EPISODE 353: Alice Kemper Lists Three Surefire Ways to Out-Think, Out-Sell and Out-Perform Your Competition

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Creativity in Sales Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on Febraury 21, 2021. It featured sales trainer Alice Kemper.]

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ALICE’S TIP FOR EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “My #1 tip to salespeople is you are the master of your success, you cannot rely on your sales manager, you have to rely on yourself. What does that mean? It means read everything you can, listen to podcasts like this one, like your listeners are already doing. It might mean get an accountability partner, it might be hire your own coach, that’s what you have to do in order to get comfortable with anything, no matter whether you’re one month into your sales profession or 33 years into it.”


Fred Diamond: Today we’re talking about some surefire ways to out-think, out-sell and out-perform the competition and I’m very excited to have as my guest today Alice Kemper. Alice, I’m up here in Northern Virginia where there was a lot of ice and snow, a lot of our listeners have gone through a lot of ice and snow this past week. You’re down in Florida, you’re enjoying things and you’re doing great and we’re excited to hear what you have to tell us. First off, how are you doing? Second of all, tell us a little bit about Sales Training Werks, tell us a little bit about what you do before we start getting into the content.

Alice Kemper: I want to thank you, Fred, I’ve listened to so many of your podcasts and you have an incredible amount of wealth of talent there and I’ve learned so much and I know that you’re doing a service to the community as well. I’m in Florida, I probably should have dressed differently because right now the whole country is in a hate fest to Florida [laughs]

Sales Training Werks came out of a need and let me just back up a little and tell you about me and how it all evolved. I started out as a public school teacher and I have to say that there are three things that are important to do. One is to be able to pay your overhead, that’s your living expenses, two, buy – and I put in entertainment factor and of course, girls have to buy shoes – and thirdly, my father instilled in me that you need to save. On a teacher’s salary it was very difficult to do that so I sat back and I looked around and I surveyed friends, all my male friends were in sales and they were doing very well. I said, “I’m going to do that” and I’m going to date myself, but in the 70s there were very few women in sales. If they were, they were in cosmetics and pharmaceutical sales but I got lucky. I pushed hard for it but American Greeting Cards hired me as a sales rep and I thank Bernie Martinez to this day because he put his neck on a limb to hire a woman.

After selling for them and managing for American Greeting Cards and then also managing for Harte Hanks, that’s where these three surefire ways to out-think, out-sell and out-perform the competition came to be. I had to be successful and I took success in my own hands, and I became a master of selling. There weren’t podcasts in those days but I read everything you could and talked to everybody I knew, sales managers and all. What I did with my sales and sales management, I took these three actions and as a salesperson, it put me as #1 on the leaderboard. As a sales manager it also moved my team up to the #1 spot on the leaderboard. Then I started sales training consultancy and that was a focus of our training and our consulting. Sales managers who listen to me are always able to drive sales and move their team up on the leader board as well. That’s what I want to share with your audience today, these are proven tips and interesting, they take 30 minutes or less. Sales Training Werks was derived from that because I watched so many god-awful sales meetings that sales managers led and I realized my goal teaching my sales and my management skills was to make sales manager’s jobs so much easier and to save them time and to give them the resources they need to drive sales with their sales team.

Fred Diamond: Quick question for you – greeting cards. Tell us something about selling greeting cards because we have a lot of people here, we have people from around the globe who are watching the webcast today. We have some people overseas and we have some people in the east coast but a lot of them sell technology and the have the internet, they have social media and they have you and podcasts. Tell us if you don’t mind, before we get into the three tips, something about selling greeting cards that really helped build you as a sales consultant trainer and leader that you are right now.

Alice Kemper: Selling greeting cards, I had drugstore chains and also new business development when there used to be a day of greeting card stores. The one thing is that you keep your customers in mind, what do they want? Not what do you want as the store manager, that you want as little inventory as possible, that doesn’t help your customers. We had to take it from a customer perspective and show them that they had to buy more than they wanted to buy or they were going to have disappointed customers when they came into their store.

