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“Be prepared.” With Mitch Russo & Layne S. Frank

By human nature, people do not like conflicts. An objection is a form of conflict and usually takes someone “off script”. For some, it is very hard to recover unless you are prepared. You can immediately start handling conflicts by not taking personally to the objection. Listen and understand to what the objection is, correlate […]

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By human nature, people do not like conflicts. An objection is a form of conflict and usually takes someone “off script”. For some, it is very hard to recover unless you are prepared. You can immediately start handling conflicts by not taking personally to the objection. Listen and understand to what the objection is, correlate a solution to overcome it and move the objection to an acceptance.


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 Layne S. Frank.

Layne S. Frank is a serial entrepreneur, business thought leader and trusted advisor. He has spent the last 25 years building sales teams and helping organizations throughout the country continue to move their businesses forward. Layne has logged over 50,000 hours of time spent toward his profession through continued education and practical field application.


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?

Igrew up in a roofing family in Philadelphia. After college, I moved to NYC in 1995 looking for a new career. After a few years of odds & ends jobs, I stumbled across an Ad in the NY Times for “Internet Sales”. I became part of the telecommunications explosion throughout the 1990’s. This foundation led me to pursue a career in Technology which I have been a part of over the past 25 years.

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?

I was let go of a high paying technology consulting job in 2004. The devasting part to this is that I just closed on my first home and my son was 1 years old. I managed to get myself hired back the next day at a decreased compensation. The notion of fight or flight kicked in. I vowed to never work for anyone again. I spent the next 60 days doing a little as possible to stay under the radar, built a business plan, got it funded and walked out of the office on a Friday to never have to come back. I launched my first company in 2004 and named it after my son.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I co-founded Virtual5’oclock March 2020. Smack in the middle of the Covid-19 outbreak. Virtual 5’oclock is a community consisting of thought leaders, entrepreneurs, business heads and trusted advisors coming together for a single purpose; Moving business forward.

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? Can you share a story about that?

I attribute hundreds of people who have helped me along the way over the past 25 years. For me it starts at the roots, and I would have to say it is my Mother and Father that inspired me. My father was a laborer most of his life and became a business owner. He showed me with hard work you can achieve anything. My Mother supported me unconditionally through the good, the bad and the ugly. Hard work and a great support system can take anyone to where they want to go.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

Aside from spending my entire life in a sales capacity, I tell people that with all of the successes I have had both personally and professionally, I have had 10 times that amount of failures. If you can identify your failures and push through them, you can achieve success in more ways than one.

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?

As I mentioned earlier, I co-founded a company at the start of Covid-19 when it really started to effect the US population, especially New York. The initial thought to the launching of the site was to create a community and a place where people within our immediate network can come for help and support. The first few weeks can be described as shock and awe. I noticed that people reaching out to us were very depressed, fearful and scared of the unknown. Overnight we became a support group to one another. I would state that everyone should ask for help who needs it and lean on family and friends for support.

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 versalite topics, is totally ignored?

Let me start off by saying the entire K-12 education system in America is underfunded. Especially the educators and their much-needed resources. Professional Salespeople (aside from business owners and entrepreneurs) are the highest earners of income in America. Monies need to be allocated into the school systems to attract the best teaching talent for the benefit of the children. People get into Sales to make money. The incentive is not yet there to attract true sales professionals to become educators in pre-college systems. People in society begin selling themselves starting at a very young age. It is one of the key fundamentals in life and needs to be more addressed within the education system.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey”, 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?

The three most important things in sales is to be “the expert” in what you are selling, know your audience and listen. To many sales people fail because they talk about themselves to much and their product/solution that may not even be a right fit for their prospect. This will always come across as salesy or pushy. Listen to what your prospect has to say and the pain points that they have. Then you can help them instead of selling them.

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?

Great question. If I must choose one it would be Presentation. Regardless of how you get into the door, it is the first seconds of your presentation which you either have their attention or the deal is dead. My secret sauce is to be a master to the other six stages of the sales cycle but the presentation is the make or break stage. Every presentation is unique because you must know ahead of time what you are walking into. Put in the time and you will see the results.

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?

My Network is my Net Worth. Plain and simple. Building relationships is the key fundamental of a sales persons success. When you put relationships first throughout your career, you will find that you are front of mind with people within your network. Over time you become an order taker instead of constantly having to chase your prospects down. Build a referral base and always remember you have to give to get.

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’?

By human nature, people do not like conflicts. An objection is a form of conflict and usually takes someone “off script”. For some, it is very hard to recover unless you are prepared. You can immediately start handling conflicts by not taking personally to the objection. Listen and understand to what the objection is, correlate a solution to overcome it and move the objection to an acceptance.

‘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.

I would suggest the following: 1. Make sure you are working directly with the decision maker. 2. Be yourself. Your prospect will sense if you are real or fake. 3. Always try to create a sense of urgency. 4. Deal with and overcome objections. 5. Know your competition.

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?

The “follow up” is one of the most important aspects of Sales but yet most sales people are guilty of not following up with their customers and prospects. Now more than ever there should be no excuse for the lack of follow up. With current technology and CRM’s the follow up has literally become automated. Time management and organizational skills play a big part of the follow up. I usually time block my calendar to dedicate time for the follow up as well as check in’s with my customers.

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?

I may have had a particular answer to this question 7 weeks ago, but today we are smack in the middle of a global pandemic and the future is not certain. One thing that is certain is the business needs to continue to move forward. I believe that we will all have to reinvent ourselves to adapt to what may become the new norm. Today, video is the closest form to intimate human interaction. I would tell everyone to embrace video and make it your friend. Until we are all shaking hands again and hugging one another, video will be the most collaborative technology for the foreseeable future.

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. 🙂

That movement is called Virtual 5’oclock (V5O). Here is how I would sum up my new company:

Why is the dinner party so important? It’s the side bar conversations.

The event itself is what brings people together. It’s the conversations that will create relationships and drive business.

Virtual 5’oclock is a community consisting of thought leaders, entrepreneurs, business heads and trusted advisors coming together for a single purpose; Moving business forward.

Members will be part of an enhanced virtual experience like no other platform in the world. The best minds will be brought together for a mission, and we will be taking you to the land of the unknown.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.virtual5oclock.com

www.bbhsolutions.com

Instagram: @layno3

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/laynef/

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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