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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a replay of the Sales Game Changers Panel Webinar hosted by Fred Diamond, Host of the Sales Game Changers Podcast, on May 13, 2020. It featured sales leaders Dan Cole (The Spy Museum) and Steve Richard (ExecVision).]
EPISODE 234: How Sales Leaders are Leading Teams and Customers Moving Forward with The Spy Museum’s Dan Cole and ExecVision’s Steve Richard
DAN’S TIP TO EMERGING SALES LEADERS: “If you feel your empathy to your customers is getting stale I would say take a day or a week off because nothing’s changed in sales. Empathy should always be a part of what we do whether we’re in a pandemic or not. It is what is going to allow us to move our business forward.”
Fred Diamond: Dan Cole, it’s great to have you today on the webcast. You’re with the Spy Museum, you’ve been on the Sales Game Changers podcast. First of all, why don’t you tell us a little bit about yourself? As we look at the results of this poll, 30% of the people are concerned about their job and the future of their company and 40% are challenged with connecting with customers. Dan, why don’t you give us a little bit of a welcome and give us some thoughts on what the results of the poll say?
Dan Cole: Fred, thanks for having me and it’s great to connect with you again and Steve as well. I appreciate being here today and welcome to all of our guests as well. I’ll just keep it in a brief nutshell, I’ve been selling all my professional career, started selling copiers in the late 80s and then for the majority of my career went into the events business. Trade shows, worked here locally at a company called National Trade Productions and then for the Consumer Electronics Show at the Consumer Technology Association, spent a great deal of time there. Went to the other side of the business to Hargrove on the supplier side and I see friends from Hargrove around this call today.
Now I’m at the International Spy Museum in Washington, D.C. at our brand new gorgeous location that we hope to open soon. It’s interesting, the poll, I think one of the things that we’ll get into today and I think Steve would agree, the 30% that are concerned about their jobs and their companies, I know empathy is a word that does come up often and we’ve got to remember that our clients are dealing with the same concerns. They have the same concerns about them personally so I’m sure that our clients are dealing in the same type of world as well.
Fred Diamond: Steve Richard, it’s great to have you on today’s webcast. We’ve had you on the Sales Game Changers podcast before, we’ve also had you speak at the Institute for Excellence in Sales. I like to say that you’re a savant when it comes to prospecting and understanding customers and their conversations. You’ll talk about your company here in a second, ExecVision, but you’ve listened to over a million sales conversations and sales calls, I’m curious what you’re seeing today. Give us a little bit of introduction about yourself and give us your impressions of the results of the poll as well.
Steve Richard: I’m very passionate about studying and understanding buying and selling. As someone who accidentally got into sales, sales found me, I didn’t find sales. I was supposed to be in finance, couldn’t get a job and didn’t want to work for our family septic tank business so that’s how I got here, Fred. Along the way I feel in love with it and I think that what’s going on right now is that some of the rules of selling and buying are being re-written a little bit. I’m observing because I’m a founder of two companies, one called Vorsight, the other called ExecVision. ExecVision is a technology company and what we do is help people with their call recordings to use call analytics, speech analytics and then use that to help train and coach people to actually get better to improve behaviors.
That’s what Fred is referencing with these million calls. What I can tell you is right now a lot of these roles are getting re-written, people are struggling. Believe it or not, they’ll talk. The ability to get a customer or prospect to talk is quite possible, of course you have to have their mobile numbers these days or other methods of communicating, certainly social media but what we’re finding is that sales cycles are dragging on, people are generally speaking dragging their feet unless it’s something that they absolutely need to have to keep the lights on. It’s hard to keep them engaged in the process and you can understand why, because there’s a lot of concerns just like what we saw in that poll, people potentially losing their jobs are not going to buy anything, it wouldn’t make any sense.
Fred Diamond: Dan, what are your priorities right now?
Dan Cole: We’ve got a lot going on. Certainly, as Steve said, it’s a weird, bizarre, somewhat unsettling or very much so an unsettling time for our entire staff at the museum. From a priority standpoint as it relates to the sales team, there’s some main ones that I would call them engagement, encouragement and excellence. Not only with our clients but with our staff as well, staying connected to each other, motivating one another, staying connected with our clients, engaging with them, again that empathy knowing that they are most likely going through the same challenges as we are and also.
Staying connected with our partners, our service providers whether they be a caterer or AV company or a florist or a general contractor, staying engaged. That’s the engagement part, the other three are sustaining revenue, trying to build upon revenue, building pipelines and looking to 2021. Q3 and Q4 are obviously a challenge, can’t take our eyes off of ’21 so prospecting in that direction as well are our priorities.
