three, two, one.( beep).


OH SH–T! Special guest Keenan joins the Gong Labs Live! to chat through how cursing impacts sales. This session is completely safe for work (just don’t tell our HR department.) Don’t want to miss out this Friday.