Why hustling is holding you back
Brandon Fluharty: We're in the game of human connection, and we often lose that, and we have certainly lost that. It's important to have great technology. It's important to have good insights into data, but we can't skip out on the human component to a very human business.
Devin Reed: This is Reveal: The Revenue Intelligence Podcast, here to help go- to market leaders do one thing: Stop guessing.
Sheena Badani: If you're ready to unlock reality and reach your potential, then this show is for you. I'm Sheena Badani.
Devin Reed: And I'm Devin Reed, coming to you from the Gong Studios. Sheena, I've got a question for you.
Sheena Badani: Let's hear it.
Devin Reed: What does hustle mean to you?
Sheena Badani: So I think generally, I have used it in a positive way where somebody's able to figure things out on their own. Like, they may not have the resources, the information, they may not have done this in the past, but they're going to hustle and figure it on their own and come up with a solution to this problem, or win the deal, or whatever the thing is that they're trying to accomplish. But they will take that initiative and work hard with whatever they have to achieve that outcome. That's generally how I've kind of used the term hustle.
Devin Reed: So like a healthy perseverance.
Sheena Badani: Yeah, yeah. That would be one way to say it.
Devin Reed: Right in there? Okay.
Sheena Badani: Yeah, exactly. What about you?
Devin Reed: I tend to agree. I'm hustling always. I've been a hustler, not the inaudible hustler type of way, but I view myself as a hustler. Having been in sales, I kind of pride in myself on that and even now. That said, I think sometimes I don't believe in hustle culture, or I should say I don't support hustle culture. And I think I sometimes tiptoe it because I know... I'm active on LinkedIn and sometimes I'll say stuff and people like," Well, hold on. That leads to burnout." And my whole thing is the hustle should be enjoyable. You should enjoy the hustle. Now, it doesn't mean grinding yourself down to zero. It doesn't mean giving your company every ounce that you have and nothing for yourself and for your family and all that stuff. But to me, it's kind of like I'm setting out for a goal. I know it's not going to be super easy. Some are bigger, some are smaller. But there's going to be some resistance. I'm kind of looking forward to overcoming that. And I'm going to win or learn, maybe both. But that's to me what hustles all about, at least in my life.
Sheena Badani: Yeah. And I don't think it's sustainable in any way to hustle 24/7. I think you can have like bursts of when you hustle. There's like time to hustle and then there's like times when you should not because it's not required. Or you're going to hit that point where you're at burnout. So you need to be able to figure out like when you can hustle and when you should not.
Devin Reed: I totally agree. And I was really good at hustling. Now, I need to get really good at resting, but you know, kids will force you to find a way to rest as I'm learning. So yeah, I'm all about that. And that is also what our guest, Brandon, is all about as well. So we have him on. He's the VP and the number one rep at LivePerson. You're going to get in some details on what number one rep means, some really big numbers in a short amount of time. But I'm really excited about this conversation because he's all about teaching folks and teaching himself how to close seven figure deals without burning out.
Sheena Badani: And it's somewhat controversial, I would say, especially in the sales space. There's so many pressures to be that person that's hustling all the time. So I think he brings like a really unique and different approach that will get you thinking.
Devin Reed: Absolutely. And it's hard to ignore because when you hear his accomplishments, it's instant credibility. So then it's like," Well, how did you get there?" Well, it's not the way that you're used to. Right? It's counterintuitive. Some really cool concepts here. He's got a few frameworks. He's got a PREP framework, a DFC framework. I am not going to tell you what they are here. You'll hear in a moment. And another theme that I mentioned is slow down to speed up. Right? So I really like this concept. I'm glad we're hearing it from a few of our guests. So what do you say? Should we go not hustle with Brandon?
Sheena Badani: Let's go hang. Brandon, welcome to Reveal. We're so thrilled to have you on the show today.
Brandon Fluharty: Yeah. Excited to be here. Thanks for having me.
Sheena Badani: I took a look at your LinkedIn profile of course, before we had our initial conversation and I was very blown away by your accomplishments. You have sold over$ 50 million to leading brands. You're like a Linked influencer. You have thousands of folks that are following you. You're a thought leader in this space. So I was really, really intrigued and amazed by all of that. And then today you're VP of sales at LivePerson. And I think while you were there, you kind of came across this idea of anti- hustle culture. Tell us more. Like, what is that? And how did you realize it was time for a change?