Fred Diamond: Steve, how about you? What are the big priorities for you in what you’re doing?
Steve Richard: Making sure we keep going. What we’re seeing is actually pretty interesting. One of my companies is called Vorsight with about 35 employees, 25 folks on the phone doing something called outsourced appointment setting. What that means, it’s companies’ contract with us, with Vorsight to get appointments on their behalf and I have an opportunity to swap notes with memoryBlue as a customer of ours and they’re another appointment setting firm as well as market sourced in Atlanta and many others. The funny thing with that business is we’re actually seeing that the clients are sticking around for the most part and actually, new clients are signing up so there are portions of the economy that are hot and it’s really unfair.
Dan, you found yourself at the coolest job ever at the wrong time which is just so sad and unfortunate because I can’t wait to get to that rooftop, I’m going to take you up on that. Likewise, there are some clients that are in things like cloud computing where they compete against AWS and they couldn’t be any hotter right now and their demand is off the charts and they want to keep going. What we’re seeing is if you do have reps that continue with the engagement – I think that was a key word, Dan – keep engaging prospects and customers without the hard sells stench, to quote my friend John Barrows. If you can do that, then you’re going to be in a much better place coming out of this than if you don’t. Sadly, one of our customers for our ExecVision technology is Madison Square Garden, can you imagine that? And they were absolutely doing fantastic before all of this hit with the Knicks and Rangers having some trouble but the Rangers being a little bit better than the Knicks, but then this all hit and they had to completely retrench. They’re not allowed to call any customers right now with the exceptions of providing refunds and those kinds of things. There are certain things like that but ultimately if we don’t keep going the global economy stops. I think the reality is sales is the engine of the global economy, salespeople and we all have heard this at your events before, Fred, nothing happens in the economy until something gets sold. If we don’t keep engaging and keep our activity levels up, we’ll have problems.
Fred Diamond: Last Friday on our Creativity in Sales webcast we had Lee Salz who wrote a book called Sales Differentiation and he told a great story that sales is going to lead companies out of this. You’re absolutely right if things don’t get sold. Again, on today’s webcast we’re talking to Steve Richard with ExecVision and Vorsight and Dan Cole with the Spy Museum. Steve, what’s a positive thing that’s come out of this? We’re going to get into some of the details here but tell us a positive thing or a compelling surprise that has come out of this situation and Dan, I want to hear your answer on that as well but let’s take Steve first.
Steve Richard: Real easy answer, there are dozens and dozens of people that I haven’t talked to in years that I’m reestablishing relationships and connections with that are very meaningful and will serve all of us in the future. Then opportunity to meet people like Dan that I never would have crossed paths with at all so that’s really positive and certainly spending a lot more time with the family and people not having to commute as much so there’s an opportunity for learning that in many cases didn’t exist.
Fred Diamond: How about for you, Dan? What’s been something positive that’s come out of this that maybe will have some legs for the future?
Dan Cole: I think there’s a tremendous amount of good will between ourselves and our partners but I’ll tell you what, our clients as well. People are rooting for us as we’re rooting for them so the good will that exists, I want to say it’s somewhat surprising not in a negative way. We’re all rooting for each other, I think Steve touched on that, that from a sales perspective we have the privilege of being on the front line, we have the privilege of carrying the torch and I think clients and prospects alike appreciate that and appreciate that sincerity. For me personally, I think Steve nailed it as well. I got to meet Steve through this and meeting others at the Institute as well. Fred, you’ve been a really good friend and especially at times like these, meeting new peoples and maintaining relationships with those that you’ve been with for a long time makes us even more important. I think the most pleasant surprise is the amount of support that clients give to vendors and vendors give to clients. This is where the word ‘partnership’ really gets tested, we throw around that word a lot but I think now in a time like this, this is where one can really determine whether they have a true partnership with a client, a partner or with one another.
Fred Diamond: Dan, I’m curious, again when we first met you, you were at Hargrove, now you’re with the Spy Museum, you’ve been with event companies, you’ve been with conference companies, you’ve been in the technology space, you’ve led and managed if not thousands, at least hundreds of people. How have you seen yourself change as a sales leader in the last 6-7 weeks since we’ve been in this temporary new world?
Dan Cole: I think that’s a great question, the distance that we all experience. I come from an office so a lot of people work virtually in other industries but we all work with one another and that is an advantage that we see each other every day, we can read each other’s body language, we can have meetings with one another, we can sit down with one another with clients. This has changed completely and I don’t know if it’s changed me but what provides a greater emphasis and a greater focus with me is remembering to remember that everyone is dealing with this in their own separate way.
