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Bob Wiesner of The Artemis Partnership: “Invest in growth”

Invest in growth. Time, energy, money. The only way we’re going to help more people get through this pandemic — and help some of them thrive — is to create more opportunities for more people. It’s hard to cut your way to profitability. Most businesses have already made all the cuts they can make while still providing a decent […]

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Invest in growth. Time, energy, money. The only way we’re going to help more people get through this pandemic — and help some of them thrive — is to create more opportunities for more people. It’s hard to cut your way to profitability. Most businesses have already made all the cuts they can make while still providing a decent product or service to their clients or customers. Now’s the time to reallocate one’s available resources to growth. That positive, forward-looking momentum will build business and create opportunities. It’ll also energize everyone you work with and give real purpose to their work. They’re not doing what they do just so someone else can make money. They’re doing it so more people can have work and find satisfaction.


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 Bob Wiesner.

Bob Wiesner is a business development consultant with more than 20 years of experience guiding several billion dollars’ worth of pitches across industries including advertising, auditing, management consulting, law, pharmaceuticals, technology, and investment banking. Today, Wiesner serves as the Managing Partner for the Americas region of The Artemis Partnership, a global consulting company helping clients win more new business and improve success rates for their most important pursuits. Under Wiesner’s leadership, the unique services provided by the Artemis team results in a consistent 30 to 40 percentage point improvement in conversion rates, and on specific pursuits, clients win 80 percent of the time.


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’ve been in the business of persuasion since my first job in advertising. The best part of it to me was the opportunity to sell an idea to a client. I found myself fascinated with the psychology of person-to-person communication and persuasion. That led me to a consulting and coaching career helping clients communicate more persuasively. Now, I’ve shifted to focus exclusively on applying that persuasiveness to help clients win new business in highly competitive categories.

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?

Years ago — when we still wore suits to work — I stood in front of my clients to give a major presentation right after lunch. Our slides were projected on a wall just over a credenza. I put my cup of soda on the credenza as I started the presentation. A few minutes into it, I reached for the screen to point to an important item. My open jacket draped itself around the soda and, as I moved away, knocked all 24 ounces of that drink on my tan suit pants. I learned a couple of things: The importance of taking complete control of your environment, and how to remain calm in a presentation disaster.

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

Too many people have lost jobs, or seen their work cut back severely. We think that one way of helping people recover is for companies to have work opportunities. Artemis’s mission is to help our clients grow their revenue, even in tough situations. When our clients win new business, they’re able to put people back to work.

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?

Neil Flett was CEO of Rogen Incorporated when my colleagues and I were working to build a business in the US that we felt a deep personal commitment to. It wasn’t just the opportunity to build sales and make money. We saw our solutions as the means for our clients to better themselves. While that commitment drove us to do everything we could think of to close business, it also led to profound disappointment — even heartbreak — when we failed to close. I recall Neil telling us, as only an Australian could: “You’ve got to care…but not that much.” That simple sentence has helped ground me, provide perspective, and build resiliency.

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

Rather than position myself as an authority on sales, I think my colleagues and I are authorities on winning. Certainly, it’s important to know how to sell. But it’s more important to know how to win. We understand this better than most. That comes from have a deep, deep understanding on how buyers make decisions when they are selecting among firms competing for their business. We’ve studied this for over 25 years. Our clients have increased their winning percentages by 30–40 points. And we’ve consulted on high-stakes pursuits that have resulted in our clients winning nearly 80% of the time.

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?

Humans are driven by a sense of purpose. The modern world has made it difficult for so many to keep that sense of purpose, whether related to their own well-being, that of their families or their work. One bit of silver lining around this awful cloud is the opportunity to take a step back, reevaluate one’s purpose, and perhaps redirect it in a way that will be fulfilling. That can put you in contact or collaboration with others who have the same or a compatible purpose. In business, that might mean gathering a team who sees growth as a way to employ and support more people, then taking meaningful steps to achieve that goal.

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 don’t think we’ve ignored sales in the education system, though we’ve stigmatized the practice of selling. We just haven’t connected the dots properly. Successful selling — or as we prefer to say at The Artemis Partnership, frequent winning — is an aggregate of behaviors we start teaching our kids at a young age. Empathy. Knowing the other person. Clear communication. Good listening. Being curious. Knowing your values. Having purpose. Being assertive. Being flexible. My 9-year-old grandson learned about Growth Mindset when he was seven. Nothing can be more important to winning in sales. So, we’re teaching the behaviors — we just haven’t shown how they relate to sales.

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?

Nobody wants to be sold to and nobody wants to be pushy. But the reaction to this has caused many new business pursuit teams to become too passive. And the popularity of “consultative selling” has contributed to us now having a generation of sellers who are afraid to do what it takes to win. For example, we know how important it is to have more information than our competitors about what buyers really want. That’s the difference between winning and losing. Yet we see pursuit teams who don’t know how to ask the right questions, or don’t know how to get the attention of buyers, or don’t take enough steps to build trust before an RFP drops.

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?

Selling might be a linear process. Winning isn’t. One of the things you often have to do when competing for a high-stakes opportunity is change the conversation, which might need to happen at any point along the way. Move the prospect away from credentials and technical specs, and start talking about real personal values and business issues. This comes from the ability to ask one or two more questions than the prospect is expecting to hear. And ask them whenever it’s appropriate, not just at the Prospecting or Approach stage. I’ve closed deals based on a particularly insightful, well-timed question. When the prospect starts their response with, “Wow, y’know nobody ever asked me that before. Let me think about it…” then you’re well on your way to winning the pursuit.

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?

Good qualified leads are hard to find, and even harder if you take your initial conversation with a prospect at face value. Just about every prospect with a qualified position in a qualified company can identify a need that you can address; the key is getting them to talk enough about their business, their goals, their challenges, and so on. Our strategy is to create an appropriate context for the conversation that gives us permission to ask relevant, insightful questions. The more they talk, they more likely you’ll find a need that legitimately qualifies them for further conversations.

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’?

I learned a long time ago — perhaps from Peter Rogen — that “you listen your way into a sale; you talk your way out of one.” Handling objections is hard for some because they want to defend their solution, or they want to quickly come to a compromise solution. (Or some just want to quickly end the meeting with a seemingly resistant prospect.) So, they talk too soon and offer too much. Far better is this: Ask questions. Keep probing. Get to the real reason for the objection. Then address that. Or, just let them talk their way into agreeing with you!

‘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’m going to take the idea of “5 things one can do” and restate it as “one thing you can do 5 times.” Closing requires you to show you’re constantly caring and thinking about that prospect. Be prepared to follow up with the prospect weekly for more than a month with relevant insights and empathetic content that shows you’re thinking about them and their well-being. I literally mean five weekly touches. And each one includes a gentle message asking for the latest on their thinking about the proposal. And offer a call or virtual meeting to chat about the proposal, answer questions or clarify thinking.

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?

Pretty much the same as the previous question. Regular, weekly touches with the lead shows you’re looking out for their well-being. These touches should make them smarter, so go heavy on insights, light on self-promotion. If, after 4 or 5 weekly touches there’s still no response, back off to one every 2–3 weeks for two cycles, then keep them in your sights with monthly outreach.

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’ve never even thought of using text messages to close a sale. Wow — what a modern and terrible idea! You’re showing your prospect that you care so much about them that you’re willing to spend 10 seconds to compose something with acronyms, emojis and typos. We think that any direct conversation — whether in person (ahh, the good old days!), by phone or by video — is a great way to close. You can address issues, obstacles, ask smart questions, all in real time. Email is next best. I’ve closed business all these ways. To a certain extent it ultimately depends on what the prospect prefers and the degree of difficulty involved in getting that person on the phone or on video. If a prospect is hard to reach or hard to schedule, I’d rather send a compelling email in the near-term than wait for a meeting that might have to be weeks or months away. But here’s the key — your email content should still be prospect-centric. And you should propose a meeting or call within 1–2 weeks.

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. 🙂

Invest in growth. Time, energy, money. The only way we’re going to help more people get through this pandemic — and help some of them thrive — is to create more opportunities for more people. It’s hard to cut your way to profitability. Most businesses have already made all the cuts they can make while still providing a decent product or service to their clients or customers. Now’s the time to reallocate one’s available resources to growth. That positive, forward-looking momentum will build business and create opportunities. It’ll also energize everyone you work with and give real purpose to their work. They’re not doing what they do just so someone else can make money. They’re doing it so more people can have work and find satisfaction.

How can our readers follow you online?

Bob Wiesner’s LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bobwiesner/

The Artemis Partnership LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/the-artemis-partnership/

The Artemis Partnership Twitter: https://twitter.com/ArtemisPrtnrs

The Artemis Partnership Website: https://www.artemispartnership.com

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

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