Tell them you are hitting the road: How to make sales fun again

Todd SchnickWow. Guess I was in a mood Friday.

But there were two business opportunities I’ve been chasing for quite a while, two specific organizations who just haven’t been engaging back with me…not responding to my communications.

And Friday, I decided to let them know I was moving on.

I said something very much along the lines of: “Well, clearly this isn’t a priority for you. I am tired of wasting my time (and yours), so I am throwing in the towel. I sincerely wish you the best of luck, but I am going to focus on some organizations who see value in what I can do for them, and are actively exploring possibilities with me. Do let me know down the road if there is ever any way I can serve you…”

Immediately following those notes, I deleted both records from my CRM. Boom. Gone. Removed from existence.

[Frankly, it was surprisingly therapeutic...]

So, took a deep breath, reorganized the notes on my desk, and set about to tackle the next action item…

You already know what happens next…

I immediately received messages from both (one email, one phone call), asking to set a call for next week to discuss the project.

Ok. So there’s that…

I guess that’s a good thing, right?

Trust me when I tell you, I didn’t pull that stunt move hoping to achieve this very outcome. I am not that smart.

No, frankly, I was exasperated, and fed up. And decided my time was better spent on opportunities that were legitimately interested in learning more about my services, and more importantly, working (and communicating) with me to explore said possibilities.

Full disclosure here: I am not suggesting you send exasperated notes to all the people in your funnel with whom you are, well, exasperated with.

But if you are a instinctual salesman, you just know when someone is legitimately interested, interested but busy and distracted (most), or not interested.

But I have two important questions here:

1. Why do we treat prospects with kit gloves, why are we so afraid of them, why do we gently dance around how they treat us? And why are we so afraid to let them go, especially when they act like they don’t care? [ok, that's several questions]

Which leads to the next question:

2. When did it become ok to treat people who are attempting to sell you something as scum of the earth?

We are rude, we don’t respond to their emails, we don’t return their phone calls, we are annoyed by them and delete their communications with malice…

Let me be clear, with the two opportunities mentioned above, they weren’t ugly to me, they had just stopped acknowledging my communications.

As a salesman, I don’t deserve that. I don’t have to accept that. And most important, it does me no good to keep opportunities like this in my funnel, just so I can tout to my sales manager that I have “thousands and thousands” of opps in the funnel.

So what?

Look, my media company is growing, and I am busier than I have ever been. I have more opportunities to manage than ever before. I have more “scope of work” documents in play than ever before.

I don’t have time to manage the ones who are not acting professional.

It is ok to let them go. Spend your found time working with those who are interested. Spend your found time identifying new opportunities.

Many complain that sales is a hard slog.

That’s because you are trying to work with prospects who don’t want to hear from you.

Move on.

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CLICK HERE to receive more rants about how to change your sales mindset.

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Sales requires actually talking to people

create conversationYou all know I do podcasting for a living.

And you all probably know I help my clients leverage podcasting by using the medium to facilitate connections and expediting relationships with prospects important to their business.

Got someone you want to connect with? Invite them to be a guest on a podcast you are involved with. Simple.

Erm… Maybe not.

Was speaking with a prospect today who actually indicated they had tried podcasting as part of their sales and marketing process in the past, and abandoned the strategy, indicating it didn’t work.

When I asked why it didn’t work, here is what he said: “The challenge was because it fell on us to line up the guest. It became a hassle, I’m told.”

Me:

Me:

Now, to clarify, I pitched the idea as a business development strategy. This assumes you have identified prospects you want to close and make customers.

Since the dawn of man, sales works when you connect with people, communicate with them, offer a solution to a challenge they are struggling with, and they buy your solution because you solve the problem.

Works a lot better when you actually speak with the people.

The whole damn point is to invite people…to invite the people YOU WANT TO CONNECT WITH.

There are several clients we’ve sold podcasting services to who failed. Why? Because at the end of the day, they never actually ever invited someone to appear on their podcast.

Makes it hard that way.

Reminds me of a guy I know who flopped at a fundraising gig. When I asked if he ever actually asked anyone for money, his answer was “No.”

That makes fundraising really, really hard.

People… sales are about relationships. You develop relationships when you talk with people.

Sales works when you reach out and actually try to connect with people. Some, like me, invent tactics (my podcasting services) where we try to make this process of connecting with people simple.

Even then, people muss it up.

Why is connecting with someone you can help and serve a hassle, to use the quote above?

If that’s how you view your role and your job, that it’s a hassle to reach out to people, sales is gonna be a real long slog for you.

Find something else to do…

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Drawing by Hugh.

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You should be the strikeout leader too

reggie2Reggie Jackson is the all-time leader in strikeouts.

He has 2,597 of them.

He’s also in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

What a minute…

The guy who whiffed more pitches,

or was caught looking, MORE THAN ANY OTHER PLAYER IN THE GAME…

is also in the Hall of Fame?

Yeah.

Get it?

Through all various and sundry shows out of my Dreamland Radio Network, I spend quality time with countless entrepreneurs and successful business leaders.

They all say something similar to the following:

You must fail.
Better, you should fail fast.
You should not be afraid to fail.
This is how we learn.

Or something to that effect.

Whatever.

At the end of the day, they aren’t wrong. But in my opinion, you are only a success because you’ve had a lot of at-bats…taken a lot of swings.

Like Reggie.

At the end of the day, you might win a few MVP awards, you might win a few World Series rings, you might be called “Mr. October…”

But to do so, you have to swing at a bunch of pitches.

And you will miss more than you connect.

But that’s ok. That’s what real men do. That’s what fearless people do. That’s what Hall-of-Famers do.

Despite a few strike-outs…

They will still be legends…

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CLICK HERE to take more pitches, but still end up in the Hall of Fame!

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Closed a deal with an eight minute sales call

Todd SchnickClosed a deal with an eight minute sales call late last week…

Two years, and eight minutes, actually.

In fact, to recap, the deal I closed today took the following path:

3. Eight minutes to close the deal on today’s call.
2. About 17 minutes from when I first proposed the idea about two months ago. This time included a few emails back and forth, largely spent on arranging last week’s call where we closed the deal.

1. And then, well, two years. Or more.

You see, my point, most deals aren’t really closed in 25 minutes worth of actual work. In my case, this deal involved 25 minutes of acute work, plus 24 months (give or take) of effort.

So, what did this effort entail?

A. Two years worth of engaging with my client’s community.
B. Two years worth of contributing content to my client’s community.
C. Two years worth of supporting (and promoting) other members of my client’s community.
D. Two years worth of actually showcasing both my actual client and members of his community on my various podcasts.
E. Two years worth of promoting my client’s community on my social media networks.
F. And hopefully, two years worth of proving myself to both my new client and his community by observing my work, thus proving I can do the work.

All this stuff wasn’t really direct sales activity.

Or was it?

All I can hope is, first and foremost, that my new client sees my work, and values my work, and is well aware of the contribution I can make to his project.

But let’s be honest, all the effort I put in for two years probably mattered more then anything. There are others who could perform what I was hired to do.

But no one else put in the time I did to support both my client and his network.

Over those two years, a few people along the way whispered that the effort wasn’t worth all the trouble. They didn’t understand it. They didn’t see value into putting in that kind of time.

I disagreed.

Last week’s eight-minute sales call proved me right.

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To learn more about my take on sales, check out my book, The Zen of Sales

[Drawing by Hugh]

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Is social selling really about brands?

Todd SchnickLong before it became known that Facebook had altered its algorithms to make it less likely you would see content from pages (not personal FB profiles) you had liked, unless the brand was paying for the privilege, I had really stopped consuming content on brand pages altogether.

Not because I am all knowing, but because 90% of the content there was boring, “all about me,” one-way media.

Let me say this:

I don’t think it is really important for a brand, whether that is Coke or your local plumber, to have a “BRAND” presence on the social networks.

This is my personal opinion, mind you. I am sure others will disagree. But it just doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t move me.

I am not saying it cannot work, for there are a small percentage of examples of brands that do an interesting job. But most of us suck at it. And I don’t think it matters.

This whole concept of social selling in my view has NOTHING to do with brands, or any organization marketing an idea, product, or service.

I think social selling only works when it is about people. Not brands.

I lose interest when someone says “You can find our company on Facebook!”

So what?

I am, however, interested when someone I care about says “let’s you and I connect on Facebook” (or whatever social network they are engaged on).

Stop following the standard marketing checklists that say you have to have a brand presence on all the damn social networks. I don’t think it really works.

What does work is human interaction. The opportunity to connect and dialog with someone around a shared interest. The opportunity to help someone, or TO BE helped by someone.

That is what is interesting to me around social selling. Actually using the space to connect with another human being.

Around a real conversation.

I have ZERO interest in connecting with a restaurant that simply sends me pretty pictures of food and deals-of-the-day.

No, I want to connect personally with the Chef. I want to hear his thinking on spices, on creativity, on trying new things, and healthier eating.

That’s what I want. That’s what ultimately connects me to the brand anyways.

I don’t care about an iPhone advertisement. I care about what cool, new discoveries my online friends tell me about what they learned to do on their iPhone.

That’s what is interesting.

Once, JUST ONCE, have I actually looked at a brand page on LinkedIn. Just doesn’t interest me.

What does interest me is when, through LinkedIn, I learn that a former prospect of mine has started a new gig at a new company. The ability to connect around that, and to see what’s possible…now that is what’s interesting.

Social selling isn’t about brands pushing their one-way content to me. Social selling should be about having a conversation with real people.

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Learn more about my perspective on sales with my book The Zen of Sales.

Drawing by Hugh.

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Your BIG performance usually isn’t a fluke

Bubba WatsonSo, Bubba Watson won his second Masters this afternoon.

If you don’t pay attention to professional golf, Bubba Watson won his first Masters in 2012. Many considered that amazing victory a fluke, a lucky win, a miracle.

But then he won his second green jacket yesterday. His second in three years.

Very, very few golfers have accomplished that feat.

So, why am I writing about this?

A lot of people nail a miracle accomplishment: a big marketing win, a big sale, a best-selling book, and viral video, whatever.

When that happens, many say the same thing they said about Bubba: “It was a fluke, a lucky win, a miracle.”

Whatever.

You and I know better.

You and I both know it was the result of a lot of work, and the result of a lot of preparation.

Not just anyone wins the Masters.

And not just anyone scores a big marketing win, a big sale, writes a best-selling book, or produces a viral video.

No.

Like Bubba, those big wins are the result of years of hard work, years of trial and error, anything but an “overnight success.”

Not just anyone wins the Masters. Even Bubba in 2012. He executed a lot of hard work over DECADES to be in a position to win in 2012.

But that still didn’t quiet the critics.

It wasn’t until this afternoon that people realized he was for real. That 2012 was NO fluke. That this gentleman was the real article.

Three thoughts here:

1. If you are counting on some miracle win to save your day, you are in for a big disappointment. If you think some lucky win will befall you, you are toast.

2. And yeah, to achieve something big, you have to put in the hard work, the labor, the blood, sweat and tears. There is NO getting around that.

3. Finally, if some competitor is saying you got lucky with that recent big deal that just closed, well…

…you know better.

But, despite that, you had better keep working…

…someone is always working harder than you.

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Join the list to keep winning like Bubba!

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Are you a sales stoic?

I’ve been reading some books on stoicism recently: Meditationsby Marcus Aurelius and Seneca’s Letters from a Stoic.

marcus_aureliusStoicism is a philosophy about living, it is a framework for how to view and conduct life, and as Tim Ferriss calls it, it can and should be your operating system.

Stoicism is defined as the quality or behavior of a person who accepts what happens without complaining or showing emotion (Merriam-Webster); and here is the Wikipedia citation.

And as writer Ryan Holiday puts it, you need to change your perception that obstacles aren’t obstacles, they are opportunities. You need to take action, not just in acknowledging the obstacle, but dealing with it. And finally, you need a force of will to accept this new framework for your life. Things will happen, embrace it.

The example Holiday gives for this force of will? He cites Edison. When his lab burned to the ground, he didn’t whine about it. He enjoyed the blazing fire and saw this as a chance to rebuild and start fresh.

Now, what does this all have to do with sales?

Everything.

Reflecting back on my sales successes, very rarely did I close a deal easily. Never did I make a pitch to someone and they blindly accepted my proposal on the spot, and ask to get started right away with check in hand.

No, most sales are complex. And I don’t mean a “complex sale” in that there are many constituents involved in the decision-making matrix.

No, I mean sales involve humans. Humans are always human. And sales often involve fluid and ever-changing organizations. Both humans and organizations are impacted by economies, and politics, and culture: all three severely influence buying mindsets and behaviors.

