Listening is not usually something people consider to be a superpower. But my guest for this show has learned the power of listening and how it can unlock genuine conversations in business and life.
When Fred Diamond was a junior marketer at Apple, he had a long conversation with one of the top sales reps. She said she believed his job was to make her job easier. That left an imprint on Fred when he went into sales later in his career. Fast forward, and now he’s the author of two books – published on the same day! – Insights for Sales Game Changers: Lessons from the Most Important Sales Leaders on the Planet, and Love, Hope, Lyme: What Family Members, Partners, and Friends Who Love a Chronic Lyme Survivor Need to Know. Fred is also the host of Sales Game Changers Podcast, featuring global sales leaders from companies such as Salesforce, IBM, Hilton, Oracle, and Nestle. Fred recently appeared on my other podcast, Get Yourself Optimized, episode 412, talking about Lyme disease and what we all need to know about this debilitating, often undiagnosed, chronic illness.
Fred has so much sales and marketing wisdom to share today, including the importance of mentorship and the value he has discovered from having those authentic conversations with customers. If you’re curious about how mindset impacts every aspect of business, you’re in the right place.
So, without any further ado, on with the show!
In This Episode
- [02:58] – Fred Diamond talks about his strategy behind releasing two books on the same day. He also shares its pros and cons.
- [09:04] – Fred gives examples of game changing insights for sales leaders.
- [10:45] – The two levels of sales professionals.
- [16:32] – How the pandemic changed Fred as a sales professional.
- [27:45] – Fred explains why sales professionals are the heroes of a company.
- [29:53] – Fred discusses the power of mindset in sales
- [36:32] – How to build lasting relationships with customers.
- [38:47] – The key to becoming a successful sales professional.
- [45:45] – Fred differentiates mentorship from coaching.
Fred, it’s so great to have you on the show.
It’s good to see you again, my friend.
Your book, Love, Hope, Lyme, is about how to assist a chronic Lyme survivor as a family member or caregiver. You also have Insights for Sales Game Changers. You’ve released both of them on the same day. What was the strategy behind that?
I run the Institute for Excellence in Sales. We’re a global organization where we help employers attract, retain, motivate, and elevate top-tier sales talent. We typically work with organizations with large sales teams, companies like Salesforce, Amazon, Red Hat, Oracle, HPE Software, etc.
Over the years, we launched our Sales Game Changers Podcast. People were looking to us for thought leadership and advice on becoming more effective as an enterprise sales organization.
Right before the pandemic, we had done a couple of hundred episodes. We began transcribing every single show we did from day one. I knew we would use it at some point.
Right before the pandemic, I met with a content expert. We devised a plan to create ebooks, memes, and everything else. Things got delayed when the pandemic kicked in. About a year into the pandemic, I said, “Let’s finish this book.”
I reached back to the content expert I was referring to. The advice that we got on that particular book was to create a fifteen-chapter book with fifteen quotes in each chapter. Since I had interviewed somebody on all my podcasts, we had a wealth of content.
Along the way, someone in my life had chronic Lyme disease. Lyme disease is a tick-borne illness. It’s at the epidemic stages in the United States and other places around the globe. When this person had a major flare related to her disease, I became an expert on Lyme disease—what it was and what family members, partners, and friends needed to know.
I have these two concurrent things happening in my life. One is running the business—)growing the Institute for Excellence in Sales for companies and trying to understand this particular disease.
I had all the energy to write two books. I wanted to get the Lyme book out there in the marketplace. People I’ve spoken to have often said it took them ten years to write a book. This book took me six months to write. Concurrently, we had all the content for the sales book, so I said, “You know what, I’m just going to post them on the same day.” There are some pros and cons to both.
What were some of those pros and cons?
The pros are I published two books in one day. I like to say I’m the first person in the planet’s history to post a book on sales performance improvement and Lyme disease awareness on the same day. I can advertise that I’m a two-time author. I say it every chance I get. It’s on my LinkedIn and Facebook.Customers get more value out of what they learn through practice than through your advice. Click To Tweet
I was able to leverage a lot. I had two teams working on both books. The sales book flew. We knew we had a lot of content. I hired somebody to assist me in formulating the book.
I self-published both books. There are many different ways to publish books. You could find a publisher. You could get a hybrid approach, where you could publish yourself on Amazon.
I hired a company that helps you self-publish. They had both teams. They did three things for me. They copy-edited the book, created all the graphics for the covers and back, and teed up the book and all the files you need to post a book on Amazon and in the other places you want to go.
It was helpful to get them both going at the same time. It allowed me to communicate the sales book to the community I want to communicate it to, and the same for the Lyme book.
On the con side, I’ve paid much more attention to the Lyme book. If I had just written a sales book like many people we know in JVMM and our communities, they mostly publish books for their business—how to be a better leader, a better marketer, and an intuitive decision maker, whatever their angle. You could do much around that to get speaking and consulting gigs.
I’m very excited and happy about the sales book. People say they read it every time they go to a conference. Many people knew about it and reached out, and we’ve given it to our customers. We’ve signed copies for our customers. We’ve had book signings at their offices.
I’ve given a lot more attention to getting the Lyme book out in the marketplace because I’ve seen its impact on people suffering from Lyme and the community. Someone even referred to me the other day as one of the most important people in the Lyme community.
In August of 2022, nobody knew me in the Lyme community. I had one person in my life that I was committed to. Now I have a couple thousand Facebook friends. I get five to eight people to reach out to me every day. I’ve traveled across the country to do book signings. I’ve given free copies to people with Lyme disease. I have so many new friends that are bonafide legitimate friends.
One of the top leaders in the Lyme community just wrote another book, and she asked me to write the foreword to her book. It opened up this whole new world. “Would I do it again on the same day?” “Yeah, probably. I would.” The sales book is helping as a marketing tool, but I know the Lyme book is making more of an impact.
What are some examples of some of the game-changing insights that you give sales leaders?
The way we went about this book was interesting. We did about 450 Sales Game Changers Podcast interviews when we wrote it. I had quotes from great sales leaders, companies like Nestle, Hilton, Microsoft, and all these great companies. Most of my world is business-to-business or enterprise sales.
On our podcast, we typically interview those types of leaders. We wrote the book using the thirty most commonly uttered words on the Sales Game Changers Podcast: empathy, prospecting, leadership, teamwork, listening, etc.
We had someone on our team research where those words were used in various quotes throughout the 400 episodes. It had hundreds of great quotes.
Words surprisingly only had a couple of dozen, so we narrowed it down to fifteen words. We went through them many times and found the best ones. We put it together into various chapters.
Let’s start with empathy. I want to categorize sales professionals at two levels. People who are fifteen years into their career and they’ve established themselves. They know that they’re a sales professional. They’ve worked for great companies. They had a great performance. They’ve learned the skills. They’ve learned the marketplace. They’ve learned the process of communicating value to the marketplace.
Sales is the hardest profession in your company if you’re a B2B or small company.
I also want to talk about new people in the sales profession. 50% of those people will continue. Sales is the hardest profession in your company if you’re a B2B or small company. It’s a profession. If you’re a professional, you should be doing what professionals do.
When we wrote the book, we thought of those two audiences, people who are deep into their careers who are looking to keep going and increment their performance, and people who have some skills and talent who foresee this as being their career, as compared to non-sales professionals who want to learn about sales. However, we’ve had a whole bunch of people who aren’t “sales professionals” who were business owners and solopreneurs, who’ve bought the book, read it, and found a lot of value in it.
What would be an example of something a business owner might glean from the book that could change how they prospect, sell, close deals, and retain clients?
Let’s talk about listening. We have a chapter called Listening and Questioning: Practical and Powerful Tips and Strategies. Before the pandemic, I would physically go to sales leaders’ offices. That was one of the ways that I grew my business.
Sales VPs were my customers. I would get appointments with sales leaders. I would go to their office. I would bring my podcast kit, mics, filters, and recording kit. I had a process and gave them the questions ahead of time.
When I would frequently ask them for their superpower or tell us a skill they’re most exceptional at, the answer would come up listening. People would say, “You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that order.” I would take that for granted. I would say, “Stephan, great listening. Tell us another skill.”
Great sales professionals realize that customers do not necessarily look for a sales professional who is a walking brochure.
We realized listening was a skill with some top sales leaders at great companies, at Oracle, formerly Sun Microsystems, LinkedIn, and IBM. I ask people, “Tell us what makes you a great listener?” People would prepare, and a lot of people don’t do this. They don’t prepare for the interview.
