What do the sales programs at Google, Salesforce, Okta, Box, and LinkedIn all have in common? John Barrows.

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Episode Outline

[04:39] John’s background

[07:16] There's two types of companies and you can't have it both ways.

[10:13] How you're either a growth company or you're a lifestyle company

[11:18] What usually you going through your coaching process

[12:04] How to create an engine that consistently fills the pipeline with enough opportunities to flow through

[14:34] Segmenting roles and responsibilities and sales with kind of the inbound SDR

[16:35] How dumping shitty leads over to the sales team from marketing

[19:22] Why the sales and marketing divide for lead gen is where the biggest challenge

[20:19] What really leveraging artificial intelligence and leveraging real insights is

[21:30] How Google and Amazon and Facebook that know a lot about what the buyer's journey looks like

John's Inspirations:

Jeff Hoffman

Connect with John:




Make it Happen Mondays Podcast


Elias Rubel: (00:32)
The guest who needs basically no introduction. Uh, John Barrows, he's, you know, he's coached Google Salesforce, Octa box, LinkedIn. I mean, those are just a few of them, uh, when it comes to sales excellence, this is the guy. So, uh, really thrilled to have you on the show today, John, welcome. T.

John Barrows: (00:51)
hanks for having me, man. I appreciate it.

Elias Rubel: (00:53)
So, you know, there's a lot for us to cover today, but you're typically working with, and I know this is now, you just shared with me, your you're working all the way up and down the stack. So it's not just the biggest companies in the world that you're in actually out.

John Barrows: (01:06)
there outside of what I usually do. I'm usually more mid market and a little bit smaller, but you know, I'm definitely a startup myself, so, and I've started a few companies. So, uh, I know the pain of series a and those types of things.

Elias Rubel: (01:18)
Perfect. Well, let's talk about it then. I mean, speaking of pain, like what, what are the most common situations that you were either brought into or observe or have observed personally, um, when you were inside before you were coach, uh, on the sales front or on the growth front, like where we're at that stage?

John Barrows: (01:36)
Uh, you know, I think the biggest one I tend to come across and I think I wrote a blog post on this one called the founder's dilemma, which is to your point, we had talked earlier about, you know, you could figure out that product market fit, right? And you got a lot of these, you got a lot of these engineers specifically who start companies because they, they came up with a really kick ass product. And it's funny because everybody says, you know, all I'm not in sales and that type of thing.

Elias Rubel: (02:00)
And I tend to disagree because what Isaiah's sales is the, is the transfer of enthusiasm, right? If you believe strongly in what you do, then it's really just about transferring that enthusiasm. So what happens is an engineer who doesn't really consider themselves sales, they start a company and because they're super passionate about it, they go out there and they start talking to friends, families, and fools, right? Like, so they're, they're kind of their network, if you will. And because they're talking to a friendly network, they get pretty good feedback and they might even sell a few things. Right. So you know, people, Oh yeah. And I'll, I'll buy into that. Right. And so all of a sudden they're like, Oh man, this is great. Everybody loves what I got this great. Let me go hire a bunch of sales reps and go, or let me hire a VP of sales and get out, you know, just go sell this stuff.

John Barrows: (02:42)
It works. And the problem is, is that VP of sales or that sales rep that they hire, they don't have the same passion for what it is. They don't also have the same understanding of what it is. And now they're selling to an unfriendly market and trying to go out there. And what happens is they flounder, right? They don't, they don't get off the ground fast. And then the engineer or the D you know, the person who created the company gets frustrated and says, Oh, can sales reps, you know, like I knew it, right? So now let me go to marketing. Let me, let me see if I can create a demand gen engine here where I don't really need sales, and I can do this inbound stuff. And that might work for a little while, but then eventually you got to do sales. You got to do outbound.

John Barrows: (03:20)
You have to actually have a sales process in place. And so it's, this it's come across a lot of organizations that are not sales focused. And they look at sales as like a necessary evil almost, but they, but in my opinion, and the companies that the most companies that I've come across that fail, it's not because they don't have a good product market fit. It's not because the product doesn't kick ass. It's not because the, you know, pricing or anything like that. It's because they can't figure out how to sell it. And there's time after time after time, where I've watched companies who think that their product is awesome. And I expect the product to be sold because it is awesome. And without somebody who knows how to sell and without a process in place to follow, they flounder and they fail. Well, hold on. I mean, if you build it, they will come. Sure.

