How Top Sales People Build Their Skills

Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. Today's topic is, what separates the top performers from the people who just kind of skate by? And the thing I want to focus on today is practice, and not just whether you do it or not, but rather, what type of practice generates the greatest results. 

In the Same Side Selling Academy, I work with hundreds of top-performing sales professionals, yet some outperform the others in the group. What I find is that they have a very consistent process for how they practice on a routine basis. 

So first, what are the things that people do that they shouldn't be doing? What are their biggest mistakes? Well, in every profession, the top performers tend to practice more than the average performers. So, think about the best hitter in baseball, the best pitcher, the best basketball player, the person who's the best at free throws, the first violin in the symphony. These are all people who we all recognize as putting in the extra time to practice the fundamentals. My friend, Allen Stein Jr, who is a fellow speaker, speaks about his experience with the late Kobe Bryant, and he talks about his commitment to exercise and practicing the fundamentals over and over again, even when he was at the top of his game. So, the first big mistake is when I talk to sales professionals who say, well, I meet with clients all the time, so I don't need to practice. I'm already really good at it. And that's a huge mistake because what you're acknowledging at that point is that you would much rather make a mistake with a real client when it matters than to practice with a colleague when you can learn. 

The second big mistake that people make is when they do actually take the time to practice, is they do what I call Groundhog Day practice. And that means that they practice the same scenario over and over again. And to make matters worse, they practice that same scenario over and over again with the same person. Which means they get really good at dealing with that one scenario with that one individual. It's not a sustainable model unless you know that the person you're practicing with is going to become a client of yours in the near future. Then maybe it makes sense. Otherwise, not so much. 

The other mistake that people make is they either practice sessions that are too short or too long. So, either they go forward in a practice session that is about three minutes long. Like, no sales meeting has ever been that short. Or they say, okay, we're going to roleplay the scenario for the next half hour, 40 minutes. Well, the problem with that approach is that what we want to do is we want to practice individual segments or parts of our interactions. Think about it. If you were practicing for a Broadway show, you wouldn't just practice from the first scene to the last scene over and over again. No, they practice individual scenes and get the blocking and staging and all the nuances in each of those. At the very end, they pull everything together. But all their practice is at individual levels. It's just like hitters. They don't just sit up there and practice the entire game. They say, okay, so here's a scenario, we have a runner on second, it's a tie game, what do you want to do? And that hitter is just going to hit balls to the opposite field all day long to advance the runner. But they don't practice just hitting the ball out of the park every swing. That's not a practical way to practice. 

The last mistake that people make is that when they practice, they don't have results or a goal in mind. Meaning that what they do is they say, oh, yeah, we're going to practice. We're going to roleplay. And if I ask them, What's your goal? How are you evaluating what you're doing? They say, well, I don't know someone told us to practice, so I guess that's what we're doing. We need a better approach for doing this. And this is something that, in the Same Side Selling Academy, we built something called Same Side Improv. In Same Side Selling Improv, we used to have it as a card game. It was a physical card game, like a deck of cards, and you would pick different cards. In today's day and age, we made it so that it's all digital. So, you don't need to have a deck of cards with you. The cards don't get worn out. It's always a fresh deck, and you can practice different scenarios. The idea is that we're practicing real-world situations. So, the first thing we do is get three different players involved. So, for every round of Same Side Improv, we have a salesperson, we have someone playing the role of the customer, and then we have an observer. The reason why is the observer is there to take notes and give us feedback. Because the other two people are living in the moment, they might forget or overlook things. I will tell you; the observer consistently is the person who says they learn the most in each round. We make sure that we're not having the same scenario over and over again. So, the first thing we do is say, okay, paint a picture of a real client situation you have right now. And so and so gets to play the customer. And whoever is playing, the customer now picks one or more of these Same Side Improv secret cards. And the secret cards will say things like, you don't trust vendors. You failed trying to implement this before. You're trying to get free information. You're only focused on price. There's executive pressure to solve this. There are 20 some odd, different variations of these secret cards. And so, the person playing the customer plays those attributes for each round. That way, you're getting a different situation and a different customer each time, even if it's somebody you're familiar with. But they're playing the role that is conveyed through those cards. 

We want to make sure we get that third-party feedback, but we need to have a goal in mind. So, the goal is that what we do in the Same Side Improv world is we focus on the Same Side quadrants. This method that I teach in Same Side Selling, which is all about how we collect information during these prospect meetings. This is how we take our notes. The upper left quadrant is where we take notes about the issue or what it is the clients trying to solve. In the upper right quadrant, we take notes about impact and importance, namely, what happens if they don't solve it? And how important is this compared to other things on their plate? And the lower left quadrant, we take notes about results. Meaning, what does success look like down the road? In the lower right quadrant, we take notes about who else is impacted or who else do we need to include in the process? The idea is that you're measured based on how well you extract the information and ask questions to unpack that information about the four quadrants. 

Now we also have a section in Same Side Improv that talks about different skills and scenarios. Meaning you might have a section where you say, okay, I just want you to practice setting up a meeting to set expectations. I want you to practice the client vision pyramid, which is a way for us to show how we're differentiated from the competition in a non-threatening way. We may practice how do we deal with someone who says I already have an existing vendor. So, these are little micro setups that you get to practice those specific scenarios. Just like running a certain play in basketball or practicing a certain section of the symphony, we're practicing those pieces that are most likely to come up.

The last two really important components are to have fun because sometimes people will take it way too seriously, and if you're not laughing and having fun with some of this stuff, you are kind of missing the point. And make sure that you don't always end up with a positive outcome. Meaning, it's not always, oh, yes, I'd love to do business with you. This is great. In fact, at least a third of the time, the conclusion should be, I don't think they're a good prospect for us because that's reality. More often than not, businesses spend too much time focusing on the wrong opportunities that will not generate results for your business. So, we want to make sure that we're providing a realistic environment so that as you ask them questions, you start to learn, you know what, that's not a situation that we want to be in. 

You don't have to use Same Side Improv. You can use whatever tools you want. But make sure that you have those different elements. Make sure that you have a variety of scenarios that come up. Make sure that you have these secrets that you don't even know about the person playing the customer mixes into each scenario so that you're not facing the same thing over and over again. Get feedback from a third party so that you're not just, in the moment, trying to remember what you saw, but an observer is taking notes and giving you feedback at the end of the session. 

A typical scenario that works well for us is about a 10-minute interaction. And then you get feedback from each party, starting with the observer, then from the person playing the customer, and finally from the salesperson on what they learn. The idea is not to be hypercritical, but to say here are the couple of things that I thought you did really well, and here's one thing that I was thinking maybe you could do differently next time. And then we learn from that experience. 

 See, this is the way we develop top-performing teams because then when you're in front of a client, and the client starts asking questions or making statements, that happen to be the same statements you make when you have the card that says, I don't trust vendors, you can say, I get the sense that maybe you haven't had a great experience in the past with other vendors. What are the two or three things that we can show you so you'll feel confident that you're not going to have that same problem in dealing with us? And that way, you're prepared to deal with the situation, so you're not making mistakes when it counts, but instead, you're practicing and learning so that when it really counts, you're prepared to deliver great results. 

If there are additional topics you'd like to see on the Same Side Selling Podcast, just drop me a note to, and we'll see you next time on the Same Side Selling Podcast.

What Makes a Good or Bad Internal Sales Meeting?

Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. Today's episode is what makes a good or not good internal sales meeting. This is something that happens routinely in businesses around the world. They gather their sales reps together, either in the same meeting room or in a Zoom room, or in a team's room, and they go through the different opportunities that each rep is facing. And there are good ways to do this, and not so good ways. 

Let's start with the biggest mistakes that I see. 

Often, the meeting will start like this, hey, let's go through your pipeline. So, Jim, we're going to start with you. Here are the five deals I see right now in your CRM. Meaning within your customer relationship management software, we're going to now have Jim read off all of the details that already exist inside of the CRM. Why do we do this? People can review this in advance. So it doesn't make a lot of sense for us to do that. 

Then someone asked a question like, so what's going on with this deal? Does this look like it's going to come in next week, or do you need to push this thing off? And then, the meeting typically gets dominated by the most long-winded participant in the meeting. So, if there are ten reps, the meeting is scheduled for an hour, each person doesn't spend six minutes. One person spends 25 minutes, and 35 minutes is left to split up between the other nine people. And the people who didn't get covered or like, phew, I didn't have to cover any of this stuff.

Then someone says, well, maybe if we offered a discount, or maybe we tell them that this is their last chance, that they have to buy next week or some crazy idea like that. And then we asked them about their activity. Meaning, how many phone calls did you make? How many meetings did you have? How many proposals did you send out? And that reminds me of a great routine by the comedian Jeff Foxworthy. Jeff Foxworthy is the guy who has that whole bit about "You might be a redneck if…" and he is a pretty funny guy. And Jeff Foxworthy has this routine where he talks about the idea of someone coming to collect payment for his car. And he's like, I don't have the money. And the guy says, look, man, you just need to give me a check. And the individual says, oh, check, you need to check? Oh, I thought you said you needed money because I can give you a check. So what happens is, we asked our reps, how many meetings did you have? How many phone calls? How many face-to-face appointments did you have? How many proposals? And it's like, Oh, I thought you wanted us to grow our revenue? If you just want me to show activity, I can. So yeah, I had five lunches last week. Not one of them is going to become a client, but yes, I met with five people over lunch. And now all I've done is increase our expenses. Not what we want to do. 

So what should we be doing in productive, effective internal sales meetings? Well, for starters, we want to focus on progress and accomplishments, not focusing on activity. Meaning we don't want to say how many meetings did you have? How many appointments? This and that. Instead, we want to ask insightful questions. And let me give you a list of different questions that you can ask that might help drive better results inside your business. 
So, for example, you might ask a question like, so this one opportunity? Why would that client choose us over somebody else? Because if you don't know, the client isn't going to know that either.

What happens if they do nothing? Because oftentimes, reps will be excited about a deal, but if the answer is, I don't know what happens if they do nothing, the client may, in fact, choose that option. 

Who isn't involved who maybe needs to be? It could be people on your team or their team, but we start thinking about different people who need to be involved? 

What would derail this deal that we haven't talked about yet? So, that gets people to think about, in a risk-seeking mindset, what could go wrong in this opportunity, and how do we fix that?

Then we want to ask questions like, where are we weak in this opportunity? Is it our solution? Is it the relationships that we have? Is it our experience, the connections? We start asking questions about where we have opportunities, and then we ask the question like, so if they don't go with us, who would they pick? Because we need to have a sense of who the alternatives are. That way, we can strategically deal with those opportunities as they come up. 

The other thing that you should be doing each week when you have internal sales meetings is roleplay a specific part of the sales process. So, for example, you might say, we're going to break into groups, and I want you to roleplay just the initial contact. Just what's an initial outreach like? So if you're somebody who's making those outbound calls, what does that initial conversation sound like? And practice two or three times with each person. You might say, okay, so we're going to roleplay a scenario where you're trapped by procurements, and you're dealing with a procurement person. You can't reach the line of business. What is that going to sound like? Or gee, the client says they love what we're doing, but our price is too high. How do we deal with that situation? 

The idea is that we want to make it a learning experience. So what happens is, if you start asking these great questions during your meeting, your team is going to realize, oh, they're going to ask this question, so I better be prepared next time. What we find is that the people who are asking these questions of their teams, their teams start getting the answers to those questions in advance. And those teams tend to outperform other teams because they actually get the information they need to help make deals happen. 

So don't focus on activity. Focus on accomplishments. Make sure you're asking questions that give insight into real opportunities. Avoid focusing on metrics, like how many calls or meetings you had. Instead, track real progress. An make sure you have a learning opportunity in each session so people can practice real-world scenarios. And what'll happen is you'll hear one or two reps do it really well, and other people can model their behavior, and that's how you raise the level of your entire team.

