I think sales, as a whole, has largely been ignored because it’s misunderstood. People have this archaic view of sales being the slick talking, salesman in a leisure suit. What they don’t know is that sales are truly about people and relationships. Selling shouldn’t be thought of as just a vehicle in order to get to the end result of a transaction. It’s heavily based upon solving people’s problems and having the emotional IQ to make a personal connection with someone else who has a need.
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 David Wright.
David Wright Executive Director of Practice Development at M&O Marketing, recruits financial professionals and helps them reach new levels of success with their practice. David prioritizes the needs of everyone he works with, and works diligently to ensure that they feel supported in the growth of their business. He specializes in sales coaching, creating ideas and finding creative marketing approaches.
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?
After the Marine Corps, I had always worked commission-only sales jobs while going to college for marketing. It started with door-to-door home improvements, then cars, then starting my own small businesses. One day, I was reading a local magazine and saw a story about a friend having a start-up marketing company. I immediately called him to reconnect and he wanted to hire me, little did I know it was a position for marketing insurance products. I started to recruit reps and became life insurance licensed myself to start working under an independent insurance agent. That’s how I got my start in financial services. Since joining the team at M&O Marketing, I have continued my personal and professional development. I passed the exam to obtain my Series 65 license, then picked up a professional Wealth Management Specialist designation from the College for Financial Planning. For me, it’s about how can I increase my knowledge base as much as possible to better serve the needs of our clients.
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?
The way I found my way to my current position was through sheer determination and persistence. I have been known for identifying certain career opportunities through articles similar to this, about the professionals I wanted to emulate. One day, I was researching M&O Marketing and found an article about the new sales manager they had brought in from New York. I then found his contact information and cold called the sales manager. I told him why he needed to hire me. After six months of continuously following-up and letting him know what had progressed in my career, he finally gave me a shot. Big thank you to that sales manager, as without him I would have never had the opportunity to work at M&O Marketing. This has by far been my calling in life.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I am constantly striving for improvement in my personal and professional development, including developing new platforms to better serve the reps we work with, and make our internal team stronger. Our motto is, “You have to want to get better every day.” One of the things were excited about is a few new marketing ideas. Nothing I can talk about publicly yet, but we have a number of things in development.
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 would say without a doubt I have to first, and foremost give credit to my wife, Kaylee Wright. Without a support system at home, the right environment that is conducive to ideas, a creative process and having peace-of-mind to stay focused on tasks at hand, sales can be very difficult. I have to thank Thomas Scuccimarra, who was my original manager at M&O Marketing and really helped me speed up my learning curve. Also, the owner of M&O Marketing, Dennis Brown, has been one of the most influential people in my career. He is someone that I truly look up to and inspire to be like. He is that walking example of, “This is where my career can go some day and this is how I could take it further.” He, very much like my wife, is supportive of those innovative ideas, and allowing me the space and peace to explore that. It’s not often the owner of such a large firm will take time out of their day, no matter where they are, to ask about your family and how they can help you get better. At the end of the day, you can just tell he genuinely cares about everyone that he works with and serves. I owe many people a huge amount of gratitude, especially our internal team within M&O Marketing. Without having the right people in roles to help to carry out tasks, the sales process doesn’t work. You have to be able to segment your time, and a major key to that is having the right people sitting in the right seats on the bus. At the end of the day, I can’t be a master of every trade. It doesn’t work without a team approach.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I have spent my entire career in some form of sales — more than a decade worth of experience. Whether that was owning my own small business and providing services or selling someone else’s product, I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. Now, working to help financial professionals grow their business, I consult other professionals on the habits and best practices that lead to success. One of the things I love most about my position is being able to guide traditionally sales-oriented individuals on making the transition to wearing the hat of successful business owners. Fortunately, I have experienced explosive growth for my partners and I at a young age by working to build strong relationships and through truly understanding their problems. I want all the smoke when it comes to problems. I want to be the first ear to lean on because in the problems lie the real opportunities for growth, much like in life.
If you’re a sales professional who’s avoiding the problems or avoiding the tough conversations, you’re going to have a bad 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?
A great way to offer support for people in times of crisis is just by making your presence known. In uncertain times, people need stability. They need to know the people they depend on are agile enough to navigate troubled waters. Sometimes just lending an ear, offering a personal touch and words of encouragement can go a long way to building a relationship.
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 think sales, as a whole, has largely been ignored because it’s misunderstood. People have this archaic view of sales being the slick talking, salesman in a leisure suit. What they don’t know is that sales are truly about people and relationships. Selling shouldn’t be thought of as just a vehicle in order to get to the end result of a transaction. It’s heavily based upon solving people’s problems and having the emotional IQ to make a personal connection with someone else who has a need. Sales is an artistry. When done properly it comes together like a symphony. I am very much a big believer in the “science of sales,” which has been covered in numerous books for decades. When you really look at the topic, it’s just the study of human behavior and that’s what sales boils down to, people.
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?
I don’t feel that in this day and age there is a need to be “pushy” in the sales process. When you look at pop culture, the stereotypical salesman has slicked back hair with the tailored suit, who uses clever lines to trick people into making a buying decision. Closing lines, charm and being arrogant only works in Hollywood. In real life, these days, I don’t even agree with the label “salesperson.” I don’t disown it, but I believe in being a problem solver and I just feel that label conjures such a different image from reality. Not to say you shouldn’t pour in the time to master your craft, know your story, know your why, and yes even have a few “lines” because you know the same topics will so often be brought up, you have to have that readiness. Every great sales professional also knows that persistence is a key to success in sales and that just because a prospective client says no, doesn’t really mean, no. However, I think sales is largely about listening, identifying the real problem and then educating the prospect about your solution to that problem. We are there as professionals to advise them and then guide them to the decision that truly suits their best interest.
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 believe as a professional in any industry you need to put in the hours to master your craft. With that being said, every sales professional should put in the necessary time to hone their abilities in each of these stages of sales in order to be a well-rounded professional. If I had to grade myself, I would say prospecting and follow-up have been the key fundamentals in my career. The more activity you can generate on the front end, the more likely you are to be successful on the back end. The law of large numbers is forever in your favor. Follow-up is always top-of-mind for me because I always know in the back of my mind, just because I receive a rejection today, doesn’t mean that circumstances won’t change in life. Just recently, I began a working relationship with someone who had previously told me no on several occasions, but because I didn’t give-up and was consistently looking for ways to add value, they became a client. What they told me was, “You certainly paid your dues with me.”
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?
I am a big believer in practicing what you preach. Just like I tell my clients, you can’t depend on any singular source for a marketing funnel. The more diversified your lead generation, the more success you will have in the end. So, anything I can do, whether it’s webinars, social media, advertising, cold calling, etc., that will put interested hands in the air is to my benefit. Again, activity is king. So, the more leads generated on the front-end, the better chance of success. From that point, it’s all about doing the required data gathering to find out if those leads are a real fit for your product and service. With the internet, the game has changed. You can find out a lot of information about someone before you even have your first conversation with them.
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 think the main reason sales professionals struggle with objections is a lack of preparedness. In the end you have to know what personality type your dealing with and all the given outcomes for a conversation. If you’re not rehearsing your most common objections and the best ways to overcome them, then you’re not giving yourself a fighting chance. Put in the work required and come prepared. It’s no different than an athlete showing up to practice. The practice should be way harder than the actual game itself. Once you have the memorization down, it comes naturally. Like muscle memory, then you can tailor and refine it. Constantly revisiting the basics is important. I call it relaxed readiness.
‘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.
If you don’t stand out from everyone else, you don’t have the prospective clients’ real interest. Find something that sets you apart and work on a unique approach.
You have to have something that is missing from that prospect’s life, whether it’s a solution or a product. Then you have to have the knowledge base in order to present the information in a way that is dynamic and engaging.
Present the information in a way that prospective client will understand. Use analogies and stories that are relatable.
Continue to add value if they have a problem that is out of your wheelhouse. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your network in order to come up with a unique solution. Don’t be afraid to solve problems for people who have yet to become true clients.
If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Never overpromise and underdeliver. Don’t quit because you receive a “no” today. Often, the timing isn’t the best. Keep in front of that person, and most importantly, be consistent.
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?
Firstly, being aware of your pipeline is one of the most important, if not the most key thing, in sales. You have to know where you left the conversation and where it may have fell short. Tracking and nurturing your pipeline can be done through a customer relationship management (CRM) program or some other drip marketing service. These days, there are numerous ways to touch on a prospective client. A personal touch goes far beyond any automated follow-up. Sometimes it’s just about reaching out on a human level. A lot of variables could be stopping your deal from going through. The key is being consistent in your follow through. Don’t allow frustration and doubt to creep into the relationship. If you’re consistent in your reach outs and always genuinely reaching out in order to provide help or add something new to the conversation they may not be aware of, people will be receptive.
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 think there is no such thing as a bad mode of communication. All modes of communication should be used. A text message can go just as far as a handwritten note for the right person. You never really know how people will best connect with you, and the more diverse your methods of communication, the greater the odds. When someone does become a client, it’s always a good idea to ask them what their preferred mode of communication is.
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. 🙂
If I was to inspire a movement that would change the world, I would choose a movement around gratitude. My grandmother, Judy Wright, who practically raised me would always talk about the blessings we’ve received in our life. She is a devout Seventh Day Adventist, and that’s just something that really stuck with me because whether you’re in the middle of the storm or exiting it, you’re still blessed. You’ve already won. You have another day at hand. You were born in America. Maybe you don’t have family, but you have close friends you regard as family. Whatever the situation is, take the time to give thanks.
I think a healthy dose of gratitude would solve a lot of people’s immediate problems. We own nothing in this world. It is all rented. One day, our maker will come to collect everything that we have been allowed to use in this life. So, did you maximize its use while you had it? Were you thankful for it? Did you use it to benefit others? Gratitude is the great reminder that everything we have is rented for today and not promised tomorrow.
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