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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Creativity in Sales virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on February 13, 2022. It featured an interview with Lisa Peskin of the Business Development University, author of the BDU Sales Success Workbook.]
Find Lisa on LinkedIn.
LISA’S TIP: “You can’t focus on too many things. I’m going to challenge everybody to figure out what I call their triage areas. What three areas that if improved upon will have the biggest impact on your performance? On my website, under Resources, you’re going to see BDUtensils, and there’s something called Triage Visual that you can go to and take look at. If you don’t have a game plan, that’s got to be one of your triage areas. Figure out what those three areas are. If you’re having trouble, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, and I’ll be glad to help you a little bit with that.
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Fred Diamond: This is the great Lisa Peskin’s second appearance on the Sales Game Changers podcast. She’s the Founder and CEO of the Business Development University. We’re excited to have her today. We’re going to be talking about things that she’s learned over her 35 years, believe it or not, Lisa, I’m surprised that you’re older than 35. But you’ve had 35 years of success, and you’ve also just launched the BDU, The Business Development University Success Workbook, which I’ve had the opportunity to go through. There it is. I’m actually broadcasting today from Charleston, South Carolina, I’m on the road, you’re up in Philly somewhere.
I have my copy on my desk back up in Virginia, and I love it. It’s very easy to follow, it’s rich with information. We’ll put a link in the show notes and of course, the LinkedIn post about how to get a copy of your BDU Sales Success Report Book. It’s great to see you. How are you doing?
Lisa Peskin: I’m doing great. Thank you so much for having me today.
Fred Diamond: You are welcome. We got so much value out of the last time we had you. I remember your tip very clearly, you said “Take two stacks of index cards, three by five cards, and write down your goals on each one and then refer to them 30 days hence.” I’ve been doing that since. I think we had you on the show December of 2020, seems like just yesterday or 1986. It was December 2020 and you added so much value and you are providing so much value with what you’re doing it at BDU. Tell us a little bit about the workbook, and then I want to get into the lessons that you’ve learned over the last 35 years, believe it or not. Give us a little bit of an insight. Why did you write it? How will people use this? What’s the value they’re going to get?
Lisa Peskin: Thank you for asking. In 1986 when I started in sales, I wasn’t very successful from the very beginning. In fact, I almost got fired from my first sales job. When I started ADP, I actually quit my one-year anniversary. I wish back then someone had written a book, all the things that I would like to know when I started in my sales career.
I had to learn a lot on my own, make a lot of mistakes. What I’ve done in this workbook is I’ve made it a self-paced workbook where it covers soup to nuts sales, give the folks a lot of great tools to use because since I started my business in 2003, it’s all about maximizing performance and potential. It’s helping the under performers get to be hitting their numbers, the average to be good, the good to be great, the great to be superstars. What I’ve learned over my time, sometimes it’s the little tweaks, the little things that can make a big difference.
Fred Diamond: We’re close to 500 episodes now of the Sales Game Changers podcast. I’ll get people who reach out to me and say, “When Lisa Peskin suggested that I do this to be a better listener, it changed my whole sales career.” The great sales performers are looking for those little adjustments. Actually, people will reach out to me and say, “Fred, we’re glad that you’re doing a Sales Game Changer podcast every day live so we can see it,” because they’re looking for something. People aren’t looking for 50 things. People tell me they want one thing that they can implement today and that’s why we end the show with the action steps. All right, I don’t want to waste any more time. You have about, you said somewhere between nine and 10 things. Let’s get to as many of them as we can. Lisa Peskin, what’s the first thing that you wish you had learned 35 years ago?
Lisa Peskin: The first thing is that most salespeople wing it. They check their voicemails, they check their emails in the morning, and then they wing it from there. We’ve heard all of our lives, sales is a numbers game. The first thing that every salesperson needs to do is have a well-defined game plan with very clear activity goals and result goals. Not only on an annual basis, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and sometimes even daily. For those of you who are out there that are just winging it, without a really well defined 30, 60, 90-day game plan, that’s the very first thing. I find so many of the folks that we work with, they don’t understand what are the activities that they need to be doing in order to get the results that they need.
Fred Diamond: Actually, by the time this comes out, our first book may be out. It’s called, Insights for Sales Game Changers. What we did is we took the 30 most commonly uttered sales words over the nearly 450 episodes at the time, and we found great examples of things like empathy and listening. One of the big words, Lisa Peskin, was preparation. We hear things like what you just said, it’s so true. People will prepare as they’re driving to the sales call. Although nowadays, they’ll prepare one minute as they hit the Zoom button type of a thing, and that’s a recipe for disaster. First of all, you’re not giving the customer the respect that they deserve if that’s how you’re doing things, right?
