Episode 129: The Resurgence of Telephone Sales – Mark Hunter

Predictable Prospecting
Episode 129: The Resurgence of Telephone Sales - Mark Hunter
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Even with all of the social media and automated sales tools available, a one-on-one conversation over the telephone can still be a powerful selling tool, especially among consumers that value authenticity. The resurgence of the telephone call is one of the things that today’s guest talks about in this episode.

Mark Hunter is an author, speaker, coach, and consultant, as well as the Co-Founder of the Outbound Conference. Listen to the episode to hear what Mark has to say about what’s new in prospecting, the difference between informed calling and col calling, and how to get into the prospecting mindset.

Episode Highlights:

  • What’s new in prospecting
  • Why the telephone is making a resurgence and what Millennials have to do with it
  • Informed calling vs. cold calling
  • The place of automated follow-up systems in prospecting
  • Positive feedback that Mark has gotten about his book
  • Using social media for prep work
  • How to get into the prospecting mindset
  • The Outbound Conference


Mark Hunter

The Sales Hunter

High-Profit Prospecting

Outbound Conference


Marylou: We’re listening to Mark Hunter. Mark Hunter is one of my colleagues in the space. He is an amazing person. You all should go right over to the Sales Hunter which is his website. He’s an author, he’s a speaker, he’s a coach, he’s a consultant. He’s the author of High Profit Prospecting, one of the books that’s out there. Go to Amazon, it’s got a gazillion reviews, it’s a fabulous book. He’s also the cofounder of a conference called OutBound with three of his compatriots who you may also know. It’s in its third year now, right Mark?

Mark: Third year coming out of the tail end of April.

Marylou: Tail end of April, it’s grown leaps and bounds, they’re expecting over 1,000 people this year, and that’s with Jeb Blount, with Anthony Iannarino. I don’t know Mike. What’s his last name?

Mark: Mike Weinberg, he’s a great guy. He is out at Saint Louis, don’t use that against him. He doesn’t like the Rams anymore because he did move from Saint Louis.

Marylou: They moved back to my hometown.

Mark: Yeah they did.

Marylou: Yeah, well great. He is with us today to talk about prospecting. As I said, he is an expert in this area, he’s very passionate about it. You and I spoke probably a couple years ago, 2016. You’re one of my first podcast guests. What’s changed or not? Now you’re running all over the world. What’s new in prospecting so my folks who are listening to this can get some tidbits and some knowledge from you. What’s changed?

Mark: It’s amazing how everything goes in a circle. I think in 2016, everybody was getting hammered with a shiny object called social media and social selling. I think what’s interesting is we’ve come full circle with the telephones. We were having a really strong resurgence because people know. This is something I’m going to give a real shout out for millennials. Millennials have done a really good job of waking us all up that really when it comes down to is authenticity and transparency.

A millennial will not go to work for a company unless the management demonstrates authenticity and transparency. You’re not going to get that by way of social media. You’re going to get that by way of a conversation. I think what we’re doing is we’re coming right back to this human-to-human interaction which is what people crave, because there’s so much stuff out there confusing people and it’s the ability to create a relationship. Has it changed? No. It’s just kind of elevated itself to a higher level. I think the sales process has gone through just a circular motion over the last 100 years. The only thing that changes is the mediums with which people use. That’s it. It’s really the same thing, it’s just the mediums we use.

Marylou: You do have a lot of nice ways to learn more about a prospect in a setting where we can be more authentic. It’s really helping us understand where they’re coming from, what their day in life is like, what kinds of jobs are frustrating to them in their work day, or challenges that they’re experiencing. I think that that has been a blessing for the internet is having this information, not always accurate, but at least we have an understanding where to start the conversation and when to come into the conversation that we didn’t have in the olden days, when we were going to the library looking in research books to try to figure out what are prospects and our companies were doing.

Mark: Yeah, you hit on something very key there because people say cold calling is dead. Well, cold calling isn’t dead because there are some industries that very much works very cost effectively. If you think about it, we’ve moved to an era of really informed calling. I can google you and find out all kinds of information about you.

I actually think it’s easier today to prospect than it’s ever been. There is so much information out there and there’s so much noise. People are craving for, “Give me the truth. Give me a real authentic relationship.” There’s so much information out there that I can’t help but stumble across things so that I might be able to help you with. I admit, I’m a sales junkie and yes, Hunter is my real last name. I’ve never been more bullish on sales as I am today. I know there’s a lot of people that that just sends chills down their spine. But I truly do believe because people are craving for authenticity and transparency, like you said before, and the ability to connect with people to create trust and confidence. When you do that all on a foundation of integrity, you’re going to be successful and the customer is going to be successful.

Marylou: That’s a great point. I’m wondering what do you think about all of these automated follow up systems and their place in the prospecting area in the pipeline? Do you feel that they’re helping or hindering us?

Mark: I think unfortunately, they do quite a bit of damage. Now, they’re very beneficial, I’m not going to […], but you got to know how to use them. I can give somebody a power saw and in 10 seconds they can cut their fingers off or I can give them a power saw and then cuts a magnificent piece of wood. It’s knowing how to use the tool right and I think that that’s the problem. So many people buy the tool and try to force it into a solution that doesn’t work. You got to know what’s that challenge in finding the right tool.

Here’s a the other piece though, I’ve got nothing wrong with tools. It helps make me more efficient. My phone rang about an hour ago and we’ve all been trained to let it through the voicemail. But I thought it might be you, so I picked it up and there was this 5-second pause. Well, you know what it was. It was because it was being routed to a live person. It was a global sales call. That turns me off. We wonder why the society have this disdain towards the sales community.

Unfortunately, we have probably earned most strikes. I’m on a mission to try to correct that. I think sales is absolutely a very noble profession because my definition of a salesperson is the definition of a leader, to help you see and achieve what you didn’t think was possible. Think about that. That’s cool, that’s my trigger, that exciters me.

Marylou: We change lives.

Mark: We change lives. I’m sorry, I’m going to go on a rant here. So many people go, “I’d be successful in sales if I had something decent to sell,” or, “I’d be decent in sales if we just lowered our price every deal.” Shut up. Here’s what I can tell. It’s not what we sell, it’s why we sell. I want to be focused on the outcomes. I want to be focused on the outcome I’m going to help you achieve. That’s what I’m focused on. As long as I am zeroed-in on helping you achieve something you didn’t think was possible. That trips my trigger. That excites me. I want to get up in the morning. I want to go. I want to do it.

Marylou: Yeah. Everyone knows this, I have a note on my computer that every morning I look at it and it’s says, “How can I add more value?”

Mark: I love it.

Marylou: That’s my daily mantra.

Mark: Right.

Marylou: When you approach sales that way, you’re there to add value. You’re not buying people. You’re not being a pest. You’re adding value, which means your correspondence, your conversation is all value-driven conversation. It’s not about you, it’s about them.

Mark: You know what’s interesting about that? The high performing salesperson is like that, not just with salespeople, but with the barista they meet, with the wait staff at the restaurant, with everybody. The high performing salesperson is bringing value to every conversation, every interaction they have all the time. To me, sales is not a job, it’s not even a profession, it’s a lifestyle. You bringing value. What are you doing? You are bringing value and you’re helping people. That’s cool. That’s neat.

Marylou: Let’s focus a bit on the high profit prospecting. That’s one of the books that we all, at least I, have sitting on my desk. There’s reasons for that. I’m curious. It’s been out for a little bit now. What are the top two or three things in that book that people come up to you and want to give you the biggest hug, that you solved that problem for them? What do you hear most often about that book?

Mark: There are several. One of the big things is they say, “Thank you for telling me, ‘Don’t start what you can’t finish.’” It’s one of the big piece I talked about in the book, don’t start what you can’t finish. So many people just put, “Just fill up this pipeline,” and all you wind up with it is a sewer pipe. I say, “No, your objective is to make it very simple. Keep it simple.” I think the other thing that people come up to me and say thank you is the fact that you demystify sales.

You work with a lot of engineers and so forth, incredibly smart, brilliant people. I made the upper half of my class possible, but we’ll just leave it at that. I very much have to take the approach to sales that, I want to keep it as simple as possible. The whole thing is by keeping it as simple as possible. I’m able to just have a conversation because that’s ultimately what sales is. It’s a conversation just like what we are having today. That’s probably the second piece. The third piece—it has run to a few of my friends the wrong way—is social media has earned its way. It’s not about just, “Oh, let’s go spend 3-4 hours a day on social media and people will be the door to my path.” That’s not going to happen. I say social media has to earn its way. It may be as little as 10-15 minutes a day, that’s it. For as big of followers as I have—I’ve got over 300,000 followers on LinkedIn alone—I spend less than 30 minutes a day on social media. Period. Maybe five minutes of it is during the day, the rest of it is very early, 4:40.

When I see salespeople spending all day on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Instagram, oh please. You can’t take clicks and likes the the bank. I’m sorry, I’m going to go down another rant. I love meeting with salespeople, especially solopreneurs. I’m meeting a lot of solopreneurs. I’ll be coaching them and I say, “Let me see your goals.” They all have these social media goals. How many connection they want to have, how many followers they want to have. I go, “Oh please, you’re killing me.” They place more focus on that than they do with the number of phone calls. The number one metric we all need to have is CFT, customer-facing time. What is your customer-facing time every day? If that’s not on an upward trend year-in-year-out, something is wrong.

Marylou: Indeed. I think that the use of meaningful conversations are the ones that allow us to advance prospects into the pipeline towards a sales call to find opportunity, in my case which is where I suck. I like social media from the standpoint of prep work, of research, and I think it has its place there. But like anything, it’s a tool in your toolkit. As a sales executive, we have a number of different tools that are at our disposal in order to be able to have the most meaningful conversation we can possibly have with someone who is in need of what we sell.

Mark: Wow, that’s well said.

Marylou: To that end, I use whatever I can. We use whatever we can to get to that point.

Mark: Right. Here’s the question I love to ask salespeople. Does making sales calls jazz you or do they drain you? I love asking salespeople that question.

Marylou: What is the normal response to that? I’m curious.

Mark: I get about 20% of the time people say it jazzes them. About 80% of the time, they look at me and they go, “What?” and they go, “Drained.” But you know what’s funny though? That’s how you can tell who’s passionate about sales. I’m not saying every call goes well because we all have calls that go sideways. We all have calls where we think we’re calling a prospect and no, they are a suspect. One of the things I talk about in my book, and I talk a lot about whenever I’m keynoting in front of a group is, a lead. I got all these leads, that means they’re all heartbeats, and I always loved it.

For example, I’ve got a dog and my dog has got a heartbeat. But my dog is never going to buy anything from me. You got to qualify the lead. They’re a suspect until they become a prospect. They have to earn the right to become a prospect. So many salespeople keep garbage in their pipelines just to keep their boss happy. “Well, my boss is going to yell at me if I don’t have enough in my pipeline.” Got to line the bosses up right now and start slapping them.

Marylou: I was going to say I’m kind of sad that I’m retiring, but I’m happy I’m retiring. If I had more time, I would be spending most of my time educating sales managers and educating people who manage sales executives, because they’re so misinformed.

Mark: So bad because they measure things that are easy to measure. Just because you can measure it, doesn’t mean it’s worth measuring.

Marylou: It doesn’t make it meaningful.

Mark: Yeah, it’s painful.

Marylou: It is painful. It’s very painful and they’re getting the constant pushback. I was talking to someone just the other day about this topic and he’s like, “Marylou, give it up. It’s a monumental task to try to convince, reeducate, and turn this big ship around.” I’m like, “No, we cannot give up. We got to continue on,” but yeah, it’s pretty daunting. A lot of that, like we talked before we started about Howard in the University of Texas at Dallas, he has a sales program and that’s what we need more of. It’s that education of what metrics matter, what’s meaningful, and how this all fits together. We will use the term spray-and-pray, especially in prospecting. We know that’s not right, but there’s still a lot of that going on. Do you agree?

Mark: Right but go back 25 years ago. It was true again that if I could make 100 dial, I could have X number of conversations. I’m not going to discount that today.

Marylou: Right, there’s still a waterfall. I agree.

Mark: There’s still a huge […] but back then, that was the only measurement. We think we can do so much better because what are sales managers doing? All they’re trying to do is keep themselves out of trouble by serving up the ladder. This goes back to the birth of CRM systems. Why were CRM systems created? They were created because the CFO wanted to find a way to measure what’s going on in sales.

CRM systems were not created because salespeople woke up and say, “Let me have every moment of my day be measured for other people.” Wrong again and still to this day, when I see CRM systems, I go in and I work with sales teams and organizations on CRM analysis and implementing. It’s amazing. The finance department, the CFO or some representative from the CFO’s office has a seat at the table because they want to have their fingers in what they’re going to measure.

Marylou: Right, there to command and to control.

Mark: Yeah. Sales is an emotional game. You can have two people, give them the exact same script—I hate scripts but anyway—one could be incredibly successful because they have the right mindset, the other will be a dismal failure because of the mindset. It’s your mental state. I mean sales is a mental game. That’s why we’ve all seen people that go, “I can’t believe how successful they are.” You and I both know incredibly brilliant people that are dismal failures in sales because they over-analyze. They want to dissect everything. Okay, I’m sorry. I’m going way out of tangent.

Marylou: We definitely don’t want to go down that rabbit hole. But you’re right, I believe in a three-pronged approach to sales. Skill set is obviously one that we developed over time, then there’s the process itself, the mechanics of the work flows, and then the one you just brought up which is really important, which is very difficult to quantify, is mind set. How do you teach mindset to someone?

Mark: Well, our mindset is shaped by our historical behavior, and the environment which we come from. I kind of equate it to an example. When I speak of that, we all occupy a chair. Many of us just can’t get out of our chair because, “No, I can’t stand up.” For some reason we told ourselves we can’t stand up, “No, I can’t stand up.” I’m amazed at the number of salespeople who I work with, who struggle in sales because they just won’t make the requisite number of follow-up phone calls.

Marylou: Pretty amazing.

Mark: Yeah it is. Sales is not hard when you can follow everything Marylou Tyler says.

Marylou: Well, process-wise. I don’t profess to know the whole workings of the brain, although I do have a process for mindset that I use, which was borrowed from somebody along the way of 30 years doing this. We start with desire and then from there, we need to move to repetition. Then we do what Anthony talks about, which is the discipline of sales. From there, we get into this rhythm and routine. Then and only then can we move to habit, which is what prospect is. The mindset of a prospector is we’re very habit-based. More so than most of the sales roles, I would say, because of the fact that we’re typically working with a lot more records, trying to get to that first conversation where I work.

That is the latter, and I actually score my people when we’re going through the ramp of putting in an outbound system and we score on that. That’s all I know about mindset. I try to make it into a process so that I can see relative position of mindset where people are, and that helps me then say, “Great, you’re still trying to get repetition down. This is what we need to do from a workflow perspective with you so that you can get to the point where you’re having these skillful conversations right. We’re just trying to get you the do the daily work flow.”

Mark: Yeah.

Marylou: You are right in the thick of all that. I’m sure you have that magic wand of what to do with mindset more so than I would, because I’m trying to get everything into a quantified process. Something that we can actually put on a piece of paper.

Mark: I think the three things when it comes to the mind set, first of all, have to be disciplined with yourself. You have to be able to have the hard conversation with yourself, your discipline to yourself. Two, the discipline has to lead to an art of follow-up, follow through. And three, you cannot allow past activity to haunt future expectations. There’s that old line, well not out of the old line, it’s […] financial services, commercial you see. Past performance or past results are no indication of future performance. You can’t allow that phone call it just went south to upset you for your next five calls you’re going to make. You can’t allow that prospect, you can’t. You have to just shut it down, move on.

But that comes back to this first thing of discipline. Anybody who’s ran a marathon has gone through at least—unless you’re really weird—one level of training where they go, “I can’t go on. I can’t walk,” without the discipline of being focused saying, “I could do it.” That’s the only reason they continue and they play through that, “This is painful. This is difficult. How I’m going to rehab from this? How am I going to work through this?” to be able to run a marathon. Sales is not a sprint. Sales is a marathon.

Marlylou: Most definitely.

Mark: Yeah. Anybody can be successful for a day or two. I always say this. I see plenty of salespeople be successful for a quarter, that’s it. After that, sorry they’re done.

Marylou: Yeah, well my boss would start to say, “What have you done for me lately, Marylou? Great, you just closed this deal. What have you done for me lately?” It was constant for me. Let’s wrap this up by talking about the OutBound Conference. We’re into the third year now and 100,000 people you’re saying, or more are coming. What should people know about that event in case they want to catch it?

Mark: Yeah. outboundconference.com is the website. It’s a very unique conference. It’s totally pitch-free. There’s no selling from the platform. It’s 100% content driven, that’s a huge piece. It’s all around prospecting, pipeline productivity, that’s it. It’s Anthony, Mike Weinberg, Jeb Blount, myself. This year we’ve got Victor Antonio coming, we’ve got coming Waldo Waldman coming, Bob Burg coming, Jeffrey Gitomer coming, Colleen Francis coming, Andrea Waltz, that’s just on the main stage. Then we have another day of just breakout sessions. If you buy, you can buy the two-day ticket for the main stage, you can buy the three-day ticket which includes the breakout day which is 23 breakout sessions.

Marylou: Wow.

Mark: You can get the recordings to those. You can get the video and the audio. Or you can buy the VIP pack which includes half-day VIP leadership workshop, which is actually being held at the Porsche Experience Center.

Marylou: Fun.

Mark: Is that cool? That is like way over the top, but the only event takes place at the Georgia World Congress Center right across the street from Mercedes Benz Stadium. It’s the Atlanta Convention Center.

Marylou: Oh yeah, I’ve been there. It’s a really huge place.

Mark: Yeah.

Marylou: Great. For those of you thinking immersion, this sounds like a really nice way to get everything in in a couple of days and work towards that third and fourth quarter goals.

Mark: Yeah, it is Circus Soleil takes over a rock show to disrupt the sales meeting. We have no emcee, there’s no emcee. Once this thing kicks off, it just runs. It just flat out runs. It is why we have so many people come back every year. It’s crazy, let’s just put it that way. It is a mind-blowing experience without the drugs.

Marylou: There you have it. For those of you who are driving down the road listening to this, I’ll put all these links on Mark’s page when we get this podcast launched.

Mark: Don’t tell this to anybody, but I’ll give you my secret code, just between you and I. the secret code to save $100 on tickets is MARK100, but don’t share that to anybody, okay?

Marylou: I won’t.

Mark: It’s MARK100 outboundconference.com.

Marylou: Your secret is safe with me. Alright guys, you heard it here. Mark, thank you so much for your time. It’s really great to speak with you, and I will put all of your links so that people know how to get a hold of you. The Sales Hunter. Mark Hunter, author of High Profit Prospecting, cofounder of OutBound, the annual conference for sales executives, taking those sales conversations to the next level. Thank you so much for your time today Mark, I really enjoyed having you on the show.

Mark: Thank you so much, great time.