Webinar: Mastering Initial Sales Conversations That Feel Good
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Liston: [00:02:29] Hey there, John. Can you hear me? John you have the wonderful designation of being the first person here.
John: [00:02:47] All right.
Liston: [00:02:48] How are you doing man?
John: [00:02:49] Good how are you doing?
Liston: 00:02:50 I'm good I'm looking forward to talking to you tomorrow. I have a bunch of questions, which I won't answer, or ask right now. How is your day going?
John: [00:02:58] So far so good. Kind of a slow start, but gaining momentum.
Liston: 00:03:02 I was going to say, it doesn't look like you're at We Work right now.
John: [00:03:05] No.
Liston: [00:03:09] Sweet, man. Cool. I think we talked about you have family in Cesme, right?
John: [00:03:18] Yeah. Yeah.
Liston: 00:03:19 Yeah, I've been, so this is my third winter in Portland, and I am very pleased with how mild it is this winter. The last two have been kind of crappy.
John: [00:03:30] Yeah, just one snow day, and good timing for Christmas, too.
Liston: 00:03:35 Right, and here I am complaining about winter in Portland, and we have someone from Bemidji Minnesota, Northern Minnesota where ... Sam, Hi. How are you? My grandma lives there, so I check on the weather periodically, and I know it's about -30 about a week or two ago.
Sam: [00:03:52] Yeah.
John: 00:03:55 I don't even know how to imagine how that feels, nothing close to anything I've experienced.
Sam: [00:04:03] It takes your breath away when you go outside.
John: [00:04:06] Literally. Yeah.
Liston: 00:04:09 My wife has a few friends who lived in Minneapolis and they said in the winter you practically don't go outside if you live downtown, because you get in your car in a garage that's heated, and then you drive to work, and then you take a sky bridge to your office like you're never outside, because it's so cold.
Sam: [00:04:29] Pretty much. Yeah.
Liston: 00:04:30 Yeah, I know that's not the case in Bemidji, though.
Sam: [00:04:33] I went skiing this weekend, cross-country skiing in Itasca that had waters of the Mississippi River.
Liston: 00:04:39 Oh, yeah. I've been there.
Sam: 00:04:40 It was beautiful, and it was I think we had 20 degrees. So, it felt so warm compared to what we've had.
Liston: 00:04:48 Oh, excellent. Well, 20's not too bad. Now, when I say winter has been mild here it's been about 40 every day, and last year I think we had two weeks that were in the 20's, and that was about as much as I wanted in the 20's I have to say.
Sam: [00:05:04] Yeah, I understand.
Liston: 00:05:05 Yeah, my biggest complaint is that I can't walk for an hour outside if it's in the 20's, because then your face starts to freeze, but I'm a wuss. I know, Sam. It's okay. You can say it. Hey Anthony. Hey Elise. Hello Dustin and we have Josh Bron with a newly shaved head. Oh, no. It looks like it. Sorry. It was so dark. How are you doing man?
Josh Bron: [00:05:29] Good.
Liston: 00:05:29 Excellent. Cool. Well, thank you all for showing up. We are at 12:01 normally I'd give like five more minutes for people to show up here, but I have so much content that I'm going to jump right into it. One quick disclaimer. If you are here, I will probably call on you at some point. Okay? So, don't think this is a passive webinar where you sit there and you just watch a movie, because you needed a reason to procrastinate. I'm going to call on you at some point, and you should know also that if you don't want your sound on, or your webcam on, you can go ahead and turn it off yourself, but I'm not going to sit here and fiddle with that.
Liston: 00:06:11 Cool. So, I'm going to jump into it, unless, does anybody have any burning questions on their mind right now? Okay. Cool. Well, let's get into it. So, if you're here to learn about. Can y'all see my screen? Yes? Okay. Elise, can you hear me? I see you nodding your head yes, and does your screen say, "Mastering Initial Sales Conversations That Feel Good?" Sweet. Okay. Let's get into it. So, I've heard to separate things in the last week. One is, I'm really good at doing work, but I suck at talking to clients. The second is I have sales calls that go on forever, and I want to give you the keys to deal with both of those things today.
Liston: 00:07:10 Obviously you're not going to be perfect when you walk out of this webinar, but you will be better. All of you know me. I'm Liston, and I'm I help solopreneurs grow a thriving solo business by building demand and closing sales, and I've had I think one on one conversations with everybody here. So, I'm not going to go into that too much right now, but I want to go over why you're here. What you may be experiencing in your world. So, you're probably here to get better at sales, obviously. But what does that mean?
Liston: 00:07:44 One thing that you may be thinking is that you want to sell without being salesy. You want to come off more natural, and you don't want it to be this sort of fabricated inauthentic situation, which I think I can help you with. We'll see. You can give me your feedback on that. You may want revenue, of course, that's the point of selling something. Right? You want better clients, perhaps, or maybe, you think I have magic dust that will turn you into the next Jim Rone. Now, I will tell you I had some, and I sprinkled it on myself and it didn't work. So, no luck there.
Liston: 00:08:23 So, what you'll learn today, I want you to think about this as we go into this, because an initial sales conversation is about much more than just the call. Right? It's more than just talking to someone. It's about preparation. So, preparing for a great call, knowing where you're going to go. Leading that successful call. You're going to learn that as well, emphasis on lead, by the way. You're going to know what to do after that call is over. You're going to know how to make a decision to move forward with the person or not. So, before I jump into this, I do want to give you two disclaimers.
Liston: 00:09:05 One is not all sales are created equal. What I mean by that is there is something called inbound selling. Right? Inbound leads. So, inbound is much, much easier. So, what this means is someone finds you, gets a referral to you. There's word of mouth. In any case, they're exposed to you of their own volition, and they because of that, there's some trust that's built, which also means they're aware that they have a problem, because that's why they started seeking someone out in the first place, and secondly they're aware that a solution exists and you might be it. So, that's an inbound sale.
Liston: 00:09:50 On the other side, there is something called outbound sales. Now, outbound sales are much more difficult, and the reason they're much more difficult is, there's virtually no trust built between you and the person unless you're internet famous enough that they've heard of you, and when you reach out them, they go, "Oh, my God. Sam reached out to me. Anthony reached out to me. John reached out to me. I can't believe it." Unlikely that's going to happen, no offense to any of you, but they probably haven't built the trust yet. They don't trust you, which you're going to have to do from scratch. Plus, we don't know if they have a problem, and if they do, are they aware of it? Plus, we don't know if they even know if there is a solution. So, given the difficulty here, I am not going to focus on outbound sales because it's a much longer slower process than inbound. So, this talk while your initial sales conversations will improve, no matter how you're getting your leads now, this is much more catered towards inbound leads that come to you. Disclaimer number two. The goal of an initial sales call is not to sell. I'm going to repeat that. The goal of an initial sales call is not to sell. I want you to internalize this for a second. Now, you're going to wonder, what is the goal of an initial sales call? The goal is to learn something.
Liston: 00:11:17 You want to learn more about the person you're talking to, because our goal, obviously is to help them meet their goals. It's not to sell anything. If in fact, we learn that we can't help them meet their goals, or they would be better served meeting their goals in some other way, we will tell them, and we will not make a sale. Okay? So, remember this. You have to just learn. That's our big goal. So, what's so hard about initial sales calls? Let's go around the table actually, and does anybody have something that they think is really, really hard about initial sales calls? How about we go with Anthony?
Anthony: [00:12:07] I knew you would pick me.
Liston: [00:12:08] Yeah, because you like participating and I like to hear from you.
Anthony: 00:12:13 Yeah, okay. So, one thing is I suppose jumping straight into the diagnostics, like really trying to give them something of really high value on the spot, and it's like they've jumped on the train, and I've started driving, and then I said, "Do you actually want me to drive you somewhere?"
Liston: 00:12:38 Very good. So, you're moving a little bit too fast? Is that fair to say?
Anthony: [00:12:43] Yeah.
Liston: 00:12:43 Okay. Cool. Why don't we go to John? Anything that comes to mind?
John: 00:12:51 Yeah. Something that is a little bit similar to what Anthony said, but having providing something of value, but not going too far into the weeds that they get distracted from, or that I get distracted from the learning process, because I tend to want to jump into solutions, and so, very similar to what Anthony is saying. So, kind of providing the value, and then knowing when to say, "Okay, should we schedule the next call or can it go to the next step of scoping?"
Liston: [00:13:24] Yeah.
John: 00:13:25 And you know, making sure it's moving along our sales process and not just kind of brainstorming with the client.
Liston: [00:13:32] Would you say that sometimes your pitching too fast then when you say providing value. Is that kind of code for pitching a little bit?
John: 00:13:38 No. It's actually not pitching. It's more of providing an actual solution. I was on the call with a prospect the other day, and they were talking about not getting like they're doing webinars and they're not getting any sign ups or any requests for conversations after their webinars. So, I started talking about, "Well, it could be this or that, and where to look," and we actually found something that they were very pleased with like, "Oh, yeah. That's it. We're totally not doing that." So, that's good. Like, that's providing value, but it's also getting a little bit too far into what's actually, like just diagnosing their marketing.
Liston: [00:14:21] Right. Okay cool.
John: 00:14:22 So, it's not a pitch at all. It's more of just actual solutions when I should be holding back a little bit and charging for that kind of stuff.
Liston: 00:14:31 Okay. Yeah, well, okay. We'll address that also. Sam, anything that jumps out at you about what's so hard about initial sales calls?
Sam: 00:14:40 Having the discipline not to get sucked into their self-diagnosed problem, and just asking questions, getting curious, see even if it's a good match before wanting to help right away.
Liston: 00:14:55 Awesome. Okay. Thank you for saying something that I'm going to say later. Cool. Thank you all for sharing that, and so these are a few of the things that I hear a lot. So, sales can feel as though they have no direction, and that's usually because they don't if it feels that way. Your process is unpredictable. So, sometimes it works great. Sometimes it takes a week. Sometimes it takes a month. You know, some sales are going to take longer than others, obviously, but we want some level of predictability, and sometimes it just takes way, way, way too long.
Liston: 00:15:35 So, I know of you are familiar with that. You may not be able to get the right information out of your prospects. That's probably one of the reasons it's taking too long, or you're perceiving it as taking too long, and then, of course, this one your prospects go missing, on a milk carton, never to be seen again, and you don't know what happened. So why is this happening? I would argue number one is you don't have a process, but that's not totally true. That's the good news. Even though you don't have a strict process that you're following today, you're a professional and you know the way, right?
Liston: 00:16:19 A process really is a map. It's a way to get to a destination that we want to arrive at, and you know the way to get there. Whether or not you've documented that or you follow the process every time, is another thing, but what I'm here to tell you is, even though you don't have a process that you're following, or it could be improved, you do know the way. The second thing is, you may not be taking charge. So, this is immediately what I thought when I heard from someone that they spent two or three hours over several calls and still didn't have the information that they needed.
Liston: 00:16:58 My thought when I say this, is not that you should be a bully, or you should use magic persuasive words to get people to do whatever you want them to do, it's that because you know the way, you should be directing the process, which means you may have to tell someone, "Hey, we're going to come back to that in a second, but I really want to ask you a few of these questions, just so I'm crystal clear on what we're doing." So, even though you're not taking charge, I want you to think about this, your peers, you and the person that's going to potentially pay you money to do something for them. You're on even footing. You have the keys to do something that they either can't do for themselves, they don't have time, they don't have the expertise, they don't know the right people. Whatever it is, you have something amazing to offer this person.
Liston: 00:17:51 So, it's your duty to take charge and walk them through the process of getting there. So, I don't want you thinking this anymore. The client is up, elevated above you, jumping in the air, and you're down here just hoping that they choose you. That's not you anymore. You're going to share the podium. Right? You're both gold medalists. So, I really want you to internalize that, because this is an important part of really taking charge, going through this process and being assured or confident that you can walk your client through the right process and you know what's going on.
Liston: 00:18:33 Let's get into it. No more of that mindset stuff. So, how to plan for your call. So, I want to take a step back. Sales is a process. It's not a photograph. It's not a moment in time. It's a move that plays out, and so this is what it looks like. This is the process that I use. I have a lead. This is the stuff that happens with marketing or word of mouth that brings someone to me. There's discovering where I'm trying to learn things about them, if the things I learn tell me that I can help them, I'll pitch. Then, we go into negotiation and contract, and then what I call marriage, which is when the real work begins, right?
Liston: 00:19:15 Now, you're married to this person for some period of time, one month, three months, six months, several years if you do longer projects, and you're focused on delivering, but for the purposes of today, actually before I go on you can only one of these at a time. I'm sorry. One thing at a time, do not pass go on to the next stage until you finish the stage that you're in. Very tempting to pitch too soon. We don't want to do that. We don't that. We don't want to do that.
Liston: 00:19:48 So, in the discovery phase, there are really three things that I'm looking to do. Number one, research. I want to learn as much about this person and their business as I can. Number two, we actually have our conversation and number three we decide on the next steps together, whatever those are. It may be we should work together. It may be we shouldn't work together. It may be we shouldn't work together now. It may be we need to continue to talk to the side if we should work together. Whatever it is, we're going to decide on those next steps.
Liston: 00:20:20 Say this with me, if you're in the discovery phase. I will not pitch. I will not pitch during discovery. If you only take one thing away from this call, this should be it. If you are in the discovery phase, you will not pitch. So, back to discovery, this is where we are. So, the first thing we want to is some research. Now, as we're thinking about the research I want to ask you a question. Would you show up to a job interview, think back in the days when you worked for someone else, would you ever show up and ask, "So, what do you want to talk about today?" Or "Remind me again, what does your company do?" Or "What's the point in this job anyway?" We don't want to ask questions like that.
Liston: 00:21:11 We want to ask questions that demonstrate that we know a little bit about why we're there, what they may be looking for, and start to get past the surface level, because you wouldn't do that in a job interview, and I hope none of you are doing this in your sales process, but it's so important that it's worth saying, you have to start with research so you can build up a baseline of information that will help you ask really smart informed questions and really get to the meat of what your client is looking to do.
Liston: 00:21:41 Ways that you can do some research. Number one is that you can go to their website. Now, the types of research you do on a website will vary depending on what it is that you do, and what it is that you offer. If I'm offering marketing help, I can go there and see. What do they have installed on their site? What kind of technology is there? How are they driving leads on their site? How effective are various things? What kind of content are they producing? On and on and on. I can learn all of this from the website.
Liston: 00:22:13 Next, I want to learn a little bit more about the company, and about the person I'm talking to on LinkedIn. So, some things I would want to know on LinkedIn about a person. What did they do before this? How long have they been in their current role? Have they had promotions? Where did they go to school? Where did they grow up? Do we have any mutual connections? Lots of different things we can learn on LinkedIn. Also, this is a little-known thing. On the LinkedIn free product, if you look up the company, it will show you the change in department sizes and overall headcount in the last 12 months.
Liston: 00:22:51 You get a sense of the trajectory of the company and you can also look at who they've been hiring. Right? You can also look at their current job postings. Lots of different things that we can learn on LinkedIn about a company and where they are now. Next, is Twitter. I personally am not a big fan of learning personal things, and then saying it to the person in a first call. I think it feels a little bit weird, but if I were to be talking to say a potential coaching client, I would want to learn a little bit about what else I can learn. Right?
Liston: 00:23:28 I don't know what's going to be on there. I'm not going to bring up sex, politics, or money in the first call. Actually, I will bring up money, but I'm not going to bring up kind of taboo subjects, but there is a substantial amount that I can learn on Twitter and then of course, because it's an inbound lead there was an email that you got, a form that they filled out, some sort of exchange which will be another reference point in building the profile of how we talk this person. So, we get the email. We return the email. We've done our research.
Liston: 00:24:00 Now we return the email, we've done our research, now your next step is to send a pre-call agenda. The agenda is very simple and it basically says: "Hey Linda, here's a quick agenda for our call tomorrow. I wanna know where you are now, where you'd like to go, how things would be different if you got there. Is there anything you'd like to change or add?" That's it.
Liston: 00:24:24 I mean this is, I don't know fifty words or so. What is this doing for us though? It's showing our professionalism immediately, it's giving us some level of leadership and control and importantly it's giving us a true north. A reference point to go back to if the conversation ever gets off track, we can refer back to this. She's already agreed to this right.
Liston: 00:24:51 It also gives Linda a chance to tell me if there's anything else she'd like to talk about. Because coming into the conversation, just as ... I don't know if you're familiar with the way this works, but on say late night shows, they have a whole staff of people who will do pre-interviews with their guests and the reason is they don't want their guests to be thinking on the spot. It's a lot easier if the guest has a couple stories in the can and they know exactly what's going to be talked about. And that's exactly what we're doing with this, right.
Liston: 00:25:26 We want Linda to have a chance to think about this, and certain personality types especially will not like surprises sprung upon them. That's the purpose of this pre-call agenda.
Liston: 00:25:41 So now, the moment you've all been waiting for, the call. What happens on the call? And before we talk about the call, yet again you're gonna have to wait for thirty seconds more. I want you to know a lot has happened prior to the call. We had a chance to learn about the person we're going to talk to, we had a chance to learn about their company. We had a chance to interact with them over e-mail, and send them an agenda. This is all furthering our primary goal which is to learn.
Liston: 00:26:12 And that's what we're going to do on this call. So what are we going to learn? Number one, we want to uncover the problem, what is the true problem that they're experiencing? We want to identify the business goals of solving that problem. We want to establish value. And then last, we want to determine if there is a fit to work together. Okay. Notice I didn't say we want to schedule a pitch, because that's not actually what we wanna do. Maybe there's no point in pitching this person, maybe you're too expensive for them. Maybe they'd be better served going somewhere else, we don't know any of that yet. All we wanna do is determine if there's a fit and then act upon it, if there is or isn't.
Liston: 00:26:55 Okay. So step number one, build rapport. Now, this is where all of the sleazy, salespeople images come from I think, because some people do this in a way that's obviously inauthentic, fake, crappy, that's not what I want you to do. What I want you to do is never skip this, number one, because one of the things that are true is people buy from people they like, if you're a service provider and so we need to give the person a chance to get to know who are. So if you can have your personality come through a little bit, that's great.
Liston: 00:27:42 One of the things that we did was that research phase and based on your research, you absolutely should have found something that peaked your interest about the person. I'll give you an example of one that I like to use, if someone changed industries somewhere in their career ... I think I talked to someone who went from a boat captain to the finance industry. And I was like "so boat captain, natural segue into wealth management right."
Liston: 00:28:13 Now I like to use a little bit of humor and I like to get them to open up about themselves. One of the reasons sales feels crappy or slimy often is that there's this notion that it's strictly transaction. If we can get a person talking about emotions we're much more likely to get out of that transaction only frame.
Liston: 00:28:44 I'll give you an example, there was a study done, and what they did is they had two scenarios. There are some guys moving a couch from a moving van into a house. As people walked by, they would ask one group of people "hey can you give me a hand with this couch?" And then they would see if they said yes or no. They asked another group of people "hey can you give me a hand with this couch for ten dollars?" And what they found is more people actually complied when they didn't offer an incentive. Because it was a social thing, it was, I wanna help someone out. This is the kind of relationship that we wanna create as much as possible. So early on this is gonna be part of your rapport building. Now, if you say Liston, this is way too hard, I did my research I've no idea what to say to that person. First of all, I would say, you're probably not thinking about it hard enough, but secondly there are some fallbacks.
Liston: 00:29:48 So you know "Sam, what's it like living in Bemidji I've always wondered", and then you're going to tell me. Another one relevant to you Sam, "looks like it's cold in Bemidji, how long does it take you to shovel your driveway." Weather is fine. Where someone lives or works is fine. Also, another one is an industry trend that you've picked up on. If I'm talking to someone in technology, I might say something like "so I notice you haven't added AI to your product yet, what's going on with that" and they'll tell me.
Liston: 00:30:25 But again, we want them to have a moment where they laugh and they start to talk about something that is personal and emotional to them. That's building rapport.
Liston: 00:30:35 Next, again you can't skip this part, the agenda. We want to tell people why we're on the phone. So we already sent this agenda to Linda, she knows what we're gonna talk about today. But our agenda is just slightly different than this and I wanna match it up to the goals that we have for this call.
Liston: 00:30:53 On the call, I'm gonna say to Linda "look I wanna talk about where we are now" and for us, that's going to uncover the problem that Linda's experiencing. Secondly, "I wanna talk about where you'd like to go." What are your goals, that's what's behind that question. "What have you done to get there," which is kind of code for what failed, or why aren't you doing this yet. "how would things be different," that's the value, we want to establish value. "And then anything you'd like change or add." Our fourth goal on the call- so we have a problem, the goals that the person has, the value that whatever their goals would bring to them. Our fourth thing that we want, of course, is to determine fit. Which we're gonna figure out on our own.
Liston: 00:31:44 So one thing, now we're in the meat of the initial sales call, and that's the discovery. One tool that I use a lot is reflective listening. So you may have heard the term, active listening, which is used a lot. There's something else called reflective listening, and reflective listening simply means, when we're talking I'm going to repeat back to you what I understand that I heard. The reason that's important is, communication, this may come as a surprise, involves a speaker and a receiver.
Liston: 00:32:23 What's really important to know is that often the speaker may say things that they don't actually mean. Often, you may receive what you're hearing from the speaker in a way that isn't exactly what the intended.
Liston: 00:32:36 So what reflective listening does, is it gives us a checkpoint to verify we're both on the same page, and I the receiver understand what I'm being told.
Liston: [00:32:46] I want to play a short clip for you of my favorite television detective, Columbo demonstrating how to use reflective listening.
Columbo: 00:32:58 I'll make this quick sir, it's not a big thing. I was looking through your nephew's telephone bills, I'm just curious about something.
Speaker 1: [00:33:06] Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Liston: [00:33:06] Last month he made eleven calls to your shop here in Beverly Hills. But on the previous month, he only made one. Can you account for that?
Speaker 1: 00:33:16 Well Freddy's behavior is not that complicated. When he didn't call me it's because he was making ends me. And what he did it's cause he needed some money.
Columbo: 00:33:25 And that's why he made all those calls last month sir?
Speaker 1: [00:33:28] Yes sir
Columbo: [00:33:28] He needed money?
Speaker 1: [00:33:29] Oh yes
Columbo: 00:33:30 Well that don't add up.lcietn
Speaker 1: [00:33:32] You got a problem with that.
Columbo: 00:33:33 Yeah, something's missing here. Cause on the 20th, the day he called you for money, that boy went out and he ordered a 175,000 dollar automobile.
Speaker 1: [00:33:44] What? Who told you that?
Columbo: [00:33:48] Oh the salesmen sir, oh yeah, Freddy he selected the car and he was gonna have it delivered in Europe, in Switzerland, in burn.
Speaker 1: 00:33:54 Don't pay any mind to that. Well that sounds like Freddy, yeah it sure does, he could do that. I mean that kid, he was in the clouds, it was all a fantasy.
Columbo: [00:34:03] You mean, he would make things up?
Speaker 1: [00:34:05] Make them up? He told me he was going on tour with Madonna as a private photographer?
Columbo: 00:34:09 It wasn't true?
Speaker 1: [00:34:10] Made it up.
Columbo: [00:34:11] No kidding.
Speaker 1: [00:34:12] Ask Madonna
Columbo: [00:34:13] Well, ill be the son of a goncho. This whole thing about the automobile, that was all in his mind?
Liston: 00:34:21 Okay, notice without seeming too forward, Columbo asks the same question about four times- "so he made it up, so you're saying it was all in his mind, so that wasn't true." This is one of the techniques that you can use when you're on the phone. It not only confirms for the person what it is that we just heard, but it also gives them a chance to say more about it.
Liston: 00:34:52 So quick quiz- you're all gonna be on the spot in a second here. One person should be talking twenty percent of the time, the other person should be talking eighty percent of the time. Who should be talking twenty percent of the time at least?
Speaker 2: [00:34:52] I should
Liston: 00:35:13 [crosstalk 00:35:12] Yes [inaudible 00:35:14] yes, exactly. I telegraphed that one a little bit. That's exactly right, I wrote a blog post today that I published because I recently heard someone who I won't name give probably the worst business advice I've ever heard. What he said was "Let's be honest, the point of having a sales conversation as a consultant is to talk." Wow, I wouldn't want that guy to work for me. The reason that's so wrong and makes me feel so gross hearing that is we don't know yet if there's anything we should even say to this person.
Liston: 00:35:58 That's what we wanna learn first. So in order to get the problem out, look at this look on Colombo's face, he's totally curious. He wants to know more about what this person has to say and so this is how I would open. I'd say something like "okay I understand you think your problem is this, tell me a little bit about what's going on." Then I listen.
Liston: 00:36:26 I also recommend using longer pauses. It's very tempting to try to fill in all of the silence, but try not to do that. Because if you pause, strangely the other person will not feel comfortable with the silence, and they will feel compelled to fill it in with more information that you probably wanna know.
Liston: 00:36:49 Anytime someone ends something that they're saying, I would say something like "can you say more about that." Or "huh, so you're saying that you need more leads, why, tell me more about that" and then of course "what have you done to fix it?"
Liston: 00:37:10 Those kinds of things are really going to help me surface the problem. As I continue to surface the problem on the third or fourth level, beyond just what they say it is initially, I wanna repeat the problem as I understand it. I would say "so Linda sounds like you need more sales leads because you're not closing a high enough percentage anymore, because it's more competitive and rather re-doing all your marketing you wanna up your leads. Is that fair to say?" "is that right, did I miss anything?" And once they agree again, we have a reference point. We have a flag that we're planting, this is something we both recognize is true, then we'll move on to the goals
Liston: 00:38:03 Understanding a clients goals- sometimes you'll have a client who very, very clearly knows what their goals are. I want to double my conversion rate in six months, and I want to do it without expending any internal resources. Wow okay, I know what to do in that situation.
Liston: 00:38:26 But, often that's not the case, so I have two tools for you. One is the magic wand, I've really wanted to use that animation for a long time. This is Harry Potter's real magic wand, in case you didn't know. What the magic wand is, is a question, "If you could wave a magic wand today, how would more leads help you?" What we really wanna get to is what is this going to do for them. How's this gonna change their business?
Liston: 00:39:01 In some cases that's not gonna work so I have a third way to approach this. So first is, what are your goals for this project. Second is, if you could wave a magic wand, how would things be different. The third is, how will you measure the effect of this project. Another way to ask that is- "how will you know if this project is successful?" They'll say what do you mean.
Liston: 00:39:31 I'll say, is it number of leads, is it how fast they come in, is it how fast they close, is it how busy people are, like what is it. At the end of the day, how are you going to make a determination if Liston's any good or if he sucked at this?
Liston: 00:39:46 Yeah, so Sam laughed at that one- so that's the kind of thing I would say on a sales call because I wanna be as plain as possible and as forward as possible. Because it can feel tricky to the person to tell me what they really think, but I actually wanna know. Those are the two ways I would get the goal.
Liston: 00:40:06 Next is, we have our problem, we have our goals. Now we want to establish value in the project. If you are a disciple of value pricing, you must do this- there's no way around it. What I would say also, is typically a client not know what the value of their project is. So you're going to have to establish it, it's your job.
Liston: 00:40:38 There are four main sources of value that someone can experience- money saved, money made, time saved, or reduced risk. Reduced risk is a more qualitative, time saved is a bit more qualitative, and even money saved or made can be more qualitative in that attributing directly to whatever you did can be a challenge. The question is, "where do you fit?"
Liston: [00:41:12] John, if you were to have a sales call right now, would you know which of these levers you pull in terms of delivering value.
John: [00:41:22] Well that would be. I could take a guess, but it could come from the discovery we just had. But if I had to guess in general, for clients that would be money made.
Liston: 00:41:38 Money made. Perfect. You can go into these calls knowing that you're likely to fit into the money made category. You would be prepared to have that discussion and that's exactly the kind of thing I want you to think about is- how can I come into these conversations knowing my potential sources of value, even recognizing that it may change from client to client, but the range of things that you do probably won't change that much. If you reduce risk there's probably three ways you do that right. It's not going to change constantly.
Liston: 00:42:16 Let me give you an example, I said there are quantitative ways of establishing value, so putting a number to it, and there are qualitative ways, which are still important. So like Sam, helps speakers deliver better presentations and one of the ways she does that is by improving their presentation, they feel more confident. I can't put a dollar amount on that, I can't really put a number on that. I would say, you could say something like well how many speeches have you give in the past. Oh thirty, how many of those were A plus efforts, zero. Okay, well this could be the one that gives you that A-plus effort, versus the other thirty.
Liston: 00:43:03 We didn't exactly put a number on it, but we got closer to measuring what the impact would be. If you have trouble with this there is a book called "How to Measure Anything," it is a very dry read. However, the big point the author makes is, because you may be thinking- well I don't know how to do this or even if I did it's not going to be a hundred percent accurate. To which I would say you're a hundred percent right, it's not going to be a hundred percent accurate, but the point that the author makes is when you measure something you get closer to what the truth is.
Liston: [00:43:40] It may not be the objective truth, but we would at least have some directionality and magnitude of the problem. For instance, is it a thousand dollar problem, is it a hundred thousand dollar problem, is it a billion dollar problem. Those are very different things and through this process, I can get closer to that, directionally is it the right thing, is it the right value.
Liston: 00:44:04 Here's an example, if I'm talking to Linda, and her goal is to improve the number of sales that she has in a month, I would ask a question like-"Linda what's your conversion rate right now?"
Liston: 00:44:18 And she would say "I don't know." Then I would say "Okay, no worries, how many sales conversations do you have to have in order to close a client?" "About twenty." "Okay so about a five percent conversion." "Yeah, that sounds fine." "Alright and how many leads, how many of the sales conversations are you having in a month?" "About a hundred" "okay so hundred sales conversations, five percent of them convert, what is that worth if a new person signs up, and they're a new client to you, tell me how much would you make from that person over their whole lifetime. Not just in month one, but what are they worth to you forever?" "about ten thousand bucks" "okay cool, so it sounds like you're getting about five new sales every month and those are worth about ten thousand bucks each, so it sounds like fifty thousand dollars in new total revenue a month. Does that sound about right?" "yeah that sounds good, something like that, that's in the ballpark." "Okay great, what kind of change would you want to see in that?" "About twenty percent."
Liston: 00:45:25 So now we have pretty much everything we need to know. This is where a lot of people get tripped up on establishing value. It's tempting to say the value is ten thousand dollars, but that's not actually the value. The value is a multiple of ten thousand dollars. The person is going to experience this if I give Linda twenty percent increase, she's going to experience that twenty percent increase somewhere between one month and forever. I don't know exactly how long it's gonna be and it's not actually gonna be forever, because everything erodes over time but what I do know is it's not one month, it's much more than that. We could say the twelve-month value of this project is 120 thousand, you could say the six month is the sixty thousand, whatever it is.
Liston: 00:46:16 But either way you could start to see how a twenty or thirty thousand dollar project makes a lot of sense. The real reason to do this is we're anchoring our price against their potential upside. Now you can never go in and say, your one year value is 120 thousand the project is 119 thousand, because what if it doesn't work. Also, there's something out there called "the market", and someone out there would do it for way less than that and would also be an expert.
Liston: 00:46:52 But, this is a tool that we can use to establish value. So now we know the problems, we know the goals that Linda has, we've established the value. Question is, is there a fit? And there may be a fit and maybe it's a square peg in a round hole and there's no fit. We should know by now, so there are just a few options in terms of determining if there is a fit. And I'll have probably about ten to fifteen minutes of questions, I'm wrapping up here. If there is a fit, great, we'll know what to do in that situation. If there's not a fit there's two version of not a fit. One is not now, the second is not at all. If it's not at all, what we do is pretty clear, well I have an answer for not now as well. There is a third category, which is maybe. In which case we would wanna have another call, if we reach the end of our call and I say something like " You know what Linda I feel like I've understood a lot more about your business..."
Liston: 00:48:00 Do you know what, Linda, I feel like I've understood a lot more about your business now but I do have some more questions, the more I think about it. Would you be open to having another one of these calls in a few days? So that's maybe. Where we don't know yet or maybe we need some time to think about it.
Liston: 00:48:18 But let's say it's yes, 'cause that's what we want, right? It's a fit, and they want our help. So I would say something like, "Linda, based on what I've heard, I'm really confident I can help you. Would you like to keep the discussion going?" This is not pressing, I'm not telling her I'm gonna pitch her, but she knows by this point that the missing piece here is for me to come up with some ideas and tell her what it's going to cost and what it would look like to work together.
Liston: 00:48:51 So I'm inviting her into that conversation and she can either say yes or no or I'm not sure. Of course, if she says, "I'm not sure," I'd say, "Why not?" What would you need to know in order to be sure one way or the other? And I say this a lot. One way or the other, whether you hire me or someone like me, what would you need to know? And so if she says, "Yes, I'd love to keep the conversation going," I'd say, "Great, Linda, pull out your calendar. Are you open on Tuesday to have a follow-up discussion so we can figure out exactly how this thing's gonna work?" She says, "Yes," I say, "Great, I'm gonna send you an invite and I'm gonna follow up on this with an email." Which leads us to the call follow-up, this is what to do after your initial sales conversation if you get to this point.
Liston: 00:49:45 You're going to summarize what you learned over the course of that call. This, again, paints you as a professional, it puts you in a leadership position, it documents what you learned so that you don't have to record an hour long call and watch it back. You're summarizing the main things that you learned in that call, feel free to steal this template if you want.
Liston: 00:50:12 So, this is where we are, right? We're in the discovery, we did our research, we had our initial sales conversation, we decided on the next step with was a "Yes, let's move on," and now, and only now, can we move to the pitch. Oh my god, we're so excited to move to the pitch which is a whole separate thing, right? That's about painting a new future, a new you, really, a new version of yourself that you've been striving for but haven't been able to get to.
Liston: 00:50:47 But now, if you get through that discovery process, I give you permission to move on to the pitch, it's okay. What if, in the discovery process we determined it's not a fit? Congratulations. Now you can move on to the dozens or hundreds or hundreds of thousands or even millions of people who need and want your help. Okay. Just move on. It's okay. You're not gonna sell everyone and that's not the point of this anyways, the point is to determine if there's a fit. The point is to learn. So you can move on to someone who actually does need your help if the answer is, "No, they don't need my help and I don't wanna work with this person or I can't help them."
Liston: 00:51:27 However, if the answer is, "Not now but I'd like to work with them in the future," I would say something like this, "Hey Linda, based on what I understood on the call today, it sounds like I could definitely help you. The problem that I'm seeing is you have a partner in your business who isn't bought into the idea of sales coaching. Now what I found in the past is if I did business with someone like that, your partner is going to start to build up some resentment and could potentially sabotage the project. Neither you nor I want that. What I would recommend, Linda, is to go talk to your partner and see what you need to do in order to move this discussion forward internally. Now if you wanted, Linda, I would be happy to be a part of that conversation, explain what it is I do and then you can make a mutual decision together. How would you like to proceed?" Okay?
Liston: 00:52:28 So, I'm laying it out for Linda, explaining why I'm not a fit now and I'm also telling her what she should do in order to be a fit with me, what needs to change. Again, I know the process, I know the way, right? I'm gonna tell her what I think needs to happen. And then, of course, I stay in touch because inevitably, as charismatic and wonderful as I am and as you are, they're going to forget us, a million other things are going on in their lives. So we have to have a way of staying in touch.
Liston: 00:53:07 All right. So how to get started with an improved initial sales conversation? I'm gonna summarize this in just five bullets. Number one is mindset. You're in charge, right? You're going to take charge of this process which means, by definition, you have a process. I'm very into fitness and when I started lifting weights I once heard someone say, "I never go into the gym without knowing exactly what I'm gonna do today." It's exactly how you should think about your sales process. You're never going to engage in a sales conversation without knowing where that's going to go and why.
Liston: 00:53:46 Secondly, this is mechanical. You can do this right now. Research and you send an agenda before any sales call that you have. Right? You are going to show that you're showing up in a very professional way, you have well-targeted questions and you have some idea of what the person is doing, what their company is doing, how you might help them.
Liston: 00:54:12 Don't pitch until you complete discovery. How many more times do I have to say this one? Also, keep the prospect talking. So that's not to say keep them blathering away at you with information that you don't care about because it's okay to stop them in the middle of that and say, " Hey, I think we got off track a little bit, that sounds really interesting but let's stick that on the back burner for minute, what I really wanna talk about is this."
Liston: 00:54:39 But keep the prospect talking because the only way you're going to learn what you need to learn is if they're talking, you're asking good questions and they're talking to you. And then summarize, summarize, summarize. In the agenda, during the call, in the followup, even when you get to your pitch, yes, you are going to remind them what their goals are and what the value of those goals are. You're gonna continue to summarize so that you're contextualizing and framing everything it is that you do.
Liston: 00:55:10 So, hopefully this wasn't too much. This is a lot of content flying at you, I know. But I didn't feel that there was any way to properly talk to you about an initial sales call without all of it. So we have about 10 minutes left, I'd be happy to stay on longer if anybody wants to stay on here and ask me questions.
Liston: 00:55:31 Now, if you wanna talk to me, you already have my email address, you can also go to liston.io/talk. Hopefully a pretty memorable URL but let's go to your questions. Any questions about initial sales conversations or your selling process generally?
John: [00:55:54] Yeah, I got a question.
Liston: [00:55:55] Hit me.
John: 00:55:57 So, the first, the entry point that I sell first is my growth blueprint, so it's basically a mini scoping project to really begin and see what the clients in their marketing and digital marketing website, social media and all that good stuff. So generally, what I've been doing is bringing up to ... kind of do the discovery process, like I was describing before and might get into a little bit of what's going on with them. And then pull back and say, "You know what? What might make sense here is you know, we have a growth blueprint, a mini project, we look into all this stuff," and basically that's a pitch for that and I do this on the first call and this seems like a little bit of an in-between thing because it's still is discovery, it's just paid discovery that we're looking to do but it's also, of course, a pitch because I'm asking them to pay for it.
John: 00:57:04 So, I'm wondering what your thoughts are on when to bring that up?
Liston: [00:57:08] On when to bring it up? Well, have you sold it in the past?
John: [00:57:12] Yeah.
Liston: [00:57:13] Okay. Then when did you bring it up?
John: 00:57:16 I've been bringing it up on the first call.
Liston: 00:57:20 Yeah, I mean I think it's okay if you get through whatever discovery you need to do in order to determine if a growth blueprint is right for them. I would suggest that it's not gonna be right for everybody because ... I don't know, do you think that? Do you think everybody who contacts you would benefit from the growth blueprint?
John: 00:57:48 What's that?
John: 00:57:51 No, no, not everybody. Certainly, there are certain projects that are straightforward enough that we can get through discovery on a call or two and then [inaudible 00:58:01] so we go for that. So yeah, not everybody. I have a prospect I'm talking to today that I don't even suggest it to.
John: 00:58:10 It's usually more when they have a marketing funnel and they're doing some stuff and not other stuff and part of their problem is they don't know why certain things are or aren't happening, that's usually when I get into it.
Liston: 00:58:25 Yeah. I think it's totally okay to bring it up on the first call. So I've had clients that I've closed on a single call and actually, one in particular that turned into multiple five figures, a business. So I think it's okay so long as you are getting through the discovery process that you need to address in order to do it.
Liston: 00:58:48 Now I will say philosophically, I'm not a big proponent of the blueprint issue in the sense that I'm gonna build you a roadmap so that I can get paid to do my sales process. I don't like that. I'm more of a proponent of figuring out can I provide this person value and is there a mutual trust there because I don't want to do a roadmap for someone who I'm not clicking with or doesn't click with me. So, as long as you can do enough of that research and you're doing that kind of enough of that discovery in order to make that determination, I'd say first call is fine, just get through whatever discovery you need to determine if a roadmap is right for them.
John: [00:59:42] Yeah, okay, thanks.
Liston: [00:59:48] Other questions?
Dustin: [00:59:58] I have a quick question.
Liston: [01:00:00] Dustin, can you hear me?
Dustin: 01:00:03 Yeah, I was wondering about how you would handle a lead who is very focused on price? So you haven't been able to establish your value on the call yet but they're just very much ... maybe they have a strict budget that they have to stick to but they're asking a lot of questions about your price, getting at your rates before you've even been able to establish what they really need.
Liston: 01:00:27 Yeah, so that's a tricky one. Generally, I would say I hate those leads and I'd often ... I give an example, no one's ever responded to this email but if ... the email back and forth, this occasionally happens, people are like, "Tell me your price, tell me your price," and I always wanna get on the phone with someone. If all they care about is price, I'll say, "Okay, no problem." Typically, my projects range from $500 to five million dollars, does that sound about right?
Liston: 01:00:59 And they never come back. But basically, what I'm trying to test for is there anything else that matters to this person because I'm not a widget provider, right? I'm not a clicker off of the shelf that cost 19.00. And so if during the call, were you on the phone with them, Dustin?
Dustin: [01:01:24] Yeah, like even on a national call.
Liston: [01:01:27] Okay. And were you able to get through any of the problem stuff before they started asking you about price?
Dustin: [01:01:33] Yes, but not on a deep enough level that I could really establish what they actually needed just on a superficial level, basically.
