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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Optimal Sales Mindset Webinar sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales and hosted by Fred Diamond on December 3, 2020. It featured sales expert and consultant Andy Miller of Big Swift Kick.]
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EPISODE 309: Well-Known Sales Expert Andy Miller Gives Crisp Advice on Asking for What You Want
ANDY’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Your courage improves as your pipeline gets bigger. The asking mindset is one way to get there. And you may need to ask 6 times! The problem is salespeople don’t ask and there’s a cost of not asking to you but also your customer or your prospect of not asking. Make sure you ask face to face somehow. Don’t do it on LinkedIn, don’t do it on the email. It’s easy for them to say no and you just can’t project the authenticity that you need to. Ask for some advice, ask for some coaching from them or ask for a chance. Always be clear and specific on your ask and be authentic.”
Fred Diamond: Today we’re talking Optimal Sales Mindset with our good friend, Andy Miller. If you recognize Andy, he has graced our in-person stage numerous times talking about grit, talking about resilience, some of the great attributes that top sales professionals need to have. Let’s get started.
Andy Miller: We want to talk about why you aren’t asking for the deal because this sounds simple and it really is, but we’re not doing it and it’s incredibly powerful. I look at this from two mindsets, some folks are glass half full, glass half empty. Glass half empty: gloom and doom, COVID has shut us down, asking won’t make any difference, I can’t reach anybody. That’s one mindset, the second mindset is hope and possibility. “I still think there’s opportunity out there, acknowledge COVID is here, it’s real but people are still finding a way to make things work and I might as well start asking and see what happens because I’ve never emphasized that in the past. I’ve got nothing to lose so let’s give it a shot, let’s see what happens.” The power of asking, just so you can see, it’s such a simple concept and I can’t believe that’s really what we’re going to talk about.
I’ve got a client that’s in an independent medical exam market, their whole industry, the customers that they focus on are all down 40%, they’re up 5% simply by asking. Another company that I work with does accounting software, their call center upsell went from 6% to 74% which is unheard of in call centers. Another client in worker’s comp, they’re up 50% in a market that only has 3% growth and that’s pretty significant. Then I’ve got a water treatment chemical company, they didn’t give me a number but they said, “Andy, it’s our best year ever.” All of them would say, “It’s due to the fact that you taught us to go ask and we’re actually doing it, we’re taking a chance and we’re asking.”
Let’s talk about that a little bit more. If you remember the story of Aladdin and his magic lamp, the genie popped out and the genie says, “I’ll grant you three wishes.” What would you wish for? What would you ask for in your life from your kids, your siblings, your spouse, industry influencers if we get more business-oriented, your customers, your prospects? It’s really as simple as just asking. Where did this concept come from? A lot of you are probably familiar with the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, that was done by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. What people don’t realize is these guys were sales trainers before they did the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and they did a study on salespeople and how often salespeople are asking. I think you’re going to be blown away by this, how often were people asking for what they wanted? In this case I’m saying you’re asking for the deal, you could ask for other things, ask for an introduction, ask for a referral, ask to speak to the decision committee. There’s lots of things you could ask for, here’s what they found out. 54% of salespeople never asked, how are you going to get it if you don’t ask for it? Only 46% asked one time, then they stopped. 24% asked twice, 14% asked three times, 12% asked four times and only 4% asked five times. The crazy thing is 60% of all deals are closed after asking 5 times, that means you’ve got to ask 6 times or more. How many of us have stopped short?
I had one client who said to me this about three weeks ago and she said, “Andy, I got them on the phone and I asked five times on the same phone call and they finally granted it at the fifth time.” So don’t think, “I’ll try one, I’ll call back again, I’ll try another.” You can make all five or six asks on that phone call, that Zoom call, that interaction. So are we asking for the deal?