I look forward to seeing you on the next Same Side Selling Podcast. If you like this, please feel free to share it. Subscribe and share with your friends and colleagues. If there's a topic you'd like me to cover that you haven't seen yet, just let me know. That's where the ideas come from. See you next time on the Same Side Selling Podcast.

The Biggest Presentation Fails

00:04 Ian Altman

Welcome to the Same Side Selling podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. Today we're talking about something that is near and dear to my heart, which is the biggest mistakes that people make when it comes to presentations and how they put themselves out there with their clients and prospects. And my guest today is somebody who is an absolute expert on this because he's the CEO of Beautiful.AI, Jason Lapp. So, Jason, let me welcome you to the program. 

00:33 Jason Lapp

Hey Ian. Good to see you. 

00:35 Ian Altman

Thanks for being here. So, the topic is the biggest mistake that people make when it comes to presentations. And we use your tool internally, and we don't get paid to use your tool. We use it. So, it's funny because when people reached out and said, hey, do you think Jason be good on the podcast? I'm like, I know that stuff. We use that stuff. But I wanted to, instead of talking about what it is that it does and how it helps people, I want to start by helping people identify problems that maybe are traps they fall into with their presentation. So, can you start down there, down that path, in terms of what problems you see people making when it comes to presentations?

01:13 Jason Lapp

Yeah, sure. So obviously, we're a presentation company, but I've got a long background in selling and presenting myself. But I think there are four things that I usually identify with that I see people making really big mistakes with. The first is company branding. So, when we start to look at how do you show up in the room? How are you representing your brand? Do you have the right fonts, the right colors, do you have the right voice, the right tone? It's more or less getting some structure around the starting point of whatever you're presenting so that it's clean and consistent throughout.

01:51 Ian Altman

And Jason, my sense is that it's not so much that companies never put branding in place. What I often see, and I don't know if there's something that you guys see a lot is that the organization, well, their marketing department, will spend a fortune. They'll work with designers. They'll work with an ad firm to work with an agency that comes up with this amazing design. And then their reps all of a sudden have a presentation that's tomorrow morning, and they kind of wing it, and it totally violates every branding guideline that they have.

02:21 Jason Lapp

And that's right, Ian. I mean, I'm sure you've seen it. I've seen it; I'm probably guilty of it at some point in my career. There's a hard thing between trying to customize a presentation for your audience and staying consistent with your brand. And I think it's hard for companies to get that right. I think it's hard for them to build a structure that is repeatable for every situation. But, you know, obviously, the biggest mistake that we see sales reps doing is going off the grid and putting things in that don't belong. I mean, one of the biggest things I always see is clipart. I don't know if people still use the word clipart. But clipart is, you know, out of the box, or they pull it off Google because they thought it was good. In fact, recently, I saw a presentation that had puppy dogs and tennis balls in it, and that's just the wrong direction.

03:17 Ian Altman

So, the first thing is this idea of branding and consistent branding and maintaining that consistency throughout. So, the second one, are you saying it is clipart, or is there something different than just the clipart?

03:28 Jason Lapp

No, before I get to maybe clipart, there's another practical thing that I think a lot of people overlook when they start to create presentations, and it's really this idea of what is your structured storytelling? What you often see is unstructured storytelling. It might be linear, but you're going up and down, and you're all over the place, and you're distracted and jumping from one topic to the other, and it becomes sort of a potluck of different things. So really, the big area that I think is a mistake but can be fixed really quickly is this idea of, have you figured out what your story arc is? And it has to be custom. You can't come out of the box. Your marketing team may have made this perfect pitch, but it has to be custom to the people you're talking to. And you have to know what the story arc is.

04:18 Ian Altman

Yeah, you know, I love that you mentioned that. As someone who spends most of my life as a professional speaker, a lot of my time is spent on that arc of the story and what happens and where's the conflict and how do we engage people in the story? And I think it's interesting because most of my presentations have very few words on them at all. It's all imagery. And I remember someone came up to me after a session and said, well, your stuff must be easy because you don't have any words on your slides. It is just images that tie to that theme. So, man, I should start doing that. That must be so easy. And I said try it! Because as you know, they have the right image that conveys the right thought that ties into a message are very intentional, and it's something that very often people overlook. And instead, what they do is, and this is something that I'm curious if you see this also, one of the things I see is, the rep who's preparing a presentation, it could be someone in marketing, could be someone in sales, a sales associate, it doesn't matter, whoever is coming up with it. What they do is they open up their favorite presentation tool, and they think, what do we want to say to the client? And then they type that onto the slide. And the question I often ask people is, okay, so this is your deck? Yeah. What are you planning to say? And I'm assuming it's not what's on the slide. And they go, no, no, we were going to say what's on the slide? It's like, no, you can't do that because it's death by PowerPoint. You've got text and bullets in there. The bullets are there so people can kill themselves? I mean, it's just an awful way to go. So, I'm curious to get your thought on that as well.

05:58 Jason Lapp

Yeah, I want to get to what you're talking about, which is visuals in a second. But I think just one more thing on this idea of story arc, and it's really simple. I mean, for any rep, for anybody who's trying to think about how do they put this together, it's exactly what you said. There is a natural curve of the story, and it may have multiple curves and may go into multiple iterations. But the idea of how do you match your story to your visuals is a really important element. And if you have the classic beginning, middle end, or it is crisis, climax, punchline, whatever that might be, you want to be able to then take the imagery along that path and structure in a way that makes sense. And I think that's where you're going, which is okay, well, imagery is important. But the real thing is, the big mistakes happen when it comes to imagery. And there are two things I see. There's one, which is what I was talking about earlier, which is the clipart, the poor pictures, the off-brand stuff, or even your company stuff can be really, you know, difficult to put into the mix. And so, there is this idea of like, well, what is the dynamics on the page? Is there too much text? Are the visuals appropriately positioned? Do they match the story? But there's another bigger theory that people need to think about when they're presenting, which is if you're showing up to a meeting, and you're showing up with a PowerPoint or a presentation to start, you're already losing your audience. So, you need to figure out like you're the presenter; you're the main focus of the room. But when you're using the content behind you, or in a presentation, you want graphs, you want diagrams, you want videos, you want multimedia, you want to use it as a prop to telling your story -- not to tell the story.

07:52 Ian Altman

And I love that you said that. In fact, there's a there's a group out of out of New Jersey called Heroic Public Speaking. Michael and Amy Port run this amazing program. And, part of people who train there, and I had done something called A-Lister there years ago, we took several of us who do a lot of speaking, and six of us spent a few days just ripping apart our talks and building it back together. And part of it is that notion that if you have a proper arc of the story, you can give your presentation with your slides or without, and there's almost no difference. Because you know your material forwards and backward, you know, wherever everything is going to deviate, it all works great. The biggest challenge becomes that then it's a matter of, okay, if my slides are going to add something or help people remember, fantastic. If they aren't, then maybe I shouldn't use them. And that's the balance. And in some cases, the value of a presentation is what you leave behind after. It may not even be what you're delivering at the time.

09:00 Jason Lapp

Yeah, and that's a good point. I think there's a couple of things in there. One of them is the use of visuals to do that storytelling. And I think you and I both have to admit that sometimes, you know, product details or something that's IP specific or unique might require that level of detail on a slide, or it might be a centerpiece for the conversation. But like, as you said, for the story arc, you don't need a slide for every part of the story. You might want to figure out how to get it down to three to five slides, 10 minutes max as sort of a test to make sure that you're keeping some balance between not overdoing it in the slides.

09:42 Ian Altman

There's something else you said that I thought was really interesting earlier, which is you were talking about this notion of when you're presenting, and you show up with a PowerPoint or presentation, and that's your presentation. One of the traps that I think sometimes people overlook is that if you start the meeting with a presentation, what you've just told everyone in the room is, hey, it's nap time, we're going to turn the lights down, we're going to turn the projector on. You can shut off, and now I'm going to present something to you. And one of the pieces of advice that I really try to implore upon the people in my Same Side Selling Academy and the clients I work with is, if you have a presentation, by all means, don't start with it. So, what you want to start with is, if you're meeting with potential clients, you want to start with a discussion. You can even start by saying, here's our understanding of your situation, and I want to make sure that we ask you some questions to make sure that we can actually help and that what we have would be useful. And if so, then we're happy to give you a presentation that shows that, but I want to spend probably the first half of our meeting making sure that we're on target before we go into any of our products or service. Is that okay? And almost no one's going to say no to that. And if you can set that up in advance, even better.

11:02 Jason Lapp

Yeah, I love that, Ian. I'm a big proponent of the same thing. I love to talk. I love to engage the audience. And I think there's another element of what you're talking about, which is it gives you context for what you should and how you should present, even if you just spend two minutes doing that upfront.

11:20 Ian Altman

Yeah, got it. So, we mentioned this idea of the four different problems or the biggest mistakes that people make. So the first one was this notion of the branding side. The second part is this lack of arc of a story. What other traps do people fall into?

11:37 Jason Lapp

Well, so the third, which I think we just sort of mixed it together with storytelling, is really this idea of visuals. And that was, you know, we talked about, sort of, what not to do, and, you know, sort of, how to structure content in a way that's more engaging. There are so many great tools out there right now to create great graphs and diagrams, and videos. You know, even inside of Beautiful.AI, the product that we have, we've gone to great lengths to make it easy to make a Venn diagram, or a timeline or, you know, a pinwheel, or different things that that you should be able to construct really, really fast that differentiate your conversation and your content in the room.

12:21 Ian Altman

Absolutely. And I think that that notion of having detailed information, and graphs and charts, and visuals are really valuable. One of the traps that I see people fall into, and as someone who presents at a lot of different venues, and I see a lot of different speakers. My favorite is the speaker who stands up there and says, yeah, I'm not sure if you can see this from the back. And of course, when you say that, you know people can't see it from the back. In fact, you're pretty sure people in the third row can't see it when you're doing that. And I have a feeling this may tie into kind of the fourth mistake that people make, but you tell me, what's the fourth trap that people fall into?

13:03 Jason Lapp

Oh, I could go on for days about those types of presentations. My fourth sort of takes us down a little bit different of a route from what's in the moment of presenting, and more into the idea of making sure you judge yourself with a feedback loop. So, I'm really big on this idea of, you know, and I think anybody who presents you need to rehearse ten times before you show up on stage, you have to get through all the ums and likes and you know, stalls in your voice and things that that you're going to do. But one of the biggest things, especially in today's world of video, is recording -- recording and getting feedback. And the reason I think feedback loops are important is that we all hate how we sound every single time. I get used to it because you do it a lot. But every time I look at a recording of myself on video these days, I'm like, oh, God, you know, I'm getting older, or you know, I don't like the tone of my voice, or I'm not talking fast enough, or I said um too many times. And the challenge is that nobody wants that feedback. But that I actually think is the killer thing for you to do in order to improve your presentations. Because of content, you will find out in the room quickly if people are dozing off, if they're picking up their phones, if they're talking to somebody, you can see that. They're not necessarily online, but I think there are other ways that you need to make sure you measure yourself so that you don't just rinse and repeat with content that's not great.

14:34 Ian Altman

Sure, sure. And I think that what's fascinating is, as a speaker, one of the things that we'll often do is we'll put a camera facing the audience. And so, after a session, I'll look at where and how did the audience react in different parts of a talk. Now, one of the biggest challenges that we've had in the world of the pandemic and Zoom was, yeah, there's an opportunity to get some of that feedback, but not as real-time if everyone's camera isn't on. As someone who likes to use humor in my talks, it's tough to get a sense of how a joke landed or the timing of it in that environment, and I will tell you that over the last year and a half, two years, when I look at recordings now, especially in Zoom sessions, and even in podcast interviews, I find those little stop words that uhs and ums coming back in and I think to myself, where did that come from? And it just comes from not speaking at 75 events a year and all of a sudden speaking fewer, I guess. It's fascinating to see. I do want to get your thoughts on this idea of, one of the things I see often is reps or marketing people with the best of intentions, basically employ what I'm guessing is Wesson oil and a shoehorn to get all the content they can onto the slide. So, they're just trying to cram as much stuff on there, and it's almost like they couldn't possibly go to another slide. So, they got to get everything on this one slide. I just think to myself, what compels you to do this because one of the things as a speaker that I'm always conscious of is that when you put up a slide with words on it, the audience can either listen to you or read everything on the slide, but they can't do both at the same time. So, how do you help people not have that vision of everything, and all the content is thrown upon one slide? It's like, oh, yeah, my presentation today is really efficient. I only have four slides for the hour, you look at the first slide, you're like, it's going to take 40 minutes for someone to read that content, and they're going to need a magnifying glass. So how do you deal with that? 

16:50 Jason Lapp 

Yeah, I mean, that's a massive problem. I don't know if it's the insecurity of the speaker, the presenter. I think it's challenging. The design principles around what you and I have been talking about are, there's probably a less is more type of logic that needs to be put in place every time you're creating a slide. There's some structural stuff in terms of like, where's the position? What does it look like? There's a lot of good reading you can do to find that stuff out. We built some of these features into our product. And sometimes we have presenters or users that don't like the product, or they push back, and they say, I can't get enough on the page. And now I went from trying to present on one slide to having four slides. But it's sort of the point, which is you shouldn't have one slide. If the conversation is four slides, have four slides. Use the content and get a better structure around it. But the reality is, you're absolutely right. Like if you're putting that much content on the page, there's no way you're going to get past slide one in 10 minutes, and your audience is going to lose attention really, really fast.

17:54 Ian Altman

Yeah, and I think that one of the things that people often overlook is this notion that, and it's one of the things that I love about the Beautiful.AI platform is, very often someone will say, well, I want to emphasize this piece, so and then they start going through the color wheel and like, oh, I'm going to make this one purple, and this one green. And it's like, it looks like just a Technicolor nightmare. Instead of in your tool, you say, okay, I want to add this in, and I click on the bold tool, which is really just another way of saying, I want to emphasize this, and it picks the color that's aligned with your branding, and you can't pick a different color. And if you say no, no, I want to make this bigger. It says, no, you really don't want to do that. And to me, it's almost like you've got, when I'm using it, and people on my team are using Beautiful.AI, it's like we have that little angel on our shoulder going, yeah, no, you really don't want to do it that way. And it's almost like it prevents us from making these stupid mistakes. And, you have the ability in the platform to reinforce all of the branding and have consistent branding, so now, if people in the field say, oh, I need to add a slide that has these three elements to it, they pick from their template that's got all the right design elements. They pick the right structure from you guys. And now when they create the slide, it's going to tie in with the branding, it's going to tie in with the messaging, and if I understand correctly if six months from now, the organization gets acquired and their branding changes, you can just change it back in the core engine, and it ripples through all the other presentations. Isn't that right?

19:31 Jason Lapp 

Well, first off, I'm excited that you're a user of the product. You're clearly a salesperson for me as well because you know it really well. There are a few things that we should unpack in your comments there. I think the design principles that we built into the product were intentional. We call it Beautiful.AI because we created this design AI that gives you that structure. It's meant to be your guard rails and keep you from doing things that are silly mistakes. It's meant to make it so that you don't end up with 15 different fonts, ten different colors, you know, boxes all over the place. It will stop you; the product will. And that can be frustrating because you've got to learn how to how to reuse it. But when you're using the product, it's really this mindset of okay, well, they understand design. I want to be a creator, and I think we have this challenge today is that literally everybody wants to be a creator, whether that's, you know, in their personal life or in their work-life, and we don't have tools to do it. And the larger issue is that we all want to be creators, but less than 1% of us are designers. I'm a sales guy. I'm not a designer. Mitch, who created Beautiful.AI, he's a designer, and he gets it, and he could do this all day long. What I need is structure and orientation so that I can take all these great ideas I have and create visual stories without having to worry about that.

20:58 Ian Altman

Well, and Jason, the funny part of this is that I often say when it comes to creativity, if I was drawing a stick figure, it would probably be missing a limb. So, if left to my own devices, I'm going to create stuff that is far from beautiful. It's going to be ugly and hideous. And I look back at presentations I used to make, and as a professional speaker, I had engaged and contracted with designers to design slide decks, and we've actually taken those same decks that we professionally designed years ago, and in a matter of minutes, repurposed them in Beautiful.AI and made it so that now if I need to add something on the fly for a presentation, it used to look like here's this beautifully designed presentation, and then here's a slide that was designed using the Fisher-Price, my first presentation toolkit. And it was just like it looked awful. It looked like a kindergarten student had created that one slide in the presentation. And now, when I add something, it looks great now. It's also because it's all shared, and because it's all cloud-based, someone on my team can say, hey, I sent you added this slide. I picked a different image that I thought better suited that part of the presentation. I'm like, oh, Emma, thanks so much. But it's something that usually I see tools, and I think yeah, I don't need this thing. And when I first started working with Beautiful.AI, and I won't make it clear to people, I'm not an affiliate. I don't get paid by you guys. There's nothing like that. I'm a fan of the tool. This is why when someone said, Hey, you want to have Jason on the podcast, I'm like, absolutely, because I actually use their stuff, and I like it. We have about a 50-page document that documents the entire Same Side Selling methodology, and we created it in Beautiful.AI in a matter of; I don't remember how long it was, but it was less than a day from the beginning to end. And people look at and say, oh, this is beautiful. The design on this is incredible. And I'm like, yeah, we just used your platform to build it.

23:08 Jason Lapp

I think what you're talking about is really interesting. There's the need for, you know, having a marketing and creative design team is still absolutely there. I think, you know, we're sort of an additive element to that that carries on great work beyond the creation of some of that stuff. So, there are absolutely times where Beautiful.AI is not going to step up to the plate and do that level of work that a professional designer can do just because of the fact that they've spent 20 years building the experience to use software to manipulate content to create really, really cool things. But I think what's interesting about what you're talking about is you said it earlier, which is sometimes your company goes through a brand change, or you release a new product, or you have a new series of ways of positioning, or your messaging. And the thing that we all experience is, well, what do I do with the old stuff? And if I'm really good at presenting with the old stuff, why would I sunset it? So, what Beautiful.AI does is it gives you a little bit more of a platform to control some of the content and start producing content as starting points. So, a lot of the time, I like to talk about when people ask me, how do you create a great presentation, and I'm not a guy who's going to start from a blank sheet. I don't want to have to figure out every element on the page. What I'd like is one, some inspiration, and then two, what we talked about earlier, which are design guardrails. And the combination of those two things, if you've given me inspiration and a starting point as a company, I can iterate and create really custom great content really, really fast. So, to your 50-page deck, that shouldn't take you two weeks. That should take you a couple of hours of manipulating content that you already started.

25:05 Ian Altman

Yeah, exactly. And the idea was, we already had this arc in the store. We already had the methodology. It was just a matter of how do we present this? Well, we want to show kind of like a flow chart. And then, of course, we're looking to Beautiful.AI. It's like, oh, you want something that's a flow diagram. Clink. Here it is. Where do you add an element? Oh, I click the add an element. Okay. Well, I want to emphasize this, oh, look, it's picking our branding colors, and it just made life so much easier for us. And so, it's really fantastic. I want to give a quick recap of everything we talked about. Before I do that, what's the best way for people to reach out to you and connect with you? I know that you and the folks are Beautiful.AI, have got a ton of resources for people.

25:47 Jason Lapp

Yeah, so through our websites is the easiest. If you want to see the product, it's free to trial. So, it's a good way to get your feet wet and check it out, which is Beautiful.AI. And then me personally, I'm I love this conversation. I'd happily, you know, connect with individuals that they want to continue it.

26:12 Ian Altman

That's great. So let me give a quick 30-second recap of what I think are the key points from our session, and then I'll give you the opportunity for rebuttal to cover anything that maybe I missed. So, there are these traps, in essence, that people have when it comes to presentations. The first is this idea of consistent branding, and people kind of grow on their own on the side, and it hurts to erode the brand. The second point is that when you're presenting, you want to make sure that you've got the proper arc of the story mapped out. So, you've thought through that arc of the story and what your message is beginning, middle, and end. Where are conflicts? You can't just jump into a presentation. Think about it; there would never be a movie that anyone would pay to see that is a demo of your product. So, the idea is we want to make sure that we've got an arc of a story that creates some sort of interest. The third thing is visual images. So, we want to use things that are appropriate to your brand that is polished and professional. When you pick clipart or some images you happen to find online, it usually looks that way. It doesn't represent your brand as well as possible. And of course, if you're creating graphics, if you're creating information, and you're wondering, gee, can people read that? You already know the answer, and there's too much information on one slide. And the fourth piece is to make sure that we have that feedback loop so that you're actually getting feedback from other people. You're incorporating that in and constantly improving what it is that you're doing. So, Jason, what do I leave out? Did I leave anything important out?

27:39 Jason Lapp

I don't know. You've got a special talent, Ian. Very few people could summarize like that. I think you nailed it. I think I may be second a couple of things that you said. You know, when you're thinking about presentations, you should be thinking about them as entertainment and as a show. It needs to be different. If you're using slides, you know, they shouldn't be stuck. They should have a personal, custom touch to your audience. And there are so many tools out there right now that it's almost inexcusable for you to be doing things that, you know, you didn't take some time to actually, you know, build some nice video, some nice imagery, do a few things that are really simple these days because it does show to your customers that, you know, that it's who you are. And if you're not showing up that way, you know, it shows that you might be an uninspiring partner.

28:38 Ian Altman

That's you know, that's fantastic. I'm a big fan of the Beautiful.AI platform. We use it all the time and my whole team. It's not like we have someone who says, oh, I don't really like it. Everybody loves it. And the last thing I want people to consider is that when you are presenting, don't fall into the ADD trap of Axis Displacement Disorder. That's where you believe the axis of the Earth is shifted, and the world revolves around you. Make sure that all of your presentations have your client or audience as the center of attention and everything is centered around them. So, this has been the Same Side Selling podcast. Jason, thank you so much for joining me today. And we will see everybody on the next episode of the Same Side Selling podcast. Thanks again, Jason.

The Trap of Hourly Billing

Welcome to the Same Side Selling podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. 

Today's episode is time and materials/hourly billing versus fixed price billing. Which one is right for your business? 

See, one of the most common ways that people bill is for their time. So, attorneys typically charge you by the hour, accountants often charge by the hour, consultants often charge by the hour, babysitters charge by the hour, security guards charge by the hour. So, is charging by the hour the right thing for your business? 

What I'd like you to think about is this, when you charge by the hour are you selling results or resources?

See, if you charge by the hour, what you're doing with your client is saying, I don't know how much effort this is going to take, so I'm going to charge you for my time and my people's time based on an hourly rate. This means you, as the client, are absorbing the risk for this opportunity. This means I can generally charge some multiple of what it actually costs me for that and not more. 

Now, some organizations fall into the trap of something really dangerous -- probably the worst contract type you can possibly have in business. And that is the contract type that is time and materials not to exceed. What that means is that the client will say to you, for example, well, we don't want to take all this risk because we don't know how much it is going to cost. So, we want you to cap this project, let's say at 100 hours. And just for simplicity's sake, we're going to say that you're charging $200 an hour. One hundred hours would be $20,000. Now, if you do the job in fewer hours than they pay you just for those hours you bill, and if the job takes you more than 100 hours, then you max out because you cannot exceed $20,000. So, does that make sense? And when you're in that position, what you're doing and what you're telling your client is, hey, look, if we are more efficient. We do the job in less time, then we're just going to charge you for those hours, but if it takes us more time, then we're going to cut our margins, because we're only going to charge you up to that limit even if it takes us two or three times as much. 

When you're in that situation, what you want to do is say, look, if you want time materials not to exceed, we're happy to do that on a fixed-fee basis. Because if you're wanting to do time and materials not to exceed, then do the project on a fixed-fee basis, and define the criteria very specifically. So that way when you're done, you know you're billing $20,000. If it takes you 40 hours, it's $20,000. If it takes you 90 hours it is $20,000. If it takes you 120 hours it is $20,000. 

What you're doing in that case is you are absorbing the risk by doing it on a fixed fee basis. But you're also getting the upside, if it turns out in your favor. As opposed to if you do time and materials not to exceed, then you're actually locking yourself in where you could never make more than $20,000, you can definitely make less than $20,000, which isn't a good deal for your business. 

So, when does time and materials or hourly billing make sense and when doesn't it? If you're in the world of litigation, litigators often charged by the hour, because you could have a really straightforward case. But if the opposing counsel, if the other side is not easy to deal with, it could take you three times as long to do the job, even if you did everything right on your end. So, if there are a great deal of unknowns, if you're not necessarily sure what the level of effort is, then time and materials is a way for you to share the risk with your client. You're giving them an honest assessment of what you think that will take. They're assuming some of the risks that if it takes longer, they're going to pay more. Even if they don't tell you there's a time and materials not to exceed, at a certain level they say we're not going to keep paying you for this. 

The reason why it works for a security guard is because it's not like the security guard can charge a premium if nothing happens, or charge more if something does happen. Instead, it's just look I need a person there for this amount of time.

For the babysitter they might charge you by the hour, and you're having to pay by the hour because look, you watch my children for five hours and kept them safe. I'm paying you for the five hours. 

But what if a chef charged you by the hour? What if you went to the restaurant and they said, well, look, we're going to charge you by the minute for us to prepare your meal. Well, that'd be crazy because you don't want the resource and the effort of them cooking your meal, you want to pay for the actual meal, and know you're getting what you're looking for. 

It's the same thing in business. So, where you have complex opportunities, what I suggest is that you break those types of projects into smaller incremental deliverables that you can do on a fixed fee basis. See, it's much easier to have a conversation with a client that says, we're going to perform this task for you. We're going to get you to this outcome. In exchange for doing that our fee is X dollars. So, someone can make an informed decision and say, is this outcome worth $20,000? Nobody has ever thought to themselves, man, you know, what I really need is I need 12 and a half hours of somebody who's an IT consultant. I need 12 and a half hours of a software developer. 

When you bill by the hour, the problem is that you've commoditized yourself, because you're saying, well, I'm just going to expend some effort and you're going to pay for those hours. There's no better way to commoditize yourself, then to reduce everything down to an hourly billing rate. In fact, body shops, as they are commonly referred to in the industry, which is IT companies that sell resources, often will be selling the same resource as their competitors, and the only difference is how much they're marking them up. So, in some cases, it's the exact same human being that they're both presenting to the end customer. They've entirely commoditized themselves. Instead of saying, well, for this project, we're going to have a project manager, we're going to have two developers, and we're going to have a documentation expert, and they're gonna work on your project, and over the course of the quarter, they're going to deliver this functionality for you, and we're going to charge $100,000 to deliver that. Well, now the client just has to decide, is it worth $100,000 for me to get that outcome? 

And you might think, well, how's it going to work in a competitive situation? Well, let's say one, one company comes in and says, look, we're going to charge $150 an hour, we believe it's going to take about 200 hours. So, what's that? That's about $30,000. You can come in and say we will do this on a fixed-fee basis, it doesn't matter how long it's going to take. We're going to deliver these specific outcomes for you, these results, this is it's going to look like in the end. We're going to charge $36,000. Now, the client what they have to think is, well, what's the risk that other firm going over? Plus, you're confident enough to bid things on a fixed-fee basis. What it also does is when you start billing things on a fixed-fee basis, it incentivizes efficiency. If you're billing by the hour, you actually are penalized if your team is more innovative. If you come up with more creative ways to get things done more efficiently, you actually lose money. As opposed to an organization that actually gets paid on a fixed-fee basis, they start working together and say how can we do this faster? And think about it this way, is it better for your client to get the results faster or over a longer period of time? So, your client would probably rather get the results faster and if you delivered it faster in a time and materials manner, you might actually get paid less for something more valuable to them. 

So, the next time you're looking at business opportunities, and you're thinking, well, maybe we should charge by the hour, if you have no control whatsoever over the other side and you're okay being commoditized then definitely bill by the hour. But if you're confident what you can deliver, if you want to stand out and not compete on purely price and selling a resource, then consider looking at fixed-fee options. And please, by all means, never get sucked into the vortex of evil and bid this notion of time and materials not to exceed. That's the worst deal you can get. 

I look forward to having you join me on the next episode of the Same Side Selling podcast. If there are episodes that you'd like me to talk about or topics you'd like me to cover, just drop me a note to See you next time.

Referral Mistakes That Cost You Business

Hi, it's Ian Altman, and welcome to another episode of the Same Side Selling podcast. 

Today's episode topic is why making more cold calls probably is not the answer to your problems. 

Very often, what I hear from people is they say my reps aren't making enough calls. And so, management feels that they're not getting enough business, the reps aren't making enough calls, so what they tell them is, I want everybody to be on the phone more. I want people sending more cold outreach. I want to use LinkedIn to find anybody who could possibly care about what we sell. I want you to reach out to your network. I want you to have more meetings, more phone calls, more interactions. 

Here's what I want you to consider, if in fact, you have a message that's really compelling, then people are probably going to start finding you. So instead of reaching out with initial cold calls, maybe you should try something else. Think of it this way, gee, I'm not getting enough business from the people I'm calling, so I'm going to call more people. 

Now, I'm not a fisherman, but what I do know is that one of my relatives loves fishing. Absolutely would like to do nothing more than fish. And so, I've talked to him, and I said, what's the secret to fishing? He said, well, first, you got to know what you're going after because depending upon what you're fishing for, you're going to use different methods and different bait. And I said, well, what do you mean, I mean, a worm's a worm, right? He said, well, depending on what fish are going after, a worm may not do it. You may need another fish. You may need live bait. You may need bait that isn't alive. Depending on what you're fishing for, there are different things that you use to attract that type of fish. 

It's the same thing in business. Too often, what happens is people just say, oh, I just need to do more of the same thing I've been doing that hasn't been generating results for us. And if we keep doing more of it, we're going to get better results. And the reality is, all that happens is you get diluted across more people who aren't necessarily interested in what it is that you do. 

So instead, what I want you to think about is kind of taking a step back. And the first thing you have to ask yourself is, who are my ideal clients? And the way you find that out is by defining, really well, what problems you solve. What I mean by that is very often what people say to me is, well, we're an IT services provider, or we're a software company, or we're in this expense reduction business. Great. That's all about what you do. What you have to think about instead is using a term that my buddy Bob London coined, find out what is your elevator rant. What would people complain about that you're really good at solving that maybe they haven't even thought about? Meaning, how would they describe, in essence, their symptoms that might be an indicator of a condition that you're really good at treating. 

So, if you're an IT services provider, and you're someone who maintains people's networks? Well, that's all good and well, but what you may want to say is, well, we focus on law firms who have trouble attracting and retaining top talent because their IT systems are antiquated. They feel like they're in the Stone Age, and it's tough to attract new modern thinking attorneys when your systems seem like they're from the late 80s or 90s. Now, that's the type of problem that you solve. 

So very often, when I'm helping companies accelerate their growth, the first thing we do is say, what's your message? What's your positioning? How is your company situated to attract interest and stand out from the competition? See, instead of just thinking about how do I have more cold outreach, the first thing we have to do is think about who are we fishing for? Who are we trying to attract, and what's our bait to do that? See if we don't have the right bait, and if we're not fishing in the right place, we're not going to catch the fish we're looking for. It's just that simple. Which isn't a bad metaphor for a guy who's not a fisherman, right? 

So, what we want to think about is how we can come up with that messaging? So first, the idea is that these elevator rants, in essence, the things your clients would complain about that you're really good at solving. Most businesses have six or seven of those. This is something that in our Same Side Selling Academy, we spend a lot of time with people on developing those elevator rants to attract your ideal clients. So, for example, let's say you're an architecture and design firm, you can say, well, we architect and design buildings and spaces, just like every single other architectural and design firm. Or you can say, well, people usually come to us when they've got complex logistics issues, and they need to design a space to facilitate all of their logistics business. Now we're getting more specific about the types of problems that you solve. 

Then we want to make sure that we're creating a message for people that differentiates us from other people. That's something we refer to as the Client Vision Pyramid. The idea of the Client Vision Pyramid is that we define the three levels of relationship that people might be looking for in our industry. So, for example, if I was an architecture and design firm, and I'm just using different examples here, if I was an architecture and design firm, I might say, well, and when people are looking for help in architecture and design, they're usually looking at one to three levels. At the base level, in our industry, are small, kind of generalists. They do all sorts of different buildings, not highly specialized. At the next level are large firms where everyone knows their name. They are usually combined with a great presentation. You know you're not getting those people on your project, but they often come up with a really impressive presentation, and they have a lot of different resources. At the highest level, kind of the pinnacle in our industry, these are people who specialize. Maybe they specialize in logistics and logistical operations, and how do they build facilities that make those operations run smoothly. And the idea is that those people will take the time to learn the ins and outs of exactly what you need. How you need your space to function, and then tailor it specifically for those needs to fit within a realistic budget. Which level you're looking for?

So, by defining those three levels of the Client Vision Pyramid, it makes it so that now we've attracted someone with something specific about the problems we solve. Now we've created some level of differentiation between what it is that we do and what it is the rest of the industry might do. And it creates that differentiation. 

Then what we need to do is disarm, to say, even though we have an amazing track record of helping people with those specific problems, I don't yet know if we can help you yet. This isn't some clever tactic. It just happens to be true. Before you have a conversation with somebody, you don't know if they're the right fit for you or if there might be some reason why they're not a good fit for you. That's totally okay.

So instead of taking the approach of I just need to call more people, have more meetings, do more cold outreach, take a step back. Think about what are the five or six different problems that you're good at solving. Then when you reach out, you describe here are the top two or three that I believe are going to resonate with this particular client. When you describe those, you're much more likely to pique their interest.

Instead of saying, here's what we do, which is likely going to respond with well, we already do that, or we already have some does that. Instead, if you describe the specific types of problems that you solve, they might be thinking to themselves, our current vendor doesn't solve that. We have someone who would be great if they could solve that, but they don't. Maybe I should talk to these people. Then as soon as we pique their interest, we say, well, when people are looking for help, they usually do one of these three levels, and we use the Client Vision Pyramid. And that way, we're focusing on the people we can help the most. 

See, in most businesses, it's not a lack of opportunities that causes growth to stall. Instead, it's a lack of the appropriate amount of time to spend on the right opportunities because you're spending too much time on the weak opportunities. 

So, the next time you hear someone in your office says, oh, we're just going to make more calls and have more meetings, that may be true if you're not talking to anybody. But more often than not, what you really need to do is step back, define that message, build that Client Vision Pyramid, and then when you have conversations with people, you'll be able to quickly stand out from the competition and attract the interest of people you can help the most. 

If there are additional topics you'd love to see on the Same Side Selling podcast, you can always drop me a note to or, of course, visit for more information to catch any of these episodes. See you next time.

The BEST Way to Use LinkedIn to Connect with Prospects

00:04 Ian Altman

Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm Ian Altman, joined by Meridith Elliott Powell. Meridith, welcome once again.

00:12 Meridith Elliott Powell

Thank you. I'm looking forward to today's episode.

00:14 Ian Altman

Well, today's episodes is a direct result of emails we've gotten from people saying, how do I best use LinkedIn to connect with other people? And I figured that maybe you could start us off with the mistakes that people make when trying to use LinkedIn to connect.

00:30 Meridith Elliott Powell

Yeah, I think this is lucky for us and lucky for this podcast. There's a lot of mistakes that people make when they reach out on LinkedIn. I don't know what it is about social media that sort of turns off our self-awareness or empathy bone, but one of my favorites is mistakes people make is lack of doing research. You know, just before you would make sales call on anybody, you would bother to do the research. It's the same online. You need to read the profile. You need to know the blogs and the articles they've written, who they follow, where they went to school. You need to do those things so you can make an educated reach out. But also, so you don't put your foot in your mouth or do something stupid. I had somebody reach out to me that wanted to help train my staff and get my team ready and my company ready for succession planning. Now I own a lifestyle business. All of my support is contract labor. When I get ready to sunset this business, I am going to sunset it. I am not selling it or transitioning it to anybody else. So, the negative of that is not only did they not get a deal on reaching out, but they killed the opportunity for me to refer them any business.

01:44 Ian Altman

Yep, and that level of research. I get it often where people reach out to me and say, hey, have you ever considered writing a book? It's like, well, in fact, I have. It's done quite well. It's in its second edition. It'd be like someone asking you, have you considered writing a book? Like another one? And yeah, the things that are just awful. The other mistake that I see, so that first part, is a lack of research where people just haven't done the research. They come off looking foolish, and their reputation gets tarnished because they didn't do the work in advance. The second thing I find is people who, in essence, just share their own kind of hit list of services. So, they say, oh, do you need x, y, z, a, b, c? Do you need web development? PHP? Do you need, you know, database work? And it's like, just this litany of a list of topics. And what I find in that area is that all they're really doing is commoditizing themselves because they're not showing any differentiation. They're just, everything's a generic viewpoint. Are you seeing that also?

02:52 Meridith Elliott Powell

Oh, my gosh, I see that all the time. In fact, I've had somebody reach out to me in the last three days in a row because I haven't responded. And not only did they reach out and list their products, but then they reach out and say, just in case you missed my last message. You know, the chances are, if somebody didn't respond to you on LinkedIn, and you talked all about yourself, they didn't miss your last message. They're ignoring your last message because it's about you. It's not about me. You also don't have any idea which product would fit me. You're just throwing every product you sell at me. You know, I think really, Ian, what we're getting to is that when you sell on social media when you sell on LinkedIn, there's still the same practical sales strategies that apply for in-person apply for online. And you need to think about before you ever send a message, would you do this in person? And if the answer is no, don't do it.

03:52 Ian Altman

I love that. I love that you mentioned that because I think this is something that is a critical element, which is people forget that you're dealing with a human being on the other side of it. And they think I can use social media to generate some level of scale, but then through that process, what people forget is that human connection. So, they don't connect with any authenticity. So, imagine if you walked into a networking event, and as soon as you saw someone in front of you, instead of offering a pleasant greeting or asking about them, if you walked up to them and said, you need a database? They would throw their drink in your face. I mean, it's just awful. And instead of having any sort of genuine connection, they either use some deceptive practice, like, oh, I'm looking to build my network with other quality individuals. Well, people who know me, I have a shortcut. In LinkedIn, where I type four characters, and it responds to the individual and says, thanks so much for reaching out. What specifically inspired your connection? And the fascinating thing is that less than 5% of the people then respond to that. Because they don't really have a reason for connecting, they're just trying to pitch me something, and it's just a horrible approach to that. So, what could and should people be doing, that'll generate a better result?

05:19 Meridith Elliott Powell

Well, I think number one is, I think one of the best ways to sell on LinkedIn is, number one is to use your existing network. Go to those people who already know, like, and trust you and that you have invested in for them to make introductions and open doors for you. The warmer you can make it, the easier the transition is going to be. And that can lead to the conversation. So, I'd say number one, again, just like you do it in person, using those existing relationships.

05:52 Ian Altman

If you're in an in-person networking event, it would be totally reasonable for me to be at the event and say, oh, let me introduce you to Meridith. And now I can have that connection, and then you get, in essence, my social endorsement, just from that introduction. It's the same thing on LinkedIn. The other thing that I find is that too often, people talk about what it is that they do, rather than the types of problems they solve or describing the situations where they help other people. And so, they'll say, for example, oh, I'm a digital marketing agency, or I'm an insurance agent, or I'm a wealth management person. Instead of, if you're in wealth management, you might say something like, well, typically, I work with high-net-worth individuals on how to improve their tax efficiency, so they're not sending as much money to the government as they currently are. Well, then someone says, oh, yeah, I want to learn more about that, rather than, oh, you're a stockbroker. 

06:51 Meridith Elliott Powell

I think along with that, you know, inputting your problems out there with the problems that you solve, it's also using LinkedIn to build your reputation. I mean, I find by putting videos out there, putting articles out there that are of value, speaking to the problems that I solve, the difference I can make, it allows people to get to know me. And what happens is people end up reaching out to me, rather than me having to reach out to them.

07:18 Ian Altman

Yeah. And so, I think we've touched on this, and I kind of want to wrap it up here, and I want to summarize all this because I think it's key for people to understand. So, the big mistakes usually are one, people don't do their research. The second is they talk all about themselves. And the third is that when they're connecting to people, they're not doing it with authenticity. And instead, what we want to do, and I'll give you a chance for rebuttal to cover the things that I miss, but instead, what we want to do is we want to do our research in advance. We want to leverage those relationships we built where people already know like, and trust us to make introductions elsewhere. And I would also add, in addition to talking about the problems that we solve, we want to actively engage in communities of the kind of people we like to work with. Not pitching our services, but offering insight and offering value to those to those conversations without pitching anything. I find that often when I give away input and give away ideas, that's when people say, oh, are you available to come help our team? Are you available to speak at this event? Because I wasn't pitching it. I just saw a conversation where I can help, and I jumped in. Not in an, oh, I know better than you, but hey, if you considered doing this. I love how someone mentioned this approach. Have you considered this instead? So, what have I missed that people should also remember?

08:43 Meridith Elliott Powell

You know, I think I think you really nailed it. I think you got it all. The only thing I'm going to add is to think about the fact that this is a long game. You're not going to go on LinkedIn on Monday morning and post something and get the sale immediately. If you do, then that's a one-off. It's luck. Chances are, you are not going to keep that customer long-term. So, you're looking to invest, build a reputation, and remember, if you invest in people first, they'll ultimately invest in you.

09:09 Ian Altman

I love that. So, we will see you again on the next episode of the Same Side Selling Podcast. In the meantime, be sure to share this with other people that you think would benefit from it. And if there are topics you'd like to hear, much like this one, drop us a note, and we're happy to cover it. Till next time. Bye-bye.

How Do You Know if You’re Wasting Time Pursuing the Wrong Clients?


Meridith Elliott Powell, Ian Altman

00:04 Ian Altman

Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm Ian Altman, joined by Meridith Elliott Powell. Welcome, Meridith.

00:11 Meridith Elliott Powell

Thanks. I'm looking forward to today.

00:13 Ian Altman

Well, and what we're going to talk about today is how do you know if you're wasting your time pursuing the wrong deal? And so, I'm going to turn the floor over to you first, in terms of what you see as the big mistakes that people make in pursuing the wrong deals.

00:33 Meridith Elliott Powell

Yeah, you know, if I had a dime for how much time salespeople spend going after the wrong deal, I would be far retired, and I wouldn't be doing this. I wouldn't be doing this podcast or working day in and day out. We are notorious for chasing the wrong deal. And I think one of the reasons we're notorious for it is because we're salespeople. We love the hunt; we love the chase. But the only thing worse than chasing the wrong deal is catching the wrong deal. So, I think number one is, you know you're chasing the wrong deal when you step back, and you look at it, and you really understand that this isn't in your target market. You're not talking to somebody who is the decision-maker. You're not talking to somebody who you really clearly understand could make use of your products or services. You're not chasing the right person when it comes to the value that you could add, so price could be off the table. So, Ian, when I'm not getting a response from customers, and I've got to decide who I'm going to follow up with and who I'm not going to follow up with, the first place I go back to is how well does this person fit my ideal profile?

01:46 Ian Altman

Well, I love that part of identifying fit because it really just comes down to, is this the type of organization we can help the most? Is this person rooting for me, or am I the fly in their ointment, if you will? And I think that oftentimes, and you touched on this, this notion that in salespeople are, I would almost call it, overly optimistic. And the bigger the deal, the more optimistic they get, because they think, well, it's a big deal, so it must be a good opportunity for us. I'm sure we're going to win this thing because, after all, it's a big deal. And one of the things that I often challenge people with is, I will ask them, what does the client need to see to be comfortable doing this business with you versus somebody else? And if you don't know, then the opportunity probably isn't well qualified. If you think yourself, oh, they'll definitely go with us, and you can't answer that question, you probably also don't know. And so, what we often have to ask ourselves is that notion of why would they pick us versus somebody else? And if we don't know, rest assured, they don't know, either. What do you see as big indicators that maybe you're wasting your time with the wrong opportunity?

03:03 Meridith Elliott Powell

With my clients, we use a grid. And the grid is that we lay out the top 10 qualifiers that we have to have to continue to chase a deal. And you have to at least meet six to seven of them for our salespeople to stay in the game. So often, what I look at is that maybe there's a couple of qualifiers there. Like you said, it's a good deal. It's a good size, business. Maybe you actually are talking to the decision-maker, but you've left something out, like their timeline. Maybe what you sell, they just upgraded this about a year ago, or they have just had a huge capital expenditure so, they've kind of had to put a hold on things. So, ignoring sense of urgency or some of the qualifiers that you add in there. Like I said, if you really sit down and understand why deals close, you'll see that there will be six or seven things that you really have to have with a client in order to make it worth your time. I think one thing that's really important for us to say is that nobody knows when a deal is going to close. You don't control when a customer is going to make a decision. So, one of the most important things that salespeople need to do is manage their time -- decide who am I going to follow up with and who am I going to let go? Because the moment that you decide you're going to follow up on a certain set or group of people, you're saying no to other people. So, you're, in essence, trying to make an educated guess. So, if you're not really being honest with yourself and looking at it from qualifiers, you're not making good guesses, and lack of good guesses is going to send you down the wrong rabbit hole.

04:51 Ian Altman

Yeah, and it really comes down to that notion of guessing. In fact, one of the things that I often comment on is people will say, oh, I had this amazing meeting with somebody. We were scheduled to meet for just 20 minutes, and the meeting instead lasted for an hour. And the two of us, man, we just click we connected right away. And the meeting went so well that we've agreed and already scheduled the time to meet again next week. And they come back and say, oh, this is a great opportunity. And it would be a great opportunity if it was set up on, but it's not a great business opportunity. You know, the notion of we got along great, and we connected is great for chemistry, but not necessarily the business needs. And it gets back to what I teach in the Same Side quadrants, which is fundamentally, at those initial meetings, the prospect has to convince us that they have a problem that's worth solving, that we're good at solving. And if they can't, then we shouldn't spend time with it. And so, what happens is too often, people in sales want to talk about here are our amazing capabilities or our products, our services, and the reality is that if people don't have a need, they don't really care. So instead, we have to do is say, okay, what is it that piqued your interest to meet with me, to begin with? What happens if you don't solve that? Meaning the impact of not solving that problem. And then what does success look like going forward if we're to achieve the results you're looking for? And that delta between the two is what tells you the value of your solution and whether or not there's a real opportunity? And what I can tell you is that time and time again, I asked professionals, well think about a deal that happened faster than you thought it would, and where the client was less price-sensitive than your typical client, and by show of hands, how many of you can identify the impact in the client's words what happens if they don't solve it, and the results that they need to achieve? And almost everyone's hands go up. And you say, okay, now, I want you to think about a deal that had been hanging on for a year and answer the same question. No one's hands go up. Because if you don't know that information, neither does the client. And now, all of a sudden, you're pursuing an opportunity where you're more interested in the sale than the client is in solving the problem.

