Marla Esposito of LaserAway: “Knowledge is power”
A good sales person leads and guides but never “pushes” someone to buy what they are selling. The best sales people are the most educated in their field and therefore, are able to sell a product or service by simply teaching and educating prospective clients. “Knowledge is power” and the more you know about what you are selling, the more successful you will be. I consider sales people to be leaders or influencers but not aggressors.
As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Marla Esposito.
Ms. Esposito is the Vice President of Sales for LaserAway, the nation’s leader in aesthetic dermatology. Born and raised in upstate New York, Ms. Esposito graduated from Syracuse University with a Bachelor of Arts degree. After a brief career teaching 11th and 12th grade Regents English she left New York and headed out west to pursue a career in sales. She currently resides in Los Angeles where she leads LaserAway’s team of over 350 top sales people across the country.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?
I come from a family of sales people and started working at our family business at the age of 13. My grandparents owned a Bridal shop in upstate New York and my grandmother brought me to work there as soon as I was old enough to know how to ring up a sale. As a child, I had always loved spending time at our family’s business playing amongst the beautiful gowns, but working there as a young adult I gained an appreciation for the business and I soon realized that I had a passion for sales.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Although I can think of many amusing stories, the most impactful story is more inspiring than funny. Early in my career at LaserAway, a potential patient walked into our Santa Monic clinic. She was a very sweet young woman who was feeling a bit down and needed a little pick-me-up.
We chatted for a bit and she signed up for our VIP Black Card, a program that gives a patient 2,500 dollars in free services when they spend 5,000 dollars. She was not our typical type of patient. She was young and new to the world of aesthetics but with our interest-free financing and the guidance of our amazing medical team, we created a treatment plan for her that really transformed her both inside and out. With her VIP Black Card and 7,500 dollars worth of services, she and I saw a lot of each other. It was about a year into her treatments that she told me about her fiancé and their upcoming wedding. They had been acquaintances for years and she believed he would be her unrequited love forever. She explained that before coming to LaserAway she lacked confidence and at the age of 28 had never even gone on a date. Her positive experience at LaserAway boosted her self esteem and gave her courage to ask him out. The transformation she experienced at LaserAway was more internal than external — she was already quite beautiful but just needed some help recognizing it. The vibe at LaserAway is and has always been very warm and friendly. Although our business started in Los Angeles where we have welcomed many celebrities over the years, the environment we have created ensures that patients from all walks of life will feel comfortable and relaxed at our clinics.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
My latest and most exciting project to date is the recent creation of our Remote Sales Team. When the pandemic started back in March we realized the best way to keep our clinics safe and to practice better social distancing was to limit the number of people coming in daily. We created a remote sales platform that gives us the freedom to do our consultations via Zoom, with a virtual assessment tool that allows our patients to submit pics via text and receive a free virtual assessment within minutes. Remote sales has been a game-changer for LaserAway because it has taken the consultation out of the clinic and into the home of the prospective client. They can get assessed and sign up for treatments without ever leaving the comfort of their living room.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are?
I am grateful to two people, my father for teaching me how to manage money and my mother for teaching me that hard work pays off. The most successful people in the world are there not because of luck but because they have worked hard to achieve their goals. That I learned from one of my best friends for over 20 years, Kim Kardashian West. She is and always has been the hardest worker I have ever known which is why she is one of the most successful business women in the world.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I would consider myself an authority on the topic of sales because I personally have been “selling” for over over 30 years and because I have spent the last 15 years building the amazing sales team at LaserAway, the nation’s leader in aesthetic dermatology.
Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
My advice is to remember that this is temporary and even though there is no definitive end in sight, it will get better eventually. Don’t give up without a fight. Get creative and try to figure out new ways to succeed. The government “stay at home order” in March did not stop me. We temporarily closed our clinics on 3/16/20 and on 3/17/20 I woke up and created the remote sales platform. I was just as panicked as the rest of the world but I turned that anxiety into a positive form of energy and set my mind to figure out a “new normal” for myself and our company.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?
I believe the reason it is not taught in our schools is because unfortunately the word “sales” is often used with a negative connotation. Most professional sales people avoid using the word sales in our titles so why would schools want to teach something that is so frowned upon in society?
This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?
Yes, I do agree with this assumption, because I do not believe that a good sales person has to be pushy. A good sales person leads and guides but never “pushes” someone to buy what they are selling. The best sales people are the most educated in their field and therefore, are able to sell a product or service by simply teaching and educating prospective clients. “Knowledge is power” and the more you know about what you are selling, the more successful you will be. I consider sales people to be leaders or influencers but not aggressors.
The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?
I appreciate all seven stages of the sales cycle and always tried to succeed at them all, but if I had to choose my favorite it is definitely the Close. I don’t necessarily have a “secret sauce” because if I did I definitely would have bottled it by now. However, I do believe that I am very successful at this phase because I do not give up easily. My tenacity and will to succeed do not allow me to quit. If there is a will, there is a way and I will always find it. As we developed our Remote Sales platform I would chat daily with our team members to talk about our different approaches and how we were individually finding unique ways to succeed. One of my team members asked me if I was able to close so many sales by simply not ending the zoom meeting until the sale was achieved. That was a funny question and I wish it were that simple but she was basically referring to my drive.
Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
The marketing team at LaserAway works round the clock to generate the right internet advertising that targets our main demographic. Our sales team generates referrals by offering top notch customer service and incentives for referring friends.
In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?
In order to get better at “Handling Objections,” you need to get to the root of the objection. The best way to do that is to through discovery questions. Understanding what prevents this person from committing is the secret to overcoming it.
‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.
1. Be thorough — cross all your t’s and dot all your i’s.
2. Be confident — lead the conversation.
3. Be positive and upbeat — enthusiasm is contagious!
4. Share your own experiences with the product or service. I always tell our patients that I had my whole body lasered in 2006 and have been hair-free ever since. They love to hear that I literally don’t own a razor (which is the truth).
5. Save the price presentation till the end. You always want to sell them on your product or service before discussing cost. Do not skip the product presentation even if they want to go straight to cost — you want to lead the conversation (#2) and educate them before selling them.
Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?
We at LaserAway believe speed to lead is one of our greatest assets. We have an amazing outreach team that calls our leads within seconds of them filling out our online contact form. Because we contact them immediately, we find that we have a high close rate. For those who want to “think about it”, we believe in a 48 hour follow-up rule. All salespeople follow up two days after consultation. We find that two days is the “sweet spot” that shows we are determined and very serious about helping them on their journey, but are not overly pushy or aggressive about it.
As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, in-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?
The best methods for closing a sale these days during the pandemic is definitely via Zoom, phone, emails and texts. I use a combination of all of them and usually can figure out which method works best for each individual and follow through using that form of communication throughout the sales process. The only method I currently avoid is in person for obvious reasons.
Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I think that we all need to give more to the world of science. Great science leads to cures for deadly diseases yet the funding for science and research remains low.
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!