A lot of the things we will be talking about here sound intuitive, but there are things that people don’t do. Many people prepare for the sales call on their way to the sales call. If it’s a Zoom-ish type of sales call, they’ll prepare for three minutes before the appointment.
You can get away with that in some cases by doing quick Google searches. But the true elite sales professionals have been preparing for weeks, in some cases. They’ve been finding things to help them ask the right questions, but they already know some of the answers because they’ve prepared a lot.
The second thing is they realize that if the customer is doing most of the talking, it’s a successful sales call because customers want to talk about themselves and their challenges and discover solutions independently.
They’ll see value in you if you’re helping them get there. I’ve heard some studies where customers get more value out of things that they do on their own versus what you tell them. At the same time, they might be looking for expert advice.
We heard a quote during the beginning of the pandemic that we discussed in the book. It’s “WAIT. Why Am I Talking?” Some great sales professionals realized along the way, especially now that customers can get information on the internet, they’re not necessarily looking for the sales professional to be a walking brochure.
Until fifteen or twenty years ago, a sales professional had a brochure. You had to talk about your company’s direction in the industry. Now, the customer can research that on their own before engaging with you.You can build a successful sales career by helping customers achieve their goals. Click To Tweet
One last thing related to listening is the great sales professionals and leaders we’ve interviewed on the podcast that we’ve included in the book Insights for Sales Game Changers. They were curious. They had this natural curiosity, and it was genuine. You can’t fake a lot of this stuff. Customers will know when you’re asking peremptory questions, when you’re asking questions that should be asked, that they expect you to ask.
I want to talk about the Lyme book briefly about how that’s changed me as a sales professional. They know when you’re asking them the basic question. “What keeps you up at night? What are some of the challenges? What are the biggest pains? How have you changed because of the pandemic?”
These are things that great sales professionals know ahead of time. They’re listening for you to answer, but they’re asking you the right questions so that you will give them the right answers.
I love it. That leads me to the next question you alluded to while talking. What changed you as a sales professional while writing a book about Lyme disease?
Customers will know when you’re asking peremptory questions.
One thing we also talked about in the book is authenticity and vulnerability. That was something that we touched on once in a while in the podcast before the pandemic. Of course, once the pandemic kicked in, everybody in the world was dealing with the effects of the pandemic, either how COVID was keeping them inside, how it was changing their life or their family life.
If there were some medical effects, there were always financial effects, especially if your industry was turned off for a year, like the entertainment industry. Hospitality was destroyed. Still, it will be recovering for the next couple of years.
Everybody was challenged with however else they were challenged. We discussed that on the Sales Game Changers Podcast when the pandemic kicked in. One of our great quotes was, “Everyone’s in the same ocean but fighting different waves.” The pandemic was personal for everybody.
When I decided to pursue Lyme disease and why it affected somebody who I cared for, I dove in. You and I are both marketers. We make use of social media. I started going up on Facebook and LinkedIn, posting things I discovered. I’m new to Instagram and other social media forums.
People started to notice. What started happening was that people in the sales world would ask me, “Why are you posting about Lyme disease?” I told them stories about what had happened and why I decided to learn more, and people started telling me their stories. “I don’t know if you know this, but my niece has Lyme disease,” or “One of my coworkers has Lyme disease.”
I’ll give you an example. I was at a partner event for a large technology company early this year. There was a guy that I’d been prospecting for the last ten years. I know he has about a hundred salespeople. He’s not too far from where I am. By the way, I’m in Northern Virginia, outside of DC. I expected this to be a fly-by type of wave.
I saw this guy across the buffet line. He waved back to me, and I thought that was it. He approached me with a plate of food and said, “Why are you writing so much about Lyme disease?”
I told him some of this story, and he said, “I don’t know if you know this, but my son was bitten three years ago. He’s in his early 30s, and he doesn’t work anymore. He can’t work. He’s so fatigued. He’s been to all these doctors. He tried all these treatments.”
As an expert in Lyme disease, I know what he was going through. I knew what his son was going through. I knew how challenging it was for him as a parent. The conversation I had with him was one of the most authentic conversations I’ve ever had in my life. It was about real things that he was dealing with.
I didn’t have to say, “Oh, should I ask him about his pain and what keeps him up at night?” I knew the pain he was going through. By this point, I had spoken to hundreds of parents with teenage children in or early twenties whose children can’t work anymore. They can’t have relationships. The pain and the anxiety are through the roof.
These are things that great sales professionals know ahead of time. They’re listening for you to answer, but they’re asking you the right questions so that you will give them the right answers.
I didn’t have to look at my list of questions. He asked me things. I asked him how he was treated. It was the most natural conversation I’ve ever had.
He said, “Tell me more about the Institute for Excellence in Sales. Give me an update.” I said, “Okay, here’s what we’re focusing on.” He said, “Maybe now’s the right time for us to engage.”
We scheduled a Zoom call. Two months later, they became partners. We call our customers partners. His company became a partner of the institute. As I tell people, two years ago, I didn’t sit down as I was drafting my marketing plan and say, “Okay, I’m going to do some webinars, I’m going to do a podcast, I’m going to write a book about a disease that I know nothing about.” No BS like that.
I had the webinars, the podcasts, and all those things, but the life event that happened to me led me to be open about this. It led me to a customer. I’m sure that that’ll lead to more. It said for me, and it broke down our relationship.
He knows I have something to sell. He knows that I want VPs of sales to become customers. We have women in the sales program. We do an annual award event, a conference for women in October, and a leadership program. But now, we have this relationship on a different level. It told me, “You have to figure out how to get to those authentic conversations.”
Yeah, that’s amazing. What occurred to me when you’re talking about this is this was meant to be. This was written in the stars. This conversation and the impact you’ve already had on this client, partner, organization, life, his son, etc., are all written in the stars.
I learned this concept from a guest on my other show, Get Yourself Optimized, who is an Akashic Records reader and a pretty famous one. Her name is Anne Marie Pizarro. She refers to clients or customers as one’s assigned group, which means that these are people that you’re destined to work with.
It takes a lot of the pressure off. You still have to get off the couch and go and pound the pavement, return the calls, and all that, to close the deals. You’re destined to work with these people, so just relax and know you’re being guided to work with them, to change their lives, and vice versa. It’s a really powerful concept. What do you think about that?
Thank you. I appreciate that. It’s interesting. I wrote this in the foreword to the book. I was a history major in college. I was the editor of my college newspaper at Emory University in Atlanta. I always thought I would be a writer or a journalist.
Our customers are our partners.
McGraw Hill was the first job that I worked at after college. I remember I was an editor. I was writing reports on data security and telecommunications, things I had no idea about, but we sat next to the salespeople. They had an outbound sales team. There were men and women, but there were more men. This was the mid-80s.
They would show up in nice suits and drive nice cars. I would listen to their conversations and some of these guys’ names from 1985. This was way before the internet and everything related to that. We had a lot of customers. It was a very important division of McGraw Hill.
I remember how those conversations were professional. They were respectful. They were authentic for the most part. These guys were important. I made my way to talk with that organization’s vice president. He very kindly gave me some time.
I asked, “How important is what you’re selling to the company?” He said, “It’s critical. We sold these loose-leaf reference books of our reviews of tech products. Companies depended upon these as they were buying various types of technology. Companies like Bell Atlantic and AT&T said they would buy hundreds, if not thousands, of our books because they needed to make good decisions. We needed to figure out a way to get to them.” I then went into marketing for most of my career at companies like Apple and Compaq, but I always respected the role of the top sales professionals.
Even though I was a marketing professional, I got a Master of Business Administration (MBA). Accountants wouldn’t have jobs if it weren’t for our top sales professionals at every company I was at. The finance professionals wouldn’t have jobs, and the people on the dock wouldn’t have jobs. It’s the most important position in the company, which is why the mission of the institute and the reason we do the podcast is to help employers attract, retain, and motivate top-tier sales talent.
You must figure out how to get to those authentic conversations.
Right. Did that feel destined to be, or does it feel more random or haphazard to you?
It’s interesting. I was destined to write books. I don’t know why writing both books took me until sixty. When I created the Institute for Excellence in Sales ten years ago, someone approached me and said, “When are you going to start publishing?” I said, “What do you mean?” She goes, “You call your company the Institute for Excellence in Sales, the institute’s publisher.” We’re working on number two in the Insights series, and I’m also working on the second book in the Lyme series.
Even though I was always in marketing, I had the fortune to work for Apple, which was probably one of the greatest marketers in the history of the world. I worked at Compaq, and I had a large budget. There’s an old saying from John Wanamaker, “Half my money on marketing is wasted. The problem is, I’m not sure which half.”
Luckily, I had multimillion-dollar budgets as a marketer at Apple and Compaq. I could spend money on almost everything. To be honest with you, we track things rigorously. When you have a couple of million dollars to market, you’re a genius because if anything goes right, it will go right.
I always knew something was missing in the marketing process because if customers didn’t want to buy what we were making, we had no reason to be in business.
When I was at Apple, I was in a junior marketing role. I had a long conversation with one of our top sales reps. She said she believed my job was to make her job easier. I took that to heart. I said, “My job is to make it easier for customers to buy our products and for our salespeople to sell them. My marketing mission was to make it easy for our salespeople to sell.”
Half my money on marketing is wasted. The problem is, I’m not sure which half. – John Wanamaker
There’s a whole bunch of ways that that happens. The brand has to be good, and the products have to be good. One of the reasons why Apple is where it is today is because it has good products. We talked about Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. But the reality is, the products were really good. Some of them weren’t, but most of them were good. We had some really smart people.
I always believed that, even though I was a marketer and a history major, the sales process, the sales activity, was where it was. They’re the heroes of the company. Someone talked on one of the Sales Game Changers Podcasts. We mentioned in the book that when the pandemic kicked in, the sales teams would lead companies through, and they still are today.
Of course, there have been layoffs, and some macro-related things have been done. I’m sure you’ve covered them in other places, but it’s still all about how sales professionals are leading their companies through a challenging time, and it’s always a challenging time.
It’s interesting. The other side is, when you talk about destiny, it’s like, “Why did I write a book about Lyme disease?” Sales made a lot of sense. I often wonder why this Lyme book has never been written before. I get people blessing me every day over the internet. You and I can have a virtual coffee and discuss why that destiny occurred.
Let’s talk a bit more about some of the concepts in your sales book. We talked about listening. One chapter that I am curious to hear more about is the one on mindset. I will give you a quick story before we delve into some of the advice from the sales leaders.
I had a call with my friend and a past guest on this show, Greg Merrilees, and we talked about mindset. My three-year-old son was sitting on the couch with me, playing and doing his thing. He starts interrupting and saying, “Greg, Greg.” Greg’s like, “Yes. Tell me. Give me a complete sentence.”
My son just stared at Greg on Zoom. He says, “Mindset is everything.” I could just see Greg’s mind was blown. This is such powerful wisdom.
That impacted him. By the way, the episode where I interviewed Greg is about a conversion-focused web design for your website. It’s a powerful episode. Tell us about mindset.
Good for you and for your son. He’s off to a great start. I look forward to listening to the other show as well. The Institute for Excellence in Sales has been around since about 2013. One thing that we used to do before the pandemic is we did a lot of live things for listeners in Washington, DC. It’s built on what we call the Beltway.
People in the US have probably heard about the Beltway. Inside the Beltway is where the White House, all the museums, and the District of Columbia are. There’s a whole bunch of different types of industries. I am in Northern Virginia, the DC area’s business center, so many technology and hospitality companies are headquartered there. We see a lot of live events.
My marketing mission was to make it easy for our salespeople to sell.
In 2015, we did a live event featuring some of the top sales speakers in the country at the time. Your audience may or may not know people like Jeb Blount, who has written many books, Anthony Iannarino and Mark Hunter.
Ultimately, I said, “All right, guys, it was a full-day event. Please advise if you could share one thing with the sales professionals listening or in our room today. what would that be?” Five of the six said, “It’s all about mindset.” I said, “Oh, okay, all right, mindset.”
When the pandemic kicked in, we started doing podcasts every day, and we did them in the form of webinars. We would do a live webinar and convert it to an audio podcast. At the beginning of the pandemic and all through the first eighteen months, we would get fifty to two hundred people every day who would log in. They would watch us have an interview like this or with a panel.
Every day we create a different show. Tuesday was our women in sales show, Wednesday I interviewed sales VPs, Thursday was The Optimal Sales Mindset Show, and Friday was sales tactics. Every week, we would talk about mindset and how critical mindset was to being a sales professional.
I had high-performance athletic coaches who’ve worked with basketball stars like Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, and Kevin Durant. We have people from the entertainment space who talked about mindset. We had people who talked about general thinking and mindset positivity.
They’re critical because you’re trying to influence someone to do something they may or may not want to do or will be reticent for whatever reason. Your job is not to convince them to do something they don’t want to do because that will eventually get caught. That’s not what sales is.
Sales are about helping your customer or your prospect. It’s about serving them to help them solve their challenges.
Sales are about helping your customer or your prospect. It’s about serving them to help them solve their challenges. We talked a lot about how to put yourself in that framework and that mindset, where you’re of service and positive service because you’re helping someone achieve something they most importantly need to do.
I had one of the top comedians in the 1980s, Tom Dreesen, on one of the shows. He talked about how he was an opening act for Frank Sinatra for fourteen years. Tom Dreesen talked about his career. He said this was the first time he was ever asked about Frank Sinatra’s mindset. He said three things came to mind.
He said the first thing was that Frank Sinatra knew everything happening. He said Frank Sinatra knew if the third trombone player came in a second late. He said he knew everyone’s job and let them do theirs. He let them do their jobs, like the PR, publicity, and arena people.
He knew what everybody was supposed to do. He was so perfect in his participation that once again, if the third trombone player came in a millisecond late, he would stop the performance and say, “Why’d you come in a millisecond late?”
The second thing he said was that Frank Sinatra was always on time. He said that he would be gone if he had a noon appointment with you if you were one second late. His time was so important to him, his preparation and livelihood. He was gone if you wouldn’t give him the respect he required to be there on time.
That’s so relatable to the sales process. How often do people get on a Zoom call at past twelve while you’re sitting there at exactly twelve? You’re a customer, or you’re a sales professional.Become an expert in your sales niche and market to enjoy a successful sales career. Click To Tweet
The third thing he said was he went with Frank Sinatra to an Italian restaurant. A guy had a sign, “Frank Sinatra’s favorite Italian restaurant.” He asked Frank, “Doesn’t it bother you that a hundred guys say their restaurant is your favorite Italian restaurant?” Sinatra told him, “If it’s going to help the guy sell a hundred pieces of cannoli, he can say it’s my favorite place. It doesn’t bother me.” It was such a generous spirit. He understood his role.
There is a lot about Frank Sinatra. Plenty of books, good and bad, have been written. Those three things he said just made Sinatra the top performer. We talked about that on our Optimal Sales Podcast. I included that in the book. There are so many lessons that come from those three things.
That’s awesome. Are you a fan of Frank Sinatra?
I’m from Philadelphia, and Sinatra was huge. After I got out of college, when working at McGraw Hill, I would work as a wedding Bar Mitzvah graduation party DJ on weekends. I’d play New York, New York, every single party I did. Even at 13-year-old birthday parties, I’d do My Way, if not every other party.
A lot of times, I’ll throw on my Sinatra playlist. That’s usually the only time I listened to him during the week. Interestingly, a guy like Sinatra has touched so many people.
As a sales professional, if you’re touching people and helping them achieve their goals, I’ve had people on the show on the Sales Game Changers Podcast who talked about how their customers have maintained 30-year friendships. Tamara Greenspan is in the show. She’s been a sales leader at Oracle for 30 years. We talked about how her relationships have continued for over 30 years.
One thing that people don’t always realize is customers who have jobs that would be serviced by B2B sales professionals, such as high-tech-related jobs, software, and services related to software, customers don’t want to leave their jobs. Customers want to stay. They’re not looking to jump for the most part. They’re very risk-averse, especially if they’re in IT, finance, or accounting. They want to hold on to a good job as long as possible.
If you’re a good lead sales professional, you may have relationships for fifteen or thirty years, especially if you’re selling to the government or large companies that have been around for a long time. People don’t want to leave. They may eventually retire but don’t want to jump around. They want to hold on to the jobs they have. As a sales professional, if you have the mindset of helping them achieve their goals, you can have a very successful, lucrative career, presuming you’re selling the right stuff at the right time.
Yeah, you have to have a quality product or service, for sure.Mental preparation is vital for successful sales professionals. You can’t leave things to chance or rely on last-minute efforts and achieve lasting success. Click To Tweet
You want to sell a lot too. People ask me a lot of times how I become successful. I say, “Sell something that’s in demand that many people want to buy.” The guy who sells Dell computers to the Navy lives in a nice house. The guy who sells screws to General Motors lives in a very nice house in the suburb of Detroit.
You don’t just wake up one day and say, “I’m going to be the guy who sells Dell computers to the Navy.” It will take you twenty to twenty-five years to get there. But if you’re good at this glorious profession of sales and a sales game changer, you’ll get there if you’re lucky and everything goes right.
One thing that you touched on earlier that was important for successful sales professionals is preparation. I know you have a chapter on preparation in your book. What practical things are universal among top sales professionals regarding their preparation? What are they doing?
When people ask me how they can have a successful sales career, one of the first things I’ll say is to be an expert in your industry. The guy I referred to before, who sells Dell computers to the Navy, got to that place because he is an expert in two things. He’s an expert in the business of the Navy, and he’s also an expert in the technology that Dell can provide and the ecosystem related to that.
Be an expert in your industry.
If you’re buying a lot of computers or B2B enterprises, you want to ensure that the people you’re working with know your challenges. The only people they’re going to be talking to are the people who can help them achieve their goals if they’re in the vendor community.
About a hundred people are ahead if you want to talk to a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) or Chief Operating Officer (COO). There are their direct reports, their peers, the people above them, and their top customers, and then they will get to the vendors helping them achieve their goals. There are other advisors along the way, and then there are other partners. You need to be able to be in that particular place.
If you’re a 22-year-old aggressive sales professional, you aren’t going to get the audience of the CEO. But if you aspire to be the guy who sells Dell to the Navy, then you understand the marketplace. You’re reading all the time, getting all the newsletters, and reading the newsletters for your industry. You’re building a network of other professionals selling things to companies. You’re very aware of who the network is that you need to build with the other providers who service that particular marketplace.
The number one thing is you have to be an expert. When you get the remote opportunity to engage in a real conversation, they want to be talking about, “I got these big challenges. How are you going to help me?” You got to get in there right away. That’s why I said before listening is about knowing the answers to the questions you will be asking.
They always say you should know the answer to every question you ever ask. It’s being prepared. It’s talking to people all through the organization.
One challenge always blows my mind is sales professionals who haven’t built an extended network at their target. They’re relying on one person. I’ve been in meetings where sales professionals said, “Oh, yeah, we’ll get the deal. We had a great first meeting.” Every first meeting is great. The customer is learning something new. They’re going to get some data points and pebbles from you.
In many cases, the customer is always looking for things to be aware of because they’re trying to be experts inside their company. If you’re offering technology or service, they will meet with you if it’s on their radar screen and it’s going well, but the challenge is the second meeting. The challenge is providing significant value.
If you want to be successful in sales, be an expert in that marketplace so that when you get that opportunity, you’re demonstrating to the customer that you understand their market. You’re not just there to shill. You could do that on LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
One blog article can go a long way on LinkedIn. Don’t just shill for your company; post valuable things that show you’re an expert in the marketplace. Go to conferences. Take pictures with other senior leaders, and those things trigger. But to get to that point, you must study what professionals do.
A golf professional is on the putting green for four hours a day and at the driving range every day for at least an hour. They are also working on the mental side. That’s what professionals do. They don’t wing it. They don’t get on a call one minute before or one minute afterward. All those things are refined.
I’ve worked with so many elite sales professionals, and we’ve interviewed them for the book. They do those things. They don’t wing it. They don’t show up unprepared. They respect what the customer is going through. One way to show respect is by understanding their challenges and preparing for those meetings.
One thing that comes through loud and clear as part of being prepared is to be on time and have everything lined up so you’re not scrambling and flustered. Because if they’re on the call on Zoom waiting for you, even though you were there, that’s not a great way to start.
Whatever you needed to do to prepare to make sure that you were there on time. The previous meeting was five minutes early; you do not have back-to-back calls. Set up your Zoom so you don’t have a waiting room, but there’s direct access to your Zoom by just putting the password in the URL. That stuff makes you look like you’re a professional.
Sometimes there’s going to be a monkey wrench that is going to get thrown in. I had a sales call planned with somebody about a month ago. The day before, she said, “I look forward to talking to you tomorrow at noon.”A successful sales call begins when the customer takes the conversational lead. Customers are naturally inclined to express their challenges, share their experiences, and seek solutions. Click To Tweet
I like to log in to Zoom calls at least two minutes beforehand. Then, I got an email from her two minutes past twelve, “Fred, I’m sorry, but my husband died this morning. Can we reschedule?” I was like, “Yeah, of course,” Every once in a while, there’s a monkey wrench.
If we could do one message here for your audience, Stephan, if you’re a professional, you got to be thinking about you’re a professional. Those sales leaders who are fifteen years into their career they’re professionals. If you’re not a professional, you’ll be flushed out.
Sales are the only performance-related job at your company. You only eat when you get paid type of thing. It’s very hard for an accounting major to get flushed out of an accounting job. It’s very hard for a finance major. Even in product design, they’ll give you time to figure out and learn things.
Sales professionals, you need to hit the ground running, even if it’s your first job. You got to hustle, you got to think, and you got to research. You have to learn what are the right questions to be asked.
One last thing that we didn’t talk about is our chapter on mentorship and coaching. The great sales leaders talked about how open they were to coaching. Mentoring is seeking somebody for advice you may or may not use. Coaching is when you say, “I want to get better,” you hire a coach, and you do what they tell you to do.
You just don’t take, “Yeah, sure, I’ll think about exercising in the morning.” You do it. Professional athlete does what their coach tells them to do, even if they don’t like it. That one comes up frequently as well.
That’s awesome advice. Thank you so much, Fred. If our listener or viewer wants to work with the Institute, wants to learn from you, read your book, or listen to your podcast, where should we send them?
If you’re a sales leader and lead an organization and like to consider being on the podcast, contact me via LinkedIn. I’m very ubiquitous on LinkedIn. I’d love to connect with you there.
Thank you again. I just want to acknowledge you. You’re doing a lot of great things. You gave me the honor of being a guest on your other podcast. It’s mind-blowing that I can talk for two hours about Lyme disease.
I’ve done nearly thirty podcasts where I was a guest on Lyme disease. Thank you for giving me that opportunity. I want to acknowledge you for the great work that you’re doing for your clients. You’ve helped a lot of people in the JVMM community. And I just want to acknowledge you for the good work you do.
Thank you, Fred. Thank you for what you do in the world. You’re out there revealing light, which is amazing, beautiful, and far-reaching. Your ripple effect is much greater than you can imagine.
Yeah, awesome. Listener, go out there and create your ripple effect. We’ll catch you in the next episode. I’m your host, Stephan Spencer, signing off.
Connect with Fred Diamond
Previous Marketing Speak Episodes
Previous Get Yourself Optimized Episode
Your Checklist of Actions to Take
Maximize my preparation time for sales calls. Gather insights. Create thoughtful questions and talking points. My professionalism shines through preparation and by delivering valuable content.
Active listening is crucial in sales. Make my clients feel heard and valued by giving them space to share their thoughts and challenges.
Cultivate authenticity and vulnerability. Share personal stories to deepen connections and build trust with clients to forge stronger relationships.
Leverage existing content for greater visibility. Repurpose podcast episodes and interviews into blog posts, social media snippets, or ebooks to maximize content reach and impact.
Develop a curious mindset when engaging with clients. Curiosity demonstrates my commitment to providing tailored solutions and fosters a deep connection.
Deliver value to customers. Share educational content, practical tips, and thought leadership that makes a difference. Build a strong reputation as an expert by consistently providing value.
Demonstrate a positive service that focuses on my client’s needs. Successful sales help my clients solve their problems and meet their needs.
Seek advice from mentors and hire coaches to improve my skills. Continuous learning and coaching are vital for sales professionals.
Aim to build a network and be part of a community that resonates with my business mission. Determine where my products or services are needed.
About Fred Diamond
“Insights for Sales Game Changers: Lessons from the Planets Top Sales Leaders” features sales improvement tips and ideas from the over 500 Sales Game Changers Podcast episodes Fred Diamond has produced featuring global sales leaders from companies such as Salesforce, IBM, Hilton, Oracle and Nestle. You’ll become a better sales professional after reading this book and applying the lessons Fred shares.