Fred Diamond: Quick note, Hallmark came to recruit when I was in college and they did not offer me a job so I’m an American Greetings customer.

Alice Kemper: [Laughs]

Fred Diamond: The three tips, let’s get to it.

Alice Kemper: All right, I’m going to introduce you to the three surefire ways. First one is joint sales calls and we’re going to talk about each in depth. Second one is one-on-one coaching and the third is bite-size skill boosters. Let’s break them down.

In the olden days we got in the car and we rode with our salespeople. The olden days were only a year ago and now that we’ve been in a year of Zoom, you can still do joint sales calls. Also, so much is sold over the phone, call centers have become so big but all call centers have the capability to record sales conversations. When I taught joint sales calls whether it’s live, face to face, whether it’s Zoom or whether it’s just conversation over the phone, the same tips work. It’s very important that leaders observe in real time because when a sales rep comes in your office and says, “Here’s what happened on the call, I said this, they said that” you’re getting half the story, they don’t remember all the questions, you don’t see the facial expressions, the body language, all those kinds of things. It really is important to observe in real time what your salesperson is doing.

On Zoom it’s the same as if you were in the car going to visit the client, you just tee it up properly to the customer, “It’s your lucky day, my sales manager is going to be with us today, you get to ask them some questions.” I do want the sales leaders to remember one thing, it’s the sales rep’s call, not yours. Your job is not to sell on this conversation, yours is to listen and observe, you’re another set of eyes and another set of ears. If the call starts getting side railed, goes off the tracks, then your mission is to ask a question to bring it back but still let the sales rep answer that conversation. When you do the joint sales calls, of course you have to give good feedback but here’s my one feedback tip for you. You’re going to see more than one thing that you would like to fix with your sales rep, the thing is that you have to take control of this and select one behavior – not two, three, four five, people shut down on you. If you can pick one thing that you’re observing, if you coach towards this one behavior then it’s going to make a difference in all the future calls and what will happen is the other errors or things that you want to fix will end up cascading and they may fix themselves. If not, that’s what you coach towards on your next conversation.

Fred Diamond: One of the reasons why we asked Alice Kemper to be on today’s webinar and the Sales Game Changers podcast is because of your expertise in helping sales managers coach their people. You’re one of the foremost experts on that and you train people around the globe. It’s interesting because we’ve been doing Zoom-ish sales stuff since March of last year and some people say, “We did it before” but they really didn’t, even if they were remote and doing video. Customers weren’t ready to do video so there’s been a huge shift but here’s the thing, and I want to get your thoughts on some ways that people can be coached. I know we’re going to be talking about that. I saw a webinar announced today on how to use video in sales calls, it’s February of 2021 when we’re broadcasting this and you’d think that everybody would be up to speed by this point. But Alice, I get a lot of people who still tell me, “I’m struggling with it, it’s hard” for a couple of reasons. One is, “I’m doing so many”, B, “I get nervous when someone agrees to meet with me.” Talk about some of the big things that you’ve seen that you’re encouraging coaches to coach their people on to get more comfortable using the medium.

Alice Kemper: Everybody’s different, the one question I would ask to each one of those people that said, “I’m not comfortable”, what part aren’t you comfortable with? Right now I could give three things and the person that asked that question, that wasn’t what was bothering them. It’s just like handling an objection, I don’t answer an objection, I ask another question to get more specific. The other question is, is this someone who was only selling on the phone and not selling face to face? That’s what I’m seeing is that’s who’s having the most difficulty, people who weren’t selling face to face and now are because they were very comfortable on the telephone. Again, the biggest tip I could give right now, general big tip is to practice. Get a buddy to practice with or get a coach, Julie Hansen has a master class on how to sell on video and how to sell on Zoom.

