EPISODE 582: Sales Prospecting Advice for Women in Sales with Wendy Weiss

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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This podcast featured an interview with Wendy Weiss of Salesology. She is the host of the Salesology Podcast.]

Find Wendy on LinkedIn. She’s offering some enablement tools on her website here.

WENDY’S TIP: “Take action. Don’t put it off. “I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll do it at the end of the week. I’ll do it next week.” Just take action. Take action every single day to grow your sales, and delegate what you need to delegate. Here’s the rule I live by, follow the money. What’s closest to you selling something? Do that.


Fred Diamond: Today, we’re talking to Wendy Weiss, and I’m really, really excited for three reasons. One, my mother’s maiden name is Weiss, Wendy. Her first name is not Wendy, it’s Joan. But whenever I see someone with Weiss, I think we may have some tie for some reason. Second of all, you’re a former ballet dancer, and I’m interested in talking about some of the lessons you might have learned from that as what you’ve been doing with helping companies. You really improve their sales prospecting, and of course, you wrote the book The Sales Winner’s Handbook: Essential Strategies to Skyrocket Sales Performance and Cold Calling for Women: Opening Doors and Closing Sales. Those are a couple of things that are really important to the Institute for Excellence in Sales.

Our Premier Women in Sales Employer designation has been launched. We’re going to be announcing the companies in January 2023 that have received our designation. We’re very, very interested in helping companies elevate their women in sales to the next level. It’s exciting. We’re going to be talking today a simple three-step method that increases qualified appointments and sales by nearly 75%. First thing, why is it so hard for people to prospect?

Wendy Weiss: That’s really the question, isn’t it? People say so many dumb things about this particular topic, and I think sometimes managers are to blame. Forgive me for saying this, managers. But if you’re telling your people how hard it is and how terrible it is, and what’s the expression? It’s just something you got to grit your teeth and get through, they’re probably not going to want to do it. The other thing is that there are certain things that you absolutely have to have in place for them. There is this myth of the born salesperson, that somehow there are these people out there, and they are just born knowing what to do, and born knowing what to say. That is a myth. It is not true.

Fred Diamond: Let’s get deep into this. By the way, you’re also the founder of Salesology, the Salesology Prospecting Method, which generates predictable sales revenue. We’ll be talking about that as we go through today’s podcast as well. One thing I want to touch on, again, I mentioned in the very beginning, you’re a former ballet dancer. Wendy Weiss, one of the things I really love doing is speaking to people. Obviously we talk every day about sales and the sales process. For people who listen to our show frequently, I also wrote a book on Lyme disease awareness. We’ve had some guests who’ve overcome chronic illness to be successful in sales.

But when someone is excellent at something, like sports or entertainment, I like to get deep into not just the mindset, but how that has helped them be successful in sales. You’ve said that as a former ballet dancer, you believe that everything you know, not just in life, but in business, you learned in the ballet class. Let’s talk about that a little bit. What are some of the highlights, some of the things that you learned as a ballet dancer?

Wendy Weiss: Well, my three-step method actually, the Salesology Prospecting Method, is based on what I learned in ballet class. My first career, I danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, and then I danced with the Cincinnati Ballet. I was never supposed to be a sales trainer. I got into my current field because like many artists, I needed a day job. I got a job with a telemarketing agency that did business development. Lucky for me, they taught me this skillset. Learning this skillset was transformational because years later it enabled me to build a business.

What I learned in ballet class, when you’re a dancer and you have a performance, you don’t just run out on stage and start dancing. You have to warm up. You have to stretch out and get set up to do what you need to do so you don’t have a career-ending injury. Elite athletes do the same thing. They don’t just run out on the field and start playing the game, they warm up so they don’t have a career-ending injury. If you manage salespeople, there are things you need to have in place for them so that they don’t hurt themselves, they don’t hurt you, they don’t hurt your bottom line.

Then, if you’re a dancer and you have a performance coming up, again, you don’t just run out on stage and start dancing. You rehearse for months before you go and you do the performance. When you rehearse, you practice the same steps over and over and over again, until you don’t have to think about it. It just becomes automatic. It’s muscle memory. Dancers, we train for 8 to 10 years before you start dancing professionally. It’s not going to take a brand new salesperson 8 to 10 years to learn how to prospect. You can teach them that in a matter of months, two months, maybe three months. But they need to learn their craft and they need to practice their craft, because that’s what successful people do.

Then step three, because first we have the warm up, so they don’t hurt themselves, and they don’t hurt you, they don’t hurt your bottom line. Then you rehearse, because that’s what successful people do. They learn their craft and they practice their craft. Then, and only then, is it time to perform. What enables performance? Well, you’re warmed up, so you’re prepared, and you’ve rehearsed. You have the automatic muscle memory. That’s what enables performance.

Fred Diamond: When you’re on the stage, what are you thinking about? You mentioned muscle memory. Is it such a natural thing where you know what you’re going to do? Or are you thinking about the next move? Or are you thinking about lunch? What are some of the things that are going through your mind when you’re physically on stage in front of thousands of people in the theater watching you dance?

Wendy Weiss: Well, before you get on stage, it’s like sheer terror. But once you are actually on stage, you’re just in the moment. You’re doing what you’re doing, which is where you need to be when you’re speaking with a prospect. If you’re speaking with a prospect and you’re thinking about lunch, or you’re speaking with a prospect and you’re thinking about, “What’s the next thing I’m going to say?” Or, “What if they say this? How do I respond?” It’s just not going to work. You need to be in the moment, but that’s why you need the muscle memory. That’s what keeps you in the moment.

Fred Diamond: Just curiously, obviously there’s probably a director directing the performance, but we talk a lot about how sales professionals need to be coached, and we talk about mentors. We don’t have to go into the difference between mentoring and coaching. When you’re a professional dancer, again, performing for the Pittsburgh or Cincinnati Ballet, how many people are coaching you or watching you perform and giving you advice and guidance throughout the performance? It may not really be that applicable to today’s topic, but I’m just curious.

Wendy Weiss: Typically, there’s one, two, maybe three. You’ve always got your teacher, you always take class with your teacher. There is a rehearsal director, and sometimes the artistic director as well. Maybe three people.

Fred Diamond: You talked about what got you into sales is you needed a day job, you needed to pay the bills as you’re doing your craft. I can’t imagine that most artists would love to make cold calls or those kinds of things during the day as they’re performing at night. It’s something that, to be honest with you, Wendy Weiss, we really don’t hear that often. Did you enjoy it? Did you like the day job that you were doing it? Obviously you shifted your career. I’m going to guess there aren’t that many people who are ballet dancers for their entire life. It’s a physical thing that eventually wears out. But did you enjoy the cold calling? Did you enjoy the prospecting when you did that day job?

Wendy Weiss: I actually did. I thought it was great fun. Here’s one of my pet peeves. I think that the conversation about cold calling is often just not on point, because the conversation is always everybody hates it and then there’s a handful of people that love it. I’ve never been of the opinion that you need to love to cold call. That’s silly. What we train on, what we teach is you just want to get to neutral. It’s a business process by which you can get new clients, period. It’s not an emotional experience. If you can function, if you can be in the moment, in neutral, then you can have productive conversations with prospects. If you are panicking or stressing about it, it just doesn’t work. There are some of us that I always thought it was fun. Because you know what? When you do it well, people say yes.

Fred Diamond: That is true. What do you see people doing wrong? What are some of the most common errors? You mentioned stress and all those kinds of things, but what do you see people doing wrong time and time again?

Wendy Weiss: Well, time and time again, they’re not prepared, they haven’t warmed up. The warm up consists of the managers out there, or the solopreneurs, you need a really clear definition of your target. The answer is not everybody. What’s the definition of a great lead for you in your market with your offering? It needs to be very narrowly focused, because when you focus really narrowly like that, first of all, you’re not going to waste your time. Even if you have inbound leads, you don’t want to waste your time on inappropriate prospects. It makes it so much easier to create the message that’s going to resonate. Which means you get more qualified appointments, which down the line, qualified appointments lead to more deals, more sales. Clear definition of that message, clear definition of the process.

If you’re a manager and you say to a new salesperson, “Go make some phone calls.” There are so many questions that they have to answer. Who are they going to call? Well, we just talked about that. What are they going to say? What happens if they can’t reach them? Do they leave a voicemail? Are they sending an email? Are they texting? Well, what happens if nobody responds? Do they just keep calling? What do they do? Not having these answers just stops people in their tracks. You need a clear definition of the process. Then you need a clear definition of the message, because your salespeople are telling your unique story and you want them to tell it in a way that’s compelling. Those are the elements of the warm up. Most people, I outlined in my three-step method, warm up, rehearse, perform, what most people do is they just pick up the phone and wing it, and that just doesn’t work.

Fred Diamond: No, it definitely doesn’t work. Let’s get a little bit more specific on things like time of day, things like day of the week, things like should you also be using social media to support? Do you have a process where it’s two emails, then a LinkedIn post, then a call? One of the worst things that people who are members of the IES and other organizations we talk to, the concept of LinkedIn connect-and-pitch. You make a connection, then right away you go to, “Gee, it sounds like you could use some help with your backend systems.” “What gave you that idea?” Right? What are some of your advice on some of the logistics? When during the week do you find the best time to make calls? Does it not matter? I’m interested in your thoughts.

Wendy Weiss: Well, I always hate this question because there is research that shows the best days of the week are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday. I’m always afraid that if I say that, people will interpret that to mean they should never make any phone calls on Mondays and Fridays. I try to stay away from that. I had a client who pretty recently, he was reaching out to very large entities, like Bank of America, really high level executives at large entities. He found the best time to reach them, actually, counterintuitively, was after 2:00 on Friday afternoons, because all the support staff, they were getting ready to get going. But high level executives, if they had work that they needed to finish, they’d be there and they’d be picking up their own phones. I think it is better to just reach out systematically every day. It’s also just easier to execute, rather than saying, “I’m going to wait for a certain day and a certain time.”

Fred Diamond: It’s an interesting time right now. We’re doing today’s interview in the fall of 2022. Obviously, everybody’s world has been rocked over the last two and a half years. Now there’s a lot of reports, I’m not going to sound too ignorant here, that we’re going into some financially challenging times based on the results of the last couple of years. What is your advice for people to be discussing now?

Over the last two and a half years, Wendy Weiss, we talked about things like, obviously you need to be empathetic, but how deep should you get into conversations on the first or sometimes even with people that you do business with, asking them how they’re doing over the course of everything we’ve gone through over the last two years? One of the things, Wendy, is that challenges continue. Challenges are continuing for everybody. There are companies that are downsizing. We hear about layoffs, we hear about business retrench, et cetera. What are some of your thoughts on the type of conversations sales prospectors should be having right now? First of all, with people that they don’t know, cold calls, if you will. Secondly, with people that they do know, either from a warm or from existing customer perspective.

Wendy Weiss: That’s actually a really great question, and I’m going to break it down into two parts because there is a huge, huge difference between prospecting and selling. Usually, they’re often talked about as if they’re the same skillset, but they’re not the same skillset. I think of it like dating. If you want to go on a date with someone, you have to ask them. If they say yes, then you go on the date. Well, prospecting is like asking for the date and selling is going on the date. If someone is prospecting, really, the only thing that you are trying to do is to get that prospect to say, “Yes, I’d like to talk to you.” My definition of the word appointment, because I know sometimes before COVID, maybe everybody got in their car to go see people. Now perhaps you don’t. Maybe you do a Zoom call, maybe you do everything over the phone, but the definition of the word appointment is that the prospect says, “Yes, I want to have an in-depth conversation with you about whatever it is you’re selling.”

Once you’ve reached that point, then you can have the conversation. Certainly, asking questions about this situation makes sense. I’ll say something very controversial, because everyone wants to be consultative. Consultative selling doesn’t work for prospecting, because you cannot consult with someone that won’t talk to you. Get them to talk to you first, and then you consult to your heart’s content.

Fred Diamond: That’s pretty powerful. I want to talk about women specifically. Again, I had mentioned that the IES, the Institute for Excellence in Sales, right now we’re in the midst of finding our Premier Women in Sales Employers, and we have a very, very strong Women in Sales program that we’ve been running for the last five or six years. It’s something that we’re most known for. We have companies like Salesforce, Amazon, IBM, all participating. What are some of your thoughts for women progressing in sales? We spend a lot of our time, Wendy Weiss, telling about the value of being in sales to women and to college students, et cetera. You’ve been doing this for a number of years. You’re very successful. What is some of your advice for women who are looking to move into sales?

Wendy Weiss: Well, sales is an amazing write-your-own-ticket career. There is so much room and opportunity for women, and the skills that we need today, I think empathy, being able to communicate, these are skills that women have. Any young woman, I recommend, if you’re thinking about career in sales, go ahead and explore it. There is this stereotype of selling as manipulation, selling as something that’s just not a good thing to be doing. I looked up the definition of the word sell in the dictionary. The definition of the word sell is to persuade someone of the value whatever it is you’re selling. So actually, the concept of value is inherent in the definition of the word sell. I think that for any young woman thinking about going into sales, or women that are in sales today, it’s about serving. It’s about giving value. If you don’t believe in the value of what you’re doing, go find something else to do.

Fred Diamond: Actually, 40 years ago in the US census, sales was not a profession. The options were things like peddling. It’s in theory one of the oldest professions. But from a professional perspective, it’s something that is in some cases relatively new. But I really like what you said there about value as well. If you don’t believe in the value that you’re bringing, it makes sales very, very difficult. Matter of fact, it’s nearly impossible. We’ve worked with so many sales professionals at the Institute for Excellence in Sales, and one thing that keeps coming back is if you don’t believe that you’re bringing value to your customer, then you’re really struggling. I want to ask you one last question before I ask you for your final action advice. Wendy, on the show notes you’re offering a couple of free gifts. Do you want to talk about those for a second?

Wendy Weiss: Absolutely, thank you so much for asking. The first gift is 81 Tools to Grow Your Sales & Your Business Faster, More Easily & More Profitably. That project, putting that all together, we had a list of sales enablement tools that we used that we would recommend to our clients. Clients kept asking us about different tools, and we just started compiling a list and now we have 81 of them that we recommend. You can download the 81 Tools to Grow Your Sales & Your Business Faster, More Easily & More Profitably. The link’s in the show notes. Also, I want to invite you to listen to my podcast, which is Salesology Conversations with Sales Leaders. I’m going to be interviewing Fred in just a little bit. You can catch the Salesology Podcast wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Fred Diamond: To be honest with you, I could talk to you probably for hours about ballet. I do want to ask you one or two more questions. Do you miss anything about being a ballet performer on the great stages, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati? I’m sure you’ve danced in other locations as well. Do you reflect back on those days? If you’re still doing them, good for you, but I don’t think you are based on your bio, but do you reflect back on those days? Anything you miss particularly?

Wendy Weiss: Well, certainly, I do miss that. It’s a hard life, but I do miss elements of that life. I still dance. I take a ballet class four or five days a week now. That’s actually thanks to COVID because I used to only dance two or three times a week. Then during the shutdown, all I could do was dance in my living room. Now we’re back in studio. I dance four or five times a week, and I’m actually going to be performing on December 17th a solo that’s being choreographed for me by Ginger Thatcher. Love to dance.

Fred Diamond: Wow, good for you. What is your favorite ballet show to perform in, historically? What is your one that you go to that you just love more than any others?

Wendy Weiss: Well, Fred, I can’t say. All of the ballets have difficult memories, but the one I really hate is Nutcracker, actually, because every Christmas you have to do Nutcracker. You have to. If I go into a department store in December and I hear that music, I have to leave. It’s too much [laughs].

Fred Diamond: This fascinates me. I go to a lot of concerts, typically rock or pop type concerts. I live in Washington, DC, right outside of DC, Northern Virginia, and every weekend there’s 5, or 6, or 10 shows in so many great venues around here, including the Kennedy Center, where I’ve gone numerous times. I always wonder about the dynamics of the band. These are professionals, in some cases they’ve been playing together for 30, 40 years. In some cases with the rock bands, they’re just working their asses off, they’re sweating, et cetera. What is it like? Again, you’re performing with the same company time after time. I’m just curious, when you’re dancing on the stage, and let’s say there’s one person that you just don’t get along with, but you have to interact with them, what is that like? It doesn’t have anything to do with today’s show, I’m just curious. Are you in the moment, the muscle memory, that you don’t even see them as the person? How does that interplay? Then on the other hand, if you’re dancing with somebody you just love, just a friend for years, and you’re just so thrilled to be on the floor with them, I’m just curious on the corollary of that.

Wendy Weiss: That’s such an interesting question. There are certainly difficult people in every walk of life, and you have to sometimes work with them. When you are dancing, when you’re in class, when you’re in rehearsal, when you’re on the stage, you’re performing, you’re not interacting on that personal level. You’re interacting on a professional level. There is a switch that you just have to turn it off and try not to deal with that person outside of that structure of being in class. A ballet class has a certain structure. You don’t even talk to people in a ballet class. You take your class, your rehearsal. You might have to communicate with that person if you have to line up with them. “Can you move forward? Can you move backward? I don’t want to run into you,” but you communicate on a professional level. One would hope you’re not going to do anything and hopefully they’re not going to do anything when you’re actually on stage. Because then that’s the audience’s time. That’s not about you or somebody else in the company that you don’t care for. You’re there for the audience.

Fred Diamond: Same thing in sales, and we talk about this all the time. I like what you said before, that you’re providing a valuable service. You’re helping your customer achieve something of value. Now, with the work that you do at Salesology and the work that we’re doing in the Institute for Excellence in Sales and your Sales Winner’s Handbook, you need to do it really well so that you have the opportunity to get to the next place, wherever it is you need to get to, an appointment, a presentation, a face-to-face meeting. Sales is all about getting to the next conversation. Then eventually, hopefully sooner than later, you can get to the point where you ask them to become a customer or move ahead with some type of offering.

Well, anyway, Wendy, this has been fascinating. Again, I could ask you probably another 800 questions about what it was like to be a ballet performer. I love talking to people with such a skill and I’m really excited that you’re going to be performing again. Congratulations to you. Wendy, as we like to end every show, you’ve given us so many great ideas, but give us something specific people can do right now to take their sales career to the next level, an action step they should do right now.

Wendy Weiss: First, I have to say that you have asked so many great questions. The action step is to take action. Don’t put it off. “I’ll do it tomorrow. I’ll do it at the end of the week. I’ll do it next week.” Just take action. Take action every single day to grow your sales, and delegate what you need to delegate. Here’s the rule I live by, follow the money. What’s closest to you selling something? Do that.

Transcribed by Mariana Badillo

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