Marylou: Hi everyone, it’s Marylou Tyler. Today, I have a guest that you probably already listen to his podcast, it’s called Accelerate. Andy Paul is with us today. He’s the founder of Zero-Time Selling. Welcome, Andy. How are you doing?
Andy: Marylou, thanks for having me. I’m doing great.
Marylou: Fabulous. I am so excited to have you on the show primarily because you have interviewed how many people now on your podcast?
Andy: I’ve interviewed 450. I think we just released, as we talk today, probably 380 episodes, something like that. We’re a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of what we interview.
Marylou: If you’re just getting to hear Andy, he started in October 2015. Go all the way back then and put those podcast in your favorite listening device.
Andy: Start at Episode 1. Don’t miss a single one.
Marylou: Don’t miss a single one. Yes, exactly. We focus on top of funnel. The people who listen to me, they like process, they love technology, but I think we’re having issue or we’re still being challenged with the human component of all these. What types of things have you learned or do you focus on in your business now in order to blend this technology with the human aspect of sales?
Andy: I think that what we try to focus on when I’m talking to groups, or I’m doing workshops with the companies, or coaching a CEO about a process that they’re using for their sales is, okay, you’ve invested a bunch of time, effort and money to actually bring a buyer or potential buyers to a point where you’re actually going to have a conversation with them, what do you then? What happens then? What we find is that reps, by large, are unprepared for what happens then.
This first instant is so critical because researchers found that people form perceptions of you as an individual at subconscious levels or what they call it pre cognitive processing. It happens within a quarter of a second. 250 milliseconds, a time it takes you to blink an eye, somebody has formed a perception of you. On top of that, the studies and science again shows that perceptions are very sticky. It’s very difficult to change someone’s perception of you once it’s been formed. Even when they’re presented with evidence showing that their perception is wrong, it’s hard for them to change perception.
Daniel Kahneman talks about this in the studies that he had done in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow. It’s just the way we’re wired, our brain is wired. You think of that from a sales perspective is, we don’t spend enough time thinking about really what is that first moment. What are we doing to start engaging with the buyer, building the rapport, building the relationship, building these ideas? We talked about people buy from people they know like and trust, but what are we doing right at that first moment? I mean you really have to bring your A game from the get go. Every time you interact with the prospect but especially on that first call, it’s so essential.
Marylou: We tend to warm up that chill by leveraging technology in the form of emails. Maybe, people still send direct mail. I have some clients who are still sending postcards. Does that first moment start with the first conversation no matter what modality or are you talking to first voice conversation?
Andy: I think it certainly can be impacted by the non-voice communications. I’ll give an example. You get emails all the time from SDR, I’m sure, yourself. I certainly do as a business owner. I was just marvelling today about the 30 mails in sequence I’ve gotten from a company. Everybody would recognize if I gave their name. There are misspellings in it and grammatical errors. It’s like I haven’t spoken to this person. In this case, I’m not going to go because it doesn’t fit the products, it’s not something that interests me, but if I was going to make a decision about whether to speak to this person or not, that would have influenced my perception of them. I’m thinking, If I want to fund and invest money with a service or product from a company, I want to have a fairly strong sense to their strong attention to detail, they’re focus on quality, all these things that you’re giving an image of in your written communications as well.
Marylou: Is this concept biased in any way based on how old you are or when you were born? Are we in the older generation? I’m putting myself in that older generation by the way, not you Andy?
Andy: I was going to say.
Marylou: Are we being brought up “differently” than say my kids? Are there levels of interaction that matter most based on where you are in that spectrum of when you are born? Do you think?
Andy: No. I think what happens is that the errors are committed more frequently if people are less experienced. As you get more experienced, you begin to understand that this is really important. That it’s not just window dressing but it actually is important. It’s part of the maturation process throughout your career. It’s so important because a lot of our productive hour is just being done by wasting certain fields and tech fields for sure, being done by people these proportionally in their earlier part of their careers. These interactions that are creating these impressions, that potential buyer have.
Another example is I received another one recently where somebody is very insistent that they’re trying to set up meeting for their regional Vice President of Sales to speak with me. They’re very insistent but their emails had multiple font types because they’ve obviously been cutting and pasting.