07:06 Meridith Elliott Powell

Yeah, I think something that really goes along really well with that is that you are chasing the wrong plan if you have no sense of the timeline and you have no sense of budget. I mean, if you haven't qualified those two pieces, that they're even thinking about pulling the trigger relatively soon. I mean, it doesn't mean that you don't follow-up with them, but maybe they go to an annual follow-up or twice a year follow-up -- people you just want to stay visible with. But some of the things that you need to find out early is, how hot an issue is this? Where does it fall on their priority list? Because that's going to give you every indication as to how much you need to stay in the game and how hard you need to be pursuing this. Now life would be easy if every time I called on a client that something I knew was urgent, they saw it as urgent. I have to sometimes move that up the urgency ladder for them. I have to help them understand it's a hot priority. But if I can't get them there, if they don't think that, it's never going to make it into the budget, and it's never going to be a qualifier. I just had one today I was talking with. We've got something we want to put on the calendar. We want to get going. She was very straight out with me. She said I can't get this through my member's budget until January. We need to set it to go as of January of 2022. That's great. Now I know what my follow-up cadence needs to be. She was honest with me; I can't push that. So now I know where I need to go. But get urgency and budget out there. Don't be afraid of it.

08:45 Ian Altman

Well, and I want to clarify a couple of points. Because one thing that you touched on that I want to make sure isn't lost on people is when you talked about the notion of urgency, you said you help the client move up the urgency. Meaning you help them become aware of why it's so urgent. People often ask me; how do I create urgency? And I said you can't. But you can ask the questions and have the conversations, so the client realizes that something is more urgent than maybe they thought it was before. So, for example, if someone says, oh, well, we've got this initiative for our salespeople, and you know, I think we're going to push this into 2022, because, you know, there's not much we can do with 2021. Then your question becomes, okay, so do you want to make it so that by 2022, they're already firing on all cylinders, or do you just want to start then? No, we want to make sure that they're already hitting their stride at that point. Okay. So how long do you think for your team, they need in terms of lead time? Well, probably at least 90 days. All of a sudden, guess what? It's, well, we have to start by October 1, or they're not going to be ready by then. So, if you ask the right questions, you can get there. The other side is I want to raise this notion where you talked about budget. I'm a big advocate that budget is often very misleading, in that if you ask somebody, what's your budget for this, they may have a totally unrealistic number. But, if you can have a discussion about what it cost them to not solve the problem, and what results look like, if you're successful, then that delta between those two becomes the value. And though they may not have it, "budgeted," as long as you're having a conversation with them, where they understand what it's costing them, and they understand what the outcome looks like, then you can have a rational discussion about the dollar. So, for example, if you find out that someone says, oh, yeah, because our team is discounting all the time, we're giving up $3 million a quarter in in revenue. You say, well, what percentage of that is profit? Well, all of it. Okay, so how much is that per year? So, it's $12 million. Okay. So, if to solve that it was going to cost $100,000 is that worth the discussion? Well, now they go, well, yeah, I mean, we weren't thinking we were going to spend $100,000. But, if it's going to help us solve the 12 million, yeah, we'll find the money. To me that's more meaningful than if they said, how do you fit into the 50,000? So, what's your thought on that?

11:11 Meridith Elliott Powell

What I love about that is it goes so well, to the point of follow-up. You better have a budget discussion. See, the moment that you open that door, and you're having that conversation, and you're making people think about budget, they're already starting to calculate it into that budget. They're already saying, well, if I brought Ian on, and we did this. They're starting to move the deal to close. But if you never had that conversation, they're thinking, well, I don't have that budgeted for this year. I'm not going to worry about it. Sounds like a great thing to do, but I'm not sure really sure we have the space. So basically, by having the discussion around budget, helping them find the money, you're moving the deal closer to a close, and making your follow up more relevant. You know, I know we're going to have an episode down the road where we talk about money, but it's something that salespeople tend to avoid that it is so advantageous for you. And if you're not talking about budget, I don't really know how you understand who to prioritize over anybody else, because budget helps me understand how close they are to actually closing the deal.

12:25 Ian Altman

Absolutely. Well, let me recap these key points. And as always, I'll give your opportunity for rebuttal to find the areas that I missed. So, when we're pursuing these opportunities that may or may not be worthwhile, one of the first things we have to look at is whether or not these people fit the type of profile of your ideal client. Are they a good fit for you? Then we have to look at asking ourselves the question, what do they need to see to be comfortable selecting us over other alternatives? And if we don't know the answer to that, they don't. And then the third key point, I would say, is this notion of making sure that they are convincing us. That we're asking the right questions so the client is convincing us of the issue they have and the impact of not solving it. That way we have the right people involved, and they've convinced us they have a problem worth solving. And that delta between the cost of not solving the problem and the outcome that we can deliver for them is the value that then we can say, is it worth spending X dollars to cover that gap? So, what did I leave out, Meridith?

13:26 Meridith Elliott Powell

I think you did a great job with it. The only thing I would say to kind of wrap it all together is that you control the follow-up process. And you need to really think about the fact that your time, you need to maximize it as a salesperson. Use what we talked about today to make the best educated guess that you can make. Sure, will you be wrong now and then? Absolutely. But for the most part, on average, you will make the right decision and the more you choose the right client to follow up on, the more successful you're going to be at sales.

13:57 Ian Altman

Excellent. Well, we will see you next time on the Same Side Selling Podcast. If you have questions or if there are topics you'd love for us to cover, just send a note to you can send it to

14:26 Ian Altman

Alright, be well and we'll see you next time. 

14:28 Meridith Elliott Powell


The Biggest Mistakes in Cold Outreach

Welcome to the Same Side Selling Podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. One of the most common questions I get in our Same Side Selling Academy Coach's Corner sessions each month has to do with cold outreach. It usually comes in the form of what's the best way to have cold outreach to a client or prospect? 

Well, the best way is to not do cold outreach at all. Instead, have some sort of warm introduction. But what I want to focus on today is, what are some of the worst ways that you can start with cold outreach, and why are those ways so bad? So that hopefully, you can determine if, maybe you're doing some of those things, that those aren't a good idea. And then, I'll give you different ways that you can reach out to people instead.

So, the first way is, people reach out listing their services. I had an email just the other day, and for those people watching on video, you can see a screenshot of it that says, "Hi, I'm reaching out from such and such a company, and here are all the services that we offer: web design, HTML, Java. You name it. They listed like every type of electronic technology out there. Then they said, "So you won't even know that we're in another country," which was kind of odd that they would lead with that and then proceeded to talk about how maybe we should set up a time to talk. Well, the problem is, the easiest way to commoditize yourself is to just throw out there a bunch of services that are very generic in nature. Now, if all you do is say, here are the services I provide, then why would I hire you other than if you were the least expensive option? And the reality is, if I really needed those services, I want someone with deep expertise, not someone who can just list a bunch of bullets on an email. That's a horrible way to do it. So, the first one is listing yourself as a series of services which commoditize yourself. 

The second horrible thing is people who reach out based on price. So, they say, "Oh, we would love to talk to you because we're a cheaper alternative for doing x, y, and z." Now, if the first one is commoditizing yourself, the second one is just underselling or undervaluing what you do. In essence, what you're saying is we may not be good, but we're certainly cheap. And that's a terrible way to approach things because the message you are sending to potential clients right away is it's all about price. 

The third way that is a horrible way, as well, for reach out is dishonesty. Meaning, I've seen this recently peeking its ugly head on LinkedIn and in emails, where someone reaches out and says, "Oh, do you have capacity for additional clients?" And people say, "Well, yeah, how can I help you?" "Oh, well, we actually sell marketing services. So, if you have capacity for additional clients, then we don't really need your services, but maybe you could buy our services for marketing." So, it's kind of a bait and switch. Hey, I might be interested in your services. Oh really? Well, not really. Now, in my case, I pretty much operate at capacity, not really an issue, so I kind of play with these people and say, "Well, I'm kind of at capacity right now. What kind of help are you looking for?" And then, of course, they usually either don't respond. Or they'll respond and say, "Well, actually, I'm looking for people who might need our type of services to help them find clients," which is, once again, they start with something dishonest. 

And years ago, in my prior business, I would get cold calls all the time, people who snuck through the gauntlet of our administrative assistants, and oftentimes when people would say is, they would either lead with, "Oh, I'm a friend of his from school," which means that we get on the phone and find out they weren't. Or they would say, "I'm calling from his child's school." So now, of course, I would immediately pick up the phone. And then they'd say, "Well, actually, I'm calling from such and such a company. I want to schedule an appointment with you." To which I would say, if the way you first reached out to me was dishonest, what makes you think I would ever do business with you again? So, this notion of these types of outreaches, or the notion of "Hey, can I schedule a time with you on Tuesday at 10 am? On Thursday at 4 pm?" whatever it happens to be, these are desperation moves. It's all about "Hey, can I schedule time with you to pitch you on my company's products or services?"

So, what should you do instead? Well, what you want to do is you want to think about what types of problems or symptoms do you treat that these individuals might be facing? Do your research in advance. Look for, in essence, triggering events that might create a necessity for what it is that you do. And then, if you cannot get a warm connection from someone who knows them already on LinkedIn, then your cold outreach would be, we work with people just like you, in your industry. So, and I want you to be specific in that way -- not something generic like that. But we work specifically with chefs in multi-unit restaurants. We work specifically with IT directors in enterprise companies. We work specifically with lawyers who are running large legal practices, whatever it happens to be. They often come to us when they're facing one of these two or three challenges, boom, boom, boom. And though we've delivered great results for many of them, not everyone's the right fit for how we approach that. But if you know someone who might be facing one of those issues, I'm happy to schedule a few minutes to talk to you to see whether it might be worth a closer look. 

And so, the idea is we're disarming the notion that we're just there to sell something. We're acknowledging that other people come to us to help in those areas, but we may not be able to help that individual. It creates an authentic way of connecting to somebody because now you're saying here are the kinds of issues that we solve, but not everyone's a right fit. 

So once again, we want to make sure that when you're reaching out to people, that you're not falling into one of those first three traps. First, you want to make sure that you're not commoditizing yourself by just listing out your services. The second one is you want to make sure that you're not leading with price because then you're telling people, all it matters is price. And third, make sure that you're reaching out with integrity and honesty. So, don't use some deceptive practice, don't use these silly ideas like "Hey, can I get on your calendar at 10 am, tomorrow, or 3 pm on Tuesday?" Those are horrible approaches.

 Instead, reach out by describing the types of challenges that you solve. You can even share case studies of different companies. And what I would suggest is, come up with several different steps in a sequence. You see the first one. You send out this message. Then you send out a second one that says, you know, "You didn't respond to this other one. Here are a couple of the things we've been hearing lately. How common are these?" You're trying to start a dialogue. And as soon as someone picks back and gives you some level of interest, don't just jump into a pitch. Say, what was it that caught your attention? I want to make sure I fully understand what you're doing because I don't want to waste your time if we can't help. Because fundamentally, you want to focus your time on the people you can help the most and not waste your time or their time if it's someone you can't really help all that much. 

And these are the types of things that we see in the Same Side Selling Academy, every month, every week, these types of interactions, these types of ideas that people kick around to come up with different strategies that we share together. And if you feel like that might be a community that you would benefit from, feel free to reach out. We'd love to talk to you. For now, it's Ian Altman. I'll see you on the next episode of the Same Side Selling Podcast.

Why Details Matter in Sales

Welcome to the Same Side Selling podcast. I'm your host, Ian Altman. This week the topic is attention to detail. This is one of the things that often separates the top performers from the people who are just mediocre.

Now where did I come up with this topic? A friend of mine is interviewing for a position in his company. In the job posting, which is really clever and has a lot of little things that will entice quality applicants, he said in the posting, please include the word sensational in your cover letter. Now keep in mind, these are people applying for a job who obviously want the job or they wouldn't be applying for it. What percentage of the people do you think included the word sensational in their cover letter? The answer is less than 5%. In fact, some people tried to use the word and replaced it with a different word that’s similar, but not the same. Now, this is a position that requires attention to detail. 

So, you might think, well, I'm not applying for a clerical type position. Maybe attention to detail doesn't matter. And what I will tell you is certain things like typos aren't that critical. If you occasionally make a typo, it's not the end of the world. However, attention to detail is critical in the world of sales. Because oftentimes, what happens is, our clients or prospects share information with us, or there's information that's readily available that we either ignore, overlook, or get wrong. 

For example, I've seen people where the client will say, and we need this to support 40 to 50 of our individual employees. And three sentences later, the seller says, well, so how many people do you think, 20 people? And at that point, what's the client thinking? They're thinking, man, if you can't get the most basic information right, how are you possibly going to service my needs as a customer? 

So, attention to detail becomes absolutely critical. What it means is that we need to do research in advance about our clients, not so we can show up having all the answers, but so that when we hear something from them, it's not a surprise. We want to understand their language, their acronyms, the terms that they use, their lingo, if you will, to make sure that we understand all the nuances that might show up in their business, so that we seem totally credible and don't get things wrong. 

In my prior business, we did a lot of work in the pharmaceutical industry. In the pharmaceutical industry, they have clinical trials that they go through. And basically, trials go through phase one, phase two, and phase three. And phase three is it. That's the finish line. Once you go through phase three clinical trials, which is human, randomized, clinically controlled trials, that's when drugs then, if they pass through that process, they go to the FDA and other regulatory bodies for approval. 

And so, we had a member of our team, we said, look, you're new to this industry, we want you just sit back and listen, observe. And this person was just chomping at the bit, they wanted to contribute to the conversation. And so, the client said, well, right now at this stage, where we're at in our process, we've completed phase one, we're in phase two right now, where we're really going to need your help is when reach phase three clinical trials. And this individual chimed in and said, yeah, we can even help you in phase four. And all of us laughed, and the individual had no idea what was so funny, other than, they later realized, as we explained to them on the drive back there is no phase four. Phase Three, is it. You're over, you're done. 

So, we need to make sure that we understand the process, that we understand the language with our clients, because our clients can either see us as someone who's just a seller who's going to tell us anything we want to hear to get the sale, or they can see us as a subject matter expert. Someone who they can trust to deliver expertise to help them get the outcomes that they need. And what we know is that, if you want to sell hyper value, you have to be on that end of the spectrum. You have to be on the end of the spectrum that is a trusted subject matter expert. And as part of that you need to understand the industry, you need to understand your client, you need to pay careful attention. 

So, for example, oftentimes if I'm talking to a client, let's say they're inviting me to come speak at an event for them. Oftentimes what I'll do is as soon as I get that inquiry, I research everything I can about their company. That way when they throw out an acronym I already know what that means. And someone will say, well, do you know what that acronym means? I said, well, I think so. When using that context, do you mean this? They'll say, yeah, that's exactly what we mean. And it gives them a comfort level that you know their industry.

We also try to use examples that are relevant to them in their business. So, attention to detail is not just remembering to include a certain term, though, that's certainly valid. I've seen people respond to a request for proposal, and they omit key pieces of information that were fundamental requirements in the request for proposal. So, they could've delivered an amazing proposal but they left out critical information, that the client automatically says, you don't qualify, and they throw it in the trash. They may miss a deadline, once again, attention to detail. They may not include certain insurance information that was required as part of the proposal process. In the trash.

Each of these elements is something that is absolutely essential. And when professional sellers miss that information, they usually say, well, I only missed this one thing. But imagine if you're the customer, and you're thinking to yourself, when you're trying to sell to me, you're missing things that are essential to you making the sale. I can only imagine what you're going to miss once we become a customer. 

What that also means in attention to detail is follow through. It is making sure that when you say you're going to do something by a certain date and time that you actually deliver it. So that when you say to them, oh, I'll get back to you by Tuesday. Don't get back to them Wednesday, Thursday, or Friday. In fact, you should always pad it a little bit so if something comes up, you'll still be on time or early. The biggest mistakes that I found that I've made over the years are when I over-commit to something, and then I miss a deadline. And I don't know if the client cares so much. But for me, I feel so much shame, it's almost like I don't want to contact them anymore. So, attention to detail is a critical component to successful selling. 

It's the reason why in Same Side Selling, we emphasize this notion that the same side quadrants. Of taking notes in a specified format of the upper left quadrant, upper right, lower left, lower right of having issue in the upper left, impact/importance in the upper right, results in the lower left, and others' impact and lower right. And that way, we don't miss valuable information that we need and that our clients need as part of the process.

So next time, you're excited and you're reaching out to those clients and prospects, remember the attention to detail. Do your homework in advance. Make sure that you honor the commitments that you make to your clients. And you might just see your performance and results increase compared to the rest of the people on your team.

If you have additional questions, there are topics that you'd like me to cover on the next episode, drop me a note to

How NOT to earn attention (and what to do instead)

00:04 Ian Altman

Hi, it's Ian Altman, welcome to the Same Side Selling podcast, your source for integrity-based sales and marketing that can help grow your business. I'm joined by the talented Meridith Elliot Powell, and Meridith, give our listeners a little bit of insight into your background. 

00:24 Meridith Elliott Powell 

Well, I am looking forward to being here and looking forward to this show. I'm a business growth and sales strategist. My passion is helping my clients turn all of this uncertainty into their competitive advantage.

00:37 Ian Altman

I love it. And for most people, you probably have a sense that I'm probably best known for this book called Same Side Selling that I co-wrote with a guy named Jack Quarles, that talks about how we turn those adversarial traps into ending up on the same side with our clients and prospects. 

And to that end, our topic today is how NOT to try to earn attention these days. Because, Meridith and I've been talking about this, there's a lot of stuff that people are doing because they don't know any better, that really is actually repelling rather than attracting their ideal clients. So Meridith, what are some of the things that you're seeing out there that people are doing that they probably don't realize aren't having a positive effect? 

01:23 Meridith Elliott Powell

Yeah, you know, it's the old saying, it's not what you do, it’s how you do it. We all know, we need to get attention in the marketplace, right? We need to get above the white noise stand out from our competition. But boy, are we seeing people make some big mistakes. I think number one is, they're just not doing the research first. You and I just got the same LinkedIn reach out this week, where somebody asked us if they could come and offer their janitorial services to our businesses. We both work out of our homes. I already have a janitor, her name is Meridith Elliott Powell. She cleans the house. But the point is, is even if I was looking for somebody, but my husband is a dentist, we use somebody in his office, it just smacked at the fact that you know nothing about me, this sales call was all about you. So, if I had to put my primary piece out there, you need to understand that getting attention is not about you getting attention, it is about you creating value so that people want to take an interest in you. 

02:26 Ian Altman

I love that. And, I think that one of the things that is often lost on people is, when you say that people reach out with a focus of themselves, it's what I like to refer to as the seller has axis displacement disorder. That's where they believe the axis of the Earth has shifted, and the world revolves around them. And it's just, nobody wants to be on the receiving end of that. I love it when I get these emails or LinkedIn messages that say, “Hey, are you available tomorrow at 10am because I'd love to introduce my company and our services?” And as compelling as that is, I always say on, and I decline their generous offer, because they're not talking about anything that could be beneficial to me. And just the notion of saying, well, I'd love to, I'd love to speak with you, and then two days later, they say well, I haven't heard back. Well, of course, you haven't heard back, because you haven't raised anything that would be of interest to me. You're just talking about yourself. So, what, what are some what are some tips or guidance that you have for people? I think that the, the point you touched on about doing research in advance is critical because otherwise you kind of look like a fool reaching out to somebody. In the example you gave, people reaching out to us saying, “Hey, can I can I come and pitch you on our janitorial services?” Well, we have home offices. Are we your ideal client anyhow? It's a waste of time. So, what are some of the things that people should think about doing? 

03:52 Meridith Elliott Powell

Well, I think that I think that they should think about personalizing, but don't be cute. I mean, we've all gotten those reach outs where we haven't responded, and by the third email, you get something that says you must have been lost on a desert island. I hate those things. You don't know me well enough to be comfortable with me to be funny with me yet. Yet at the same time, I had to reach out the other day where somebody had obviously looked on my LinkedIn profile and saw that I really love to play golf. And they noticed I lived in North Carolina and they'd asked me if I'd ever played Wade Hampton, which is a great golf course, down here. And they just said, you know, if you ever, I noticed you’re a golfer, we come down every year we play Wade Hampton. I just wondered if you'd ever played that course. And, it was an immediate, soft connection that said you did a little research on me without being creepy. And then they naturally lead into what they were reaching out about, which was dating me, not marrying me, which I'll talk about in a moment.

04:53 Ian Altman

Oh, so I got to know more about this. You can't throw that out there and then just walk away. This I gotta hear about.

05:01 Meridith Elliott Powell

Well, that's another thing that drives me crazy in trying to get attention. Do not try to marry me on the first date. Like the way they finished that email was they said, “We'll be down to play Wade Hampton in June. If you're around, I would love to connect in person, maybe even play 18 holes.” That's dating me. They were not saying “Have you ever played Wade Hampton? And oh, by the way we sell widgets. Do you need a widget? I'd like to sell you a widget when I'm in North Carolina” That's marrying me. Getting attention, it's just like, I again, if I liken it to dating, you're trying to get to know somebody. You can't go from zero to 60. If you have no connection with me, you can't sell me something.

05:44 Ian Altman

I love that. And, and I think, that's the thing that's often missed is, in fact, we just ran, I run these six-week cohorts. We just ran a cohort with people in the commercial insurance space, and as we were role playing scenarios, as soon as we mentioned anything related to insurance, the inexperienced reps would pounce on it and say, “Oh, send me that policy. Let me see what I can do for you.” I said, guys you're just moving too quickly. Just, “Oh, and how's that policy working for you?” That's great. “How long have you been working with that agent?” Like, you want to get to know who they are, and for them to get to know who you are, and where you might add value instead of that idea of, and I just think too many people watch Glengarry Glen Ross years ago, and the always be closing metaphor, and they think that they should be trying to close every deal. And it's just, it's a bad approach that rubs people the wrong way. In fact, one of the things that, I'm interested to get your take on this, one of the things that I often suggest people do is, if you're reaching out to somebody, you can even say, “Look, these are the top two or three challenges that people come to us to address. You don't by any chance know somebody who might be facing one of those do you?” Not necessarily pitching you. If I've developed some sort of genuine connection, I can ask that question. Now, I wouldn't, I wouldn't do a cold outreach that way because, even if I knew somebody, I don't know you well enough to make a referral to you. And I think that's what people miss is this notion of, you haven't established a relationship yet. To your point, you're trying to get married and you don't even know this person yet. 

07:21 Meridith Elliott Powell

Yeah. Which, which actually, what we need to understand as sales professionals, is you have just ruined any chance of advancing the relationship. I mean, so if you don't want to, you don't want to move too fast, because you'll do that. But I love what you said right there because I think it's really powerful. Imagine if I am a cold outreach, and you're reaching out to me, and you're saying, you know, we do a lot of work in your industry. These are the top three challenges that we see most people in the industry facing. Here's some things that we've presented, you either send an article or a white paper or something. It is such a soft way to add something that's of value to me, but also get that attention that you crave to begin to really position yourself as an expert, which is going to open the door to the second call you make. Because now all of a sudden, you've piqued my interest, and, and I want to go further. 

08:16 Ian Altman

It's interesting, I often use the term earning attention. So, people say, “Well, how do I get people's attention?” You don't get people's attention; you earn their attention. So, if you've conveyed to people that you solve challenges that are common in their industry, if you demonstrate that you help other businesses like theirs, then now you you've piqued their interest a little bit. And it's critical, early on in the process, to do what I call disarming. So, the idea of disarming is, I can't come across like someone who's just there trying to sell something because when I do that, nobody wants to deal with me. But instead, if I say, look, a lot of people reach out to us to solve these types of challenges, and sadly, only about half the people we talk to end up being a good fit for how we do that. I don't yet know that we can help you, but if you're facing those challenges, I'm happy to learn about your situation to see if we might be able to help. And if we can't, I'll gladly refer you to someone who I think might be able to. Would that be okay? Well, now what I've just done is I've said, “Look, half the people we talk to, I can't even help.” So, if one of those things piques your interest you say, “You know what, yeah, that is one of the things I've been facing. Let's figure out whether or not you can help.” And now they're actually selling you as to why, well, why couldn't you help us? And I think that it's a, it's a subtle difference there. 

But too often, people call up, I love when I get calls from people in financial services, and my, my phone system will alert me that they're spam, and if I see it's a financial services company, I will answer it because I want to hear how bad it is. And it's usually like, we have the greatest thing ever, and if you don't follow up on this right away, you're gonna miss this huge opportunity. Oh, my goodness, you know what I probably won't sleep tonight, still gonna pass. You know, it's just if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So, I'm interested in your take on those concepts. 

10:11 Meridith Elliott Powell

I hate the push. I hate the urgent need. I hate the I'm gonna miss out. I feel like, I don't feel like it's genuine. I don't feel like it's integrity-based sales and marketing. And it's putting pressure on people. I had one of those earlier this, this week for a product I actually wanted to buy, and they were really, really pushing on me. And I just decided to pass because I thought, first of all, what you don't understand is I control the buying cycle. You don't. Buying a product or service is not a problem for me. I can find it anywhere in the world, and so can any of your customers. Google and a global economy have changed that. So, the moment you pressure me, the moment I become uncomfortable, first of all, I stop trusting you because what you're saying isn't right. This isn't my last shot. It isn't the best deal I'm ever going to get. I'm looking for a relationship for a long time, at least the length of my business or if not, my life depending on what I'm buying, so the moment you start to pounce on me, I'm uncomfortable, and I'm gonna move on, because I am in control. 

11:16 Ian Altman 

You know, I love that. And it's something that I think is lost on a lot of lesser experienced sales professionals, which is, that notion of, we want our client to always feel like it's their choice, not that they're being pressured or coerced into something because, especially in the B2B world, which is where you and I spend our time, the idea of a high-pressure sale and someone being stuck with it just doesn't exist. And so instead, we need to have that be integrity-based. And I think that one of the distinctions here is that, we need to recognize that for that client, we want them to always feel like it's their decision. And guess what, if we present what we're doing in the right context, then it's the conclusion that will be easy for them to reach. 

So, for example, if someone came to either your business or mine and said, well, we've been having trouble with the performance of our sales organization, they tend to be discounting a lot, they're not focused on value and results. We might say something along the lines of, well, for other organizations facing that same sort of challenge, it usually comes down to one of these three typical problems that they face. And for other, other organizations just like yours, we've had great success in turning that. So, for example, here's a case where these people went from 20% of their team to 95% of their team hitting their numbers within a year. In another case, you're someone who went from 5 million to 70 million in 18 months. Here's someone else who went from 17 million to 100 million in three years. I don't know, if we can deliver the same results for you. I don't know yet know enough about your situation? Is it worth us having a discussion to see if we might be able to help? Who's gonna say no to that? Right? Well, yeah, it's worth having a discussion. Like, that sounds like the kind of thing I would want to have. And it's interesting, because in the research I've done with a with how people make and approve decisions, I’ve done this research with over 10,000 executives, and the questions they ask when they're making a decision are: What problem does this solve? Why do we need it? And, what's the likely outcome or result? And if we're not addressing those questions for them, we're actually lengthening rather than shortening the sales cycle. 

13:24 Meridith Elliott Powell

I would agree, I would agree with that 100%. I mean, you really need to be coming in there with a really good understanding of what the problems are, and be able to present some type of solution for those. At the same time, what you're really talking about, though, is the willingness to walk away. And I think that's one of the most important things salespeople need to know is that sometimes when it isn't going well, and it and they're really putting up a lot of barriers, then maybe it isn't a good fit. I was working with a client probably about six months ago, you know, here we were in the age of, you know, really uncertain times, we all kind of need the work. And, they just weren't willing to go where I needed them to go, and as good as I am at what I do, I can't make that decision for my client. And, if they're not willing to do some of the things and put some of those things into place and make some of those changes I don't control that, and it's better for me to walk away. I think we miss the fact that when we say no to one customer, we open the door to so many others. 

14:27 Ian Altman

Exactly, and which, which doesn't mean that we're telling reps, oh, as soon as you get any pushback at all, you walk away, and, and I know you well enough that that's not what you're saying at all. But the idea is that, if you feel that you can't deliver the results that the client needs to get, then it's maybe not a good fit, and that's a good opportunity for you to say, you know what, this isn't the right client for me. It might be that you've got somebody who's just looking for the cheapest solution, not the best solution. It might be that you've got somebody who expects you to do everything and they don't have to do any work, but it doesn't actually work that way. Whatever it is, if you can't have an equal partner in helping to solve that, you're probably set up for failure. And I think every smart business person realizes that a bad client just sucks you into the vortex of evil, and just, it kills your time, it kills people's energy, it causes you to have turnover in staff. It's just really frustrating. But when you get that great client who's easy to work with, who appreciates what your value is, that's when you like, the phone rings, when, when you look at caller ID, you're gonna have one of two reactions, I guess through one of three reactions. The first the first is, ugh, it's them. You don't want that client, because if it starts off that way, it's probably going to keep going that way. Or you say, wow, I'm really looking forward to talking to them. These are this is a great client to deal with. I guess the third option is who? Which is what often happens in a cold call situation. 

16:02 Meridith Elliott Powell

Yeah, that's true. I think, you know, what I love about what you're talking there is that, to kind of dive in deeper, so often with sales, and I know I had made this mistake, honestly, the high, the adrenaline rush is the win. And it's almost when a customer resists more, that it gets more exciting and more fun, right? Because this is a game. I want to get you to sign on the dotted line. And I can't tell you the number of deals, I have gotten to sign on the dotted line that I turn around later, and I go, what was I thinking? This is a nightmare. So that, sales are a discovery process. They're deciding if they want to do business with us. We’re deciding if we want to do business with them. You should always sell from a place of power, not a place of need. 

16:49 Ian Altman

I love that. And, I'm going to ask you to say that again because I want to make sure that nobody misses that. That whole notion of selling from a position of power, not need, but just, without me, interrupting, just say that again, because I want people to hear it. 

17:05 Meridith Elliott Powell

Yeah, that when you go into a sales call, it's a discovery process. They're deciding if they're going to do business with you. You're deciding if you're going to do business with them. You should be selling from a place of power, rather than a place of need. 


I love that. In Same Side Selling, we refer to that as finding the fit, F.I.T. or Finding Impact Together. And the idea being that, look, the first thing we have to see is, does the client have a problem that we're good at solving, that they feel is worth solving? So that's the combination. So, we have to determine can we help them and do they want to be helped? Because if they don't feel that the issue, they're facing is having enough adverse impact to make it worth someone's time to find a solution, then why are we gonna waste our time trying to pitch a solution to a problem they don't think is worth solving? Whereas if the client says, here's what happens, if we don't solve that, here's the consequence to our business, here's why it's such a big deal, in essence, if we get to that place in the conversation, our big quote "closing line," or, what some people refer to as confirming the sale rather than closing because we're not really closing anything, the idea is that we can say something as simple as, would you like our help? Right? Oh, isn't that a real scary closing line? But it's just, would you like our help? What would you like to do next? Those are very much free choice type questions where your client or prospect gets to say, yeah, I would like your help. What does that look like? 

18:34 Meridith Elliott Powell

Yeah, I think of the times that, this has always mattered in sales, but now I think it's on steroids. Let's imagine that I sell a client and I talk the CEO into hiring me. I am that good. And I get in there, and she's not really committed to what we were talking about. So, it doesn't really get her blessing with her team, and I get a lot of resistance. When everything fails, do you know who's going to get blamed? Me. And here's the problem with that in today's marketplace, it is a word-of-mouth marketplace. So, I have not only just failed with that relationship, I have failed with everybody within her circle, because even though she didn't do the work, she's not going to say she didn't do the work. She's going to fall and say we hired this consultant, we hired this trainer, we bought this product, it just didn't work out very well. So, you also need to, you want to put yourself in a position where you're going to be successful, because then you have just gotten sales that are going to reverberate out from that and you're going to get referrals from successful situations. 

19:44 Ian Altman

I love that. When, when we deliver results, it leads to repeat referral business. And when we deliver disappointment, it detracts from our future business. And I think, too often, people are so focused on the sale, that they're not focused on the results. And you can simply, with your client or prospect, say, what would success look like? What are we going to measure six months down the road to know if we're successful? And once you get that information, you then get to ask one of my favorite questions, which is, say, even if we did everything we said we would do, what might prevent you from seeing those results? And 99 times out of 100, what they will say is their own concerns, limitations about their organization. They're in essence, being vulnerable with you saying, well, if our team doesn't do this, if we don't execute this, right, or that right, which for many businesses leads to additional opportunities, because now you say, oh, so you’re concerned that your people may not understand how to use this and get the most out of it. Should we include training on that aspect in our in our contract? Yeah, that'd be great. And now, you're focused on the results, you're not focused on how do I sell this additional thing? You're just focused on the results, which is, candidly one of the things that they're most interested in. 

21:04 Meridith Elliott Powell

Yeah, they just told you what their what their other obstacle is in the way, I just had one of those a couple of weeks ago, where we were working on some sales training, but, but their biggest problem is they don't have talent in the pipeline. And so, we just add on a succession planning piece to that. And you're absolutely right, it was so easy to sell both for me and for them, because they just opened up the door and told me what the problem was. 

21:31 Ian Altman

Brilliant. So, so I just want to recap so that everyone has a sense, I find that this is often where, at the end of the discussion, people look and say, okay, that was great, I got a lot of good information. I'm going to recap, and then I want to give you opportunity for rebuttal to cover the things that I missed Meridith, so I'll be putting on the gun for rebuttal. But it just is that, the way people often reach out to other potential clients today, is usually from a place of axis displacement disorder, where they're focused on themselves. Instead, we need to focus on the problems that we solve for other people, we need to connect with people with authenticity, note, making sure that they have the ability to make decisions and feel empowered to do so, and recognize that when we're reaching out, we're doing so from position of power, meaning we're trying to find the fit between us and them. It's not just a beauty pageant where we're waiting to be selected. We get to choose if they're a good client, just like they get to choose if we're a good vendor. So, what did I miss? 

22:31 Meridith Elliott Powell

I don't know, I think you I think you did a pretty good, a pretty good recap there. You know, the only thing that I would add is just, always remember that you need to date somebody before you marry them Go in easy and build that relationship, and as you said, really, really earn that right. And that, sales are definitely a two-way street. I mean, you need to understand that you can go in and be successful in that organization. And if you can't, have the courage to move on to the, to the next sales call. They're going to go into your follow up system, which Ian, you and I will talk about in another show. Don't ever let somebody go. But you need to be in that place where you're going to be successful, so that you can grow their business, and at the same time, grow your own.

23:18 Ian Altman

Fantastic. Meridith, when people want to learn more about what you do and how you help businesses, where should they go? 

23:24 Meridith Elliott Powell

Oh, I'd love for people to connect with me. I'm a big believer, if you build your network, it will change your life. You can find me at my website just the words or reach out to me on LinkedIn, the social media channel, I tend to live on more than any other. 

23:41 Ian Altman

Gotcha. And of course, people can reach out to me, much like Meridith, I love to connect with people just say, hey, I was watching this episode of the Same Side Selling podcast, so I know that you're not actually someone just trying to pitch me something, that would be helpful. And so, on LinkedIn, or of course, at Thanks so much, Meridith. And we will see you on the next episode.