EPISODE 452: Liz Heiman Dishes Out Five Ways to Be More Proactive in 2022

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Optimal Sales Mindset virtual learning session sponsored by the Institute for Excellence in Sales on February 14, 2021. It featured an interview with sales expert Liz Heiman. Learn more about her and her services for sales professionals here.]

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Liz’s TIP: “Prioritize, figure out who your ideal customer is, figure out what are the most important things you need to do. Take all of those other things that don’t matter and put them on the back burner, but do the things that matter. Prioritize the customers that are going to grow, prioritize the ideal customer that’s got the shortest sales cycle and the most likelihood of buying and prioritize out those customers that are wasting your time and are never going to buy from you. Prioritize.”


Fred Diamond: We’ve got a great show today, we’ve got Liz Heiman. We’re going to be talking about the five ways to be more proactive. Liz, it’s great to see you, it’s early February, it’s 2021. If you’re listening to this way into the future, thank you so much, glad to have you listening. Liz, first of all, how are you doing? It’s good to see you. Proactive is a huge word, that’s the topic of the day.

Liz Heiman: It’s really easy to fall into passive, reactive activity. As a salesperson we get really busy but being proactive is the difference between getting the business you want, having the results you want and just having results. I get really excited about the idea of proactive selling.

Fred Diamond: We’re going to be talking today in detail about five ways to be more proactive, we’re going to get into depth, we’re going to go deep into each topic. Liz, you also have a nice gift that you’re going to be offering people as well that they can download at their convenience. Let’s get to it, what’s the #1 way to be more proactive about sales?

Liz Heiman: The first thing is to be intentional. I know that seems like a weird word and it’s not one I used a lot before COVID. Funny enough, I find that I keep having this conversation. There was a time where you could just haphazardly communicate with people and suddenly everybody’s world is turned upside down – kids, working from home, all of these things. All of a sudden just reaching out, just chatting, just communicating doesn’t really work anymore. You have to be very intentional, “Why am I reaching out to this person? What’s in it for them? Why should they take this attention, which is so hard to have right now, and give it to me?” Never before has attention been something that’s been so valuable, but now it’s a hugely valuable thing. We’re having trouble paying attention so when I’m really intentional about what I’m doing and not just being reactive but actually saying, “This is what I’m doing and why”, it makes a huge difference.

Fred Diamond: We had a great guest back in May of last year, his name is David Morelli and he’s an energy coach. I don’t know if you know David or not but he was a fantastic guest, and he said something that has really stuck with a lot of our members of the Institute for Excellence in Sales and a lot of the attendees. He said everybody right now has three things on their mind. #1 is COVID and getting past the effects of COVID lockdown, quarantine, working from home, being a homeschool teacher, all of those things. #2, everyone’s dealing with the financial impact of the pandemic, of either your business, contracting, your job maybe being eliminated or shifting or whatever it might be. The third thing is whatever the third thing is, maybe something specific to you, your family or your industry. If you’re in the entertainment space, obviously there’s a whole bunch of things you need to do. Talk about how sales professionals should be thinking about intentional as it relates to the prospects and customers that they’re trying to address.

Liz Heiman: There are so many ways that we need to be intentional. One is – and this has been true forever – put it on your calendar that you’re going to be prospecting at this time. Prospecting doesn’t just happen, it never has just happened. For most salespeople it’s their least favorite thing to do so whenever anything else comes up, it’s more important than prospecting so be intentional about making the time for it. Be intentional about what you want to do when you’re prospecting. “What am I doing today? Who am I calling?” Don’t just sit down and go, “It’s prospecting time, what should I do?” but really think, “Who should I call? What am I researching? What am I doing with this time?” We just don’t have the leisure that we ever had to just play it by ear, we have to be really intentional about who we’re calling, how we’re calling, when we’re calling and actually emailing or whatever we’re doing, LinkedIn. Actually say, “This is the time that I’m doing it and this is what I’m going to do during this time, and this is what I’m hoping to get out of it.” That’s one of the most important things about being intentional, what’s the result for me and for them?

Fred Diamond: As we’re talking about prospecting, talk a little bit about understanding where your customer is. You made a really good point there that it needs to be intentional, not just for you and your time and your energy but you also need to be intentional for your customer because once again, they’re going through the same things that we’re going through. We’re doing today’s webinar, it’s February, the world hasn’t really changed too much. Thank God vaccines are coming out and hopefully people are being smart about the things you’re supposed to be doing and in some level things are opening. We watched a basketball game last night, we saw some people in the stands but at the same time the pandemic is still ravaging. Talk about how sales professionals should be thinking about the people that they’re talking to.

Liz Heiman: You know how you used to just pick up the phone and go, “Hey, I’m just checking in”? We’re never ever going to do that again even when the pandemic is over [laughs] because first of all, it’s disrespectful to our clients. At any time, “You’re just checking in? What’s that got to do with me?” So the first thing is really think about every time I pick up the phone or send an email to a customer, I stop and look at what my last conversation was and I remind them, “Last time we spoke you were really concerned about this. How is that going? Have you got that resolved?” Even if the conversation is, “I got that resolved” or, “I’m not paying attention to it now”, they know that I’m not just checking in with some arbitrary thing to talk about. I remember what was going on with them and why it was important, and I think that when we start our day, our world, our conversations with our customer in minds, what matters to them? What are they worried about? I think I may talk about this a little bit later, but one of the things that’s changed is that our customers need to talk. They’ve always needed to talk, but now more than ever they need to tell you their story. If you get on the phone and you say, “Hey, last time we talked this was really important, what’s going on?” and they’re like, “My dog is sick and my kids are driving me nuts and blah, blah, blah.” It’s really important that we’re hearing and again, to be intentional about listening. It’s not okay to just let it pass through, what is going on with this person, this human being who’s in pain? Because we’re all in pain, we’re all struggling even if our company is going gang busters, this is a difficult time and people need to be heard. I don’t know if that answers what you were asking me, but I think that’s a critical part of being intentional.

Fred Diamond: It does. I want to ask you a question, you used the L word – listening – and we’re doing a webinar a day at the Institute for Excellence in Sales. Every Tuesday we’re doing our Women in Sales show, every Wednesday I’m interviewing sales VPs about how they’re interacting with customers and how they’re interacting with their sales teams. Thursday we’re focusing on mindset and Friday is our Creativity in Sales where we talk about sales tactics and strategies and techniques. There are a lot of words that come up all the time and we’re going to hit a couple of them in a few minutes here, but one is listening. I always ask the question whenever one of my guests says, “You need to be a better listener.” Liz, give us a tip or two on how a sales professional can be a better listener, a physical thing they should be doing to get better at the art. You’d be amazed, as a matter of fact, we’re going to write a book on how to be a sales listener and we’ve heard all the things, “66% solution, you have two ears and one mouth, use them in that order.” Give us a tactic or tip, you’ve worked with thousands if not tens of thousands of salespeople. Give us a tip to become a better listener as a sales professional.

Liz Heiman: I’m going to give you two and the first one is really hard for some people, and that is you have to care. You cannot be a good listener if you don’t care, and this is actually something I’ve said to some of my sales leaders. “You cannot make a salesperson who doesn’t care, care.” If you really don’t care about your clients, you’re in the wrong industry, you’re in the wrong field, you have to care. It’s much easier to listen when you get out of your own head and care about that other person, that’s really hard because if you really don’t care, you really don’t care and I don’t know what to do about that. 

The other one is I’m going to talk about a book called Strategic Selling which you and I were talking about a little while ago, it’s actually a book my dad wrote. I have to be clear, I’m not sure whether this comes from Strategic Selling or Conceptual Selling right now, but Steve Heiman and Bob Miller wrote a book many years ago, one of the tools that they talk about is golden silence. Golden silence, I’ve heard people talk about it in a manipulative way but this is a totally not manipulative thing to do. The idea is you ask a question, you listen until your customer or whoever it is you’re talking to is completely done talking and then you wait 30 more seconds. That 30 seconds feels like 6 hours but often we assume that when someone stops speaking that they’ve stopped telling us their story. A lot of people tell you their story and then they need a second to process and then they tell you the good stuff, but if you jump in with your answer and you start telling right then, they don’t get the chance to tell you all the things that they want to tell you. If you can’t care – which I hope you can care – then the next best thing to do is count. You still have to be listening, give that person time.

