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Quotable Podcast Episode #55: “Closing Is More Than Asking for the Sale” with Anthony Iannarino

Host: Kevin Micalizzi, Lola Chenyek
Sales leaders used to hire someone who was aggressive, a little self-oriented, and hungry to "sell" someone. But the power has shifted to the buyer, so you can't be self-oriented or pushy anymore. Join Anthony Iannarino, international speaker and author of The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need and The Lost Art of Closing, as he shares how to close deals in this new selling environment. The old school of thought — "always be closing" — doesn't work, and  "never be closing" is a bad idea. Learn how to get the right commitments throughout each step of the process to make closing as simple as finding value for your buyer.

Those behaviors that might have served you in the 50s, 60s, 70s, maybe even the 80s will now destroy your ability to sell.”

Anthony Iannarino | Speaker and author

Episode Transcript

Kevin Micalizzi: Today we'll be discussing closing with Anthony Iannarino, international speaker and author of The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, and his latest book, The Lost Art of Closing. Welcome back, Anthony.

Anthony Iannarino: Thanks for having me.

Micalizzi: Anthony, would you tell our listeners a little bit about yourself?

Iannarinoi: Yeah, the international speaker, that's a good part. The author. This is my second book. The first book, The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need, is now causing me all kinds of pain because people keep busting my chops saying, "I thought you said this was the only sales guide we would ever need." It's fun to get that from your friends. But the second book came because we needed to. I spent a lot of time speaking to sales organizations. Of course, most people that know me know me from the blog thesalesblog.com where I've been publishing for about eight years now daily.

Micalizzi: Fantastic. Before we jump into it, I'm Kevin Micalizzi. I am a Product Marketing Senior Manager here at Salesforce and Executive Producer of the Quotable podcast. I'm joined by my co-host today, Lola Chenyek, who is a Product Marketing Manager here at Salesforce. Welcome back, Lola.

Lola Chenyek: Thanks, Kevin. Happy to be here.

Micalizzi: So Anthony, B2B selling has changed in so many ways. The buyers' world has changed. The buyer has more information than they ever had before. It's a more complicated process. How has this impacted closing?

Iannarinoi: It's a great question. I think if you think back to what selling was throughout history, it was a very different kind of endeavor. Because you had an icebox on your back porch and somebody would come by and drop ice in it and you didn't have a refrigerator in your house, people had to make markets. And so, they were a little bit forceful about trying to convince you to buy a refrigerator — you would've never bought one. Your whole family lived their entire life without having a refrigerator.

As markets got bigger and more salespeople were hired, the model was to hire somebody who was aggressive and a little self-oriented and hungry so that you could actually get people to buy something, and that was called "selling someone." You didn't sell them an outcome. You actually sold them.

But over time, the power has shifted in some ways, and the buyer now has more information. They have more access to alternatives. You really can't be self-oriented and you can't be pushy anymore, because those behaviors that might've served you in the '50s, '60s, '70s, maybe even the '80s. Those things will now destroy your ability to sell.

So what's changed mostly, I think we've become a lot softer. We've become a lot more consultative. We've become a lot more aggressive in a different way, and that's how do I create value for the other person rather than how do I get what I want. And that trend continues on.

What's happened for closing is that we've gone from "always be closing" to right now "never be closing." We're just on the swing back. The pendulum is going to swing back the other way because never be closing is as bad an idea as always be closing.

Chenyek: Okay, so you led right into my next thought, which is that we have all of these mantras. I think what you're saying seems to go in a different direction from — so now where are we headed if we're not always be closing or never be closing, what's left?

Iannarinoi: Yeah, that's why I always start by saying something like, "Sales has no rules and you have to know them all." Because sometimes this is right and sometimes that's right, and it's a complex dynamic human interaction where something is being exchanged and you have to adjust and look at what is necessary to move things forward.

The idea of always be closing was sort of right, in the way that you always want to progress forward with a client. That part is sort of right, except for the way that it had been taught and phrased was so self-oriented. It was about tie downs, tricks, and tactics, and could I pressure you to say yes and give you a hard sell, which no one even knows how to do anymore.

And then it swung back all the way to never be closing, a response to the Alec Baldwin-type character in “Glengarry Glen Ross.” And now salespeople have been told, "Just wait until the client tells you they want to take the next step." That's horrible advice too because the buyer has no idea what comes next. It's gotten more complicated for them.

I was with CEB two weeks ago from the time we're recording this, and they showed me the research. The number of people involved in a B2B sale, on average, is 6.8. Then they told me the new number that their new research shows, and it's grown from that. You raised your eyebrows because you want me to tell you, but I can't. I've been sworn to secrecy. This is like “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.” I would be touching the ceiling where the Fizzy Lifting Drinks are and lose my rights. But it grows tremendously.

They don't know what they need to do to really make change. They don't know how to make change. They don't know what comes next. They don't know things like you need to get a group of people together and collaborate. Because if we don't bring people in and they don't have a say in this, then they're not going to be happy with the result or they're going to resist it. And they don't know that if they don't bring in the people that they're afraid to bring in — In this world, IT has a lot of power. And marketing doesn't want to bring IT in about a data project because IT is going to ruin it for them. "I want to do what I want to do. I don't want these people weighing in." But if you don't bring them in, then the deal is going to die anyway. And so, now "always be closing" is good advice, but it means not closing for the final commitment to buy. It's closing for all of the commitments that lead up to that final commitment. Which it turns out is really the easiest one to gain.

Micalizzi: When we first started, you were talking about self-oriented sales folks. For me, it has always been back of mind. I know some amazing sales folks. But if you said that's a salesperson, my mind still automatically goes to the kind of sleazy used-car sales stereotype. I'm curious. To get away from that kind of self-oriented approach to it, what do sales reps need to be doing differently?

Iannarinoi: First, they have to understand that if you want to make sales, you have to serve somebody else. That's really what we do — is we serve them. I keep telling sales audiences this. If your prospective client could get the result that they needed without you, they'd already be getting that result. If your competitor could get them that result, they would already be doing it. They either don't know how, or they don't know how to help the buyer actually make the change that's necessary. So we're trying to serve someone by helping them get a better outcome than they could get without us. When you focus on that, it turns out that selling gets easy.

The negative connotation persists, and I don't know why because it's really hard to find super-bad salespeople now. There's some industries where there's more than others. There's some companies where the culture is still driven in that aggressive, hard-closing kind of way.

But I teach at Capital University, and I teach undergrads a class on personal selling, which is sort of a B2B comprehensive overview kind of class. I start the class by asking young students to tell me what words they would use to describe salespeople. They say, "Pushy, manipulative, selfish, money grubbing," all the negative things that you can think of. I can fill a whole whiteboard.

And then as soon as they're done, I ask them to raise their hand if their mom or dad works in sales. Then I have just the people with dads put their hands down so I'm just looking at moms. I just want to know who's got a mom in sales. Then I look at them and say, "So your mom is a pushy, selfish, manipulative salesperson that's just after money?" They're like, "No, that's my mom. I love my mom. My mom, her clients love her. They talk. They're like friends." And I'm like, "Yeah, then why do you think that?"

It's just because the connotation has been around so long that it stuck on salespeople when most — particularly B2B salespeople — they're not served by being self-oriented, selfish, and all those words. They haven't been that for a long time. But the stereotype still persists for some reason. I'm troubled, and I'm not sure why we keep having this conversation when most of us don't behave that way.

Micalizzi: I know one of the things that you've talked about and written about is how your focus on who you are is more important than what you do. Why is that? In some ways, I think actions speak louder than words.

Iannarinoi: Right. It matters who you are and this is why. When you're sitting across from your dream client or your prospect, that person is trying to decide who do I want to work with, who do I want to go down this path of change with, who do I think is going to be my trusted advisor, who's going to be somebody that I can look to for good counsel, who's going to be here when the train comes off the tracks to work with me and make sure that we actually get this outcome that I'm now dragging my organization through.

And so, the things that we don't talk about, which are in the first book I wrote. That first half is mindset stuff. It's stuff like resourcefulness, initiative, accountability. That's what they're trying to judge you on. It's not just, "Do I know, like, and trust you?" but "Are you the kind of person that has the insights and the ideas that can help me move my business forward?" and "Do I want you to be part of my team?"

So they're looking at the whole person. They're not just looking at your product. They're not just looking at your company anymore. They're not just looking at the solution. You're coming with the package, or the package is coming with you would probably be a better way to say that. They're trying to decide is somebody that I want to do business with. When you think about this, I will tell you, my strong opinion is that the who you are matters so much that if you get that part right, you can almost build a relationship where you have an absolute right to the next deal.

I use this as a keynote where I have a slide that says, "All things being equal, relationships win. All things being unequal, relationships still win." Your job is to make things unequal. That's what you do in sales. You try to get a preference created for you. If you're the kind of person that people want to do business with, that counts for a lot more. Even if your competitor has a better solution or a better price, when they want to work with you, that tends to outweigh anything else.

Chenyek: Thinking a little bit about all the changes that would come as a result of this different way of thinking. What does this do for the sales process?

Iannarinoi: It's really interesting that you would describe it as new, because there were people who were writing stuff about this a long time ago. Mack Hanan wrote Consultative Selling in 1970. Before he died — he was like 85 — I talked to him just before that. Sharp as a tack. I'm like, "Why have we still not gotten what's in your book?" and he said, "I have no idea."

But really for me, I learned this when I had to sell myself. I got forced into outside sales. I ended up having brain surgery. I had to leave Los Angeles, California, come home, go back to work in the family business because I wasn't allowed to drive for two years. And LA is not the kind of city you can't have a car in. There's no way to get around.

I started reading everything I could read on sales. I came upon SPIN Selling. It's a classic printed in 1988, still in hardcover at every Barnes & Noble anywhere. You can still find that book. The three pages before Rackham starts the questioning methodology, he tells a little story about what his research showed. The very best salespeople never left a meeting without getting some commitment that moved the sale forward.

Salespeople who didn't do very well left the meeting with what he called a continuation, which was, "Lola, very nice to meet you. Thanks so much. We'll talk again some time in the future," and there was no commitment to do anything else. When I learned that, when I read that, that's the part of the book that struck me more than anything. I thought, "Wow, I will just never leave a meeting without another meeting."

And so, I would always have a calendar open in front of me when I was talking to clients, and I'd say, "Do you want to put something on the schedule for next week? If you can open your calendar, we'll pick a date." And people would open their calendar and pick a date. And so, everything just moved along smoothly for me. I'd always taught and trained that in companies that I owned.

Then I've watched what's happened to the sales process for most people. They've got these ideas about customer verifiable outcomes, and really they're not customer verifiable outcomes. It's something like do they agree that they have the money. Do they agree that the authority will come in. It's all self-oriented things still that we want. What I've done is laid out a series of 10 commitments.

What it looks like to me now is that you have to figure out what commitments come next. It's not linear. You can go back and forth between commitments. Things like collaborate and consensus, you may go back and forth. But those are the commitments that actually drive the process. It's the customer or the client taking the very next step with you, whatever that step is. That's what's changed, and it's what's missing from most sales processes — is what does the customer have to commit to in order for us to move this thing forward, and then that's the commitment you need.

Micalizzi: Anthony, so many companies focus on how they structure their sales process and trying to make sure they match it to the buyer's process. I liked the way you've written about it and talked about it in that you say there isn't a buying process map. The customer is the map. What do you mean by that? How do we sort it out? How do we make sure that we're creating a somewhat predictable, repeatable process?

Iannarinoi: If the customer has a buying process, you have an RFP, and then you're already behind. That's a tough position to win from. What I mean by the customer is the map is that they have a certain psychology. "I don't understand why I can't get the results that I need." That's a sort of dissonance that they're struggling with.

Then they start to recognize, "Wait a second, I have a problem that I have to solve. Now I understand this dissonance. Now I know I have to solve this." You start thinking about their psychology. And they are the map. Understanding where they are in this process and what they need is really the way that we match it up.

The thing is, it doesn't fit neatly in boxes where we can say, "When we're in discovery, they're in dissonance." Maybe they are. Maybe they've already decided they have a problem worth solving and maybe they already have a vision. We don't know these things. So we have to look at them and determine where they are and then how do I serve them where they are so that they can take the next step forward. They don't really have a process.

If you were to say to someone, "There's going to be 14 people that are going to touch this decision. Who are those 14 people and what order do we bring them in?" They would say, "There's no way there's going to be 14 people. It won't take that many people to do this. I just need two more people." And then we'll bring the two people in and find out that they have two people that they want to bring. It's just gotten complicated, and they don't yet know. One of the things that I keep saying over and over again that I think is worth saying here is that we have to help them know what to do next because they don't know.

Some of the things that we're going to ask them for, no one's asked them for before. No one's said, "Look, I need you to collaborate because I want to make sure this is dialed in tightly and that it's going to work for your company, even though we might do it a different way in some other company." No one's told them that they have to make the commitment to invest before we can move on much earlier in the stage than people think, because I've got to have something that matches what they can truly spend. These are the kinds of things that people have to think about and relook at their process.

Chenyek: It sounds like it's less about being that overwhelming salesperson or being a really persuasive salesperson. It's more about being assertive and in control of that path that you're taking your customer down. If someone listening is like, "I'm having trouble controlling that and managing those commitments," as you say, what should they be doing differently? What are the steps toward taking control in the assertive way?

Iannarinoi: The way that you take control of the process is to understand what they need to do next, and then making sure that you address their concerns. Because what invariably happens is we'll say something like, "We're going to need to bring in IT, and we're going to need to bring in the financial department here so that we can have a conversation about these things." And they'll say, "If we bring in IT, the deal is going to die." Ultimately they fear the wrong danger. If we don't bring in IT, the deal is going to die.

So you have to be able to address that concern. We were taught language to say we overcome objections. But that, again, is sort of a conflict-based concept, like I'm going to overcome you. Instead, what we really do is resolve concerns.

I have to be able to say something that sounds like, "Lola, listen, in my experience, what happens if we leave IT out, later on when they find out what we're doing, they're going to do everything they can to stop us from doing it because they weren't consulted and they weren't brought in early enough. Who's the most friendly person to this kind of idea that we could bring in so that we could start developing consensus and make sure that we take their needs into account?"

And that's just being a grown-up and a businessperson who's trying to make change. Right? I'm not trying to get what I want. I'm trying to serve them. If they don't do the things that are uncomfortable for them, then they're not going to get the change that they want. That's really the heart of what we do at sales. As salespeople, we're actually change agents. We're helping somebody do something very different, and we're moving their whole organization forward, and that's a big charge to keep.

Micalizzi: Anthony, I want to ask you. You outlined 10 commitments. The subtitle of the book, which I didn't include in the intro, is Winning the Ten Commitments That Drive Sales. Which is the most difficult of the commitments? Because I'm guessing it's not the close.

Iannarinoi: It's not. In fact, if you get all of the eight that come before the ask, then the ask is easy. Because you've done all this work and you just say something like, "Kevin, I think that we've covered everything that you need here, and I think we've built the right solution, and I think we have your team's support. Unless you need anything else, I'd like to ask you for your business. I'd love to give you a contract so we could get that signed and get started." That's just very natural language. We don't need any kind of names or tricks, or tactics, or any kind of high-pressure thing to do that. You can just ask. You're a grown-up and they're a grown-up, and they're going to say "Yes" or they're going to say, "No, I still have a concern."

Micalizzi: Right.

Iannarinoi: The difficult one now is the first one, and the first one is "I need you to give me your time." That's the one where people say, "Wait a second." I've met with lots of salespeople. They all come in here and say, "Wow, you like dogs? I like dogs. You have kids? I have kids. We should do business together." They try the rapport-building thing rather than coming in with a solid point of view and a real business insight. I'm always teasing salespeople when I speak to them that you only need two things to be a trusted advisor: You need trust and you need advice. If you don't have the advice, then you're missing half of the whole recipe.

So you've got to have something to trade for that first meeting, that somebody sees this or hears this and they say, "I'm interested in knowing what that is." That's the part where we really, really struggle. Because we come in and we say something like, "I'd like to stop by and introduce myself and my company," and they go, "Oh my gosh, the last 17 that said that I couldn't get out of my office. They want to tell me how long their company has been in business and talk about their product, and I don't care about any of that."

But when you say something like, "I'd like to come in and tell you the four trends that are going to cause you to make different decisions over the next 12 to 24 months. And even if you never do business with me or my company, you're going to challenge your management team with some different questions about where you're going and how you're going to deal with the threats and take advantage of the opportunities."

Now you have something that's more interesting for somebody to hook onto to say, "Okay, I would trade 20 minutes for that. But I don't want to trade 20 minutes so you can show me your company's org chart and a picture of your building and share with me all the logos of the people that you’ve already — like your trophy case. I don't need to see your trophy case right now."

Micalizzi: Right. You're trading value to get that commitment for time.

Iannarinoi: For every commitment you have to trade value.

Micalizzi: Yeah. I was going to ask you what about the ones where I can ask for your time because I have information I can give you. But what about during other or at other points in the process for other commitments where I'm not really — I don't have anything tangible I can give you right now?

Iannarinoi: But you do. Let's just take one that sometimes people are troubled by or struggle with, and that's the commitment to invest. They don't want to talk about the money. They're afraid: "I have a higher price, and when they see that, they're going to throw me out of here. So I'm going to wait and hide and spring it on them later on when we have a contract and when we're trying to put a final proposal in front of them."

But the thing that you trade for — that is the person who can have a conversation about what the right investment is, and the person who can help somebody justify the delta between what they're spending and what they need to spend, that's an ally. That's somebody who can help me get what I need done inside my company.

So what you're trading for is you're trading for the ability to figure out how to get the investment to get the results you need when you know that that's going to be something that it's going to be pushed back against every single time. But being able to have that conversation means I know how to help you get the result.

One of the things that I'm not sure we recognize enough. As an industry, we've allowed people to underinvest for a long time. We've said, "You can have better, faster, and cheaper." And then we failed, because you can't have better, faster, and cheaper. If you're getting faster or you're getting better, it's not cheaper. If the client was investing enough money to get the result and what they were doing was working, then that would be the right investment, but it's not.

So when we come in, we have to help them spend a little bit more money, and we have to help them justify that delta. The person who can do that becomes the kind of person who is a trusted advisor and counsel. The person who comes in and tells you that, "I can get you a better price. I'll go to my manager and get a concession for you." All we're doing is continuing to lower the bar. And instead of getting better, faster, and cheaper, they start to get more and more jaded about, "Look, every salesperson comes in and says they can do better, but they really can't because we've already tried this four times."

When you go against the grain and you say, "I need you to spend more money," at first there's going to be, "Look, I have to do right by my company. So I've got to ask you for a discount." But later on when you're working with people, they figure out that's the right thing to do is to put more money into any outcome that needs to be better.

Chenyek: Are there any commitments in particular that are particularly tricky or that people struggle with the most, in your experience?

Iannarinoi: The couple that people struggle with the most, one is change. At some point, the client has to commit that, "Yes, I want to do something different, than I'm [doing] now."

Chenyek: Right. No one likes change, so how do you get them to embrace it?

Iannarinoi: They like it if you would change, but they don't like it when they have to change. That's the trick.

Chenyek: Direction of change.

Iannarinoi: Yeah. When you have to tell somebody, "Does this make sense for you to do this now, or is there something else that would be a higher priority?" We do have to say, "This is a big change. Does it make sense for you to do it?" We have to get that commitment to, "Yes, it does make sense to move forward."

It's a tough one for salespeople to ask for, and it's a tough one for clients to answer. Because they know when they step into a change initiative, things are going to get messy, potentially political, and there's going to be a lot of people that are going to have something to say about it and they're going to have a lot of conversations.

Change is 1,000 conversations and 10,000 small decisions that get made after that. Which is the other one that really people struggle with is the commitment to execute. And that's having to back to the client and say, "You said you would change this when we went down this path, and you're not doing your side of it."

I'm talking at Salesforce.com. Right now I'm in your building. And I will tell you that you have people who have bought your CRM — they've spent thousands and thousands of dollars with you — and they're not using it. The adoption rate is super low, and you're like, "You need to be using it. If you want to capture the value of what we sold you, you've got to get in there and use it," and they're not.

We have to go back and have those conversations and say, "You need to go and do this work," and salespeople struggle with that. But if they don't, then when we have something new they're going to say, "I didn't even get the value from the last thing I bought from you.”

Micalizzi: Right. Never like hearing that people aren't adopting the technology.

Iannarinoi: Some probably are using it at a 110%. Right?

Micalizzi: Right.

Iannarinoi: I've seen people with Salesforce.com instances that it's like NASA. They've got dozens and dozens of dashboards, things automated, and it's beautiful. Then you see other people and you're like, "Wow. Let me help you. The first name is actually the client's first name, and the last name is their last name. Go ahead and type those in, it's pretty easy." They're just way behind the curve.

Micalizzi: Thank goodness technology is helping with some of the data capture and the automated — We'll get there. We will totally get there. In the time we've got remaining, I want to make sure we talk about some specific takeaways that our listeners can do. I know one of the things you recommend is not asking for these commitments via email. Why is that?

Iannarinoi: Email is just a horrible form of communication for anything that's important. It's a place for ideas to go to die, mostly. People can delete it; people can ignore it. Especially young people, SDRs, they love email because they like to be behind the safety glass, the laptop lid, so they can get their rejection in another form. They don't like to have to hear that they were rejected. They'd rather just not hear anything back. That's a softer form of rejection.

If you have an important conversation, you want to do it face-to-face if you can do it. That's always the very best way still. We're still human. I'll say something provocative here that you can put on the podcast in that I believe that's going to be true for a long time. When sexting replaces actual sex, then I'll think that we're going to use email and automate.

But I think that it's still face-to-face first, video face to video face second. And then after that, I would probably go to phone, and I would do text before I would do email. I think text is a more intimate form because the device is in your hand. But email doesn't require me to do anything.

Micalizzi: Right.

Iannarinoi: So many people are overwhelmed with email now, anyway. When we look back historically at the great villains, it's going to go Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, the guy who invented email. He'll be like number five in human destruction.

Micalizzi: I don't think it's that bad.

Iannarinoi: You haven't seen my email.

Micalizzi: Point made.

Chenyek: I do think email is misused in a lot of ways or overused to the point beyond where it's effective. I think there's a time where it's effective and a time when you should switch to different mediums. I think people that rely solely on it end up doing themselves a bit of a disservice.

Iannarinoi: It depends on the outcome that you want. If I need to send Lola just information, and I just need you to have the information, like, "Kevin sent me an email. Here's all the stuff that you need to know," that's good. He didn't ask me to do anything. He just needed me to be aware of these things. Email is great. Not a better form. Because I can time shift that. I can look at it when I want. I can save it, which I did, so when I got here I had it in front of me. But he didn't ask me for something like, "Anthony, I need you to change your entire business." Okay, that would not be the right medium, and the medium matters.

Micalizzi: That delete key would be so close to your finger if you were reading it.

Iannarinoi: Yes.

Chenyek: I think anything that needs to be discussed or debated or hearing tone of how they're reacting to something that you're saying when you're trying to convince them of something. Doesn't seem effective to do it in an email.

Iannarinoi: You think about that when you ask somebody to do something, like "Is this the right initiative for you to do now? Is the rest of your company going to go along and agree that this is the right thing to spend money and time on right now?" And then the person gets that email, they look at it and go, "Is it? I'm worried about this. I'm concerned that some people don't want to do this. I'm really not sure how much money you're talking about." They have all these concerns. Where are you when that's going on? You're not even there.

But if you were there and they said, "I'm really concerned about this," then you have a chance to help them through that concern. You can't do that over email. It's just not the right format for it. If you're typing long emails back and forth, you'd be better off just having a meeting.

Micalizzi: For our sales leaders that are listening, what should they be doing to shift the mindset for their teams so they're focused more on commitment, not just trying to close?

Iannarinoi: Yeah, that's a great question. The thing that a sales manager should be doing is whenever a rep has a sales call, they're doing any kind of call prep, they need to say, "What's the outcome of this meeting?" And then what's the very next commitment that you believe the client is going to have to agree to to move it forward. That's what you need to know.

They should manage that way. If you're going to have a meeting, what are you trading in the way of value for that meeting that's going to allow you to deserve to get an automatic yes to taking the next step together? Do we always get an automatic yes? No way. But we have to at least behave like we're trying to make sure that we can take the next step together and create a preference for us and for what we're doing. I think that's the thing to look at.

When you're managing a sales team, ask the question "Why would this client change now?" and "Why would they spend more money than they're spending now?" so that the salesperson has to answer that question themselves and think about sharpening their message to make sure that they win when they're in front of the client.

Micalizzi: Cool. I got to ask the lightning round question here. If you could take all your current knowledge and experience, go back in time and share it with yourself at the start of your sales career, what advice would you give yourself?

Iannarinoi: I was a really good salesperson before I was in sales. I was forced into outside sales by a manager who recognized I'd won more clients than the three salespeople that were working in the branch where I worked. Then somebody said, "You're a salesperson," and I became the most self-oriented, pushy, harmful salesperson. Because I thought, "Now that they gave me this title, I actually have to grab ahold of people and do things to them."

It took about 90 days that had I known that all you have to really do is try to help people solve their problems and help them have the conversations they need to have internally, I would've saved myself from 90 days or so of really, really making people around me unhappy. I was really good, and then once I got a business card I became really bad.

Micalizzi: Wow.

Iannarinoi: I had a great manager. He went on a sales call with me. This is way before PowerPoint and laptops weighted like 30 pounds at the time. We had this big binder with 84 pages about the story of Olsten Services, the company I worked for, and I literally read it cover to cover to a woman that I was presenting to.

Micalizzi: Wow.

Iannarinoi: I started at the very beginning: In 1944, William Olsten created Olsten Services during World War II to drive secretaries to work. I started at the very beginning and I plowed through it. My manager was a great manager. He just sat patiently next to me while I did this. But I would look over and I noticed that — I could see on his face he was thinking, "I will kill you." I just kept plowing on, anyway.

True story, we get to the curb — and if you have a sales manager or you are a sales manager, you know how this works — that's where you have your sales meeting, right on the curb as soon as you're out the door. He looked at me and said, "How do you think you did?" and I said, "I think I did pretty well," and he said, "I think you should be brought up on charges for cruel and unusual punishment. That woman is in a catatonic state and I don't know if will ever be able to recover."

I said, "What are you saying?" He said, "None of this is about us. This has nothing to do with us. She has three things she cares about, and if you can help her with those three things—- maybe there's only two — but that's all you have to do to win the business." He said, "Come with me on sales calls and watch what I do."

He was a great salesperson. If there was a metric to say fewest words spoken for the greatest amount of revenue, he would win that category. Because he would say almost nothing except, "Could you tell me more? We might be able to help you with that." He'd say almost nothing. And I would walk out thinking, "What kind of voodoo and witchcraft is this that he doesn't even have to talk and we walk out with big deals?" He knocked it off of me after 90 days. I would've had a better time had I just remembered what got me there.

Micalizzi: I love it.

Chenyek: I love that. I think that a lot of people could — I'm not trying to be rude. I think I could benefit from that. I think that's amazing advice. Definitely gives me something to think about next time I'm in a meeting.

Micalizzi: That's awesome. Anthony, thank you so much for joining us today.

Iannarinoi: Thanks for having me.

Micalizzi: And Lola, thanks for co-hosting.

Chenyek: Thanks, Kevin. Always a pleasure.

How to Craft the Perfect Sales Pitch By Annie Simms,
Account Executive, Salesforce
The Simple Client Meeting Rules Every Salesperson Should Follow By Laura Stack,
President and CEO, Productivity Keynote Speaker and Author, The Productivity Pro, Inc.



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