John Barrows: (04:13)
Ask it, ask all of the, it's called the founders out there,

John Barrows: (04:15)
Listening to me right now, how many times they've failed because they couldn't find somebody. They couldn't sell it. Right. And I, and it takes a while to figure that out. Um, but the most successful companies I've ever come across are their founder. They might not be a salesperson, but they have a sales mentality. Like let's use the top of the heap of the, my biggest customer sales loft, like Mark Benioff. He's a, he's a, he's a, he's an engineer, but he's a sales rep through and through. Right. And he understands that. And so everything supports that function because look, I sold, my first company was we did outsourced it services. I started a company when we were 23 years old. I had no idea what we were doing. Um, my friends and I got together in high school and we did outsourced it services to the SMB market. Right. And we went out there and I was one sales guy to the point where we got to 50 engineers. I was one sales guy within 50 engineers. And everyone

John Barrows: (05:08)
Look, I'm never, I always live by.

Elias Rubel: (05:12)
I never think I'm better than anybody else, but nobody's never better than me type of mentality. And every once in a while, my CT yellow in my, you know, the engineers, they would get a little higher on their horses. And they would say, you know, I'll fuckin sales. You know, we got this da, da, da, and I'd have to remind them, Hey, you do, you do know that I have a job without you. You don't have a job without me. Right. You'd know that. Right. And they'd be like, excuse me, like, what are you talking about? I'd be like, look, I can go out there and sell whatever the hell I want to sell. It's your job to keep them in here and make sure that this stuff works. But if I'm not selling, you're not doing anything. So you might be able to start a nice little lifestyle based company and get a handful of customers.

Elias Rubel: (05:51)
And if that's the case, then fine. If you want a lifestyle, I mean, there's two types of companies. And then this is another thing that I want to jump in on too, because you ha you can't have it both ways. I see so many people try to look, you're either a growth company, or you're a lifestyle company, period, right? Lifestyle, you maximize profits, you live a good life. You kind of get a real, you, over-service a select few clients and, you know, cool that, that's your thing, but don't try to pretend like you're going to grow 50% year over year with that model. If you are a growth company, you have to dump all those profits back into the company to grow it as fast as you can. And too many businesses I see out there, try to try to do both. They have the founder who wants to make a million dollars a year, but yet they want to grow it, you know, 150% year over year to like that doesn't fly. So,

Elias Rubel: (06:40)
So I'm curious, like when you're, when you're talking to whether it's founders or executives at these companies, like what, what usually you going through your coaching process, you're evaluating kind of where they're weak. What is usually the hardest message or learning to sink in? Like, what's the one that you usually get the most kind of glazed over eyes or that it just takes a while to really set in,

John Barrows: (07:03)
Well, see, I do more training than coaching, right? So I usually come in and do training on certain areas of the sales process, right? Negotiations, objection, handling, closing, prospecting. And I think the one that everybody has the hardest time with is prospecting right. Is, is how to create an engine that consistently fills the pipeline with enough opportunities to flow through and understanding what that equation looks like. And so, you know, I don't know if it's glazed eyes or not, but it's, it's just a lack of really understanding how to put that engine together. That'll be consistent. And it's not any one thing, right? I mean, yes, you know, this predictable revenue model that everybody's kind of followed, followed with Salesforce, as far as segmenting roles and responsibilities and sales with kind of the inbound SDR and then the outbound BDR, and then the E you know, that that's good for companies.

John Barrows: (07:54)
Um, cause it helps scale. Cause you can bring in cheap resources, kind of beat them up a little bit and then grow your own sales teams. But it's not very good from a customer standpoint, from a customer experience standpoint because you're getting handed off four or five, six times before you actually talked to somebody who knows what they're talking about. And so, you know, I think that's the one that they have the hardest time with an understanding how to turn those levers. Uh, and they just keep dumping money into marketing and, you know, dumping shitty leads over to the sales team from marketing, with, you know, MQL and SQLs and, you know, sales and marketing, yelling and screaming at each other. Uh, you know, the leads are weak, you know, the whole Glengarry Glen Ross thing, you know, that type of stuff. So I think that, I think probably that's the, you know, if I were to boil it down, the sales and marketing divide for Legion is where the biggest challenge is most companies I come across have.

