Bryan: Hey, everyone. It’s Bryan Whittington with this episode of The Talent, Sales and Scale show. We have a real treat. We have Jordana Zeldin coming to us. So she has a fairly eclectic background, coming out of the acting studios or the acting background. So that really makes it curious.
So back in my old days whenever I was at Sandler, we had a line that said, “Sales is a Broadway play put on by a bunch of psychologists.” So we have a real Broadway performer here. (Laughter) I don’t know. Were you on Broadway?
Jordana: No, not even close! But boy, does that sound good! (Laughter)
Bryan: So anyway, we have an actress with us today. So we’re really looking forward to jumping into this. So welcome, Jordana.
Jordana: Thank you so much, Bryan. I’m really happy to be here.
Bryan: All right. So I’m nervous about this first question because I’m expecting something different off of this. So the one thing that we always do is say okay, why in the world should we listen to you today? And the topic is really this. We’re looking for Jordana to share with us some insights on how to sell with humanity, right?—bringing humanity to the sales process, and yet to be productive, because I don’t know about you listeners, but how often do you hear that sales is about the relationship? And we have these professional visitors that show up. They’re kissing babies, handing out doughnuts and never selling a thing, right? They have skinny kids and wonderful friends that never buy a thing. So how in the world do we bring humanity, yet produce results? Jordana, that’s the topic. And why in the world should we listen to you on that topic? (Laughter)
Jordana: It’s a good question. I mean, look, I’m one of many voices out there. But I do think I bring a pretty unique perspective. You know, I really think that sellers with all of the sales skills that we’re learning, right?—the things that we do beyond just talking about the features and benefits of our products. But the sales skills, they really do boil down to the fundamentals of human relationships and connections. And it is our job as sellers not only to be domain experts and product experts and masters at the craft, but at its source we’re really needing to, or it’s our job to really give our prospects what they need emotionally and psychologically, in order to prime them to make a change. And buying usually represents change. Change is hard, change is scary. What are we doing to make it less hard and less scary?
So we’re not going to be talking very much about sales or tech stacks and numbers and KPIs. Now of course, if we can get this selling stuff right, it all maps directly to numbers going up. But we’re going to be talking a lot, as you say, about the human piece and how it can serve us in our selling.
Bryan: All right. So did you just say, “emotionally prime them?”
Jordana: I did. (Laughter)
Bryan: All right. So I’ve not heard that language before. So let’s start with that one. What in the world does emotionally priming somebody mean? And how do I do that? That sounds pretty cool.
Jordana: That’s a really good question. I really think that—
Bryan: I’m trying to think of the answer.
Jordana: No. I mean, I have some thoughts around it. And look, a lot of this thinking is based on the seven-plus years that I’ve spent in the B.-to-B. space, working as a seller and coaching. And a lot of it is kind of new thinking, as I’m connecting what I’ve experienced in sales to research and thought leadership that exists in other spheres of thought, like psychology and human relationships.
And you know, I’m interested in this idea that I think we often take for granted as sellers—just how hard making change is, and what is required psychologically and emotionally to make change. And at this moment this is kind of intuitive thought process. I’ve kind of boiled it down to a few things. I think that in order for buyers to make change, to buy, they really need to feel a few things. One is that they need to feel safe. And we can dig into what all of these mean just as an overview.
The second is that they need to feel free. And the third is that they need to feel seen, which is kind of a catch-all for seen and heard. And if we can elicit feelings of freedom, safety and seenness in our buyers, then we’ve got a really good shot, combined with all of our product knowledge and industry expertise of making a sale.
Bryan: All right, so that’s interesting. So let’s do exactly that; let’s break this down. So safe. Can you give us some tactics or suggestions on how we make people safe. And there are probably going to be a couple of different ways, right? There’s going to be one way of keeping somebody safe off of a warm introduction. There’s going to be another way of keeping somebody safe off of an inbound lead versus an outbound cold outreach/demand generation type thing. Is it the same across all three? Do we need to tweak it up a little bit? What’s your sense about how we make people feel safe in these different scenarios?
Jordana: Yeah; that’s a good question. I really think that it begins with how we start the conversation. So I’m speaking less in some ways. So I mean, I think it’s important in prospecting to do that. But my area of focus is really on the sales conversation. And once you get them on the phone, how do we communicate safety, freedom, seenness, heardness?
And the safety peace really relates to a few things. One is your credibility, right?—that they’re in capable hands, like the hands of a trusted adviser who has had these conversations before, who has successfully shepherded other buyers through this process, who really understands their field and the buyer’s industry, right? So part of it is like they’re in a car and they feel confident in the driver, which with us is the seller.
But I think the other part of safety is a little more nuanced and kind of connected to humanity and vulnerability and openness. And I think that as sellers, if we make it very clear from the beginning, first of all if we lead with our own humanity. Sometimes I think it can be helpful—and Todd Caponi talks about this in The Transparency Sale—to get a conversation with a kind of disarmingly funny story about a silly interaction that you had with their product, or some blooper that happened—something strange or unexpected that happened as you were preparing for the meeting, to really kind of warm up and humanize interaction. That I think gives them permission to be imperfectly human as well in the conversation, but also to really make clear that this is going to be a dialogue, right?
So that when, for example, you’re crafting your agenda at the very top of the meeting, (and that’s something I really love to talk about), rather than saying, “All right; so I’ve put together an agenda. You know, first we’re going to talk about this. Then we’re going to talk about this. Next we’ll do this, and the next step. Does that sound good?” There’s almost no room for collaboration and dialogue in the way that agenda is presented. And that’s a really typical agenda.
So starting off the meeting, once you’ve had your pleasantries and maybe said your disarmingly human thing, starting off by saying “You know, in order to really make this meeting as helpful and valuable for you as possible, I’ve put together a kind of an agenda really as a kind of jumping off point for us, right?” So it’s soft; it’s not driving. We begin to introduce this idea of dialogue.
And then it’s like that first I thought it could be really helpful for you to tell me a little bit about … Begin with them and share again that the context of this first agenda item is designed to be helpful for the dialogue, right? You know, from there, based on what I hear from you, I can talk with you a little bit about how we work and the kind of work that we’ve been able to do for clients in similar circumstances with similar needs, right?
You know, of course this is an open dialogue. And I want you to ask any question, share any thought that comes to mind as we’re going through this conversation. And of course if it makes sense, and you’re feeling good, we can talk about what the next steps can look like.
Now before we even dive in, I want to ask you. What is the most important thing that you want to get out of this meeting today?
Bryan: Okay. So let’s really break this down into some tactics. So I like this a lot.
Bryan: So the first step: safe, free, seen/heard. It starts off with a conversation and showing your capabilities. So you said it’s being that safe driver, that you’re in capable hands. So in terms of marketing, or in terms of let’s bring in our Josh Braunesque-type conversation,--
Bryan: How do we become the guide, right?—that idea of being the guide. So I think that’s the first piece, to show your capabilities that you’re the guide. Make it about them, and your guiding them along the way.
And secondly, what I think I heard you say is that you show your humanity through being vulnerable—that authenticity, right? If I can show authenticity, in my Sandler days it’s “okay, not okay.” How do I intentionally act less okay, showing some type of flaw in me.
Bryan: That allows you to feel safer. Oh my gosh! You talked earlier about this and we haven’t dived into it. But it’[s change management. Nobody wants to change because they’re scared, right?
Bryan: It makes me feel uncomfortable. And now you’re a sales person, asking me to change what I’m doing today. Even if I know it might be better for me, it’s still change; it’s still scary. And I’m going to have to share with you all my mistakes and all my screw-ups, and my nasty scars and the mole on my back. I’m going to have to show you this to get better. I’m really not feeling too comfortable doing this in front of somebody that just has their complete act together. So showing that vulnerability, that humanity, really sets the stage to go to the third part that I think you said, which is collaboration, that conversational collaboration.
Bryan: Does that tie that up pretty well?
Jordana: Yeah. And you know, it’s interesting what you said. You know, I don’t think that we as sellers appreciate just how crazy our ask is. It’s like, “Hi, person who you’ve just met. I’m a seller who’s going to be making my living, who’s earning my commission off of convincing you that my product is right for you. But before I do that, tell me all of your problems and challenges and deep, dark fears and business hopes. And then from there I can sell you my product.”
I mean, that is an inherently really, really a psychologically and emotionally unsafe situation. So yes, you call in all the right elements. It’s the credibility—Yeah; go ahead.
Bryan: No. I was just going to say, so this goes. And I have kind of a personal crusade. So let me just share this bias.
Bryan: I hate the idea of bant. I think that bant is such a bad idea on those initial calls, because that completely skips what we’re talking about. By going right into a bant, we’re going, “Hey, can you do me a favor and just uncover all your nastiness so we can talk through it?”
Bryan: “And then I’m going to waste your time by asking you all of this,” whenever you don’t know me. You don’t even know anything about what I do or how I do it, or if this thing could even be helpful for me. “But I want you to open up your kimono and tell us everything. That way I can kick this over to my aE, and then he can ask you the same stupid questions. So can we do that, please?”
Jordana: Exactly. And who does bant benefit? The seller. None of those questions are gateways to deliver any value or insights to an audience.
Bryan: 100%, right? So I’ve said it a couple times. I won’t reveal the company, but I tried to purchase software. I think it would have been helpful. But going through that process, I said, “Aah, forget it! I’m done! I’m just not going down this path.”
So I think most people loathe the idea of that bant process. It goes completely counter to what we’re trying to do here. So all right, we feel safe. And then I think there’s another peace. In the old days, whenever I was at Sandler, we called it an up-front contract, right?
Bryan: Framing the agenda, or whatever the case may be. So I like the language that you used. So let’s succinctly say it. Can you couch that again, because I think that language is important.
Jordana: Yeah. So rather than just presenting the agenda as arbitrarily existing, or something important to you, I think it’s really important to couch it in this idea of bringing help and value, and being designed to benefit the person who is attending this meeting—your prospect. So again, really starting out, in thinking about how to make this meeting as helpful and valuable as possible for you, I’ve put together the kind of agenda that can really serve primarily as a jumping-off point for our conversation, right? So it’s not this driving, dictatorial—we’re gonna do this; we’re gonna do that. I was really thinking about how to help you. This is the starting point; let’s craft it together.
And then super tactically, you know, there are just subtle shifts of taking out most of the I language, like “next I want to, then I will,” then “I ask you to,” or whatever, and substituting it for we, and a softer collaborative language like “let’s,” or “why don’t we,” or “from there we can,” right?
Jordana: And making sure. A client I was working with and I were working on the agenda and a piece of his selling conversations. And his tendency was to say, “First it would be great to learn a lot about you and to know a little bit about you and your needs and your business. And then from there I can just really give you the kind of five-minute boiler plate of what we do.”
And it’s like hold on a minute! That’s not why the prospect is here. If we’re just going to give them the boiler plate version of our company why are we doing discovery at all?
Jordana: So what we really want to do is to show them that this is about them and based on what we learn from them. And this is like the scene in “Herd Piece,” right? We’re going to tailor the way that we speak about the product and sharpen them through the product, highlighting the needs and features and benefits, or whatever, that are going to connect most to their wants, dreams, aspirations and needs.
Bryan: Yes. And that kind of goes to the challenger sales methodology, where I’m going to teach, tailor, take control of that conversation. So I’m going to teach through the questions I’m asking. And I’m going to tailor through this up-front agenda. But I like what you’re doing there. You know, my former mentor by the name of John Rosso (Episode 4), in his up-front contract he would always lay out that veto.
And I like what you did as well. And this is important language to get, everyone. The important language is this. What’s in it for me?—that WIFM, right?
Hey, as I was preparing for our time today I was really thinking through, trying to put myself in your shoes.
Bryan: And thinking through this I laid out an agenda that I thought would be important for us to go over. So here’s a suggested agenda. We cover blah-blah-blah-blah, however that’s said. What makes this a good use of your time?
Bryan: You walk out of here and you’re like, “Oh, thank heavens we touched this. What do you want to make sure that we cover?” And then they lay out the agenda. Now that allows you to craft everything to make sure that it’s them-focused. That’s kind of what I’m guessing that you’re suggesting, right?
Jordana: That is exactly right. And what is incredible, Bryan,--and this has happened in two coaching sessions with clients this week when we were working on the agenda. And the agenda is kind of one of my favorite modules or areas of the conversation to focus on because it really does set the tone, right? But it’s incredible when you’ve asked that question. What else do you want to cover today? Or what is the most important thing you want to get out of this meeting?
The flood gates open. And they give you almost too much information in a way, at least in both of these cases, as my clients can attest to in their calls. And that’s so much more powerful than saying, “Okay, does that sound good?”
Jordana: 99.9% of the time you know, you’re going to get “yes.” But who knows how engaged or bought in they are in that moment?
Bryan: And that really gets to a hook statement. So for example we should never say anything else, because the hook statement is “Hey, Jordana, anything else?”
Jordana: Right. I’m good.
Bryan: Or “Hey, how can I help you today?” You walk into a retail shop. And you walk in there and they go, “Hi. Thank you for stopping into XYZ Box Store. Can I help you at all?”
And everyone just says, “Nope; just looking,” right?
Bryan: So it’s those hook statements. So it’s the small little nuances. What else would you like to cover, right? What else, what else, what else? Hey, what makes this a good use of your time? It’s so subtle but so massive in the difference.
Okay. So that’s how we make them feel safe. Now how do we give them freedom? How do we make them feel free?
Jordana: That’s a great question. So I am a big fan of proactively bringing up the “no” in the agenda, and kind of setting the ground rules. So, you know, once you say, “Great; what else do you want to cover?”, they let you know and then you can move on to “Okay, great. And I want to let you know that I’m a real straight shooter. And I want to encourage everything from you. If at any point this feels like it’s not a good fit, or if you have a question or something isn’t clear, do I have your word that you’re going to be straight with me?”, right?
And all of a sudden those feelings like, oh no; I’m in a selling conversation! I can’t say no; my back is up against the wall. I’m going to be manipulated and taken for a ride. Proactively giving them the permission at “Hello” to say no and ask questions, I think that releases them in a way into a more honest and open conversation.
Bryan: Yes. So driving towards the “no” elicits a lot more transparency.
Bryan: Yep; I love it. So give them the freedom to say no up front. And then how do we give them the sense of being seen and heard?
Jordana: So the seen and the heard piece really does connect to that idea. First I thought it would be helpful to really hear about your state of the Union—where you’re at, what your concerns are. And from there, based on what I hear from you, we can talk about some of the ways that we’ve helped other clients with similar needs, or talk about how we can specifically with the areas of our business or the areas of our product that can speak specifically to the things you are looking to accomplish, right?
So we’re establishing all of these things—the safe piece, the seen and heard piece, the free piece, in the agenda. But of course that carries throughout, because our discovery is really about seeing and hearing. And there’s always that temptation in discovery, especially with newer sellers, when you hear or learn of a nugget that connects back to your product—and maybe your product can meet that need,--to cut the process short and jump right into “Oh, it’s funny that you say that! Well, this is exactly what X. Y. and Z. product does.”
No. We want to make sure that we are singularly focused on them and their circumstances in discovery, perhaps leading you to insight-driven questions to also teach and inform them and make the experience of discovery itself valuable, right? And from there we want to make sure that when it comes time for “pitching,” that it’s not a feature dump, and that we are really, in the very best spoken way, navigating them to the parts of our product or service that are most relevant to the things we have learned from them. That reflects our willingness to see and to hear them, and to the fact in fact that we’ve listened and really care, and are going to sharpen them based on their needs.
Bryan: Okay. So this humanity really goes back to this. Maybe this is saying the same thing. So correct me, please, if I’m off base here.
Jordana: Yeah, sure.
Bryan: It’s really collaboratively problem solving together. Or instead of it being me versus you—an adversarial seller/buyer role—it’s listen, let’s have a conversation. Let’s brainstorm through this together and find out a little bit about what’s working and what isn’t. We’ll share with you some of the insights that we’ve learned by working with others in similar situations. From that we can really beat up the idea of hey, what are some areas in which you most need some help? We’ll figure out together whether or not what we do can even help you. If not, hopefully we’ll have some recommendations for you. It’s starting off like that, right?
Jordana: Yes. I think there’s really something to getting into the head space. Yes, sales is kind of having a servant mindset. But it’s trying to leave your prospect better, more informed, more confident about the business landscape and their business decisions, irrespective of whether or not they buy your product.
Bryan: And that’s a key takeaway here. So how many times has somebody helped you? And hopefully it’s been a few. You wanted to buy something from them. And they were so filled with integrity and wanting to help that they said, “You know what? We can’t really help you. But why don’t you try this?” And you were so thankful that you ended up referring a ton of businesses to them even though you never did business. I mean, hopefully you have a couple of stories like that. Jordana, I don’t know if you’ve ever had anything like that happen.
Jordana: Yes; it’s a good question. There are no stories that specifically come to mind right now. But I think that you’ve really hit on something. There’s the short and the long game, right? And the short game is making the sale. And of course if the needs and the offering align, there should be every reason for you to be able to make the sale.
But then there’s also the value, as you say, of creating that relationship—that trust, that openness, that transparency—to open up the gateway to who knows what? Maybe it’s referrals. Or maybe it turns out that your product is out of reach of their cramped budget. But then that same decision maker here having that conversation moves to a new company. And because of the experience that they had with you, you were the first person that they called. The budget’s bigger and they’re ready, right?
Bryan: Right. I was just going to say that to piggyback off of that, if you look at the Challenger study, that CEB study, it’s not the price, right? Everybody says it’s the price. “My competition was less expensive.” That’s not why you’re losing. 9% of buyers purchase over price.
The majority of reasons why people buy is the buying experience. And like you said, if that person has a high view of you, they’re going to take off, right? The average tenure is 18 to 24 months, or something like that. So they’re going to take off. Stay in touch with them, link in with them. And whenever they go over there they’re likely going to pull you in because they’re going to remember that experience. I mean, in playing the long game, like you said, I think that’s a brilliant idea.
Jordana: And I also think that there’s just something. And I’m starting to like, as I mentioned, doing a lot of research into psychology and other spheres of thinking to kind of back up some of these experiences with the kind of instinct that I have for these ideas. I really think that there’s something to this. I’m reading a book now by Adam Grant called Give and Take, which is a kind of surprising study about how we typically think of givers as people who are like chumps that get stepped on and who don’t climb up to the success ladder. But what he has really found in his research is that in fact givers are committed to giving more than they receive. They tend to become more successful by beating various measures of success. But I think that there’s something to be said for the relationship between giving and happiness. You feel like you’re contributing to the world.
And I think that sales itself has pretty yukky baggage attached to it, right? We think of the commission-bred sales person who is kind of a manipulator. And they think that from what I call a sales happiness perspective, going to work as an AE or an SDR, and making it your purpose, as Josh Braun says, to make the person that you’re speaking to more awesome, just feels better. (Laughter) It’s more satisfying; it’s more fulfilling. It makes what can sometimes feel like a job where you might be questioning with “what am I really doing in sales? What is my deep purpose?” It makes it feel more purposeful.
And I think that’s a subtle mind shift here. Yes, it’s a servant mindset. But really proactively giving can be kind of transformative in a sales life and in a life-life.
Bryan: Yeah. And you said Give and Take by—
Jordana: Adam Grant, the organizational psychologist.
Bryan: Okay. And the curious thing about that too is that you talked about playing the long game If I’m not mistaken I was pulling up the book on my library. If I remember that correctly, oftentimes—and this is going to be a pivot to the hiring piece—oftentimes they will say that the person who does the best in the long run starts off a little bit more slowly, because there’s so much giving involved that they start off a little bit slowly. But then they end up out-performing everyone else, if I’m remembering that book correctly.
Jordana: That’s exactly right. There was a study done of medical students, I think in the first year, because there are three essential giving types. There are takers, givers and matchers. The matchers want to feel like they’re giving as much as they can. The takers always want to take more than they give; they feel like they’re winning that way. And givers just give irrespective of what they’re receiving.
And they’ve found that in the earliest days of medical school, the folks that were identified as givers were not performing as well as the takers and matchers. But at the end of medical school—eight, fifteen years, however long medical school is,--the givers had really ascended to the top.
Bryan: Yes. And I’ve seen that over my career with sales people, too. So that was a really interesting book; I like that.
Okay. At the risk of pivoting too quickly, let me make sure that we have this.
Bryan: So in order to really create my human relationship skills, or to sell with humanity, our job is to emotionally prime the person with whom we’re speaking. And we do that by feeling safe—making them feel safe, free, seen and heard. We do that through showing our capabilities, making them feel safe. You bring up Sherper so we can be the Sherper guide. And then we show our humanity by showing our vulnerability and authenticity. We go for the no, right? We get them comfortable with hey, if this doesn’t work out, no worries. We’ll get off the phone. So we go for the no.
Bryan: And then that last piece about seeing and hearing is laying out the language. If you can maybe sum that up a little bit more succinctly, is it active listening? Is it just still up in that up-front contract? I mean, how do we really make sure that they feel seen and heard?
Jordana: You know, it’s really everywhere. So yes, it’s in making sure that we communicate to them that our meeting is going to be tailored based on what we’ve learned about their wants, needs, desires, hopes, dreams, etc.
Jordana: Right. But there are simple things that we can do. And this is just really tactical. At Sales Gym, the last training organization where I worked, we called them summaries and mini-summaries. But the idea is that as you’re in discovery, as you’re learning you’re playing just quick play-backs. “Okay, so it sounds like you’re telling me X., Y. and Z.,” right? Or “Oh, interesting. That must have been really frustrating.” Little moments that show that you’re listening, you’re receiving them, you’re hearing them. You’re even labeling their emotions. It’s a really good way to signal hearing and seeing.
And then this idea after discovery. Rather than just saying, “Okay, great! I have all the information I need. Now on to my pitch,” it’s about saying, “Okay, so it sounds to me like.” I’m really giving this kind of summation, crafting a story out of what you’ve learned from them in discovery that you can then use to move into a highly tailored pitch that calls up the aspects of your product or service that are going to speak directly to what you’ve just highlighted that you’ve learned.
Now what’s really important in terms of the kind of summation is checking in with them. “Is there anything I’ve missed? Or is there anything you want to put a pin in?” Again it’s like you’re showing them that you’ve seen and heard them through your summary and asking for even deeper seeing and hearing for asking for more information.
Bryan: Okay; got it. Now for those listening, (laughter), you’re probably sick of this. But there is nothing new under the sun. It’s taking a bit of talent—Challenger, Teach Tailor, Take Control,--throwing in a little bit of Chris Boss with Active Listening, and labeling, and doing all of that stuff. And so really it’s tailoring the message based on active listening, to tie those to specific use cases that would help that prospect to solve their problems that they have. I mean, that’s more or less what you just said, right?
Jordana: Yes. That is what it is on a high level that we’ve been talking about.
Jordana: What’s happening emotionally and psychologically beneath the surface. But that is what it looks like on the surface; exactly.
Bryan: So for you analyticals, that’s it. That’s what you’re working to do. Now it’s sprinkling in the interpersonal skills of active listening, labeling, mirroring, questioning strategies, driving towards the no. We have a terminology. We call it “being right or wining,” right? I either want to be right. “Hey, you don’t want to go out to dinner, do you?”
“Shoot! I was right!” Or, “Yeah, I want to go out to dinner.”
Great! I win, right? We do it with our spouses; we do it with everything, right? So I want to be right or I want to win. So if you couch that in terms of the negative—to your second point, making them feel safe,--by couching it in that negative or going for the no, I’m either right or I want to win, which makes it a lot easier. “So hey, I don’t have that right, do I?”
“Yeah, you do.”
“Oh great; I win!” Or “I’m right.”
“Hey, I don’t have that right?”
“Ah, ****!” I was right. They are then going to go back and re-couch that or re-frame it so I can better understand. So all of those little nuances there, which is Chris Voss, going for the no, and all that good stuff.
Jordana: It’s like Chris Voss; a little bit of Challenger, though. I stand in opposition to parts of Challenger. Brene Brown and Todd Caponi had a baby. Well, you’ve got me! (Laughter)
Bryan: Got it! Let’s hit on that. So what part of the Challenger do you not like? I’m not schooled in Challenger, other than reading the stories and everything else on it.
Bryan: What part of that do you not like?
Jordana: Well, correct me if I’m wrong. And it’s been a couple years since I’ve read the book. But they advocate more or less an absence of discovery, an assumption that you understand the state of the Union enough to make a recommendation. And I think that discovery is the core. It’s the place where all of the seen and heard, all of that stuff really operates, and where we have real opportunities to do the teaching as well, you know, with the Insight 1 questions, while making them the priority and learning about them—the priority.
Now of course you don’t ask stupid questions, you know?
Jordana: It’s important to do your research. But if you’re able to show them, and again underscoring your credibility by sharing industry insights, which is from Challenger, while making it clear that their circumstances are going to be unique and you’re really genuinely curious about them, because what they share with you is going to help shape the future of this meeting or the future of the possible collaboration, I think that cannot be forsaken.
Bryan: Yeah. And so I kind of took that the same way. But again I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and say, “Hey, that just kind of baked in there that you’re supposed to do that.”
My sense was that you’re not supposed to be a lazy sales person that just shows up and does a feature dump. You’re doing some research to go to what you said. Hey, based upon my industry experience, based upon what I know, my sense is that this is where you are.
But I think that to your point, Jordana, if you’re not doing those questions, making sure that what you understand is real, you’re really setting yourself up, to use the medical field because we were talking about that a little bit earlier, for a malpractice suit because you’ve not understood everything. So I think you really need to do what you’re suggesting here. Dive down in. Make sure that you understand it from their point of view, their perspective. And then feed it back to them in a succinct way. So I agree with that.
Jordana: And you know, I know we want to move on to hiring. But the piece that we haven’t really talked about that I’ve been working on with my clients too, which connects to, which connects to this, I guess, if we’re trying to make the map to like safety, free, and all that stuff that connects to your vulnerability and your humanity, is really understanding what this conversation emotionally means for your prospect and their business.
And what I mean is this, for example. One of the clients that I’m working with is in the digital ad space. And they have a kind of bar that’s set, where if you’re not spending at least half a million to a million a month, it’s pretty hard to do effective work, and they’re not going to take you on as a client, right?
Jordana: So for a prospect to be able to have a conversation with this company means that they’ve achieved certain milestones in their business. And how exciting is that! And I think it makes good sense to draw attention emotionally to what this conversation even means for a prospect and to call it out. So rather than “So, what’s your spending now versus what it was two months ago?”, say, “Oh my; this is awesome! You know, it seems to me like since the first time we spoke you guys have made huge progress. And how exciting that you now have the kind of global recognition and awareness, that you’ve bumped up your ad spend to a million a month.”
So what does this conversation mean for the business? What does it mean for them emotionally and psychologically, that they’re having this conversation because they’re wanting to make a change outside of the digital ad space? And call that out again to really bring the human emotion of business and the psychological condition of business into the room.
Bryan: Yes. And so what you’re talking about is, I don’t know if you’ve had an opportunity to check this out. But for those of you who may not have seen it, go back to Episode 27 with Christof Morin, where he’s talking about how to bring emotion and allow the primal brain to do the decision making, right?
Bryan: Because that is critically important. Now I’ll share my warts with you. I mean, my goodness! I screw it up all the time, because I tend to be a little bit more analytical. And I don’t always bring in the emotional, because I just make decisions like this. I’m like “Yup, got it; let’s go!” And most people aren’t as psychotic as me, just making decisions on the fly. And so when they assume they have it, and they’re emotionally involved already, it really is wise to spend some time to do exactly what Jordana is talking about here, and go down a little bit more deeply to find out what is the emotionally compelling reason why somebody is going to take action, because if doing nothing is an option, I’m going to do nothing. If staying comfortable is an option, I’m going to stay comfortable.
So we have to find out what that emotionally compelling reason is that’s personal to them, that’s going to allow them to take action, to make them feel uncomfortable, putting political risk at play here, and then to make those changes that are scary and going into the unknown. And that requires emotion. Is that a fair summary?
Jordana: Yeah. In fact I actually listened to that episode this week and I loved it. And yes, look. You know, studies show that the bulk of our decisions are made in the emotional part of the brain, not the logical brain. We back up decisions with logic to make us feel better about our wild emotions, right? So it’s our job as sellers to address that.
And you know, maybe it’s simple and it just occurred to me now. But in discovery let’s say that you’re in accounting software. And you discover that they found that their accounting software that they’re using now isn’t that easy, or something. So you could say what’s really frustrating about the experience right now, right?
Jordana: But you could even ask about the emotional state that they have in the status quo, so that then when you talk about your product and solution, you’re not only talking about ROI and all of the tacky features and benefits, but you’re talking about the relief that your product has brought. I think that relief is a really powerful emotion to kind of leverage when you’re talking about a future solution. But the relief that this product has brought to similar organizations who switched from accounting software A. to accounting software B.
Bryan: Now would you be okay if I threw out an idea for the listeners on that piece?
Jordana: Please do!
Bryan: S here would be the idea: to get that emotionally compelling reason to take action. If we took Jordana’s example there, the accounting software, sometimes you say that you are not going to feel comfortable asking, “Hey, what’s frustrating you about that?”
Another way of doing it is simply asking, “Hey, can you give me a recent example of where that happened?”
Bryan: Now the curious thing is that, by giving that example, the subconscious mind cannot tell whether it’s happening again or if it’s just a story. So they’re going to re-live it.
If you want to test this out, think about the last time that you broke down. “Okay, I broke down about three years ago.”
“All right. Tell me a little bit about that experience.” And as you’re re-living that experience, that example, you feel your blood pressure going up. “I’m going to be late! I can’t believe it!” duh-duh-duh-duh, right?
So by getting them to re-live that example, to give that example, now you get them emotionally hooked. And that’s what you’re looking for. So if you feel uncomfortable with asking, “Well, tell me how you feel?”, that can get you frustrated, right?
Bryan: If that’s just not who you are, by getting them to give that example, that’s another way that you can do that same thing. So hopefully that’s helpful, or hopefully that aligns with what you were suggesting.
Jordana: Yeah, I think that’s great. And it’s true. You know, it’s not always comfortable either for the seller to ask about emotions, or for the buyer to speak directly about them, especially when the relationship is new. But then they tell you about an experience that was frustrating. And that’s an opportunity for you to label that emotion like Chris.
Jordana: That tends to be frustrating, right?
Bryan: That seems like that was really frustrating.
Jordana: I’m a pain in the ass.
Bryan: Yeah, right. All right; cool. All right. So then I move to hiring. All right. Now I know what I should do. And I know I should buy—oh yeah; buy! (Laughter) I know I should treat these human people, these sellers with humanity. How do I make sure that they can actually sell and that they’re going to hit productivity, as opposed to being professional interviewers, professional visitors, really good with people but really ineffective? I have a full funnel, but no sales. So how do I avoid that?
Jordana: So here’s the thing. You know, I think that typically when we hear the word relationship in sales, we think, as in Challenger, about the relationship builder versus the challenger, right? It’s the person who somehow ends up getting an invitation to your family barbecue versus the professional knowledgeable industry expert, right?—the trusted adviser.
But I think what we forget is that irrespective of what type of seller you are, your relationship with the prospect is undeniably a relationship, right? And not all relationships are created equal.
So when I’m talking about infusing the buyer/seller dynamic of relationship with humanity, it’s less about talking about the weather. You know, we haven’t even talked about building rapport through talking about the weather, because I think that’s kind of b.s.
Bryan: Most people would agree with you, by the way.
Jordana: Most people would agree. It’s super awkward and delivers no value and wastes a lot of time, right? But it’s more about creating a relationship of seeing, hearing and understanding their needs, showing your credibility, so that when it comes time to make a recommendation then it has weight. It has relevance, right?
So I think that the kind of distinguishing idea is not that we end up in the friend zone, which can happen with true “relationship builders” who are not leveraging the kind of psychological and emotional stuff that we’re talking about effectively. They’re talking about the weather, football or whatever. I think it can be pretty hard sometimes if you haven’t shown your credibility, and haven’t really put a spotlight on them to understand their needs, to then move to selling all you’ve got—this rapport, right?
Jordana: But the kind of relationship that we’re talking about is substantial. And in openness through your credibility you build actual trust. And by showing your expertise, when it comes time to make your recommendation, it’s just going to be more credible and more reflective of the conversation and the needs and wants that you’ve learned.
Bryan: Okay. So to tie that up, I mean really, we succinctly say, “Hey, how do you create an environment of trust, comfort and credibility at a peer-to-peer level?”
Bryan: I think that’s what you just said.
Bryan: So our job is to create an environment of trust, comfort and credibility at a peer-to-peer level, because the sad thing is that I can have trust without comfort, right? Whenever I was going through some bad medical stuff I trusted my doctor to get me better. But I was not comfortable because I knew I was going to go through tests, and this and that and everything else. And I can also have comfort without trust.
Bryan: My 13-year-old boy, I wouldn’t trust him further than I could throw my van right now, unfortunately, right? I’m very comfortable around him; I just don’t trust him, right?
So we can have trust without comfort, comfort without trust. But we desperately need that peer-to-peer level, because even if—and I’m really going to encourage you. If you’re day one as a sales person, you know more about what you’re doing than 95% of all people out there. So really take that trusted adviser role and build that trust, comfort and credibility. So yes, I think that’s important.
Now from a hiring perspective then, Jordana, how do we find that? How can we vet that, or what are we looking for?
Jordana: Yeah, that’s a good question and I want to get to that. And I just want to say one other thing on day one.
Jordana: So you might think, who am I? I’m just an SDR or an AE, or whatever. And you’re not just inherently more knowledgeable than everyone. You also have to do some work. (Laughter) You have to get curious. You have to talk to the customer service team or the partner success team, whatever you call it, and gather customer success stories. You need to talk to their AE’s. You know, find the top performing AE or whatever the role is within your organization and learn, right? Learn the industry; study the industry so that you earn your stripes as a trusted adviser and you actually feel confident in the role, right?
Jordana: So that’s the first thing I would say. But, you know, hiring is really interesting, because a., I think it’s a myth that the best sellers are extroverts. We talked about this a little bit when we first met, Bryan. But I often like to challenge the idea that sales is a transfer in enthusiasm, and instead I like to talk about it as a transfer of connectiveness and humanity.
Jordana: So we’re looking for human beings, but they don’t have to be extroverts. But I think the most important qualities of a seller are coachability and the willingness to be vulnerable, and to take risks and fail.
Jordana: And that’s like all right, great. What questions do I ask. You’ve got to interview to figure that out, right?
Well, I think that the last two jobs that I interviewed for had a similar process. And they met with some pretty fabulous results in terms of the kind of players that they ultimately brought into their teams.
But I think a really powerful way for sales leaders to take the temperature of all of those qualities is to put the candidate in a position to actually do the job and receive feedback.
Jordana: Now what do I mean by that? So let’s say you are selling, I don’t know, pet food or whatever, or some kind of pet service, right? So as part of the interview give the candidate some basic information that they would need to kind of confidently “sell the product.” And then have them do a sales call.
Jordana: And what you’re not testing for is the product knowledge, because you know that’s going to be something they just won’t have, right? You’re not necessarily testing for a perfect sales process, because every sales process of a company is unique, and not something that can be learned. But what you’re actually testing for is gameness—to try something scary and new.
Jordana: Gameness is to inevitably fail. At least some of the exercises aren’t going to be perfect, right? And then at the end, openness to feedback. And actually last night when I was thinking about this conversation with you, I was thinking, well how do you test the openness to feedback thing? And I was thinking, how great would it be if once you’ve finished this kind of mock sales conversation interview, you say something like “So would it be helpful to have feedback, or do you just want to move right on?”
Bryan: Nice; I like that. Now if I might piggyback on that a little bit, after you go through that role play, right? I’ve had this “Oh, you know, I don’t think that people would want to do a role play in an interview.” Well, good. Then they’re likely not going to want to be on our team, right?
So once we go through that, and we say, “Hey,. Open to feedback?”
“Yeah, sure.” Everyone is going to say, “Yeah, sure!” You give them feedback. And then the next step to see if they’re truly coachable and adaptable is to go, “All right. Let’s try it again.”
Bryan: “So put it together. Implement that. Tell me when you’re ready. Go.”
Bryan: And you hit it again and see if they made those changes. I’ve done this I don’t know how many times. And I can’t tell you. It’s probably about 90% of the people out there. They go, “Okay; got it!” And they don’t make one change whatsoever. That person is not trainable or coachable. So I love that idea, that approach.
Jordana: It’s amazing that that’s not more of the standard. I mean, as a whole as an industry, I think this is another vital piece of the way that I work. And the way that I worked at Sales Gym is practice. You know, we’re one of the few performance-based industries, if you think of it—sports, musicians, performers. Our practicing usually happens on the phone with our prospects when the stakes are high.
Jordana: I mean, we all know and behavioral science shows us that skills are developed through a very specific kind of deliberate practice usually supported by a coach. It’s happening on some teams but very few. So I think that if you’re a sales leader who is building a sales organization, building and role play is practice. It’s just part of the status quo. It’s what you guys do to worm up; it’s what you guys do to bond; it’s what you guys do to build your culture.
And how does that relate to culture? It’s because practice is vulnerable; practice is risky; practice is failure. Practice is generosity in terms of feedback. It’s collaboration, right? There’s a whole ecosystem of really great values happening in practice. That is one way not only to grow the skills of your teams. Once they have their conversations with prospects they’re able to bring their A. game. They’ve done this. But it also helps to bring the culture.
Bryan: Yeah. I love it. So son of a gun! Time is winding down.
Bryan: Yeah, right! So I want to make sure that we get through this. All right. So good, good stuff. I love this; this has been a lot of fun. So what are the biggest mistakes that you’ve made? Let’s go vulnerable, right? What are the headaches, the frustrations, the way you stubbed your toe, that we can learn from that and not repeat it? How can we learn from you? What are those mistakes?
Jordana: You know, I think the biggest mistake that I made for the first couple years of my sales career was thinking that seller me was different from me me out in the world. And I kind of left myself at the door and gave my prospects I was selling into a kind of lead industry. (Unclear) I thought I needed to meet them where they were energetically. And I lost myself. And through my lack of connection to myself I wasn’t as agile a seller. I wasn’t able to respond on the fly. I wasn’t able to incorporate some of the sales skills that I was learning really effectively.
And I encounter this with clients all the time; this is not unique to me. But connected to the humanity piece, the more of our full selves—our quirks, our imperfections, our silly ways of speaking, our stumbling when we talk—we can bring to our sales conversation, the greater likelihood that we can begin to create that spark of the real human connection which becomes the gateway to open this trust—all the things that we’ve been talking about.
Bryan: So bring authenticity. Bring your whole self to the gig.
Jordana: That’s right. Also it is so exhausting to spend eight hours posturing and pretending to be someone else. It’s misleading.
Bryan: Yeah. Sales is not physically hard. But it’s emotionally and mentally challenging.
Bryan: And you’re going to spend a lot of your efforts, especially if you’re not an extrovert, right? So I know one thing. If I’m not mistaken, you’re pretty big on Daniel Pink’s To Sell Is Human. Is that right?
Jordana: So I’m actually halfway through the book. But he’s not yet the person that I lean on. But tell me more about what the book has in mind.
Bryan: Daniel Pink talks not about an introvert, not an extrovert, but an ambient-vert. So how do you bring those human relationships skills that everybody’s involved in?
So yes, I think that authenticity allows you more energy. And more energy allows you to perform better and with more agility. So I think that’s some really good advice. So bring your whole self to this.
Now how about this? You’ve given us a number of business hacks for talent, sales and scale. What is one specifically, whether you pick out a hack for bringing on talent, one for sales, or one for scaling up a business? What’s your suggestion for us?
Jordana: Well, scaling is not my real house. (Laughter) You know, in terms of talent I think we covered it. I’m not sure why there isn’t more role playing happening in recruiting talent for sales organizations. I think it’s one of the most important things of all of these qualities.
Bryan: Yes. I can just hear the recruiters now. “They’re not gonna like that! You know, that resume looks really good! Look at all that experience” Nope; not so much.
Jordana: It is a great way to lead people out!
Bryan: Correct. I can’t agree with you more. All right. So role play already, for goodness sakes!
All right. You have some books. I bet you have one right by your stand that you’re anxious to show.
Jordana: Oh, I have so many—
Bryan: So just one book here. What’s the book that you want to recommend? I might allow two or three.
Jordana: The Transparency Sale. I mean, this is the book that encourages us. So let me tell you about it. It was based and rooted in the author, Todd Caponi’s fascination with the facts that products online that are a 4.2 to a 4.5 perform better than products that are a 5.0. Why is that? That seems completely counter-intuitive, right?
Well, it is because we are inherently skeptical and weary of perfection. We don’t trust it. We as human beings aren’t perfect; no product is perfect, right?
Jordana: So Todd Caponi was asking himself. How can we bring kind of a 4.2 to 4.5 selling into the way that we talk about our products? And the idea is not to be afraid to bring up proactively the flaws of our products, right?—the things that our competitors do better than us, right? The levers that we need to pull are the things that matter to us in negotiating for a discount. And the idea is that if we can be, and our prospects can sense, that we are truly transparent and honest, that is going to lead to more openness and trust. That is going to lead to less of their time researching and kind of back channeling. And you are truly going to become the trusted adviser that they speak to a lot and rely on, and ultimately who should determine authentically that the product satisfies their needs, and to buy from.
Bryan: So let’s tie that back to what you were saying about you making them feel free, that going for the no. If it’s going to be a show stopper you might as well get it out of the way earlier. “Hey, one thing I want to let you know is that this is not a key area in which we play,” or “this is a real struggle for us in this area.”
Bryan: Is that going to be a show stopper for you? So just doing those simple things there, that’s really, really good advice.
All right. Do me a favor. Pull out your magic 8-ball. Give it a whirl. (Laughter) What does the future hold? What do we need to expect coming down the pike in terms of sales or whatever?
Jordana: So I think actually that Sherry Leviton, a speaker and sales coach, talks about this. But we’re going to need to do what machines can’t do as sellers, right?
Jordana: And again—and I hate to be a broken record!—but that comes back to our ability to create a human experience. So again it is important for us to know our industries and our products and our features. But the more we can understand and absorb what a heavy lift it is as we talked about, to ask a perfect stranger to open up about his hopes and dreams, and to trust us where it’s in our best interest of course, is to sell them the product. The more we understand all of the dynamics that are at play there and make it our North Star to make them feel these things—safe, free, seen, heard—I think the better success that we’ll have both in terms of short-term sales, and then that longer-term relationship play in the terms of referrals, maybe even future employment. Who knows what?
Bryan: Love it. All right. So all that to say, you gotta reach out to Miss Jordana. (Laughter) So Jordana, who should reach out to you, how should they do it,--
Jordana: So I am a sales coach. Right now I am working exclusively with individual sellers, where there is maybe a coaching gap in their organizations and they’re looking for more support and more ways to bring humanity into their sales conversation. I’d be happy to learn about you and work with you. The company is called Spriing Training. The website is in development. But looking at SpriingTraining on LinkedIn is a great place to go. Also LinkedIn at my profile: Message Me DME. I love meeting sellers and people in the sales community. I geek out about this stuff all day. But hopefully I’m hoping to infuse a new energy and a way of thinking about sales that makes it not only more successful but I think more interesting and nuanced as well.
Bryan: all right. So Spriing Training. Jordana Zeldin, thank you so much; a lot of fun. I appreciate it. So on behalf of Jordana and spriing training, this is Bryan Whittington with The Talent, Sales and Scale show, signing off. Get after it!