“Connect in person.” With Mitch Russo & Ken Cheo

When clients try to close by email or text, it makes my skin crawl. Quite often closing a deal can require a negotiation. As a minimum, you want to get feedback. Negotiating is demand concession behavior and requires a back and forth conversation. Additionally, any feedback you get from emails or texts are only going […]

Thrive invites voices from many spheres to share their perspectives on our Community platform. Community stories are not commissioned by our editorial team, and opinions expressed by Community contributors do not reflect the opinions of Thrive or its employees. More information on our Community guidelines is available here.

When clients try to close by email or text, it makes my skin crawl. Quite often closing a deal can require a negotiation. As a minimum, you want to get feedback. Negotiating is demand concession behavior and requires a back and forth conversation. Additionally, any feedback you get from emails or texts are only going to bring up more questions. Trying to do either by email or text is highly ineffective if not impossible.

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 Ken Cheo, President and Owner of Our Sales Coach.

Ken Cheo, is the President and Owner of Our Sales Coach. Ken works with executives, managers, and select salespeople with guaranteed results for top-line sales growth.

Prior to creating the Our Sales Coach brand, Ken enjoyed over 20 years of sales and sales management experience.

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 transitioned from engineering to sales when regulators were beginning to deregulate the electricity marketplace and new technologies such as gas air conditioning and natural gas vehicles enabled us to sell natural gas in the summer. I was hired by Boston Gas Company to develop these new markets and then build and manage a sales team to sell gas where we had a lot of capacity to sell at a high margin.

After 21 years in sales, I bought a sales training franchise in 2006 and started the Our Sales Coach Brand in 2013.

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 work with every client against their goal for revenue growth. I encourage them to look at 7 areas of their life in case there are additional goals they want to set in any of those other areas. One client was a business broker who brought in the biggest sale in company history while working with us. He always spoke about buying one of the businesses he was trying to get as a listing. The other goals he set were:

  • Buying a house on Lake Winnipesaukee
  • Finishing the Timberman Iron-man
  • Winning an amateur tennis tournament

Years later, he called me up to help him grow the business he wanted to buy and just purchased. He also let me know he had achieved all of the other goals.

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

I have a client that is a family physician who built a gaming platform to educate patients inflicted with diabetes on how to live healthy lives, control the disease and improve their condition. She has good research data that indicates patients with diabetes that don’t get the education they need cost health insurance companies $7,000 more on average per year than patients that are educated properly. With a rapidly growing population of diabetics, there is a huge return on investment for society and the insurance companies for what she is doing, and it has a dramatic affect on the quality of life for her patients.

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?

The franchise I bought was called Winfree Business Growth Advisors. Keith Winfree was the franchisor. I had never owned a business and Keith taught me and coached me not only how to get customers for my business, but also how to coach others, be a leader, and business financial management.

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

There is no better training than getting in and getting your hands dirty. Having 21 years of sales and sales management experience in highly complex sales environments provided me with the background to be able to do this. The next best way to become an expert is to teach others how to do it. That’s what I have been doing for the last 15 years.

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?

Doing the right things has helped us manage the situation in Massachusetts. Keep your distance, wear masks and wash your hands. It works. My son and his fiancé were inflicted and got through it. By doing the right things we all will.

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?

To be a sales professional all you need is an outgoing personality and a business card. Every CEO knows sales is the life blood of their business. Some will still say “If I find a good salesperson, I won’t need to manage or train them” The smart ones know better than that. Mostly because they learned the hard way with failures. Academia is very late to the game and are now starting to offer sales education.

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?

People hate to be sold to but love to buy. We teach all of our clients how to help their prospects buy so they don’t need to be salesey. People buy for their own reasons, not yours. We teach them how to find people with a problem you can solve, engage them with a conversation about those problems, make sure they are committed to solving them and help them to decide if you are the right solution. There is nothing salesey about it.

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?

Prospecting. It’s interesting to note how prospecting has changed with technology. I started in sales 9 years before Google was formed and no one had a computer. Cold calling was very effective because our prospects got their valuable information from salespeople like me. Now with marketing automation, social media and the web, we are all programmed to get information on the our own and we want to engage salespeople on our own agenda. I am still very good at understanding what information is going to be valuable for my prospects, when they are going to want to have a discussion about them, and how to develop a multi-channel plan to have these conversations with decision makers. This is what we help our clients do which brings predictability and consistency into their sales, enables them to know they are getting the most from everyone on their sales team and makes their marketing much more effective.

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?

Making referrals more proactive and using LinkedIn is important. From there we like speaking, webinars or seminars if it is applicable for the business. Direct mail is also a good strategy if you have the right message. You can be creative with it. How much mail do you get in your office compared with the amount of emails you get? We make sure our clients are working at least 4 active channels. Too often salespeople rely on passive only or just one channel which are mistakes. Sometimes just picking up the phone at the right time with the right message is the right thing to do.

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’?

Qualify better. The number one reason you get stalls and objections is they are not ready or willing to make a decision at that time in the process. The other common problems are sending proposals instead of presenting them and presenting them to people who can’t make the decision. Presenting to people who don’t have a problem or are committed to solving it is a waste of time. Qualifying effectively will minimize any stalls or objections, reduce the need to follow up and make closing a natural part of the process initiated by your new client.

‘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. Find the compelling reason for your prospect to do business with you. If they don’t have a problem for you to solve, get the no faster and put them in your drip campaign.
  2. Get a commitment they need to solve the problem and weed out the “do-nothings”
  3. Meet with the decision maker and everyone else involved.
  4. Make sure they are willing to make an investment and you are on the same page about the cost before you present. If you are not, find an acceptable alternative for both of you
  5. Let them ask for the order. It gives them the emotional close.

A client who sells pumps was trying to make a sale for an upscale hotel in Boston. The water booster pumps were necessary to get the water for showers past the 4th floor of this high rise. That’s why they had 3 redundant pumps. One had failed and they used it for parts for the other 2. When the second one failed the woman running the building was very concerned. If you were staying in a very expensive hotel room, you would expect to be able to take a shower and the restaurant was at the top.

My client had given her 2 proposals already that she sent down to New York for approval and he was getting ready to send one a third time. I told him to go visit her and ask her what happens if that pump breaks. Then after she talks about her concerns, ask her if that ever happened to her. Then ask for the meeting with the people in New York.

When he did this, they both relived her experience with a boiler failure in the middle of winter in the middle of the night requiring her to get a rental boiler on a skid temporarily hooked up until they could install a new one. This led to an immediate phone conference with New York. During that meeting he learned they were planning a major renovation. He sold them an additional pump pre-construction, got connected with the design engineer on the job, and ended up selling 3 more pumps.

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?

As I said, stalls and objections happen when your prospects aren’t ready to buy at that time or you have missed something in your qualifying process. Good salespeople know how to find out what needs to happen for the prospect to be ready to buy. When you do that, you know when to follow up, how to follow up and why. There is nothing pushy about it. You are just following through with what you agreed on.

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?

When clients try to close by email or text, it makes my skin crawl. Quite often closing a deal can require a negotiation. As a minimum, you want to get feedback. Negotiating is demand concession behavior and requires a back and forth conversation. Additionally, any feedback you get from emails or texts are only going to bring up more questions. Trying to do either by email or text is highly ineffective if not impossible.

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 just read a Boston Business Journal editorial citing a 2015 study that determined the average net worth of white households in the Boston area was $247,500 while that of black households was $8. I plan to help businesses in areas of the state that have a higher percentage of African American population grow so they can hire more people at better wages and help them with personal development and growth. It’s no wonder that African American families that are living from paycheck to paycheck and in a lot of debt are frustrated. I want to help them.

How can our readers follow you online?



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

You might also like...


Scott Miller On How We Need To Adjust To The Future Of Work

by Karen Mangia

Diane Helbig: “The first thing we can do is listen with an empathetic ear”

by Ben Ari

Jen Hartmann of NEAT Marketing: “Practice empathy”

by Tyler Gallagher
We use cookies on our site to give you the best experience possible. By continuing to browse the site, you agree to this use. For more information on how we use cookies, see our Privacy Policy.