Liston: 01:01:43 So it's tricky. I would say it's a red flag if they're that focused on price, first of all. Now that said, obviously, they're gonna have a budget and there's gotta be some fit, conceptual fit between you, based on what they can and are willing to spend. but what I would say is totally understand that price is a big factor for you, I'm sure there are other factors, can we talk about a few other things because price can vary quite a bit, depending on what it is that you need."
Liston: 01:02:17 And then if they push back on that, which they might, then I would say something like, "Okay, no worries. Would you be willing to share with me what you had in mind 'cause it sounds like you're working off a very fixed budget and I can tell you whether or not there is any chance I can meet it." That's number two.
Liston: 01:02:35 If they push back again which they might then I would say, "No worries, in full disclosure, I don't know enough about your project to really quote you anything. That's something I would need to figure out, based on other questions I had for you. However, since you need to know right now, typically, projects like yours fall in the range between X and Y. Does that sound like something that you can do?" Or, I'll end it with a very simple direct way of asking it. Should we keep talking?
Liston: 01:03:09 And sometimes, they'll say, "Oh, yeah, totally no worries." And other times they'll say, "No that's not in our budget." And then I will even offer, "Oh, no worries, if you tell me what your budget looks like, I might be able to refer someone." Now I can pull out of them if there is something I can do for them at a price that works for them or I can refer to some other service provider.
Liston: 01:03:34 But you know, there is no way, people who buy the way that they wanna buy and they're gonna spend what they wanna spend. They are ways to show them bigger possibilities or new options that they didn't think about so they may end up doing a much bigger project than they thought initially. But you're never gonna fully change their minds or just get them off of this price fixation. You know, if they do walk away after that, I'll also give them a final, which this is just a professional courtesy. I'll just say, "Hey, just so you know, at the price you wanna pay, I think you're gonna find it very difficult to find someone who can do all of the things you want at the quality that you want them. Typically, that would be more in this range.
Liston: [01:04:25] And, you know, usually the may perceive that as sour grapes but I just want them to know. Like, I already spent the time with them on the phone, my goal is to see if I can help them and I wanna help them if I can and so that might be another helpful thing that you can do.
Dustin: [01:04:42] Definitely, yeah.
Liston: 01:04:43 We'll pitch you the sale, though, go ahead, Dustin.
Dustin: 01:04:46 No, I'm just gonna say those are really good ideas, yeah, I'll try those, yeah.
Liston: [01:04:49] Okay, cool.
Dustin: [01:04:50] Cool thanks.
Liston: [01:04:51] Yeah, absolutely. Other questions?
John: [01:05:01] I have to drop off now, I just wanted to say Liston.
Liston: 01:05:04 You're absolutely welcome, John, I look forward to talking to you soon, man.
John: [01:05:08] Great, all right.
Liston: 01:05:11 Bye Sam, you're leaving too?
Sam: [01:05:14] I just was saying bye to John but thanks-
Liston: [01:05:16] Oh yeah, bye John.
Sam: [01:05:18] Thanks for the conversation examples as you were going through your talk today. How you work things and what you actually say to spur on more conversation while talking was really helpful.
Liston: 01:05:33 Okay, cool, awesome. Yeah, you know, I appreciate hearing you say that. It's tricky to give a verbatim script because you know, the way you would say something, Sam, isn't the way I would say it. But I try to make it as over the shoulder as possible. Anthony, any questions?
Anthony: [01:05:55] It was just wonderful, thanks Liston and do we get your slides?
Liston: [01:06:04] Yes, you can have my slides.
Anthony: [01:06:04] Thank you.
Liston: 01:06:07 So as you all know, I am starting a membership site, so if you want slides, recordings, more of this one on one, that comes with the membership, so I'm gonna send you the link today. I don't think that comes as a surprise to anyone on this call except for Dustin. So Dustin, I can tell you more about that. But yeah, you would get all of that with the membership.
Anthony: [01:06:28] Fantastic.
Liston: 01:06:28 So I'll send you the link today, Anthony.
Anthony: [01:06:32] Fantastic. And can we invite others for this same membership?
Liston: 01:06:40 Absolutely. I would appreciate that. And actually, while I have you all here, I'd like to ask you a question and I would just love your honest gut reaction to it. One way I was thinking of marketing the membership site was to give people access only to the live webinar. So they could sign on now but they wouldn't get the recording, they wouldn't get the one on one coaching, they wouldn't get the slides. They can see it live but that's it. Do you feel that that erodes the value for you or does that feel weird that you'd be paying for it and they'd get a part of it?
Sam: 01:07:22 I don't know, it seems like if they're not invested, they may show up once or twice but not continue, so-
Liston: [01:07:29] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Sam: 01:07:33 I don't care what other people get, I'm focused on myself and what I'm looking for and the value.
Liston: [01:07:40] Okay, okay.
John: 01:07:49 Yeah, I would think that with the ... yeah, I think it would be very likely, I don't think that would tremendously erode the value for those of us who are gonna have to be paying. Perhaps if there were some limits on the number of calls that they can turn up to for free or something, I don't know.
Liston: [01:08:12] Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Liston: 01:08:26 Right, right. Okay. Yeah, I was just thinking that could be kind of a ... okay, that's good feedback. Dustin, do you have any thoughts on that? Dustin, you're not paying anyway, we don't care about your opinion. Okay, cool. Well, thank you all so much for coming. You gotta give me about a day to get the slides up and the video up and I do have, finally, the link for the memberships so I'll send you all of that stuff today and all of the information that's associated with this will be in the membership site. And I hope to follow up with you individually to see how I can make that awesome, like 20 times more value than you think you're paying for because this isn't like should be x dollars but now it's just this. I really do want you all to grow your businesses and if I can help you do that, that makes me get up and rehearse these slides 10 times before I give the talk.
Liston: [01:09:46] So, thank you so much for being here and I look forward to seeing you all again soon.
Sam: [01:09:52] Thank you Liston.
Speaker 3: [01:09:58] Yeah, I can.
Liston: 01:09:59 Okay. I notice that you dropped off and I asked the other folks a question about the membership site. So first of all, I'm gonna ... let me just stop the recording now.