How to Excel in Sales in an Uncertain Economy With Paul Griffin

Paul Griffin is the Co-founder and CEO of The Sales Factory, a business development solutions company. The firm helps companies in multiple industries drive new business and accelerate growth by leveraging technology. Paul has held marketing roles at various Fortune 100 and 500 companies, including Procter and Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, and Kraft Heinz. 

In this episode of the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, John Corcoran interviews Paul Griffin, the Co-founder and CEO of The Sales Factory, about how to excel in sales in an uncertain economy. They also discuss the challenge of building a structured remote team, the key breaking points at The Sales Factory, and how Paul leverages AI.

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Here’s a Glimpse of What You’ll Hear:

  • [01:36] Paul Griffin’s entrepreneurial background and the challenges he faced starting his own business
  • [06:56] What motivated Paul to pursue a career in sales?
  • [08:45] The effects of the pandemic on The Sales Factory and how the company evolved
  • [13:23] The benefits of outbound sales
  • [14:50] Paul’s strategy for assessing and training sales personnel 
  • [18:07] The key breaking points Paul has learned from while growing his business
  • [21:14] Tips for succeeding in an uncertain economy
  • [26:10] The people Paul acknowledges for their support

Resources Mentioned In This Episode

Sponsor: Rise25

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Episode Transcript

John Corcoran 0:00

Today we’re talking about sales. How to do sales in today’s digital economy. My guest today is Paul Griffin. I’ll tell you more about him in a moment. So stay tuned.

Intro: 0:11

Welcome to the Smart Business Revolution Podcast, where we feature top entrepreneurs, business leaders and thought leaders and ask them how they built key relationships to get where they are today. Now, let’s get started with the show.

John Corcoran 0:28

Alright, welcome everyone. John Corcoran here. I am the host of this show, and thank you for tuning in. I love talking to smart CEOs, founders, and entrepreneurs. You can check out our archives. We’ve got all kinds of great previous interviews with folks from Netflix, YPO, EO, Activision Blizzard, LendingTree, and many more. And if you’re interested in this topic, you have lots of other experts in sales who we’ve interviewed on the show previously. And, of course, this episode is brought to you by my company, Rise25. We help B2B businesses get clients, referrals, and strategic partnerships with done-for-you podcasts and content marketing. And you can learn all about it at, or email us at [email protected]

All right. My guest here today is Paul Griffin. He’s the Co-founder and CEO of The Sales Factory. He had a long career in B2C and B2B sales and marketing roles at different Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, including Procter and Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, and Kraft Heinz. Lots of big companies you’ve heard of before. And then, he got into entrepreneurship, or rather, he had some entrepreneurial endeavors earlier in his career, which I love to ask people about. So while I was starting there, but Paul, happy to have you here today, and you know, I love to hear what people were like as a kid and whether they had little entrepreneurial side hustles or things like that, and, and love to hear about people that, you know, bought 100 pieces of gum, sold half of them and then got busted by the principal, that sort of thing. But you actually had a paper route, and you grew up in a small town in Canada, and you and your brother actually dominated. You kind of became like the local mob dominated the local paper routes of your neighborhood. Tell us all about it.

Paul Griffin 2:07

Yeah, definitely. Well, first of all, thanks for having me on the podcast, John, appreciate it. This is actually my first podcast ever. So I’m nice to cool. Yeah, again. Yeah, let’s do a few of your interviews; Mark Randolph was a great one that I that I just listened to yesterday. But yeah, growing up in a small town, there’s not a ton of opportunities. But the opportunity to take over the local paper route was offered to me. And as we kind of grew, you know, being young, the really, I didn’t have an allowance or anything like that. So, if I wanted to buy anything or do anything fun, I had to fund it myself. So we started just got my brother on board to take the other half of the street, and then we started buying the routes all around our neighborhood until we owned spicing.

John Corcoran 2:59

up the round. So you’d like going out, and you’re like acquiring businesses, little young 10-year-old Paul?

Paul Griffin 3:08

Well, no, I mean, we convinced the the other paper route delivery people to give us their routes for you know, in exchange for a little bit of money at the time. 

John Corcoran 3:19

That’s impressive. I mean, that’s buying a business. That’s pretty, that’s pretty cool.

Paul Griffin 3:23

Yeah, I think they were happy. Just I don’t think they had a long-term vision, like we did. I think 20 bucks in their pocket that day was making a lot of sense for them. So yeah, that was that was kind of my initial foray into the entrepreneurial world. But honestly, when when, when you’re young living in a small town, you know, entrepreneurship is not really the number one thing on, you know, at least my family’s mind working-class family growing up, you know, they pushed me into going to school University getting a career and that was kind of it.

John Corcoran 3:53

Yeah. And that’s certainly the route you went; you end up getting your MBA, you ended up actually working for a number of years for some large companies. I’m always curious about this, because this is kind of similar to my path. So I feel some kinship with you. You know, I was a practicing attorney for a bunch of years, had my own practice, worked at other law firms, and then ended up going in my own direction. And it’s always challenging. Most of the time, it’s challenging to tell parents and friends and stuff like that. When you’ve worked at, you know, in your case, companies like Johnson and Johnson Procter and Gamble, to say, I’m starting this little e-commerce agency, or I’m starting this new little side hustle, I’m going to devote my time to it, was there a difficult conversation, given that you grew up in a working-class family with parents who were so career focused where at some point you said, I’m gonna go out and on my own and, and what was that like?