My conversations and my availability is custom tailored to each person on my team. First of all, they’re a bed rock for me as I want to be with them. There are some on the team that don’t need a phone call every five minutes – not that everybody does at all – there are others that appreciate a phone call once or twice a day just because this is something different. I think what it’s caused me to do is to create place and greater emphasis on remembering that people deal with adversity in different ways. If that’s a change from what I’m used to face to face, I think that change is a change for the positive.
Fred Diamond: Steve, before I ask you that question I’m curious how you’ve changed as well as a sales leader. You’re also a business owner as well, you’re one of the principle owners of two companies right now. Once again, if anybody has any questions for Steve or Dan, submit them via the question panel. How have you changed? Again, you’ve been home, I don’t want to disclose how many kids you have with you at home but I know –
Steve Richard: I’ll disclose it, it’s four, ages 4, 6, 8 and 10 and even though I’ve got the door locked they might find a way to bust in here any minute.
Fred Diamond: Thank you so much, it’ll be cute if one of your kids comes up to you with something and they sit on your lap. Has that happened, just curiously or have you been able to lock yourself away?
Steve Richard: Yeah, they’ve figured out how to take a paperclip and pop the door open.
Fred Diamond: [Laughs] How have you changed in the last 4-5 weeks as a sales professional, as a sales leader?
Steve Richard: A couple things. I think the first thing is I come from an inside sales background, a lot of people think of inside sales as just the folks that get the appointments which is called sales development commonly now. It’s also people have been closing deals and I’ve been involved with the association, Fred, you know too, the AISP for many years. This isn’t that different in many ways than what most people who carry big quotas and sell with an inside sales model have dealt with and really, if you think about it, pretty much every field person is now an inside sales person so oddly what I found is that in many cases I’m giving people advice and tips and insights on, “Here are the things you can and should be doing when you’re essentially an inside salesperson.”
I think the other part of it is I have been going back to the fundamentals and the basics and sometimes you get on a role and you’re doing your thing and you’re getting your deals, sales are coming in and you’re serving your customers and they’re renewing and everything is fine but then the bad habits creep in and you don’t sharpen the saw. What I’m seeing is the best sales teams right now are using this as an opportunity to go and sharpen that saw. We’ve seen the metrics in our system in ExecVision, we can track call coaching. Now it’s anonymous so we don’t know what company it is but we can see how much call coaching is happening, comments, score cards, all that. It’s up double since before the pandemic so there is absolute evidence and proof in saying that companies are really working on their craft that they weren’t before as much.
Fred Diamond: Dan, I’m going to ask you in a second, Steve mentioned habits, some of them are beginning to grade a little bit. I’m going to ask you a question about what habits could sales professionals be working on but as I would presume, we just got three people who quickly jumped in and said, “Steve, what are those tips that you’re now giving the outside people who are now inside?” Dan, think about that for a second but Steve, let’s address that for a second or two. You’ve always been a guru on inside sales but now everybody is in inside sales so what are some of those tips that you’re telling people right now that they should be doing?
Steve Richard: Spend some money on technology, for example and actually I have to do this at my house because I’ve got four kids with three devices each, wireless speakers, now all of a sudden my network’s taxed, I’ve got to upgrade my router. $250 bucks on Amazon, you get a Black Hawk, it’s cheap. Get yourself a Yeti Speaker, it’s $130 dollars on Amazon, you can get the low end ones for $70, it looks like a legitimate podcast looking thing, get one of those, it’s a no-brainer. Get a better camera, it’s a no-brainer. Set expectations that the camera is going to be on all the time, it seems simple, most people don’t do it. Record your calls, Zoom you can record, other technologies you can record in a compliant way so the people know they’re being recorded and it’s state laws and everything. Record your calls, absolutely 100%. The thing that’s actually nice about Zoom is you can get a lot more decision makers involved, easier, faster with less friction than you could before. Sometimes you can’t get them in the same room but it’s pretty easy to get them in the same virtual room.
Fred Diamond: We’re going to address that in a few moments now, everybody being at home. Dan, you’ve also done a lot of sales training in your career as well. By the way, we didn’t say this but you’re also known as The Sales Rhino, someone just chimed in here. Dan’s known as the Sales Rhino.
Steve Richard: Why?
Fred Diamond: [Laughs]
Steve Richard: Hang on, I’m sorry, Fred. Why?
Fred Diamond: Dan, you can tell us why and then you can answer the question about habits that sales professionals should be focusing on right now.