Lisa Peskin: Absolutely. My favorite two words when it comes to sales, and it all relates to my squeezing the lemon, is the first word is purposeful. We don’t do activity for activity’s sake, every activity needs a purpose. The corresponding word would be accomplishment, because so many salespeople, they say, “Okay, I need to visit five of my clients over the next month, check, check, check.” But they don’t actually think about what their true purpose is in doing the activities that they’re doing. Therefore, don’t get the results that they’re looking for.
Fred Diamond: Another word that comes up a lot is intentional. That’s been a huge word that we’ve heard. Are you intentional when you go about your sales process? Give us examples of how you’re purposeful, how you’re intentional and what you go about doing.
Lisa Peskin: Now you’re talking about sales process. That’s really 1/3 of your sales success is, what’s your process when you got a prospect in front of you, a client in front of you, or a center of influence. With all of those, there are very specific steps that we take in our sales process. One of the things that you talked about is pre-call planning. That’s one of the most important steps, checking out the website, checking out their LinkedIn, seeing who your common connections are, finding one thing about that person that you could connect with when you start building business rapport.
The other thing that goes along with process, and I see it all the time, I just did a training yesterday about this, that the salespeople, they lose control of the conversations. They don’t do a couple of the necessary steps. Build business rapport, transition to confirmation of time, ask their agenda, set the agenda, gain agreement. The agenda is one of the most critical things when it comes to sales success and sales process. In your initial agenda, you put in whatever you want that defined next step to be, and then it’s very natural to go to that. But if you don’t set an agenda and you don’t ask somebody else for their agenda, you’re going to find that you’re going to be at a point where there’s not a defined next step, and then your prospects start going south on you.
Fred Diamond: You’re talking here about what you wish you had known 35 years ago when you were starting your career in sales. You’ve worked with thousands of sales professionals and business owners over the years, which eventually led to your creating the BDU Sales Success Workbook. What’s the other next lesson that you wish you had learned?
Lisa Peskin: The next one is huge, and it’s there’s two types of needs. There’s what the prospect needs, and what your needs are. What do we need to know? We need to know decision makers, what other alternatives that they’re looking at, what criteria that they’re going to use in making the decision? Is this a must have or like to have? What’s the process that they need to go through internally to make the decision? What’s the timeline? What’s the budget? All that information. Most salespeople go right into the prospect’s needs before their needs. In my opinion, our needs come first.
We’re going to handle the process a lot differently if we’re not up against any competition. I remember a bank locally that I said just out of curiosity, “Are you looking at any other alternatives?” They said, “No, you came highly recommended. We’re only looking at you.” That’s a complete difference than, ” Yes, we’re looking at X, Y, Z and A, B, C.” Then you got to start getting into the criteria and the way you’re going to structure your discovery is going to be different because you’re going to focus on what your competitive advantages are and ask questions about that. Big star on your piece of paper everybody, your needs come first.
Now, sometimes salespeople don’t feel comfortable asking certain questions. Here’s another thing I figured out all over the years, prefacing phrases. Just out of curiosity, if you don’t mind me asking, just so I know, just so I could be better prepared. All those are softening phrases that are going to allow you to gather some key information that you might not have been able to get, either because you felt uncomfortable asking or you didn’t know how to ask.
Fred Diamond: Nicole actually just chimed in, “Love that advice.” It’s really interesting, it goes back to the whole notion that, sales really is a series of conversations. The goal is to get to win-win on both sides. Nowadays, you’re not going to win and the customer loses or vice versa, it just can’t happen anymore. There’s so much at risk with what we need to achieve from our company perspective, and what our customer needs to achieve, especially now. We’re doing today’s interview in the middle of February of 2022. There’s so much criticality in purchase, because every company is having an organization, and government entity etc, is having to come out of the pandemic a certain way and achieve things moving forward. That’s really powerful. Just curiously, is there things that you don’t want to say?
Lisa Peskin: I don’t ever talk about price, I talk about investment. I don’t ask, “Are you the decision maker?” “Who other than yourself is going to be involved in the decision?” In my workbook, I not only have a page that talks about all the things you need to uncover, but then I have a whole page on how we actually ask those questions to gather the information that we need, that’s going to be helpful. Not only in qualifying the opportunity, but figuring out the best way to navigate the sales process with this particular prospect.
