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The Revenue Operations Blog

Upskilling Reps with Andrew J Hahn

November 18, 2021
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The Interview

Kluster's Take

Ellie spoke with Andrew J Hahn, a CRO & Thought Leader. He explains his optimistic approach to sales.

Andrew has served as global VP, senior VP and CRO at high growth and public tech companies. He highlights how growth and development often happen upon failures. From his handful of failures, he’s grown his acumen. Andrew believes that we’re all entrepreneurs at some level. When you’re going for greatness, you’re not going to hit it out of the park all the time. 

Andrew recently wrote a 120-page sales playbook. The goal of this is to upskill, regardless of what level the rep is at. He sees his role to provide support and guidance, yet challenges them. The most important part is open communication and dialogue. He believes the best manager relationships are less hierarchical and more collaborative.

Transcription

​​True. Salespeople need to really control their own fate control their education and growth. So you do that through reading, through learning, through joining organizations where you could challenge and better yourself, but that playbook is the foundation to success and repeatable success.

So welcome back guys to another episode. My name is Ellie  and today I am joined here with Andrew J Han. He has served as a CRO SVP and global VP of hypergrowth and public SaaS, B2B tech companies. How are you doing today on. Doing wonderful, Ellie. Thank you for having me. No one usually puts my middle initial, but I feel a little special today.

It's the thank you our very special and thank you so much for coming on with us. Of course. It's great to be here. So Andrew, tell me a little bit about yourself. Who is Andrew J. First and foremost, I know this is a professional setting first and foremost, I'm a dad of a seven-year-old son and four and a half year old daughter, a husband.

Uh, and I got a dog, but I guess germane to this conversation. I am a 20 year south professional. I have built and sold to tech hub. As you said, I've served as global VP, senior VP and CRO and high growth and public tech companies. Um, I've also failed and I think it's important to highlight, uh, we all talk about how actual growth and development happens upon failures, but for all of the successes I've had, I've had a handful of failures, which I've leveraged to grow my acumen and hopefully be better.

Cause I think that's a evolving goal for all of us as perfect. Yeah, that's very true. I feel like a lot of success also comes from learning from, from your failures and from your experiences. Oh, absolutely. I think we're all entrepreneurs at some level. Um, while it would be amazing to spend five years at Google and five years at LinkedIn and five years at Salesforce, not saying those aren't challenging.

But I think when you, when you go for greatness, uh, you're not going to hit it out of the park all the time. So hopefully you have some level of success even within those failures. And you could leverage both of those successes and failures as you go forward, but continue to challenge those assumptions or best practices, uh, because they evolve at such a hyper-growth in the SAS market.

Yeah, exactly. So. In sales, like talking about on the topic of fate, failing and failures. Sure. SAS and sales is a really tough industry to get into. Um, it's why a lot of people don't, don't stay in the industry for so long and it's, to be honest, it's why we get paid. We get paid good money, you know? Um, but I feel like.

A lot of, a lot of people in sales say they, they leave because they don't have some, uh, like a training book to go by. It's almost, it's almost like they they're faced with loads of rejections. They're faced with these highs and lows and, and they end up just getting frustrated and leaving.

So. In your eyes. If you were to develop a sales playbook, what would be your key ingredients? Sure. I know you brought up a lot of great points. Let me take a step back before we take a leap forward. You say sales is hard to get into, and I actually highly disagree with that. Sales is easy to get into the companies have really matured into an SDR model, but they they'll take young professionals either just out of college or even nodded.

To your point and say here, sit on a phone and go do it. I think it's easy to get into sales. I think it's hard to be good at sales. And I think I actually believe that not even STR is I believe is you look at AEs. I would say, as high as 90% of AEs don't know how to sell. And what do I mean by that? Cause that sounds crazy.

People go to school for medicine, people go to school to be teachers. They go to school to be scientists. They don't go to school to be salespeople. Most people get into salespeople, myself included because we don't know what we want to be. We grow up we're professional, we're articulate, we're likable. We could figure out a product and what it does, but that's not enough.

And people have rested on those laurels. So you talk about a playbook. A playbook is exactly that it is a book of plays to ensure the highest level of success on repeatable actions. So I've got a Laker poster above me, imagine running a sales team of people that never went to school for sales and not having a playbook and say, just go out there and see what you can do.

And let's speak once a week on how I can. That is setting them up for failure. True. Salespeople need to really control their own fate control their education and growth. So you do that through reading, through learning, through joining organizations where you could challenge and better yourself, but that playbook is the foundation to success and repeatable success.

So I was fortunate last year. Actually this year I wrote 120 page playbook. Well, that seems extremely daunting. Uh, the goal was about 40 pages, but it might see, or a role I learned as I was building this out, that there was some basic blocking and tackling that my team just didn't know how to do. I assumed they knew how to ran run meetings.

I assume they knew how to set themselves up for meetings. I assume they knew how to follow up, but what I found was they were really just pushing our product and asking a handful of questions. Not only would it be helpful if I highlight some of the. Main components of the playbook. Go for it. Go for it.

Thank you. I kind of use that question cause I realized I was talking at you for five minutes and I got five minutes coming up. So 120 pages seems like a lot and it is, but again, I wanted, I wanted to make sure that I could upskill and up talent regardless of what level you were at. I learned from that.

And again, it was based on my 20 years of sales, leadership experience books. I read organizations. Conferences, uh, and failures and successes. So I kick it off with 20 attributes of highly successful salespeople. So it's these intrinsic qualities of coachable, resilient, um, tenacity, you know, desire to grow.

Those are things I can't coach that. I move into everything about the. The pitch, the persona, the ICP, the problems in the market, the unique value propositions, the use cases, the verticals. When I talk about the problems in the market, again, we're not here to sell our product. We're here to listen and we're here to understand, and we need to have a subject matter expertise to be credible and to be trusted.

So I think that's important as well. And the playbook, we over week talk about pricing because so many people are timid about talking about pricing and how we communicate that. And the competence behind it is imperative. Talk about negotiation. We just don't lower price to lower. There needs to be some type of quid pro quo, and we need to understand how it benefits both parties.

Uh, we talk about discovery, which I know you and I, we talked fire. We're going to take a deep dive into how we hand off this discovery to the AEs. And there's a book that I love called gap selling, which I have all my reps read, which essentially is going on a joint collaborative. With the prospect to understand where they are, where they want to be, and to close that gap with them and not sell at them.

And then basic things like running a meeting with a mutual action plan, mirroring as a sales technique using body language. I mean, you could see I'm highly intense. The emphasis and energy that I speak to the confidence are so much more important than the actual words, even though words are important.

But then again, also how to follow up after a meeting and do ensure the highest success, how coaches and managers can run one-on-ones, but it's really this methodical repeatable process to ensure the highest level of success and building on their abdomen. There was a lot there. Ellie, do you want to dive in?

I do want to dive in. There's a lot of things I want to talk about now. So when you talk about this joint collaboration, uh, between the mentor and the sales person, um, like what does that collaboration look like on a day-to-day basis? Sure. So if we're talking about a sales manager at an individual country, I am so tired of weekly.

One-on-ones being, first of all, you should talk about your kid. You should talk about sports. Talk about the weather. Absolutely. It's so important to have those personal bonds, but most sales managers that such point to say, okay, what's going on in your pipeline? How can I be helpful? And they talk about two or three deals.

When you, when you fail to plan, you plan to fail. And I think you need to have a clear objective and an end goal of what you want to accomplish in these meetings. Um, so all my managers are always required to have the same foundation. So after the personal kids, dogs, whether you do a pipeline review and a pipeline review, isn't going into each deal and saying, Hey, what's the chance of this coming through it's to ensure the integrity of that pipeline.

For example, if 80% of your deals are scheduled to. On the 30th 31st or first, that seems somewhat arbitrary. What is the compelling event that has this company wanting to move forward by this date? And what does this enable them to do? Also, you could check on lack of activity. Hey, you have this forecasted for the end of the month and you haven't spoken to them in four weeks.

How is this going to come in? But more importantly, I build out a list of 10 questions. That the ADT is prepared to answer. They're not going to go through every account, but questions about compelling events, questions about who are they currently using as a vendor questions about what is their motivation to change?

Uh, what are the risks? Because if you don't know these for each of your accounts, you've just had casual conversations. So again, whether it's 30 minutes or an hour to have the expectation now, most important, I'm a huge fan of gong. I have the pick a call each week that they want to review with their manager.

And I have them talk about three things. I did well, three things I'd like to improve and by bragging about what they did well and being somewhat self-deprecate. On what they could improve. They've opened up a dialogue to actually get feedback. So when they say, Hey, I could have read the room better. I could have communicated our value prop better.

I love that because what that tells me is they're not going to make that mistake again, and they're going to be committed to growing. But again, the sales manager would say, yes, you did these three things. Great. These three things you did. Okay. Here's a suggestion on how we talked about. So it's a continual effort to get better.

And again, when someone brings themselves down, they're open to feedback and getting better.

So it's all about kind of being proactive. Like it's all about being proactive with the person that you're mentoring, like H like almost like holding their hand throughout the whole process, rather than just giving their them a week to kind of do what they need to do then at the start of the week, just kind of bash all this information out, let them it's like holding their hand.

And I don't think you meant it in this way, but holding their hand. It's a sense that they're not capable of doing this. I think if we hire right and upskill, right, they're all capable of this. They just need to be coached. So again, Kobe Bryant, one of the greatest basketball players still had a shooting coach at the peak of his career.

So how did defensive coach? Um, I think people are blind, their strengths and weaknesses at times, they go into their comfort zone and you need someone to pull yourself out of that comfort zone to really challenge you to be better. And if you don't want to get back. Get off my team. Like if you're just going to rest on your laurels now, we can't always all be getting better, but there needs to be a commitment to wanting to get better.

Everyone says they want to get better, but growth is a little painful, but if you're not willing to grow and put in the work, how do you expect to succeed at a higher level? Yeah, that's so true. It's so interesting. It takes me like a little moment to just sit back and actually digest that because it's, yeah, I'm not, I'm not easy to work for.

Um, I would say three out of four people really enjoy working for, or with me. And one out of four runs from the Hills and it's not because of my. It's because I want a challenge and I want to invest in people getting better and get people out of their comfort zone and getting out of your income, your comfort zone is uncomfortable.

Yeah, for sure. And I guess that's the best kind of coach that you can have is someone that doesn't just give you a pat on the back all the time. It's someone that wants to see you grow. It's someone that gives you this criticism, but with the best intentions possible, um, Some people are just not ready for that.

And that's like you said something that you just can't really coach. Yeah. It's so funny. You use the word criticism and I don't mean to be picking apart your words, you know, but it just kind of has a negative connotation. I think I would just say collaborative growth. Um, you know, when someone hears themselves on gong and I'm going to use pricing for example, and the prospect says, well, how much is this solution is a big difference between.

Between 10 and 15 grand. And that's a fantastic question. So a lot of our clients and going forward with a confident way of communicating it, but understanding what the current pain is costing them is a complete paradigm shift. And when they see that they want to get better. So I would say it's less of a criticism and more of just a joint effort to be aware of these blind spots that you know, they want to get better at.

And I promise you if someone does a horrible job. On pricing value problem, persona talking about clients of common characteristics, they're going to self-reflect and beat themselves up more than I would if they're like, oh, I did so bad at this. I'm going to say you didn't do that bad. You did these two things.

Well, and here's an opportunity to do the next one better. I don't think that's criticism. I think that's. Yeah, no, that's so true. And you, you touched on a really like interesting point there, but delving into a pain. And I think sometimes in sales, we're so focused on just trying to sell the product that we kind of lose sight as to why someone needs that product and why they would come to you in the first place.

Um, so yeah. Let me know what you think a little bit more about, about that, about. Yeah. So we really got to take a deeper dive into the buying process of a modern buyer. And what I mean there is. I'm not just walking into a tennis shoe shop saying, Hey, what new shoes do you have thinking about the modern buyer?

Because sales has developed and progressed more in the last two years. And it hasn't 20 years prior, specifically in software. By the time someone comes to you, they know they have a problem. They've been chartered with fixing that problem. They recognize that there's going to be a cost behind it. They've researched you.

They've researched your competitors. They've gone to G2 to compare the software. They've spoken to their peers. We cannot look past this in their mind. They've already assumed that you can solve their problem. I only quote myself once and it's my one quote, which is the product demo is the emotional validation of a believer future state.

What does that mean? It means they already believe that you can solve their problems. So stop showing them. Your goal is to understand what their pain point is, and then dig a little deeper, enlightened some fire to that, to create a sense of urgency and understand why they're, why they've come to you understand their journey and your ability to ask thoughtful, empathetic questions, demonstrate your subject matter expertise in your area.

And then highlight clients of common characteristics. What I mean is if you're a Pepsi, it's one thing to say that we work with Coke, but they might be more similar to Starbucks as far as what they're actually trying to achieve. So validating not only have you found us at the right time, other cool kids, like you came to us with this problem.

And we were able to cross that. In that gap selling model, and then you were establishing, oh my goodness. I went to the right vendor. And so glad the product demo near the end will be that emotional validation that they chose the right partner. And do you think that personality. A lot to play into like selling a product as well, because like you said, it's like, oh, this really cool person is selling this product.

Do you think it goes a little bit deeper than just finding the pain as well, but also having this persona that, that people want to come to you. It's a great question. And this is not staged for anyone that's listening. Um, I think about the seller in a four bucks. Area. So we're going to talk about likability and we're going to talk about acumen.

So let's go around the boxes. So the first, the obvious, no, they're not likable and they don't know the product. Of course, we're not going to buy from them. They're likable, but aren't subject matter experts. What you get there is what I call a hug at the end of the first date. Like they're going to return your call.

They like hanging out with you, but they're not going to buy. Obviously, if you're highly likable and you're an expert and a trusted advisor, they're going to move forward. What's really interesting if you're not that likable, but you're a subject matter expert, a trusted expert, and you've been there and done that they still will probably buy from you.

They're not going to love the experience, but we've all bought from a snobby shoe salesman or car salesman that knew the product inside and out. And you felt that I've got the right car, the right shoe. So like the ability is huge, but I would choose expertise and a trusted advisor over likeability. Cool.

So expertise over someone, that's just like, yeah, you get the hug at the first date. And we talk about prospecting and a hug and a first date is a metaphor for, I like you, but I'm not, I'm just not that.

That's very funny. Um, but it's very true as well. Um, I've definitely been in situations where I maybe have not liked the person who was selling to me so much, but I knew, I knew that they knew what they were talking about. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And they led you to make the right purchasing decision and you felt good about.

I can probably go back to them. Yeah, of course. Yeah. And so why do you think that, like, do you ever get like what, in sales, you're speaking to this prospect and you're, you're like almost at the stage where you're like, this is, this is the deal. This is, this is the time that we're going to close this deal.

This is my mom. Just at the moment where you're about to close that deal. They flake, it happens so much in sales. Um, why, why do you think that happened? It's a great question. There is nothing more frustrating than doing a pipeline review and someone from saying, I thought they were going to move forward and everything looked good and they're not returning my call.

It almost goes back to the hug at the end of the first date. I think this went well. I feel this went well is not a binary. Yeah, we both like each other deals are won and lost at discovery. I keep using this dating metaphor. If you go on a blind date and I've been happily married for eight years, I've been with my wife for 10, but you know, within the first three minutes, if you want to run from the Hills or if you're interested in furthering further pursuing, so deals are won and lost at discover.

What does that mean? So it's a difference. And I'll go back to that shoe metaphor. We've all walked into a sneaker store and someone says, can I help you? You're like, no, thanks. I'm just looking now. Imagine walking into that store and someone saying, wow, those running shoes have some real miles on them and then you're filling their ego.

Yeah, they do. Do you run inside or outside? Oh, I only run outside. Well, I noticed those are, those are Nike's and they're built for pronation turning outs. Do you pretend to pronate? No, actually just like the color now we're engaged in a dialogue and I'm a trusted advisor. So when we look at software, you know, I think, again, we talked about their journey.

They've looked us up, they understand they have a problem, stop telling them what the product does. You know, we have lists of questions for discovery and the worst. Who are you currently using? What is your problem being that trusted advisor allows you to ask those questions, your ability to get to the root cause of the problem?

Why did they reach out to you? Remember they know they have a problem. They know they have a budget. There's a mandate. They've looked at other softwares, understanding that journey, understanding the pain that they have with their current solution. And then mirroring, mirroring is a technique. Uh, re communicating what they said.

So yeah. Reports take two weeks to get to us. Wow. Two weeks. How does that impact your business? So having a true level of empathy, digging in deeper is really important for the understanding of your future state and earning the right to ask those questions. So it is all about discovery and if you put a mutual action plan in place and a mutual action plan is, Hey, we want to launch December 1st, takes two weeks for procure.

Two weeks for legal, whatever their other processes are. Um, then instead of emailing and calling saying, Hey, we haven't spoken three weeks. How can I help you? You could say, Hey Ellie, I know you wanted to launch by December 1st and legal and procurement. We're going to take two weeks. We're in the middle of November.

How can I help you through this process deals are won and lost at discovery. You were literally, there's a football American football term called a hail Mary, which is just throw it up and hope you're in a hail Mary. If they have gone silent or they're not responding because you either have a single relationship and I always encourage multiple within the organization, or you feel that that date went well and you don't have a mutual action plan.

You don't understand the pain point. You're not a trusted advisor.

So the deal, the first three minutes are the most important minutes when dealing with a prospect establishing rapport, uh, subject matter expertise and your desire to listen. I know I've been talking at you for 90% of this because this is an interview, but the empathetic. Tell me more. And how does this impact your role in the organization?

That is literally they're filling out your discovery list, but I'm sorry, please go on. No, no, no. It's really interesting to hear about this philosophy because, um, I have been like reading a lot of Chris Voss as well. And one of the biggest thing that he talks about is, um, just listening and being that listener and, and having empathy and being curious, um, Which I think is something that sometimes people come in to this job and then they kind of forget, because at the end of the day, it is all about selling, selling the products.

But really I'm just throwing. This is what my product does. This is what my product does. My iPhone does 500 things, but I can't, if I'm a salesperson, I can't show you all 500. It's to understand that I'm a dad that works and like sports. So I need email. I need to take pictures. I need to look at fantasy. I need to look at stocks.

Don't show me guitar hero in film editing and these things I don't need. So don't tell them everything their product does. Tell them how your product solves the problems that they have as unique individuals and make them feel unique.

Nathan. Because they are, everyone is special. Everybody is special. Um, and you know, you've, you've been a leader for quite some time and you've, you've coached a lot of people and I'm sure that, like you said, at the start, like you, you're not without your failures and through that, you have, you have learned a lot on it.

It's made you the person that you are today. What would you say to yourself? Um, you know, what would you say to your past self that was just starting out in his Korean sales? What would you say to her?

Um, look, it's actually a great question. I wasn't prepared to answer. There's a couple things. Success in sales is very serendipitous and I'm saying that because look, I was fortunate to be a global vice president through Ellie's largest technical. How was I successful? First of all, I was good at my job.

And I was a subject matter expert. I hired the right people that made me look good and I joined the right team or the right company. So some of the best salespeople have never had an IQ. They've never crushed it. And I've seen some really poor people, poor skills. Sorry. You know, we talked about Google or LinkedIn.

Not that it's an easy job, but being a cog in a wheel of a larger company, lacks the challenge. Um, I guess what I would say to my, my past self is be committed to continual growth. Try to be humble. I said, try cause it's, it's difficult. Uh, but more importantly, not only is it the company that you choose, it's the person that you're going to report to and mentor people don't leave competence.

They leave managers. Um, I've had some really good ones and some really poor ones, but your ability to communicate collaborate. Be accepted for your strengths and be challenged and coached on your weaknesses, who you're working with. And fuller is probably the most important advice I would give to myself or to anyone else when choosing their next role.

And if you're in an unhealthy relationship, uh, it's not going to get better. So you can do your attempt, but I would really encourage. Even if it's last money, if it's at a growth stage company and you believe in the product, the people, the culture and the upside think long-term think growth and education because the short-term money is fleeting.

Yeah. And what do you think makes a really good leader? Yeah, I can tell you because I've been a good leader and I've been a bad leader. Um, and again, that evolution came through self-reflection and some time, um, I think a good leader. I, I don't love the term servant leader because the way I read it is I'm here to help you.

What do you need? Um, I think what they need in day is very ambiguous, but they need a level of. Of guidance and outside perspective, you know, I've ran sales, alliances, marketing. Um, I'm not the expert. You know, I want to hire VPs and directors that are experts at a single particular skill or multi skills.

My job is to add a level of support, guidance and challenging. And let me come up with 10 ideas, five might be gold, three might be trashed and two might be conversations. But I really think the goal of a leader is to hire good people, get out of their way, support their needs, but also to challenge them.

But most important is open communication and dialogue. I've had people work for me and do well because I was their manager. Uh, but those that really thrive. It's less of a manager and hierarchical relationship and more of a collaborative, how do we do this mentality? And how do you know if you've hired somebody?

That's going to be, that's sure hiring is difficult specifically in this candidate driven market. Um, I would say two out of three of my hires historically have been good and I've probably hired 300 people. So look, there is the track record, you know, have they been successful before? Um, do they know the industry?

Do they know the buyers, you know, have, do they have the education, but then again, at the beginning of our conversation, we talked about those intrinsic. Are they resilient? Do they want to be coachable? Um, do they have a growth, a desire for growth and learning? I think those are important. I also use a scorecard, which is 10 different topics that I grade them and it's a weighted scale and it goes back to, you know, prior experience, coachability, uh, knowledge in the industry.

Um, there are 10 different things that are weighted. Cause I don't want to suffer from the primary recency theory, right. Interview 10 people and forget the third and fourth because I remember the first, second, ninth and 10th. So the other thing I do is also in this candidate driven world is I make a commitment if the first meeting goes, well, my desire is to hire them within sorry to get to a decision within 10 business days because they're probably speaking to multiple companies.

I want them to know that the time they invest. And this opportunity, whether it's homework or interviews will pay off in the short-term with either an offer or feedback or a decision. But I think stringing people along the process is, again, back to the dating metaphor. I need to know where I stand and why I'm special or why I'm not special.

But I think that level of communication and collaboration sets a precedent to how our working relationship is going to be right. And touching back on, you speak a lot about communication and communication is so, so, so important when working as a team. Um, and it's really interesting how you have the score cards for when you're interviewing people.

So you don't forget, so you can keep on track of, and for other people to do the same, because if I'm having my head of marketing or partnerships or even an IC, um, I want to see where we're aligned with. Exactly. Yeah. And so that communication, how do you use that to track how well your reps are doing how well they're progressing in, in their, in their career, in the row?

Yeah. Well, I believe how you do anything is how you do everything. Dramatic. Pause what I mean,

if we follow up from an inner. If we have a meeting and you don't ask about next steps or you don't send a casual, thank you, Andrew is great speaking to you and how you do anything is how you do everything that is insight, how you will or will not follow up to a prospect. How your resume looks. I look at resumes for under 10 seconds.

Is it well structured? Well thought out. And is it articulate if it is not consistent and articulate? I don't have a high level of confidence that you're going to be able to communicate to prospects and clients. Uh, but communication is really at the foundation, but again, I'm offering transparency and truth.

Ain't telling you, I'm going to get back to you in the next 10 days. Um, I just think the ability for them to be reciprocal and communicate at the same level, I want to hear it from them. Hey, I'm actually interviewing with three or four companies, and my question would be what is it about our company that has a high level of interest?

And I'm trying to close them, recognize hiring people's at two weeks. You know, in a non candidate driven world, it's a candidate saying, hire me, hire me now. I think it's a 50 50 relationship where you're going to brag about your accomplishments. The company needs should be saying, here's why you want to work here.

And if it's just, I'm just going to listen and you tell me why that's another indication that that manager might not be the best for your career. Right?

Some good insight. Thank you. So I'm, when we're talking about transparency, one last thing on this. Sure. How, how important do you think it is to have transparency between the reps and, and leaders? It's a great question. Kind of is the answer. Um, I think as an executive team, there are things that you need to hold to the chest.

For example, if you're exploring acquisitions, uh, being bought, like there are things that would absolutely disrupts an individual contributors ability to do their daily jobs. So I don't want to mislead or lie. I think you need to give an honest version of what's going on with the company, but also what their growth goals and what they need to stay focused on.

So I realize I'm dancing around that question, but I, we talk about my opportunities for growth. I think I've almost been too much of a friend at a time and given too much information, people need to be protected, uh, ICS and the team, but I need to have a level of trust with my executive team, but still have a level of transparent.

And to make sure that it doesn't bite us in the butt where the, my team gets blindsided because we have a hundred layoffs or whatever that might be so enough transparency to help the motivation and have them understand the direction we're heading, but just not a detailed map of the particulars of times.