EPISODE 513: Increase Your Sales Performance by Selling with a Servant Heart with Jim Doyle

Subscribe to the Podcast now on Apple Podcasts!

Become a member of the elite Institute for Excellence in Sales and take your sales career to the next level!

Attend the 12th Annual IES Sales Excellence Awards on June 1 in Tysons Corner.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on March 31, 2022, featuring Jim Doyle. He is the author of Selling with a Servant Heart.]

Find Jim on LinkedIn.

JIM’S TIP: “Monitor every diagnosis call you do in the next two weeks to look at how quickly you have transitioned from questions that are about them, to questions that are really leading to your product. Try to lengthen the amount of time that you’re talking about them and their issues. Most salespeople don’t do anywhere near enough of that diagnosis step, even though they claim to do diagnosis and believe that they are.”


Fred Diamond: Jim, you’re the author of Selling with a Servant Heart: Ten Lessons on the Path to Joy and Increased Income. I read the book and I want to say a quick thing. One of our advisors, he’s a guy named Brian Green, he actually was the very, very first guest I ever interviewed on the Sales Game Changers Podcast. He now works for Coursera and he always says, “I am a servant leader. I, Brian Green, I’m always a servant leader.” I always thought, “It makes sense. Yeah, I get it.” I really didn’t get it until I read your book. I thought I got it, but I really didn’t get it until I read your book. Let’s just get started. What is servant heart leading? What does it mean to be a servant leader? How is it different from the way most people sell?

Jim Doyle: Well, if you look at servant leadership, which has been around for a very, very long time, servant leadership flips the organizational chart upside down and essentially says that the leader works for them. I had 30 years in the career of training salespeople, primarily in the broadcasting business. I looked at the guys, men and women, who were so extraordinarily good, the ones that were my heroes, the ones that I just admired so much, and realized that they essentially did that same thing. I worked for them for their customers and they changed the whole paradigm. When I did the book, I wanted to see, “Okay. That worked in broadcasting. Is it true in other businesses?” I went out and interviewed 30, 35 other salespeople, amazing salespeople. I would get off these interviews and go, “Oh my gosh, that’s one of the best salespeople I’ve ever met in my life. How did they do it?”

One of their paradigms was, “I work for them.” I think where that starts is, if you’d ask me, I would have always said I was customer-focused, and I would hope that my customers would’ve thought I was customer-focused. This goes beyond that. Servant heart sellers are obsessed with the outcome of what they’re selling for the customer, obsessed with customer results. That’s where it starts. Then after that, that begins to change a lot of their processes.

Fred Diamond: Jim, I do a LinkedIn post every day. Today’s LinkedIn post I did was about the concept of your why. Of course, Simon Sinek’s Know Your Why is probably one of the biggest TED Talks of all time. I alluded to Jude Boyle from the other day, and we talked about not the salesperson’s why, but understanding the customer’s why, and how that distinguishes. How does that play into this? Is this basically the same thing, or is that something that’s corollary?

Jim Doyle: Well, how can I be obsessed with customer outcomes unless I know what their issues are? I’ve got to know what the customer’s why is. Why do they do it? I love salespeople, I’ve worked with salespeople all my life. I still love to sell. If you’d say, what’s the biggest mistake I think we make as salespeople, is even those of us who profess to be good at diagnosis, don’t ask anywhere near enough questions. The questions, they tend to be quickly questions that revert to our stuff and our product. “How are you doing? How’s the market right now? What are you doing about this?” As opposed to a servant heart seller who’s going to ask so many more questions and try to figure out the business issues behind the need that that customer has. By the way, when you do that, your closing percentage goes up dramatically. That’s why these people have far lower churn, far higher closing percentages. This is not a relationship book. This is a book about sales effectiveness, but sales effectiveness in a different way.

Fred Diamond: As I’m hearing you answer that question, we talk a lot about preparation. I like what you said there about asking the right questions and getting deep. That’s something that we talk a lot on the Sales Game Changers Podcast. Talk a little bit about the behind the scenes work, if you will. Now, I get it. It’s great when you’re with the customer to really ask deep, probing questions so you can get to that, but I think it’s got to start hours before you even meet with the customer. Talk a little bit about what sales professionals do to prepare.