Elias Rubel: (08:42)
And what specifically do you see? I mean, that's like the classic sales and marketing leaders at odds and lack of alignment on definitions and what is good? What is bad? Like what, what, what do you see let's flip this around.

Elias Rubel: (08:56)
So what do you see as being the change to make this work? Like what, what shifts that, you know, there's a lot of, there's a lot of variables to it. Um, you know, I think everybody's looking for a technology solution and you know, there's some stuff out there.

John Barrows: (09:13)
Uh, I think AI and a lot of these tools out there are helping, um, but they're still not solving the true problem. And I always kind of joke around, I I've, you know, the CRO title, chief revenue officer came out, I don't know, seven, eight years ago it started to really hit her. And I kind of joked that the CRO, the reason that the CRO is in place is because the VP of sales and the CMO can't get along. Um, and they, you know, so, you know, and the CEO just didn't want to deal with their shit.

John Barrows: (09:39)
So it's like, can I get somebody else to manage these guys? Yeah, exactly. So, you know, I think that, I think the, what, what really is encouraging to me right now is if you use the tools the right way, there is, there are some phenomenal tools out there right now that really leveraging artificial intelligence and leveraging real insights. It can help you really understand who your ideal customer profile is. And I actually think that we're moving back to, um, more of a full cycle sales rep. I think the SDR model is going to fall apart and it is it's proving itself to fall apart right now because of COVID and he got all these people, Oh, are you still there? Yep. Right. Cool. My lights went out for some reason. Um, but, uh, but you know, you got COVID, um, and it's punching everybody in the face and the STR is right.

John Barrows: (10:28)
It's a good for a growth economy because all of a sudden, you know, they can, uh, you know, it's a cost of sale. Right. But it's good in a growth economy because it builds your sales teams in a down economy. It's, it's, it's a cost of sale and people don't know how to leverage them the right way. And so you're seeing this model start to break. I actually think we're going to move more towards SDRs and BDRs moving more under the sales, the marketing and operations to gain insights and run, you know, uh, use account based marketing to drive more qualified leads, inbound, but also more qualified Intel for inside sales reps to then go out and reach out to these prospects and pull them full cycle sales. So, you know, I think the technology is helping with the insights. Uh, we're moving a little bit more and more into the worlds of Google and Amazon and Facebook that know a lot about what the buyer's journey looks like before they even engage with us.

Elias Rubel: (11:24)
You know, we're hearing a lot about intent data and, you know, not just, you know, outbound prospecting is great, but you know, what are the real activities, not just scoring leads and that type of crap, which is garbage in my opinion, well, it's not garbage. It's, it's a piece of the equation. Um, but really like where are people, what is their ICP? Who, the personas that they go after? What are the things that they're, what are the main issues that they're trying to address and getting closer and closer and closer to that right. Message at the right, with the right person. You know, I think that's where we're moving in that direction, but we're still in a big transition phase. In my opinion, what pieces of software are exciting you right now in that space? Uh, there's a lot, you know, um, I mean, I think Demandbase just bought Engagio.

Elias Rubel: (12:09)
Right? That's going to be interesting to see what happened there. Um, you know, you haven't, you have like G two crowd right now, which is absolutely crushing it with intent data. Um, you know, I mean, so those are some of the areas where I'm paying attention to, you know, you've got an AI that has given you some insights that, you know, I've never seen before. Um, you know, a couple of clients that I'm working with, but yeah, I mean, you know, nothing, nothing that I'm like, Oh my God, I'm going to invest in this tomorrow, but you're just seeing these trends of, of insights, um, that are, that, that are far better than they ever were before. Let's put it that way. It warms my little marketing heart to hear you talk about a SDR BDR role, rolling under marketing for better feedback loops and, and learnings before they go over the sales fence.

Elias Rubel: (12:55)
I think that that's been a long time coming. So yeah.

