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EPISODE 198: The Sales Evangelist – Donald Kelly – Says This Approach to Sales Prospecting Will Set You Apart from All Other Sellers
DONALD’S FINAL TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “Every organization out there has some kind of problem, your prospects do. Somebody is going to solve that problem for them, so why not you? Take the advantage, go the high road, figure this out first and be the first one to solve the problem. If you do that, you stand out more than anybody else.”
Donald Kelly is known as the Sales Evangelist.
He conducts workshops, keynote presentations, design sales processes, offer sales team training and coach sales individuals and executives.
He’s the host of The Sales Evangelist podcast which is heard in over 155 countries.
Find Donald on LinkedIn!
Fred Diamond: You’re a celebrity in the sales performance improvement world so I’m thrilled to have you here. Why don’t you tell us a little bit about you that we need to know?
Donald Kelly: I have a podcast, like you mentioned, the Sales Evangelist Podcast and that’s dedicated towards helping new and struggling sellers to improve their sales game because when I started off selling, I had a passion and desire but I sucked at what I was doing. [Laughs] I did well in B to C but when I came to the B to B world it was a different game for me and it was just really difficult. I started the podcast as a means of being able to educate those individuals that were in the same shoes I was and to help them to elevate their game as well. That’s a little bit about me.
Fred Diamond: Tell us a little more about what you offer. I know you have the podcast, of course but do you also do training, consulting? What types of things do you do as a business?
Donald Kelly: Naturally as the podcast started to grow, I started to get individuals that reach out to me for coaching. I started to do individual one-on-one coaching and that was fun doing that with reps, but then obviously when the business side came from it, these reps would bring it back to companies and then I started getting entrepreneurs who wanted to develop their sales. Some of them just were solo-preneurs, those guys who were selling or maybe making $500 thousand a year, close to a mil but they wanted to replicate themselves so they said, “Can you come in and do some consulting for us and show us what we need to do to create a sales force and help set that stuff up?”
So I started doing a couple of those and then that started to grow as well. Naturally, the speaking opportunity came from it and it just started making sense for me after doing this for several years. In 2015 I left the full-time gig to do the podcasting and all of that. The business side of the podcast didn’t make money per se but it led to leads and opportunities for coaching, speaking and consulting. Now the podcast is a means of generating its own income as well and take care of its own expenses.
Fred Diamond: Tell us how you first got into sales as a career.
Donald Kelly: It was in college, even prior to college. Everyone in my family did something towards sales. Growing up as a Jamaican boy, everybody sells something [laughs] so I saw it as in my family and I didn’t see it as sales as a business. “You’re a businessman if you sell something, man.” I’m outgoing and people always said, “Man, you’d be perfect for sales” so then I started doing a little bit of stuff and then went into college, and then that’s where everyone was like, “You definitely need to be in sales.” The universities didn’t have any sales programs.
Fred Diamond: Where did you go to school?
Donald Kelly: Brigham Young, it was the Brigham Young University, Idaho campus, so I ate a lot of potatoes [Laughs]. My friends would tell me I should consider doing this so I went and got a couple sales jobs, I worked in a Dish Network facility office where we called out over the phone and then I started to do time share presentations where we were getting people doing the SDR work and getting people to time share. Then I went and did door to door security sales and did server job as well so all of these things were more like the entertaining the one-on-one with the individual, the consumer and did pretty darn well at that.
In the summer sales I made like $20 thousand in three months doing door to door and that was the low end. That was my first year doing it and I did it for one year, I needed to get money for a non-paid internship. That was the B to C side and I did well with it. Then I worked for IT training company and they dabbled in both sides. We sold to the consumer as well as we sold to the businesses, and that’s when I started to get into the professional world of selling. It was hard.
Fred Diamond: We’ve had a number of Sales Game Changers that we’ve interviewed for the podcast and a couple of them have started in door-to-door, grind-it-out selling various types of things. Why don’t you tell us some of the key lessons you learned from some of those first few sales jobs that have stuck with you?
Donald Kelly: One of the things that I learned especially doing door to door security is not necessarily hard work but working smart. I’ll use hustle, I know that word is tossed around so much now it gets watered down, but I saw people who were working hard and they’re walking around all day but they weren’t doing effective work, they weren’t hustling effectively. They got tired and got burned out and went home. If you’re hustling it means that you’re efficient, you got on a door at a certain time, you knew your messaging, you practiced before you got there and you found out when things are not going to work, and you don’t try to make it. In the door to door security world it’s a one shot hit, it’s a one hit wonder. If I knock on your door, I have 45 minutes.