Marylou: Oh, carnal sin.
Andy: Right. Pay attention there. These things are important. Are they absolutely the size…? No, but you’re creating perception in the mind of somebody that you want to have some conversation with. Why won’t you spend another minute to make sure that you’re going to make that easier to have happen than to make it harder to have it happen.
Marylou: I agree. The thing I’ve noticed with calling into different regions is that culturally, there are some differences too. For example, I live here in the Midwest right now and it’s very permission based. The email flow, the gist, the sentiment, really has to be more of a permission based type of email. What I mean by that is it there’s a politeness that exists in the Midwest that maybe on the Coast it’s a little more directive, a little bit more forced, whereas here it’s gentler. Are those kinds of things also where you’ve seen that need to be taken into consideration or is it people will give leeway to that but the actual message itself has to satisfy our innate desires and needs to have a closeness with somebody?
Andy: I think the best way to make it easier in yourself is to have a standard that’s acceptable to everybody. Yes, people maybe more accepting let’s say, more casual conversation let’s say in California than perhaps in Des Moines, Iowa, where you are. On the other hand, if you’re right, something that’s acceptable to to someone in Des Moines said something in California, it could be acceptable to them in California as well.
Andy: Rather put yourself to the hassle of saying, “I need to tweet my message because I need to understand exactly where they’re going.” Maybe one thing if it’s going from country to country or some very established norms that are different, within the US I think that create a standard that works for everybody.
Be effective, have high quality, check your work, spend an extra minute. It’s just a minute. That’s the whole thing we’re talking about. We’re not talking about tons of time. Take a minute, just ask somebody else to look at it. That’s the easiest thing to do. Have somebody else just look at it before you send it. Because then a lot of us templatize anyway so there’s no excuse for that to happen. Because again, you’re putting the time, effort, and investment you’re making. You’re putting risk on something stupid.
Marylou: That and right now, with the emphasis on account based selling, there’s a small universe of people with whom you can have conversation.
Andy: If you’re saying enterprise accounts, yeah, for sure.
Marylou: Yes. Each record is very precious. What I also like to do is actually read my emails before I send them. That helps me clarify and get more clarity around the message that I’m trying to convey before I hit that send button.
Andy: I think that’s a great tip. I think for a lot of people listening, you think about the process of writing an email. It’s a lot like talking to the customer. You actually have a physical conversation is that, you have to eliminate the distractions.
I think probably the reasons we get these errors is because people are trying to multitask while they write their email. They’re trying to multitask while they do everything. The science is unequivocally clear, we cannot multitask. Humans are incapable of multitasking. Multitasking is not trying to do projects at once, it’s writing an email and then taking five seconds and glancing over at your phone when the screen lights up to tell you that you got a notification about something. That’s multitasking. By taking your focus away for just even five seconds to look at that phone then go back to your email, you’re not going to be able to engage the same way.
The study done by scientists at Carnegie Mellon University, where they got some study subjects over a period of time and they brought them one at a time in a room, gave them a test. Sort of unexpectedly during the test, they interrupted them with a phone call and then they went back and completed the test after the phone call. What they found is after the phone call, which lasted less than a minute, these people performed 20% less well on the test. As somebody summarized, being interrupted made them 20% dumber. When you’re talking about writing emails, it’s like talking to a customer. Take the distraction all the way. Focus on one thing at a time. Get it done. Make sure it’s right and then move on to the next one.
Marylou: We have the what in terms of in the moment as you said? I have a blank slate in front of me. I have piece of paper sitting here and I want to craft, at least get my talking points down on paper. Are there building blocks that we can use in order to think through how this in the moment conversation should begin? W9hat’s the beginning, middle and end? Or is it something that over time, we develop our own rhythms too?
Andy: Disregarding the fact that they have in the physical phone call?
Marylou: Yeah. We’re actually getting ready now. We’ve done all our pre-work. They’re receptive to us coming in. We’re getting ready to have that first conversation. What kind of prep-work? Or is there such a thing as a building block of prep-work that based on the psychology and the science that we can put together or at least have prepared so that when we do speak we are not what I call bungling it, you say something else, you had more appositives spend on it.
Andy: That you’re optimizing the experience.
Marylou: Optimizing, yes. Marylou bungle in the optimization.
Andy: Glass is half full always. Robert Cialdini talks about this in his latest book and David Hoffeld in his book, Science of Selling talks about it, is that we know about people buy from people they know like can trust. There’s actually a fourth element there which is another like. What scientists found to the research is that people more likely to buy from people that they think like them. Okay. We’re always focused on them liking us but it’s equally as important for them to believe that we like them. How do you begin to establish that in this relationship you build with them? That starts right at the beginning with a dreaded word for many people, small talk.
As you’re planning your call, are you doing your research on this individual? Are you looking at their various social profiles to see what they might be interested in, what they’re talking about, having conversations, or posting? Are you prepared? Which is our opening question on a personal note.
In some cases actually, what the science found is that it’s actually just asking very sincerely, “Hey, how are doing?” As an opening which at some cases makes people feel uncomfortable to ask but asked authentically, it’s very powerful. Again, the research has shown that this is a great way to begin a conversation with somebody.
Marylou: I could hear people cringing, Andy.
Andy: I know. I can hear people cringing as well but the science shows that it works. It opens them up and they start thinking, “Oh, this person likes me.” You follow it up with just something of interest to them personally. Then, you start building that bridge with them, that serve them liking you and you liking them or they are perceiving that you like them.
Again, as David Hoffeld points out in his book and Cialdini, that’s important, that’s an influencer. You as an individual have to understand that in today’s world, you are the first line of differentiation between you and your competitors. It’s not your product, not your services, it’s you. This is one thing that you need to start with.
If it’s an in person call, or if you’re on a video call with somebody, whatever vehicle you’re using, Zoom, smile. If you have to put it down in your prep list, smile when I see the person. That makes a difference. It makes a difference in their state of mind in terms of how they receive the information you’re going to give them.
Marylou: It’s funny that’s one of my big training points on using the telephone, is to smile while you’re talking on the phone.
Marylou: Because that can really be heard by the recipient. It sounds kind of funky but it really works plus you feel better. You’re happy. You’re smiling, You’re sounding excited. You’re just enamoured with them with your products, with this conversation.
Andy: Your body language is evidenced by your voice. Yeah, it changes your sense of confidence.
Marylou: A long way. Yup.
Andy: Yeah. Put on your list on prepping, number one, smile. Number two, ask how they’re feeling. Three, what’s personal thing that you’re going to bring up. I’m assuming this is the first call. This is not like, “Hey, can I have 20 seconds of your time?” This is your first meaningful conversation with somebody.
Andy: This is the detail that you have to go to. With these things, something I’ve written about and talked about a lot recently is you have to eliminate the distractions. Though I was on a workshop, giving to a company that had roughly 100 inside sales reps and I ask questions, “How many people leave their phone, their cellphone, smartphone, out on their desks when they’re making calls? Raise your hands.” 100% raised their hands. I said, “Okay. All of you that raised your hand, show your hands, raise a hand if you get a notification, or your phone buzzes, or you get an alert or something that you look at the screen of your phone while you’re talking to the customer?” Again, unfortunately 100%.
I talked about multitasking, you can’t do it. If you’ve invested all this time and effort, you’ve made 15 outreaches to this prospecting. Finally get them to get on the phone with them or wherever you’re meeting, and you get distracted by phones sitting on your desk, you may have just messed up completely at that point in time. For a little distraction as long as five seconds, it will take you maybe up to a minute based on research to get back to the point of the conversation where you’re fully engaged again. For the mean time, you’ve missed a minute worth of information the customer is giving you and they know it.
Marylou: They do know it. Not to mention, just to get to that call is so much effort.
Marylou: So many people are involved to get you that first call served up. Especially if you’re a larger company.
Andy: Yeah, so why would you jeopardize it by keeping your phone on your desk? Sitting down to make calls, or make a call, receive a call, take your phone, turn it off, put it away. Turn your computer screen off unless you need to preference for something with the customer. Eliminate the distractions, be present. Somebody used the term recently that I thought was really great is on virtual calls, you have to look the customer in the eye when you’re on the phone. It’s a great imagery.
Marylou: I love that, yes.
Andy: Look the customer in the eyes because that means you’re going to maintain that focus, that presence and mindfulness that you’re there for them. That’s just the start of it. Beyond that is you need to have your questions lined up. There’s a lot of debate about what type of questions you should ask and so on. My preferences used what I call a killer question to start the conversation. This is the question that asks the customer something about their business that they should know but don’t.
Marylou: That sounds scary.
Andy: This is not something sales reps have to come up with them themselves. They should be questions that are developed through experience of other sales reps, and other people within the company, and so on. What you’re doing is you’re starting the conversation by asking something that demonstrated that you guys have some insights to their business. That forces them to pause and think because one of things that’s happened, I believe based on what I’ve seen, is that as we become more scripted from the sales perspective in terms of questions we ask and so on, so do the buyers become scripted in the responses they give.
If you are the third person talking to a buyer about this particular project and procurement that they’re working on, if you’re going down a fairly standard set of questions, you’re going to get fairly standard set of answers that aren’t going to provide you any really depth of insight into what their real requirements are. How you can help provide the optimum solution formed, perhaps differentiate from what your competitors are talking about. The best way to start that conversation is deliver on these questions that forces them to pause and think, takes them off of their script as well.
Marylou: Yes. Back in the old days, we used to use the spin selling technique, the implication questions.
Marylou: What I love about those questions are you do not need, I think Neil even says this in his book, that you’re not going to get great at it the more you do it, or the more you’ve been selling, you continually need to practice it. It’s something we’re coming in day one as a rep you can’t ask these questions, and 10 years as a rep, you’re going to be a master of it because you are constantly changing. There’s a constantly changing landscape. You continually improve master work on these types of questions and they are unsettling, but they’re provocative and as you said, they perk up a bit because they were like, “No one has ever asked me that before.”
Marylou: “Wow, I didn’t really think of it that way.” Certainly, the response that you want was, “Wow, that came out left field.”
Andy: Suddenly, they’re engaged.
Andy: Again, Kahneman talks about, in his book Thinking, Fast and Slow, about people have two forms of thought. System one, thinking. System two, system one is 75% of our days sort of habitual behavior, the way we react to things are driven by past experiences that some of the path release resistance for our brains to take that approach. If we don’t challenge that, we’re just going to get the same old answers from the prospects.
Another great way to start the conversation is sort of this simple gap analysis. Where do you want to be in 12 months, or 18 months, or a time frame that’s important to them? Where are you today? And then you get that implication question like, “What’s your plan to get from here to there?”
Marylou: And why haven’t you made it there?
Andy: One of your follow up. Yeah, why aren’t you there yet and and so on. That’s a simple three part format that anybody can use. Doesn’t take a lot of background, and it opens a larger conversation. Naturally, they’re going to turn to you and say, “How could you help us with that?”
Marylou: Right. It’s a bit of the story arch. I don’t know if you read the book Resonate by Nancy Duarte.
Marylou: Yeah. She does presentations but she utilizes the hero’s journey. It starts with a revelation of, wow, here we are, at this moment in time, but I want to get way over there and I have no idea how to get there. The guide comes in, which is you and gives them a plan. It’s either you’re going to go with me on the plan and reach where you want to go or there are consequences if you do not take this path. There’s a little bit of that sort of uncertainty and doubt, they used to call it thud fear, uncertainty, and doubt of trying to get someone really off their game but do it in a way that you’re here to hold their hand through it at the same time.
That comes back to what you said about I am the guide who’s going to get you to where you want to go. I’m going to hold your hand along the way. I’m not going to push you into the abyss and have you sink or swim, that kind of thing. I think that in this day and age, I know it’s becoming more important. I think you said that the research is showing that it’s becoming even more important now that we’re so multitasking and so much technology around us that the human element is desperately trying to resurface in our conversations.
Andy: Yeah. I think that the buyers, the need for them in part of the buyers hasn’t changed. I mean, sure, maybe an increasing range of products that the buyers were capable of going through the entire buyer’s journey on their own. But in the business to business phase, if you’re selling a solution, yeah, they can do more of them on their own than they were 10, 15 years ago, we all know that, that’s established but they still need you. They need you be good.
I listened to this call not long ago, rep was anxious, an AE is doing discovery call and it was painful. Listen to the guy who’s pretty well trained and fairly knowledgeable but not really in the moment, not really asking a question that forces the customer to pause and think. He started getting road answers. One time he didn’t get serve a road answer, he didn’t recognize it at that point in time. The customer left the door open for him to come in up a great follow up question, which [00:26:12] for a book called the Coaching Habit by Michael Bungay Stanier, excellent book. It’s an excellent sales book, one of the great coaching books. It talks about this concept of extending your curiosity. You ask the first question but you have to extend your curiosity to the second question. He frames a terms that calls the AWE Question, which is, “That’s really interesting, and what else can you tell me about that?”
Marylou: Or tell me more is what it’s like.
Andy: Or tell me more. But I like this what else can you tell me about that.
Marylou: I like that too.
Andy: Then, if you’re alive, if you’re focused, if you’re not looking at your phone, if you’re not distracted, and somebody opens that door a bit, you’ve got another question that go kick down that door, and ask this folk Russian with the second question, it’s going to take you to a point in the conversation that they’re not reaching with other vendors.
Andy: You made yourself the point of differentiation.
Marylou: So great stuff.
Andy: Yeah. I think the thing about what are the killer questions or what you call the implication questions is that do yourself a favor. I know that some people are going to be horrified by this but stop asking about pain points. My experiences have shown me and I think research are showing as well, people are investing new solutions to achieve certain goals. It’s forward thinking. A pain points is where you’re going to put a bandaid or something. You fix a pain point, that’s yesterday’s problem. This company’s moving. They want to go somewhere. Your questions really should be focusing on where do you want to be and how are you going to help you get there. That’s much a better, broader conversation to have than, “What are your pain points?”
Marylou: Yeah. I think the term challenge is something that we still hold on to because challenges for us, help us mapped to the possibility. If we have the challenge and we hear the challenge in how they’re describing where they are today, then we can link that to a case study or a very simple story about a client who’s maybe mid-journey in getting to the end of goal and how they were able to remove that as an obstacle on the way towards the opportunity.
Andy: Right. That’s basically what I was talking about too. But too often, because again, we’re giving people these tools and we’re not really telling them the why we behind the how.
Marylou: Exactly, yeah.
Andy: How is ask about their pain points, but really the why is we want to ask them what they’re trying to achieve. This maybe, as you said, an obstacle to achieving what they want. But when you talk about pain points, you make it sound like taking aspirin to resolve a headache and that’s a temporary issue as opposed to something that’s integral to what they’re trying to achieve.
Marylou: With the vision. Yeah, it’s a quick fix versus…
Andy: How do we really help you? You do yourself a favor when you’re dealing with the customers. Talking in more of these vision terms, “Where do you want to be? What’s the path? How do we help you get there? What are the obstacles in the way?” As opposed to saying, “What are your pain points? What’s keeping you up at night?” I heard somebody say that on a call not that long ago which I want to hung up the phone for him. They’re meaningless questions.
Marylou: Yeah. Let’s just refrain that way. There’s other ways to say what’s keeping you up at night, which is what we’re talking about. I think the biggest thing that I’m seeing and I tried to get this drilled into my folks is that you are your persona. Whoever you’re talking to on the other end, you’re a colleague of theirs. That mindset is that you’re a colleague of theirs or maybe you’re higher up than they are on the phone, but you’re really trying to help guide them towards a strategy, a vision, a way to get from point A to point B. You’re not necessarily diagnosing them. You kind of know what could be wrong already with them. You’re just trying to understand where they are relative to progress along the path of where they should be. When you view it that way, it’s a very different conversation than coming from, “Where’s your AWE?”
Andy: “Where’s your AWE?” Yeah. You raised a great point. Bob Terson who wrote the book Selling Fearlessly talks about one of his key things that he points out in the book which I thought was a great thing for younger people to understand their careers is that you have to talk to prospects as their peer. It doesn’t matter which level within the corporation you’re talking to, you are their peer, even if it’s a CEO. Otherwise, if you have a different perspective, it’s like you’re meeting a famous celebrity and you’re odd because of it. You’re not going to get into the types of questioning and so on that you need to get to.
Having that perspective as a colleague, as a peer, very important. I wish I had learned that earlier in my career. I got that point, unknowingly. I didn’t really put words to it until reading Bob’s book. I used to marvel when I was 22 years old, starting my career selling $100,000, $200,000 computer systems to companies, and looking 15 at the time. Thinking, “Why did they ever buy from me?”
Marylou: Yes. Fake it till you make it kind of thing.
Andy: It wasn’t that I didn’t know what I was talking about, it’s just like I looked 15.
Marylou: I know. I used to get it all the time because I would be on the phone helping people and then I would go see them and they’re like, “You’re not the same person we were speaking with.”
Andy: “Is your mom going to come?”
Marylou: Definitely. There’s that and the other piece of advice that really helped me is to let go of the result. Just let go of what you want and really focus on what they want. It makes so much difference in your conversations and the karma of it all. It really does come around if you practice that.
Andy: I have a story about this from early in my career where I was trying to sell a computer system to a retailer, jewelry store, they have multiple locations. It was going to be a big order. We’d done everything. We had crossed the tease. The guy told us pretty much that we were going to get this business, but we aren’t getting the order. I’d call the guy pretty frequently. I was pretty young at that time. Finally at one point, he calls me up and I go and visit this guy in his office. He basically said, just to your point exactly, that he was going to give me the order but not until he thought I wanted it less.
Marylou: Oh my gosh, wow.
Andy: It was that point, I was all focused on me and not on him.
Marylou: Exactly, yeah.
Andy: Yeah. He was going give me the order and we did get it. Yeah, he deliberately held it back because it was clear as I was talking to those more about getting the order for me as supposed to getting their order to get him started, to help improve his operations.
Marylou: Obviously thought you a lifelong lesson there.
Andy: Oh absolutely. It was hugely embarrassing at the time but a great lesson.
Marylou: Yeah. Well Andy, thank you so much for your time. Before we close out, I want you to tell us, because I’m sure people are listening to this they’re like, “Okay, this is a missing component to all of our enamoured love of technology. We need to dial it in and get these, the building blocks, the habits of having a really good meaningful conversation with our prospects. How do we get a hold of you?
Andy: Email me. You can do the old fashion way, you can call me at (619) 980-4002. I always love to talk to people. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Twitter that’s @zerotimeselling. Connect with me on LinkedIn. I’d love that. But most importantly, come listen on my podcast as well. Accelerate, six episodes per week, talking to all the great minds, like Marylou Tyler, in sales. Broad range topics we cover but great guest and great conversation just like we had here today.
Marylou: Yeah, thank you. I’ll put some of these links. I think the materials, some of the books you mentioned, I’m going to ask you offline to get me a list so we can put them in the shownotes because a lot of times we are focused on the process and I’m guilty of that, being a process expert, but I’d know that I’m just trying to serve up that first conversation using process as much as we can to go through to hundreds and thousands of records but it really comes down to do you have that connection, that human connection with the person that you’re trying to guide towards their solution or what you know they need, and that you know you can solve that need because you believe in who you are, your product, and your service. That’s really what it’s about.
Andy: Yeah. I think people need to keep in mind and I tackle this in my books and when I do public presentations on these. The heart of sales is this bargain you strike with the buyer. They’re going to invest some of their time in you, what are you going to give them in return? This is the heart of the fundamental human to human selling is they’re going to give you some of their time, what are you going to give them in return? They give you some of their time and you give them nothing of value in return, then you broke the bargain and you’re not going to get anymore of their time.
Andy: This works throughout the entire sales process. You have this imperative every time they invest some of their time in you. You need to give them something where they get a return on their investment. As we deliver it, this can’t be part of a robotic process because as they move through the sales process, you got need needs at each stage of it. You need to be consciously thinking about what it is you’re going to do.
Marylou: Definitely. Thanks again, Andy. I totally enjoyed this conversation. I appreciate you taking your time.
Andy: Honored to be in here.