May 25

Episode 123: Why Business Leaders Need to Be Using “Sales Forensics”


In today’s episode, Mike talks with Rick Reynolds & Alex Brown. Rick is the co-founder and CEO, and Alex is the Vice President of Sales.

A little bit more about Rick. Over his career, he’s built two successful companies to evaluate and deliver actionable insights into business to business sales performance. That is, why are sales one and lost and account health. Why are accounts strong, vulnerable, or damaged?

Alex has spent his entire career in sales, sales management, and sales leadership roles in a number of industries. So you can see we’re gonna have a rich conversation.

Rick Reynold’s Bio

Over his career Rick has launched and built two successful companies to evaluate and deliver actionable insights into B2B sales performance (Why are sales won and lost?) and account health (Why are accounts strong, vulnerable, or damaged?). AskForensics, his current company, delivers in-depth qualitative assessments and quantitative analytics, using proprietary solutions and methodologies, to leading Fortune 1000 corporations and SMBs.

Rick has also been on the boards and advisory councils of several national, state, and local non-profit organizations focused on healthcare, medical research, and disabilities.

Alex Brown’s Bio

My first job was in 7th grade as a prep cook and dishwasher and I haven’t stopped working since that time. I have spent my entire career years in sales, sales management, and sales leadership roles in several industries. The most recent 5 years have been in healthcare acquisitions where I helped lead the team that found, evaluated and brought on doctor-owned medical practices.

In This Episode…

  • Meet the Experts: Let’s dive in as Mike introduces our go-to guys, Rick and Alex from AskForensics, and they share their journey into the biz.
  • What’s AskForensics?: Hang out with Rick as he breaks down the who, what, and why of AskForensics, talking about how they turn data into decisions that drive sales.
  • Sales: Then vs. Now: Alex chats about the shift in the sales game due to the digital age, and why it’s important to keep a finger on the pulse of client relationships.
  • Forensics Meet Sales: Get into the nitty-gritty of how Rick and his team turn detective, using a unique approach to uncover insights that traditional market research might miss.
  • Who Needs AskForensics?: From Fortune 1000 powerhouses to emerging businesses, Rick shares who could benefit from a dose of AskForensics magic.
  • Why AskForensics?: Join the conversation on how AskForensics can help you hang onto important accounts and amp up your sales performance.
  • AskForensics: Resistance to Acceptance: Let Rick walk you through the initial push-back from sales teams and how they overcome these reservations.
  • Bespoke Services: Rick’s got you covered, explaining how AskForensics can help businesses big or small with a range of services.
  • Picking Your Battles: Learn about the methodology behind selecting which customers to focus on in a B2B environment, with some tips on how to balance data and intuition.
  • Art vs Science: Explore the perfect blend of intuition and data when handling client feedback, finding that sweet spot between science and art.
  • Keeping Your Eye on the Prize: Unpack the comparative analysis of account health and sales forensics, and how it can help manage potential conflict.
  • All About Retention: Get the inside scoop on why renewals and customer retention are the name of the game, especially for SaaS companies.
  • Feedback, Action, and Perception: Dive into the importance of acting on client feedback and how it shapes their perception of your business.
  • Third-party Interviews: See how bringing in an independent third party to conduct interviews can show clients you’re invested in understanding their needs.
  • Leadership Changes & Perception: Understand the value of third-party analysis when leadership changes occur within a client organization.
  • Fixing the Gaps: Listen to Rick’s story of how they helped a vulnerable client improve their business by identifying weaknesses and strategizing for success.

Links & Resources Mentioned…

Read The Transcript

Mike O'Neill: Welcome back to the Get Unstuck and On-Target podcast. I'm Mike O'Neill with Bench Builders and with leadership coaching and people skills training, we help companies solve the people problems that are slowing their growth. Joining me today for the first time on this podcast are two guests. Rick Reynolds and Alex Brown of AskForensics.

Rick is the co-founder and CEO, and Alex is the Vice President of Sales. A little bit more about Rick. Over his career, he's built two successful companies to evaluate and deliver actionable insights into business to business sales performance. That is, why are sales one and lost and account health. Why are accounts strong, vulnerable, or damaged?

Alex has spent his entire career in sales, sales management, and sales leadership roles in a number of industries. So you can see we're gonna have a rich conversation. Welcome Rick and Alex.

Alexander Brown: Thank you, Mike.

Rick Reynolds: Thank you Mike. Great to be here.

Mike O'Neill: I met Rick when he presented to the Rotary Club. Now it turns out the president of my Rotary club is to Rick's, I guess that would be your left, is Alex Brown.

So I learned about AskForensics through a Rotary presentation, and what I thought was gonna be, quite frankly, a dull subject, turned out to be a very engaging subject. Why? Because I think you were introducing Rick to the Rotary audience, a notion that was new to most of the people in the audience, and that is really understanding your clients and using data to drive decisions.

When you try to explain people at a social function. Rick, what is AskForensics and why did you co-found the business? How do you respond to that?

Rick Reynolds: Well, in free words, our focus is win, retain, and grow and you capitalized our, our company very well. But that, that's, that's the essence of what we do.

And if we're at a social function, and it's an open bar, I can go into some more detail. But the, the, the focus is to uncover nuanced insights. From senior client and prospect leadership that our clients typically don't hear. And by understanding and acting on these insights, we have repeatedly seen lemons turned into lemonade.

So it our focus is to provide a rich layer of insights that typical voice of the customer and net promoter score type programs, which are valuable, but typically they don't bring to the surface. So, We enable our clients to perform much better and we see time and time again that they are retaining accounts worth millions and millions of dollars to their top and bottom lines.

Mike O'Neill: What we discussed before we hit the record button is that we're gonna kind of have a conversation with Rick that will center primarily around the business and the services provided, and Alex is gonna kind of share, at least I would like to ask, how do you take that information and make that information actionable?

So let me go to you, Alex, next. I understand you from a sales leadership standpoint. You've led sales teams, you've been a sales leader. Take your AskForensics hat off for a moment and put the, when you're in a sales leadership role, how is this information helpful to you as a sales leader?

Alexander Brown: Yeah, thanks for the question, Mike. So, I think a couple of trends that are emerging, the biggest one is that the buyer journey has changed. So buyers can go online now and do research and look at competitors and do everything digitally and can do a, get a lot of you know, information online about your competitors and can engage them very easily and efficiently, digitally.

And this is across all industries for the most part. And so as sales leaders, we, and, and as individual contributors, we tend to be very confident in our ability to connect, to build a relationship. While that may be true, sometimes more often than not, there are some gaps that maybe we as sales leaders and individual contributors might not see, or I, you know, know about.

And frankly, our clients could be actually doing research and part of that buyer journey you know, they're, they're doing research on, on our competitors and are looking at other options and solutions and so, You know, when you think about how, how that's evolved and then you think about AskForensics, I think what's most compelling is that AskForensics is able to get in front of 85% of the time, the C-Suite or the decision makers, and actually have a nuanced conversation and then report back what they found.

And so that's, that's really critical. And so to me as a sales leader, what I wanna know is what's the true health of our relationship with our biggest clients?

Mike O'Neill: Thank you, Alex. Rick, when you co-founded this business, whereas you're using this term forensics, I see that in different settings.

I see that in a financial setting. But you've applied forensics to a sales standpoint. Do the customers understand the depth and breadth in which you're gonna come back with them information, or do they basically trust that you know what you're doing and that the information you're gonna share with them is very much information that they can use and make decisions regarding how strong of an account is this actually?

Rick Reynolds: That's a great question, Mike. I would say when we have a new client the expectations are not fully understood on what we are going to deliver because when you look at typical market research those programs are typically. More research oriented, interviewing high volumes of respondents and getting back statistical insights on individual companies.

Our, our model's much different. We are asking those open-ended questions that Alex talked about. Typically, each interview that we completes roughly 30 minutes per executive, and each of our evaluations on a particular client or prospect encompass two to four executives, sometimes more. So each assessment is built upon.

Could be several hours of one-on-one feedback. Open-ended comments. So I would submit that a new customer to AskForensics probably doesn't have a full understanding of what we deliver once we deliver it, they're, I mean, I'd like to say they're very pleased. We also see that oftentimes the client facing teams, be it the sales leader who led that pursuit or the account management leader. They might, they, we see they're kind of resistant to the process at first when they're not familiar with it because, the impression is, wow, this could reflect on me personally or my team personally.

And it really doesn't, in fact, in only a handful of cases, out of the thousands of evaluations we've completed, have we uncovered anything that is personally sensitive, maybe one or two times. It's typically we, well, I shouldn't say typically, we focus on the holistic support and actions of the selling and providing company.

So, new clients, I, I would like to say are pleasantly surprised, longstanding customers of ours. They understand what we're going to deliver. So, that, you know, they're, they pretty much have clarity on what, what they will receive.

Mike O'Neill: Rick, I'm making the assumption, please correct me if I'm wrong, but most of the companies that reach out to you and engage your all services would you describe them?

What would be the average sized client that says yes to using your services?

Rick Reynolds: Our initial focus has been on the Fortune 1000 organizations. We've just, from day one, when we started AskForensics in 2006 roughly, we just had the skill sets to approach and win business with some very, very large companies.

The typical account that we profile in terms of total contract value is 20 million dollars. So we're focused to Alex's point on that top strata. If you look at the 80/20 rule, I mean that's really our sandbox, the 20% driving the 80, but over the years we've also migrated into the SMB small, medium size business segment.

And we do very well there. In fact, by cutting our teeth with Fortune 1000 companies and large accounts, there really is not a sales a outcome or account issue that we have not encountered before. So, we have a tiered model that enables us to deliver our services to accounts, B2B accounts, ranging in the high five figures up into the multimillions.

Everything we do is the same DNA, but you know, if you look at BMW as a brand, for example, we've got the MINI Cooper S and we have the 7 Series and, and one's in between. So we're able to provide coverage for different sized clients of ours and different sized customers that they have.

Mike O'Neill: I got you. So Alex, when you're in a sales role call on an organization, in essence selling Askforensics' services and they say, well, of all of our customers. Let's keep it real simple. Let's say the company has 10 customers. Which of those 10 would you recommend that they focus on first? What? What characterizes those?

Alexander Brown: Yeah. So I think first the, the, the main focus is B2B, not B2C.

Mike O'Neill: Okay.

Alexander Brown: The, the second layer of that, if we think of it as a top-down funnel, is now we need to get some insights from the selling company. What is their pardo rule, which refers to the 20% of companies generating 80% of the revenue. So now we have B2B.

Top 20%, that would be a great place to start. And then if they have a particular client that they maybe don't feel that the account manager or sales team is most engaged on, that's probably an area where a, a further analysis, deeper dive might make sense. So that would be, I think a first pass at it.

Now obviously Rick may have an additional thought, but that would be from a top down approach the way we would view it.

Mike O'Neill: Rick?

Rick Reynolds: Alex, great comment. I'll just add two insights. One is, is what Alex touched upon that gut instinct. Oftentimes leadership just has a sense that they're not hearing the truth from their teams.

And that gut level instinct is critical. So, so that's one way. And the other is oftentimes our clients have multiple programs in place. So we talked about voice of the customer, net promoter score. Those are great indicators of, of accounts that may be going sideways. So if you look at the data and if they are generating health scores based upon those platforms. If an account is vulnerable to damaged though and they're in that 20% driving the 80.

Those are accounts to, to select for deeper, richer insights because most often, I don't mean to be critical of other programs. They're all very important into the mix, but we continually find that we are reaching higher into the client and prospect organizations than the other programs touch upon. So we provide that extra layer that enables leadership to make the right decisions on.

You know, what kind of coaching is needed? What kind of actions are needed to turn this around? Are there systemic issues that we are seeing over several of these evaluations that we need to address holistically within our corporation? So these, these help on many levels of decision making. So I think both data and gut instincts are important ways to select the accounts.

Mike O'Neill: I got you and, and what you're describing right now sounds to me this is probably airing more on the side on the account health, and that is identify which account that you would go, you're advising the client, which accounts would you like us to talk to? And that in these one-on-one conversations with key decision makers by asking open-ended questions and recording these responses, is that.

There is both a science and an art to, with what you do with this data. Is that a fair assumption?

Rick Reynolds: That's a fair assumption, Mike. I would add that. Interestingly enough, when we look at sales, win, loss, which we call sales forensics and account health, which we call account forensics. Ironically, in terms of the total contract value that we've evaluated over the years, which totals about 23 billion when measured by the value the contracts we're evaluating.

It's roughly a 50/50 split. I mean, not planned that way, but it just has happened that way. The value proposition of each is different on an account health, the value prop is here and now.

We're uncovering insights that they need to address, and we continually find that about 85% of all the accounts that we evaluate have some level of risk issues are percolating that can escalate and become real roadblocks to retaining that customer. So the, the value proposition there is our clients have a direct, unfiltered, understanding of the key issues they need to address with their clients.

Sales, win, lost, that's a little more in the rear view mirror, particularly if it's lost, right? I mean, you didn't win that new or rebid opportunity, but it's great to have that understanding and, and those are great inputs for training, assigning the, the proper talent to the proper segment of accounts, what have you.

One thing about doing evaluations on one opportunities, presumably that's a success, right? Our clients want, bamo, high five. But we find Mike, that a high percentage of accounts coming out of the gate are already at risk in that transition implementation stage of our client's service. So there's a little bit of of an account health component to analyzing a win.

Mike O'Neill: Got you. You know, Alex, as I was listening to Rick speak, you know what I do professionally, I, I work with organizations. Primarily on the people side. And one of the things I've picked up on is you get a feel for how does the organization deal with conflict? And it's interesting because oftentimes it starts at the top.

If the person or persons at the top avoid conflict, things don't go away, that just pop up someplace else. Whereas if they're willing to engage in conflict, there's a willingness to maybe address things before it gets outta hand. I'm making an assumption, maybe wrongly, to some extent, that could apply to sales, and that is, it could very well be that the account might be in jeopardy, but the leadership team just doesn't want to accept that, doesn't want to acknowledge that.

And by y'all going in asking, is that a fair comparison?

Alexander Brown: To me, to me it is, I think there's two things driving that, and Rick feel free to jump in, but the first thing is, number one, the sales team may not know about it. In other words, they're, they're engaged. They have their, their what I call happy hands outlook.

You know, everything's great. We won the deal and the renewal's gonna happen and we're good. We're good. And so they're in the, the commission phase or the sales phase, and so they're not even really fully hearing what the client's saying, that's one option. The other option though, is perhaps that if they do know, they're downplaying it and, and not, you know, not taking it all in.

And I think both of those are valid. I, I do think one thing we're seeing now, a trend that's very important for SaaS based companies, especially so, you know, software companies, is the renewals have become increasingly more important in a larger percentage of their revenue. And so by not engaging your existing book, not cross-selling and penetrating that white space and, and understanding what the decision makers really think is a real risk.

Mike O'Neill: I have begun working with two different SaaS organizations and I see that loud and clear. It seems in the times Pass, it was always on business development, new accounts. But there's recognition as these accounts, you put a real value in What these accounts are is they really need to be putting good in emphasis on retaining those accounts.

And what I'm sensing, this is the reason I wanted to bring y'all onto the podcast, is that you have data to work off of. And I haven't asked this, so let me ask this, Rick, if you advise your customers to engage you, and they say yes, and you go ask their customers these questions, the key leadership and you get good information.

Does that have the effect of strengthening the relationship just because you took the time that you invested, and they know you're not cheap, but you're, but you, they turn, they asked you to go ask questions. So best understand how that they can better serve the customer. Do you find that that can have the effect of strengthening the relationship just by y'all going, asking these questions?

Rick Reynolds: Indeed, Mike. We have found that, and, and that was not a value proposition. We at all had on our radar when we launched AskForensics, but. There are several things at play. One is when you reach out to the levels that Alex mentioned, the C-Suite, the EVP, SVP levels, oftentimes that's not the level that's engaged in discussions like this.

So, they're very open. Alex alluded to the 85% response rate. I mean, we get that routinely, which means we're pretty much completing every assignment we are given because we're interviewing multiple executives at each company. With that said they very much value the process, and we ask questions, you know, how do, how did you what did you think of this experience?

And we're getting answers like, wow, this is more challenging than I thought. Or, this was really thought provoking, or, I've never been asked these questions before. And, and so they enjoy that, they get to unload. But what's also happening is that they are sharing insights because we're a third party and they, you know, we have no skin in the game other than we want to get feedback.

So we're getting that unfiltered insight, but this provides this results in a paradox for our customers. In that, just to your point, Mike, the, the process of scheduling discussions and having deep discussions with client and prospect leadership, and they know we're working for X, Y, Z. There is now that anticipation that X, Y, Z is going to do something with this.

If they don't, we have inadvertently reinforced the negative perceptions that they had. So it does provide that opening, but our clients have to act. But when they do they find that their clients and prospects, they're open to a different level of discussion because it's almost like a QBR on steroids because the QBR you know, quarterly business review, if you will, because now the provider in the selling organization that has.

They have expanded insights they didn't have before. So it's a higher level of open-ended on the same of the side of the table discussion that we find they just didn't have in the past. So yes, it does open the door. They do appreciate it, but action is is essential.

Mike O'Neill: Anything you wanna add to that before I move to my next question, Alex?

Alexander Brown: You know, I think what's interesting and, and Rick has shared this with me, is oftentimes when existing clients have a change in leadership, so, you know, a a, a salesperson leaves or someone that hired AskedForensics leaves and goes to a competitor, the first call they make is to AskForensics cause they wanna get an an analysis.

Of this new company, okay, how, how do we actually stand or where, where do we fit in and what do our clients think about us today? And so I find that to be a very strong testimonial to the power of once they've used as forensics and gotten objective feedback, and we ask the questions. That others can't and get the answers that they won't.

They, they, they remember that they, they make the change and then when they, they leave and change to a competitor, the first call they do they have is with AskForensics to say, let's, let's get some objective analysis now.

Mike O'Neill: Excellent. Before we wrap up, Rick, let me direct this question to you. You co-founded this business, you've been doing this type of work for quite some time.

Can you share an example? Where you had a client that in fact was just stuck. And what did y'all do to help that client get unstuck?

Rick Reynolds: Mike, that's a great question. We recently did an analysis on an interesting event. In 2018, we evaluated the health of one of our client's customers, and this was a $25 million.

Book of business, and we found that that account was vulnerable by that on a one to 10 scale, with one being severely damaged and 10 being incredibly strong which are outliers on either side. We rated it a five, so you know, it, it was a, a situation where, this is not going to leave on you. You're not, you're not gonna lose this account, but there were are issues you need to address.

And what we found was that number one, the contract that our client had in place was not aligned with their customer's objectives. And, and, and so that, that's a key thing. So they're performing. Against a contract that really was not relevant. Number two, there were inconsistent communications between our client delivering the service and their customer.

There just were gaps. They were kind of talking past each other, both informally and formally. There was a third, there was a lack of strategic support. They just really were not engaged at that senior level. We do see that quite often, right? When you're in the, in the details of managing a piece of business, you're, you know, you're down there in the daily you know, activities and not necessarily engaged strategically.

And third, we found that the client felt that value was questionable and elusive. So those were the top four things without, you know, lots of details around that. But those were the top four things that were shared with us. Then fast forward to 2021. They retained the business and they applied our learnings and saved that account, and we rated it an eight.

So it, it went from vulnerable to strong. Well, what happened there? Well, our client, number one, accepted full responsibility for the performance gaps that we uncovered. I mean, it was a neo culpa. They, they had those proper meetings. They engaged with the right teams. Number two, they focused on improvement.

I mean, the clients saw that they were taking this seriously and acting on a plan. Third, they aligned their rebid proposals around the client's values and objectives. Those were unaligned in the previous contract. This time. They took a lot of care to do that. Fourth, in a sales strategy way, they demonstrated the risk of change, right?

That that was key. So, so they did that and they assigned a strong team to manage that account moving forward. So the, at the end of the day, they beat out their largest competitor. Who was coming in full board to, to snag that account. Our client turned an at-risk vulnerable account into a huge win. And that's a client to this day for them, so that that shows how you can be stuck and become unstuck with proper actions.

Mike O'Neill: Great example. You know, we've only barely scratched the surface of where we could go. And so I know that those folks who are watching or listening want to learn more. Alex, I'll let you answer the question. If folks wanna learn more about AskForensics, how do they go about reaching out to y'all? What's the best way?

Alexander Brown: Sure. They can go to our website, which is just as it sounds, Or they can email Rick or, or me. Rick, I don't know if you wanna give, leave, have a phone number or?

Rick Reynolds: Well, we have, we have a, a, a corporate email. It's

Mike O'Neill: Gotcha. So I wanna, I will put

I'm also gonna put in the show notes both the contact information for, for both of you. And it may very well be in the form of a, a LinkedIn profile link. So I'm connected to both of you, so I'm happy to put that in the show notes. So if you're listening, don't feel like it. I pull off by side of the road.

That will be in the show notes. Gentlemen, we just did something I'd never done before. Y'all made it easy. I appreciate your wellness to kind of tag team on this. I'm very intrigued by this from a concept standpoint. I think this is something that leaders of organizations need to know about.

That's why I wanted to bring y'all on to the podcast to kind of start getting the word out. If they don't know about AskForensics. Thank you, Rick. Thank you, Alex.

Alexander Brown: Thank you, Mike. This has been great and appreciate the time.

Rick Reynolds: Thank you, Mike. We've really enjoyed it.

Mike O'Neill: And since I'm thanking everybody else, I wanna thank our listeners for joining us today.

If you'd like to subscribe to this podcast, you could just go to your browser and type in And while you're there, if you would like to subscribe to our weekly management blog, call the Bottom Line. You can do that right there. So if you're a. Business owner, you're a leader and you're trying to grow your business, but it's those people problems that have slowed you down.

Let's talk head over to to schedule a call. So I wanna thank you for joining us, and I hope y'all have picked up on some tips from Rick and Alex that help you get unstuck and on target. Until next time.

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