Fred Diamond: It reminds me of a statistic that our good friend, Steve Richard at Vorsight once told me his company had analyzed millions of phone calls and I asked Steve, “What is the one thing you learned from listening to a million sales phone calls?” He said, “People never asked, people just didn’t ask and they never scheduled a follow-up.” Here’s your point that you just made, you could ask 5 times on one call. Before you said that, I was thinking, “Okay, 5 steps, two months, I’m going to ask the first week, then I’m going to ask again in three weeks.” You’re even saying that you could put those five asks together in one call and you’re still going to see the same result, that’s very powerful, Andy.
Andy Miller: It really is and again, when I started off our call I said I know you think this concept is simple, it really is simple but knowing what to do and then actually doing it are two very different things. We know to ask, we’ve been told all our career in sales to ask but we’re not asking. Why?
I want to share with you what happened when I started asking. I read the book and Fred, you’re a marketing guy, you know in marketing you come up with your concepts and then you test them. I said, “Okay, I just read this book about asking and I don’t know if I believe it or not so let’s test it, let’s just try it.” I said, “I’m going to make a list of asks.” For those of you who’ve traveled around the world or other countries, you know that the rules in one country are different than rules in another. You go to Mexico, you go to Brazil, you go to Indonesia, you go to France, wherever you go they have different rules. I thought, “I have to pretend that I don’t know what any of the rules are, I’m going to pretend that I’m a Martian – men are from Mars – and I’m going to become an alien. I’m going to be an alien for a week, I’m going to pretend there’s no boundaries to asking and if I step in a pile of manure, so be it.” What I think is most of us don’t even get close to getting in trouble from asking, I thought, “I’m going to try to cross the line as an alien.” I made my list, I pretended to be an alien, I said there’s no restrictions, no boundaries, I’m just going to pretend I’m totally naive and ignorant. I’m going to ask for everything that I want for a week, I’m going to believe that I can get it, I’m going to be relaxed about it, appreciative, gracious and here’s what my alien got me in one week.
Keep in mind I just moved to Europe, I just started a software company, I didn’t know anybody. I did not have a network, I did not have family, I did not speak the language, I did not know the culture. I knew nothing, I was your stereotypical American buffoon and here’s what my alien got me. I talked to publishers of the largest IT magazines in England, Germany, France and Belgium, Netherlands and Luxemburg. I told them I had this idea and they all agreed that I could write 12 articles, one article a month, they would translate it into their language and I got agreement that I would have an article in all four of those magazines for 12 months. That’s a major coup just by asking. I told them what the topics were and they were hot topics at the time so it was a little easier to grant it, if they had been uninteresting topics I’m sure they would have said no. Second of all, at that time you could not buy a list of the companies that own the kind of computers that my software ran on so I thought, “Who would have a list?” The manufacturer would so I found the product owner for the line that I worked on, called him up, went and had lunch with him, asked him, “Is there anywhere you know I could buy a list?” He goes, “No, you’re new here in Europe, it’s actually illegal to sell a list to anybody.” I said, “Okay, I appreciate it but would you guys have a list I can get access to?” He said no and we talked about that a little bit and I said, “If anything becomes available, I’d love to hear about it. I’d be happy to handle it in an appropriate way, I’d be happy to pay for it.”
One week later in the mail in a plain envelope with no return address and just a bunch of stamps I got a list of all the computers and all their locations in all of Europe, no note, no name, no nothing. It could have only come from one place and that guy could have lost his job by doing that, think about that. And I got an endorsement from their technical division because I called them and said, “Here’s what we’re doing, here’s how we compare.” We worked through it and I got the endorsement. That was all in one week of just playing alien and asking, those are some pretty powerful asks. If you had told me before I read the book that that was even possible, I would have told you you’re smoking dope and of course, in the Netherlands that’s quite possible you were smoking dope [laughs].
Fred Diamond: Andy, I think the other reason why obviously people aren’t asking and we talk about this a lot on the Sales Game Changers webinars. One of the key attributes in sales success if not the #1 attribute in sales success I believe is courage. You and I talked about grit, we talked about creativity and talked about analytics, product knowledge, I think it all comes down to courage. We’re talking here about the courage to ask for something for the next meeting, for an introduction let alone a million-dollar deal, let alone a five thousand dollar deal, you need courage in almost everything to move to the next step. For some reason, it’s a lot easier for some people and for some it’s a lot more of a challenge.