Fred Diamond: We got a comment here from Sheryl and Sheryl says, “I try to talk no more than 5% of the sales call” and we talk about that all the time. We like to say that if your customer is doing 95% of the talking, it’s a great sales call. I also want to acknowledge your father as well, we did talk about the book Strategic Selling before we came on today’s show, published in 1987, at least the version I have. It’s a classic and I just want to acknowledge your father for all the amazing work that he had done for the sales profession. One of the key things that has come up over the last 10 months that we’ve been doing the daily webinars is the sales profession has changed because of the reasons that we talked about. The activities have generally changed, but if you’re a professional you need to be a professional. If you’re a professional you need to learn a lot of the techniques that your father taught and that have been passed on to you and your sister Alice and the other people that we’re bringing on to the Sales Game Changers webinars that we’re doing as well. Salespeople out there, you’ve got to be a professional. What would a professional be doing right now? One of them is learning how to listen, learning strategies to get your customer to be saying the things that they need to say so that they feel that you’re actually paying attention. Let’s go to #2, I’m curious, #2 is research.

Liz Heiman: We tend to think just because we know somebody we don’t have to do anymore research. I’m going to say that it doesn’t matter who your conversations are with, you need to do some research. If this is your first call with a customer, even if it came as an MQL – a Marketing Qualified Lead – you still want to do your research. Go on LinkedIn, see what they’re posting, see what they write about, see what their company does, do some research before you actually talk to the person. If you know that person and you haven’t talked to them in 6 months, get online, see what they’re posting. Many people don’t make their Facebook private, go look at their Facebook, see what’s going on with them personally. Look at the industry, what’s changed in the industry for them? Do research before you get on the phone.

The other thing is if you have a key account that you want to grow, we just assume that they’re our client, let’s just go with it but you need to know what’s going on with that company all the time. What are their key initiatives? What problems have come up? What air bags exploded that totally changed the way the industry has to deal with their customers? What matters to them, what are they trying to achieve? Then you can have intelligent conversations, and we talked about giving people the opportunity to speak. It’s hard to ask good questions if you don’t know anything about them, you don’t know what’s going on with them.

Fred Diamond: We have a couple questions here coming in, but I want to make a quick point. I had a conversation with somebody in December and it was just about getting ready for the next year, normal conversation, I seemed to be up to date and then I reached out to this person in mid-January. “Can we schedule that call next Thursday like we talked about?” and he wrote back, “I’d love to but the acquisition has taken up all of our time.” I was like, “Okay, I understand, I’ll reach back out in a couple weeks.” I go up on the internet and I typed in his company name and ‘acquisition’ and his company was acquired the week before. This was like a week after we had this great conversation and now I got it. We have a question here from Lou in the DC area, Lou actually comes on a lot of our shows. Lou says, “What if I don’t like them on Facebook?” That’s an interesting point and I want to ask this question to you. This has come up a lot, I’m just curious on your thoughts. Again, you’ve worked with thousands of salespeople over your career. There are challenges going on in the country and in the world right now, what if you could tell that you really differ significantly, let’s just say, politically or on certain issues with prospect? It might not have been a challenge 30 years ago because you might not have known, but now because of Facebook, Twitter and other places you could easily see where someone stands. What do you do if you really want to sell them your products or services but they’re on the other side of the fence? Talk about how you would coach salespeople because it’s come up a lot of times recently, Liz. Thanks, Lou, for the question, I think that’s what you were getting at. Interested in your thoughts in how you divorce yourself from the mission of the sale.

Liz Heiman: There’s a couple of things. One is I do it a lot, I have my own very strong political beliefs and I have customers who have very different beliefs. Because I’m a consultant, because I’m working with them if their attitudes and beliefs interfere with our ability to work together while we’re working together then I have to do something about it. If they’re saying things that I find offensive, I’m not going to continue that relationship but I have loved many people who share different views than I do. I have to look at their Facebook page and say, “That person is writing those things, they’re in pain.” As a seller, I need to recognize they’re frightened, they’re in pain, they’re worried and even if they have ideas that you think are absolutely crazy, you have to recognize that these ideas are frightening them or making them feel whatever way they feel. If you look at it and you’re going to have to have a personal relationship with this person and you feel like, “I can’t maintain a personal relationship with that person who believes those things” then you have to make that decision. If this is a working relationship where you’re selling them a product, at least you know. I want you to look for other things, my kid just graduated from college, my best friend just had a car accident, my daughter is a dance teacher, her kid just won a competition. What’s going on in my world? What’s bringing me joy? What’s giving me fear? Then you have to make that decision. I will tell you that if in fact the person you’re talking to’s belief system means that they don’t think you have a right to exist, then that’s problematic and it’s really hard to get past. But there are some other kinds of beliefs that we can look at and say, “This person is in pain and whether I believe that their pain is based on something real or not, I need to acknowledge that they’re in pain and work around that.”

Fred Diamond: Research is #2, what is the third way that we can be proactive right now?

Liz Heiman: Plan, this is one of the most important things. Now you’ve done your research, you’ve decided what you want to do, what you want to work on, you’ve got your focus, you’ve got your priorities, you’ve done your research. Don’t just pick up the phone – and I don’t know how many times I’ve already said that, but don’t just pick up the phone, don’t just send out an email. Think about what’s important, what do I need to talk to them about? What do I need to find out about? Who do I need to be introduced to? Let’s get this all set up, let’s write the list of questions I need an answer to, let’s get this planned out. My meeting, my relationship, whatever it is, what needs to happen? Get it written down, get it organized so that when you’re having those interactions, they’re valuable and you don’t get up the phone and go dark.

The other thing is I think that we need to plan things that we don’t normally think about. Did you plan to check your credibility in your conversation? Credibility is really important and we lose credibility or we assume credibility, but did you actually check it? Did you check it this week to make sure that if it’s a customer you already have, that they’re happy with what you’re doing? Did you check maybe not directly but indirectly, make sure they haven’t looked at your Facebook and are offended by something that you posted? [Laughs] are you checking to make sure you’ve maintained credibility with them, earning credibility or thinking about how to earn credibility?

Fred Diamond: That’s an interesting point. You can’t wait until it’s time to ask for the renewal of service, you need to be constantly thinking about that. Liz, we have a question here that comes in from Rich and Rich is not too far from your old stomping grounds of New Jersey and southern Pennsylvania. Rich asks, “What is Liz’s advice for planning now that we’re all virtual?” That’s an interesting question. I think what Rich is asking, because Rich and I have talked about this, we were talking about teams where everybody is still virtual and they’re not back to the office for obvious reasons. A lot of the companies that are members of the IES have told me that they’re not going to send people back till June at the earliest, and a couple have announced they’re not going to send people back in 2021. I’m just curious on your thoughts about team building, team activities and things like planning, getting everyone together, “I’ve got this really big call coming, I’m trying to sell what we sell to Hilton, does anybody know anything? Let’s put our heads together.” Give us some of your thoughts. Again, planning is so critical. What is some of your advice for teams to do those types of activities virtually?

Liz Heiman: The first thing I would say is build a structure for those conversations. Again, forgive me because I don’t normally do this but I’m going to go back to Strategic Selling and Conceptual Selling which have very structured tools for communicating. You use the same language, the same process time after time so everybody knows how to do it. Other methodologies have the same kinds of tools in them, but the point is, “I have a call coming up, this is the process we go through. I tell my story, you ask your questions, we come up with ideas together.” Whatever it is, but you have a process and a structure for brainstorming around whatever it is that you’re working on. I think it’s really important more now than ever because we’re not sitting next to each other, we’re not bumping into each other. That means if we’ve got a call, particularly if multiple people are going to be on that call, you need to get together virtually before that call and go through the process of, “This is our intent, this is what we need to get out of it, these are the things we need to find out. We do need to check our credibility, here’s how we’re going to do it.” Whatever it is, and do the same thing, a strategic plan for a client that you’re trying to sell something to. If you have an opportunity and you have multiple people involved in that, have these structured conversations.