In fact, somebody asked me today to give my #1 tip to salespeople. My #1 tip to salespeople is you are the master of your success, you cannot rely on your sales manager, you have to rely on yourself. What does that mean? It means read everything you can, listen to podcasts like this one, like your listeners are already doing. It might mean get an accountability partner, it might be hire your own coach, that’s what you have to do in order to get comfortable with anything, no matter whether you’re one month into your sales profession or 33 years into it.

Fred Diamond: A question comes in from Jordan, I know Jordan is a relatively new sales manager, I think it’s probably been about a year and a half now. He said, “Alice said to focus on only one thing, what if I see three things right off the bat?” Talk about that for a second, do I wait to talk about #2 next week? Give us some advice on why only one thing at a time.

Alice Kemper: I’m a golf nut, I play a lot of golf and I take a lot of lessons. Even though I’m a good golfer, I still take lessons and if I went and had a lesson and my coach started changing my grip, my back swing, how I stood and gave me five different things to do, I’m going to shut down and I’m going to have a hard time doing all of them. That’s why, you might find that they interrupt the customer, you might find that they’re not asking open-ended questions. Some of them you can weave together like, “You’re talking too much, how do we change that? By asking open-ended questions.” Sometimes it’s okay to look at what you have and see if you can weave them together but if they are so distinctively different, then if you give them three things, my experience has been most salespeople shut down. Take one, whatever the most important. In that scenario learning how to shut up and listen is so important that probably whatever #2 was or #3 was might just cascade and fall into place.

Fred Diamond: That leads us into the second surefire tip which of course is coaching. Let’s talk a little bit about that, and one thing I also want to address here is we’ve heard from a lot of managers that they’re having challenges coaching because when you’re physically with somebody there’s a lot more freedom. You can move outside of the screen, you could jump up to the whiteboard, you could touch the person on the shoulder, there’s so many things you could do, you can go to lunch to continue the conversation. Talk about your advice on coaching and then talk about some of the ideas you have for sales leaders in the Zoom world when we’re not going to be together. Some of my members are saying they’re not going to be in offices till September, possibly at the earliest.

Alice Kemper: The one-on-one coaching is different than the joint sales conversation. The one-on-one is a one-on-one just with you and the salesperson and this isn’t, “What did you sell for me this week?” It’s very important that it’s different and you may even with your veteran salespeople start initially with, “Why are you working here? What do you like about your job? What don’t you like? What motivates you?” Those kinds of questions because you’re going to need them later. We work to live, so what are they living for? To put their kids through college or to put them in private school or to go on a family vacation? What we do with our money is our motivator.

The other thing is you do want to talk about, “What’s going on in your world right now? What are your challenges selling?” That’s where you’ll find the uncomfortableness was Zoom or whatever it is. What’s working, what’s not working, we always want to do that. It’s treating it like a sales call. This is the thing, “What do you recommend?” Ask them what the solution is, you don’t give them the solution first, that’s my #1 in coaching. “What do you think you should do?” Here’s another question to include in your coaching, “What barriers are getting in your way of making that happen?” They say, “I can’t get through to the customer.” Okay, what are the barriers? You have to get very specific and then say, “Okay, if you were me sitting here talking to you, what would you recommend to me?” and get them thinking.

The other thing in the one-on-one coaching, because I’m going to bring this up, is for leaders to learn to introduce their salespeople. When you have a problem and you call me, please come with a minimum of one, preferably two solutions because we need to train our salespeople how to think. You’re manager and you think you need to have all the answers? Wrong. They have answers and sometimes I learn their answers are better than mine [laughs] I learn from my salespeople.

Fred Diamond: Last Wednesday on the Sales Game Changers Live we had a sales leader named Jason Rozenblat and he said, “If you’re going to come to me with a problem, you could probably presume that I already know about the problem. We’re not looking for problem identifies because I probably know. Come to me with a solution, come to me with how you think we can fix it.” You’re saying the same thing by how you can improve your sales performance.

Alice Kemper: Right, and I’ll tell you why. When we have the solutions, if we’ve trained our reps that were going to have the solutions, they have a lot more free time than we do because we’re going to start picking up, “I’ll look into that, I’ll take care of it” and then I’ve got a list of things to do after 5 o’clock and they don’t. The other is that they’re not problem solvers, we’re not helping them to develop. Believe me, you won’t lose your job as a sales leader, there’s still plenty for you to do if they solve their own problems [laughs]. What you’re working on here, I have mindset and skill set because as you’re coaching them you’re finding out, are they committed to the activities? What’s their belief in selling? What’s their belief in the product? And that’s all the mindset piece as well as if they say, “I have trouble with these objections.” That’s more specific in skill set.

I want to circle back to the question you asked and what my tip was. What to do different in this remote world? Right now anybody selling in Florida can do this, take your cell phones and go for a walk with your rep. Get away from the desk, go for a walk. Now it’s winter, it’s snowing places, it’s cold, three quarters of the country is unable to do that so maybe what you do is say, “Let’s take our phones into the kitchen.” Go into the kitchen, make a pot of coffee, have a cup of coffee. Just do something to change it up that they’re not sitting at their desk so it feels a little bit different.

Fred Diamond: We have a question here that comes in from Enrique and Enrique is in the DC area as well. He said, “As a sales manager, what are the most common things that you’re seeing people do wrong?” I know we talked before about that a little bit but from your experience right now. I’ll give you one example, one of my managers who’ s a member of the IES said his people don’t log on when it’s time for the call, you’re sitting there and the excuse is always, “I couldn’t log in” or “The internet” or, “The network.” There’s no excuse for that but I’m just curious. As someone who trains managers, what are the most common things that you’re seeing people do wrong right now?

Alice Kemper: I’m just going to address that one first. Salespeople need to put 15 minutes before calls, you don’t make an 11 o’clock and a 12 o’clock and a 1 o’clock. If you think they’re going to go an hour then the 12 o’clock is at 12:15, not 12 o’clock, that’s #1. If managers are joining in on the call and seeing it then that’s a whole discussion there. That’s a first impression that you now as a sales rep coming on late, you’ve got to sell a lot harder and I’m not for selling harder, I’m for making it easy, efficient and effective.

What do I see the most? Every sales rep is different. However, talking too much is #1 and here’s another one, not asking the best questions. I call it wasting questions. That’s a whole skill booster, really good skill booster to constantly work on with salespeople is elevating your questions, standing out from the crowd and from the ordinary questions that every other sales rep out there in your industry is asking. I’m going to give an example in advertising sales, an example might be, “Who are your customers?” Every media rep – radio, TV, print – is asking that question, how do you elevate that? “What are the three key characteristics of your ideal customer?” That’s a thought-provoking question, they’re not used to getting it, they really have to think and you’re going to get some really detailed information. I see the misuse of questions, not enough questions.

Here’s another one that salespeople do all the time. When they get an objection they’ve been taught or figured it out on their own incorrectly that they have to have an answer. When I ask salespeople when they hear an objection, whether it costs too much, I’m already using somebody, I like who I have, the timing is not right, whatever, salespeople have an answer. I ask them, “What percentage of the time does your pat answer work?” and they often say, “It’s a 50-50 crap shoot.” If you want to increase your odds, the tip is you don’t have to have an answer, you need to have another question. Those are the three: talking too much, not good questions and responding poorly to objections or barriers that are keeping them from buying.

Fred Diamond: The third surefire way is the bite-size booster. I like this slide a lot and we talked about this. We view sales performance improvement as working out, like you mentioned before about golf. You might go practice your putting today and maybe it’s a three foot put you’re going to be working on for an hour, and maybe you’re going to be working on your 5-iron from 120 yards or whatever it might be. That’s what athletes do and that’s what high performing people do. When we talk to sales professionals that we meet through the Institute they all say the same thing. Of course they know the customer, they know the products, they know the right question to ask at the right time but they all talk about skills that they work on. Maybe it’s using LinkedIn right now or you mentioned Julie Hansen, maybe it’s like speaking. How do you effectively speak to the dot, as we like to say? And Julie is a good friend of ours. Let’s talk about these and how you utilize them in your ongoing management training.

Alice Kemper: Tom Brady just won the Super Bowl or even I’m going to go back to Michael Jordan, they still practiced and their coaches still coached and doctors still go to lectures and accountants still go to classes, everybody else does that. But how come there are more salespeople in the profession worldwide than any other category, yet sales managers think they hired salespeople with experience and then can just knight them and then they wonder why they aren’t making their sales quotas? You’re managing sales, that’s your title, sales manager or sales leader, you’re a leader of the salespeople. Your job is to continually develop them and you’re developing them by observing them in the joint sales calls, you’re developing them with the one-on-one coaching and your job is also to put on many bite-size skill boosters.

All three of these tips that I’m saying, if you just committed to 30 minutes a day to any one of these three, your team is going to out-think, out-perform and out-sell the competition. Get rid of your excuses of, “I don’t have time, I have to be in this meeting, I have to be in that.” You’re not doing your job, as far as I’m concerned. Do you want to take two hours on your Sunday night and scour the internet looking for a clever way to teach how to overcome objections or how to ask better questions? No, your time is more valuable than that and that’s why we took our big guns sales training and we broke everything down into 30 minute highly interactive, highly engaging, highly equipping sales meeting. They’re 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes and outlines for the sales managers. I say if the sales manager can read, talk and tell time, they’re going to put on a really high impact, highly engaging and highly relevant experience for their salespeople. You do it as a group and everybody learns from everybody else.

I’m going to give one other tip there, if you don’t want to lead the sales meetings, that’s okay, you can get your salespeople to lead them. One of the things I did as a sales manager before I even wrote any of the sales training, you don’t even have to buy or sell bite-size sales training but just go to your salespeople and ask, “Who’s great at handling objections? Who’s great at getting through the gate keeper?” Ask all the issues that they have and they’re going to say, “Fred’s great at this.” So next week you say, “Fred, next week I want you to lead a 30 minute meeting on that.” Your salespeople can teach each other and what I found is the salespeople, when they lead the meetings, they don’t do a talking head, “This is what I do so you should do it.” They end up making it very engaging.

Fred Diamond: We have a very nice comment here, Rachel says, “Alice, you are so amazing.” I love that idea about assigning the best rep or someone who wants to be the best rep. We had one IES member whose 10 people are day were coming to our webinar. We’ve been doing a daily webinar since March of last year, we’re going to keep doing them forever, possibly. One day I noticed that it went from 10 people to 1 per company and I was like, “That’s interesting.” The next day there was another person from the company so I reached out to the VP of Sales and I said, “Did you guys go through a layoff or something?” and he said, “No, what we decided to do was to send one person per day to come back and teach the rest of the team what the Institute taught on that daily webinar today.” I loved that idea because a lot of managers have said to me one of the reasons why they joined the IES, for example, is because their reps tune out a little bit. “Okay, there’s John, he’s telling us his tip on how to get a meeting, I’ve heard it 50 times.” I love that idea about getting people to be that trainer. It also helps them if they’re interested in ascending to management as well.

Alice Kemper: Exactly. Whether they want management or not, it just teaches leadership. Whether they’re writing it on their own or they’re talking 30 minute or less meetings and facilitating them. That’s why when you have children, when they come home from school, “What did you learn today?” and then you ask them, “Teach me that.” That’s the best way for anybody to learn anything, is for them to teach it.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great idea. You have a very nice offer here for guests of today’s webinar and podcast which we’ll get to in a second, we have a couple more questions coming in. Tell us about your offer and then I’ll get to a couple of the questions here.

Alice Kemper: My goal is to have more salespeople meeting quota worldwide and the same with sales managers, and my goal is to make your job easier. I’ve done it, so I’m giving you 52, a years’ worth of sales meetings, all 30 minutes or less and there’s a variety of them. What I wanted to offer you right now is although we teach selling at full price and selling value, I couldn’t resist. For 50% off, you can get your bite-size done for you, skill boosters. I made it so ridiculously low anyway, if you paid retail it was $379, your coffee and donuts are going to cost more than that. I didn’t want anybody to have any excuses of why not to train their salespeople, so just use the code PODCAST and it’s yours.

Fred Diamond: We’ll put that note in the transcript. Alice, we have a couple questions here before we get to your final action step. We have another note here from Suzanne who says, “Rachel, I agree.” A question comes in here from a sales professional, his name is Rudy and Rudy says, “My manager never practices.” Talk about that for a second, and I agree with you a thousand percent. People use the excuse that we’re busy, I remember on the podcast we had the Senior VP for Hilton on the show a couple years ago and he said at Hilton’s headquarters they had what they called scrimmage rooms where it wasn’t used for meetings, it was just used for sales practice – role play, call practice. He goes, “We don’t have meetings in those rooms, they’re just set up for practice.” Go back to Rudy’s comment here, “My manager isn’t scheduling these, what should I do?”

Alice Kemper: If you would like these from your manager, it’s your job again, you’re the master of your success. Invite your sales manager on a sales call with you, you need to have a coaching session with them. “This is what I need from you, I want you to observe me, I want to get better. I don’t know what I don’t know, I don’t know what I’m missing, be my other set of eyes and ears.” Even tell them, “You’re probably going to see me do a lot of things wrong, just pick one good one.” Do everything I said but have the meeting with your manager, invite them to come for the joint sales call. The same thing, set up a one-on-one coaching with them. Say, “I want to talk, here’s three key issues or one key issue that I feel is keeping me from closing more deals, or doing this or doing that.” You just reverse it, and for the skill meetings if your manager isn’t doing skill boosting then ask. “Can I put together a mini-training for the salespeople?” and maybe you just do questions where you are asking other salespeople, “What if…?”  “What do you do when this happens?” Come up with something to utilize that time, that’s my recommendation, just flip the switch.

Fred Diamond: Before we get to your final action step, we got a couple nice comments here. Rudy says, “Thank you so much.” Enrique, who asked a question before said, “This is great.” Martinez says, “It’s good to see you again, thank you so much.” Alice, thank you so much. Before you give us your final action step I just want to acknowledge, we had so many people in the Women in Sales Pros organization who came to us and said, “Fred, you really need to get Alice Kemper on one of the Sales Game Changers Live webinars.” Over your career you’ve trained tens of thousands of sales professionals in many industries, you told us your story before, you’ve impacted so many people in helping them take their career to the next level by improving their sales which we know leads to a happier life and which leads to more fulfillment. I like what you also said that you want to make it as easy as possible for people, we believe that sales is a skill and it’s a science and there is some art to it, but it is a profession. By the way, Luis says, “I love the flip-the-switch to get what you need and focus on what it creates.”

You’ve given us the three great surefire ways, you’ve given us 30 ideas along the way. Give us one that people should do today when this webcast ends or when they’re done listening to the podcast or reading the transcript that they need to do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

Alice Kemper: Take your calendar out and carve out 30 minutes a day. If you’re a sales leader, carve out 30 minutes to do one of these three, coach somebody, coach them as a group, get on the phone and set up joint sales meetings, just carve out 30 minutes. If you’re a sales representative, if you’re the seller do the same thing in your schedule. Take the calendar, get an invite out to your manager, carve out 30 minutes. It can all be done in 30 minutes or less, that’s the beauty so no more excuses. “I don’t have time, I can’t do it.” Everybody’s got 30 minutes.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great point.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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