Brandon Fluharty: Like many in sales, no matter where you are, whether you're an SDR, an account executive, a strategic seller, I was guilty of it too. You know? You're told you got to get up really early wearing... Well, a lack of sleep is like wearing it on your sleeve like a badge of honor. And we look up to entrepreneurs, we look up to top sellers in the past few years as," Hey, I've just got to work and grind and hustle around the clock in order to be successful." And I was successful in that world, but it just led to burnout. Having to do it month over month every single quarter, every single year, I had health issues. I had physical health issues. In my early thirties, I had an idiopathic stroke, idiopathic meaning there's no known cause for it. And I didn't have a hole in my heart, no heavy drug use or anything that a young person would have a stroke because of. The only thing I could point to was like how hard I was hustling and grinding around the clock. And mental health issues, depression, anxiety, panic attacks. I had a panic attack in front of a large customer early in my career. And so these things, like I couldn't connect the dots. But finally, when the pandemic hit, I had the, as we all did, we had a moment to reflect. We had a moment to pause. And I really started to be diligent about tracking some of the nontraditional sales metrics like sleep, and how well recovered I was, and how good of a mood I was in. And what I found just by tracking this stuff every single day, it started to become more of a leading indicator than how many meetings I booked, how many proposals were sent out. And I started combining actually the two things. And I found actually I was able to accelerate deals and close more in a hundred percent completely remote environment, which is not traditional in enterprise and strategic sales. So I was actually closing more and getting more sleep versus it took me a lot longer to accumulate annual recurring revenue working the old way. So I was like," Whoa, I'm onto something here. I need to change my way. And I need to dive a little bit deeper into this."
Sheena Badani: You know? It really kind of took you a culmination of a lot of different things that were maybe, I could say, serious for you to realize that you needed to change. How do you talk to other folks who are maybe like earlier in their career or middle of their career that they don't get to that point and that they can be more proactive about this?
Brandon Fluharty: I talk to a lot of folks. I do mentoring. And it's something I love to do now because it's a two- way street. I get something out of mentoring as well. And my advice is usually," Be intentional. Be purposeful in your actions. And if you can give yourself little moments to be still, be quiet, and reflect, you can actually achieve more in sales by higher quality actions." And certainly in strategic sales, I learn that as well that I don't need a whole lot of deals in a year to satisfy quota and meet the personal targets that I have. And so I stumbled upon this really a few years ago when I worked with a strong manager that I was working with at the time. He became a mentor to me and we set about a theme for the year, which was," Let's slow down in order to speed up." What he was observing for me was that I was saying yes to everything the previous year. And that was piling up because I had these big aspirations. I wanted to do high quality work, but I couldn't deliver that high quality work because I didn't have the moments in my day for that deep work to go deeper on an account. And by sort of saying no and prioritizing no and focusing on a subset of higher quality engagements, I was actually able to accelerate my deals and go deeper with those accounts and actually build stronger relationships.
Devin Reed: Well, I want to start by thanking you for being this honest and vulnerable. For a lot of people listening, this is maybe the first time they're hearing it, especially from someone at a senior level and the success that Sheena mentioned. But I think it's important to normalize these conversations because until people feel like this is not revolutionary, it's going to be hard for people to actually make a change. And so for me, and probably for others, they're probably itching like," Okay, how can I kind of make that change?" Right? Because it can't be an all at once thing when that's your lifestyle and your mindset. These things take time to shift. So I'm curious if you could share a little, Brandon, about your personal operating system. Right? There's kind of the hustle. You know? We all know the hustle way. You described that well. What's the anti- hustle personal operating system for you?