Andy Miller: When you’re a buyer, when you’re out shopping for something, house, car, whatever, you have no problem asking for a discount and if you’re married, I know that at least 50% of you out there asked because somebody had to do the asking. I read a book by a guy named John Goddard who is the real-life Indiana Jones and I just called him up and said, “I want to meet you, I want to talk to you and he goes, “What are you doing next weekend? Because it’s my birthday, why don’t you come on out to California? You can stay at my house, we’re going to have a party.” That was just by calling the guy up saying, “I’d like to meet you.” It’s amazing what can happen and then I’ve got a number of clients right now of equity share in their businesses because I just asked for it, it was part of the deal but it’s amazing what you can get if you’re willing to have the courage to ask.
Fred Diamond: Andy, Joey wants to know what’s the biggest deal Andy has ever asked for. I’m going to ask a corollary to that, was it just as easy to ask for that deal which you’re going to tell us about here in a second generically, as it might be to ask someone for a phone meeting or to meet next Tuesday to have a Zoom call or something along those lines?
Andy Miller: The biggest deal I ever asked for was a $40 million deal. I was representing a client at the time, they’d been working on it for seven years, it had gone nowhere and I came up with a strategy and said, “Here’s what we’re going to do. Once we’ve gone through the strategy we’re going to go ask for it” and we got it. For some people, 40 million dollars may be small, for others 40 million dollars might be big but I don’t really think it’s about the size of the deal, I really think it’s about the courage. I would add to that, your courage improves as your pipeline gets bigger.
Fred Diamond: As they always say, the first 40 million dollar deal is always the hardest. Let’s keep going here, this is great stuff.
Andy Miller: I want to talk about the five reasons that we don’t ask for deals and I’m going to move through these fairly quickly. The first one is ignorance, ignorance may be too strong of a term but we don’t know what’s possible, we don’t know what’s available, we don’t know what we want and we don’t know how to ask. We would put those in the ignorance category. The second one would be self-limiting beliefs, where do the self-limiting beliefs come from? Your friends, your parents, your school, the TV publications, blogs, YouTube, whatever you watch, your religious practices, your past jobs, your first sales manager, your customers. You’ll have customers who say, “Don’t do this, don’t do that” and then they threaten you, those are where it comes from. Then there’s our self-limiting beliefs around what we can and cannot ask for. Can we ask for the business? Can we ask to meet somebody on the executive team? Can we ask for better terms and conditions? Can we ask for a price increase? Those self-limiting beliefs are both where it came from and what those beliefs are about, all of it has to do with asking. Third, pride, you’ll see this more in men than women – yes, it is a sexist comment but I believe it’s true. “I might look weak, I might look incompetent, people will judge me, I’m too smart to ask, I can do it on my own.” That pride is a killer. Low self-esteem, “I’m not worthy, my needs aren’t important.”
I actually had a client who said, “I got the first deal done but now we’ve got to deliver on it and I’m going to wait 30 days until we’ve delivered before I make my next ask.” I go, “No, you’re not. You asked, you got it, I want you to call them back tomorrow and ask for the second thing, don’t wait 30 days.” They did and they got it, they were like, “Wow.” I was like, “Easy-peasy, right? Just go ask.”
The last one on low self-esteem is, “I’ve lost hope, it’s hopeless, I can’t influence this.” The fifth reason, fear. Fear of rejection, fear of being powerless, humiliation, punishment. I’ve seen customers say, “Don’t do this or I’ll take the business away or I’ll give you a bad rating.” Punishment is real, “I’ll look bad, stupid or afraid of the truth.” What happens if we asked? Was there something in the past that needed to be cleaned up and we didn’t have the courage to go clean it up? Those are the five reasons why we don’t ask and they’re pretty simple but knowing it and doing it, two different things.
How do we deal with fear? I don’t remember which national speaker used this acronym, the acronym FEAR: False Expectations Appearing Real. That’s the nightmare of your dreams and my experience is no matter what I envision it from a fear perspective and asking, it never plays out that way. It never gets nearly as bad as I hallucinate that it’s going to be so you got to give yourself permission to be awkward because too many people will go, “How do I ask it? What do I say? That doesn’t sound very smooth.” Forget about being smooth, just give yourself permission to be awkward and if it feels awkward, just tell them, “I’ve got a question I want to ask you but I have to admit it’s going to be kind of awkward.” When you label it, they’re okay with it so label it, it’s awkward.
Don’t wait for the perfect moment, no such thing exists. What’s the best that can happen and what’s the worst that could happen? This one I got from a client who says, “I realize they won’t take my birthday again.” They’re not going to pull out a gun and cheat you, you’re not going to go to jail for life, they’re not going to take your birthday away. What’s your best case, what’s your worst case? And the worst case is never anywhere near what we define it to be.
Fred Diamond: I’m reflecting here on the point you just made which is that your courage grows as your pipeline grows. As I’m looking at this list here, we have a lot of people logging in today and hopefully there’s a lot of people listening to this as a Sales Game Changers podcast. There’s a lot of people who were booking everything on a deal or one deal to come through or one customer. Imagine if your one customer was AMC Movies in 2020, obviously it’s a tough customer to have in 2020 because all the movie theaters are closed. As you’re saying there, the bigger your pipe, the more courage you have. Every deal isn’t as critical per se and you have some leeway to find others, that definitely goes towards eliminating your fear. Andy, we have a question here from Sue, Sue is also in the DC region. Sue wants to know, “Should I stop asking for things over email?” That’s a great question and you’re one of the experts on picking up the phone and getting through to prospects, let’s talk about asking via anything besides the phone, I guess in person is probably the best way.
Andy Miller: Fred, I want to table that because I’m actually going to address that a little bit later during the presentation, soon we will answer that question and there’s definitely a better way to do it versus a less-effective way to do it.
The asking mindset, you’ve got to get yourself in the right mindset to start asking and I just love this book, The Little Engine that Could, it’s a classic, everybody’s ready. The little engine thought he could so that’s when I look at you’ve got to change your language, you’ve got to change what you say to yourself of, “I can’t do this, it won’t work” to, “I can do this and it will work.” You’ve got to get that positive expectation and I don’t mean that from a Pollyannaish perspective but you’ve got to have positive expectations. Then ask yourself, “How do I make this happen? How do I reach so and so? How do I get that price increase? How do I get a larger piece of the business?” When you start asking ‘how do I’ now you start trying to solve versus ‘can I’. ‘Can I’ is, “Can I or can’t I?” There’s doubt in there but, “How do I…?” assumes probability that it’s going to happen. Another thing, look around. If they can do it, so can I. Look at your peers, if your peers are making things happen, “If so-and-so is doing it, I’m certainly as smart as he or she is so why am I not out there doing it? Let’s go do it.” All you need is to see one person pull it off and all of a sudden you’re going, “If they did, I can do it, I’ve just got to figure out how to do it.”
You can ask for anything and I really mean ask for anything. Figure out what you want, go ask for it and then you get what you ask for so don’t sell yourself short. If you really want something else, don’t ask for less, ask for what you really want and this statement, you’ve heard this a thousand times: if you don’t ask, you don’t get. That’s so true, the problem is we don’t ask and there’s a cost of not asking, there’s a cost to you of not asking, there’s also a cost to your customer or your prospect of not asking. Are you short-changing them by not asking them? Because if you’re asking, clearly you think you’ve got something that’s going to help. My experience is both people want to help, it’s in our nature. When somebody asks for help, we want to grant it and over the year, the one thing that I’ve seen in all my clients is they’re like, “I can’t ask for that” and I go, “Humor me, just go try it.” They come back and go, “I got them on the phone, I asked them and without hesitation they’re like, ‘Sure’ like it was no big deal, no-brainer. All the energy that I had wrapped up around asking and how I thought they were going to respond, it was almost anti-climactic because they just granted it without a second thought.” That’s my point, it’s really that easy, you just have to go do it.
