EPISODE 485: Why Picking Up the Phone First Will Drive More Sales with Alex Goldfayn

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Creativity in Sales virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on November 27, 2021. It featured an interview with Alex Goldfayn, the author of Pick Up the Phone and Sell.

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ALEX’S TIP: “Write down three names, write down three current customers or past customers, people you haven’t talked to in a while. Look at someone you haven’t talked to in six months or more. Write down three names of people you haven’t talked to in six months or more, and then immediately, without thinking about it or analyzing it or scheduling it for later, immediately, go to the phone and call them and say, “Hey man, I was thinking about you. How are you? How’s your family? Is everybody healthy? Now, what are you working on these days that I can help you with? Because I’d like to help.” You will be the only one in that person’s life doing that and they will remember that phone call forever. It’s a pretty good way to live and it’s pretty easy too.”


Fred Diamond: Last year, Alex, we had you on the webcast right smack in the middle of the pandemic when 5-Minute Selling came out. I remember that day because you had spoken at the Institute for Excellence in Sales, I believe it was 2017 when Revenue Growth Habit came out and that was a huge book. 5-Minute Selling has also taken the market by storm. Now you just came out in September with Pick Up the Phone and Sell, so there you go. If you’re watching us live, it’s a beautiful book. If you’re not watching live, it’s orange and I highly recommend that you get it.

I’ll tell you what, if you’d like a copy of it, just send me an email and I’ll get you a copy of the book. I actually have some Revenue Growth Habits still in the house, Alex, I actually just gave one out recently, so congratulations to you. Congratulations on being prolific and not just that, but congratulations on bringing value to a marketplace, the sales industry that like every industry is going through challenge and turmoil, and you know what? We talk about this all the time, it really comes down to picking up the phone and selling.

Alex Goldfayn: First of all, thank you for having me on again. It’s always a joy to talk with you, Fred. I appreciate it. I value these conversations and I’m grateful for them, so thank you. Secondly, sales growth is kind of that simple, right? Sort of as simple as the title of the book. Again, Pick Up the Phone and Sell. We went through many different titles for the book, Fred. The reason we went with that one is almost all salespeople know that that’s a good thing to do, but just knowing something doesn’t mean that we do it.

Knowing is different than doing. We know that the phone is very valuable and far more valuable than email, but we still email a lot more than we should and we email far more than we use the phone. We went with an action title and we went with the title that tells the story of the whole book. Really, if you want to grow sales very quickly, the answer lies in calling customers and prospects when nothing is wrong. That’s the work.

Fred Diamond: Yeah, I agree with you 1,000%. We’re going to get deep into this. It’s interesting because one of the things that I really hate is a lot of times people will watch a Sales Game Changers live virtual learning session or come to one of our events. I hate when people say things like, oh, this was a great reminder. Oh yeah, that’s a great reminder that I should pick up the phone. Same thing too, if you want to lose weight, I shouldn’t be eating pizza and milkshakes every night for dinner. Thank you for the reminder [laughs]. Give us some moments that will take you from “I know I should pick up the phone” to picking up the phone as easy as that sounds.

Alex Goldfayn: Sure. I implement this work for clients and manufacturers, distributors and service companies. Some of the keys are really, really simple. For example, three calls a day is enough for most salespeople. First thing in the morning is best, because Mark Twain said if you’re going to eat a frog, you might as well eat it first thing in the morning. It’s work that we’re uncomfortable with, so we should do it when we have the most energy and the most focus. Do you know how many calls three calls a day is? It’s 780 in a year.

When you make those calls and leave a message in the way that I teach it in the book, and then you send a follow-up text message to your voicemail, because most of the time you’re going to leave a voice message. If I call you without anything scheduled, Fred, and you’re not expecting that call, it’s not on our calendar, odds are I’m going to leave you a message. Well, there’s multiple scripts in the book and you leave your message and then you send a text.

We know statistically over millions of phone calls logged by my clients, tracked, we know that two thirds of those people will get back to you. Two thirds, because we’re calling people who we know. We’re not cold calling. That’s another interesting point to dive into. Two thirds of those are by text message, by the way, they choose the text, not the return call. If two thirds get back to you and you’re making three calls a day, which is 780 a year, that’s about 520 interactions when nothing is wrong proactively in a year.

I run a $3 million consulting practice. For my business, that’s enough. I don’t need any more than that. When things slow down, I increase to five calls a day. Five calls a day is 1,300 in a year. How long does this take me? Not an hour or two, not half an hour. I can do my three calls in five minutes a day. Five minutes is enough, because I’m leaving voicemails and then I’m sending a text. That’s it. It feeds the machine. Leading with the phone feeds the machine of your entire sales process.

Fred Diamond: That is a great point. Before we get to some of these questions that are coming in here, I know you offer some tools and your previous books have been almost like workbooks where there’s advice and things to track. It’s not just the theory of picking up the phone and dialing. You’re very proactive and that’s one reason why we’ve had you speaker at the Institute for Excellence in Sales. Talk if you could for a second or two about some of the tools that you offer and why they’re valuable. Why you need to use certain tools to be more effective.

Alex Goldfayn: Sure. My stuff is very complicated, Fred. One of the tools is called a proactive call planner. It is literally exactly what it sounds like. It is a place to write down who to call. I believe strongly that we don’t make phone calls many times because we don’t know who to call. We have a lot of tools in our lives that give us lists of people. We have emails and text messages and we have even CRMs. But unless we use those CRMs perfectly, they won’t tell us who we should call today.

If you’re looking at us on video here on the live conversation, I’m just holding up the planner from the book. But you can go to my website and download these planners for free. Ideally, you have the book too, because it walks you through them. But again, it’s not that hard. It’s writing down who to call. You don’t really need a whole book to use a proactive call planner.

I have it split up into four categories here. Current customers and past customers, and current prospects and past prospects. That’s it. Then the customers side of things has more spaces on them, because I want you to write down more current customers than prospects. Then you have a list of who to call, and then you go and you call them. That’s how complicated this is.

Fred Diamond: Alex, this is a hot topic because we got a whole bunch of questions coming in. You wrote a book here called Pick Up the Phone and Sell. We talk about that all the time. People ask me all the time, we’ve talked about this last year. What is the one thing I’ve learned? Again, I created the Institute for Excellence in Sales in 2011.

People ask me, “What’s the biggest bit of advice that I’ve learned?” One is that the phone is the most important tool. I email a lot and I’m big on LinkedIn as are you, but I know when I pick up the phone and engage in a conversation, that it’s pushing things 50 feet further down the road. But people are afraid. You wrote two books in two years about the whole premise of picking up the phone and calling people. How do you overcome this phone fear, I guess we’ll call it, to get past? You just said, all you got to do is make three good conversations a day. That ain’t a lot. Talk about phone fear and how to get past it.

Alex Goldfayn: Well, fear is the strongest emotion and it’s the thing that keeps us from doing what we know we should do. A lot of times, corporate change, even personal change fails because we don’t address the mindset because the fear is so strong. If you’re a sales manager listening to this, and you go to your team and say, “Okay, guys, we’re going to start making three calls a day or five calls a day starting now, go.”

Here’s what you’ll find. They’ll start, and they’ll do it for a little while and then it’s going to go like this which is downward and less and less until it will fizzle away, and this will happen very quickly. The reason is that the fear is stronger than your directive to make three to five phone calls, stronger than any corporate change that somebody who’s in a managerial or executive position tries to make. We have to deal with the fear. I do projects, Fred, that run 6-12 months with my clients and I work with sales teams.

I would say that two thirds of the work that we do revolves around mindset work. It revolves around addressing and dealing with this fear. How do we deal with it? For the individual salesperson, oftentimes the first proactive phone call is enough to give you the positive outcome that you need, the energy that you need, the confidence that you need to make the next proactive phone call. Then you’ll have a good outcome there and then you make the next one.

Sometimes, oftentimes, the first call is all you need but we avoid, avoid, avoid. Then the key is once you start making the calls to stay in that rhythm and to keep doing it systematically. One or two calls when you think about it isn’t enough. It’s doing your three to five a day over many days, over many weeks, over many months. That’s what will feed your pipeline, that’s what will feed your calendar and really grow your sales very quickly. I have many individual salespeople, Fred, who double and triple their personal sales quickly with this work.

I have organizations who are large. When I get there, they’re over $100 million. They’re $500 million sometimes. My clients average 15% to 30% sales growth. Many times they’re in mature industries that are flat. The companies are flat when I get there, for years they haven’t grown and immediately they take off, up 20%, up 30%. It’s almost too absurdly simple to believe, but the reason is, they start communicating proactively with customers and prospects. I want to make one more nuance point that’s actually a big point. When I say pick up the phone and sell, I don’t mean cold calls.

Salespeople because of our discomfort with calls, will often immediately assume when they’re told to make a call that it means a cold call. The resistance I hear all the time is, well, I hate getting cold calls. I don’t want to make them. I say I’m not asking you to cold call, I’m asking you to call people who you know. All of us know hundreds of people. Current customers and past, current prospects and past, for almost everybody, unless you’re just getting started out of school. Unless you’re just getting going. You know hundreds of people like that. Call them, talk to them. Ask them what they need your help with because you’d like to help. When you do that, you’re going to be one of the only people in their lives who’s showing up that way.

Fred Diamond: We have a question that comes in here from Daniella and she says, “Can we call people without actually scheduling?” You touched on that in a second or two. This is different than cold calling. Let’s say we have that list of 100 people that we know and I agree with you 100%. The engagement that you can have in a 15-minute phone call with almost anybody that you’ve done some work with before will go 1,000 miles away. But her question, you might have touched on this. Can you call without scheduling or should we use email or something to physically say, “We’re going to talk from 3:00 to 3:30 on Friday”? Thanks, Daniella, for the question.

Alex Goldfayn: Daniella, as soon as you schedule the call, it’s not a proactive call anymore. It’s a scheduled phone call, it’s two people showing up at the same time. It’s essentially a meeting. That’s the difference between a phone call that’s proactive that I’m talking about, which means show up when it’s not scheduled which is the direct answer to your question versus like a Zoom conversation. If you call your customer on Zoom and you connect that way, that can’t be proactive because they have to be there too. You have to be expecting each other. It has to be on the calendar. I can’t proactively Zoom you, because I might probably be talking to nobody because you don’t know that I’m there to Zoom with you.

The answer to your question is lead with the phone when it’s unscheduled. Do your three calls a day and call and say, “Hey, it’s Daniella, I was thinking about you. I have a customer or a client similar to you and here’s what we’re doing with them, and I think the same thing would work really well for you too. I’d like to tell you about that. Here’s my number, look forward to catching up.” That’s the voicemail, and you hang up.

As soon as you hang up, you send a text. You say in the text, per my voicemail, per my VM, how’s your Tuesday or Wednesday to connect? Literally, those are the two steps. You leave your message and you send your text. What you’ll find is exactly what your question was about, these kinds of unscheduled proactive calls will fill your calendar with scheduled conversations and interactions. They will fill your calendar and they will fill your pipeline because two thirds of those people are going to get back to you. We know this statistically.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great distinction. Daniella says thank you so much. We have a bunch of questions that came in about texts, and you just pretty much answered those. Basically, what you’re saying here, Alex in Pick Up the Phone and Sell is that picking up the phone – and again, the subtitle of the book, How Proactive Calls to Customers and Prospects Can Double Your Sales.

You’re basically saying, use the phone as your outbound top of funnel as compared to email or subscription emails, or we talk about so many things every single day on the Sales Game Changers podcast. Send a gift and invite all those, there’s thousands of things that we do, but you’re saying use the phone as the first step in the marketing process. Again, you already have some type of relationship with the person you’re suggesting that we reach out to.

Alex Goldfayn: Yeah, make the phone the tip of your spear. Make that the tip of your selling spear. It’s interesting, you talked about email and LinkedIn and send this or do that. In the book, I have a visual. The visual lays out all the different communication pathways that we have as salespeople. The phone and texting and meetings in person and video conferences and handwritten notes and of course, social media like LinkedIn, and then emails. They’re ranked on two axes. The effectiveness axis which is the X axis, which is most effective to least. The single most effective pathway is the phone. The single least effective pathway in a selling process, B2B sales, most effective, phone, least effective, email. Always.

Then the Y axis is based on how much fear these tools generate, their threat level to us. Most fear inducing, least fear inducing, right? The phone, most fear inducing. Email, least fear inducing. Because when you send an email, what’s the answer usually? When I send the cold email or just any email in a selling process, what do I get back usually?

Fred Diamond: Silence.

Alex Goldfayn: Silence. Nothing. Which means that’s not a rejection. You haven’t rejected me yet, I’m still alive. I’ve sent my email. I’ve done it, I’m still alive. Now, if I make a phone call, most effective selling tool, most threatening, generates the most fear, you might reject me into my ear, Fred. You might reject me into my ear, and so I’m most afraid of that. That’s the thing I’m trying to avoid. That’s the thing I’m fearful of. The most effective selling tool is the one we use the least. It’s the one we avoid the most, the phone. The least effective selling tool that makes us the least afraid, we use that one the most, email.

Fred Diamond: We got a couple people here chiming again. Neil says, “Aha, I got it.” Sybil says, “Thank you so much. I appreciate this.” Let’s go back to something you just said. You’re not saying, go through the phonebook, the proverbial whatever. This isn’t about prospecting to cold, this is about you as a sales professional calling people that you know, you have some degree of relationship.

If you think about it, the worst thing they’re going to say to you is, “Hey, bad time, I can’t talk but let’s try to get something scheduled.” Someone that you know is not going to say, “Leave me alone,” as a random Director of IT might who gets 800 phone calls a day from vendors trying to sell them things. This is brilliant. Your point basically here is, the best way to connect with people you have some degree of relationship with. You know what, Alex? They may say, I can’t talk right now. They may not take the call, but they’re not going to say, “Go away.” They’re not going to say that because you have some degree of relationship.

Alex Goldfayn: In the book I address fears and try to disarm them, specific fears, one at a time. There is a section that’s very similar to what you just said, Fred. That is, this thing that we’re afraid of which we make so gigantic in our head, that we avoid the most effective tool we have to making a living in the world and sell it. What’s the worst that can happen? One, they’ll pick up the phone and you’ll have a nice conversation, like you just said. Two, they’ll pick up the phone and say, I’m sorry, it’s great to hear from you but I can’t chat right now, why don’t we schedule something for some other day? Nice outcome. Three, you’re going to leave a message. That’s the worst possible outcome here. You’re going to leave a voicemail, and then what happens?

See, many people perceive that as a loss. That’s a rejection, I failed. That’s part of the fear. We fear having to leave a message because now they rejected us. Well, that’s not a loss. In fact, I would argue it’s a win. Why is it a win? They’ve heard your name. They’ve heard your voice. They heard your company name. They experienced that you care enough to pick up the phone. The competition doesn’t, you do. Number five, maybe you remind them of something you can help them with, a product or a service and you plant that seed or replant that seed. Those are all very positive things that you can accomplish in a 18-second voicemail that you absolutely cannot accomplish by email.

Fred Diamond: There’s a question here. Actually, it’s more of a comment that comes in from Nelson. He says, “People only buy from people that they like.” I think what Nelson is trying to say here is, and that’s true, it’s like when you find a brand-new customer. It takes a while to get liked. You have to build the trust and we talked about becoming your trusted advisor, and there are so many things that we talk about to get to the moment where you’re talking about, which is where we’re engaging with people that we want to be talking with.

Here’s the thing, possibility can come so much more from a conversation than it can from a text, than it can from an email exchange, than it can from anything else. Having that conversation can lead to so many ways. Because one thing we also talked about, which I want to discuss with you in a second is some revenue growth questions that you make available up on your website for free for people to get. Let’s say, Bill, I just want to talk to you about this thing I saw in the news. I want to get your opinion or something like that. You begin the conversation. Then you could follow it up.

It’s so amazing what happens in the 15th minute of friendly touch base phone calls. It’s like, I didn’t realize you were pursuing something like that. We have another comment here that comes in from Nelson, which says, thank you so much. This is a great distinction, Alex. Let’s move a little bit to questions. Again, you make 100 Revenue Growth Questions to Ask Your Customers and Prospects. It’s a free download that’s available on your website. We’ll have the link to that in the show notes. But we’ll talk about some of the questions because that comes up a lot as well, listening and active questioning.

Alex Goldfayn: Let’s talk about three categories of questions real quick. One is the did-you know-question. That’s you saying, hey, did you know we can help you with X, Y, or Z? Whatever your stuff is. You plant the seed for products and services that customers can pay for. How are you on this? What about that? Did you know we also have this? What you’ll find is most customers will say, “I didn’t know you did that.” If you’re in sales, you hear that 20 times a day hopefully. That means you’re selling. You’re reminding them what you can do. That’s category one.

Second kind of question, the reverse did-you-know question. Instead of you suggesting a product to your customer, simply ask the customer what they need. Hey Fred, what are you working on these days that I can help you with? I’d like to help. Or, what do you have coming up that I can help you with? Or, what’s on your wish list? Or, a great one is, what are you buying from others that I can help you with while we talk here? Because I’d like to help. You ask the customer to name for you what they need. Guess what happens when you ask the question? They tell you. It’s like a miracle. If you ask what somebody needs, they will never ever say to you, no, I’d rather you not make my life easier today. That never happens. They tell you.

Third kind of question, then I’ll shut up. Pivot to the sale. Ask for the business. Don’t hang up the phone until you either pivot to the sale, which means ask for the business or pivot to the next interaction which means schedule the next phone call. Never hang up without knowing what the next thing is. Don’t hang up with, “I’ll email you.” The customer says to you, “I’ll email you.” Don’t do that because they won’t because they’re busy. Not because they don’t like you, because they’re busy. It’ll sabotage your process.

Here are some pivots to the sale questions. How would you like to pay? When can I expect the PO? When would you like this delivered? When would you like to begin? If you’re not ready to ask for the business like that, you go to schedule the next interaction, which is simply, when would you want to talk again? When should we connect? When do you want to schedule this? You get the next step before you hang up the phone. That’s critical to moving the sales process forward.

Fred Diamond: Yeah, we talk about the need to follow up. The stat I bring up all the time is, we had a guy who runs a sales call recording company, and they’ve done over 10 million calls. They said they realize that 57% of the calls did not have any follow up or any requests for follow up. We have a couple more questions coming in here. The first question is, what if I can accomplish everything on email? Do I need to pick up the phone?

That’s a great question. In some cases, you have the relationship and you could say to the customer, hey, I’d love to get you guys signed up for another year of our service and the reply is, sure, send me the invoice or send me the link to the payment or something like that. Do I need to pick up the phone and call them or if I’ve accomplished my goal, are we good and let’s just be copacetic and move on to the next one? That question comes from JK. JK, it’s good to see you. Thank you.

Alex Goldfayn: My instinct is it will never hurt you to connect with somebody on the phone, and it can only help you. If you are in a reactive selling process, yes, sometimes you can get it all done by email. Customer sends in an inquiry, they have an order, they ask you for something, you process it, you send them back the invoice, it’s done. However, there’s probably a whole lot more there, would be my guess, and you’re never going to know about it if it’s all done by email. Because if they’re emailing in and you’re responding by email, you’re only talking about what they’re asking you for. What they know to ask you about.

Customers niche us, and similarly, we niche them. Well, this is all they buy from us, they don’t really need anything else. If they need it, they’ll ask me for it. No, it doesn’t work that way. They can’t ask you for it because they don’t know you can help them with it. Even if you’ve told them, they probably don’t know. That’s how come we always hear, “I didn’t know you did that.” Even though we told them about it two months ago, and they had the exact same reaction two months ago that they have today. Just because we tell somebody something doesn’t mean they know. We remember, they don’t remember. The phone will never hurt, it can only help. I guarantee you that the phone will expand your selling and your sales and your business faster, more immediately, more effectively, bigger than emails will.

Fred Diamond: Yeah, I agree with you. It’s amazing how few people still talk on the phone. You see people walking around with their phones but at the end of the day, whenever you get through to somebody, they’ll always invariably say, because they’re doing the same thing, they’re afraid to pick up the phone or they’re dealing through email or whatever it might be. We have time for one more question before I ask you for your final action step.

Nancy says, “Thank you so much for this, Fred.” Thank you, Alex. Social media, let’s talk about that for one second. We touched a little bit on LinkedIn before. You say in the book that social media like LinkedIn can help boost sales. Talk about that for a second. By the way, one quick thing. If people are looking for phone numbers, if you don’t have it, a lot of times people do leave their cell phone numbers on LinkedIn. That’s usually the first place I go when I want to call somebody if I don’t have their number.

Alex Goldfayn: Yeah, you can often find their number on LinkedIn and that’s a good use for LinkedIn. I think there’s a place for social media and I think that social media, particularly LinkedIn, if you’re in B2B sales can be a helpful tool for your selling process. However, never in lieu of the phone, only in support of your phone work. Selling is a personal interaction. It’s a close personal exchange. The closest tool that we have that brings you closest to your customers is the phone.

The most distant tool we have is email. Then one step less distant is social media because that’s where everybody is. They’re all on email. They’re all on social media, everybody is. All your competition, the good ones and the bad ones too, they’re all there. You know where they’re all not? On the phone. As Fred just said, everybody’s got their phone with them. All of your customers are within arm’s reach of their telephone, including you. You’re sitting within arm’s reach of your phone right now as you listen to this.

However, nobody’s calling those phones. We’re all sitting by the phone. There’s nobody calling them. When you do, you will be the only one. We think our customers’ phones are ringing off the hook. They’re not. Nobody’s calling, everybody’s afraid. When you show up, you’re going to be the only one. When you email, when you use social media, you’re going to be one of many, many thousands in that customer’s life.

Fred Diamond: I’ll tell you what, man, if you have that fear, pick up the phone and call me. I’ll help you get started. My number is 703-628-6910. Don’t try to sell me Medicare Solutions, I get those every day. But if you just want to practice and talk, I would love to talk to you. Alex Goldfayn, I want to acknowledge you. Again, you’ve spoken at the Institute for Excellence in Sales. We’re going to have you back live in 2022. We’ve started doing live events. Congratulations on two books in a row. By the way, Pick Up the Phone and Sell, what number of book is this that you’ve published?

Alex Goldfayn: Six

Fred Diamond: Six. Good for you. I just want to acknowledge the people that you’ve helped. You’ve helped so many sales professionals and so many business leaders across the globe get more comfortable with the sales process and really help them take their lives and their careers to the next level. Good for you for all that you have done.

Alex Goldfayn: Thank you, Fred.

Fred Diamond: You’re welcome.

Alex Goldfayn: Very kind of you for you to say. I appreciate it.

Fred Diamond: It’s 100% true. Give us your final action step. You’ve given us 30 great ideas. Give us something specific that people listening to the podcast or watching today should do right now. I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. I’m going to go upstairs away from my studio, I’m going to call five people in the next half hour. But give us your advice on what people should do right now to take their careers to the next step.

Alex Goldfayn: I was going to say something real similar, Fred. Write down three names, write down three current customers or past customers, people you haven’t talked to in a while. Look at someone you haven’t talked to in six months or more. Write down three names of people you haven’t talked to in six months or more, and then immediately, without thinking about it or analyzing it or scheduling it for later, immediately, go to the phone and call them and say, “Hey man, I was thinking about you. How are you? How’s your family? Is everybody healthy? Now, what are you working on these days that I can help you with? Because I’d like to help.” You will be the only one in that person’s life doing that and they will remember that phone call forever. It’s a pretty good way to live and it’s pretty easy too.

Fred Diamond: Once again, Alex Goldfayn, the author of Pick Up the Phone and Sell. For everybody who’s watching today, thank you so much. If you’re listening to this as a Sales Game Changers podcast in the future, thank you as well.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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