Jim Doyle: I’m so grateful you’re talking about that, thank you for that question. I decided a few years ago that the wing it days were over. It bugged me, frankly, because I was good at wing it. I was getting this idea that I could make it up as I went along. Today’s sales professionals have to be prepared for a diagnosis call by asking more questions, by being prepared with questions. I have taught sales training for 30 years. If you went back 20 years ago, most of the questions I taught salespeople to ask, you better know before you walk in there today. What does that mean? You better at minimum have gone to their website, their LinkedIn profile, their Facebook profile. You at minimum might go on the web and google business issues for that category. Whatever category you’re selling to, whatever client you’re selling to, you would do a web search of the buyer’s name and of the company’s name to see if there’s any other issues or other things that they’re involved in.

In each one of those, I’m just jotting down one or two questions that I can do. By the way, when you, as a salesperson, go into a meeting with that level of preparation, you begin to earn trust way faster than 95% of the salespeople will get it. Because trust is not just, do they see you as trustworthy person? It’s, do they know that you care about their issues? Are you concerned? If you’re concerned enough to be prepared, that makes a huge statement right there.

Fred Diamond: As a sales professional, you want to show that you understand their issues. Obviously when I’m sitting at a meeting with you and I’m prepared, and let’s say we’ve been working together for years and I’ve given thought and I know things that you’re up to, how would you recommend sales professionals show that beyond just the face-to-face meeting? What I’m thinking about is should you be writing a blog? Should you be doing a podcast on the issues that your customer is faced with? Should you be writing articles? How can you demonstrate, as a sales professional, that you are the servant to that customer and that industry, besides just when I have the opportunity to be in front of you?

Jim Doyle: I think all of those ideas make sense, but I think about one of my most powerful teachers, a sales rep named Randy Watson. He treated that effort as an individual effort by a customer. What he would do is rather than write a blog post, he would take an article that he found about their industry and just print it up and send a quick copy with a quick note that said, “When I read this, I thought of you.” I knew that because I got blessed to be on his article list for a long time. He had to dedicate time ever every week to do that, but what did he get back? He really got back even greater degrees of trust.

The other thing that your question just helped me remember is doing the research is important, but getting credit for doing the research and the way you present questions also is huge. I will say to a customer, “As I was preparing for this discussion today, I read an article about this business issue that’s going on in the electronics business. Does that impact you?” Or, “How does that impact you? As I was getting ready for our meeting today, I looked at your website and I noticed this. Is that an important part of your business?”

By getting credit for the questions. It’s good questions, it’s getting credit for the questions. Then the third thing, Rory Vaden, who was a colleague of mine in the National Speakers Association, a guy I respect a tremendous amount. When I interviewed him for the book, he talked about acute listening. It’s listening not just to ask the next question, but listening to really, really hear the answer. Now, I hope my wife isn’t watching our discussion today, because she would say I probably still need work on that [laughs], and most of us do, but it really is that ability of listening to hear the answer.

Fred Diamond: We talk about listening a lot. We have a question here that comes in. Carole says, “How can I be a servant leader and truly show that I’m authentically a servant leader?” Let’s talk about authenticity. I hate to ask this question, because it’s not true, but can you fake being a servant leader or is it something that truly is in your blood, truly something that you start the day off with, that you’re born with, or can you be taught to be a servant leader?

Jim Doyle: That’s a great question. First of all, I believe at my core that we have the ability to change. What surprised me as I did many of these interviews was how many people said that that was not their default. I probably was the same way. When I first started in sales, I defined winning as making the sale. What I learned from the servant heart sellers is they defined winning as making a difference. That didn’t happen to me in my 20s. I have to say that that probably took some period of time for me to really understand that.

We interviewed a couple of researchers who test salespeople. One of them said that, especially for men, that testosterone fuel drive to win may keep them a little bit away from that. But I think it’s also redefining what winning is about. But Carole’s question, can I fake authenticity? Not for long. I might be able to get away with it for a little while, but especially if I’m leading people, people study what you do, not what you say.

Fred Diamond: As I’m thinking about Carole’s question and your answer, the sales professionals who reach the peak, reach the highest level, they’re not faking it. Maybe in the beginning of their career they had to think about, “How do I demonstrate and how do I show this?” in maybe what might not be a natural way. But as you talk about winning, we’ve talked about this a couple of times, Jim Doyle, on the Sales Game Changers Podcast, getting the sale isn’t a win. It’s a win if you, the customer, and your company wins. Not just your customer, but your customer’s customer, Jim. That’s been one of the big trends over the last two years. We’re doing these Sales Game Changer shows every single day. It’s not just about me to you. It’s about me to you because you, Mr. Customer, or Miss Customer, are dealing with your customer and another customer as well.

We have a question here that comes in from Nicholas. Nicholas says, “Did anything surprise Jim as he wrote this book that he was not aware of?” You talked about how you interviewed a lot of people, and again, you mentioned you’ve been training for 30 years. You’ve had a great career training broadcast sales professionals. Did you learn anything different when you did these interviews and as you were writing this book?

Jim Doyle: Absolutely. One I think is the thing I already talked about, was that how many people said it wasn’t their default. The second I would describe as the biggest surprise. I was doing these interviews the summer before I was writing. I hung up from one of these interviews and sat in my chair and just thought, “Boy, if I build that level of trust, there’s a pretty significant responsibility to be great.” In other words, to know my product, to know my solution. Building the relationship is only one piece. It’s the ability to deliver on that trust. Oscar, which is one of the sales reps, he said, “You can’t try if you’re asking somebody for $200,000 or $300,000. You got to do.” The understanding of how important it is not just to know your product, but to know your competitor’s products and to know how they work in outcome. I called it in the book, the responsibility of trust. That was probably the chapter that I didn’t have a clue about before I did the interviews.

Fred Diamond: You used the word great. Jim, one word that we started using about a year ago is elite. It’s always been hard to be successful in sales. It’s gotten harder to be successful, because first of all, it’s the hardest job in the company. As we were talking yesterday with Jude Boyle, there’s 20 rejections before you get the first, “Hey, I’ll take your call,” type of a thing. Let’s celebrate the 21st interaction. But you used the word great. I want you to talk about that for a little bit.

You’ve worked with so many great sales professionals. It’s a word that we use all the time. “I had a great lunch.” “You’re a great sales professional.” Your book is great, by the way, Selling with a Servant Heart. But I want you to get your insights on that. What does it mean to be great? The reason I’m asking is, the reason we do the Sales Game Changers Podcast and the reason we created the Institute for Excellence in Sales is to help sales professionals not just get a little bit better, although that’s how you get better, but actually to strive for greatness. I’m curious and interested in your thoughts on that.

Jim Doyle: You’ve triggered so many ideas when you say that. I think you’re absolutely right, that sales is unbelievably difficult to start in, to get started in. Way more difficult today in most businesses than it will was when I began, and I didn’t ever think it was easy. I think it’s more challenging. Where I’m going to certainly push back is I think once you achieve a certain level, getting to great is not a lot more. You know the line about, “In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king?” It doesn’t take a lot to separate yourself from what I call the parade of mediocrity.

There are a lot of salespeople out there who are average. Average in the way they’re perceived by their customers, average in the way that they perform, but the ones who can do just a little bit more. It’s not about you’re going to be radically different than somebody else. I’ll give you a great example. Somebody might listen to the point I made before and send out an article, Randy Watson sends out five articles a week. What I’ve learned from really studying really effective salespeople is they do the same things, they just do them more consistently.

Fred Diamond: We actually had another guest recently. His name is Alex Goldfayn, who wrote a book called Pick Up the Phone & Sell. Of course, SDRs and salespeople need to call, but his basic point was make three phone calls a day just because. “Hey, Jim. It’s Fred. Hey, just calling to see how you’re doing.”

Jim Doyle: There’s a point of doing that. It’s so people will listen to his advice, make three phone calls that day. But the star will make three phone calls every day after that if they think that advice is relevant.

Fred Diamond: But it’s like you’re hoping that Jim’s going to say, “No one calls me. No one sends me articles like Watson does.” I want to take a little bit of a different route here. You touched on the concept of being liked in the book. A lot of people, I think they think about it wrong. You did mention trust before, but talk about the distinction and if it’s important to be liked to be successful as a servant sales leader. How does that relate to being trusted? I guess my question is, first of all, is being liked important? Obviously people might be obsessed with it. Then would you rather be liked or trusted?

Jim Doyle: Another of those lines I used for years that I now disagree with is I’d say, “People buy from people they like.” I said that so many times in sessions. Today, I think no, people buy from people they trust. I don’t think it hurts to be liked. I’d like to do business with certain people. But being trusted is way more important. Oscar is probably one of the higher paid media salespeople I’ve ever met in my entire career, but they’ll put a new client on the air and they have an activation, which is like a live broadcast. Oscar’s the guy who’s out in the parking lot making sure the shopping carts are being returned to the line.

When I look at Oscar, and I’m his customer, and I’m looking at him out there doing that, I’m just going, “Wow. That’s somebody who’s different.” Now, what happens? What’s the practical realization for his business? He has extraordinary low churn. Most salespeople don’t do their own math. If you could reduce your churn, even by three or four points a year, and you started from a higher base every year, what would that do to your income and to your success? Being trusted isn’t the goal, but it’s the platform for which you’re able to do so many more things.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great example about the shopping carts, and there’s been some great articles out there. One our past speakers, again, a guy named Alan Stein Jr., who wrote a book called Raise Your Game, he posts pictures of shopping carts in parking lots away from the corral, away from the front of the store. He always says, “You’ll never see a CEO leaving a shopping cart off by itself.” The other example too is, one thing, when I’m walking through a supermarket with my kids, and if I see like a Starbucks cup away just on a shelf, I’m like, “People, we’re citizens of the store. Just put your cup in the trash can.” I have another question here.

Joe says, “I struggle sometimes when I disagree with my customer. How can I be a servant seller if I constantly find myself disagreeing?” I guess that goes back to the notion that, again, you’ve been training for over 30 years, you probably at one point thought the customer was always right. I’m going to guess maybe you shifted on that. Talk about that concept for a little bit.

Jim Doyle: One of the 10 lessons actually is the customer isn’t always right. It specifically talks about that the responsibility if I disagree, to push back. Let’s start with two things real quick to answer that question. Number one, I’m obsessed with the customer outcome. What I really want is to make sure it’s going to work. But number two, I have done the questioning so that this is not just based upon my opinion. I find a lot of salespeople push back without really thinking about the facts, what the business needs are.

If I’m able to push back appropriately, by the way, not by being a jerk and not by arguing, but just saying, “You said to me that this was the significant issue that you wanted to solve. Let me respectfully suggest that I think that direction might do that, but probably based upon what I’ve seen, wouldn’t be as effective as X.” I think you’re going to have less pushback, but you better know what you’re talking about. It can’t just be your opinion and being disagreeable for the sake of being disagreeable.

Fred Diamond: We’ve got another question here that comes in from Jay. Jay says, “Can Jim give us some advice to sales leaders on how to build our team as servant sales leaders?” Talk about that for a second, give advice for sales leaders, maybe they’re in their first level of leadership, maybe their second. If they’re getting what you’re talking about here, which obviously they are because they’re listening and watching, how can they build a team of servant sellers?

Jim Doyle: Thank you, Jim, that is a great question. I would say number one, be what you hope you want your team to be. If you want servant heart sellers and you’re talking about only the short term transactional goals for your department or your area each month, that’s going to send mixed messages to your people. Number two, you probably have a servant heart seller on your team right now, they will give you more challenges because they’ll push back. They want to know that you’re going to support them and you need to sometimes keep them in the lanes, because they’ll sometimes forget who they work for. You’ve got to deal with that. I love the line, “We don’t get what we expect. We get what we applaud.” If you can just continue to advance this culture, to train on it, to applaud it, and to talk about when it’s been effective in terms of making sales, I think you’ll find that you’re able to create a culture that attracts more people like that.

Fred Diamond: Jim, before we get to your final action step, we have time for one more question here. As I read the book, you talk about how sales is the process of taking away the buyer’s risk. I’ve been saying that for years. Most of my career has been in tech marketing, companies like Apple and Microsoft as a consultant, and Compaq and some other companies. One thing I learned relatively quickly in dealing with IT directors and finance and operations directors is, they don’t want to be the guy who spent $500 million on some type of software that brought the company down. Give some more insight into that and how does a servant seller take away this risk and how are you conscious of that?

Jim Doyle: Your point is right on target. Nobody wants to go first. They want to go 50th and they want to know what happened to the 49 beforehand. As I look at sales presentations in a variety of different industries, look at people’s steps, one of the things I find myself saying over and over again is, “You need more case histories and more testimonial.” Most of us carry around today a video camera right on our phone. If you’ve got a customer who’s extraordinarily happy with what you did, why not ask them if they put some of that on video? Then embed that into one of your future decks to talk about the experience that someone else has had in working with you, and put multiple. The more you put of those, the more you’re going to be able to take away risk.

Fred Diamond: If you think about it, I tell this to young sales professionals all the time, the customer probably wants to hold his or her job for a long time. If you’re a director of IT for, let’s just say some type of product company, you’re not looking to jump in a year. Now, maybe in sales you may jump because of the world and higher type of commissions, et cetera. But if you’re a customer, you’re in IT or operations, or you work for the government, or for a healthcare system, you don’t want to be jumping jobs. You want to hold that job for a long time.

It’s not uncommon for people in government, for example, in education, to hold the same job their whole career. Maybe they’ve gotten a level or a couple of levels of advancement. But you see people all the time, 30-year veteran of department of veteran affairs, or, “I worked for 30 years at Baptist Health,” or something along those lines. Sales professionals need to understand that. For them to hold onto their jobs, they need to eliminate risk. Their whole job is eliminating risk while helping the company achieve their goals.

Jim Doyle: I used to say that the purpose of a presentation is to make a sale. Now, rethink what a presentation is if you say, “The purpose of a presentation is to reduce risk.” How would that change the way that you present?

Fred Diamond: Jim, before I ask you for your final action step, I just want to acknowledge the value that you’ve brought to tens, maybe hundreds of thousands of sales professionals and business owners over the years with your books and your training and the content you provide. I want to acknowledge Tina, who’s one of our good friends who introduced us to you, although we were actually aware of you before that because at the Institute for Excellence in Sales, we try to stay on top of everything that’s been written about professional B2B sales over the years. Kudos to you for continuing and not stopping. I appreciate you, your energy, and your commitment to helping the sales profession as we do. As we like to wind down every Sales Game Changers podcast, give us an action step. You’ve given us 20, 30 great ideas. Give us one specific action step people should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

Jim Doyle: Monitor every diagnosis call you do in the next two weeks to look at how quickly you have transitioned from questions that are about them, to questions that are really leading to your product. Try to lengthen the amount of time that you’re talking about them and their issues. Most salespeople don’t do anywhere near enough of that diagnosis step, even though they claim to do diagnosis and believe that they are.

Fred Diamond: One of the things I heard recently is the expression, “WAIT, why am I talking?” I have it right here on my laptop. Someone attributed it to Tom Hanks. I heard Tom Hanks said it, but I have it right there. Every time I’m on a call or I’m on a Zoom or something, I look at that. It’s like, “Why am I talking?” I want to hear from the customer. I want to hear from people like you. That’s one way to continue to bring that relationship and to truly show that you’re a servant. Once again, I want to thank Jim Doyle. My name is Fred Diamond. This is the Sales Game Changers Podcast.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *