“Exercise a little extra empathy towards others right now.” With Mitch Russo & Khabeer Rockley

Many people around us right now will be feeling remorse, grief, and despair. Although people and businesses may do things that can frustrate us, take a second to breathe, and reflect on what they may be going through to make them act in a certain way.It’s critical for us all to exercise a little extra […]

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Many people around us right now will be feeling remorse, grief, and despair. Although people and businesses may do things that can frustrate us, take a second to breathe, and reflect on what they may be going through to make them act in a certain way.

It’s critical for us all to exercise a little extra empathy towards others right now.

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 interviewingKhabeer Rockley.

Khabeer Rockley is an international speaker, sales and marketing strategy coach, and founder of The 5% Institute.

Khabeer teaches sales professionals, entrepreneurs, and business owners how to get more leads, and win more sales.

The creator of The 5% Sales Blueprint system, Khabeer teaches the importance of using a consistent sales process, so that you can close more consistently.

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 got a background in Senior Management and have been involved in sales for the last 15 years.

I started out importing jewelry and selling that to local businesses face to face, and through up skilling and education — got involved in event management.

From hosting local regular events (a few times per week), we grew our staff base to over 50 people. This allowed us to transition into big box events and concerts, bringing in artists from the United States to perform in Australia.

Although it was a fun business model — it was very time consuming, and I wanted to learn to make an income without having to trade a lengthy amount of time.

That’s when I found web design and online marketing.

With my sales skills and management experience, me and an excellent team built a web design and marketing agency which gave me the ability to do this.

I’ve always had a calling for sales and marketing, and an even bigger passion for helping other businesses and sales professionals achieve their goals.

At first — my coaching was ad hoc and just for the love of it. I helped friends and close associates with their sales process and marketing strategy.

It was when a good friend told me over a training session one day, half joking and half serious — “Mate, why aren’t you doing this full time?”.

I knew he was right.

Years later — we’ve got a popular sales training website, an excellent flagship program, and I’ve had the pleasure and honor of travelling and teaching my craft to people from different cultures, backgrounds, and experiences.

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?


Not sales related, but it’s valuable nonetheless.

Instead of being interesting as such — I think it’s more of a lesson to be careful what you agree and sign up for, and who you do business with. Not all clients are equal.

We once had a client, who was known for being a ‘bit unsavory’.

Let’s just say ‘they were connected with some interesting people’.

Our agreement stipulated (verbal, not in writing) that we’d always bring in enough people for our events at their venue that they’d make a certain quota on the bar (app $15,000 in four hours). Whatever was outstanding — we’d have to pay the difference to make up for it.

Because we were young (and ignorant) and very confident with our marketing ability — this hadn’t been a problem.

Then one day — there was a storm. And unfortunately for us, there was no way anyone was going out in these conditions.

So, we stood there, waiting for people to arrive, and they didn’t.

A few hours later — the clients ‘friends’ let us know that we’d have to pay the difference not made on the quota that night… It probably wouldn’t have been a good idea to challenge them.

So, a few lessons here:

First — don’t get too cocky with your ability and always ensure you have risk management safeguards in place. Plan for bad scenarios, even if it may not occur. Bad things happen, and it’s important to plan for them prior to them occurring.

Secondly, we very careful who you go into business with. A chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link. How you make money is important, just as whom you make money with.

When hiring or working with people, learn about their values and standards prior to going into a business relationship. It makes all the difference.

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

Right now, we’re not working on anything particularly new, but instead are focusing on our current systems and how we can make a bigger impact with what we have.

Our flagship program, The 5% Sales Blueprint has helped Sales Professionals and Business Owners win more sales, and streamline their sales conversations.

Our aim is to create more awareness around the product, so that we can help more people serve more people and bring their own personal goals into realisation.

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?

This may not be the answer you’re looking for and may be a bit different — but a person who’s probably had one of the biggest impacts on my life came out of a movie — Oskar Schindler from Schindler’s List.

Growing up in a Muslim school (although I wouldn’t call myself religious now), I was surrounded by people from different countries, backgrounds, and of course — personal stories.

These stories create a narrative. A narrative which as a child, is easy to believe.

Watching this movie when I was a child taught me three crucial lessons, which molded and made me the person I am today.

One lesson was that he didn’t listen to the narrative.

He looked at things himself and engaged with people for whom they were. He removed labels from people, and loved people based on his personal relationships with them. This taught me from a young age, that although it may be natural to judge as we are all humans — perhaps judge people for who they really are, rather than their title or label.

It’s health and important to challenge our own beliefs from time to time.

A second lesson was that he treated everyone equally.

He purposely didn’t act a sort of way in public towards someone who people may deem as ‘lower caste’. As a child this really captured me and is something I’ve taken with me on my personal journey and career. The relationships and allies this have built along the way have been instrumental in helping me get to where I am today.

And finally — he built legacy.

Here I am in 2020, talking about a man I saw on a screen who lived 100 years ago.

What are we doing today, that’ll help us be remembered tomorrow?

Yes — this question may seem even a little arrogant, however my vision is to build something that’ll long outlast me.

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

This is a great question, and actually reminds me a lot of a similar question I was once asked.

One time when I was delivering a three-day training session in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia; an elderly and wealthy participant from the audience approached the stage before I had begun.

He looked me in the eye quite solemnly, and asked “I’ve been going to seminars all my life — why should I listen to anything you deliver over the next few days?”

I thought about it for a second and replied, “I tell you what — I can give you an answer, however I prefer you tell me what you think once this over”.

A few days later when the session was complete, I announced to the audience I’d have to leave soon for my flight and next destination. Many lined up and wanted photos, and toward the end I spotted the gentleman.

He came over, and to my surprise gave me a hug. He then told me it was one of the best seminars he had ever attended, and that he was looking forward to putting into place everything he had learnt.

The encounter was one of my favorite experiences, and a gentle reminder of why I do what I do.

I don’t consider myself as an ‘authority’, as I feel the term is used quite loosely today.

Instead, I get my feedback from people who attend my seminars and complete my program.

Their results speak truer than anything I can say.

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 question.

The best thing we can do in a situation like we’re experiencing today, is twofold.

First, human beings can make poor decisions when faced with uncertainty. It’s difficult for us to progress when feeling uncertain, and it’s important to acknowledge that this is perfectly OK and normal.

However, it’s also important to revisit the facts that we can only control, what we can control.

What are you in control of right now, that you can put into action to protect those around you and your loved ones? What small, yet impactful steps can you take that’ll keep you safe, and perhaps take you through to the next stage?

Secondly, times like these are a great opportunity for us to revisit the importance of empathy.

Many people around us right now will be feeling remorse, grief, and despair. Although people and businesses may do things that can frustrate us, take a second to breathe, and reflect on what they may be going through to make them act in a certain way.

It’s critical for us all to exercise a little extra empathy towards others right now.

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?

That’s a great and important question.

I think sales training is predominantly not more widely taught for two reasons.

First — a lot of what is taught out there is ‘script’ based or built on the foundation of ‘always be closing’. This pushy, kill or be killed rhetoric doesn’t resonate with a lot of people, because it brings about emotions of guilt, and makes people think that sales is an industry in which you’re trying to only gain, rather than trying to serve as well.

People don’t want to instill bad values and teach manipulative tactic to their people — and rightfully so. How can I expect trust from my people, if I’m teaching them tactics that do otherwise?

This bad reputation built by a lot of bad actors over the last few decades, has unfortunately given sales a bad reputation.

Secondly, a lot of sales content out there doesn’t resonate with how people want to conduct their business.

Some tactics may work for one type of client base, but it may not be exchangeable or evergreen to someone elsewhere.

I think more people would teach and be involved in sales training if they knew it was about serving others, and prescribing solutions — rather than prematurely presenting with the hope that something sticks and making a sale.

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?

Of course, everything comes down to a person’s personal meaning — so I can only answer that question based on what I feel ‘salesey’ means.

I agree that being pushy is the wrong approach, and something that should be avoided.

Being ‘salesey’ and pushy means to push someone towards something; an idea, a solution, a product or service.

I believe that if you’re having to push someone towards something, then your whole sales process and sales approach is incorrect.

Instead, we like to teach a sales process primarily built on the foundation of asking excellent, probing questions.

I would rather ask great questions that has the potential client answer why they need to make a change or invest in a solution, rather than present a statement in which I can only assume that may or may not agree with.

Asking questions that unlock answers removes assumptions.

Presenting solutions without knowing their deep core needs, is like playing roulette. And that’s not the game I want to play.

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?

There are a few things I’d like to unpack here; which makes our process different to that above.

First — we like to handle a series of objections prior to even getting to the deep dive sales conversation.

We’d like to make sure that the decision maker is present, or we’ll reschedule until we’re able to present in front of a person who has the authority to buy. The reason being, is I don’t want to present to an ‘information gatherer’ — only to have them later sell on my behalf to the real decision maker. This also prevents the “I need to speak to” sales objection from coming up later.

Furthermore; I won’t present a product or service, until I’ve really dived deep into what it is they’re actually wanting to buy.

People don’t buy products or services. They don’t even buy the solution.

Instead — they’re buying what it will mean when they own that solution.

In order for me to understand what it is they’re actually wanting to buy, I need to get down to the core and underlying issues and pain points they’re currently facing, and what that means for their current situation, and foreseeable future.

In order for me to get here — two things need to happen.

First, I need to let them know and get permission to ask them deep diving questions. By doing so, they’ll know we’re going to have a real conversation, that isn’t on the surface.

Secondly, I need to give them permission that at the end of my presentation (if we do in fact get that far), to say no if they’re not interested, or feel we’re not the right fit.

By doing so, it’ll prevent the “I need to think about it” objection of they’re not in fact interested. It makes them feel more comfortable about having a real conversation and prevents them having to put on a front because it removes the pressure that I may come in hard and pushy.

This allows them to be more genuine, which allows me to get to the truth of what they’re actually wanting to buy, and whether I can in fact or not help and serve them.

This also stops me from following up a ‘potential client’ who isn’t actually a potential client at all, and allows me to follow up with real potential clients who are genuine.

This save saves me and my clients time, money and resources.

Asking the right questions is the most powerful ability to add to your toolkit.

By asking the right questions — you can help guide a potential client to sell themselves, rather than you having to do any pushy selling instead.

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?

Sure. Our leads are both inbound and outbound.

Our inbound leads are captured by having lead generation capture boxes on our website and blog pages. This makes nearly every page on our website, potentially a lead capturing tool. By writing articles on topics our potential client is looking for, we’re able to offer them a 7 Day Sales Challenge, in exchange for their email address.

This challenge is not only educational and valuable for our potential client, but it allows us to demonstrate our knowledge — which builds trust prior to us having to ask for the sale.

If we require outbound leads, I look for my potential client and decision maker using filters on LinkedIn. Then, I use email scraping software to get their email address.

I then send them an email, wait a day or two, then call them in reference to the email I already sent them. That way — it’s not purely a ‘cold call’, because I’m already made them familiar with who I am with the previous email.

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’?

The reason why objections can be hard for people, is because they’re not handling their objections during the sales process.

Instead of focusing on the ‘next script’ (the diet pills of the sales world), I recommend people identify up front the kind of objections your potential clients will potentially ask.

By using our methodology to handle objections up front, and then by using case studies and stories of people just like them who may have had objections and then handled them, you can handle objections before they come up later.

A lot of it comes from presenting too soon or talking too much.

By asking good questions and getting them talking, you’ll be able to identify their pain, which will then reveal their concerns, what they’re afraid of, and what are their desires. All this information is crucial when presenting, and then asking for the sale.

‘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.

No problem at all.

First — in order to close a sale, you need to ensure you’re speaking with people who are qualified to buy. You can be the ‘best closer’, but if a person is not open to buying (because they’re not qualified), they won’t buy. When you start your initial discovery call or sales conversation, lean on the famous acronym BANT.

  • Their budget
  • Do they have authority?
  • Do they have a need?
  • Can you deliver within their time frame?

Secondly — set up parameters and expectations. Let them know it’s OK to say no, if in fact they’re not interested at the end of your conversation. This will make them more comfortable to have an open conversation, because they’re not wondering when you’re going to go for the jugular with a pushy approach. It also creates trust, which is paramount prior to asking for the sale.

Third as mentioned — handle objections early, and throughout your sales process. This will prevent them from coming up later, and when you both agree on putting aside potential objections during your question and answer session — it’ll make you more comfortable to ask for the sale.

As we’ve also mentioned — ask questions that get to the core root of what they’re wanting to buy. Many Sales Professional stay on the surface, and the conversation remains boring and purely logical.

People buy for emotional reasons, as well as logical ones. You need to understand both.

Get below the surface and learn the real reason as to why they want to buy, so what you’re presenting later — you’re presenting to what they actually want solved, versus the surface level story they told you they want to buy.

Finally — my favorite closing question after I present, and clearly demonstrate how my product and service solves each pain point they raised, and gives them the outcome they’re looking for, is “Would you like me to help you with this?”

I don’t ask them to buy. I want to know if they want help achieving their solution they’re after. Speak about what it will mean when they receive their solution. Then ask them if they’d like help getting there.

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?

Great question. As we touched on earlier — things become and appear pushy when you’re following up with people who are not interested. If you in fact give people permission to say no, instead of the “I need to think about it” when they are in fact not interested, it prevents this issue from coming up later.

One of your most valuable assets is time.

Use your follow up time wisely, by following up with people who tell you exactly what they would like to think about. The key to sales success is getting to the truth. By removing friction and pushiness, they’ll drop their guard, and you both can have a real, transparent conversation.

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?

Personally, I’m a bit biased because my sales process is based on being consultative. This means asking a lot of questions — which also means you want to use all your communication modalities (body language, tonality and words).

This very much depends on the type of product you’re selling.

For example, our online sales training course, The 5% Sales Blueprint can be purchased online without needing to speak to myself, my staff, or having to receive a text. The communication to present the product, is long form, written content.

However, if I’m selling a high-ticket item, I’d personally prefer to sell face to face. You can use Skype or Zoom to do this if remote. This allows me to read all their communication such as their body language and read whether a question I asked may have potentially come across wrong and made them feel insecure.

Face to face allows me to pivot if need be and pushes aside assumptions I may be making if I were only reading text.

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. 🙂

Sure. I would love to do something like “Appreciate a neighbor day” or something like that.

Most people have neighbors. Most people have something they can do or give, no matter how big or small.

Can you take out someone’s bin for collection? Can you perhaps cut someone’s lawn, or maybe bake something small yet special? Perhaps a box of chocolates, or a small toy for the kids?

It’s about the action, versus the thing. Fostering community relationships is important, and I think there’s an opportunity here for all of us.

How can our readers follow you online?

The best place is to find me at our website, called The 5% Institute, or they can also follow me on the following social links.

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

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