Fred Diamond: What’s another lesson that you wish you had known? People are wondering, how you had a 35-year career, because you look so youthful. Someone just said, “Fred, you probably had a 45-year career.” Which is not true.
Lisa Peskin: [Laughs] Thank you. Now that I’m 60, it’s hard to believe the numbers are going on right now. Here’s another thing. Benefit statements, not features, are what’s going to make the difference. A lot of the times when salespeople are trying to fill their pipeline in their messaging, they’re saying something like, “This is what I do and I’d love to talk to you about it.” I believe that nobody in this whole wide world likes to be sold anything and I think we all got to stop trying to sell our stuff. It’s about helping. When you’re reaching out to people, or when you’re presenting your solutions, it’s not about the feature, it’s about the benefit and so many salespeople forget to extrapolate to the benefit. Anytime we mention a feature, we’ve got to talk about the corresponding benefit.
The thing that goes along with that is during our discovery. So many times, salespeople have the itch to pitch, or they want to show up and throw up before asking all the questions that they need to in order to figure out the best ways to help out the company. We need to be comprehensive in our approach. If they start asking, “How can you do that?” Hesitate and don’t start presenting until you’ve found all the information. I learned this a long time ago. I remember a particular prospect when I was working in sales at ADP, and I went through an hour and a half of questions, and I couldn’t find one hot button.
Then I asked the final one, which was basically, “I know you only have one guy that does your computer system. What if God forbid, anything happened to that guy?” they said, “That’s exactly why we brought you in here today.” Sometimes if we miss one particular area, that could be the difference between us getting the business and not getting the business.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great point there. Luckily for you in that particular deal, you’re able to get to that question. You’re doing some inquiry and eventually you got to the point where the customer said that. I want to hit on one thing that you just said. You don’t want to go to the customer and say, “I would love for you to become a customer.” Who cares what you think? We have a guest, she’s going to be on the show in March. Her name is Liz Wendling. She talks about things like that. The fact that it’s not about you, it’s about the customer, so saying things like, “I would love for you to listen to my pitch.” Again, it’s not about you, you’ve got to take it out, anything that relates to you. You did say, we do need to win-win. We need to come away with something, of course, but it’s not about you. It’s about the customer getting to where they need to get to. What’s another lesson, Lisa?
Lisa Peskin: Make sure we’re getting to the ultimate decision maker. This I learned in such a hard way back in the 90s. Oftentimes, you’re talking to the person gathering the information, but not the person ultimately making the decision. You got to make sure you get to that person. Oftentimes, if you say, “Are you the decision maker?” Asking like that, they’re going to go, “Yeah, I’m the decision maker.” I remember a horrible circumstance, where I got a verbal. I was selling telephone systems in late 80. This woman said I got the business. What did I do? I went out and bought a car. What would you do, Fred? Right? Then a couple of weeks later, she said, “Oh, we went with AT&T,” and I’m like, “Oh, you told me I had the business, I went and bought a car.”
I remember coming home that night, I was living at home. First thing I did was cry, second thing I did was eat a whole half a gallon of ice cream, and by the way, once it starts getting soft, it’s just easy to eat the middle. Then I borrowed $4,000 from my dad. But I learned back then you got to get to the decision maker, and so many times we’re dealing with the wrong people, and we don’t get the business.
Fred Diamond: Mark just submitted a comment where he said, “It’s not a sale until the check clears.” That’s a great lesson too. It’s even harder now. You got to somebody at that time in the late 80s, you mentioned, who was willing to talk to you, who might have had some part of the decision. You didn’t really know, because you didn’t know to ask the right question to find that out. A lot of people right now, they get so happy if they get someone on the on the call. We see that so many times. It’s like, “Oh, it’s a 50% opportunity, because I talked to them.” Well, it’s still 1%, or probably even zero at that point. People are so satisfied with even little wins.
Talk about little wins for a second, if you don’t mind. That may not be one of your 10 things. We’ve talked about accomplishments before. We’ve been spending time on some of the shows talking about celebrating little things. If you think about it, if it’s going to take you 40 touches for somebody become a customer and if you just spoke to the decision maker, or even got an appointment scheduled with his or her assistant, that’s something to celebrate. Maybe you don’t want to go buy a car if you’ve scheduled an appointment, but yeah, the ice cream is not bad.
Lisa Peskin: This is one of my very favorite tips. In fact, I sometimes have the people we work with put a little sticky note on their computer. No loosey goosey next steps. Always do the next step at the current step because it saves yourself a step. We’ve got to make sure when you’re talking about moving it along, if I start out my initial call and I find out that I don’t have all the decision makers, well, you know what? Why don’t we do this? Let’s set up a time that Joe and you could talk and we could take a deeper dive and see where we go from there.
Setting up your next step right away. If you got a bunch of people you’re presenting to and you think that they’re making a decision, and you state that at the beginning in your agenda, and they say, “Oh, we’re not making a decision today,” then you know what? Why don’t we do this? When are you looking to make the decision? Next Friday? Let’s get a time on the calendar. I’ll answer any questions you have. If everything looks good, we could talk about next steps to move forward.” No loosey goosey next steps, is one of my very favorite sales tips.
Fred Diamond: We have a comment here from Joe, which says, “I like loosey goosey.” The point is so true, we hear this all the time is one of the big gaps and I said this before. We had a guest on the show a couple years ago and his company listens to sales calls, and they record them and they analyze them and they give feedback to the company. I said to him, “Your company’s listened to a million calls. What’s the one thing you could tell me that you came away with?” He said, “You’d be shocked at how many people don’t do follow-up, or don’t even ask for the next step.” Loosey goosey would be a win for a lot of people. You’re right, it’s got to be succinct. I love the way you just explained it, which is, “Okay, when are you going to be ready for the next thing? Let’s put something on the calendar.” You have to end every conversation with something that’s going to lead to the next one. Lisa, tell us some more. I’m really excited on more things that you’ve learned.
Lisa Peskin: Oh my God, I hope you can get them all in.
Fred Diamond: Let’s go, I’ll stop talking. You go.
Lisa Peskin: The next one is handling objections. This is the oldest technique in the book, but it still works famously. There’s two times when we hear objections. One, when we’re trying to set the appointment, the other time after we presented our solution. Feel, felt, found. It’s such an old technique. It goes like this, “I understand how you feel. In fact, when I was originally working with X, Y, Z company, they felt the same exact way. But what they found was…” Breaking down that technique, I understand how you feel, I’m listening, I’m hearing what you’re saying, not necessarily agreeing. Felt, now I get to talk about somebody else that also had the same thoughts. Then the found is the benefit statements, what they realize.
You can even say, “I understand where you’re coming from. In fact, when I originally talked to A, B, C company, they said the same exact thing, but what they realized was…” We need stories. Storytelling, I’m going to give you two, the feel, felt, found, but storytelling. You’ve got to be able to tell stories about how you’ve been able to help other companies similar to them. It’s one thing to go into presentation mode and say, “The great thing about us is…” but if you use a story about how you’ve been able to impact another company that’s similar to theirs, it’s going to be much more powerful, and much more impactful.
Fred Diamond: Every Wednesday we do our Sales Game Changers live, where I’ll interview sales VPs. A lot of times they’ll ask me afterwards, “What do you think?” I always say to them, “Have a pocketful of stories. Have a pocketful of 30-second, one-minute stories.” For your customers too. When a customer says something, you could then easily say, “That’s interesting, we did the same thing at Ford Motor Company, they were challenged with…” Whatever it was. You’re accomplishing a lot of goals, but you got to have them.
I agree with you 1,000,000%. We’ve done a number of shows on storytelling. They make it too hard. It’s like, “Oh, I have to figure out the structure, and, and I have to practice.” I’m like, “No, just have five to 10 in your pocket ready to go.” Lisa Peskin, tell us something else. What have you learned in the last 35 years?
Lisa Peskin: They don’t need to be your stories. You can use other people’s stories, especially if you’re new to your company. Start gathering other stories, feel, felt, founds objections and how they’ve been handled.
Fred Diamond: Now, that’s great point. I’m just going to say one quick thing. People say to me, “I’m new.” You know what? Your company has been around, and even if your company’s early stage, they’ve still had some successes. You’ve got to understand those, you got to know those. All right, go to closing.
Lisa Peskin: Closing. My very favorite in the whole wide world is the assumptive close. That’s why setting the agenda, whether it be for discovery meeting, or when you’re presenting your solutions, you got to make sure that you include that. If you do it properly, you’re going to be able to say something like, “All we’re going to need is X, Y and Z and we’re going to be able to move forward.” Assumptive close is my favorite.
The second one is alternative choice close. Alternative choice close is great when we’re scheduling appointments. I have some availability the week of February 28th or March 5th – using two choices. Or, did you want to get started this month or would you like to get started next month? Either way, they’re getting started. It’s a great little technique and make appointments, as I said before, for the decisions. One more thing, do not send out quotes, do not send out proposals, schedule appointments for those. That one little thing took me years to figure out but once you send it out, you lose control. Put that as a star on your piece of paper everybody, no more sending out your quotes. You set up appointments to review the proposals. That way, you could handle any objections and set up and define next steps.
Fred Diamond: Most people are still working from home. Even our customers in a lot of cases still haven’t made 100% transition back. How would you suggest that, Lisa? Schedule a Zoom call? Your point being is don’t email and say, “Here’s the proposal, look forward to hearing from you.” You want to physically engage so that you add further degree of depth to the presentation.
Lisa Peskin: Pre-COVID, I would have said the more times we could get belly to belly, the better. Now, oftentimes we’re not meeting the prospects in person. All of your prospect calls and as many of your center of influence and client calls should be on Zoom or some other video. You want to be able to see their expressions, you want to be able to read body language, and all of that stuff. There’s a lot different. You can tell I’m pretty high-energy here, but there’s a lot difference to just hear me than to see me. We could really grow this way.
Other thing, if you’re doing networking, this is something I see so much. We get on a networking meeting, we have all these people on Zoom, and people just sit there, they don’t put their camera on. Use the time to write down all the other participants. Start getting to some people, “I’d love to set up a time to connect,” you could connect with some on LinkedIn as you’re going along. You can ask a question to the speaker. These are ways that you could really make the most of it. I wrote a blog on this, but I believe it to my core. Let’s not focus on what we can’t be doing right now. Let’s focus on what we can be doing. Let’s get rid of the apostrophe-T.
Fred Diamond: We have a couple of comments coming in here. Lees says that Lisa’s fun expressions are a great way to remember great sales behaviors for success. No loosey goosey steps, feel, felt, found and so many others. This is a great question. Lisa, I’ll tell you this right now, three people have asked this question. It’s a Friday morning when we’re doing today’s interview, you have so much amazing energy. How do you keep up the energy? Give us some of your secrets. You’ve been doing this for 35 some odd years, you just published your workbook, you provide so much value for your customers, you’ve got that energy. How do you keep it up? How do you keep your energy going?
Lisa Peskin: Thank you for asking that. First of all, squeeze the lemon. Make the most out of every day, get the most juice out of every day. I’ve already been to the gym, I already emptied the dishwasher. I did all these different things, but it’s all about accomplishing as much as you can. I’m pretty passionate about what I do. I started this business with the sole purpose of helping as many salespeople and sales leaders, and I actually love what I do. That adds to my energy, and by the way, half of your sales success is attitude and motivation.
Am I willing to do what it takes to be successful? Am I committed? How am I dealing with adversity? Why wouldn’t everybody in this world be in sales? We get to meet new people all the time, we get to make unlimited amount of money, but we’re going to get way more no’s than we are yes’s. It’s all about being passionate about what you do, and it comes across.
Fred Diamond: I would say it’s probably 90%. That’s why we do a show every Thursday, where we talk about mindset and attitude. I would say the other half is your ability, the skills and things like that. Lisa Peskin, thank you so much. Congratulations on the workbook, and kudos to you for having helped over your career, like you just said, thousands, if not tens of thousands of sales professionals and business owners. The BDU Sales Success Workbook is going to help a lot of people.
We like to end every show with an action step. You’ve given us dozens of great ideas, but give us one specific action people should do right now, and don’t do the three by five card because we got that last time. Tell us another action step something people should do right now to take their sales career to the next level.
Lisa Peskin: This isn’t an easy action step, but it’s the one that’s going to have the biggest impact on your performance. For all of you out there, there might be a whole bunch of different things that you need to improve upon, but you can’t focus on too many things. I’m going to challenge everybody to figure out what I call their triage areas. What three areas that if improved upon will have the biggest impact on your performance?
On my website, businessdevelopmentuniversity.com under Resources, you’re going to see BDUtensils, and there’s something called Triage Visual that you can go to and take look at. If you don’t have a game plan, that’s got to be one of your triage areas. Figure out what those three areas are. If you’re having trouble, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me, and I’ll be glad to help you a little bit with that. The triage areas you would also be able to find in the Sales Success Workbook. Right now it’s available on Blurb and soon will be available on Amazon.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo