The Pillars of Sales Success

With Berry SchwartzEP 28

Is sales a learnable skill? If you have to do sales in any capacity (a.k.a. all of us), then this episode is for you. This week’s guest is sales expert Berry Schwartz. Berry runs a highly sought-after consulting and sales training company where he coaches business owners and sales teams on how to hit their sales goals.

Berry and I discussed how to transform your relationship with selling from dread to joy, what differentiates successful salespeople from those that fail, the four pillars of consistently closing sales, and the mindset you need to generate revenue from every lead, qualified or not. If you want to hear some proven, practical tips to become better at sales, starting now, give this one a listen!


The Pillars of Sales Success with Berry Schwartz

Berry, thank you for joining us on the Let’s Talk Business Podcast.

You’re welcome.

I’m excited about our conversation. We crossed paths in the past a couple of times. When it comes to sales, I know whoever I could put up as a podcast guest, especially if we get somebody with your expertise. The readers will get a lot of no-nonsense advice out of this. Before we dive into the full interview, tell our readers a little bit about yourself, your past and how you got started.

I am a recovering lawyer, which I hated. It works for some people but did not work for me. I got involved in various coaching and consulting companies and one of them was Landmark. They have a corporate consulting arm where they consult with NASA and Apple and other big players. I became the youngest program leader in 60 years. I got a ton of training in the field. I’m a big believer in apprenticeships and field-based acquisition of knowledge instead of concept-based knowledge. That’s why I like to have people perform. I’m sure we’ll get to it, but if someone says, “Help me with my sales,” I don’t want to talk about the five steps of closing. “Let me hear your pitch, let me hear five recorded sales conversations, let’s sit down with the tape and let’s debrief it.” That’s how I learned myself. That influenced the way I like to teach others.

There are a ton of people doing sales, some of them are the most successful people around, while others can’t make ends meet. What differentiates a solid salesperson and a person that can make it?

The biggest problem with sales is that people don’t enjoy it. I’m on a mission to help people look forward to the time on their calendar titled sales. They’re a child giddy with excitement. It’s like they’re going to the candy shop. When you do have that relationship to sales and the minute you get how you can do that, you start to get good at it. Both things happen at once. The more you enjoy something, the better you get at it. The better you get at something, the more you enjoy it. We enjoy what we’re good at and we’re good at what we enjoy. The biggest initial shift for salespeople who are not doing well is to learn to discover how to enjoy it. That’s the biggest shift I see that is needed generally.

How does a person arrive at that destination?

I created something called the Shameless Sales Model. It has four pillars. The first pillar is extraordinary communication. You have to communicate in a way that’s extraordinary. It sounds like, “Extraordinary. That’s hard.” You simply ask yourself, “When is the last time this person heard someone talk to them this way?” If it was now, yesterday or last week, it won’t work nowadays. It might’ve worked 60 years ago but, in this day and age, anyone you’re calling has 31 things they are in the middle of. They have a never-ending to-do list. Their wife yelled at them. Their daughter is sick. Their son is having trouble in school. Especially if they’re a business owner, they’ve got difficult employees. They’ve got Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn. Forget about it.

Success In Sales: The biggest problem with sales is that people don’t enjoy it.

The first way to start enjoying sales is to know exactly how to do sales and the way that’s structured and system based. I’ve listened to a couple of your episodes and a lot of people talk about systems, and I’ll be one of them. Systems are everything in my world. The first way to start to enjoy sales is to understand why what you’re doing isn’t working. One of the big problems salespeople have is, they don’t always know why they lost a sale. They don’t always know why when they got on the phone and the guy said, “Who is this?” They say, “Is this Meny Hoffman please?” They don’t understand why you clicked. They have hunches. You’ve got to first start to understand exactly where you lose people. That’s number one.

The second biggest thing stopping people from enjoying sales is they feel like they’re chasing people all the time. That’s a very common experience in the world of sales for you to feel like you’re chasing all these prospects and trying to get people to give you a chance. “If you could give me 30 seconds of your time, I’ll tell you.” What there is to get is the prospect isn’t the prize. You’re the prize. It’s that framing and flipping the script that starts to light people up. When they can do sales in a way where they’re reaching out to people, yet they still feel like they are the prize, people love that. It has the dignity to it. I like to restore people’s dignity, even in sales.

