EPISODE 555: Eliminate the 5 Layers of Buyer Resistance with Connie Whitman

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast was sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales, and featured an interview with Connie Whitman, host of the Changing the Sales Game Podcast. Participate in her Eliminate the 5 Layers of Buyer Resistance here.]

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CONNIE’S TIP: “Become a Pitbull when it comes to follow up. My follow up is called CPR, keeping the client alive. It’s consistent, persistent, the big word, respectful follow up. You got to do the follow ups. Two percent of successful salespeople follow up past the 13th touch. Just think about those numbers. Most salespeople stop around the 5th. You’re leaving so much money on the table, so much opportunity and so many referrals that you could be getting.”


Fred Diamond: Connie, really excited to have you here. You’re a high energy person, I’m high energy. I think people, if they’re listening to this in their car or mowing their lawn, hopefully they don’t turn into flames and spontaneously combust. But the theme of today is getting in front of the objectionless buyer. We’re going to be talking about your seven-step signature process. Again, we’re talking today with Connie Whitman. Tell us your book again that you’ve published. It’s a fantastic book.

Connie Whitman: Yes, Easy Sales, ESP. I did title it that way, specifically, Fred, because we do have to have ESP to a certain extent, but mine is Easy Sales Process, and then it’s Seven Steps to Sales Success and that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Fred Diamond: Absolutely. You’re also the host of a couple of podcasts, Changing the Sales Game, and Enlightenment of Change. Let’s get started. I guess the first question is, give us a little bit of a perspective before we start getting into this. What exactly is buyer resistance and where does it come from? Again, our audience is comprised of sales professionals, so everybody that’s going to be listening understands objections, but you’ll give us a little bit of insight on where you think it really comes from.

Connie Whitman: It’s funny because all of us, even professional salespeople, we have buyer’s resistance. Where did this buyer’s resistance come from? Movies like Wolf of Wall Street, Madoff, the new one with De Niro, the other one is Glengarry Glen Ross. That’s one of the older ones, “Always be closing.” The vibe out there of sales was that icky sleazy kind of vibration.

Additionally now, think about the last time you bought something, maybe even not necessarily a super high ticket option or something that you purchased, but you get home, you open it, you use it, and you think, “This isn’t what I thought I was getting.” We’ve been, I use the word duped. We bought something that really wasn’t what was sold to us. All of those things contribute to our prospects and our clients having that apprehension and they throw up these layers of buyer’s resistance because of those experiences, those movies.

The one that I shared, I was training recently with a corporate client the other day, and we were talking about buyers’ resistance, objections, why do we get them? One of the things I shared was on Netflix. Recently, Fred, the celebrities were getting their kids into these really high end schools like Harvards and Berkeleys and all of that and they were doing it through paying this guy who got them in through “scholarships”, etc. You know what I’m talking about, it was in the news.

Well, they did a documentary on Netflix and my husband and I watched it and the entire time, everybody narrating or who they interview is like, “Oh, he’s a great salesperson.” I mute it, I look at my husband and I go, “No, he’s a dirtbag and he’s a con artist. That’s not sales.” All of these perspectives and perceptions, that’s what professional salespeople, that’s what business owners, this is what we’re up against. We have to break those barriers down and let people know, “No I’m going to over deliver, not under deliver and rip you off.” That’s where it comes from.

Fred Diamond: At the Institute for Excellence in Sales, the main host for the Sales Game Changers podcast, we view sales as a noble profession. Again, the audiences that we serve, these are people who’ve devoted their career to professional sales and it’s about serving the customer and it’s about providing value and it’s about being a team with the customer understanding their challenges.

But I agree with you, in a lot of cases the buyer still views sales potentially as influence or as getting me to do something I don’t want to do and the great sales professionals, the elite ones, they get to the point where they really are committed to the customers mission, etc. Talk about the layers underneath buyer resistance and what specifically are these various layers?

Connie Whitman: There’s five of them, specifically. The first one is, are you showing up prepared for me? Am I the center of your universe? I’m exaggerating here, but am I the most important thing, person in front of you for the next half-hour, hour, whatever our time together is? Are you prepared? Are you showing up? Did you do your homework about me?

How many times have you been on Zoom calls, Fred, recently and the person says, “Wait, who are you? What are we talking about?” They’re trying to sell to you, right? You saw them speak or something. I think to me, that’s horrifying. You should have all your ducks in a row and then when I show up, I should be the center of your world, right? Not literally, but you know what I’m saying.

Second thing is time. The number of times that people have spent their time with salespeople, I’m not saying the salespeople that are listening or you or I Fred, but they spend time with the salesperson and at the end, they didn’t get what they thought, it’s viewed as a waste of time. So are you showing up prepared or is my time with you going to be value added and not a suck of my time where then I go, “Oh, man, why did I give up that hour? That was a waste.” That’s the second one.

The third one is the questions. Everybody listening, we know our questions are a magic wand. If we don’t set up that whole process by saying, and this is what I personally use, I’d say, “Hey, Fred, listen, I know that you need help for changing the mindset on your sales team. Listen, we’re going to address that. Before we even talk about recommendations, I’m going to ask a whole bunch of questions. Once I understand you, your team, your specifics, then I could give a recommendation.”

Again, it’s shows I’m prepared, it shows the client they matter, and then I go into my really good questions. But by doing that little setup, Fred, it puts the person or the prospect on the offensive posture, because we just came out with the benefit of why we need to ask questions, and what’s in it for them at the end of whatever this conversation is.

Then the fourth one is listening. This is a big one because Fred, humans, we have a six-second attention span. Even though us sales professionals, we know, we show up, we’re in our zone, all of those things, we’re hydrated, we’ve done all that research, the client has a six-second attention span. How do we ask those questions, really listen to their answers actively?

Then here’s where the magic starts happening. Because we’re so good at what we do when we start asking follow-up questions, the client will look at us and say, “That’s such a good question. I never really thought about that.” All of a sudden, what did we just do? They came in with a specific need, whatever that need is, depending on what kind of provider I am. But now we’ve just blown that up that hopefully, we can serve them bigger and even better where the salesperson before who wasn’t as good as us, they stuck right to that one-dimensional kind of thing because they weren’t listening. That’s the second piece.

When we go into that question, active listening, they’re married, tethered together, our skill set that we bring to the client, I’m telling you, this is where I see a lot of salespeople personally leave money on the table because they’re not doing that dance in such a refined way. Then the fifth one is, now we go to make that recommendation. If we failed or misstepped in breaking down those first four layers, this is where the objections come in.

But really, when we make our recommendation, it should be so spot on. I tease, Fred. I say we were so clear on who this client is and what they need right here right now. Also what they potentially need from us in the future, we want to set that up. They are like, “I love you, oh, my God.” The recommendation that we offer, it’s like a light from the heavens. It becomes so obvious that this is a perfect match.

Three things happen at this point and I know everybody listening is resonating with this one. One, the clients leaning in, “Oh, my goodness, how fast can we start this? I needed you yesterday.” Second one, you say to the client, “You’re not ready for me,” for whatever reason, and there could be a multitude. They have other things going on. They’re looking for financing. They can’t put the time in for whatever you’re offering, all those things.

You say, “You’re not ready for me yet.” I just had this with a client recently. I said to her, “You’re still in such early phases of creating a culture, why don’t we circle back?” and I gave her homework. I gave her things to do and she’s like, “Yeah, and then can we get together in August?” Sure we can. She’s just not ready for me right now but when they do budgets in the fall, I think I have a really good shot.

Then the last one is, “I’m not the right person for you. After understanding, Fred, who you are and what you need, you need to meet my colleague, Jim. He’s really the one who can serve you.” Then we hand off that referral. We start to build that referral network through that law of reciprocity and all of those things. Those are the five layers that we need to break through to not get objections and get in front of that objectionless buyer.

Fred Diamond: Actually, one reason we’ve done over 580 episodes of the Sales Game Changers podcast and why we published our book, Insights for Sales Game Changers, is sales professionals, it’s a profession. As a profession, you don’t just learn it once, and then you are successful for the next 30 years.

Connie Whitman, the people who are listening to today’s show, and who come to IES events and engage with leaders like you and read your book and listen to your podcast, they want to keep getting better at the art and science of sales. Some of the best ones, they reach out to me and say, “What books, Fred, do you recommend I read today? I read the ones that you recommended, I want to read something new.” If you think about it, you need to do the five layers. You need to understand them critically.

One of the best quotes we’ve ever had on the Sales Game Changers podcast was by a guy named Gary Milwit who’s with a company called JG Wentworth. They’re the company that buys settlements, basically. He said, “My tip for all the people listening, make whoever you’re talking to feel important. Make them feel that they’re the most important.” That was one of the first things that you said.

How do you eliminate some of these layers? What are some of the strategies that you work with, with sales professionals or business owners, to help them understand how they need to remove these? As I’m looking at the list of the five, those are continuing skills that sales professionals constantly need to be working on because times change, and customers change, and the customers’ needs change, and then you get macro things like a pandemic, and blah, blah, blah. How do you eliminate these layers?

Connie Whitman: You’re right. Fred, I’ve been doing this 40 years, I’ve been in business 21. It’s constant reiteration, constant improvements, constant self-reflection. When COVID hit, I had done everything live. I wasn’t really digitized other than my two shows. I really wasn’t digitized. Then all of a sudden, the world stop, income stopped, what do you do? I thought, “Well, whoa, I have skill. I need new skills now.” It’s exactly what you just said, we can never rest on our laurels and it’s that constant reiteration and learning. Here’s the other funny thing. It is a profession. Doctors have to go for continuing ed, CPAs have to go for continuing ed. It’s the same thing for us as sales professionals. We constantly have to hone those skills.

When we talk about those five, some of the strategies like preparation, I crack up because some people are just naturally super organized and some people, Fred, they’re just a hot mess. You can’t be a hot mess. If that’s something you’ve been working on, and you think, “Yeah, I’m still not there yet,” you got to keep working on it. You can’t say it’s good enough. Good is the enemy of great. I believe, and everybody listening, I know, we want to be great, we want to be top of mind, we want to be the vendor of choice, whatever it is that you’re selling.

The second one is that time element. You know this, we call it the 30-second commercial for a reason. We have less than 30 seconds to form that dynamic and connected first impression and it’s really less than 30 seconds. I’ve created a communication model, and this is the core I believe in salespeople success today and going forward. This is where I think the practitioner in us, that practice needs to come from.

I have a communication style assessment. There’s five different styles. This really helps with all of the steps but especially in that second step where the person immediately feels valued, seen, heard. They want it, they want to hear from you because they know you’re professional at whatever it is. There’s five styles. What does that mean? Twenty percent of the time or two out of 10 people you speak with that have never met you before, they’re just like you. It’s easy peasy. Fred, you and I, we met, I feel like I’ve known you my whole life. That’s that 20%.

Well, 8 out of 10 or 80% of the time, we’re talking to people that aren’t like us. Everybody listening, you know this. Intuitively, if you’ve gone through DISC or Myers Briggs, or predictive index or any of them, there’s an element of this in that. At this point, how do we fast forward and break down those layers and what your other guests had said? The customer has to feel or the prospect has to feel they are the utmost of importance. It’s by flexing and modifying so that I communicate to the person the way they need to be communicated with.

I’ll give you an example. One of my clients is an architect, very cerebral, very creative, a little bit absent-minded professor. Oh, I’m the furthest from that. What did I need to do when I communicated? I had to slow down. I had to give him a lot of examples. I had to give him analytics. I had to show him a bunch of things to prove that it would work. I don’t need that if you’re selling to me, but he needed that. I’m still me and I’m still giving him everything that’s Connie Whitman as far as what I can offer him. But I had to pivot, I had to shift. That’s not comfortable for me, but that’s what he needed from me. That whole communication process, I believe, Fred, is at the core of us getting better, easier, faster, and serving bigger, easier, faster, by getting those communication skills honed and vibrating at a super intense level.

Fred Diamond: If we talk about sales as a profession, and let’s say someone like you is engaged by a sales organization to help, obviously, you need to do an assessment and figure out where they are. Where are some of the big places right now, Connie, that you believe sales professionals are really falling short in? You gave us the five layers and inside each of the five layers, there’s hours and things that we could do, asking right questions.

I had a guest on yesterday from Merck, the pharmaceutical company, and his customer is doctors, and he said, “We got 30 seconds.” He said, “If we don’t intrigue them in 30 seconds, we’re pretty much not going to be invited to stick around. There’s more to it than that, but he basically said, “The doctor is going to give us 30 seconds to get the message across,” and that’s going to lead them into a further conversation about some of the drugs. Looking at the five layers, what do you think people should embrace first? Where do you see the biggest gaps in not just expertise, but in the ability to perform?

Connie Whitman: I really think that sometimes, especially for seasoned, and I’m hot and spicy. That’s how seasoned I am, Fred. We’re seasons that we’ve been doing this so long, sometimes we do think, “I could wing this,” right? Just don’t, because it just never works out well, unless you’re just super lucky. I do believe in luck because I think we create luck in our lives, but I don’t count on luck to pay the bills or for me to get in front of new clients. I think that preparedness.

The other thing that I see, most of the people I teach and the clients I work with, the follow up. Which I laugh at because to me, it’s the easiest step. Put me in your Outlook or your calendar, whatever, and then when I show up, make sure the other thing too is, please take notes. I know I’m preaching to the choir with the folks listening, but you have to go back and reflect on those notes because there’s something sometimes three days later, “I’m going to follow up with Fred in three days, I’m going to send you something and I’m going to follow up.”

I go back to my notes, inevitably, you’re in a different headspace, you’re going to see something in those notes that you missed the first time or that you didn’t see clearly or that you thought, “Why didn’t I start with that?” Again, that preparedness, being ready to listen, take those notes, and then get me in the follow up immediately at the end.

Fred Diamond: Well, basically, some of the things that you said are right on target. I’ll give you a couple of examples. It’s interesting, one thing I hate is when we do a podcast, let’s say someone listens to today’s podcast, and I get notes all the time from people who listen. Each show gets about 5,000 impressions. I usually get at least 5 to 10 people who reach out with a specific comment about the show, and they’ll say, “Oh, that’s a great reminder to take notes.”

Okay, you know what? That’s fine. Sometimes I’ll say, “I wish it wasn’t just a reminder,” because we’re giving you things that you should be doing but maybe it’s like, “I forgot to take notes,” or, “I’m not taking notes anymore. I used to be but I’m 20, 30 years into my sales career but I stopped taking notes,” which goes back to what you said which is some people shift into the winging it. They don’t do the preparation and then you know what they do, Connie? They reach out to you, or they start listening to the Sales Game Changers podcast, where they’ll buy a purchase of my book, Insights for Sales Game Changers or your book, and they’ll realize, the good ones, “I’ve gotten a little bit sloppy, I didn’t prepare as much as I should have.” It’s like, “You know what? I want to get back into it.”

You know what? We’re all human. Even the best sales professionals that I know, things happen, things in the personal life, whatever it might be, and then they need to get back. But here’s the thing, the great salespeople, they realize it, or they had a coach. Like you or their leader or the mentor who says, “Hey, Sue, you weren’t really prepared for this call.” “You know what? You’re right. I wasn’t prepared for the call. I ain’t going to let that happen again.”

Connie Whitman: Can I add something? Exactly right. We’re human, right? It is what it is. We do go back into bad habits. I do, too. We all do. Here’s the thing and you said something very profound just now and I just want to reiterate. See, that was active listening, what I’m about to say. Within these organizations, the other thing that I see, the biggest stressor, or where we fail our employees is we don’t do observation and sales, and observe the skill of the employee, especially if I’m a team leader, that we’re quick to say, “You’re not making enough phone calls.” Meanwhile, maybe my phone skills, they’re good but I could be getting 8 out of 10 appointments instead of 2 out of 10 appointments. Instead of observing and say, “Make more phone calls,” because it’s always about the numbers in sales, that’s where our brains go.

It’s like, “Fred, I’ve observed you several times, I think we could tweak a little bit, tweak your 80% there, it’s that 20% we need to get in and tweak. I think we could get better on sales, keep making the same number of phone calls. Let’s see the skill development. I bet we can turn those two into four, into six, into eight yeses to meet you out of 10 people instead of just those two.”

Here’s the other thing. We’re salesmen, we talk fast, we think fast, our energy is high. That’s who we are, honor that. You have to pause and observe our teams because they do need our help. If we don’t, we’re not serving them, we’re not serving ourselves because the numbers won’t come. Behaviors drive the numbers. I think that’s another piece of the puzzle that we have to observe to make sure our employees, those that we lead aren’t falling into bad habits either. It’s a big responsibility.

Fred Diamond: A couple of things that you said there are quite intriguing. One is the great sales professionals, the elite ones that we’ve worked with at the Institute for Excellence in Sales that are members that participate in our programs, they’re coachable. I remember a couple years ago, we were thinking about creating a coaching program. We created a mentor program at the Institute for Excellence in Sales. A lot of people loved it, it was very successful. Then we said, let’s create a coaching program. One of the coaches that we brought into it, he said, “It’s going to fail.” He said, “Coaching programs don’t work if the sales professional doesn’t want to be coached.”

Mentoring is pretty simple. It’s like, “Connie, you might want to get to sleep earlier so that you have more energy in the morning.” Or, “What else have you done to be successful?” “Well, you know what? I’ve always been five minutes early to meetings.” Those kinds of things a mentor is going to share, a coach is going to say, “I’m going to call you every day at 6:45 to make sure that you’re awake. If you ain’t awake at 6:45, I’m not going to coach anymore, because you’re not being coachable.” The great sales professionals, they want to be coached.

The other thing that you touched on which comes up all the time, too, I’m curious on your thoughts on this. Again, you’re up in Jersey, you got a lot of energy, you’ve written books, you have communities, you have more books coming out, you do two podcasts, you serve so many people. Mindfulness. That comes up all the time. The ability to take a breath. The ability to think, to set aside quiet time.

A lot of sales professionals, it is go, go, go. In the heyday of the lockdown, eight zoom calls in a row. Then we had to start making our zoom calls 45 minutes instead of 55 because people needed to use the facilities or go upstairs and get a bite to eat. So companies started saying, “We’re going to start our meetings on time, but we’re going to end them at 45 minutes.” I’m interested in your thoughts on that as a super high energy person, the concept of mindfulness in sales and where are you with that?

Connie Whitman: It’s one of my areas that I worked on, so we’re always reiterating. It’s funny, a couple of weeks ago I posted an article about a little boy in a kayak. If you’d like, go back and look at my LinkedIn and you’ll see it. But the idea was when we’re children, it’s very easy for us to play and imagine and create and this little boy in the kayak, and he didn’t even know, we have a house on the Jersey Shore and I was on our deck and he couldn’t see me. It was really early in the morning, I was being super quiet. I didn’t want to like blow his play. He made believe he was in this big kayak race. He was probably 10 years old. I mean, down to the roar of the fans. I sat there and I reflected and I thought, “Oh, my goodness, this is my next LinkedIn article. We need to be more present and play and we forget.”

Then fast forward the following week, I had a client coming from the Pacific Northwest, never met before, we were only on Zoom. She came, she had a conference down in DC. She says, “Can we go out to lunch?” I’m like, “Oh, we’re going to spend a half a day together.” Here’s the kicker. We spent the half a day, I took her to the lighthouse. We went up all the way to the top, she took the great view, the pictures. We put our feet in the beach, we went to the beach, put our feet in the water. You know what we did the entire time? We brainstormed, we mastermind, we talked about business and strategies.

At the end, we were driving back and I’m like, “Oh my God, we got so much done today.” It was a play date. We played hooky, but we didn’t because we were free. Our thoughts were so free and calm and there was no pressure of, “I got to get that email out, I got to do that.” We just chatted, we came up with several ideas that we’re going to implement within our businesses. What you’re saying is powerful and needed and in sales it’s go, go, go, go, where’s the next client? Where’s the next person? What do I need to do? We need to really learn how to slow down to speed up and that is my mission for this year for 2022. I’m really, really being mindful of slowing down to speed up and being present. Easier said than done everybody, I know.

Fred Diamond: Yeah, but you’re obviously doing some steps there. Connie, I just want to acknowledge you for all the great work you do. You’ve helped so many business owners and sales professionals with your books and your podcasts and your training and all the things that you do to serve them, so good for you. It’s been an honor talking to you today on the Sales Game Changers podcast. You’ve given us so many great ideas. Give us one final action step, some other thing people should do right now after listening to today’s Sales Game Changers podcast to take their sales career to the next level.

Connie Whitman: Become a Pitbull when it comes to follow up. My follow up is called CPR, keeping the client alive. It’s consistent, persistent, the big word, respectful follow up. You got to do the follow ups. Even if you don’t, most of the companies now have CRM systems, figure out your CRM system, use it, get those notes, do that follow up. Two percent of successful salespeople follow up past the 13th touch. Just think about those numbers. Most salespeople stop around the 5th. You’re leaving so much money on the table, so much opportunity and so many referrals that you could be getting.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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