If you work the top of the funnel, it’s easy to believe that you don’t need to build a deep rapport with your prospects. Once you get your foot in the door, your job is to hand them off to another representative, so building more than a superficial relationship may seem unnecessary. However, today’s guest believes that sales is all about the human connection, no matter where you are in the sales process.
David Fisher is a coach, speaker, and the author of a number of books. In today’s episode, David is discussing his book called Hyper-Connected Selling: Winning More Business by Leveraging Digital Influence and Creating Human Connection. Listen to the conversation to hear about why David believes that human connection matters at all parts of the funnel, how to build rapport in just a minute or two, and why face-to-face communication matters so much.
- Whether the human connection is necessary at all stages of the pipeline
- Why the human connection matters even at the top of the funnel
- How you can build rapport in just one or two minutes
- How you can build on your own natural traits
- The importance of face-to-face communication
- How to get started practicing the concepts in David’s book
Marylou: Hey, everybody. It’s Marylou Tyler. This week’s guest is a bit of an anomaly, I think but so, so important. David Fisher is here today. He is an author of eight books on sales and all things sales, sales skills, poly sales mindset, sales process. He’s a speaker, he’s an author, he’s a coach.
Today, we’re going to talk about the human connection and what that means. Now, most of the listeners for this podcast are top-of-funnel. Meaning we’re beginning conversations, we’re trying to get our foot in the door, we may build a little bit of rapport, but we hand them off to a quota carrying rep, or you may be a person that does all roles, and you have to build a relationship. One of my faux pas, David, is that I thought, really when we’re top-of-funnel, we don’t have to necessarily build these relationships, we can get enough to get by, but it’s like duty dating. We try to date as many people as we can to get someone really interested in us, and then we immediately pass them off to someone who actually is going to get engaged and get married. But from what I’m hearing from you, that may not be the case. I would love for you to talk about, first of all, your new book and also talk about this whole human connection. And is it used, needed, necessary at all stages in the pipeline, or are there areas where it makes more sense?
David: Well, thank you for giving me a question to start out that we could talk about 19 hours. That’ll be fun to unpack. I think the very short answer is yes, no matter what part of the sales process, you are engaged in. The ability to connect with your prospect with your potential customer, as a human has gone from a nice-to-have to a need-to-have. And I really think that it stems from a lot of the changes we’re seeing in technology and in the world that we’re living in right now which is very different. You mentioned my latest book, Hyper Connected Selling, which is really looking at this landscape where we have to manage both a digital presence and an offline presence. We have to be able to connect on a digital level, but also as a human; as an empathetic person.
I really think that because technology has enabled our buyers, our prospects to have more information than ever before, and at the same time, have more demands on their attention than ever before. Even if you’re a top-of-funnel person, even if you’re doing that first initial outreach, you have to be able to connect on a human level with that person because if not, they’re not going to give you any attention, they’re not going to give you that time. That’s why I think that no matter what your role is in that sales cycle, spending a little time to think about, “Wait, how do I connect with people? How do I build an empathetic relationship? How do I build that rapport?” Yeah, you might not become best friends with somebody, but you have to in, I feel a minute or two, build that old school know, like, and trust with your prospect. I think that in the past, we could get away with maybe not being as good at that. But in the next 5, 10 years, if you don’t have those skills, you’re going not only you’re not going to be successful, I think you’re going to be without a job.
Marylou: My first question regarding that, I have a ton of questions, but one that sprang immediately to mind is, we talked about technology, our reliance here in the States on email is just crazy dependence. It’s like a codependent thing going on right now.
David: You need a 12-set program.
Marylou: For email, you said, yes. But you mentioned one to two minutes. One to two minutes, is that one to two minutes on the phone? Is it one to two minutes in an email? Any type of touch? What do you do in one to two minutes that could build rapport?
David: I think there’s two parts to that answer. One is, I think when we look at engaging with a prospect, we have to look at it more than just a single touch point. I know that something that that you work on the idea of us being able to just call somebody out of the blue, and not only get their time and attention, which is hard enough as we know, but also then to create a meaningful connection, and then get them to take action. I mean, that’s hard. We do have to put into place processes around, sales cadence, for example, and having email touches and phone touches, and social media comes in, and social selling, I think, is important to make sure you’re having a presence on a lot of these digital platforms.
But then I do think when you actually, let’s say, get that conversation with someone, yeah, it only takes one or two minutes for us to decide. I think it actually takes less than that for us to decide if we actually like a person and we want to continue the conversation. You used the dating analogy before, if you’ve ever seen or know someone who’s experienced speed dating, I actually tried that once, way back in the day before I was married. And what was really interesting is you can actually decide pretty quickly, “Do I want to spend more time with this person?” in a minute or two. And that being said, I think that there’s some skills required to be successful in that. And maybe my point is, I think we need to start putting focus and attention on our sales teams and helping them develop these skills. Or if you’re a producer out, doing the work every day, making sure you’re improving your skills. Again, if you just have a routine job, I can replace that with technology. But I can’t replace that human empathy with a with a bot.
Marylou: Right. The technology helps us with our workflow, it keeps us consistent, it is the cure-all for things, so they don’t fall through the cracks because you think top-of-funnel again, we’re working with a lot of records, we think of our speeding plates on our fingers, on our toes, on our heads, those are all segmented, sequences that we’re trying to figure out, “Okay, where are we in our touch sequence?” we’ve got a lot of juggling to do at top-of-funnel. We can rely on technology to help us with the touch counts and making sure we’re keeping in touch. What we can’t have it do for us is to create that human connection. What we do we get the ability to speak with somebody or we do have a reply to an email or a social touch.
In your books, are there just certain human traits that we can focus on? Because for me personally, I am super curious. My kids get so embarrassed at me when we’re in the airport because I love to go up to people and like, “What do you do? What kind of work you’re doing?” I’m so very curious. Are traits like that? Are there certain behavioral traits that if I’m sitting here thinking, “How can I do this?” Or, “What should I rely on about me?” Are there certain inherent traits that we have that tend to open up the doors a little bit better for top-of-funnel? Or get them to trust us to go that next step if we’re middle-of-funnel? Does the book talk about of things like that, of how we can take our already existing, already have born, inherited traits, and expand on those?
David: Yeah, absolutely. Your curiosity has definitely been a boon I’m sure throughout your career. I do talk about the power of curiosity. Actually, I think you can learn curiosity or at least learn the process of curiosity. I talk about it too like how the next question. It’s got a TM after that, so you know it’s important, right?
Marylou: Of course.
David: It was actually something I learned more on the networking relationship building side that I’ve transitioned over to sales. It works really well. The idea of being curious, but we have a human habit when we ask a question, somebody gives us an answer, we tend to respond with the declarative sentence. If I say, “Where did you go to school?” You go, “I went to school XYZ.” I go, “Oh, I went to school ABC.” and then it stops. We don’t have the […].
David: In that very natural, very normal thing, whereas one thing it teaches us the idea of, “Okay, when you get an answer to the question, ask the next question based on that response.” It takes a little bit of practice to be able to do that. But if you say, “Oh, you went to school ABC. What do you major in? Oh, you’re biology? Why did you choose that?” It could be as simple as, “When did you move to the area here?” Oh, five years ago? Where did you move from?” It’s actually something great for parties if you don’t know people because you make friends really quick.
I go back to the old Dale Carnegie quote, “You can make more friends in two months being interested in other people than you can in two years getting people interested in you.” I think the idea of curiosity, that really stems from this idea of empathy. It’s a word that gets thrown around a lot right now. But what empathy really is the ability for us to look at another person and in our minds, we are able to understand what they might be thinking or feeling based on their facial expressions, based on their tone of voice, based on language they use. It’s such a way human have big brains because we don’t have huge brains to figure out how to build rocket ships. We have that because we had to build to develop social cohesion because it helped save us from predators, it helped us get food. That’s thousands, thousands, thousands of years of developing those skills.
One of the things I think successful salespeople need to be able to do these days is go, “How am I face-to-face interaction skills with a human being?” You talk about the fact that we’re addicted to email. Email has it’s point in the sales process but in the end, we have to communicate face-to-face with other people. Because again, facial expressions, tone of voice, language that we use, expressions—all these things have really important communication impacts. If we can’t pick up on them, we’re going to miss out.
We all had a prospect say one thing to us and we know that they actually mean something completely different. We don’t know what but something in their voice. They said that they have to wait for next quarter, but they’re not totally buying into what they’re telling us. We don’t even know how we know that, but our brains can figure that out. Leveraging that can be really huge.
The other thing that I’ve talked a lot about is the idea of creativity because I think that salespeople are, at their core, creative. We don’t talk about that a lot, but we make things, we make something exist that never was. An ideal, an opportunity—something that wasn’t there, we make it. But creativity is a skill that can be practices and it can be learned. It’s really just about making a connection between two previously unconnected ideas. If you can actually go to your prospects and customers and make these connections for them and go, “Hey, you might not have thought that, you need to talk with our company because of XYZ problem but actually, we can solve that problem for you.” Let me give you a great case example of how that happened with another one of our customers and making that connection for them. I think curiosity, empathy, creativity, three things that haven’t been talked about in the last few decades in sales are becoming increasingly important.
Marylou: The term that’s driving me crazy is add value. It’s like everyone says, “Add value.” “So, what?” would be my response. It’s like, “What do you mean by that?” Is value empathy? Is value creativity? Or is value trying to persuade somebody to notice a gap between where they are now and where they should be with your product?
David: I totally agree with you. Value is like love or success. Let’s define the term. What I think value is in this world where our prospects and buyers have all the information they need, if you really think about it, they don’t need you to give them any information. They could go and find it if they want to which is very different. Twenty years ago, sales people were the bringers of knowledge and information. We have the statistics, we had all the specs. They don’t need us anymore. They can get that with a quick Google search. Where I think we bring value now is actually helping our prospects parse through all of that information and actually make a better decision. Because the research show that the more information somebody has to make a decision, the more likely they’re going to get a bad outcome from their decision.
They’ve done this for example with stock investing. That they’ve done […] where people have more information about the stocks actually make less money; they get lower returns. The human brain just—we can’t process that much information. If you as a seller can go in there with your creativity, with your empathy, which builds trust which allows them to then listen to what you’re going to tell them and then share your creativity with them and go, “Hey, here are some possible solutions.” As you said, fill in that gap, that’s really where I think the value comes in. It’s basically helping them make the decision faster, helping them make it with less cost, or actually just helping them make a decision and not getting stuck. One of the biggest objections ever is, “We’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing.”
Marylou: Right. Overwhelm, I think in this day and age, is just horrific. If you go look online, yes, you can find bazillion things about whatever it is you’re looking for. But then you start building your own internal list like I do. My own internal matrix—my little comparative matrix—starts getting built inside my head, and then all of a sudden, I realize I have like 10 columns by 100 rows. It’s like, “How can you make a decision based on that?”
David: That’s exactly right. I use a B2C analogy that most of us have experience with to show this. If I’m buying a house, there’s a lot of complexity to it, you don’t do it often in your life, there’s some pretty big cost associated with it. Obviously, not only […] but also the time and energy. If you’re going to get it wrong, you’re going to be unhappy. A good real estate agent is not giving you a listing of all the house, they’re actually helping you figure out exactly what you want, and the best way of getting it, and making that process smooth.
You, as a seller, have to do the same thing. Whether that’s managing all the different people involved in the sales process, all the different decision-makers, whether it’s saying, “Hey, here’s all the information. Let me show you the three things that you should be looking at. Hey, have you asked this question about implementation? Is there going to be a learning curve?” Your CFO is just going to say, “Hey, what you have is fine for now. We’ll just do that for another two years.” Here’s how to respond back to that CFO. That management of the process I really think is where salespeople provide value.
Marylou: Definitely. Even though we do have the ability to find stuff, not everybody has the time to do thorough research. Even though yes, everything is out there for us, a lot of my clients have said to me, “Thank you so much for finding me. Thank you so much for contacting me. This is an initiative that we have to do but this is overwhelming the amount of information that we have to know about, and we don’t have the resources for it. We just can’t do it.”
David: Right, that’s value. You’ve helped them move forward in a way that they couldn’t do without you. I think that you have to do that more and more.
Marylou: Yeah, definitely. Are these three categories or area, if I wanted to get started really owning this, learning it, practicing it, is there a process—since I’m a process expert—is there a process that I would go about? Could I start some relative position in the pipeline? Are there certain spots where it works best, or do I focus on this next question, TM-type of thing where I’m actually getting something thrown at me and trying to practice answering with another question?
David: It does depend a little bit about where you are in your role? I think the idea of using something like the next question, […] everybody can do that, everybody can use that tool. Again, it works in your professional, it works in your personal life. I think the other place to really look at this is, again that idea of empathy, is looking at not only your sales cadence, but looking at how often am I talking to somebody either by phone or video or in person? And really focusing on practicing your skills in those environments.
I think for a lot of people, it also helps to get an honest opinion or at least an honest-ish opinion; usually from a colleague, a friend, not your friend and not your significant other because those two people actually won’t tell you the truth for different reasons, and saying, “Hey, I want to get better at building trust and building relationship with people quickly. What are two or three things that you noticed I’m really good at and what are two or three things that you think I could get better at as far as having a human conversation?” It can be challenging with these “soft skills” because we all inherently have them in some level, we just don’t think about them. The biggest thing is just bringing some awareness and some intention into it and then moving forward from there.
Marylou: I think for us, top-of-funnel, this will be a beautiful place for the map people. They call them the mapping call which we’re still doing today. I just worked on a project where we defined 32 marketing profiles within one organization and they were classic persona. It’s like, “Okay great, marketing, but where is that person?” The mapping call allows us to question various people who are in and around the bullseye of our desired guy in the middle, then we have people who directly influence him the next level out, and then the third level out from that or indirect. The indirect people, the warm referrals, I think would be perfect for practicing this type of roleplay of the next question because you’re talking to human sat various levels who may not know why you’re calling, but you get to understand how to implement this with a variety of different calls. If you do block time, now we’re talking 46-60 phone calls that you’re going to initiate, that you’re going to practice.
In our world, for those of you who do this type of business development, you’re doing this everyday so you’re going to get really good, really fast. Then you can start working and marching down the pipeline and adding the technique as you move further into the pipeline. I think that would be great for top-of-funnel folks to work on this in a roleplay environment.
David: I love it. One thing I would say too—I don’t know if this is a process thing or as much as a reminder—is that don’t be afraid of those human conversations when they come up. You don’t have to become best friends with somebody. We were sharing earlier about the idea of you talking to a prospect who had a listing about breweries and you enjoy breweries, you’re like, “Hey, tell me all about this beer you have.” I think sometimes we’re afraid of having that conversation or asking that question. Throughout my career I found out that if you can make that connection, the business becomes much, much easier. Just having that reminder, “Hey, I don’t have to run away from that. I can connect person-to-person…” and that actually again, makes for a stronger business call versus a weaker one.
Marylou: Yeah, definitely. David, thank you so much for joining us today. For everyone who’s listening, the book that were speaking about today is called Hyper Connected Selling. David, let us know how we can get ahold of you, where the book is being sold etc. We’re going to put a page together with all your stuff on it and that way they can connect when they’re not driving, or whatever you guys are doing right now as you’re listening to this, to get that book. Let us know, first and foremost, how we can get ahold of you, and what other books we think would be relevant that you’ve put together that we can take a look at especially now with the holidays coming up, lots of reading time, everybody’s getting their book list together. If you can give us a help there, that’d be great.
David: Absolutely. My website is the best place to start. Actually, we’ve got a landing page specifically for all of your fantastic listeners. That’s at davidjpfisher.com/podcast/predictable.
Marylou: Oh, perfect.
David: You can get all of my contact information there. You can also find me on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/iamdfish and on Twitter @dfishrockstar. I encourage your listeners to reach out, love to connect, love to talk to people, love to talk sales and how to use these skills to actually get better results. All of my books, there is this website that I think is […] legs called Amazon.
Marylou: Yes, I think we kind of know about that a little bit, yeah.
David: All my books are available there. You can just search Hyper Connected Selling by David Fisher. They’re on Kindle, audio, and paperback.
Marylou: Wonderful. Thank you so much for attending the podcast today. Also, for everyone listening, these are the skills, as David mentioned, we are in a very hyper automated environment right now, technology is available for practically everything but the human connection and the ability to leverage technology where it makes sense, and use your humanness in the rest of that spot is still something that we really need to work on.
Let’s face it, I don’t know about you guys, but I’ve seen just over the last nine months, people are starting to crave that human interface again. The in face-to-face is coming back, trade shows are becoming good again, so don’t lose sight of the fact that this is ebbing and flowing. We have multiple tools in our arsenal but our voice, our being, our person is at the core of all of that.
David, thank you so much again for hanging out with me today, very much appreciate your time.
David: I had a blast. Thanks for having me.