Break this down a little bit for our readers. Is it because if that person has a challenge and you have the solution, you should have pride in suggesting that you’re the type of person that has the solution? A lot of salespeople are telling me, “There’s a limit how much I could go after a lead and I don’t want to sound pitiful or begging for a sale.” How do you turn that into pride?

Let’s start with simple things. First of all, I don’t care whatever you’re doing. I’ve trained people in every conceivable industry. Whatever you’re doing, you can be delivering such exquisite service to that person that you are like no one else in that industry. Therefore, you are the prize because you know that no one will serve them like you’re going to serve them. If that’s not true, this model won’t work for you. Part of what happens when I work with people is both things have to get elevated. The way they speak and frame has to get elevated so that they’re the prize, but they have to deliver on being the prize. I worked with a couple of mortgage brokers. They’re like, “How are we the prize? These people have all the money, they have all the property and there are a million mortgage brokers out there. They don’t even need us. Theoretically, they could go to the bank like a lot of people do with refinancing or whatever.”

I’m like, “There are a million mortgage brokers out there. How are you different? What are you going to do for them that no one else would do for them?” By the way, sometimes it means being willing to listen, be their friend and understand what’s going on in the world before jumping to business. For other people, it means getting right to the point but doing it in a way that retains your value. Let me give you a specific example. It begins with words and tone. Words and tone reveal everything. If someone’s getting on the phone with someone saying, “Hi. Is this John? I’m doing a bunch of deals in Brooklyn. I’m a commercial mortgage broker.” You can hear that there’s this vibe of like, “Please give me your time and your attention.” Versus if I get on the phone and say, “John, how are you? I’m happy to make time to speak with you because I see that you’re late on a couple of refis and I’m sure that’s annoying you and the bank is putting pressure on you. Let’s talk about how I could be a game-changer for you. It might be a waste of time. It might make a world of a difference. Is that fair? Does that make sense to you?” It’s a different invitation to the conversation.

First of all, you’re direct instead of beating around the bush which is perfectly fine. People are afraid in sales to be put in direct but you say it in a professional manner and you’re also coming across to be helpful. You’re basically serving them.

We want to be direct, but we also want to open with a friendly, generous vibe like, “John, how are you?” It’s such a simple thing but it can’t be stepped over. What you’ll hear is you’ll start to understand where John is because John might say, “I’m good. How are you?” This is someone who’s not in a crazy rush and you can take a little bit more time with them. You can say, “I’m doing good. What’s going on in your world?” It’s something that’s open-ended and friendly. If you say, “How are you doing?” He’s like, “What’s up? What do you want?” You want to go more direct. You want to be flexible to calibrate yourself, to adjust yourself based on where the person is. That takes a little bit of listening and social intelligence.

You’ve got to be prepared.

You have to have scripts. This is the other big thing here. You don’t want to be in a position where you’re speaking to someone and you’re trying to think of what to say. It’s a terrible position to be in. 70% or 80% of salespeople do not have a script scripted out word for word exactly for the first 30 to 90 seconds of a call of what they want to say. It’s crazy. Every word is gold in the first 30 seconds. You have to have a script.

What would you say is different? Going back to the core of the question that I asked you about some people are successful in sales and some of them don’t. Are they wired differently?

No way. This stuff is totally trainable. It’s not like great salespeople are born. That’s such BS. I myself have sold a lot and helped a lot of people and sold a lot of things. A few years ago, I would shake if I had to pick up the phone. In fact, I remember being in grocery stores and if there was a line behind me, I would get uncomfortable when it’s my turn to check out because there are people looking at me. This is totally trainable.

It leads me to another point that I want to address. I’ve heard this many times from salespeople. Interestingly enough, you could find great extroverts being great at sales, and you find a bunch of introverts great at sales. Sometimes those are totally opposite personalities. From your experience, how could you address it? Do you need to be a mixture of both? Could you be on both sides of the spectrum?

Introverts are simply people who prefer one-on-one conversations for the most part. They don’t like groups, networking and whatever. Most people, even introverts, enjoy having a meaningful conversation with someone. The problem is for introverted salespeople, they’re selling. Stop selling. This is the fourth pillar of my model. It’s called Radical Service. Wow someone with how much you care. Everyone has a sale shield up. Every person you’re going to call, especially if it’s a cold call is going to be thinking in the back of their head, “What does this person want from me? What am I getting myself into by even answering the phone and saying hello?” The only way to diffuse that is to not sell, it’s to connect. When I call someone I’m saying, “What’s going on? What’s going on in your world?” I’m seeing what they do with it. Any introvert can do that. This is not a matter of extroversion or introversion. In my opinion, the best salespeople are introverts, not extroverts.

What I’ve seen in the past that even in our own company and working with other companies that are building sales teams, we see a huge difference with the introverts. They will be way better when the value has to be communicated. In that case, the value is most of the time communicated by building that relationship slowly.

I worked with a credit card processing agent who does quite well and wanted to do even better. He was erratic and an extreme introvert. One of the things I had him do is stop scheduling meetings in public places. He didn’t even like meeting in coffee shops and stuff. Go to hotel lobbies. That also fulfills the first pillar, extraordinary communication. You cannot be ordinary and expect to do well. It doesn’t mean you need to make yourself crazy. It doesn’t mean you need to do things that are not a match for your personality. Simply inviting a prospect to a beautiful hotel lobby to talk is different. Most people are not doing that. You want to show that you’re different in any way you can. A hotel lobby is much more private than the busy coffee shop. He thrived in that environment. He did a lot well. On the other hand, they worked with other people who were much more extroverted and crazy. I had them after speaking to a prospect. I had them take a picture of themselves with a party hat on and holding up a sign with the guy’s name on it because they’re crazy, playful and goofy. That’s how they love doing it. It’s out of the ordinary and it’s in alignment with their personality. That’s the sweet spot.

Let’s talk about qualifications. We see a lot of salespeople who are working on the lead back and forth, for weeks and months. At the end of the day, they don’t close. In the end, it turns out that the person wasn’t even qualified. What would be some practical advice you would give for a salesperson reading this to see how do you become better at qualifying that lead from the get-go to understand this prospect is worth investing time with?

Success In Sales: When doing sales call, do not initially aim to sell but rather to connect.

I’m probably the wrong person to ask that too because I don’t do any qualifying. I don’t believe in qualifying. I know that’s a little radical.

Let’s hear about it.

I know it’s a little provocative, but it doesn’t matter what you’re selling. Even if they’re not a good match for it, I promise you, they know someone in their world who might be a good match for it. When you’re dedicated to serving people and not selling to people and letting the sales rise organically with some directness and leadership when appropriate. That’s not your primary intention. You make an extraordinary impression on people. I can’t tell you how many people who weren’t “qualified” have sent people I train or myself. Anything I train people in, I feel tested myself many times. I know it works and I’ve seen it work in many industries. Although it does better in service-based industries versus product-based industries. I don’t qualify people. It doesn’t mean I’m not categorizing the strength of the lead. Let’s be clear about that. In other words, if I’m meeting Richard Branson’s partner and I’m meeting Chaim Yankel the day after, it’s not that I’m not understanding that one represents a lot more impact potentially to my business than the other. I will meet and connect with both. You also have to remember, when you’re meeting with people, don’t chit chat, talk about the weather or talk about sports. Get right into their world. Get into what are the painful problems in their world.

When I come into a company and train a floor of people, the first thing I ask is, “What are five painful problems in your prospect’s life?” For a lot of people, it’s interesting because they’re like, “I never even thought about that question. I’m thinking about my problems when I got on the phone. I need money, make rent, buy that vacation house or whatever.” We have to move away. That’s why sales is spiritual deep work. It’s about removing ego, self, and becoming a place where someone else’s world takes on massive importance. I don’t need to be qualified when I’m doing that also because I’m not chatting. It doesn’t mean you meet with everyone. You’re the prize. You should be selective about who you spend your time with. Don’t be shy about communicating that either. For these mortgage brokers, one of the things I have them add to their script is you have to say in the first 60 seconds, “I don’t work with everyone. I only work with the right kind of people. I suspect you might be that. We won’t know until we talk more.” You also have to put up guard rails. You can’t try to be the prize if you’re not going to walk the walk and be selective about who you spend time with. I don’t qualify.

We do see a lot of salespeople fall out of this skill or this role and they quit. Would you say that the reason for those quitting is not working enough hard on understanding what it takes? Are there a number of people that are not cut out for sales in general?

We’re fast approaching a market and a world where no one gets to say, “I’m not into sales anymore.” That’s where we’re headed. We see that more and more especially as career tracks become less permanent and people switch jobs much more even people who are doing freelance jobs on the side of the gig economy. You’re going to need to sell and communicate your value in a way that’s persuasive, strong, dignified and shameless. Let me say that I don’t think anyone gets to say, “I’m not into sales anymore.” Number two, it’s not that people don’t work hard, although some people don’t, it’s more that people don’t understand how to get better. Most salespeople simply don’t have someone debriefing the tape with them and saying, “Here’s where you lost the sale. Here’s why. Don’t ever do that again.” They don’t have that handholding. You need that. You need a mentor. You need someone who’s going to show you the ropes.

I was involved in a group of salespeople and we discussed the topic of what happens after you lose a sale. I told the group that when you lose a sale, especially if you spend a lot of effort and time into that lead you want to get at least something out of it. If you cannot get the business, at least get the reason why they didn’t close. I’ve done it many times, even when I’m not the salesperson and even when some of the people on my team would do the conversation back and forth and tried to do the sale, they would let me know that they went somewhere else. I would call them a few days later and say, “I know that you had these conversations back and forth, I know we had a proposal, you ended up doing it somewhere else and whatever it is. I want to have a conversation. I want to learn from it.” What happens is when you tell a lead, “I want to learn from it,” two things happen. First of all, you do learn from it because you get a lot of good insights. Second of all, you’re opening a deeper level of relationship with a person. They might be going away for this sale and might start saying, “There is something there that I want to come back to in a different opportunity.”

It’s a vulnerable thing to do and people connect over vulnerability.

One of those salespeople called me up a few days later and he told me, “I’ve got to speak to you in person about this because I started implementing this.” He sells in the construction industry and there were a few $100,000 proposals that were out. He got notified that they’re going with somebody else. He ended up doing the same shtick that I said, which was reaching out and asking for feedback. While he was on the feedback call, the person turns around and says, “I want to be honest with you that I’ve not yet given out of the job but since we’re having such a good conversation, I want to revisit it.” He ended up getting the sale.

Interesting but don’t do it for that.

We do it for the feedback because you can learn much out of it. You mentioned before that you don’t have that qualification process but you spoke also about the importance of having a process and learning systems and processes. People are confused and they don’t realize that the same way that you have a sales process. These are my prospects, open leads, closing leads, my hot, warm, or whatever system you have, which needs to be a selling process. It’s understanding the journey where this person is in your relationship. Is this person is still getting to know you or needs to get more trust and understanding that you are the right solution to the problem? Talk to us a little bit about how you approach a selling process.

One of the principles of the Shameless Model is, we always seek permission to escalate, which means any time the conversation gets a little bit closer to a sale. I call that an escalation. We always seek permission before escalating. If you’re on a sales call and you’re speaking to someone, “John, how are you? What’s going on?” The minute you start turning towards business is an escalation. Once you’re talking about business, the minute you start turning towards what you do and how what you do could be a match for his painful problems, that’s an escalation so on and so forth. We always seek permission. I recommend checking in with the person. Sometimes I’ll say to someone, “We’ve been connecting and talking, is now a good time? Do you think we’re ready to discuss how I might be of service to you?” I’ll ask them. I’ll check in with them. Once we do that, I might say, “Do you think it’s a good time out to talk about what it might look like to work together? Do you think we’re ready to talk about pricing?” I will check in with them and seek permission.

That’s great advice because once you start doing that, you start building that relationship and you get to know people better and they get to know, like and trust you and ultimately, the sale is the aftereffect.

When you’re connecting on this level with people, the sale handles itself. Something happens a lot of times. There are broadly two schools of sales. One is direct hustle and aggressive sale. It’s not wrong. It’s not what I teach. The other way is more personal based, radical service, radical honesty, shameless advocacy, extraordinary communication and stuff like this. At the end of the day, you need to understand that you’re the leader of the conversation. You have to provide leadership. When it does come time to talk about money, you need to provide the leadership. You expect the other person to do that, but you want to ask and seek permission. That’s the balance. We have to balance the relationship with the money. People get weird about money because that’s the fact of the matter. Something powerful that I train people to do is even when the client brings up money, sometimes it’s a good idea to say, “John, we’re not ready to talk about money. Let’s discuss more of the various ways I could be of service to you. Let’s slow this conversation down.”

For our readers to chime in here with the tip. There are studies and we’ve done focus groups on that where you send a ten-page proposal. Your prospect will turn to the page with the numbers immediately. Without understanding or without comparing apples to apples, that will be a deciding factor. What we’ve seen working and other people do, and it’s working, which is, you need to present the proposal. As they want to turn to that page, “We’re not ready for that page. Let’s first discuss our process, what we do, how we do it, what the deliverables will be, what objectives we will be solving.” You speak about the money because it’s either you provided the value and the person needs that or don’t. Even if it’s out of their range or out of their budget, they could say, “I would love it. I don’t have the money now,” which is perfectly fine. We’d stay friends forever.

When someone says, “I don’t have the money,” or “I can’t afford it,” it’s critical to turn the conversation back away from the money. Let’s say you did have the money. Take the money off the table, “What would it be like if we did X, Y, and Z for you? What painful problems in your life would disappear? Paint me a picture.” You want to move the conversation back towards the value that you could provide and you can leave the conversation. A lot of things almost all salespeople do is they’ll let the conversation end on the note of, “I couldn’t afford that,” or “That was too much money,” which is a terrible context to leave the conversation in.

Success In Sales: In sales, you need to understand that you are the leader of the conversation.

It’s also closing the door for future relationships or opportunities.

It certainly could.

I want to turn to another part that I prepared to ask you because for our readers, a lot of them are leaders of companies and they have a sales teams or maybe have a director of sales. What information could you provide them? Maybe they have a group of salespeople 2, 3, 5, 10 and everybody in that room is different. You spoke before about scripts, sales, selling process, and each person may have their way of scripting or selling. How much do you teach? When you coach sales managers and salespeople, how much do I have a process across the board and how much do we need to customize it for each individual salesperson?

The bottom line is no two people are the same. What I’ve seen work well is generalized. For example, let’s talk about scripting, a generalized company-wide script, and people individualizing that script for them in a way that is more of a match with their personality. If you’re a business owner and you have four salespeople, you also need to know and realize that unless you’re gifted in sales and training other people in sales, you’re not going to be able to help them. To pretend otherwise is foolish. If you’re a sales manager, it’s a little different but sales managers, the ones that I’ve encountered and worked with understand that people work differently. They’re willing to work with each personnel. Some sales managers are good and some aren’t.

The main thing I would say to small business owners is to get them help. Salespeople, for the most part, failed because they don’t enjoy it for various reasons and they don’t know how to get better. You have to know how to get better. Meny, I’m sure you in your craft understand how to get better. You have support systems in place when you do. When you wrap up a major project, you’re looking at the question of how can I get better? What are skillsets that I can hone and sharpen? For salespeople, it’s difficult because the skillset they’re involved in is the conversation. It’s not as easy and all they recall from the conversation is a distorted version of the conversation. All the time this happens. I’ll work with salespeople on their recording. I always check in with them, “Before we play the tape, how do you think this call went from 1 to 10?” They’ll say an eight and they listen to it and they’re like, “Can I revise it? It was a three.”

Once upon a time, we had a program for a long time in our call center, which we pick up phones by the companies where the CSRs, the Customer Service Representatives have to listen to themselves, rate it, send in and put into forms to their sales manager. The reason is you’re never going to have as much training and as much clarity of how it was not listening to it.

It’s confronting for people, by the way. It’s a painful thing for most people to listen to themselves on a call but it is critical.

Those are the things that people do that sets them apart. They want to grow and they’ll do whatever it takes to grow. One of the things that stood out in your bio was how you worded it that you work with hungry and humble business owners and sales teams. I want to stress the words hungry and humble. Explain to me what that means and who does this exclude?

[bctt tweet=”Sales is very spiritual and deep work and it’s about removing the ego. ” username=””]

Hungry for me means I only want to work with people who are up to some big challenge. That’s what excites me. That’s what gets me invested. That’s the kind of people I like working with. Business owners who want to double their revenue, for example. That’s a big challenge. I don’t want to work with people who want to grow incrementally by 10%. It’s a personal preference. I prefer to work with hungry people. They want to achieve, succeed and also enjoy their success. I know quite a few billionaires who are miserable. If you said to me, “Berry, in my right hand, I have $1 billion. In my left hand, you’re going to be miserable 80% of the time for the rest of your life.” I’m not choosing the $1 billion. It’s not worth it. It’s partly about hungry and learning how to grow, but also in a way that works for you, your family, your employees and it isn’t stressful. Many people who are successful are stressed out beyond belief. I don’t call that success. The other thing about humble is people who are more interested in growing, even when hearing certain truths are uncomfortable. They’re more interested in that than in fighting or arguing. That’s how I define humble.

It’s true because otherwise, it’s a waste of energy.

It’s such a waste. I remember that there was this tough Wall Street executive I was working with. After a few meetings, I said, “I’m willing to work with you and I’m going to charge you an awful amount of money because it’s unpleasant working with you.”

It is true because I speak to people all the time. Sometimes I’ll tell the person that he/she is committed and they’re going through a miserable relationship with their boss or leader. I would say, “It’s not worth it. You have so much talent and you have those 8 or 6 hours a day, whatever it is, find a place where you are able to grow and thrive.” For our readers, this is more of a no-nonsense, practical question, which is if they want to be better tomorrow, where should they start? Is it focusing more on what? How could they take more out of their time?

There are two simple things any salesperson could do. Record five conversations and listen to them and write down your default script. Most people don’t have a script, but they have something they tend to say. From these five conversations that you’re listening to, write out your default script. Read a book called Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. That’s where I would start. It’s an easy book to read. It’s a good place to start. Read that book and write a new script based on that book. It’s simple. Record another five conversations with that script and see the difference. If you’re not willing to do that, ask yourself, “Do I want what I say I want?”

Let’s close with the four rapid-fire questions. Number one, a book that changed your life.

Getting Things Done by David Allen.

Number two, a piece of advice you got that you’ll never forget.

I never learn from advice until I mess up with myself.

Success In Sales: Recording a default script is a good way to start practicing your pitch.

Number three, anything you wish you could go back and do differently?

I have two answers to that, everything and nothing. Everything, because what I see now is from a different vantage point. Nothing, because that’s what I have to happen. God runs the world, not me.

Number four, what’s still on your bucket list to achieve?

I have 147 things on my bucket list.

What’s next on your list?

I’m in the middle of relearning Spanish. I used to be fluent in it.

Berry, thank you so much for joining us on the Let’s Talk Business podcast. I know your time is valuable and that is why in the name of our audience, we will forever be grateful for sharing some of your time with us.

Meny, thank you so much. I want to thank you for what you do. You bring a lot of support and know-how to people, even though it’s not your day job necessarily. It’s beautiful to see that. It’s rare. We need more of that.

It’s my pleasure. Thank you so much.

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Guest Bio
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Berry Schwartz

Berry Schwartz runs a boutique coaching consulting and sales training company. He works with hungry and humble business owners and sales teams. He has a talent for messing with people’s thinking, bringing out the best in them, and telling them the truth that no one else will. He gets high off serving people radically. You can also find him doing stand up comedy, being lost in books, and going on long runs in the rain.

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