I never in a million years envisioned our world being where it is today with the pandemic. I say all of this because although the original purpose of my book was to help people create connections, I feel like these same exact tips can help make our nation a place where we learn to love our neighbors again. I know it sounds all “hairy fairy”, but I sincerely hope this craziness we’re in the middle of right now will help to increase our levels of awareness to a point where we can acknowledge how angry we’ve all become. It’s time to stop automatically assuming the worst intentions in those with whom we disagree and to remember that we can still like people that have opposing points of view.
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 Eric Rittmeyer.
Eric Rittmeyer is a former US Marine and an expert in the fields of mental toughness and emotional intelligence. He’s been a professional speaker for the past decade, and is a regular guest on television outlets including Fox, CNN, NBC and ABC. Eric’s also the author of the recently published book “The Emotional Marine — 68 Mental Toughness and Emotional Intelligence Secrets To Make Anyone Instantly Like You”. He speaks to audiences all over the country, teaching executives and sales professionals how to overcome the limits brought on by fear and emotions, and replace them with clear, concise critical thinking that gets results.
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 was honorably discharged from the US Marine Corps in 1996 and jumped right into sales. It didn’t take me long to realize that I was pretty good at connecting with people and earning their trust to the point where they felt comfortable buying from me. After getting promoted quickly through the ranks for the company where I was working in mortgage sales, I ended up in charge of a team and very quickly realized there were some common traits that existed amongst the most successful salespeople I led. There were also lots of common traits amongst the people that struggled the most. My obsession with emotional intelligence began the moment I started to dig deeper into the personalities of what made some people more successful than others.
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? This probably isn’t exactly the type of story you were expecting, but it ranks up there as one of the funniest I have. I was delivering a presentation for a large group of real estate agents in Florida a few years ago. One of my very good friends worked for this company and was in the crowd. About half way through, I stopped for a break and headed to the rest room. I walk in and start washing my hands and humming the tunes to my favorite song like I always do. I turn to head back towards the bathroom stall and my buddy comes busting through the door and charging directly at me. I’m caught so off guard I can’t even get a word out before he reaches on my waist and yanks the cord off of my lapel microphone that I TOTALLY forgot to turn off. Moral of the story, never use the restroom when your mic is live.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I’m just putting the finishing touches on a new online “Mental Toughness Bootcamp” program. I designed it to help people improve all parts of their lives through what I refer to as “Psychological Performance Training.” It’s 12 weeks of mental toughness topics that anyone can use to improve their lives overall; both at home and at 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?
I would have to say the person that helped me the most was my grandfather. I grew up with my grandparents and he showed me the importance of hard work and family. Although he didn’t have much of an academic education, he was one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met. He knew he had mouths to feed and he worked his fingers to the bone to support me. That work ethic has always stuck with me. But the other thing I learned from him was the significance of family. He never missed a single one of my sporting events and was there for me 24/7 with zero questions asked. Nothing came before his family and that has always help to keep me grounded with the whole “work/life” balance.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
There are obviously lots of people that have tons of experience in sales. I believe what makes my point of view different from most others is that I’m all about training on the “why” as opposed to the “how.” Many sales experts have advice for the A,B,C’s and the 1,2,3’s. Psychological Performance Training isn’t about HOW salespeople do their jobs, it’s about how they THINK about how they do their jobs. It sounds a little deep, but I’ve studied people’s core psychological blueprints for years and have developed training that helps them be better people by manipulating their emotions. I’ve done this for a long time and I feel I’ve become very proficient at improving lives by helping people regulate their emotional rollercoasters.
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?
I think what’s most important is to start with understanding what this current shutdown is requiring people to do. It’s basically calling on us to suppress our profoundly human and evolutionary hard-wired impulses for connection: seeing our friends, getting together in groups, or touching each other. When these things are removed from our lives, it can cause substantial adverse impacts on our emotional well-being. One way to help us keep our sanity is to rely on our relationships. There have been lots of lab studies that have proven the benefits linked to being able to rely on those we love in times of crisis. Just the perceived notion that we have people to rely on (even though they’re not physically present), can help provide comfort to get through difficult times.
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?
I’ve done lots of media on this exact topic. Well, not the EXACT topic of teaching sales in school, but more so about teaching our children basic emotional intelligence skills. Our educational system is built around the “memorize and regurgitate” philosophy which is absolutely insane to me. The kids that are able to retain the most information to do well on tests are the ones that get the best grades. Those good grades translate into acceptance into good schools and that translates into getting good jobs. That’s the general perception at least. The issue is they’re not being taught any skills for how to be better humans. Things like self-awareness, self-regulation, compassion, kindness, empathy, and basic social skills. These are the things that need to be introduced to our children at a young age so they can grow into healthy, well rounded adults that positively contribute to society.
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?