The idea of me coming back to you, if I was to do that all day long, just go back to all of these houses, I would never make any sales so if it doesn’t work, I need to move onto the next one. It taught me that I just need to be efficient and I need to hustle, that’s one of the biggest things I took. When I came to the B to B side and I started doing some BDR work for a software company and I was in inside sales, I just knew that I needed to not just sit here and loath over, “I’m just going to keep calling this guy over and over again.” It’s like, “I’m going to call them but I need to recognize when something is not going to work and I need to move on, just be efficient and to hustle.” Planning was a key thing, too coming in from that side of the world because it was a full commission job. Your morning time, you do a meeting at 10 o’clock, you drive and you get out by eleven, midday and you’re going till the evening time. During that time period it’s my game time and I’m not going to stop and go on Facebook or sit down and play Angry Birds – maybe I did once in a while – but you’re out there and your time is money because it’s full commission. You need to pay rent.
Fred Diamond: Donald, a lot of people follow you on the internet, on Facebook, LinkedIn and other places, you have a very popular show so a lot of people probably view you as a mentor. Why don’t you tell us about a mentor or two that has impacted your sales career?
Donald Kelly: One of the mentors that helped me is named Steve Hatch, he’s actually local here in Orlando and he took me under his wing at that IT training company. He was the CEO of the company and he had to do the sales. He brought me in, again, my personality, he thought that would help but realize you need a lot more than just personality. Steve brought me in but he taught me not only the sale side but taught me the business, helped me to understand business acumen and threw me into some deep ends.
One of those deep ends was I did a little bit of marketing with him but we were trying to figure out a deal with a local NPR station. He helped me to be able to lead that and to negotiate and to work with NPR as far as this deal. He [Inaudible 09:01] but he was a great mentor and also affiliated with my church as well, so he was a leader in that sense and was a father figure in my life. He helped me to recognize the type of individuals that I could grow up to become. He helped me with that a lot, from the sales to business acumen as well as the individual enough to be a new sense of society [Laughs].
Fred Diamond: Speaking of being an individual, you just became a father as well.
Donald Kelly: I did, yes.
Fred Diamond: Congratulations.
Donald Kelly: Two weeks today after recording, two weeks ago.
Fred Diamond: That’s great, it’s probably been about two months ago when the show comes out. You deal with a lot of sales professionals and a lot of people who aren’t necessarily sales professionals but when you think about the sales professionals that you work with, what are the two biggest challenges that you think they’re faced with right now?
Donald Kelly: I would say the two biggest challenges I feel that sales reps are facing with, a lot of the ones that I meet with in the small companies is prospecting and prospecting effectively. I feel a lot of people are pulled in different worlds. They’re told that cold calling is dead but when you work with a lot of small companies, the CEO’s of those companies, that’s how they built the darned thing so they’re saying, “You need to do cold calling, you need to go that route.”
Then the social aspect, it’s putting yourself out on social media, it’s hard to do that and I think sometimes people don’t have that confidence to do it effectively. They will wait for the inbound leads and we’re taught that if you do the content, an inbound is going to come and it’s true, some of that stuff does happen but I feel that a lot of the sales reps that I work with on a day to day basis, it’s prospecting. I’m constantly trying to give them ideas and to give them training about how to utilize LinkedIn and how to do that effectively or how to take advantage of cadences and set up a flow, we call them the flow process of outreach.
Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about prospecting for a second, then. Again, you’re an expert on that so a lot of people engage you for it. Give us a tip or two on something that’s top of mind that you believe people should be thinking about as they prospect.
Donald Kelly: It’s the multi-channel outreach or omni-channel approach. What I feel with that, what I teach when I work with these sales reps, I try to encourage them to start to game off on social media to make that interaction and to connect with people, genuine connection. I’m not talking about ‘liking’ somebody’s thing, I’m talking about engagement. For instance, I did a post the other day, actually last night about role play and now I had a couple people that came on to that. I’m taking a conversation from the stream into the inbox and started to say, “Hey, thank you so much, Fred for commenting on my post, loved the comment, would love to connect.”
