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How To Stay In Control Of The Sales Conversation

Deb Calvert is the President of People First Productivity Solutions, offering sales training, coaching, and leadership development programs. Deb also leads the Stop Selling & Start Leading® movement and founded The Sales Experts Channel.

In this episode of The Salesman Podcast, Deb explains how we can use selling questions to remain in control of the sales conversation.

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Featured on this episode:

Host - Will Barron
Founder of Salesman.org
Guest - Deb Calvert
President of People First Productivity Solutions

Resources:

Transcript

Will Barron:

Coming up on today’s episode of the Salesman podcast.

 

Deb Calvert:

Your role as being a leader in any sales conversation. The word origin of lead is guide. So you are the guide. What buyers really want is to be inspired and to be led. If you be as a leader, you become perceived as a leader, and leaders, they operate in the realm of something that’s of interest to others.

 

Will Barron:

Hello, Sales Nation. My name is will Barron, and I’m the host of the Salesman podcast. The world’s most downloaded B2B sales show. And on today’s episode, we have the legend that is Deb Calvert. She is the author of Discover Questions. One of the only sales specific books that I recommend to you guys, Sales Nation, and to anyone else who wants to learn how to sell as well. And we’ll get into questions on this episode, how to use questions to stay in control of the sale, no matter what stunts your buyers are trying to pull on you. Everything that we talk about is available in the show note to this episode over at salesman.org. And with that, let’s jump right into it.

 

Who Between the Buyer and the Salesperson Should be in Control of the Sales Conversation? · [01:21] 

 

Will Barron:

Conversations is what I want to talk about in this episode. We’re going to look at how we can put ourselves, to use your words, in the driving seat of sales conversations moving forward. But let’s get right back to basics here for someone who’s perhaps relatively new to sales, whose job is it to control and drive a sales conversation forward? Is it the salesperson or is it that we should be listening to the buyer and we should just be sucking up to them and doing whatever they say and letting them be in control of the whole sales process?

 

“Let’s use this metaphor. Imagine being in a car and someone’s in the driver’s seat and that should be the salesperson, but I think that the buyer should be metaphorically the navigator they should absolutely be involved and you should be very closely listening to them. But before you can even get those roles worked out, you’ve got to make sure that you’re both going to the same place.” – Deb Calvert · [01:40] 

 

Deb Calvert:

Well, yes, we should listen to the buyer, but let’s use that metaphor. So imagine being in a car and someone’s in the driver’s seat and that should be the salesperson, but I think that the buyer should be metaphorically the navigator they should absolutely be involved and you should be very closely listening to them. But before you can even get those roles worked out, you’ve got to make sure that you’re both going to the same place. So knowing that destination, you want your buyer to be in the car with you. But here’s the thing that I see. And I guess this is really why this conversation is so important. I see a lot of sellers who are thinking that it would be rude or presumptuous to get into the driver’s seat, and so instead they end up driving around aimlessly, looking, hoping somebody’s going to want to get in the car with them.

 

Deb Calvert:

So that implies first of all, that like it or not, you’re in the driver’s seat, but are you going to get a buyer in there with you? And the only way you do that in fact is ironically, by making sure it’s clear that you’re in the buyer’s seat to you and to your buyer. You already are there, but making sure that your buyer is going to get into the car with you, that’s what this is really all about. And the only way you get them there, just like an Uber driver, is by making sure you’re going to that destination where they want to go. And that’s how they get in the car with you. Does that make sense? It’s very ponderous.

 

Why Step One in a Sales Conversation Should be Setting a Clear Goal and Guiding the Buyer Towards That Goal · [03:07] 

 

Will Barron:

That makes great sense. And Deb, is that step one then of both creating the conversation and the navigation system, is it to suss out going back and forth with the buyer where we are going, is that step one of stating that we’re in control and then progressing it towards potentially a close?

 

“Your role is being a leader in any sales conversation. The word origin of lead is guide. So you are the guide in that conversation with your buyer, and that is driving. You’re taking somebody someplace, just like a guide would.” – Deb Calvert · [03:40] 

 

Deb Calvert:

I believe it is. And even before that, it’s step one of working out in your own mind, your role. Your role as driver. Your role, we’ll even position this a little differently. I think people might like this better. Your role as being a leader in any sales conversation. The word origin of lead is guide. So you are the guide in that conversation with your buyer, and that is driving. You’re taking somebody someplace, just like a guide would.

 

Deb Reveals Why Most Salespeople Shy Away from Leading the Sales Conversation · [04:01] 

 

Will Barron:

I want to get into questions and how we can navigate this moving forward, but why do perhaps some of the audience and perhaps myself as a younger sales rep, and you can give us your thoughts on this as well, Deb. Why do we sometimes shy away from this leadership role? Is it that we just don’t want the responsibility of it? Why isn’t it that we’re doing this by default?

 

Deb Calvert:

Well, let me separate it from age, because I see a lot of older salespeople who do this too. It’s that a seller isn’t understanding the buyer and what they really want from a seller. So this is based on research. There are two bodies of research. So it’s not just the recent research that went into Stop Selling and Start Leading. But it’s the bigger body been going on now for almost 25 years, that’ll age me, with discover questions.

 

“The job of a leader is to take followers to a place the followers want to be. That’s what guides do too. So if you think about being in the jungle and chopping down the vines that are in the jungle. As a guide, you’re taking somebody somewhere, and you’re making it easy for them to get there. But nobody is going to go through that jungle with you if it’s not a place they want to be. And frankly, they don’t need you, unless it’s a place that is a little hard to get to, and they see that you, uniquely, you have some expertise that could get them there.” – Deb Calvert · [05:15] 

 

Deb Calvert:

And what buyers really want is to be inspired and to be led. So let me see if I can’t use a couple of other visuals here. The job of a leader is to take followers to a place the followers want to be. That’s what guides do too. So if you think about being in the jungle and chopping down the vines that are in the jungle. As a guide, you’re taking somebody somewhere, and you’re making it easy for them to get there. But nobody is going to go through that jungle with you if it’s not a place they want to be. And frankly, they don’t need you, unless it’s a place that is a little hard to get to, and they see that you, uniquely, you have some expertise that could get them there. Well, this is all about positioning that, whether you’re using questions, whether you’re using inspirational language, but it’s all about leadership either way.

 

Deb Calvert:

And so step one is yes, knowing where your buyer wants to go. But even before that, having the mindset that you are a leader who is committed, interested, able to take them there.

 

How to Squash Buyer Assumptions About Salespeople and Present Yourself as a Thought Leader · [06:27] 

 

Will Barron:

It makes all sense, right? I think everyone’s nodding their head in agreement with this. And for us to give buyers the ideal buying outcomes, we’ve sold the same product hundreds of thousands of times. They’ve probably not bought this product as many times as we’ve sold it. We’ve got insights. We’ve got resources in our own organisation. We can help these people, Deb. But just to play devil’s advocate slightly here from the perspective of the buyer. I think most buyers, until they’ve dealt with you perhaps a couple of times, and perhaps we can talk about how we can set ourselves up to be known and perceived as leaders. Most buyers, when a salesperson reaches out to them, think, “[inaudible [00:06:37], another pesky salesperson trying to grab my money and take something and take up a load of my time.” So how do we set up the conversation so that we come across as a leader? So then I’m assuming that once we’re perceived as a leader, all this gets easier as we go throughout the sales process.

 

“The fastest, quickest way to get away from that being perceived as a pushy salesperson who just wants to reach into my pocket, is that you’ve asked me a question, or you’ve somehow demonstrated that you care about me and you’re interested in where I want to go and what’s important to me.” – Deb Calvert · [07:21] 

 

Deb Calvert:

It does. If you behave as a leader, you become perceived as leader. And leaders, they operate in the realm of something that’s of interest to others. See, it’s not true that leaders live in ivory towers or that leaders are lonely at the top. That’s not true. Real leaders, the ones who inspire us that we choose to follow, they have an interest in us. So the fastest, quickest way to get away from that being perceived as a pushy salesperson who just wants to reach into my pocket, is that you’ve asked me a question, or you’ve somehow demonstrated that you care about me and you’re interested in where I want to go and what’s important to me.

 

Deb Calvert:

I say questions because that is frankly the fastest, easiest, clearest way to demonstrate that. Otherwise, you’re in the assuming place and that’s always dangerous. But a question, some great questions. And this is going to depend on the industry you work on a little bit. It’s going to depend on your personality a little bit. It’s going to depend on your buyer and what you know about them. But by and large, it’s a question that sounds like, “What is it that you hope to accomplish?” Not what do you want to do with my product? That’s too early. But bigger. What do you want? What do you hope to accomplish? What are your goals? What are the things that you value right now that are urgent and important to you?

 

Deb Calvert:

And when we start there, it does change the conversation, it does engage the buyer, and it does differentiate you from just that person who’s waiting with baited breath to pounce on some opening that is all about you and serving your own interest.

 

Will Barron:

So two things I think you really subtly hear, Deb, and you might not have even realised it, because you’re so ingrained in all of this. One, and I’ve never heard it put like this before. You said you want to be a leader that people choose to follow, as opposed to, we’ve probably all had that sales manager that’s cracking the whip and constantly got us nervous about hitting target and trying to bully us into doing more work. We want to be a leader that inspires. You’ve used that word a few times. So I think that’s important here just to frame up what a leader is and what we are aspiring to be, as salespeople, in front of our audience of buyers.

 

Will Barron:

And the other thing, and I want to just get clarification from you here. When we ask a question like, “What is your goals?” Are we keeping it an open-ended question like that? Or are we asking a more close ended question of, “What are your goals with your marketing this year with this range of products that I also happen to sell?”

 

The Differences Between a Leader and a Manager in Sales · [09:41]

 

Deb Calvert:

Yeah, those are two very important questions. I’m going to start with the first one, because people often misunderstand this very important thing. Managing and leading are not the same. There are lots of managers who have authority. You to do what they say if you want to keep your job. That’s not leadership. Ideally a manager and a leader are the same person, but it doesn’t always work that way. Leadership happens at every level and in every kind of a relationship. And leadership is, as I said, it’s to guide, whereas manage the word origin there means to handle. I’ve got to get today’s work done today. So that puts leaders more often in the longer term and managers in the shorter term. And I don’t mean this to sound disparaging to managers, both leaders and managers are important, but if you don’t have a title of manager and you’re working with, for example, a buyer where you have no authority, you can still lead. So yeah, really, really good clarification there.

 

Comparing the Effectiveness of Open-ended Versus Closed Questions in Sales Conversations · [10:43]

 

Deb Calvert:

The other question is a good one. A broader versus a more narrow question. And I do strongly recommend, as counterintuitive as it may sound, because it will feel like it’s going to take longer, but I strongly recommend, you start with that broader approach. What are your goals for the year, period? What are your goals for your legacy? What are your goals for your team? These are all bigger questions. They have nothing at all to do with your product. They have nothing at all to do with marketing or positioning or branding. Later, right? Later that question will be fine. But we had started talking about how do you open up the conversation and reposition yourself so that people will willingly choose to follow you. Will stick around with you and take the call with you.

 

“Let’s say you’re a media rep. If you ask, “What are your goals for your marketing?” If you’re selling some sort of technology, “What are your goals for your user experience? What are your goals for your tech support?” If you ask it in a very narrow way, it becomes too quickly about you and about what you sell. But when you ask it in the broader way, you immediately tap into whatever truly matters to that individual. And then you’re talking their language and you’re showing them that you care about what matters to them.” – Deb Calvert · [11:40] 

 

Deb Calvert:

And let me go ahead and explain and why. When we ask very narrow questions, let’s say you’re a media rep. If you ask, “What are your goals for your marketing?” If you’re selling some sort of technology, “What are your goals for your user experience? What are your goals for your tech support?” If you ask it in a very narrow way, it becomes too quickly about you and about what you sell. But when you ask it in the broader way, you immediately tap into whatever truly matters to that individual. And then you’re talking their language and you’re showing them that you care about what matters to them. And you’re much more likely to be in that space of tapping into what they truly value. That’s where you motivate them and inspire them and get their attention and cause them to think about why they ought to spend more time with you.

 

How to Leverage Open-ended Questions to Spark Buyer Curiosity and Drive Sales Conversations · [12:36] 

 

Will Barron:

I feel like if someone asked me a more open-ended question, especially the top of a conversation, I’m more likely to go, “Oh,” and take a step back and actually think about the answer as opposed to, “I’m not interested in that,” which is obviously the response that a lot of sales people will get as soon as they do manage to jump on the phone or so on, because the buyer probably feels like they’re being sold out, influenced. And I feel like, yeah, as you were saying that, Deb, I feel like I’d be going, “Oh, maybe I need to think about my goals and write this stuff down. And hopefully this person can give me some insights.” That’s the change in dynamic that I would feel in that conversation.

 

Deb Calvert:

It is. And I always appreciate how practical you make the conversations. But I’m going to go a little impractical here for just a moment because I think it’s so important for the mindset piece of this. And I’m going to look away from you because I have a quote that I cut out of a newspaper something like 30 years ago. And I have my file organiser. I had taped it on there, and so I can keep that file organised there for this quote, but I want to make sure I quote it very, very quickly. I mean, very correctly. And the quote is from a guy named Daniel H Burnham. It says, “Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men’s blood. Make big plans, aim high in hope and work.”

 

Deb Calvert:

Okay. So what does this have to do with what we’re talking about? Well, it is the same thing. It’s this bigger everything. Bigger plans, bigger ideas, bigger hopes and dreams. That’s where people get inspired. We talk about the little stuff. Let me illustrate it this way. Dr. Martin Luther king Jr., he said, “I have a dream.” And his whole speech, what people remember is the dream. He didn’t say, “I have a list of measurable objectives.” And it would not have had the same magic if he had said it that way.

 

Deb Calvert:

It’s okay to indulge in that, especially early on. That’s what captivates people and gets their interest. That’s where you are going to be able to drive a conversation, a relationship, a sale, is if you first get people on board with you. Get them in the car with you and then invite them to navigate, but stay in the driver’s seat.

 

How to Nudge a Sales Conversation Forward · [14:55] 

 

Will Barron:

So what do we do then, Deb, next? Hopefully the buyer now has, they’ve come out with some spiel and they’ve poured their heart out to us, and we’ve got a gist, an idea now of both the business objectives and perhaps some of their own personal objectives as well. And how they align and intermingle. How do we, considering the conversation here is about being in control of the conversation. How do we then nudge the conversation forward rather than just doing essentially psychoanalyst on this individual and charging them some kind of psychiatry fee after the fact?

 

Deb Calvert:

I’m going to give you and your listeners the very best example that they can relate to. And then I’ll break it down a little bit. You do this really well. Anybody who listens to your podcast, without perhaps knowing it, already has the answer to that question you just asked. This is how you do it. You pay attention to what Will’s as the driver of the conversations with the guests he brings onto his podcast.

 

Will Barron:

Let me just say this, Deb, and to interject here. I have no idea what you’re going to say. So whatever I’m doing, I’m doing it by accident and inadvertently.

 

“This is what smart sellers do. They learn, they adapt and they follow some of their better instincts. They also are humble enough to do those adjustments along the way.” – Deb Calvert · [16:25] 

 

Deb Calvert:

Well, you’re paying attention to your sum of your good instincts, and you’ve probably learned along the way. I bet if you went back and listened to some of your early podcasts, you might even be horrified. I know I was when I listened to some of the first podcasts or sales calls that I had a chance to play back. But this is what smart sellers do. They learn, they adapt and they follow some of their better instincts. They also are humble enough to do those adjustments along the way.

 

“First of all, they (good salespeople) don’t plan ahead for every single question that they’re going to ask. If you script your questions, you might as well not have your buyer in the passenger seat, navigating at all.” – Deb Calvert · [16:55] 

 

Deb Calvert:

So what a good salesperson or a good podcaster or a good friend who converses with you, what we do in conversations that takes us step by step to a place where we’re leading in a place where we’re using questions effectively. They do a couple things. First of all, they don’t plan ahead for every single question that they’re going to ask. If you script your questions, you might as well not have your buyer in the passenger seat, navigating at all. In fact, that’s exactly how they’ll feel. They’ll feel completely marginalised and they’ll feel like it’s very robotic and generic. And it’s very disinteresting to them.

 

Deb Calvert:

Many podcasters, to keep my comparison going here, many podcasters send a list of questions. In fact, you can tell, send the same questions to everybody who’s ever on their podcast. And I guess some guests actually are okay with that, or maybe even like it, because it helps them to feel more prepared. I think after that initial security blanket aspect of it wears off, they also eventually feel, and certainly listeners feel, that it’s a little bit boring, and they’re not really getting a full amount of information, and it doesn’t create opportunities for real, genuine, personalised, relevant, meaningful dialogue.

 

Deb Calvert:

Okay. So first thing is that they don’t ask scripted question. Second thing, it’s hard, but you listen. You listen to the answer for every question that you asked, and that’s a skill and it requires some skill building, but you’ll notice as you are listening, to Will, as an example of what I’m describing here. He doesn’t ask a question that’s unrelated to what I’ve said. Now, maybe sometimes you have to do that because maybe sometimes guests or buyers get way off course and you’ve got to rein them in with a question that’s different from what they’ve just said. But more often, your question is a natural one. It drills down around something that they’ve said it, but builds on what they’ve just said. For example, your question was, “Okay, that’s what we do first. Now tell us, Deb, what do we do next?” It’s natural for conversation to flow in that way.

 

Deb Calvert:

And the third thing is that as they’re listening, and as they’re drilling down, and as they’re creating this two-way dialogue that it’s a back and a forth, they also do advance the conversation. Will’s last question did a good job with that, too. And people are going to start to think we plan this, Will, because [inaudible [00:19:19], but we didn’t. But what I mean by advancing the conversation and building on the conversation and directing, driving, steering the conversation without being manipulative or rude in the way that you do it, is that you select out the pieces that are most useful to the goal, the destination that you want to reach. You don’t ignore the other important pieces. If I had said something very big, very emotional and took us on a different tangent, you’d have been okay with that. But since our topic is, how do you stay in the driver’s seat, and why is that important in a sales conversation, you extracted some of what I had said before and decided to emphasise that as we move forward.

 

Will Barron:

Okay, Deb, tell me this. What is your favourite food?

 

Deb Calvert:

Now there’s a tangent, right?

 

Will Barron:

[crosstalk [00:20:15] I was only joking. [crosstalk [00:20:16]

 

Deb Calvert:

Where’s he going with that? Even though it’s a fun question and I’m laughing as he asks it, I still had that [crosstalk [00:20:22]

 

Will Barron:

Well, it’s because you are listening, right? You are actively paying attention. And you’re right, I don’t send questions across. What I do is typical. We went back on forth. I like to have a headline and a place where we’re going to, essentially. And what I try and do in the podcast is, you highlighted it there and this is something I do consciously do, Deb. That is I try and break it down into steps. So at the end of the show, we can wrap it up with, here are the four steps to do X or Y.

 

Will Barron:

Now some podcasts, when you have someone who’s just got a really motivational story, sometimes the story’s good enough. But I even find when I interview those kind of people, we’ve had Olympic athletes on the show, I’ve had astronauts on the show, I’ve had UFC fighters on the show, I find that just throwing this story back up for the 17 [inaudible [00:21:11] time that week. And so I do try and break things up the best I can with them as well.

 

The Benefits of Separating Sales Conversations into Different Sections · [21:18] 

 

Will Barron:

But is that something that we should be thinking about in our sales conversations, that the conversation is in multiple parts and we know that we’re making progress, because we can say, well, we’ve gone from getting the big picture. Now we’ve narrowed things down to part B, C, D, E, and F is perhaps we ask the question, “Does it make sense to jump on board? Have another call? Bring in your partners?” Should we be thinking of a sales call that we’re trying to stay in control of as having separate sections?

 

Deb Calvert:

Absolutely. So we’re in the car, we’re driving to our destination, you’ve got to have things along the way that you’re checking off. Am I going the right way? Do I have enough gas? Am I able to make it or do I need to stop for the night? So that yeah, sure, sure. What I really like about this question is that it’s making me think about what the typical salesperson does that isn’t that. And having those criteria or those chapters worked out, I think that’s really smart.

 

Deb Calvert:

Too often, sellers make those checkoffs. Is this a qualified buyer? Did I hear a hint of any need? Like have they ever used or even heard about my product? And do they seem to be giving me a little smile or something that’s at least a little bit affirming, and then I’m going to be able to dive in. So we’re already doing this, but are we doing it in the right way? I love this question. Yeah. Yes. The answer is yes, people should do that.

 

“I believe that you have to open a relationship before you can ever close a sale.” – Deb Calvert · [23:05] 

 

Deb Calvert:

So that’s what they shouldn’t do. Let’s talk about what they should do instead, very much in a better way. So I believe, and you’ll find people who have different answers. I believe that you have to open a relationship before you can ever close a sale. So let’s call step one, that we’ve established enough rapport because of my very broad questions and my true interest in you and understanding what you value and where your head’s at right now. That’s the first thing. And it doesn’t have to take a long time. We know from all sorts of research on what causes people to trust each other and whatnot, that that can be built quickly. So you want to be effective and efficient using questions to get there.

 

Deb Calvert:

And then next as I’m narrowing down, I think the next thing is partially qualifying, but it’s not qualifying the way BANT or some other training out there would do it. That’s further down in the funnel, in my opinion. The next thing though, it’s going to feel a little bit like qualifying to you, but you don’t want it to feel that way to the buyer, but it is about now shifting the conversation, drilling down in the conversation to help them understand a little bit more about your product without you selling it.

 

Deb Calvert:

I call these in discover, I call these solution and example questions, and it’s about, what are your thoughts about, and tell me a little bit about the contrast between where things are now and where you want them to be. It’s enriching the story. It’s getting them to start selling themselves in a way, but it’s giving you tremendous more insight and you’ll pick up some things that qualify for you. Which parts of my product service will they want? Which ones don’t they want? And their storytelling as you invite some very broad information is going to serve you really, really well. So long as you’re listening and can pick up on it.

 

Will Barron:

I like this idea of contrast. Have you read, Nancy, I think it’s Nancy Duarte’s books on presentations.

 

Deb Calvert:

I have met Nancy. Now, I’m sure I’ve read her books because usually when I meet people, I like to read their books, but it’s not … I think I told you before, I read one or two business books every week. I used to read one a day. So tell me the names, maybe I’ll [crosstalk [00:25:15] or a key theme.

 

Will Barron:

I’ll link them all in the show notes. I’m getting a lot of value out of them. So I don’t typically read traditional sales books. Obviously, we’ve got yours on the desk here so I love that. But I tend focus on books around sales and I feel like I learn more from them that is then applicable to a sales role, because I think a lot of sales books point out the obvious and try and sell you on some kind of training on the back of it.

 

Will Barron:

But with that said, Nancy’s books, a big part of presentation techniques that she teaches is to contrast either this is what it was like and this is what it could be like, and future pacing people, or this is how things have always been done, this is how things could be done and going back and forth. And that’s how she reckons that. For example, she uses Martin Luther King’s presentation. She breaks it down and it’s here now there’s the problems, here’s the future, here’s things in the past, and going back and forth between all these different opportunities to contrast where we are right now, where we could be, if things go right where we could be, if things go wrong.

 

Will Barron:

And I find that’s really valuable in my own sales calls and the training that we do as well, Deb. As you use the storytelling, it starts to paint a real picture in the mind of the buyers, rather than saying our product is going to do X, Y, Z. We’re starting to paint this story in the buyer’s mind using contrast at this point in the conversation of, they think our product could do X, Y, Z, and if they don’t do anything, they think that the future is going to turn out this way.

 

Getting the Buyer to Buy Into Having a Conversation Before Asking Them to Buy · [26:50] 

 

Will Barron:

So how can we get the buyer to think about all of this themselves so we’re not putting words in their mouth by perhaps asking questions that allow this contrast and, and sharing of future, the different futures? How can we draw that out of the buyer so again, they’re painting the picture and we are listening to it, rather than us saying, we can do X and if you don’t do it, you’re going to get Y?

 

Deb Calvert:

I mean, and that is so smart because then you’re getting buy-in before you ever ask for the buy. It’s their idea, not yours. And in customer experience research, this is called, they’re participating in creating what they want. This is the E question in the acronym discover. I call it an example question because that’s what we’re after. And its purpose is to give people the same sort of experience that when you go to buy a new car, that experience is that they put you behind the wheel of the car. They’re so much in a hurry to get you to take a test drive because they know you’re going to smell the new car interior. You’re going to feel that lumbar support. You’re going to love how the cup holder’s positioned. It’s going to be so different from what you’re driving right now in positive ways.

 

Will Barron:

Deb, I think me and you buy cars differently, if you are really interested in lumbar support and cup holders.

 

Deb Calvert:

That’s the purpose of the test drive. And then afterwards, yes, they’re going to pop the top and they know you’ve already done a lot of research about, you want to V8 in this one, you had that power as you accelerated. Yeah. Yeah. But yes, I’m very much about comfort in my recent purchase.

 

Will Barron:

Sorry to interrupt you there.

 

Deb Calvert:

That’s great. There’s the age difference coming through. I even like car colour, Will. So yes, so you can’t do that unless you sell a product where they get a hands on demo. You’ve got to do it in their mind instead. And a question about contrast will help do that. So you ask a question like, “Tell me the difference between the experience that you’ve been having with your X, Y, Z, and what you would consider the ideal experience.” You get them to begin imagining that.

 

Deb Calvert:

Or you give them a little bit of a something like, “What would it be like for you if, instead of having to have somebody on your team do transcription, you could have 95% accurate transcription with AI. What would that be like for you?” And then of course the follow up is, how important would that be to you? You want to know and magnify that value. So, whatever it is that you have to offer and that you know is likely going to be important, you’re asking them to give that contrast and be able to fully feel and experience it as much as they can.

 

Will Barron:

So at the top of the conversation, Deb, we’ve built some rapport, we’ve asked these big open ended questions, the buyer went, “Oh, this is not what I was expecting from this call.” And there’s a tonne of value, and perhaps we’re helping them refine what their goals are, to a certain extent on the call, then we start to compare and contrast what life would be like hitting those goals and not hitting those goals. And hopefully at some point our product or service is now nearly in the picture, even though we’re not perhaps talking about it directly. How do we then stay in control of the conversation?

 

How Salespeople Can Stay in Control of the Conversation and Prove to the Buyer That Their Product Will Fix Their Pain Points · [30:10] 

 

Will Barron:

And perhaps at this point, I don’t know how many minutes we are into the conversation at this point, but how do we start to perhaps steer it towards, to gauge a reaction of whether they think that our product is suitable for them from a perspective of ignoring banter. We assume that most of that has been ticked off, because we’ve done our research before picking up the phone. So we know that they’re somewhat qualified. How do we steer them towards now taking that future reality that they want to move towards and having our product as perhaps the bridge to help them get there.

 

Deb Calvert:

Let me pick up two threads and then I’ll answer that question. So you listed a lot of benefits that are really important that we’re building up here, but you left one out that’s especially important. And that is, as they’re telling these stories, as they’re making these contrast, you’re also overcoming any price objection that would’ve come automatically later on. When they ask about price, it’s going to be offset by all this value that’s been building up. And it really is true, this actually happens. So you’re also supplanting price as the primary consideration in their mind. Okay.

 

Deb Calvert:

And then the second thing you said was who knows how long we are into this conversation by now. So I want to offset that and let people know that this is actually a much more efficient way of selling. It’s effective. You’re going to get more yeses more often. You’re going to have a longer conversation right now, but not hours like you might be imagining that it would be. Purposeful, good, well crafted, good sequence in your questions, makes everything happen faster, ultimately, including the yes, the advancing of this sale to a yes.

 

Deb Calvert:

Okay. So how do you do it? So now we have gotten them to tell us what their goals are. We’ve gotten them to tell us these contrasts between current state and desired future state. We’ve gotten some indication of value. What matters most? Why does it matter? How important is it? And now that we’re moving down this narrowing, we’re at the place now where we’re bridging between probably value that’s on the table and the decision process. We need to understand it and begin getting them to think about it. so we’ve asked some questions like what are your thoughts about, and what would that mean to you? And give me the difference between. So value again.

 

Deb Calvert:

So you told me what’s most important to you is. What’s it going to take internally for you to make that happen? And what will your primary criteria be as that decision’s made, for you and for others? And how is my product stacking up here as you evaluate it based on these criteria? And what have we not talked about that would seal the deal and make that happen for you and for others inside the company? Okay. So, now we’re in the realm of selling, but still we’re getting information and it’s the buyer who is navigating as you steer with your questions.

 

How to Drive a Sales Conversation into a Close · [33:01]

 

Will Barron:

So what’s the final step in this process? I feel we’ve got four steps so far, Deb. Is it always to ask a question like, does it make sense to do X, Y, or Z, and get a definite yes. Or is the opportunity to go back to open-ended questions? What was the end goal with all of this process?

 

“But at some point, you need to know yes or no. Being caught up in endless continuances and maybes doesn’t serve you or them well at all.” – Deb Calvert · [33:45] 

 

Deb Calvert:

Yeah. We do want to get to a place where there’s a yes or a no. It may be in the same sales call, it may not be. It depends on the complexity of your sale, of course. So, we’ve been sort of talking about the discovery process at this point. For certain kinds of products, you could bridge that straight into a close. For others, there are going to be more meetings and demos and timeframes that come into play. But at some point, yes, you need to know yes or no. Being caught up in endless continuances and maybes doesn’t serve you or them well at all.

 

Will Barron:

So is it fair to say then that we are starting with big, audacious questions and then slowly, perhaps even get more strategic with the questions and they’re getting narrow and more closed as we go towards the end of the conversation?

 

“They’re getting more narrow in focus and more about you and the need as it does now fit your product. So the big need is, in my company we have committed to. And my role in that is that I’m responsible for. And that means I’m going to need. And your product does. And now let’s make it happen.” – Deb Valvert · [34:10] 

 

Deb Calvert:

Yeah, absolutely. They’re getting more narrow in focus and more about you and the need as it does now fit your product. So the big need is, in my company we have committed to. And my role in that is that I’m responsible for. And that means I’m going to need. And your product does. And now let’s make it happen.

 

Will Barron:

That could be on a poster, Deb. Literally what you just said then should be on a poster as a general framework for people as they’re on conversations to prompt them to move down this funnel of questioning.

 

Deb Calvert:

Well, you call it the question sequence funnel and discover questions, but you’re right, I need to revise it because that was better than what’s in the book.

 

Will Barron:

I would have a poster like that. It’d be something that you could even have it on the desk sitting here. But that would be a cool thing to have, especially if you’ve got your little office cubicle, especially if you’re doing inside sales. Something like that could be a real subtle, useful prompt for people to just subconsciously encourage them to keep moving forward and making progress and staying in control of the sale.

 

What To Do When You’re trying To Be a True Inspirational Leader But the Prospect is Still Treating You Like a Pesky Salesperson · [35:19]

 

Will Barron:

There’s two things I want to quiz you on to wrap up the show, Deb. One is completely off topic so I’ll save that for in a second. But what do we do when we are trying to be the true inspirational leader? We’re trying to help our buyer navigate us towards a place where everybody wins. We deliver our product, they get an incredible service that far outweighs in the value that they get, that the price that they’re paying for it. What do we do when the buy still is retreating, goes like a pesky salesperson, even though we are pretty much doing everything right, what kind of questions can we ask that are perhaps a hard restart that allow us to re-grab hold of any control that we possibly can?

 

Deb Calvert:

I was listening to some chorus recordings for a newer client last week, and I loved this example. So I’ll give you a fresh new example. This seller had done a lot of things right. And there were two buyers, this was all in a Zoom meeting and it was the third or fourth meeting. And it was still very much the buyer having all those stereotypes in mind, literally saying things like, “I know that’s probably going to work out better for you commission wise, but,” and always assuming the worst kinds of statements that were not deserved by this particular seller.

 

Deb Calvert:

And so finally the salesperson, I mean, I don’t think this was made up or acting at all, but the seller eventually just said, “Okay, look, I work really hard at not being like every stereotypical sales person out there, and you’re giving me a really hard time. Am I ever going to be able to earn your trust and be viewed differently?” And he just, and he didn’t say anything else. He just like froze and looked into the camera at the end of that. And I watched the buyer get really, really uncomfortable. And the other person, the other buyer who hadn’t been acting that way was so embarrassed.

 

Will Barron:

[crosstalk [00:37:12] watching, yeah?

 

Deb Calvert:

Yeah. And it broke things down. And the buyer acknowledged, yeah, I have been kind of hard on you and maybe that’s not fair. And would you give me another chance? I’m sorry I was acting that way.” I don’t know if it’ll work in every situation, but a moment of real, that came from a place of integrity, I think, and a moment of just real … It requires confidence. It requires leadership to do something like that. And it was effective.

 

Be Assertive, Not Aggressive and Take Control of a Sales Conversation · [37:45] 

 

Will Barron:

Is there a level of assertiveness here that … We’re doing the job. We’re doing the job the best we can. We’re being professional. We’re trying to help the buyer. It’s going to be clear if you’re trying to just rip someone off. It’s going to be clear through your subconscious, body language, and all that stuff that we can talk about in another episode. We’re coming from the place here that hopefully the audience do have integrity what they do. They’re listening to a show like this, right, because they want to improve their professional skills. How much of this is being, I guess, how can I put it? How much of it is being just candid and open and honest with the buyer versus being assertive and saying, “Hey, look, you are not being professional here. And I’m trying my best.”

 

Deb Calvert:

I do think that assertiveness is appropriate. Let’s make sure everybody understands that assertiveness means equally that my needs are being met and your needs are being met. Different from aggressiveness where I begin to trample on your needs because I’m so forceful with my own. So it requires this balance, which in essence is what we’ve been talking about all along. I ask questions. I listen. I have an interest before I try to be interesting. There is some give and take here.

 

Deb Calvert:

But too many sellers do the other extreme and they’re so deferential. So there’s aggressive, there’s assertive, and then there’s passive and you’re not supposed to be passive. That’s where you’re not in the driver’s seat and you’re expecting the buyer to do their job and yours too. So assertive is a very good summary of what we’ve been talking about here.

 

Will Barron:

I’m glad you said that, Deb. And the reason I asked that is we’ve got thousands and thousands of sales assessments over at salesman.org now of our sales code assessment. And we find that the majority of salespeople are either passive or aggressive on the as assessment, and the accuracy of assessments is a bit wishy washy with very specific terms like this.

 

Will Barron:

But there is clear correlation between the people who drive the most revenue and who hit the most commissions each year being slap bang in the middle of being assertive. So you kind of framed it up the way that we frame it up in our training as well. And it makes total sense, right? Because if you are unable to ask for the business and your needs are getting met and their needs are getting met, nothing’s going to happen if you try and bully someone. They’re going to have buyer’s remorse, even if they do buy, and you’re going to have people complaining, customer service are going to get hounded.

 

Will Barron:

And of course, if you’re on the far end of all this, and you’re just passive and you are in the backseat while someone else is navigating and driving. You’ve got no control and you’ve no idea. If you’re in the backseat, you’re not doing your job right because you’re not adding any value to the conversation. You’re just there along for the ride.

 

Deb Calvert:

Yeah, it’s true. That’s not leadership and that’s not what buyers want. So I want to underline that everything we’re talking about, it’s not just about what works in selling, it’s about what buyers want from you. So feel emboldened by that.

 

Actionable Tips For Keeping Multiple Conversation Threads in Your Head and Add Value to a Sales Conversation · [40:50] 

 

Will Barron:

I’ve got one final question, Deb, and this is something that it’s totally left field and nothing to do with anything we’ve talked about so far, but it’s a skill that you’ve done about five times in the interview so far, because I’ve asked some pretty average questions and you’ve pulled them back from their brain and given really good answers. But you’re very good at holding seemingly multiple threads of a conversation in your head at once and multiple times, you’ve said, “Well, I’ll answer this then I’ll answer this.” And by the time you’ve answered the first part, I forgot the second part that I asked you originally. And you’ve got all this wrapped up in your brain. And is there any strategies to that? Is there anything you are doing to keep track of all these different threads of conversation? Because I feel that could be really valuable to sales people, especially if you ask a big open ended question and the buyer comes at you with seven different opportunities for you to continue the conversation, keeping track of three or four of them, I find personally, is difficult.

 

“It is not true that buyers are going to feel like you’re not listening to them or that you’re not making eye contact with them if you take notes. In fact, buyers like it, they feel important when you take notes.” – Deb Calvert · [41:48] 

 

Deb Calvert:

Well, I think note taking helps. So, if the next thing I tell you seems daunting, just know that you can take notes. It is not true that buyers are going to feel like you’re not listening to them or that you’re not making eye contact with them if you take notes. In fact, buyers like it, they feel important when you take notes. So it’s a good thing and it will help you track those different threads that you want to respond to.

 

Deb Calvert:

The second thing is that it’s a discipline and it all goes back to what we have talked about. It’s about listening. So I’ll provide one tip since that’s what you’re asking for. And I love how you always get things to the practical level. One way that you can listen at this level and retain more information is by dumping the other stuff out of your head. Be confident enough not to be worried that if you don’t respond right now, which means you might interrupt, or if you don’t respond because it’s fresh in your mind and your passion is going to come out if you answer that one thing right now. Those are fallacies.

 

Deb Calvert:

So to dump things out of your mind means that you will not be trying to craft your answer. Have confidence that it’s going to come. You made it a little note about it mentally or on paper. The answer’s going to come when the time is right. Listen for what else is there.

 

“Don’t listen for what’s similar. It will make you rude and it will make you narrowly focused. Listen in every conversation you ever have for what’s not familiar, for what’s different, for what is coming out a little unlike what you already expected or are used to. That’s where the real gold is because that’s where you get to learn more and it’s where you’re going to be dignifying the other person who’s speaking.” – Deb Calvert · [43:15] 

 

Deb Calvert:

And the other part of that tip is different from what most people do. We mostly listen for and respond to what’s similar or what’s immediate. That’s why we interrupt because we think we have to catch the one thing before another thing gets piled onto it. Not true. Don’t listen for what’s similar. It will make you rude and it will make you narrowly focused. Listen in every conversation you ever have for what’s not familiar, for what’s different, for what is coming out a little unlike what you already expected or are used to. That’s where the real gold is because that’s where you get to learn more and it’s where you’re going to be dignifying the other person who’s speaking.

 

Will Barron:

That makes total sense. I love that, Deb. And just for context, I know the audience will get to see it here. So I start off the show with a few questions, just so I’m on track, and then I will write down BANT. Make it clear, choose to follow, questions, leader, navigate, objections. So objections are something that I wanted to come back to, but we’re not going to have time to come back to. So that’s how I try and keep track of this.

 

Will Barron:

But I was just amazed the way you were doing a better job of it than me. I don’t think you’re writing notes there. I think you’re just doing it all mentally, and that’s a real skill. Clearly you’re just crushing it and you’re an expert in asking questions and answering them. You’re proving that the case study is perfect of yourself, Deb. But I just thought that was interesting for the audience as a little tidbit to add on the end of the show.

 

Parting Thoughts: Deb’s Books and How to Get in Touch with Her · [44:30] 

 

Will Barron:

And with that, Deb, I guess the next step very clearly for the audience is to buy both the books that we’ve mentioned so far. So tell us more about both of them and where we can find more about you as well.

 

Deb Calvert:

Well, Discover Questions Get You Connected is now seven years old. It continues to show up on lots of lists like HubSpots, they curate ratings from Amazon. And more recently it was on another list of top 10, top 20 most highly sales books of all time for sales people. Things like that. I’m very proud of that book. It’s based on research with buyers and observations of calls with sellers in the field or on the phone. So it’s sounds very wonky and academic, but hopefully as most of those reviews will tell you, it’s also very much about examples and clear ways that you can improve your question asking and rapport building skills.

 

Deb Calvert:

And the other book also based on buyer research is called Stop Selling and Start Leading. It’s based on a body of research with B2B buyers. It gave them choices of behaviours that they could have in sellers and ask them if they would like those and if they’d respond by buying. And it turns out that the ones they like are behaviours more often associated with leaders than with sellers, hence the conclusion that you want to be a leader as you’re working with buyers.

 

Will Barron:

Perfect. And I want to [inaudible [00:45:49] both available on Amazon. I link to them both in the show note to this episode as well. Deb, just plug your homepage whilst we’re at it, and tell us a little bit also about the sales experts channel.

 

Deb Calvert:

Okay. So my company is called People First Productivity Solutions, peoplefirstps.com. Tonnes of stuff there. I like to give stuff away. And the sales experts channel is my pet project, my give back to the sales community, where I invite lots of other sales experts around the world. We’ve had over 300 writers, authors, bloggers, podcasters researchers, thought leaders come in and contribute inspirational and educational content. We’ve got 70,000 people over there. So if you’re not there, you might find that there’s a tonne. The salesexpertschannel.com.

 

Will Barron:

Perfect. Again, I’ll link to all this in the show notes over at salesman.org. [inaudible [00:46:38] Deb. And thank you again. I really enjoy, I don’t say this to everyone and usually I would say this off air after the show, but I really enjoy chatting with you. There’s never a question that I can’t ask you. And without Deb, thanks again for the insights and for joining us on the Salesman podcast.

 

Deb Calvert:

Thank you, Will.

 

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