The one that I think is most important is around key accounts. There are people who are interacting with your key accounts day in and day out and sales is over here and engineering is over here and customer success is over here and accounting is over there and never shall they interact. I think that on any key account, you need to have a regularly scheduled meeting. First of all, create a key account plan, second of all, get together and say, “We still need to meet this person, we’re still trying to accomplish this, they’re not happy with this, we still need to solve it.” Go through the steps, “How much progress have we made? What have you learned?” Whether it’s monthly or quarterly, getting that team together around those key accounts, I’m telling you, we leave money on the table like you can’t believe. Imagine your engineer is in their everyday and he or she has no idea that you’re trying to sell this and then you say, “By the way, we’re trying to sell this. If you learn anything about it…” “Oh, I was just talking to Joe about it the other day.” You never had that conversation before, talk to your team, make schedules, agreed upon times where this is what we’re going to do.

Fred Diamond: It goes back to what you said in your very first bullet point which is be intentional. We have a comment here from Kevin, Kevin says, “Right on. It’s easier to bring the team together.” Kevin, I’m not really quite sure, some people are still struggling with that. I like what you said there, it goes into all the things you talked about. #3 is plan, what is #4? We have a quick note here from Lynne and Lynne says, “This is great, thank you so much, Liz.” #4, don’t wait until tomorrow.

Liz Heiman: Don’t wait until tomorrow, don’t wait for them to call you, don’t wait for them to tell you they have a problem, don’t wait, get ahead of it. Let’s start again with key accounts, how many of us have big accounts, distributors, whatever and we just wait for them to call us and order? If we’re waiting for them to call us and order, we’re missing the opportunity to get ahead of solving their problem and helping them figure out what it is they want, or they may order something way bigger, more pieces if we get ahead of it instead of waiting for them to call us and tell us what they need. I think that’s also true in any part of the process, if somebody says, “I’m going to call you on Thursday” and they don’t call you, don’t wait for them to get around to it. They’re busy, they’re distracted, something has changed, get in touch with them, don’t wait for things to happen. This is the core of being proactive: be intentional, know what you want to do, make your plans and then don’t wait for things to happen, make them happen.

Fred Diamond: One of our members of the IES used to like to say that his people were great at sitting by the phone and waiting for it to ring. We all know that’s great, getting an inbound lead, a hot marketing qualified lead as you mentioned before but it really is up to you, sales professionals out there. You’ve got to be jumping on these things, you’ve got to be out there. Liz, one thing that we talk about so many times here, I’m curious on your thoughts, people ask me, “What is the #1 sales tool?” and I always say it’s the phone. Pick up the phone. We’ve had the great Art Sobczak on the Sales Game Changers webinar, we’ve had the great Alex Goldfayn, peers of yours talking about those strategies that you need to do. What do you think, do you agree? Is the phone the best sales tool?

Liz Heiman: My very good friend Joanne Black who does referral selling, Joanne says, “Pick up the damn phone!” and she’s funny when she says it. It’s hard for some people, what you would never know about me from this conversation is that I am painfully introverted. Once I’m on the phone and once I’m interacting I’m fine, but the idea of picking up the phone makes me sick to my stomach even when I have to call people I really know and like. It is just not a natural thing for me, but we have to do it. Again, if I plan it, if I say, “On Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m. I’m calling so-and-so” then I pick up the phone and do it. If I wait around and say, “I’ve got to call them…” it’s not going to happen. Plan it, know what you want to say, it makes it much easier to pick up the phone when you know what you want to say.

Fred Diamond: And just start doing it, right?

Liz Heiman: Just do it.

Fred Diamond: I’ve got a little note here that says, “Call someone right now” right here by my side.

Liz Heiman: You can just wait until we’re done talking and then pick up the phone.

Fred Diamond: It’d be kind of rude of me to do it in the middle of this podcast. All right, don’t wait is #4, what is your fifth suggestion?

Liz Heiman: The next thing is what’s next? I don’t know how many of you play chess, I’m the worst chess player in the world. My brother used to love to play chess with me because he could beat me every time, but if you’re playing chess and you’re playing the move that you’re on, you’re losing. Sales is a lot that way, if you’re focused just on the phone call you’re making right now or the thing that you’re selling right now or the relationship that you have right now, you’re losing. What you need to do is be thinking about what’s next. What’s the next part of the buying process? What’s the next person I need to meet? What’s the next problem they’re going to have? What’s the next thing I need to solve? What’s the next objection that’s going to come? And that doesn’t mean get out of your head when you’re in your meeting with them, because when you’re in your meeting with them you have to be in the moment and listening and paying attention. But before you get on the call or after you finish the call, immediately start thinking about what’s next, because I can’t prepare if I’m not in that headspace. That’s my what’s next.

Fred Diamond: We had one of your peers, James Muir, the guy who wrote The Perfect Close as a guest. We just posted his podcast on Tuesday, forward advance. Every call is not going to be a close, every call is not going to be a new order, it’s moving the relationship forward. If you could do that over the next 5, 10, 15, 30 years then you’ll have a tremendous career in sales. Continue to move forward providing value along the way.

Let’s recap here. #1 was be intentional, #2 was research, #3 was plan, #4 is don’t wait and #5 is what’s next. Liz, we have a couple questions here.

Liz Heiman: Let me have a second for this one.

Fred Diamond: We have a bonus, go.

Liz Heiman: Ask. I’m going to tell you a really quick story. When I was a kid, we used to have this little German shepherd, we always had German shepherds but we had this one little female German shepherd and if you turned your back on her, she’d bite you in the butt every single time. This is the thing about information or objections, we tend to not ask about things we don’t want to know about but here’s what I know. If you assume that you know the answer, if you don’t ask because you don’t want to hear the answer, if you don’t ask for whatever reason, I guarantee you, it will bite you in the butt when you are not looking. So ask, just ask the questions.

Fred Diamond: That’s a great point and we’ve discussed that many times. We’ve got a bonus there, the bonus is ask and if you don’t ask, you’re not going to move to the next level. It’s interesting, we bring up this stat a lot. One of our sponsors at one time was a company called ExecVision, you might have met Steve Richard in your career. Steve’s company had analyzed over a million sales calls and I asked him, “What’s the one thing you learned?” He said, “The one thing I learned after listening to a million sales calls was that people weren’t asking for follow up.” At least half the calls, people weren’t asking for the next step which might even be, “Can we talk again on Tuesday?” or, “Can I send you something?” or something specific to keep moving forward. What’s next.

Liz Heiman: I do this on my phone interviews with my customers and my team. Every single opportunity in the funnel needs a next section and ideally, you’ve planned it with the customer but if you haven’t, you still better have one in line and ready to go.

Fred Diamond: I know you have something you want to give away to the listeners and the attendees as well. 

Liz Heiman: Absolutely, if you link in with me which is the easiest way for us to do this, I will send you a sales strategy guide. What I’ll tell you is that about 10 people a day download this sales strategy guide and people tell me they love it. They often call me and say, “I’ve done all of it but I have a question” which I would love. If you get the sales strategy guide and you have a question, call me so I can answer it. If you link in with me or you send me an email, liz@regardingsales.com or Liz Heiman at LinkedIn and say, “Hey, I was on the Institute for Excellence webinar or podcast” then I will send you the sales strategy guide.

Fred Diamond: Liz, before I ask you for your final action step for our listeners today I just want to acknowledge you. You might not know this but you and your whole family, for that matter and you specifically have helped tens of thousands of sales professionals take their careers to the next level which means that they took their companies to the next level, which means that they got what they wanted out of life and helped their families achieve their goals. I just want to acknowledge you, you may not always be thinking about that but the work that you’ve done over your hugely successful career in sales guidance and sales coaching has led to such success with so many companies around the globe. I just want to acknowledge you for that and for all the great work, thanks for being with us today, you did a great job. I love the five proactive steps.

You’ve given us 20 great ideas and we’re getting notes here, Lou said, “This was great.” Martin said, “Thank you so much, Liz.” Give us an action step that people must do right now to take their sales career to the next level.

Liz Heiman: Prioritize, figure out who your ideal customer is, figure out what are the most important things you need to do. Take all of those other things that don’t matter and put them on the back burner, but do the things that matter. Prioritize the customers that are going to grow, prioritize the ideal customer that’s got the shortest sales cycle and the most likelihood of buying and prioritize out those customers that are wasting your time and are never going to buy from you. Prioritize.

Fred Diamond: Rachel says, “Thank you, great stuff.” Robin says, “This was amazing.” Ricardo says, “Well done.” Liz Heiman, thank you again. Thank you so much for all the great work you do, stay safe out there, everybody.

Liz Heiman: Thank you.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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