Andy Miller: Let’s talk about the 7 characteristics of askers, these are what askers have in common. The first one is they know what they want, they’re clear on their ask, they go big and they’re intentional about it, they know what they want. They believe they’re worthy, they believe they deserve it, they believe they bring value. Deserving it and being entitled are two different things, I don’t feel entitled, I do believe I deserve it but I’ve got to ask. Third thing, they believe they can get it, they’re focused on the possibility, they believe it’s doable, they love the challenge. Maybe it’s a stretch, but they expect to get it, they believe they can get it. Fourth one, they’re passionate about the ask so they’ve got a strong desire for it, they’ve got some enthusiasm and as you know, Fred, enthusiasm is infectious. When you’re around people who are excited about what’s going on, you like being a part of it and when you ask for something and you’re enthusiastic about it, it makes people feel good. Next, they take action in the face of fear.
There was a book written years ago called Feel the Fear but Do It Anyway. I love that title, that’s what Nike was all about. Fred, you brought this up earlier, they find the courage, it’s courage. Sixth thing that askers know, they learn from their experience so they make their ask, if they didn’t get what they wanted they observe how the people responded and then they ask themselves, “Do I need to make some adjustments? Do I need to go to somebody and get some coaching? What could I do better? How could I approach it differently?” They make the adjustment and then they go back and ask again. Just because you got a no the first time doesn’t mean it’s over, adjust, go back and ask again. The seventh one is they’re persistent. That is you’ve got to ask 6 times to get that 60% close rate, they’re unrelenting in their determination and they refuse to give up. This is what the askers know.
Fred Diamond: Those seven attributes of the askers, those are attributes of great sales professionals. Like I said, we’ve done over 300 Sales Game Changer podcast interviews of sales thought leaders and the commonality that I see with all of them is it’s been a career of courage for getting where they worked and all those types of things. To get to the level of VP, to get to the level of Chief of Sales or Chief Revenue Officer you need to have asked so many people for business, you need to have asked so many partners to be a partner, so many people for the opportunity to present, so many people internally to help you with a deal or a process or those types of things. It all comes down to those seven characteristics and some people do it differently than others. Not everybody does it the same way, one person’s persistence might be another person’s more subtle persistence but it’s still there. Asking is just a common thread of the best sales professionals out there, Andy.
Andy Miller: If you want to see the best askers, watch a two and a half year old or three year old in the shopping cart at the grocery store when their parents take them down the checkout counter that has all the candy or the little toys. You’ll see a master asker at work [laughs] because they’re relentless and they’ll just ask, ask, ask.
Fred Diamond: Let’s go back to that for one second, professionalism in the asking. When you see that same two and a half year old, if the mom or dad doesn’t say yes to the lollipop in three asks then the kid starts crying usually and then everybody in the supermarket wants to get that kid escorted out.
Andy Miller: [Laughs]
Fred Diamond: Talk about that for a second, persistence and professionalism, I’m curious what your view is on the professional salesperson versus maybe someone who’s overly demanding if there’s any value even having this conversation.
Andy Miller: My technique personally is when I get to the sixth ask I start to cry, that’s what I do, [laughs] I’m kidding. Again, I think we give too much energy to the style in which we ask, just be yourself. You know the people you’re approaching, just make a nice, pleasant ask and that’s why we get hung up on, “What are the words I should say? What should my tone be?” Ask like you’re asking a friend, if you think about, “I’m going to ask my buddy Tom if he wants to go to the movies on Friday night”, do you really spend time and energy around what words you need to use and what your tone needs to sound like? You just call him up and go, “Hey, Tom, do you want to go see a movie on Friday?” and Tom goes, “What kind of movie did you have in mind?” That’s how it goes so like I said, I think we get too hung up on technique, style, tonality, just ask. If you’ve been in sales for any length of time, you know how to be pleasant, just be pleasant as you ask.
Fred Diamond: We have another question here that comes in from Jerry and Jerry is up in New Jersey, Jerry is a frequent attendee at our webinars. Jerry wants to know, “How do I not sound like I’m begging by the time it’s the sixth time I’ve asked?” That may go back to what you were saying. I remember one of our speakers once said that a customer is only going to buy if they need what you’re selling, especially now. People are challenged with solving their problems that have been caused because of the pandemic and we talk about this on every Sales Game Changers episode that we do every single day. Every customer in the world has unique challenges now, which is dealing with the COVID side of the pandemic and then, of course, dealing with the financial side. This goes back to the message that if you’re up to the sixth and seventh ask, maybe there’s just not a need or you need to rethink how you’re doing it. Is there a thin line between asking and begging or is it just something that maybe Jerry is overthinking here? Thanks, Jerry for the question.
Andy Miller: Jerry, my comment would be do you have something that they need? Do you have something that offers value? Because if you don’t, I get calls all the time of people asking if I need such and such or if I’m willing to help with so and so and no, I don’t need temporary services. They don’t know me, they don’t know what I need. They called up, they asked, I gave them credit and I go no but there is a difference. If you’re badgering them, don’t badger. If you’re desperate, don’t beg. An ask is just simply an ask, “Can I have some of your French fries? Can you buy me a coffee?” That’s just an ask and they go, “Sure, I’ll help you get a coffee” or, “I’m happy sharing my French fries.” That’s not begging but if you ask them 20 times, Jerry, I would say you really got to look at what you’re selling, who you’re approaching, do they need what you have? Because if they don’t need what you have, there’s no reason to ask 6 times. The answer is still going to be no.
Fred Diamond: Andy, before I ask you for your final thought I want to thank you again for being on today’s webinar. We do have one question here and the question is how can I get better at asking? Again, you’ve worked with tens of thousands of sales professionals in your distinguished career, is there any practice that you could have people do that you recommend? Because there still seems to be a fear of doing some of the things that are required in the sales process. Of course, we’re talking about how easy it is to ask and it is but you’ve still got to get to the point where it’s natural and you’re comfortable and it’s not going to impinge how you do. Is there an action practice that you can recommend people do to get better at asking?
Andy Miller: The next slide is how to ask, imagine that, we should go on the road together. Sue, your question was, “Do I ask via LinkedIn or email?” and my answer to that is no. Don’t do it via email or LinkedIn, I feel like that’s hiding. Do it in person, do it on the phone, do it on a Zoom call but you’ve got to get face to face somehow. Don’t do it on LinkedIn, don’t do it on the email, it’s easy for them to say no and you just can’t project the authenticity that you need to. Ask for some advice, ask for some coaching from them or ask for a chance, be clear and specific on your ask, be authentic, you’ve got to be genuine. Then ask someone that can give it to you, don’t ask the person who can say no but can’t say yes. Ask as if you expect to get it and then be ready to explain why because somebody might go, “Why do you want that?” Be ready with a decent explanation, not a long one, just, “Here’s what I’m trying to do.” Don’t get upset if they say no. By the way, they’re not going to get upset but they may say, “No, not interested” and remember, you’ve got to ask more than five times.
The last thing to your last question is how do we get better at it? Here’s the challenge. My challenge to you is do what I did, be an alien for a week, make a list of your asks, believe you can get it and then go out there and ask, ask, ask. Be gracious, have some fun with it and then I want you to send both me and Fred your success stories. You’ve got to practice, you’ve got to start somewhere and if you’re afraid to go for the big asks, go for the little ones. Build that ask muscle because you’ve got to build the muscle up. Fred, that answered the last two questions that we had so hopefully everybody got what they needed out of that.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo