I think that if your sales tactics are a little “pushy” but they work for you and you’re comfortable in your skin while doing it, then there’s nothing wrong with that.
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 Maryna Shkvorets.
Maryna is a public speaking and sales coach focusing on helping people overcome their public speaking anxiety and speak with confidence and presence. She also has a simple, fun, and engaging sales program (Persuasion-Based Sales) that’s based around persuasion science.
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?
When do I feel most alive? I asked myself this question as I was contemplating a career change. I feel most alive when I am learning something completely new, when I am taking risks, and when I am completely afraid. It was time for a change and that was scary. I have worked so hard to achieve a level of stability and mastery, was I really going to throw it all away? In a word, yes. Once I knew the why, I could focus on the how, and the best way to jump into a world of learning, risks and fear was to start a small business.
The rest is a story of “one thing led to another.” There was a lot of learning and a lot of mistakes. And of course, there were a lot of triumphs as well. Now I can truly say that I feel fulfilled by my career. I am living my life with intention and purpose. Not only am I growing and stretching myself, I feel exhilarated to serve and inspire the people who would rather bathe their cat than speak in front of a crowd or sell.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occured to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
Aside from teaching sales, a large focus of mine is teaching public speaking — particularly to introverted personalities who really don’t like to present.
Last year I was invited to a podcast about how managers can support the introverted voices in their group. I LOVED the topic. And then the host asked me a bit about my business. I almost blanked. I wasn’t prepared to speak about it and couldn’t quite articulate the value of: how I help with stage fright, how I help create engaging talks, and how to infuse presentations with persuasive elements. Yikes! So embarrassing!
Lessons learned: Always be prepared to talk about your business.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m extremely excited to bring this program back in its new format. Now, more than ever, we need to gain the valuable skill of persuasion.
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 know this sounds cheesy, but I’m grateful towards my husband and my small kids, and not for reasons you might think.
I’m grateful to my kids, looking at their little faces and truly believing that the world was open to them made me realize that the world is just as open to me.
I’m grateful to my husband because he never once tried to talk me out of my crazy plans and ideas. He just said “bring it on!”
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I’m an authority because I had to take myself from “ugh” to “uh-huh” when it comes to sales.
A few years ago, i had the mentality that if you have a great product, people will come to buy it with no effort from you. The idea of “convincing” someone to buy something made me uncomfortable.
It took a mindset shift to not only realize that a sale is “win-win”, using the sales process to understand and help your client can make selling fun!
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?
We are each somehow affected by what’s happening. The best way to overcome your feelings of doubt and uncertainty is to offer help to someone else.
Some people are offering to pick up groceries for those who can’t.
Some people are offering free online yoga or dance classes.
I’ll be offering free lunch-and-learns focusing on public speaking basics like how to be engaging, how to overcome stage fright, and how to use stories to build a narrative.
Whatever you know how to do — offer it to someone who needs it.
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?
That’s a good question. I want to give credit to those in education. I think that they want to offer their students more versatile skills that will benefit them for life. However, they have their own obligations, resources, and protocols and probably can’t veer too far away to offer these skills.
Besides, they’re also not experts.
So those of us who sell have to rely on training or trial-and-error.
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?
I’m of two minds on this topic. I think that if your sales tactics are a little “pushy” but they work for you and you’re comfortable in your skin while doing it, then there’s nothing wrong with that.
Trouble is, for the rest of us, if we just adopt those tactics they won’t work. If you don’t feel comfortable in your skin while selling, then you need to try something else. There’s something for everyone.
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?
Yes. The sales process takes time. I wish it was as quick and easy as buying something from the store, but there’s more thought that goes into it.
My specialty is the Presentation. My secret sauce is definitely uncovering and addressing my clients’ pain points, and then demonstrate the gain of working with me.
For example, one pain point for the sales process is that prospects essentially “check out” during your presentation. I might go into detail about how awkward it feels when you’re sure you’re wasting your time but still have to follow-through.
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?
- Prospecting on Linkedin and email. This takes time and effort, but it’s a great start to generating leads
- Being an expert in the media. It definitely helps to be quoted in magazines and articles like Forbes as the subject-matter expert.
- Virtual pitching through webinars. I make it my mission to deliver loads of value in my webinars, address pain points, and showcase the value of working with me. In the end, I always invite the attendees to connect with me for a consultation.
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’?
Well, look at what we call it — “handling objections”. Really, an objection is a problem you can help solve for your client.
Don’t get annoyed, get creative!
‘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.
- “Do you want to proceed with that now?” is a great question to lead your prospect to make a decision. An even better one is “how would you like to pay?”
- Being upfront. If you tell your prospect upfront that you want to be in a position to close or discuss next steps at the end of your presentation, it will make the transitions much smoother.
- Fast-action bonuses. It’s a little bit on the pushy side, but sometimes you have to help make a decision. If you can commit now, you’ll get a discount or bonus.
- Focus on the pain — and then the gain. Really dig into those pain points and how you can help alleviate them.
- Start talking about what happens past the sale. Get your clients-to-be excited about what happens next, as if they already committed.
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?
This is a tough one, and it kind of depends on where you are in your business.
On the one hand, if you have to constantly follow-up to get the sale, the prospect is showing you what kind of client they are. Maybe it’s better to leave it be.
On the other hand though, there’s nothing wrong with trying to touch base until you get a concrete response. Do what you think is best.
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?
Well… there’s what’s best, and then there’s what we end up doing.
My favorite is to have a sales conversation over the phone. It allows me to take notes and get in my element while I’m talking, but still have a live conversation. I get to really hone in on what my client is really looking for.
That said… I often leave follow-ups and other details to email. It’s not as effective, but I guess it’s part of being in the 21st century.
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. 🙂
Fail once a day. I love the expression “failure is not an option,” but I dare you to flip the script. Do something scary with the expectation to fail. Offer to give a talk at a conference, or ask for a discount at Neiman Marcus. Go for something you’ve never dared, and instead of thinking “it won’t work, what’s the point,” say “I wonder what I can get away with.” Overtime, taking a risk like starting a business or giving a talk won’t seem like such a big deal.
How can our readers follow you online?
I would LOVE to get a chance to know your readers.
I’m still revamping my Persuasion-Based Selling program, but you can get on the waitlist to be the first to know about it.
I’m also offering a free online public speaking workshop — How to give a confident and engaging talk, even if you’ve failed in the past.
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!