Dan Cole: First habit is charging down opportunities, there’s your Rhino answer, Steve. I’ve taken this opportunity to encourage but I’d also say working on myself, I’m developing systems and routines because I’m stuck here at home so I might as well develop a higher degree of discipline throughout my day. I told some people I have not worked from home in the past this day to day and I always wondered what would stop me from going outside and looking at the beautiful weather and not slacking off, but being distracted, it’s just the opposite. I have to force myself, I’ve told members of my team that are on the call, they experience the same, we encourage each other to go out, take walks, take breaks, what have you because if not, you are staring at a screen all day long. Developing disciplines and routines and systems, there’s a book called Atomic Habits by James Clear that many I’m sure in this audience have heard.
He said it’s all about your systems, it’s not necessarily about habits. Steve, you brought up sharpen the saw, Stephen Covey has been a mentor of mine for my entire professional life so professional development, we don’t shy away with that on our sales team. We encourage everybody on a daily basis to participate in some form of professional development whether it be reading a book, leading a role play or watching a video. Every Friday we have something called ‘book club’ where someone shares either a chapter from a book or an article and we all discuss it so sharpening the saw, I think, is absolutely the most important habit which includes everything I just explained.
Fred Diamond: One question that came in here that said, “Is it better to use a video conference or the phone for client calls?” Knowing that people are home. We’re all dressed up, we’re wearing nice shirts and all that but we’ve seen the memes and pictures of people who haven’t showered yet or shaved or whatever, people who are accidentally hitting the potato button on their Zoom, if you will. Talk to us a little bit about that, Steve and Dan, mention your thoughts about that as well. People are home, we know they’re home, what are some best practices to be contacting them?
Steve Richard: I’m going to give you three, the first is going to be for a scheduled call. When you’re doing scheduled calls like on Zoom and Microsoft Teams, GoToMeeting, etcetera you absolutely want to have the video on and it’s not my opinion. I’ve looked at various sets and research that companies have done, on average your win rate will increase by about 2% so if you’re winning 16% of your deals, you’ll win 18% and by the way, if you turn your camera on and the other person does not turn their camera on, it doesn’t make a difference because it humanizes you.
You have to see the person. I think that we’re never going to go back to work where people weren’t doing this now, this was the nudge we all needed because before everyone got on these and no one ever put the camera on, now everybody puts their camera on. The second is if you’re doing an unscheduled call. If it’s an unscheduled call, obviously you can’t really use video as part of it but instead, this is kind of an odd website, it’s completely free, it’s called truepeoplesearch.com and it’s essentially a database of mobile phone numbers of folks. If you don’t have the prospect contact information, there are other paid resources too like Zoom Info and Sales Intel and Seamless that provide that. Obviously in that case it’s going to be a phone call. Then the third thing is the value of social media and social selling is way higher, to borrow a line from Jill Rowley, the old Queen of Social Selling, the old eloquent sales professional who now is a talking head, she says, “Not always be closing but always be connecting.”
Connect with someone on LinkedIn, don’t ask them for anything and then reference something like a common connection. So, if I connect with Dan and I reference Fred, my probability of him connecting is much higher. Once he connects if you click on the contact info in LinkedIn, they usually have persona email and personal cellphone number sitting right there. Let’s be connecting, let’s be informed as sales professionals now more than ever.
Fred Diamond: Dan, I’ve just been informed that you’ve been the Rhino since 1988, FYI, one of your fans just let us know that. How about you, Dan? Again, talking to people, we know that they’re home, we know they might be in their garage, they might be in the makeshift in. A lot of people that you talk to probably don’t necessarily work from home so how are you engaging your people to interact with them?
Dan Cole: I’m going to give the credit to the sales team that I know is on this call right now. This is a really challenging time for them because our bread and butter in terms of how we articulate benefits of our events space that Steve was alluding to earlier, the events we have, my team sells a space at the top of the Spy Museum on the roof and these are gorgeous panoramic views of D.C. It’s an emotional sell as it were so taking people around on “site visits” is a natural part and a very important part of our sales process, we can’t do that right now, we can’t be in the office and certainly our clients and prospects can’t be participating in site tours. With the help of our AB team we do have the opportunity to view space virtually, that is available on the website and the team is also proactively sending out those links.
We just did so a few minutes ago with an association that’s taking a look at our space so that’s how we’re dealing with that particular tool. I would also echo on a general standpoint what Steve said, this is a great opportunity for humanizing the experience, it does not mean that the other person has to turn their camera on, as Steve said but we hear this cliché about relationship building. This is the ultimate way to do it, it shows that we’re willing to take an extra step, put the camera on us, the onus on us and be able to at least do the best we can through body language and sincerity, develop that relationship or sustain that relationship. Again, don’t have to pressure the other people to put their camera on but it is an opportunity for us to continue to build and develop relationships. I hate this term, “The new normal”, I don’t want to be normal but young people coming up in this profession like Steve said, they’re not going to know any difference. They’ll be face-to-face selling but I think this virtual element is here to stay so this is something that we all need to become accustomed to whether we are in the field or we are leading the sales team or both.
Fred Diamond: Let’s talk about relationships for a second here, we have a question that came in through the panel. Steve, you’re one of the most well-known people I know in the inside sales world, whenever you host something you get hundreds if not thousands of interactions. Dan, you know everybody as well, you’ve been selling to people, you actually introduced us to 10 people that we’ve had on the Sales Game Changers podcast. Let’s talk about relationship building now, we can’t just go meet somebody for lunch. People are doing virtual lunches but let’s talk about building relationships right now. I think, Steve, you mentioned before that this has been a great opportunity to connect with people that you haven’t connected in a while. Give us some of your ideas on how people can be building relationships. Besides the people in your house, your spouse and your children, you’re really not seeing too many other people because we’re being very conscious of physical and social distancing. Dan, why don’t you go first? What are your recommendations on building relationships now and in the foreseeable future? They’re talking about some offices not opening up until September and then Steve, you deal with people around the world, I’m interested in your thoughts.
Dan Cole: Do you want me to go first, Fred?
Fred Diamond: I do, yes.
Dan Cole: I think now more than ever this is a time to take people by surprise and I’ll tell you what I mean by that. I think that often times when we’re trying to contact people, the first inclination we as human beings have – and it doesn’t have to be from a snarky standpoint as, “What do you want, why are you calling, what happened?” we’re used to that from normal time. I think now more than ever especially going back to this format, one of the things that I try to do and I know that our sales team does because they have unbelievable relationships is really put the other person first in terms of what we can do for them. It doesn’t have to do anything with the Spy Museum. In fact, I think that’s the most sincere way of doing things, pay it forward to me is a way of life and what you put out in the universe, it gives back to you.
I think that absolutely applies to relationships with clients and prospects alike. No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care, that comes from listening, that comes from a genuine, sincere interest and I think the way you do that is you don’t necessarily have to concentrate on your product or service immediately because most people do. I want to be one of the ones that say they were getting in contact with me and I know Julie and Stephanie as an example are in touch with clients and just letting them know through emails, “Here’s some of the online programs that are absolutely free for you and your clients to listen to, have a listen.” Not one word about selling space whatsoever and that’s where I think relationships come from, that sincerity and that genuine interest in others.
Fred Diamond: Steve, what about you? You’re a big relationship guy. By the way, if you’re watching today’s webcast there’s tens of millions of people also accessing some of the online mechanism so if you see a little bit of a jitter, just bear with us, the audio seems to be pretty sound. Steve, relationships, what are some of your thoughts on continuing to build relationships right now in this virtual world?
Steve Richard: Write down all of the topics, and a great way to do this is talk to people where you already have a strong relationship so they’ll talk to you. What are the topics that they’re thinking about now? If they’re tangential to what you do, great and if they’re not, that’s okay too. I’ll give you an example for us. I spent a lot of time with people on call recording laws and what you can do, how do you record all your calls if they’re unscheduled outbound cold calls and do it in a compliant way. Most people don’t know what’s possible with technology so there’s an education and by the way, that’s not our technology so it’s not what I’m selling.
Another example is using call dispositions. Again, not our technology but the sort of thing where if I can bring to bear the call dispositions of 10 other companies just like them and that’s something that they care about right now because they’re trying to get more data on what their teams are doing working from home, that’s going to help them a ton or our sales process. They say, “I’m looking at refining my sales process while I have an opportunity, what do you know about sales process?” Quite a bit, let’s take a look at ours and some other ones and do those kinds of things. You’ve got to bring that knowledge to bear so that people look at you as someone who cares about them and who’s going to bring value.
I had a question come in from one of our customers, companies called Superior Glove, they sell gloves, literally gloves to safety managers so not so much to consumers but they sell them more like in an industrial setting. He came back to me and asked me a question about sales compensation and then I’m connecting dots because one of our investors sent to our CEO this article about how people are revising their forecast and their sales compensation so I sent him that link. That’s going to create a bigger, stronger bond with Joe and by the way, I also bought his book and I’m going to write a review on Amazon. Those kinds of things, all these things really make a difference.
Fred Diamond: Steve, I want to follow up with you. We’ve got a couple questions coming in here from the audience. Again, if you have a question for Steve Richard or Dan Cole submit them via the question panel, they’re great, we appreciate them. Steve, you’re an expert on sales process. Flow, email, text, call, those types of processes. A question comes in here and let’s get specific if we could. Of course it differs based on industry, company and who you’re talking to. Dan, I’m interested in your thoughts after Steve gives his insights, “What’s the best way to touch base with current customers or prospects today? Should I be emailing, should I be texting, should I be calling? It seems like everyone has put everything ‘on hold.'” Again, if this pandemic had never happened we would have a flow that you guys have developed and refined millions of times with your processes. Again, it’s May 13th, by the way we’re not using the P word or both C words anymore but what are your thoughts on that? What is the best flow for customers and prospects?
Steve Richard: If you know your customer’s optimal communication channels, obviously go for that, that’s the first thing. If you know them and you have a relationship with them, for me and a lot of our customers it’s text, it ends up performing the best and then the message, you want to say something about them or their business to start. An easy way to do this is if they’re active on LinkedIn or other social media, Twitter or whatever, what’s the thing they posted or commented on recently? That’s essentially what’s in their brain. It’s simple, everyone can do it, shame on us if we don’t. If you don’t know what their communication pattern is, if they’re an existing customer obviously ask them but you’re going to have to run a test we’ll refer to as a cadence or a sequence.
A cadence or a sequence is touch one is going to be a voicemail, touch two is going to be a social media connect and this might be cold, it might not be an existing customer, it’s a prospect. Touch three is going to be an email and there are certain rules that we know based on the research that we’ve done, based on the research I’ve seen other people do. One is if it’s cold, it’s a 30 day period, you don’t want to go more than 30 days so you burst your activity. This comes from a company called TOPO that was acquired by Gartner, SiriusDecisions, a similar company acquired by Gartner – Gartner buys everybody. That shows the burst of activities, within that burst of activities you want to have two voicemails and at least two social media touches and then it is fine to have calls where you don’t leave a voicemail and depending on how heavily solicited the prospect is, you can go up to like 10 emails in that 30 day period.
That’s an optimal on average but it’s going to differ from company to company and based on who you’re selling to. If you’re selling to someone much more junior they’re going to be like, “It’s overwhelming” because they don’t get solicited that much but if you’re selling to someone who’s more senior you’ve got to do that to rise above the vendor static and noise that’s in the marketplace.
Fred Diamond: Dan, slightly different question for you. Again, you’ve managed a lot of outside sales professionals over your career. Again, Steve, a lot of his experience has been inside sales teams and appointment scheduling, things along those lines and business development. Dan, what skills should historically outside sales professionals learn today? It’s interesting, everybody came inside about almost two months ago, I’ve been working from home for almost 20 somewhat years so it’s almost second nature even though I’ve learned some things like the chair that I’m using, I need to replace this chair [Laughs] it’s a dining room chair. But even now, you would think that people have probably gotten it down but it’s hard and a lot of people we’ve heard and talking to the sales leaders we’ve spoken to, a lot of the traditional outside sales professionals are struggling with being inside and the new world and not being able to go and travel and do all those things. What are some things you recommend that historically outside sales professionals learn now to be valid moving forward?
Dan Cole: I’m going to go back to the fundamentals and I think the most valuable talent or attribute that a salesperson can have outside or inside is the ability to listen empathically. I have found there’s nothing more important than that. We can present features and benefits all day long but if they have nothing to do with our client or prospect it doesn’t matter, so asking the right questions and understanding what challenges and pain points are that exist for clients gives us the opportunity to sit back and listen, no more important skill. That doesn’t change whether I’m working inside now because of this pandemic or whether I’m working on the outside. I do think, to Steve’s point, we do need to develop for a field the comfort level of who we’re talking to in terms of how they like to be communicated with going back all the way to selling copiers and I know Steve [Inaudible 39:10] on this call who was my manager would agree. This is a people business, at the end of the day we are communicating with fellow human beings and listening to me is the most important skill one could develop. If there’s something that I could spend my entire life in terms of learning and re-learning it’s the ability to listen empathically.
Fred Diamond: A question comes in from the audience, “My empathy is getting stale. What should I be doing now to have fresh outreach to my prospects?” That’s a great question. We’ve been doing this webcast for almost seven weeks now and we’ve seen the evolution of the answers. The first two or three weeks it was obvious, get used to being home, start being empathetic. “How are you?” Simple types of, “How are things going, are you okay? Are you home now?” type of things. Here we are, we’re two months in. During the initial poll that we did, 30% of the people listening today said they have concerns about their jobs in the future.
It’s almost like, “Can we start selling again?” We’ve all spent the last two months getting used to being at home understanding what’s going on in this world that no one foresaw, without getting into politics. What can we be doing now as our empathy gets stale? Dan, you just mentioned empathy and Steve, you’re the conversation king. Dan, why don’t you crack at that one first and then Steve, I’m interested in your thoughts on what should we be talking about now. It’s two months in and we have quotas, we want to sell. I know there’s a lot of quota and compensation relief, it’s a whole different topic that we’re not going to address today but Dan, what are your thoughts on how can you be fresh? What should you be doing to be fresh?
Dan Cole: If your empathy is getting stale I would say take a day off or take a week off because nothing’s changed. My question is why is empathy even more enforced now? Empathy should always be a part of what we do whether we’re in a pandemic or not and get used to it especially now. It goes back to what I originally said before, this comes to authenticity and sincerity and if you can’t exude empathy despite what you’re going through, because we’re all going through it, we’re all nervous, we’re all anxious about this. Find a way to get it, take a day off or do some real serious thinking because that is what is going to allow us to move our business forward, it goes right back to listening.
Everyone to a degree, although everybody handles this differently, is terrified somewhat so to have a degree of empathy is absolutely necessary. You’ve got to pull yourself up by the bootstraps and develop that empathy or recharge yourself so it comes back to you because that isn’t going anywhere, the need for that. When we come out of this pandemic and especially now, you’ve got to be sincere and I think Steve gave great examples of that. You have to be sincere or you might as well not try to be empathetic. We’ve had deep discussions on our team on what our clients are going through, what we’re going through and now’s not the time to drone on obnoxiously, but empathy creates that environment and the basis for continued business. That’s my take.
Fred Diamond: Steve, again I keep referring to you as one of the conversation kings, you’ve listened to more sales conversations than anybody I know and most people I know combined. Talk about that for a second, the shift in conversation right now.
Steve Richard: It was all about acknowledging it before, we’re actually seeing that there’s a negative relationship now if you bring it up, too much are in the wrong context or certainly lead with the two C words, like you said before. Instead, what we’re seeing working is just level with people. None of us are so foolish to think and you can literally say this on a call, if I’m cold calling Dan, “Dan, I’m not so foolish to think that you’re in a position to buy anything at the Spy Museum, I can only imagine what’s happened there because I know you have that event space and I know that everything’s closed, I totally get that. At the same time, I have a job to do and I can bring value to you. Let’s schedule some time so we can talk.”
That leveling with them is very powerful and putting you on that human level, and I’m going to give a nod to Linda Richardson and something I heard from a guy named Kevin Vanes who’s a VP of Sales at Terminus the other day. He talked about the six critical skills, Linda Richardson has the six critical skills. Presence, relating, questioning, listening, positioning and checking. If you’re having an empathy crisis, in addition to taking a day off, read a book and I would read a sales book. Go recharge, go back to the sales mothership. A lot of people have studied this profession, my mentor, Tom Snyder spent years studying the profession of buying and selling and he imparted that passion for it back to me so recharge your battery, it’s like you’re an electric car. Then go back out at it and then honestly, if you can’t be empathetic and you’ve lost that authenticity, you just don’t care about these people – and I mean this with all due respect – maybe get out of sales, maybe do something else for a while and then you can come back to it later on.
Fred Diamond: That’s a great point and actually a great book is Alan Stein Jr.’s Raise Your Game. One of the things that we’ve learned over the 8 weeks we’ve been doing this webcast is you’re a sales professional and if you’re watching today’s webcast, we have a lot of people here from all over the globe. There’s some names I recognize, people in the IES community and there’s a ton of names that I’ve never seen before so thank you so much for participating on today’s webcast. Again, we’re going to be turning this into a Sales Game Changers podcast, keep your eyes open for that. Also, I just want to acknowledge our sponsors of the IES, we have Cvent, Asher Strategies, DLT, ImmixGroup, Red Hat and SAPNS2, they’re our platinum sponsors. You are a sales professional, this is a very difficult time to be in sales but you’re a sales professional. How are you being professional? We have time for two more questions. Do you guys have a couple more minutes? We have a couple more questions that came in, then we’ll wrap up here. How are you taking care of yourself? Again, we have a lot of sales leaders on today’s call. Steve, you look great, you got the beard going here, I told you in the beginning of the call it looks like you’ve lost a little bit of weight but what are you guys physically doing as sales leaders in the midst of this to be sane, to be healthy, to be fresh? Steve, go first.
Steve Richard: In the morning, frozen blueberries in a smoothie with some spinach, protein, ripe banana, unsweetened almond milk with a peanut butter bagel, and I run every day. That’s pretty much it, I do some planks because my back hurts me but if you do that every day, for me at least it works.
Fred Diamond: Eat healthy and get out there and be active. Dan Cole, how about you?
Dan Cole: I’d like to meet you at a centralized location because I’d like to pick that up every day from you, if you don’t mind. My daughter who’s to the right of me has been encouraging me to eat more avocados and that’s something I’ll do as well.
Steve Richard: Dan, I eat one a day, I eat an avocado a day.
Dan Cole: Costco, if you wear a mask and go in there, they’ve got the best deals on them. This is not an Apple watch, it’s my Fitbit, I am obsessed with walking and anybody who would like to join a challenge with me, I’m also a competitor as I’m sure the other two gentlemen on this podcast that you’re looking at are as well. I do a ton of walking every day and on the weekends try to do 10-11 miles, just sharpening the saw with the headphones and listening to podcasts and webcasts and what have you. To answer your question, Fred, lots and lots of walking.
Fred Diamond: What are going to be the challenges over the next week that the sales professionals need to overcome?
Dan Cole: Okay, thank you, Fred [laughs] sorry, Steve. Mine’s a review of what I said before and I think Steve covered this. I think it’s a challenge to assume that clients won’t buy. In other words, and Steve touched on it to, to over-empathize. It’s important to empathize but the authenticity that Steve talked about was basically what I wanted to say, to stay authentic, to understand that we have a job to do, to encourage our sales teams in a very difficult time, to remember that we are of value to each other and to our clients. Then what I want to remember to do and hopefully I’m being effective in doing so is to make sure that I am communicating with each member on my team in the way they want to be communicated with, the way they want to be led, everybody approaches this crisis in a different way, truly, including all of us. Those are my challenges and ones that I hope to overcome.
Fred Diamond: Dan, you just made a great point that comes up not infrequently at the IES. Don’t make the decisions for your customers, don’t presume that they’re having a challenging time, they’re not going to buy, they’re not looking for solutions. Sales professionals out there, do not put your head in the mind of the salesperson and make those assumptions. Steve, why don’t you bring us on home?
Steve Richard: Get out of autopilot if you haven’t already. Take a look around, use your business acumen, look around the economy, there are lots of companies right now that are absolutely thriving and you can sell to them in many cases or be prepared to sell to them when you come out of this. Go subscribe to an email newsletter called The Hustle, every morning they deliver long form journalism and they’re explaining situations of micro industries that are flourishing you’ve never thought of before. Building pipeline and doing the right activity day in and day out when you know it’s not going to close, I think that’s going to be the biggest challenge. It’s like, “How do I keep getting myself to my activity levels when I know for a fact that these deals are not going to close in the ways they were before?”
That can be a mind game, get yourself over that mind game. Then finally, manage up and managing up is not making excuses. If you’re going to manage up, you better not show up saying, “There’s no way I can hit this number, boss” and then they look at your activities and go, “You’re right, there’s not, you didn’t try.” This is not a time not to try and I am absolutely flabbergasted right now how frequently I’m talking to sales leaders and business owners and they’re saying that even in the midst of 15% unemployment we’ve got salespeople who are not essentially trying. Now, I empathize with depression and those kinds of things, I get it, at the same time this is not the time not to try and I know the unemployment is very rich right now and a lot of people are making more on unemployment than they were making before, it’s not going to last forever and that’s not a way to build your career. Find a way if you care about your profession and what you’re doing to get the activities done you need to get done. Dan?
Dan Cole: I want to pay you back on something you said, Steve. Now is not the time, I go to YouTube and John Maxwell talks about the concept of failing forward. We’re not failing but we are redefining challenges that we face. Thinking that we’re failing, we have to ask ourselves, “Is it true?” What you just said, so much speaks to me. Now is not the time, it’s an opportunity as difficult as this is.
Fred Diamond: Gentlemen, once again thank you so much, thanks everybody. If you haven’t taken a picture of the screenshot we have three seconds. Three [laughs], two, one. Thank you so much, thank you to all our guests, again Steve Richard, Dan Cole. Again, this will be repurposed as a Sales Game Changers podcast. Thank you to our transcriber Mariana who is finishing up as we speak. Gentlemen, thank you so much, stay safe.
Dan Cole: Thank you all.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo