My friend Don Hutson has a career in speaking, management, and sales that spans time, geography, and industry. His client list includes over half of the Fortunate 500. He’s the CEO of U.S. Learning and has appeared on numerous national television programs. He previously served as the President of the National Speakers Association.
Given this extensive background, I wanted to talk with Don about two subjects: sales and communication.
In this first video interview, I talk to Don about sales.
What’s In and Out
He shares that closing is out while gaining commitment is in. Overcoming objections is also out replaced by dealing with concerns. Even listening is upgraded from a passive activity to power listening, requiring action.
“Let us move from the era of confrontation to the era of negotiation.” –Richard Nixon
When I think of overcoming objections, I immediately think about sales professionals and sales training. The fact is that sales training is a key skill for aspiring leaders whether you are in the sales profession or not.
After all, objections are not only an exercise in closing a sale. Every leader experiences rejection. If you don’t have the skills to overcome the occasional “no,” you will have difficulty leading anyone or anything.
Sales is not only closing business. It also is about selling ideas. In fact, in today’s social media age, it is often about selling yourself. Personal branding and standing out from the crowd are important skills.
Recently, I had the opportunity to interview someone who has forgotten more about overcoming objections than I will ever know. Early in my career, I found his work to be extraordinarily helpful, and I have continued to learn from him through the years. Tom Hopkins has shared the stage with everyone from General Norman Schwarzkopf to former President George Bush and Lady Margaret Thatcher. His first book How to Master the Art of Selling has sold over 1.7 million copies. His latest book, When Buyers Say No: Essential Strategies for Keeping a Sale Moving Forward, shares his insights on rejection and the sales process.
“I never take advice from anyone more messed up than I am.” -Tom Hopkins
One of my beliefs is that everyone can benefit from understanding sales techniques. I simplify it to say, “We are all in sales.”
Whether you actually are a sales professional or not, you will find that successful people understand sales techniques and use them in everyday life.
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Steve Yastrow is the author of Ditch the Pitch, a new book that teaches sales people to tear up the sales script and really understand your customer. Steve founded Yastrow and Company and helps organizations improve results through sales and marketing techniques.
We recently had a chance to catch up and talk about persuasion.
“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears: by listening.” -Dean Rusk
Sales VP’s all over the world will read the title of your book Ditch the Pitch and wonder: “The pitch is how we sell others our ideas,” they will say, “It’s our main way of selling.” You say that the pitch doesn’t work. Why?
If a salesperson determines what he wants to say to a customer before he meets with that customer, the odds that this message will be the right message for this customer, at this time, are one in a million. We can’t possibly know in advance, even with customers we’ve known for a long time, what their current mood, situation, attitudes and reactions to information will be.
Additionally, customers behave differently once they detect a pitch. They get defensive. They resist sharing information. They start thinking about the next meeting they need to go to.
Instead of the pitch, you have a new approach in persuasive communications. What is it?
Improvisation. I teach people to gain the confidence to tear up their sales pitch and create fresh, spontaneous, persuasive conversations that are interesting, relevant and meaningful to their customers.
As you have taught this model to sales leaders, have you had any pushback or concerns? How do you help overcome the desire for a canned pitch since it is comfortable and familiar?
Often people tell me that they are not good improvisers and that they need a script to keep them on track. The fact is, however, that these people are already awesome improvisers. Human beings were born to improvise. We evolved to navigate an ever-changing, dynamic, unpredictable environment. Consider this: Have you ever had two 10-minute periods in your life that were exactly the same? Of course not. Without improvising, human beings wouldn’t have been able to use stone tools, track prey or cross Main Street.
And the most developed human improvisational skill is conversation. Notice the social conversations you have; they are all created on the spot, in the moment, based on what happens in that particular interaction. Ditch the Pitch helps people take their natural human talent for improvisation and bring it into their customer encounters.
“Not brute force but only persuasion and faith are the kinds of this world.” -Thomas Caryle
Your book outlines six habits to persuade others. Let’s just touch one as an example. Habit #6 is, “Don’t Rush the Story.” Would you highlight this one for us?
Everyone reading this interview is knowledgeable and expert about what they sell. Inevitably, this expertise helps us quickly diagnose customer situations and develop solutions. The problem is that we will always devise these solutions before our customers are ready to hear them, and if we tell them to our customers too soon we will overwhelm them. The idea is to be patient and bring information into your persuasive conversation at a pace your customer can accept.