The Engaging Brand Transcript
Anna: Sales can feel hard, and it can feel uncomfortable. So how do you develop a sales process that works and helps us deliver rapid growth to our business? Those are the questions I’ll be asking today on the Engaging Brand Podcast. And it’s a warm welcome, my name’s Anna Farmery. I’ve had quite a bit of feedback wanting some thoughts on how to develop a sales process that will work for your business. And I couldn’t think of a better guy to get on than Matthew Pollard. Matthew, welcome to the Engaging Brand.
Matt: Thank you very much, I’m excited to be here.
Anna: I want to talk to you initially about the sales process. Because selling for me is a bit like acting. There’s a lot of people who say they can act, but when you watch a really fantastic acting performance, you don’t think of them as an actor. You think of them as a real person. And that for me is what selling is. There’s a lot of people who sell to me, and then there’s a lot of people who I don’t even know they’re selling – and yet I buy from them. What’s the difference?
Matt: So the people that you don’t perceive as selling to you are probably the ones that are more skilled than the others. And the reason for that is a person that is a good salesperson, or a well-trained salesperson – shouldn’t need to sell. It should be a progression from step to step to step that just migrates into a sale. I did an interview yesterday actually with The Boulder Business Podcast. And their whole concept is how to tell stories. And the sales pitch is exactly the same. It’s about telling a story that engages people. And the great thing about a story, the more you tell it, the better you get at it. And that’s when you become a super salesperson. However, most people don’t see a sales pitch or a sales process as a story. They see it as an uncomfortable process where they push their information onto a client. And that’s not the way it’s supposed to work. It’s supposed to work exactly the same as you telling a story about the adventure holiday you just had. It engages the listener, gets them to ask questions, and it follows through a series of chapters that finalizes in “Let’s work together in the future, because we feel comfortable, because I identify with you.”
Anna: I was really interested in an article you did for Entrepreneur Magazine, which said that a salesperson’s job is to build rapport, identify a need. Is that the number 1 reason why people go wrong with sales?
Matt: So it’s interesting. I wrote that article about a year ago, and it hit top story on Entrepreneur very, very quickly. And it’s funny because, you know as well as all the listeners will. When they speak about a topic matter they know so, so well – they sometimes will think an article is very simplistic. Yet when they publish it, it gets such a listener-ship, because those are the things that people really, really want to know.
Matt: It’s the things that you learnt, the foundational stuff when you started. And without that, people can’t take that next step. And the reason why that article was so, so good was it outlined the fact that most people – and look, I’m gonna give you a quick outline of what the general sales process is. If we look at a networking event for instance, and you get the question, “What is it you do?” “I’m a business coach.” Or, “I sell insurance.” “Oh, I’ve already got insurance.” “Okay, well have you thought about this?” Now I’m selling. It’s uncomfortable. Or, I step back and the person says, “Oh that’s nice, I’m not really interested in insurance.” Now the conversation’s over. The sale’s done.
Alternatively, if I go out to an appointment, I’ll walk in and I’ll start saying, “Hi, I’m here from XYZ Insurance, or XYZ business coaching.” Or, “I’m here to sell education.” Or, “I’m here to talk to you about your educational needs.” The next thing I do is I start telling you about my company, my product, my service – what I do. And then I’m going to expect to try and sell it to you later. The problem with this is we live in the world of features and brochure. I may as well send you a brochure or send you a well-qualified reader.
Because I’m a dyslexic kid. For the last few years of high school, I had a reading speed of a 6th grader. My transition into sales was far from, “He’s destined to do this.” It was 93 doors before my first sale, because I was just a shy kid. I learnt by process, and I learnt by stepping back. I wasn’t a natural, which means on my bad days I was horrible. On my good days I was horrible. And the thing I had to learn is how to first separate it from myself. Because I took everything emotionally. People that know me will know that I can take things to heart when people say things in my personal life. However, with a sales pitch, I can push it out there. It’s a process. It’s a series of steps that I follow. If somebody says no, they’ve said no to the process, not to me.