And once I connect, now I can take that conversation to a phone call because that phone call makes it so much warmer in engaging. Then also I take advantage of utilizing, depending on the type of product the organization is selling – if it’s something that’s going to be simple like a software for $10 dollars a month, it doesn’t make sense to do that – but for some of the bigger things, enterprise sales, what we have seen is to utilize the snail mail in that process as well to grab the attention. I will send something into the snail mail, maybe three days later. That grabs your attention, that cues it up for my cold call.
Fred Diamond: Do you physically mail it or do you Federal Express or what do you do?
Donald Kelly: Physically, USPS, you can take advantage of some of those flat rate boxes depending on what you’re doing. One of the clients – I’ll give you an example with this – they were trying to get demonstration, they were in the behavioral health space and their sales reps were doing a lot of the cold calls alone and they weren’t doing a multi-channel approach and that wasn’t working too well. We said, “Okay, let’s try an experiment.” What we did was we said, “Let’s get a box” and we created a ticket, like a Willy Wonka ticket and it was like, “Join us for demos”, like a movie ticket and then we gave them popcorn.
We wowed them and one of them found out they like Coke products and lucky it didn’t explode, but we sent them a Diet Coke in the mail. Diet Coke, popcorn, the Orville Popcorn and Swedish fish. Then we also found out his receptionist, the one that gave us some information on what kind of stuff he likes, we put two Starbucks $5 dollar gift cards, it was about $12 dollars for this box altogether. We did a bunch of these and then they were able to land 3 of the 12 from this experiment that came on, and that was about $100,000 dollar deal that they were able to close more revenue annually form just doing three boxes.
Fred Diamond: The key issue again is how do you get through? There’s a bigger challenge than ever to get through, as you know. People don’t return your phone calls, they don’t take the calls, it’s very difficult to get through. You’re going back to snail mail to get through to get those meetings. Donald, you’ve had a great career in sales, you’ve had a lot of success. Before we take a short break and listen to one of our sponsors, why don’t you tell us about your biggest success that you’re most proud of? Besides your new baby.
Donald Kelly: The biggest success I would share was when I was working in software space, we were selling to city, county, governments, K12, this was large. The average deal size that I was working on was about $30 thousand dollars, maybe $50 thousand dollars. This one client, I went in and it was like the perfect sales situation where you found one individual and then that person was our champion. We worked with that champion for about 6 months and nothing happened, then finally came to an opportunity, we found other people in the organization, he broke it out and then we started to do the consulting type of selling with multiple departments and then we started to uncover a pain and difficulties.
It was the perfect scenario, Fred. Then from that standpoint we created K Study from it because this was going before the board, so it was presentation after presentation and we were able to secure this deal. It was a multi 6-figure deal that I was able to help bring into the organization. It just worked out perfect from the start to building relationship, getting referrals in, networking, all the way down to conversion and then upselling afterwards. It was fantastic.
Fred Diamond: Donald, why don’t you give us a tip for the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe to take their careers to the next level?
Donald Kelly: Great question on this one. I read a lot of books and try to improve my game. One of my favorite books recently is Mike Weinberg’s ‘Sales Management. Simplified.’ and the whole book, for anyone who ever read any of Mike’s books, what he always goes back to is the fundamentals. Always, just go back to the fundamentals. For me, I think right now more than ever as far as sales reps taking their game to the next level is really mastering those things. I feel the biggest part besides prospecting is asking appropriate questions, questions that will get down to the heart and questions that will get to real issues. I feel, especially with the folks who I work with, a lot of them who are coming from the tech space and they’re pushing software, it’s really just like, “Hi, Fred, demo” and try to get something there.
Fred Diamond: Show up and throw up.
Donald Kelly: Yeah, and those demos go nowhere. I have a client right now that I’m working with and it was absolutely amazing, Fred, the amount of frequent demonstrations and did they have a proposal? I’m like, “Yes, this looks amazing looking at their pipeline” but it was all for show because none of those, they knew nothing about the individuals and knew nothing about the problem. I think we’re skipping that process, that part just a little bit. If there’s one thing I feel any sales rep can master is mastering discovery, mastering asking meaningful questions, questions that are going to really show your expertise and coming prepared to ask those questions. I’m not talking about worthless crap like saying you sell time management or…
Fred Diamond: Software, yeah.
Donald Kelly: Yeah, I want to know, understanding that right now, time management is one of the biggest issues going on, blah, blah, blah and especially in your industry, the regulatory changes. What are you guys doing to fix that?
Fred Diamond: Why don’t you tell us about a selling habit that you have that has led to your continued success?
Donald Kelly: Planning, planning, planning. I created a book because I couldn’t find a planner that could do it. You and I aren’t doing video right now and people can’t see us, but one side of it was the day to day planner where I broke it down from 6 am, I think about 5 am starting morning to about 8 pm in evening and broken up into 30 minute blocks. I read a book by Kevin Kruse called ’15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management’ and then another book was ‘The 12 week year’, fantastic book.
What I was doing and what I see a lot of sales reps do is we take all of our things in our mind that we need to do, say 15, 20 things that we need to do for today. The ones who plan may just take those and throw as many of them as they can up on a calendar, maybe, but it just wasn’t fitting right for me. What I started to do, I started to break down my day based on categories to see if what I’m doing was effective. In my role as a business owner, I have sales activities and marketing activities, operations and stuff like that so I started to figure out what I was doing on a day to day basis. I track all of those tasks for like a week and I can see where I have commonality, what task I’m doing over and over again and the ones that I don’t need to do. I eliminate the ones that I don’t need to do, get my team to do that and then focus on the sales related one so then now on my day to day task, each morning I sit down or each day before the end of the day, I put down what I need to get done for tomorrow based on categories that I need to focus on.
Then I take those tasks and put them on the planner so then now everything that’s on the planner has to be meaningful towards the end result, and then I have to tie to my KPI’s. At the end of the day now I’m judging my day to say, “I had 5 tasks that I needed to get done today, I got 14 out of the 15 so I had a 90%-ish, 93%, I had a good day, I’m A.” But if I get anything lower than a C, something get really wrong. I feel that many of our sales reps, what happens is that we willy-nilly each day because we follow – and Mike talks a lot about this, too – we follow based on what the CRM tells us to task as opposed to us being in charge and to take control, have meaningful activities for each and every hour of the day.
Fred Diamond: Donald, that’s great. Before we ask you for your final tip for the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe, I want to go back to something you said before. You mentioned preparation, give us an idea or two on how the Sales Game Changers listening to the podcast need to think about preparation. What’s a tip or two that you would suggest to help them be more prepared as they go in for the sales call?
Donald Kelly: Three minutes, you need to have three minute prep, and don’t try to go too far than that. If at all possible right now, we live in a global world so if you have a focus list of clients that you’re trying to get access to, maybe you can find somebody on Upwork or whatnot to outsource to say, “I want you to go do some research on these people and come back with some information.” Then now you can take that information, also your LinkedIn information to have three understanding how does this company that I’m calling into make money?
What challenges that they may have that I they’re probably not even aware of? Simply you can do that through a Google search through the industry and you can find industry related magazine. Especially if you’re focusing, I like to make our clients have their reps focus on industries so they can become proficient at that and now you can find out what are some of the common challenges that they’re facing and then understanding how does this person’s role, how do they help the company make money? You’re understanding what the company does, challenges the company may face. If you understand the challenges the company or industry may be facing, you can automatically tie your solution probably to that and then you can understand how Fred is affected by that, how Fred’s role makes money for that organization. If I can make Fred look good, solve that problem for that organization, I’m in a good situation.
Fred Diamond: That is such a great bit of advice there, Donald. One thing we keep hearing on the Sales Game Changers podcast is, “If you can help your customer achieve his or her goals, you’re so much further down the path. It’s not about you, it really is about what your customer is trying to do for their customers.” Donald, it’s been great having you on the Sales Game Changers podcast, we’ve been friends for a couple years now, it’s great to talk to you in some more detail. I love following you, I love what you say out there, I love the advice that you’re giving to the sales professionals who are seeking your assistance. Why don’t you give us one final thought to inspire the Sales Game Changers listening around the globe today?
Donald Kelly: The final thought that I would give – and it’s something that I believe strongly in – is that everyone has a problem. Every organization out there has some kind of problem, your prospects do. Somebody is going to solve that problem for them, why not you? Why not you take the advantage, go the high road, figure this out first and be the first one to solve the problem? If you do that, you stand out more than anybody else.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo
Produced by Rosario Suarez