How NOT to have a sales conversation

Same Side Selling Academy > Captivate Podcasts > How NOT to have a sales conversation

We're going to talk about how to make sales conversations productive.

I always say that a sales call is a privilege because you have just done one of the hardest things in sales, you have gotten through the door. The last thing you want to do is blow it!

Today we're going to show you how to structure a really productive sales call. But we're going to do it in kind of a unique way by showing you what an unproductive sales call looks like.



Hey, it's Ian Altman, welcome to another episode of the Same Side Selling podcast, I am joined by the ever so talented Meridith Elliott Powell, Meridith, welcome once again.


Thank you. And I gotta say, I am really excited about today's show, because we're going to talk about sales conversations, and how to make sales conversations productive. I mean, that may sound like a vanilla conversation to people. But it is so important. I always say that a sales call is a privilege, because you have just done one of the hardest things in sales, you have gotten through the door, you have gotten somebody to give you something that is so precious to them. That is their time, the last thing you want to do is blow it, the last thing you want to do is waste it for your client or for yourself. So we thought what we would talk about today is how to structure, how to create a really productive sales call. But we're going to do it in kind of a unique way in sort of showing you what an unproductive sales call looks like. Now Ian, I know you have some structure and some thoughts around really what a sales call ought to look like and how it ought to flow.


Absolutely. And so the structure, and it's something that's in chapter four of Same Side Selling, the book, which is called The Same Side Quadrants, if you get the printed book, it's on page 76. And just for everyone's reference, it's the only page reference I know in the book, it's just people often say, Well, where's the quadrant, and it took me a while to look it up. And finally memorize that, you know, it's on page 76. But the idea of the Same Side Quadrant is that in a meeting, we in essence, take notes, using a if you think of it, as you take a blank sheet of paper, draw a vertical line down the center horizontal line across a creating four equal quadrants. on the page. In the upper left quadrant, we take notes about the clients issue, namely, what is it that piqued their interest? In the upper right quadrant, we take notes about their impact and relative importance, meaning, what happens if they don't solve it? And what's the relative importance? In the lower left quadrant, we take notes about their results, what does success look like going forward? And lower right quadrant, we take notes about who else needs to be involved, who else is impacted, so we get all the right people involved. So that's a structure for what might look like a great meeting. Now I want to do is I want to focus and we're going to give examples on what may not work out so well. And then we can, then we can show you how to apply the same side quadrants to make it so that that maybe awkward, unproductive meeting turns out a little bit better.


I love that. I love that. So let me ask you this, um, when you're working through the quadrants, how do you start? Where do you begin? And so what are some of the mistakes you see salespeople make right off the bat?


Well, so so one mistakes that people make is early on in the process, they start talking about themselves, or their products. So it's almost like the phone call would start with. So they get through to somebody and they say, Oh, I want to tell you about our products and services or like, you know, I get these emails all the time and say, Oh, I want to talk to you about our, our software development services. And you should use us for this for your Same Side Selling Academy. And we can be cheaper than anybody else. So the two big mistakes are number one, they talk about themselves. And number two, they lead with, we're cheaper. And here's the irony, there isn't an organization on the planet whose goal is to find the cheapest, most people do not change because something is 5% less than something else. They will change in a heartbeat, if they have a serious problem that's impacting their business. And they believe that your solution can overcome that problem. And they may not even care what it costs, as long as the cost is less than what it's costing them to not solve that problem. So that first trap is that people lead by talking about themselves. And if you want to give an example of what that might sound like and keep in mind, Meridith is a talented professional, don't try this at home. Don't try and come up with these bad approaches. I don't want you I don't want you trying to emulate what Meridith is going to demonstrate here. Because it's just we're purposely trying to illustrate examples of what not to do, because it helps us better understand what we should be doing.


Well, here's here's going to be my demonstration because I just got one. I just got one this morning. And I call this the bait and switch where somebody believes they understand not talking about themselves first. So they throw a little salt down there that makes it look like they're not talking about themselves. And then they immediately talk about themselves. I had somebody reach out to me this morning from a learning platform, wanting to talk to me about putting my courses on their learning platform, and quote unquote, this was their opening. Hello, Meridith, you put you post very interesting things on LinkedIn, I really enjoyed the podcasts you did on thrive and was quite interested in the guests that you add, I can see that you do a lot in the learning field, I would love 15 minutes of your time to talk about our learning platform. And just to show you how it would work, I think that it would be of great value for you. Now, why that is wrong, is there is no bone in my body that believes they have any interest in me at all. What they did was they went to my LinkedIn post, which I'll give them a cookie for that at least least they saw the last thing I did, which was my Thrive podcast, they saw it, they looked at it got the name of the guest. And I know they didn't know more than the name of the guests, because they didn't tell me anything about her or anything that was in the show. And they just used it as the segue to do what he is telling you not to do: Talk about yourself.


Yeah. And it's fascinating, because if they had merely said, Hey, I caught you on your Thrive episode. I loved the guest. The, you know, this guest that you had on, I especially liked how you talked about this topic. I don't know whether or not our platform would be of use to you. Just because it's helpful for other people, it may not be the right fit for you. Can we spend 15 minutes to determine whether or not it's worth taking a closer look? You might have been receptive to that, because then they're using a concept that I talked about called disarming, which is I'm disarming the notion that I'm just there to sell you and that I think that my solution is the answer to everything. I'm acknowledging that it's not the right fit for everyone. So I'm saying, look, I help other talented speakers and authors like you, Meridith. But just because we do that doesn't mean it's the right fit for you Sure, it's generated millions of dollars for them. But you know, you may not want that tax burden, or whatever it happens to be. The idea is that we want to disarm that notion, and then you might have been receptive, and then they would have screwed it up, but at least then you might have been receptive initially,


Completely. That's it that that is a completely non threatening conversation. It also tells me, you went a little bit deeper. I mean, look, salespeople have to make a lot of calls, I have to make a lot of calls, I don't expect you to do a ton of homework up on me. But when somebody bothers to look at my you know, my profile, see what I've done, take a little bit of an interest in it, it's attractive, and then don't push, suggest. I mean, in essence, that's how I would describe what you were doing is, the first person was really pushing this on me, it just felt like a bait and switch. Versus the other is, I'd like to get to know you. I'd like to just see where the where this is going. And it opens, you know, it opens the door so much more.


Yeah. So what are some of the other mistakes that you see people making these conversations with clients?


Okay, so this one is huge for me. When salespeople ask questions they should already know the answer to. You know, when there is so much information available on Google. So much information for us to be able to research in our in our customers in your report. Remember, this isn't just a reach out, you got the sales conversation, I have had said yes, I am willing to give you my time. If you're going to spend the first 15 minutes asking me questions that you already should know the answer to, then you told me right from the beginning, that you haven't done your homework, you're not prepared. And you're not going to efficiently use the 30 minutes that I've given you. So Ian, you have any examples of what that might look like?


Oh, you know, a ton of them. So oftentimes it comes down, I was I was waiting with bated breath on what you were going to share. But the example of that often come down to this notion of so uh, so are you guys a software company? It's like, you don't know that already? Or how many employees do you have? You couldn't get that from a quick Google search? Or which office are you in? Well, you couldn't find that from my LinkedIn profile? Those sorts of things. Or when it's one, it's even worse than that. Or it's like someone can look up the size of your business. And I get these emails from people saying, oh, here's this whole hiring process. It's like, yeah, I used to have a company with offices in 12 countries. But that was 15 years ago. I don't have that anymore. So I don't need all process for hiring and onboarding people. Because, you know, I've got a very small team. It's not a it's not a major problem for me. I think that too often, people don't do that level of homework up front. Right. The other thing that that that just drives me nuts is one of the biggest complaints that people in sales have is my clients are always focused on price. Yeah. And then I listened on on their phone calls, and their phone calls will often start with and whether it's a phone call a meeting in person, whatever. They'll say, oh, we're using someone for the service right now. Right? Yeah. Okay. Well, maybe we can save you a little bit. And what I've just done, and it's usually unintentional, is I've now just told the client that all that really matters is price. Yeah. And then I'm surprised that two conversations later they say, well, you're too expensive. I want to be less expensive, like, but we have all this value. No, you started the conversation about price. So I must, at this point, you've just attracted people who are focused on price, now you're complaining that they're focused on price.


And you've lowered the conversation to price. I think the only reason a customer ever chooses prices, because they believe that price is all there is. Like if I believe that this apple is the exact same as the other apple, then of course, I'm going to compare them on price. And of course, I'm going to take the cheaper one, I mean, I would be stupid not to do that. But if I believe that one, apple has more vitamins in it, if one apple will keep me full longer through the, you know, longer through the day, if one apple could make me feel younger, I have more energy, all of a sudden, that apple has more value. And the fact that it's a quarter or 50 cents more is starting to become irrelevant. And this is one of the biggest jobs we have as salespeople This is the part that cannot be automated, right? I mean, we get in there and we intimately understand the problem. And then we can take the product, or service, and we can customize it in a value added way to solve that problem. You do that that takes price off the table.


And then when that client pushes back on price and says, Well, this is too expensive. If you've done your homework, if you've if you've discussed with them these quadrants, so you've discussed what's their issue and what it is that they're trying to solve? And what's the impact of not solving that and, and its relative importance. And then the big gap that people fail to talk about in most cases is what does success look like? And what can jeopardize that success? We'll get to that in a minute. If I've done all that. And the client says, well, gee, I don't know, Meredith, your solution is too expensive. What I might come back with is, like you mentioned that you have this problem, it's costing you $20 million a year in lost business. And you mentioned that this is what we're going to measure for success going forward. And the only way that I can achieve those results is at this price point. Now, if you think that we can scale back the results, if you think solving this completely isn't worth it, then maybe we can come up with a different solution that would cost less, what do you think? And then the client now what you're doing is you're comparing their problem and results to price. And you're saying the only way to get a lower price is to get lower results? Is that what you're looking for? And now we're having a discussion about value, not about just price?


Absolutely. You are selling the solution, you have got to remember, you are selling the solution. It is such a myth that customers I don't care the industry you're in. They're not price sensitive. If you're losing on prices, because prices all you sold.


Yeah. And I think that in most salespeople's minds, the finish line is the sale, is the contract, is you know, that's more high fiving and celebrating and the reality is that for the client, the finish line is the results. So if we're focused on the sale, and they're focused on the results, we have a mismatch, we're not aligned. But if instead, I say to them, okay, that's great. Well, what are we going to measure six months down the road that to know that we're successful? What do you think would really be able to quantify? And the client will usually step back and like, hmm, let me think about that. I don't know. Because no one's asked that question before. They say, Well, I think if we could, if we could cut our time to market if we could gain more market share how much market share realistically, if we did this, do you think in capture, oh, can be 10 or 20% 10? Or 20%? And how big is your business? I mean, how much would that be? Let them tell you what the numbers are. And they go it could be, you know, $20 million a quarter, okay. Even if we did everything we said we would do? What might prevent you from getting those results. And now the client says, Well maybe if our people weren't trained enough on how to use whatever it is that you're doing great. So should we include training in our proposal? Oh, yeah, that's a good idea. And then they're building what they need based on the results they're looking for. And when I do this with with organizations, and there's an exercise I do with CEOs where I say, okay, so you've gone through this process, and one vendor is focused on the sale, and another vendors focus focused on how they're going to measure results with you. Which vendor would you have, would you rather deal with? 100% of the time they want to deal with the person focused on results. Then I say, well, so how many of you would be willing to pay more for that vendor? And all of them raise their hands, say they'd be willing to pay more for that vendor. I say how much? The most common answer is 10 to 20%. And I don't mean, the most common answer is a number between there. I mean, the most common answer is they say, I don't know, 10 to 20%. That's the msot common answer. And what I want people to understand is that I'm not saying that that vendor is guaranteeing those results, the mere fact that they are asking about the results, makes the client, these executives inclined to pay 10 to 20% more for the solution. That's a big trap that people need to make sure that they that they avoid, which is if you're not talking about results, you're missing the boat.


Completely, you're just wasting the sales conversation. You know, Ian, another one that really drives me crazy is when you finish the sales conversation and you say to the customer, you know, I'll get back to you, you know, I just need to work on some things. How about I get back to you on Tuesday at four o'clock? And the customer says, Tuesday's not good for me, just let me get back to you. And the sales professional accepts that, and leaves the sales conversation. The reason this makes me crazy is again, you have done the hard work. You got in the door, in my opinion, that is the hardest thing to do in sales. Once you can get in there, you have structured this conversation beautifully. You have done your homework, you have asked the right questions, you have gotten them to a point where they, you know, they want to buy, or at least they're piqued to have another conversation with you. And you let it slip out of your hands. You gave away control of that conversation.


When should people handle that when the client says the client says to them? Well, you know, what, Tuesday at four is not good for me, I'll just get back to you.


Yeah, I always say, Ian you know what, you have a lot on your plate, I know you have a lot going on, please don't worry about that. I'll follow up, I'll make sure I'll make sure that and I'll take responsibility to make sure that we have, we have another call. So don't you worry about it, I'm going to handle it, I just take control, and they need to take control of it. Do not give that piece away. Because in my opinion, it's like dating. If I waited for somebody to call me, I never would have gotten married, I had to take control of that situation.


Well, there's there's a life lesson two, that'll be the Same Side Dating podcast that will be premiering in June 2027. Make sure we address it then. So and what I want people to think about is you can even say, Well, if Tuesday at four isn't good, I want to make sure that I follow up. If this is still important to you. What's a convenient time, let's put that on the calendar and recognize that you might be in a situation where the client isn't that interested. And through this discussion, they determined they don't want to take the next step. And trust me, you're better off finding that out right now than then trying to chase them for two months and annoying them. So if they say, well, I'll get back to you. What you could say is, you know, Meredith, I understand that. It sounds like, I know you said Tuesday at four wasn't good. And then you want to get back to us. Sometimes when people say that, it's because they're just not that interested. But they don't have the heart to tell us. In other cases, it's just not that big of a priority. In other cases, it's Hey, this is really a big important thing. And we like your solution. I just can't think of the scheduling time. Which situation are we in right now? So I'm giving them two ways to get out. And one way to confirm an appointment. And it's totally okay. Because if they say, you know Meridith, I'm really just not interested in this solution. Then you can say what what was it about our about our stuff that didn't appeal to you? And then you get more information from me. I don't know how you feel about that approach.


I do. I love that. I mean, I love the fact that you said you're better finding out now because you know this doesn't have anything to do with the sales conversation. But I think it's important lesson for salespeople to learn is you only have time to chase so much business and I think one of the biggest mistakes we make as salespeople because we get so high on the win. You know, I want to win. I want to convince you to do business for me. You're giving me a little bit of pushback. I want to I want to get you to agree to do business with me. And it's the biggest mistake I ever made. The moment I say yes to one client, I'm saying no to 10 others. And and and I just love what you're saying is find out now. If this isn't good, don't continue to pursue it. Because there's so many other sales conversations out there you can be having with people who are ready to pull the trigger, people are ready to pay your price and people are ready to refer you business.


Exactly. Well, let me let me give an attempt here to give a 30 second recap of the key points that I think people can use and apply to their business right now. And then I'll give you opportunity for rebuttal. Because undoubtedly, there's always something I leave out. So the first thing is want to make sure that we're not focused on ourselves and talking about us. But instead of talking about the client situation, and don't use that bait and switch where you make it sound like you're you want to talk about the client, but you really want to talk about yourself. The second thing is that don't get into the trap, where you're the one bringing up price and price being the most important thing by saying, oh, maybe I can save you money or how much you spending now, maybe I can save you, maybe I can save you dollars, that's not going to help either. We want to make sure instead, we follow a structured process around the same side quadrants of issue in the upper left, impact importance in the upper right, and the lower left results in the lower right, others impacted or others involved in that way, we have a structure around our meeting. So we're focused on the things that matter to them. And we always want to make sure we're having that meaningful discussion about the results that people are seeking out. Because their finish line is results. It's not the sale. And Meridith, I'm gonna leave it to you to focus on that next step piece. And anything else I left out?


Well, I think you did a great job of wrapping it up. I think the one thing that I want to add is you really need to go to what page is it? 76? 74? You got it. I got it. I thought I did. And look at those four quadrants. I mean, you know, what we've been talking about today loosely is, in essence, the structure. And I think that's the underlying foundational piece is you need a structure to your sales conversation. Don't waste it. It's critical. You know, it isn't necessarily about the quantity of sales conversations you have. It's about the quality of sales conversations you have. Respect it for your client, respect it for yourself, use a structure and watch as not only more deals close, but more clients are satisfied and more referrals and more opportunities happen.


Fantastic. So if you want to connect with either me or Meridith, you can connect to Ian Altman or Meridith Elliott Powell on LinkedIn, we're easy to find there. Just mention the podcast. And that's pretty much surefire way that will accept that connection. We might get one or two additional connection requests each day. And it's always nice to know where they came from. And then of course, you can learn more about what each of us does visit. for information on Meridith and for information on me. This has been Ian Altman and Meridith Elliott Powell. And we'll see you on the next episode of the Same Side Selling podcast. Bye now.

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