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 ValueSpeaker.com just the words ValueSpeaker.com 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 SameSideSelling.com Thanks so much, Meridith. And we will see you on the next episode.