John Barrows: (12:58)
Well, I mean, the problem is, is that most SDRs and BDRs right now are robots, right? They're using the sales cadence tools like SalesLoft, and I will reach in and look, I love those tools if used the right way, but when used as like, but most companies, what they do is they take templates, they take marketing based templates, they give them, they put them into sales off and they hit play. And I don't, I fundamentally don't understand what the difference between that and Marquetto Eloqua or any of those are. I mean, if I was a VP of sales right now coming into a new new sales organization, literally the first thing that I would do is I would say, Hey, can I, can I see every email that you send out? Can I just, I want to see all the emails that the STRs and the BDRs are sending out, and if they were all templated crap emails, I'd be like, you know what? I'm going to say, this company, a whole crap load of money right now, I'm going to fire all the SDRs and BDRs. I'm going to hire a marketing ops person, optimize the shit out of Marketo and just let it ride because what's the difference.

Elias Rubel: (13:47)
Totally. So what would be the second thing you do?

Elias Rubel: (13:53)
Uh, I would then let's see, what would, the second thing I would do a, I would then figure out what the sales process was looked like and where, what, where the gaps were in our conversion ratios. Like, you know, you just, you start moving down the aisle. It's like, all right, we look at the con you know, the stages, right. We got to get meetings. So what does that look like now? We've got to figure out how we qualify those meetings. And what's that process look like. And all my reps just showing up and throwing up with some stupid pitch deck and droning through shitty demos and going through the motions there. Cause then I would fire a bunch of those reps. Uh, and again, you know, marketing again, I started off, it's funny, you know, for the past five or six years, I've started off every presentation I have with death of the average sales rep.

Elias Rubel: (14:33)
Right. And when I say it, I mean, average, I don't mean good sales reps. I think there's people say sales reps are going to be replaced. I think that's absolute crap. Uh, I think actually good and great sales reps are going to be far more valuable moving forward. But the average ones, the ones that are just literally going through the motions, like push and play on their cadences, making generic cold calls, uh, asking band questions, press and play on demos. Like I can't stand demos, can't stand them. You know why? Because every single demo is exactly the same. They all go like this. It's like, Hey John, is this still a good time? First of all, don't ask me that question. If I pick up the phone for a scheduled call, like, why would you give me that out? Right. So I can actually know I go to the bathroom right now.

Elias Rubel: (15:15)
Why don't we push this until three o'clock right. This is still good time. Okay. We're good with a 30 minute demo here that I'd like to go through with you. And if you have any questions as we go through it, just let me know, you know, every single stupid slide, like there were batch four in bootcamp and they pause intermittent legal. Does that make sense? Does that make sense? Does that make sense? And then at the end of it, one of those pizza shit demos, they always had, the client always gives us this nice little parting gift, which by the way, if anybody out there ever hears this at the end of one of their demos and you know, you've done a miserable job and it's the word digest, you know what, John, I'm a little tea. I'm going to need a little time to digest what you just told me right there.

Elias Rubel: (15:48)
Why don't we circle once you circle back in a couple of weeks and we'll take it from there. Does that sound fair? Like if you ever hear that stop and apologize to the person that you just wasted their time. So how do I find sales and marketing will look, here's something for everybody out there that I really want people to think about. Right. Um, I know I stole this from, from Gary Vaynerchuk. He said, um, he says, you know, everybody talks about content is King content is King. He said, fine. If content is King, then context is God. And that to me got me thinking about marketing versus sales. Marketing is content. Sales is context. If you, if we as sales professionals and not putting any context around the content, then we're no different than marketing. And I have no idea why we're getting paid to do what we do.

Elias Rubel: (16:31)
Blasting out template emails, that's content going through generic pre presentations. That's content. I mean, as a former marketer, I remember my background's marketing that's that was my degree. I can actually put together a far better demo than you can. If all you're going to go through it, slide by slide, right? Because I can, I can do a web thing where you click on this and it takes you on a journey. And if you click on this, I send you on this way. And if you click on this, I send you on that way. And then I can analyze the data on the back end to see what slides you spent the most time on, and then serve you up content that's relevant to that. I can do that a thousand times better than a rep ever could. Context is, let me take those 30 slides and sit here and say, Hey, Eli, before we get going on this demo, I'm going to ask it, you know, you know, even if you've already qualified them, Hey, what are the things that you want to get out of this?

Elias Rubel: (17:14)
What's what are your main priorities here? Because as I go through this presentation, that's what I want to highlight. And then you skip through the bullshit that nobody cares about and you highlight, Hey, Eli, you had said earlier that your main priority was X, Y, and Z. This is the part of our solution that, uh, that addresses that. And instead of saying, does that make sense? You go, could you tell me how that compares to what you're doing right now? Or could you explain to me how you see that fitting into our existing workflow? Because the way you compare, the way you explained to me, how it sits into your existing workflow or how it compares to what you're doing now, it tells me everything I need to know on whether or not it made sense, right? So I would just keep tackling. I would start at the top and I would keep tackling as a new VP of sales. I would keep tackling each stage of the sales process and figuring out how I can put my sales reps in a position to be successful and not be a robot.

Speaker 1: (18:00)
I love that. That's a, I feel like I'm, I'm preaching the same thing on the marketing side all the time, which is like, if you don't know, or if you haven't found out, what's keeping this persona up at night and what, like, what do they, what gets them up and, you know, makes them want to go to work in the morning? What are they afraid of? What, what do they, what's their personal summit right now? Like what are they trying to climb? And how do you plug into that? Or if you don't then stop wasting your time. Like I am so on board with this, uh, with this methodology.

Elias Rubel: (18:32)
So I want to share one more piece on this, just to let you know, people can Google this. I wrote a blog post called sell to the 20%, which is my fundamental belief pick any product or service you want any product? I don't care what it is. I almost guarantee you only use about 10 to 20% of the functionality, whatever that product or service is. So that's why that, so, because people only use 10, I mean, your, your close, you only use 10, you know, maybe temperature of your car. You're not even using it now, but if you do, you drive it and you leave it there, you drive it home your iPhone. I mean, that thing has more power than we use to send somebody to the moon for crying out loud. But yet most people check their emails, Snapchat, tweet, whatever. So because most only people only use 10 to 20% of what they buy. That's how I believe people buy. They only care about the stuff that's most relevant to them. And that's what our job as sales professionals is, is to figure out what that is and sell to that.

Speaker 1: (19:22)
Totally. So I want to shift gears here, uh, as we begin to wind down, this has been really awesome. Uh, you recently wrote a book with your daughter. Can you tell us about that? I'm just curious, like what a writing a children's book B uh, collaborating with your daughter, you know, what was that process like?

Elias Rubel: (19:41)
It was fun, man. It was a, so it was funny because everybody's always been asking me, John, when are you gonna write a book? Right. You know, I'm a state school kid. I drank my way through four years of college and I will read all that much. So, you know, I figured it'd be a little bit of a hypocrite for me to write a book, but, and also thinking, what the hell am I going to write that hasn't been written a million times about sales? So I never, I knew I had to, but I was just, I, you know, and I always believe if you're not passionate about it, don't do it. Right. Uh, but then, you know, my daughter, a couple of years back, she started selling girl scout cookies. And so I was teaching her how to sell girl scout cookies. And, and she came to me one day and she goes, daddy, you know, you know, I have a link here where people can buy girl scout cookies for me online.

Elias Rubel: (20:18)
And, and you have a pretty strong social media following. So could you maybe share it? Right? And this is she's at six years old, she shouldn't know this, but she did. And she's like, and so I was like, no, I'm not going to do that. She was like, why not? I'm like, because first of all, you got to earn it. So, you know, like, I'm not just going to do that. And second of all, why would anybody buy from you compared to the million other girl Scouts who are asking them to buy? Right. So we went through this little process where she, she did a pitch, right? So she, she sat there and she practiced like, Hey, why, why? And it's cute little video that you can see if you go to Jay barrows.com/book, you'll see it. Um, and you know, so that, and then the next year we did, uh, door to door sales and, you know, I taught her about objection handling and whatever.

Elias Rubel: (20:58)
And what happened was I started writing a blog about that, uh, both those experiences and learning sales through the eyes of a kid and, and how to do sales, right? Not just, you know, the snake oil sales rep type of scenario, but like literally how to understand what the client needs, timing, you know, hard work, taking rejection, all that stuff. Right. And I was like, you know what? This, this is a book and I've always wanted to try them. One of my goals is, you know, sales, if you ask about my why, right. Everybody goes to the why exercise mine is sales done. Right. Right. Cause I fundamentally believe when sales has done right, is the greatest profession in the world when done wrong. It's the worst. And so I'm trying to impact that from a, from a bigger picture standpoint, with my trainings and who I talked to and train and all that other stuff.

Elias Rubel: (21:43)
But I wanted to try to impact it at a much more root level because no kid, I mean, the title of the book is called. I want to be in sales when I grow up and no kid ever says that. Right. I mean, kids know what doctors and lawyers and all that stuff is, but when you tell your kid you're in sales, they're like what? You know, and no kid even knows it's a profession. I mean, it is the default profession. Everybody goes to school for whatever profession they think they want to be when they want to grow up. And then they get out into the real world after college and they realize, Oh, either a, I don't want to do this or B I can't make enough money doing this. Right. So they get into sales, but they stumble into it and then they don't get training and then they get back, you know?

John Barrows: (22:19)
So it's just a negative thing. And that's why there's such a negative perception of sales because you take a kid who just came out of college, right. And you don't give them much training, but you give them a territory in a quota and you say, go and you say, Oh, and by the way, if you don't hit your quota in the next month or two, you're probably going to get fired. And if you don't hit your commissions, you're not going to be able to eat. You take some pretty normal, good people and you turn them into dirt bags because they gotta feed their families. Right. So, so they are going to, they're going to cut a lot of corners, but if we introduce it to kids at an early age, as something that they could is a respected profession, is something that they could see themselves being proud to be in.

John Barrows: (22:57)
That's really what the goal was. And so we wrote the book together. It was a super fun process having her. The other thing is I've always wanted to, I used to travel a ton before Cobin, and I was always trying to find ways to get my daughter more involved in what I do or be more involved in what she does. And this was a great project for us to work on. So the main goal is to, to improve the professional sales, um, from the ground up, the, the second goal is to get more women into sales. Cause it's based on my daughter. And I think some of the women are some of the best sales professionals I've ever come across in my life. And then the third goal, um, it all, uh, all profits go to charity. So a hundred percent of the profits go to charity.

John Barrows: (23:30)
And my daughter actually does not want to be in sales when she goes up. She actually wants to be a veterinarian. So all the profits go to the world wildlife fund. Um, and probably the proudest moment I've had as a, as a business owner and a father is back in Thanksgiving last year. Uh, we were able to go down to DC and give a, the world wildlife fund at their headquarters, a check for $10,000 to put towards endangered species and everything else. And they interviewed my daughter and everything. So it was super cool.

Elias Rubel: (23:54)
God, I love that, man. That's so cool. So cool. You did that. So, you know, you've had an amazing path so far, it's only continuing to build steam. Who are some of the folks in your life who have inspired you mentored you and just been there for, as you, as your professional career has unfolded?

John Barrows: (24:13)
I mean, my wife, number one, right? She's been a rock for me. I mean, she's also, you know, still runs her own little business and gives me a pretty good perspective on things when I'm trying to figure stuff out. Um, you know, they get the guy who I joined. Um, you know, I took this training, it was called show. Um, when I took it, when I was running that first startup of mine and then I joined bash show and then, uh, went off on my own, the guy who started that he's Jeff Hoffman. He's incredible. Um, he does tons of webinars and stuff like that, and we're partnering up, um, he's about seven or eight years older than me. So he's been there, done that with what I'm doing. So I looked to him constantly, um, for advice on what's going on. And then, you know, I just, I try to just, you know, I don't really have any mentors, mentors.

Elias Rubel: (24:57)
I try to find people who are really good at certain aspects of what they do and, you know, and just try to have conversations with them and try to absorb as much information as I can. You know, my podcast is the reason I started it was because I told you, I don't really read all that much. Cause it's just not the way my brain works. You know, when I start reading, I genuinely fall asleep and I've tried a million different ways to fix it, but it's just dead serious, like three pages into a book I'm out like a light. Um, the way I learn is by, by talking to people and ideally talking to people who are smarter than me and, um, and just asking them questions and, and you know, about their experiences and digging in deep, I've always been a very genuinely curious person.

Elias Rubel: (25:35)
And so, you know, that's why my podcast, um, because I get to interview really smart individuals and learn from them that way. Awesome, man, I, I feel you on the, uh, going right to sleep with a book. I, I zone out that quickly as well. I've found that, uh, podcasts on two X are, or, or books at two X. It's my secret. Cause my brain has to either be engaged or I quickly realize I've drifted off. Exactly. Like add like whether it's diagnosed or not. It's real. Right. Exactly. Well, right on man. Thank you so much for being on the show, John, and, uh, talk to you soon. Absolutely. Thanks for having me, man.