Paul Griffin 4:45

Yeah, I think, well, that conversation didn’t come at the beginning. So when I’ve worked at, it was my last, I guess, corporate role was at Kraft Heinz, and at that time, I was kind of doing 5050 do my own stuff, trying to build the business as much as I can. And, and I found some really good success in the early days of e-commerce, you know, helping some big brands get online and build their stores, and you know, help out with logistical issues and finding three PLS, where at the time, there wasn’t a lot of three PLS, and all that stuff that would, you know, be really beneficial. So I got a few pretty good clients, and I was doing really well at the beginning. So there was no real tough questions because I was probably making even a little bit more money than I was in the corporate world. The problem was that ecommerce really took off in those kinds of those initial two years in my initial business, and there’s so much competition in the e-commerce agency space that I lost a lot of my clients, and then I had some tough conversations with my parents, mostly, you should go back and get a job that can arguably be even more challenging, right?

John Corcoran 5:50

If you have some early initial success, and then you have a setback, you know, and then people are pushing you to well, maybe you should go back to the comfort of Johnson and Johnson, Procter and Gamble, go back to these places that can be even more challenging.

Paul Griffin 6:08

Yeah, I think that was the Well, I mean, funny enough. When I started out, we had so much success at the beginning. And I was like, wow, being entrepreneurs is a lot easier than I thought, which of course, it’s not, it’s definitely the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But yeah, I guess that that initial success, kind of blinded me a little bit, and, you know, highlighted the need, in fact, the need to continuously build your pipeline to find new opportunities continuously, because I had found a few great customers who, you know, funded me for a long time, when those left, I had no pipeline, no sales going, you know, I kind of went almost to zero. And at that time, I found that kind of my business partner, and you know, that’s when we got kind of started in a new direction. But yeah, at that time, it was, it was pretty rough, but some some good lessons learned for sure.

John Corcoran 6:56

Yeah. So this is kind of a big pivot to go from you go from the corporate world to an e-commerce agency that becomes really competitive, to focusing on sales. What motivated moving to focus on sales?

Paul Griffin 7:12

Yeah, I think, well, so kind of near the end of my first company, I’d met my now business partner, Eric. And we started just chatting about, you know, issues, I think both of us just wanted to see kind of what working together looked like we kind of meshed right away. Really well. And, you know, I was I was kind of looking for, I think a business partner at the time, you know, someone to lean on, I think entrepreneurship is difficult and lonely and hard. And, you know, if you have someone to do it with it, it takes some of that blow away. So I think I was looking for that, especially as my business was kind of going to zero is looking for somebody else to lean on, you know, commiserate with a little bit.

John Corcoran 7:54

At this time. What did he have his own company, his own business? Or was he working for another company?

Paul Griffin 8:00

Yeah, so he, he was, he was doing sales kind of contract sales work at the time for a couple clients. You know, we both had a small books of business. So then we started doing a couple projects together, see what working together looked like. And at the time we had, we had all of our connections, I think we’re in event tech, and, you know, companies that sold into sports and entertainment, and, you know, trade shows and events. And that was a huge focus for at the early days of The Sales Factory. In fact, our company was called Event Patio, before The Sales Factory, because we were so focused in events. And then of course, you know, the pandemic hit, and we kind of went to zero again. Yeah.

John Corcoran 8:45

So you build it. So you started in September 2019. And you get some traction, and about six months in, boom, COVID hits, and you’re back down to zero. I must have been devastating.

Paul Griffin 8:58

Yeah, yeah. It was pretty horrible. You know, because I just had another company, you know, less than a year before. Go to zero. Yeah. And so now and then we had funds and success. And I thought, you know, we were finding a path forward. And then, yeah, COVID. It was February 2020. Because we had one of our clients was a hardware tech company that sold into sports, entertainment, but all their all their hardware came from China. See if remember, beginning of the pandemic is like February when we started hearing about this stuff and going on in China. So all the supply chain was shut down. So he was our first customer that we lost. And then we started kind of seeing the writing on the wall with with with some of our clients. And luckily, we made a little bit of a pivot outside of events because we were like, Oh, this might be a pretty bad industry to be in. And we closed a couple of quick deals that just kept the lights on in in March 2020. And, thankfully, we did because we lost all of those event tech companies. Everybody’s selling into sports and entertainment. with that business went to zero. A lot of those businesses aren’t even around anymore today, unfortunately. 

John Corcoran 10:06

And so what did you pivot into? Where did you see the opportunities as you head into the spring of 2020?

Paul Griffin 10:12

Yeah, so we mostly moved into b2b SaaS, software, you know, we kind of saw the opportunity, that was really where we were kind of moving anyway, was to find more opportunities, just from a scaling perspective, you know, software, obviously, is kind of the best place to play if you want to scale your business. And that’s where we saw the real opportunity. So our first couple clients were in, actually, another one was an e-commerce chatbot that we helped sell into e-commerce stores. We had, obviously, some experience there. And then the other client was in a FinTech company that was, you know, breaking into the investor relations market, and we, you know, help them kind of grow through the US market. Yeah, then the pandemic was, you know, actually ended up being pretty beneficial because those two initial contracts that we had, you know, we had to go to their office took half a day to, you know, get there and, you know, have the meeting in person and walk them through our presentation and sell them live. Whereas, by April 2020, we were all like this, you know, on Zoom. And, you know, we could sell two to three deals in a day and be across the world. We got clients in Israel the UK New Zealand Australia, and Mexico, and then a ton through the US market, just in different geographies where we never even thought about playing.

John Corcoran 11:40

Yeah, yeah. Now, sales is such a broad topic. There’s inbound sales, there’s outbound sales. I know you focus on outbound sales. Now it is was that the goal from the beginning? Or has the vision evolved?