The core message and the core thing I learnt, which by the way turned an introverted kid – who struggled to talk to his own friends, into the number 1 sales person in the largest sales and marketing company in the Southern Hemisphere within a period of a few weeks. And won a national award within a period of a few months. Was just learning to ask questions and to set an agenda. And it’s a very simple process. Sales isn’t this masterful art where you either have it or you don’t.
Going back to the story that you said about watching a movie, and these actors just seem to do it so naturally. That came from a script. They read the script, they owned the script, they remembered everything that they needed to say – and then they portrayed it in their own unique way. That’s why some actors can deliver so well and other actors can’t. But they all start by learning a script that works. And they remember it in, “This scene I’ve gotta cover this. This scene I’ve gotta cover this.” And sales is the same way. So, in sales a very, very basic process which – for people that haven’t learned sales scripting before, or sales process before. Is all you really need to more than transition your sales process. You’ll increase your sales more than 3 times, just by following a step by step process. ‘Cause I can tell you which steps most people forget.
Generally what I like to do is, I like to start by building rapport. I was never really good at rapport, because I had no personality at 18. So I had to learn things I could say to get people to talk to me. So when people say, “I haven’t got the gift of the gab, I can’t just get people talking.” Well there are comedians that if you see them in their personal life, they’re not funny people. They’ve just practiced and created a series of words that gets people to engage. And that’s the exact same thing with sales.
Matt: What I find is a lot of the naturals, where they fall down is they spend too long on this. And they’ve got a 30 minute appointment with a doctor, where they’re trying to sell something. They spend 25 minutes on rapport, now let’s talk about the product. “Ooh, okay here’s the brochure, ’cause we haven’t got time for anything else.”
Matt: So there’s a middle ground that I like to say 2 or 3 minutes, that’s all you need. Then I move into intro and agenda, and I talk about why I’m here. What my purpose is, and how I’m going to handle this. So I talk about the fact that what we’ll do is, I’m gonna ask you a bunch of questions at the start so I can identify exactly what your situation is. And the reason why I do this is firstly, they’re so used to somebody starting to sell something, it allows them to relax.
I never use the word “salesperson” by the way. I use the word “consultant.” I come out to consult, to work out whether or not I can fix your problem, not sell you a product. And just those words different – me thinking that way, means that I have to ask questions. Because can you imagine if you went and saw a lawyer, and they said, “No, no I don’t want to understand who’s trying to sue you, I just want you to sign this contract, and I want to go into court.”
Matt: It doesn’t work.
Matt: So a consultant asks questions. And that brings me into phase 3, which is – I ask a ridiculous number of questions. And I ask follow-up questions, and I get them to vent, and I let them explain their story. Because most people, this step is just completely forgotten about. They go in and they’re so busy wanting to talk about their product, they forget that they need to understand who the person is before they’re talking to them. So what I do, is I ask a huge number of questions. And this gives me so much ammunition for what I’m about to do. But I ask follow-up questions, and I get engaged, and I empathize with the problem. I explain other people that I’ve known that have had those problems, so that they don’t feel alone. So they feel more comfortable to give me more information and more information. By the end of that, my kit bag is absolutely full.
Then I get into talking about the features and the benefits. And again, if you don’t have all of these questions, you have to say, “Here’s a feature, here’s a feature, here’s a feature.” But what I do is I say, “Well here’s the part of the product that you might be interested in. Here is why. Because you spoke about this specific thing during the questioning process, and here’s how I think it could work for you.” Then I go into a story about somebody else that had a similar problem that they also had it solved by what I’m suggesting. So it’s not just a guess.
Anna: Yeah. Yeah, so you give it some sort of rationale. You know when you’re talking about identifying the need so that you can talk about the benefits, I think some people struggle a lot with that. Because often what people are talking about, they talk around the actual problem rather than the actual problem. A parent is rushed when they get to work, and they complain about the child, and they complain about this, and they complain about the traffic and everything else. When the actual problem is they probably slept in. So when you’re speaking to a client, how do you recognize the true problem rather than the problem that they’re speaking about?
Matt: That’s an interesting question, because when you’re talking to somebody, you have to uncover what the underlying problem is. And anybody that knows anything about NLP will know that a lot of problems have deep, embedded issues. Like as you said, they’re late for work because they slept in. And they slept in because they had a fight with their husband or wife last night. So realistically, they don’t need a better alarm clock, they don’t need a faster car, they don’t need to commute on the toll way as opposed to the free road – the need relationship counseling.
Anna: Yes, yeah.
Matt: So there is always an embedded problem that you may not be seeing. And that’s why asking purposeful questions is so important. So a lot of the time, I walk in and I’ll say, “So the first thing I want to understand is, what are the major problems in your business that you’re business that you’re experiencing right now?” And the first thing that they’ll do is they’ll either give me a list of problems – that aren’t the real problems, by the way. Or they will say, “I don’t really have any problems.” Now, the first thing is, you as a product deliverer, a service deliverer – if you’re even using this to get a student to get interested in what you’re talking about, you know who you help and why. So you should know the benefits that you actually offer. And if you’re not speaking to someone that has those problems, then you’re wasting your time anyway.
So, what I generally do is I spitball with them, the people that don’t know what their problems are. And I say, “People in your industry are–” Say I’m speaking to an electrical contractor. “People in your industry, I generally find have a lot of issues with x, y, and z.” And as a result of saying that, they’ll be like, “Well actually I do have problems with that.” And the reason why they’ll tell me know is that they feel comfortable, because they’re not the only one. A lot of small businesses – and fair enough they should be proud. They did something that most people don’t have the confidence to do, and that is start a business. Because most people leave that in to, “I’m gonna do it in tomorrow.” And tomorrow, everybody knows is the land where nothing ever happens.
So what I really try to focus on is making some suggestions on those problems, to link them back to some benefits that I know that they’ll get. People that give me a list of problems that they already have. Because I’ve been doing this a while, if I consulted with one person as a sales and marketing coach, I know that the reason why they haven’t got customers is because they don’t feel comfortable going out and speaking to people. So you’ll hear people saying, “There’s no great ways to go out and market these days that don’t cost a fortune.” Now I don’t suggest to them straightaway that they should go out and network, because they’ll tell me that networking’s not going to work for them.
Matt: Because they’ve gone out and they’ve networked. However, a conversational networking pitch, where you don’t say, “I’m a coach.” And they say, “I’m not interested.” You say to people, “I help this market of people overcome this problem or achieve this benefit, even if they’ve got this most common objection.” Will get people to say, “How do you do that?” So networking doesn’t not work, they’re just doing it wrong. However, I don’t go into saying all of that first. I ask them questions, and because of my experience, I will know based on them saying this – the actual core underlying problems could be this, this, or this. And then what I do is I stir the pot. Telling some stories or talking about other people that have had these problems. And you watch their facial expressions for which one they identify with. You talk about, a lot of people have probably seen cold reading on TV. It’s really not that difficult. If you identify with the problem that they have, their face goes from, “You’re a salesperson trying to sell me something,” to, “Oh my God yes, please help me with that.”
Anna: Yeah. Before we just go into the final stage of the sales process, I often think the web has been so successful because many entrepreneurs almost don’t have to sell anymore. Because as you were saying at the outset, the– A lot of the sales process can make you feel uncomfortable if you haven’t gone through that sales process training or thinking that you’re talking about. So the web is a great, something great that can actually hide behind. Because we can hide behind a website and not have to deal person to person with somebody, does that make people lazy about the sales process, and therefore are we losing sales because of that?
Matt: What’s funny is – I’ve got a website myself, I’ve got podcasts of my own. I do all of this work online. For me, that’s absolutely exhausting. There is so much effort you’ve gotta do. It’s not laziness, it’s fear. People feel uncomfortable, they don’t like it. People fear the unknown. It’s easy to write an article, it’s easy to put up a website. Tim Ferriss talks about The Four Hour Work Week. That you do all the things that aren’t directly linked to your bottom line. As opposed to the things that you know you need to do, but perhaps it’s not a skill set that you have. I know you get a lot of people that listen who are in academia and middle management. And those people would understand they have a functional skill, something that they’re very, very good at. And unfortunately, in a lot of times they go out into business for themselves, because they are very good at this specific functional skill that they deliver. And then they find out they need to sell, they need to market, and they have no idea how to do that. So they fall over themselves trying to do it in the first couple of weeks, and then they say, “Oh maybe I’ll hop online and I’ll just try and do it that way.”
So, unfortunately, a lot of small business owners lose faith in what they do, which they shouldn’t. They’re great at what they do, unfortunately they didn’t teach sales systematization in school. So that’s not part of their functional skill. And I don’t know how to be a great accountant, I don’t know how to be a great lawyer. I know how to help people with niche marketing, sales systematization, differentiation. So when people come and talk to me about that, I can help them. However, they don’t have this skill. So they need to go about learning it. And one of the major things that I always suggest to people is that they say to me, “Networking does not work.” And I tell people that I get most of my clients, even though I have a lot of people that network with me online. I just had a phone call just before this, where I picked up a new consulting client. However, he met me through an online space, and now he’s working with me. But I had a phone call with him that transferred that.
In a networking event, I find that a lot of people go there trying to sell their products and services. And they walk away selling nothing. However, me on the other hand, I sell lots. Because all I do, is I have a genuine interest in helping people. I’m not going there to sell my products or services. However, because I offer assistance, because I help people, when it comes down to, “What is it that you do?” And I explain it in a way that isn’t, “Oh, I’m a sales and marketing coach,” which has no interest. All of a sudden they’re like, “Wow, I need help with that. How do you do that?” And it just transitions. So it’s only harder if you do it the wrong way.
Anna: Is it as well, the fact that you’re prepared, not just for reading the person. Not just for turning features into benefits for that specific customer. Because I know you talk a lot about making sure that you understand the elephants. Things that can go wrong in the sales process, and having – when we say pre-prepared, we don’t necess– We don’t mean automaton prepared. We mean being prepared for the obstacles that people put in the way.
Matt: Yeah look, I think it’s exactly that, that I prepare. See, I always bring people back to this. Their functional skill, they may have spent 3 to 6 to 7 years in university studying to be optimal at what they do. Yet, they go out and start business for themselves or they have a customer service role where sales is involved. And the total level of experience they have is, “I went out and spoke to 4 people. They said no, and now I think I’m a bad salesperson.” When I first went to university, ’cause I went back to university and I studied business to understand the foundations of building a business on solid foundations. And when I first started, I didn’t understand all of it, and I wasn’t great at it. And this is the thing with sales. Yes you do need to spend time actually creating a model of how your sales process is going to look.
So, do I know my most common objections? You definitely am (16:37?) right. I know my common objections. Do I know what the benefits are? If you haven’t sat down and said to yourself, “Who are my ideal customers? Who do I get the most benefit for?” And written those down and said, “I want to go to networking events that focus on these specific groups of people.” Then, “What core benefits do I deliver those people?” Not, “What does my product do?” Even something that’s a service – as a business coach perhaps, or a sales coach. My feature is that I deliver sales coaching and sales strategy. My benefit is I create rapid growth underneath any business that has got a solid foundation. And then my “even if” is – the most common objection is, “I do it for people even if they suck at sales.” And then that gets people to ask questions like, “How do you do that?” And I can then tell stories about how I wasn’t originally an extrovert, I was never really good at sales.
So it comes from pre-contrived planning about – what are your core benefits? Who do you help? What are your common objections? And then my favorite question, what are your 5 top stories? Who have you helped? What are the stories you love telling, and how do we integrate that into your sales proposition so that a person says, “Wow, I can identify with that message, and I want to move forward talking to this guy or girl further.”
Anna: And at that point, going back to the article in Entrepreneur. I laughed, because this is – it’s such a simple thing, and yet this is the bit that I think everybody struggles with. Or, even misses this step out. Even on websites, which is – and then simply ask the individual to take the next step. How do you simply ask, without embarrassing yourself?
Matt: Look, I want everyone just to imagine for a second, going back to asking somebody out on a date for the first time. Or trying to understand whether a girl or guy is even interested in you. A lot of people were a lot more confident than me I guess back then. They’d walk straight up and just ask. But I’d have a conversation to see if they even liked talking to me first. And then I would send them a message to see if they responded. There are a lot of different things that I did to test interest before I went about going in and physically selling. And I suggest you do the exact same thing when you’re talking about a product or service. For instance, when I used to sell education, I used to have a conversation with them about the products and services. I’d go through all the questions, I’d talk about the features and benefits, and then I tell all these stories. And then I’d ask a question. I’d phrase it just as simply as, “Okay perfect. So just so I understand, what would benefit you more? Would you prefer more of a day class or a night class?” And the response would be either day or night. Then I know I’ve got a sale, and I’d move forward to the closing.
Matt: If they said, “Oh, no, no. I’m not,” about making any decisions. I say, “No, I’m trying to do that or anything like that. I’m just, what I’m trying to understand is whether or not you prefer day or night. Because there’s different course opportunities, there’s different days. And I’ve got to explain all of that to you, I wanted to make sure I knew whether you wanted day or night.” Now I feel comfortable, because they feel bad thinking I was trying to sell them something, where they now see that I’m consulting further. It’s funny, back – my first time selling, I got 5 days of product training before I was allowed to go out and sell. I had less than 7 minutes of sales training before I got out and sold. And I was working for a sales and marketing company.
So it’s crazy. Don’t feel alone, nobody focuses on this stuff. One of the major things I learned to ask was, what’s called a trial close. I found that on YouTube, before podcasts YouTube was the best access to getting information. And I learned that by pure example. “So I just wanted to get an understanding. Are you looking more at buying black pens or red pens?” Or if you’re looking at, if somebody’s looking at the Ferrari, say, “You know, that comes in black and red, which one would you prefer?” And people go, “Ooh, I’d love it in black.” Or they’d say, “I’m just browsing.” And you’ve, all of a sudden got an indication of whether or not that person has got their credit card out, or whether or not you need to spend a lot more time asking questions, telling stories.
I would ask different trial closes all the time. Because sometimes they’d say they weren’t interested. So I’d go back and tell some more stories, and tell them about more benefits, get them identifying more, and I’d ask another trial question. And when they said, “Yes” or they responded the way I wanted with a trial question, then I would say something like, “Okay, so all we need to do is, to get this thing organized. Is I just need to make sure that you have – in Australia we have what’s called an ABN number. In America, you have an EIN number. I would say, “I just need to make sure you have one of these numbers. You do, fantastic. Would you like to go and grab that?” If it was personal, I’d say, “I just need to make sure you have a driver’s license.” As ridiculous as that sounds, people would say, “Oh yeah I have that.” I’d say, “Great, do you want to go get that?” They’d jump up to go and get it, and then I know I’ve got a sale. By the time they came back, I would have just assumed we’re moving forward. I’d have the paperwork out. And in their brain, they jumped up to go get something. Their brain’s told them they’ve made the decision. They sit down, and they follow through with your process.
Anna: The one thing my dad always told me as well, was the fact that you’re actually helping them. Because they’re probably feeling uncomfortable about whether they should buy it. So when you ask whether you want black or red pens, and they say “black.” That’s actually helping them take the step as well.
Matt: You’re exactly right. See, because a lot of people say, “Look, I don’t like buying on the day, because I know there’s a lot of shafty salespeople out there. And I don’t want to buy on the day.” But realistically, let’s look at the actual true purpose. They want a solution, and they’re going and doing all the due diligence off all of these products and services – is exhausting. They want to actually physically make that decision. They just don’t want to feel uncomfortable doing it.
Anna: Yeah, yeah.
Matt: So by asking a trial close and then leading them into what I call an assumptive close, give them the ability to make that decision without feeling like they’ve made the decision. If you say, “‘Would you like to move forward?” They have to physically say, “Yes.” As opposed to just follow through the process. That’s uncomfortable, and I would say, “No, just because you asked me.”
Anna: Excellent, well for now, Matthew, thank you very much for coming on The Engaging Brand.
Matt: More than welcome Anna, it was – great time.
Anna: Well gosh, isn’t Matthew an absolute ball of energy. And I hope you enjoyed that. I think what Matthew has a great ability to do is to simplify that process down, build that rapport. Identify the need, show how you can benefit that client, and then simply ask – lead the person to a decision. Well, until next week, I’ll leave you with the thought that I always leave you with, which is, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”