The old days of selling are over. They’ve been over for many years. It used to be that the pushiest, most aggressive people sold the most. Not anymore. It’s actually the exact opposite now. We live in the information age where all buyers enter into the buying process with vast amounts of knowledge. The most successful salespeople in the 21st century are the ones that are best at quickly making connections and establishing trust with prospective clients. Today’s buyers are purchasing from the people they like and trust. The key is finding the balance between giving just enough of a nudge to help prospects with their decision, but not so much that they feel you’re desperate. I refer to this as being “patiently persistent.”
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?
This is where my theory on sales takes a very different turn. I’m not a fan of breaking up the sales cycle into segments and/or stages. I feel like the best sales people sell in cursive. I know that sounds silly, but think about how the letters in a word flow when writing in cursive. The pen doesn’t leave the paper between letters. It’s just one smooth process. That’s how sales should be. Quickly connect with your prospect, be an expert in your field, provide a significant benefit, give them what they ask for, and guide them through the process. I believe the issue is there’s so much emphasis on training salespeople with a regimented “sales cycle” that they neglect to master the most important skill — making emotional connections.
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’m a VERY firm believer in the power of referral based business models. This can be difficult initially because it does take some time to establish a good base, but it pays dividends indefinitely if done correctly. Lots of salespeople unfortunately take the “sprint” philosophy instead of the “marathon” philosophy. Regardless of what type of marketing someone is doing to generate business, it’s critically important to treat each person as if they’re going to tell 1000 people about the service you provided to 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’?
The “handling objections” part is definitely a very significant hurdle for us all; and not just sales people. And my 20+ years of training sales people has uncovered the reason why this is so difficult. It’s because we process objections emotionally, instead of logically. The most successful people I train understand that objections are part of the game. While amateurs view objections and/or rejection to be because of something they’re doing wrong, the world-class performers process these same objections logically and without allowing their feelings to get hurt. If getting rejected solicits a feeling of “they must not like me”, that person will never succeed. The secret to processing objections of any type is to set your feelings aside and analyze them logically with the mindset of “they just haven’t had their questions answered yet and they want more information.”
‘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.
Going back to what I stated earlier about selling in “cursive,” I believe the sales cycle needs to flow naturally and with minimal “forced transitioning” from one to the next. For the emotionally intelligent salesperson, this is where the self-awareness piece is so critical. Selling is all about how we perceive, express and respond to our own emotions; and to our prospects emotions as well. Being self-aware means we’re able to pick up on verbal AND non-verbal clues from our clients and respond to them accordingly. It’s learning how to become highly skilled “emotional detectives” so we can create a level of resonance with our client to help them through the buying process.
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?
Follow up is all about sincerity. Merely calling/emailing a client to say “hi, are you ready to buy my product now?” isn’t enough. Prospects want more than that. I’d recommend mastering one of the easiest (yet most underutilized) skills available to help with developing a true caring for clients. It’s called listening, and very few people are good at it. We’ve become a society that only listens with the intent to reply, instead of listening with the intent to understand. If you can learn to listen with the objective of discovering what’s important to your prospects, you’ll be able to have much “deeper” follow up conversations with them. This will lead to smoother transitions and a more gradual conclusion that’ll leave people feeling like there was nothing being sold.
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?
Not to keep beating a dead horse, but I have to go back to the significance of connecting. Every single form of communication (regardless of the medium) gives us the opportunity to connect. Some may be easier than others, like face to face as opposed to email, but they all provide an opportunity to formulate a relationship. The key in any sales process is to get your client to the point of what I refer to as the “fever break.” If you have children, this concept should be pretty easy to grasp. When your child gets sick with a fever, they’re normally lethargic and not themselves. They remain this way until the moment their fever breaks. They have this HUGE sweat, then the fevers gone. All of a sudden they’re back on their feet going 100 mph again. Our clients work the same way. In the beginning of the process they’re unsure, undecided and apprehensive. All of a sudden their “fever breaks” and your whole relationship takes a 180 degree turn. The salesperson that is first to induce the fever break is the one that wins the sale.
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. 🙂
Last September I finished my book — The Emotional Marine. It’s all about tips on how to get people to instantly like you. As I was writing it, my purpose was to provide a blueprint anyone could follow to build deeper relationships and quickly make connections with strangers. I never in a million years envisioned our world being where it is today with the pandemic. I say all of this because although the original purpose of my book was to help people create connections, I feel like these same exact tips can help make our nation a place where we learn to love our neighbors again. I know it sounds all “hairy fairy”, but I sincerely hope this craziness we’re in the middle of right now will help to increase our levels of awareness to a point where we can acknowledge how angry we’ve all become. It’s time to stop automatically assuming the worst intentions in those with whom we disagree and to remember that we can still like people that have opposing points of view. It’s time to heed the advice from one of the greatest movies of all time — The Lion King. Hakuna Matata. It means no worries.
How can our readers follow you online?
Thank you! My website is www.MentalToughnessSpeaker.com, and I’m all over social media under Eric Rittmeyer.
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!