Often does a sales cycle proceed where the humans I am working with do unexpected things, add layers of unnecessary (in my view) complexity, make strange and unique requests, or more likely, get distracted by many unexpected things in their own life and business, which further complicates your own sales interaction.

Successfully closing a sale is successfully navigating through obstacles thrown in your path by both people and organizations, sometimes purposefully and sometimes not.

You have to expect this. If you do not, your sales career will be difficult.

You have to embrace this, if you do not, your sales career will be frustrating.

Marcus Aurelius said “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”

Translated for you?

The obstacles thrown in your path are the clues to how to win the deal. Remove the obstacles, win the deal. Relish the chance to solve those riddles! That’s what makes a good salesman.

And finally, winning “simple” deals isn’t that at all.

“Simple” deals are the result of years of hard work of writing, networking, public speaking, and communicating: all designed to inform your market about how you serve.

Are you a sales stoic?

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In through the out door

Todd Schnick

If you are actually selling, you are probably going to struggle.

If you are actually selling, you are more than likely going to dread going to work in the morning.

If you are actually selling, you will have to work really hard. And make slow, grinding progress.

If you are actually selling, you won’t have too much fun.

Damn shame.

So don’t actually sell.

Go in through the back door.

Move your markets in ways that are accomplished by ANY MEANS other than actual selling.

How? Here are three simple examples:

1. Teach people. Teach people things that make their life (and business) better. The key here is to enjoy what you teach.

2. Write books. [Yes, even short e-books count] Hopefully, you are writing words that excite and inspire you. And, actually move people (and markets) to action. People want to associate with a writer who moved them.

3. Connect people. Nothing makes people happier than when a friend connects them to a promising business opportunity. All you have to do is be nice, and be human to people. Help them. And they will spring surprising opportunities on you. When you least expect it. And your sales process is already advanced down the field, since your new connection already trusts you because of a referral from someone they trust.

But here’s how I do it:

4. I interview people on my podcasts.

That’s it.

A simple strategy.

You could say I am doing my guests a favor by being a guest on my show. I am giving them a forum, I am giving them a platform, I am giving them an opportunity to tell their story/deliver their message.

I am exposing them to my audience, which I have worked really hard to build and cultivate.

For this, they are grateful.

But that’s not it entirely. After a heavy majority of my interviews, my guests inevitably ask, “So tell me what you do?” Or “Tell me what you do with this studio…” Or, “So, do you always broadcast and do live interviews on trade show floors?” [see above photo]

This is how the conversation starts. And more often than you might imagine, these conversations lead to business opportunities.

All because I did them a favor. I helped them in some small way.

I didn’t sell these people. I didn’t cold call them. I didn’t send them a brochure. I didn’t send them a piece of direct mail. I didn’t ensnare them in some marketing automation campaign. I didn’t hunt down the name of key executives in a Lexus/Nexus search.

I merely found interesting people, running interesting companies, doing interesting things. And I helped them. And in return, they struck up a conversation. And that simple conversation leads to business opportunities.

It doesn’t even feel like “selling.”

My friend Joe Lavelle, and businessman and friend I very much admire, called what I do selling through the back door.

I think it means I get the time and attention of key decision-makers without having to do the yucky, unpleasant, hard, and time-consuming tactical side of sales.

Now, I am not saying this is easy to do.

It took me years to craft a business model where I move my markets via radio shows and podcasts. And I’m slogging hard towards my 10,000 hours of honing my interviewing skills.

But that’s just it. I spend my limited time honing my podcasting skills, giving my guests an amazing experience.

I don’t spend my time cold calling a stale database that I bought from some vendor who copy and pasted my email address into a pre-written email template…hoping I’d respond.

I don’t call what I do selling. Selling, in some circles, has a negative connotation.

No, what I do is move markets, and I move markets (and decision-makers) by going in through the back door.

And the best thing about it?

I don’t dread waking up in the morning, having to tackle some ungodly call list…

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To learn more about my take on sales, check out my book: The Zen of Sales!

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A simple trade show strategy

1625490_10152240888068252_336858249_nIt is 646AM as I type this, Tuesday.

I am broadcasting from HIMSS14 in Orlando, Florida.

I co-host and produce a small-business podcast called The Healthcare Insider. The show shines a light on the movers and shakers in the healthcare industry, the people leading change and driving innovation in the industry.

It is a fascinating show, and our fastest growing.

Our work here in Orlando includes two components, the LIVE broadcast feed (today + tomorrow), plus we have two crews roaming the floor capturing interviews and gaining the perspective of executives around the industry.

The latter is what I want to bring to your attention. It is what I am doing in the photograph above. It is a podcasting strategy that can be a very impactful business development strategy.

It works like this (three-step plan):

1. You host a show that showcases leaders in your respective market space.
2. You attend trade shows covering your industry.
3. You walk around to the exhibits, and ask to speak to the executives to share company insights on the market and coming trends.

Does the strategy work?

Here are some things I heard just yesterday:

“Oh, let me get the CEO for you!”

“The president of the company is busy at the moment, but come back at 2pm. He’d love to talk with you.”

“This interview was so short, can we connect post-show and do something more comprehensive?”

“I fly to Atlanta on a pretty regular basis. Can we arrange a follow-up interview in your studio?”

“Can we showcase this interview on our corporate website?”

“Is it ok to send your interview out to our company mailing list?”

“Let me give you the name and number of our CEO, so that you can arrange an interview with him later today or tomorrow!”

Read those again, and tell me if your regular cold calling efforts are generating outputs such as that.

As a salesman and marketer, if you don’t recognize the value of hearing those quotes above, then you really aren’t a good salesman and marketer. And don’t see the value of a podcast like mine has in generating meaningful relationships with the decision-makers of your target companies.

That’s what this is all about. Generating meaningful relationships.

Relationships start from conversation.

When you have a platform, people want to talk to you. They want to get their message out. They want to have their story told.

All you have to do is provide them your platform…

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Are you clueless? Does your prospect think so?

cityI get very frustrated with the productivity gurus who advise us that in order to stay more productive, we must NOT pay attention to the news…

…for it distracts us from the work at hand.

I think this is stupid.

And horribly poor advice.

If you cannot pay attention to the world around around you because it makes you less productive, you’ve got bigger problems that we need to talk about.

Look, I am all about stripping away the mental clutter that distracts you from focusing on what matters. But I think you can take this too far.

If you buy into this advice, I think it just means you are lazy.

Lazy? Yes. You simply aren’t willing to pay a little bit of attention to what is happening to not only critical world events, but more importantly, to what is happening in your market space. You just aren’t willing to do the work necessary.

[Oh sure, you have time to watch House of Cards, but not to invest a few minutes on becoming more worldly...]

To give you some context into how I see things, I think one of the reasons things are spiraling out of control in Washington, DC is that the average bloke on the street isn’t paying attention to how bad things are there. If people were cognizant as to how broken DC is, they might rise up to do something about it.

Yeah, I guess what I am saying is this: I don’t necessarily blame the buffoons in Washington. I blame the citzenry that is completely clueless about it.

Our elected officials don’t worry about what you think, because they know most of you aren’t paying attention.

So what does this have to do with business?

1. You can’t engage in meaningful, interesting conversation with prospects if you are clueless to the world around you.

2. In a sales conversation, you have to be relevant. And if you are clueless to the state of the world, you are useless, and will relate to hardly anyone. Or anything they care about.

3. You have to operate in the context other people are functioning in, and if you aren’t paying attention, how in the hell can you possibly do that?

4. And let’s face it…your prospect expects you to be savvy to what’s going on in the world. That’s why they might be willing to pay a premium, for they want you to actually have a clue to what’s happening, to be aware of world events that might impact their business and markets, to be aware of new technologies that might disrupt their industry.

So don’t bury your head in the sand.

With your smart phone or tablet, the world is at your fingertips. Access to any niched information, news, and commentary is available to you with a few clicks or swipes.

Yeah, don’t get sucked down the rabbit hole, and don’t set aside the important, creative work you are supposed to do. It is easy to procrastinate by saying you have to keep an eye on the news.

Build a simple monitoring process that enables you to keep tabs on the important news and events that impact your world.

Your sales skills depend on being relevant. No one wants to talk to the guy that never has any idea about the world events everyone else is talking about…

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Join my list here, where I share relevant news weekly about the edgy stuff going on in our world [sample].

Photo via Unsplash.

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