Brandon Fluharty: I really try to zoom out and I've gotten away from new year's resolutions. I've gotten away from even goals. And we've been taught for so long," Oh, goals need to be SMART." The first S is be specific. And I fundamentally disagree with that because it's very easy to make goals linear, but we know life is like this. It's a zigzag. And look at just a couple years ago, right? I was heading into 2020 coming off of a monster year and I was focused only on new business. So you can imagine what happened in February, March of 2020, I literally was engaged with accounts that folks were furloughed. And that completely decimated new business. My pipeline was already thin coming off of a strong year. But I was able to stay calm. I was able to stay resilient because of a system that was underpinning sort of my philosophy and focus. And so what I try to do for a year is go into it with a theme. So I alluded to one of the years. Going into 2019, it was all about slowing down in order to speed up. And so I work around a theme. And then from there, I build core principles. Like literally, a company has core operating principles and guiding principles. I think we need to be that as sellers. We hear it all the time. You be a mini CEO of your business, think it's true, be a CEO of your life. And work to integrate work and life versus this fallacy that there is true work- life balance. But I think it's really important to zoom out, have a theme for the year, and then," Well, how do I get there? How do I achieve this? How do I embody this theme?" So that's where your principles come in handy. And then from there that allows me to dissect, over the course of a year, the building blocks, the single unit of success is a single workday. And I've come up with a framework that I call PREP and it stands for Plan, Rest, Effort, and Perform. And underpinning that is something I call DFC. Not that we need more acronyms in sales, but it really has sort of given me a mental model to work from. But DFC stands for being disciplined, being flexible, and being curious. And I think as you go through anything with a beginning, a middle, and an end, whether that's a workday, a sales cycle, a meeting, a demo, I like to be disciplined at the start. So I need to do my research. I need to become prepared. I think of myself like an athlete would; warm up and get ready for competition or a hard training session. I'm going to be disciplined at the start. And then during the middle, as things get crazy, there are things that I can't control. So there, I need to be more like a creative artist and be flexible because an artist knows how to stay in the moment, be in the zone, and pivot when necessary. And then at the end, I need to be curious like a scientist would because they don't look back with emotion. They look back and they try to find data points. How can I improve? How could I have made that demo better? How could I have made that discovery call better? And I don't want to tie myself to attachment. I want to detach from emotion. And so that sort of is my system. And then what I do with PREP. Again, going into a single unit of success, a workday, I try to plan as the last thing I do as work today. So I review how things went through curiosity, and then I plan out tomorrow. And then that allows me to step away, truly step away, and rest and recover and be with my wife, be present, not looking down at my phone because I've already cleared out my inbox. I've already gotten everything out of my head that I know I need to do. So I'm not thinking about... If you're with a child, or if you're with a spouse, or with a partner, whatever it is, you can actually be fully present with them and enjoy your life outside of work. That then allows me to get proper rest. I'm not... Nothing's nagging at me when I'm trying to sleep, so I can actually get good quality sleep. That then allows me to put a hundred percent E, efforts, into what I want to focus on and attack my plan because it's already waiting for me. So I can go a hundred percent fully focused with intensity, with intention, with purpose. And then the final P, again, is all about analyzing that performance. Did I achieve what I set out to do with my plan and how can it be better? And how can I double down on the things that are working? And it becomes this flywheel that just keeps me going. And natural outcomes. Now it's what were typically goals; I want to achieve quota, I want to earn X, I want to win these accounts; they just become natural outcomes. I don't get obsessive about those things. I don't become attached to those things. I've fallen in love with the process, my personal operating system.
Devin Reed: I like that a lot. I specifically like the focus on quality rest. It clicked for me. I don't know. A couple years ago, I heard on this podcast, they did this little quasi- experiment, nothing official in a lab, but they had these people get six hours of rest and then do some reaction tests. Probably six hours isn't that bad, right? Like, I mean, it's not the seven to nine we're told, but six isn't the worst. If you're a parent, you've surely had six hours probably this week if you're lucky. And then they had them; I think it was two or three drinks, so it was like at that drunk level where you shouldn't be driving; and had them do the same reaction tests. They performed worse having only had a sober six hours of sleep than essentially being drunk.
Brandon Fluharty: Yeah.
Devin Reed: It is crazy. I was like," Oh, so I'm basically showing up to work drunk in a way." Now we all know what I mean when I say that. Obviously there's different factors. But like, that's pretty powerful stuff to think about it. And then you think you're not showing up to... And if you think about it literally, you would never show up to work drunk ever, let alone, days on end, which is like," Ah, one time." And I'm not going to go into if you should or shouldn't do that, if it happens, whatever you do. But you know what I mean? It's like if you value your career, if you value your team and your performance, you would never do that. But here we are to your point, hustling and not giving ourself enough rest.
Brandon Fluharty: And it creeps in other ways too. I know that study well that you referenced, Devin. And there's an awesome app that I really got into when the pandemic hit. It's called Rise Science. It's really cool. It's super simple. It just lives on your smartphone and it understands two things really well. It understands your sleep debt and it understands your natural circadian rhythm. When are those peak energy levels? And when are those dips? And what I've found is it's awesome to actually schedule and manage my day around that natural energy flow. And so I do my highly strategic work. I do my high leverage and high value impact work during my peak energy states. And then I update the CRM. I go through my inbox during the dips. But you know? A lack of sleep is proven in sales. You know? It's impacting your ethics. You might say something that you know you can't commit to when you're sleep deprived. Your functional cognitive capabilities. When a C level executive is pushing back on value that you're trying to position in an ROI analysis, you might not be as sharp as you can when you're sleep deprived and stressed and constantly multitasking. So these things can have an impact when you focus on them on a micro level, and it's often missed in sales. We're in the game of human connection, and we often lose that, and we have certainly lost that. It's important to have great technology. It's important to have good insights into data, but we can skip out on the human component to a very human business.
Devin Reed: Sheena, we're hearing a lot of themes recently. If your ears are ringing, Dan Pink, bestselling author, was here talking about peaks and troughs and scheduling your time around it. Dini Mehta from CRO at Lattice was here just a couple days ago talking about going slow to go fast. So you're in great company and I love seeing these themes.
Brandon Fluharty: Dan Pink's book, When, is a great book. That really got me focused on it's not just about what you do, it's when you do it. And I'm a firm believer in that.
Sheena Badani: So Brandon, tell us a little bit, like once you implemented your framework, your PREP framework as well as like this anti- hustle approach, what was the impact to you personally?
Brandon Fluharty: So operating the old way, being on the plane every week, up late at night, grabbing a Red Bull or a quad shot latte in the afternoon just to keep going, stay on the hamster wheel, it took me fully two years to close$ 11 million in annual recurring revenue, which was great. Right? It was successful for myself and for the company, but it took a mental toll. It took a physical toll on my health. It took strange relationships and so forth. However, operating the new way under PREP and DFC and prioritizing my health, I was able to close over$ 14 million in ARR in 10 months. So a lot was going into that. It wasn't just like prioritizing my health, but it was combining that with really intentional, deep work and being thoughtful about what I did, but also measuring my mood. And I came up with this little thing. I call it Thrive Space. It's just a Google Sheet. And I was tracking those three tranches, those three areas of my health data, specifically sleep; how well rested and recovered I was from things like Rise and a wearable called WHOOP that measures my sleep. And then I was measuring my deep work efforts, which was sort of giving me guidance on how much I was achieving and leveling up my skills. And then finally, I would just measure my mood. Like, did I achieve what I wanted to achieve? Like, I would kind of gamify that and score myself on the five intentions that I would do. Very simple intentions. Did I work out? Did I meditate? Did I do the things that I normally want to do every single day? And then just measuring my overall mood. And I had the Sheet aggregate all that, and it gave me this holistic score. And that's what I was starting to optimize around was this Thrive Score of like," I want to be happy in what I do. I want to feel fulfilled." And the higher that score was, it was always because I was well rested, I stuck to my routines. And that naturally led to higher optimized mood. And the natural output of that was closing really large deals a lot faster than I did operating the old way.
Sheena Badani: If you're like us, you're probably interested in how much Brandon's focus on rest and health amplified his success. Maybe that's because we tend to underestimate the power of sleep. You know you're less on your game after a bad night of sleep, but does it really affect your performance? The Sleep Research Society conducted extensive research making clear that it does. They found a 300% decrease in cognitive performance after just two nights of lack of sleep. We also looked into the study Devin mentioned earlier conducted by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. And it also confirms the need for a good night's sleep. They found that people who show up to work sleep deprived have an 11% increase in response times, which is the equivalent of being legally drunk. So next time you're tempted to watch one more episode or read one more chapter before hitting the hay, keep those stats in mind. Let's get back to the conversation as Brandon shares some signs in your daily life that may reveal you're hustling too hard.
Devin Reed: It sounds like awareness and discipline are kind of the core foundation of these frameworks. I'd love, Brandon, if for the listeners, you could maybe share some awareness triggers. What I'm trying to get it to is getting folks who are listening to be aware. Like," Maybe I'm hustling too hard or I'm doing things that I consider normal." I think that's the big thing. It's like," Oh, I thought this was normal and everyone's doing it, but there's a better way." So what are some of those things that folks can look out for whether you're a sales rep or a sales leader to maybe start thinking about making some changes?
Brandon Fluharty: One simple thing is, do you feel like you need to drink caffeine in the afternoon? That was a big one for me. And I started to learn, again, through these habits and these routines that... Well, one, scientifically, caffeine will stay in your body for 10 hours. So if you're having caffeine after noon, it's going to impact your sleep physiologically. And I was drinking caffeine all the time because, again, I was on little sleep. I wasn't quite knowing how much sleep I was getting because I wasn't wearing the wearable. I wasn't tracking those things. I was just doing what I normally thought was needed to win really large strategic deals. And that did require staying up to work on that presentation, to be ready in the morning, jumping time zones to get to a meeting. So those things were just seemed inherent and natural to me. But again, when I started opera rating in this new way, I was like," Whoa. I don't need caffeine in the afternoon." If anything, if I'm feeling that dip, that trough that Dan Pink talks about, I'm better suited to go take a walk outside or, hell, even a power nap. Even if I don't sleep, just resting and being still and being quiet, that's much more effective than grabbing that third or fourth cup of coffee in the afternoon or whatever it is to keep you going. Another thing. You can start to just be aware of your relationships whether those are with your coworkers, or with your prospects, or even with your household, anybody, your roommates, your family members. How are the those relationships? Are you irritable? Are you snapping back? Are you checked out because you're thinking about work or you're thinking about something else? I think those are nice little triggers to say," Oh, wait a minute. I'm going to be present, fully present, in all aspects of my life." So when it's work, I'm on. I'm a hundred percent committed to the Zoom call. I'm not multitasking and thinking over here how to respond in Slack. I'm fully present. The same should hold true to everybody else in your personal life as well.
Devin Reed: Well, I love the mindfulness thing. People say," Oh, now that you work from home, there's no commute." And I'm like," I actually commute probably six times a day," because when I leave my office and I go to the kitchen, my family's usually there. Right? And so I'm commuting home, so to speak, and back again. But to your point, I'm bringing in my work. It's on my mind on the way down the stairs. I'm not shifting my mindset well enough. And I noticed that where I'm like I'm hanging out with my one- year- old for 5, 10, 15 minutes. I go back to work and I couldn't really remember what happened because I wasn't really there. And so I put this little sign on my door right by the handle, so I have to see it every time I leave the office. And it says," Take a beat," which is like take a breath. And then it says," Soup dad mode on and off." And I hit the on button. And I know this is like so cheesy, but I make myself look at it and go," You are off marketing for however long. You're dad. And when you come back in the office, you can go back into business life and all those things." So I've been doing it for a week, not perfect by any means, but definitely, definitely helpful. Those little awareness things are key.
Brandon Fluharty: I love it.
Sheena Badani: Brandon, you've sold me on the whole approach. And I think I'm motivated to try to change some things in my own life, but I still find it hard. And I think other of people will too because of the FOMO and the pressures from externally, which could be from your team, it could be your manager who is hustling at 1: 00 AM, it could be what you see on social media that people are wearing themselves out because they're working so hard. And somehow that's cool and what's expected. And high performers are doing that. So what's your response to that, that kind of the external pressures?
Brandon Fluharty: Being open, being authentic, being transparent to how you want to operate. So kind of, again, going back to that high level. When you define your core operating principles, you define your theme. Go ahead and share that with your manager." Hey, here is part of my strategy. It's not just about looking at specific numbers that we're trying to hit. This is how I need to operate." And I think that's the missed component in sales. So just being open and honest and transparent. And if you get pushback, honestly, then you might have to question," Am I in the right environment? Am I getting the proper support?" I hate to say that, but it's just the truth. The second thing I would say too is," Control what you can control." And what I find is that there are two parts of the day I can absolutely control: how I start my day and how I end my day. I won't always be able to control what's happening in the middle of the day; incoming messages from the manager or the CEO, or prospect clients, coworkers. So that's where, again, I need to be a bit more flexible. But I can be disciplined in the beginning, in the start of the day. And if I commit to the routines that I know help me, help put me in the right mindset, help put me in a calmer state of being, again, I will just naturally perform better versus instantly defaulting into reactive mode and giving my time I'm away and my energy away. First thing, by starting in my inbox. I was guilty of it. I would just open my email, whether it's on my phone or the first thing I did, I used to live in my inbox. Now I live somewhere else. I live in... It's actually an app called Sunsama where I can pull in my email, my calendars, all my to- dos into a single place and orchestrate my day. And I can prioritize based off of my energy states, based off of time it's going to take, and what's important to me. Right? What gets me closer to my personal north star? That's what I want to focus on. So control what you can control. Focus though on those things. And be open and transparent with your teammates and your managers. I think those are two very simple ways to just start to build that bridge.
Sheena Badani: You've given a lot of great suggestions on like new apps and tools to check out for the folks. Hopefully you're getting some referral codes through all of this.
Devin Reed: Yeah. I think Sheena saw me grab my pen and write down a couple things on my crosstalk on a piece of paper towel because that's all I had. But I was like," I can't miss this."
Brandon Fluharty: I got tons for you.
Devin Reed: Before we head to our last question, you have a newsletter. Can you tell folks, Brandon, what that's about and where they can find it? And then before you say anything, listeners, I will put the link in the show notes. So you just got to click. But go ahead, Brandon.
Brandon Fluharty: So absolutely. LinkedIn is the best place to follow me. And you can subscribe to, I call it," Be Focused. Live Great." It is the personal newsletter. It's even more than a newsletter. It's a side project that I have to elevate a career path for salespeople and also operate in this anti- hustle way. So you can follow me there. And then brandonfluharty.com is my personal website. It's very simple website. You can also sign up for the new newsletter that way and you can have it sent to your inbox via email. I post biweekly. So next one's going to drop next week. And I do have an ebook coming out. It's going to be the anti- hustle guide to earning seven- figures a year in SaaS Sales. And I deconstruct the seven steps that I went through. So any of the newsletter subscribers, you will get first access when that drops early next year in 2022.
Devin Reed: I'm excited. I'm going to go sign up for this thing right now. And I'm not just saying that. And I guard my inbox. I'm very selective of the ones I subscribe to. So I'm excited for that. Brandon, we're going to ask you the question we like to wrap with. We ask all of our guests. How would you describe sales in one word?
Brandon Fluharty: Fulfilling. That's the first word that came to me. I think like many people, I happened into sales. It was not what I went to school for. And so it has built an amazing life for me. It has put me in a position to be able to retire at 43, which I plan to do in the next year, and give back; give back to community, society; give back to the sales community and help others. That's what's fulfilling to me, not the huge commission checks these days. And so that's my north star now and drive is to help others get a piece of what I've been able to get from this amazing industry.
Sheena Badani: If you want to find success without the stress like Brandon, head over to gong. io for resources that will save you time and boost your sales. If you like what you heard, drop us a review and give us that five star rating on Apple Podcast, Spotify, or wherever you listen.
Brandon Fluharty, VP of Sales at LivePerson, was fully bought into hustle culture. He drank tons of coffee. Pulled all-nighters. And thought more work = better results.
Then one day, the constant grind led to serious medical conditions–depression, panic attacks, and even a stroke at age 34. Flash forward to today and Brandon is happier, healthier, and more successful than ever before–and, he’s hustle-free.
Brandon reveals the secrets that allowed him to break free from hustle culture and thrive. He shares his frameworks for reaching holistic goals and shares steps you can take to follow in his footsteps.