Handling objections, in my opinion, is the main job of the salesperson. Anyone can present information and send emails, but overcoming objections in a way that influences the prospect to change their mind (when it’s in their best interest to do so) is a skill to be mastered.
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 Jessica Magoch.
Jessica Magoch is CEO of JPM Sales Partners and leader of The Selling Rebellion. She teaches purpose-driven B2B Founders of tech and service-based businesses how to sell without being icky, pushy or dripping with desperation. Her mind, body, soul approach to selling is responsible for generating over 9 figures in revenue and she teaches it at The Wharton School of Business Startup Clubs and in her coaching program, The Sales Launch Code.
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?
Inever wanted to be in sales; I’m a creative.
My father was a national sales manager and his sales organization was like my extended family. We had one phone in the house back then and, at 8 years old, I would answer it on Fridays to take the sales reports that were called in. One of his reps used to say, “Jessica used to answer the phone and no matter what I reported for my numbers, she would say, ‘Well that’s not very much, is it? Let’s do better next week.’ “
But I refused to get into selling. I went to acting school and was a Kundalini Yoga teacher after college. My father was building a new sales team in NYC and offered me a room in his apartment to be his sales assistant so I could pursue my acting career. I couldn’t say no. His hidden plan was to get me on the sales team. I saw what the others were earning and thought, “I can do that…and I think I can do it better.” So I took everything I was being taught and updated it into a non-salesy method that I was comfortable with and that got results. That’s when The Selling Rebellion started.
Once I mastered sales, I had to master training others. Once I became an expert at sales training, I had to master developing sales managers. I went on to build my own team from $0-$100M in revenue over three years before I hit 30. Now I am working on developing sales coaches.
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 most gratifying part of selling is the stories you collect, especially when you’re meeting prospects in their homes! One of my coaching students recently had a client take her to the bathroom with her on the call. Now, we’ve all be on the occasional conference call where we put ourselves on mute to run to the loo, but this call was on Zoom. The prospect did not put herself on mute or take off her video. In fact, she was still talking into the camera on the toilet! The lesson from that is the best relationship wins, and when someone trusts you and feels comfortable enough with you to take you to the bathroom, you know no one can take that sale from you!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes! I am working on three things right now: 1: Growing The Selling Rebellion — It’s a movement of purpose-driven B2B Founders who are dedicated to scaling without being icky, pushy or desperate. 2. Training others on this non-salesy sales method in my small group coaching program, The Sales Launch Code, and 3. I’m putting together the seeds of a sales coaching training program that will launch more like-minded sales coaches into the market to help entrepreneurs and small businesses scale their sales teams.
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?
Yes, of course. Success does not happen independently. There are many people that touch your life along the way and many lives you touch along the way! That person for me was my dad. If there was a “Greatest Salesman of All Time,” it was him. He wrote The Spirituality of Success based on his journey from drug addict to multi-million dollar sales earner and was the only outside sales trainer to train Zig Ziglar’s sales team! My dad always wanted his four daughters to get into sales; he believed women were naturally better at selling because of their nurturing nature. We all refused, of course, because of the icky, cutthroat sentiment in so many sales organizations.
When I finally agreed to give it a try, he was very patient with all the questioning and skepticism I had about various sales techniques. He always told me it’s about your mindset that determines whether you use a technique to manipulate someone or to help them. He kept repeating that to me until I got it.
He also taught me that sales coaching is a gift into people’s mindsets because selling forces you to come face to face with your fears and the limiting beliefs you’ve built up over time. People come into the sales world to make money, but we teach them how chasing the money is what’s pushing it away; success is more dependent on who you are than what you do.
I still lean on him sometimes multiple times a day to brainstorm sales strategies for my clients.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
My background is in acting. I received a BFA from NYU. I never expected to go into sales, but having studied human behavior and emotions for four years, I was perfectly primed to do it. Selling is the business of people and people are emotional beings. So selling is an emotional business and it’s also a creative business.
I deconstructed everything I was taught into an ick-free version that worked even better than the original. Because of my mind, body, soul sales philosophy, I was also able to attract a team that held the same sentiments as me and train them from scratch. We had monumental growth — going from $0- $100M in just three years with 30 commission-only salespeople. Recruiting, training, leading commission-only reps to that kind of success at that speed is a very rare skill set. I’m proud I was able to master it and share it with others so they can scale their companies quickly as well without relying on outside funding.
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?
It’s a challenging time for many and people are experiencing it in various ways. I have suffered and overcome chronic anxiety in the past and this what I’ve learned:
Our beliefs create our reality. How we perceive the world and how we perceive ourselves is a manifestation of the beliefs we adopt throughout our lives, mostly when we are very young. When a tragedy happens, our beliefs are quickly put to the test. If you’re one of those people who, when things are going well, is waiting for the other shoe to drop, then this circumstance is proof of the belief that something bad is just around the corner. Alternatively, if you are someone who always sees the positive in situations, you may not be as deeply affected. In fact, people might think you’re crazy for enjoying the time home.
Hear this: You don’t decide what happens to you, but you do decide how to react to it. Your emotions are in your control. Do not feel guilty for seeing the silver lining. Look for the good. Anxiety is fear about what might happen in the future, so it only comes when you look forward. Stay in the present. Look around you. Are you safe? Is everything ok? Set aside time to worry and plan for the worst-case scenario, but then don’t think about it anymore. When you make decisions out of fear, you limit yourself and you limit the creativity of your mind. When you remain positive and abundant, you will find creative solutions to your problems that weren’t available to you before.
Finally, one of the best cures for anxiety is to help someone else. Find something to do to be of help and it will take the focus off your thoughts.
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 is the truth! In fact, predictably after each of my sessions as a mentor for the Wharton Startup Accelerators, an MBA student asks, “Why don’t they teach us this in school?” We ascertained that they require a PhD in the subject to teach there and there is no PhD in sales. So it’s a Catch22. However, schools are incorporating it more and more. Some people say it’s because you learn sales “in the field,” and that is true; your customers are your best teachers. So I tell all the students to get a job in sales if you want to be a successful entrepreneur. At the minimum, you’ll need to sell to your first clients, to investors and to key employees. But sales is influencing people and, as a leader, that is your main role.
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! This is the whole reason why I started my coaching business — to save people from hardcore closing techniques and mind manipulation. We’ve all been the customer on the other side of an amateur sales call where we’ve been pressured and made to feel guilty for not buying, or where a “networking” call turned into a full-blown sale pitch.
World-class, next level salespeople are in a different category. You barely even know they’re selling cause they’re hardly even talking! People are pushy and salesy when they are desperate to make the sale and they’re more concerned with closing the deal than with helping the client. Understandably, you have bills to pay, but that is not the customer’s problem. When you are pushy, you push the customer away, it’s that simple.
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?
My purpose is to revolutionize sales, and that means questioning and redefining everything we think we know about sales so I can help purpose-driven entrepreneurs. This is what I’m best at. Part of that is deconstructing the sales process. Mine is based on the emotional journey a client goes through and looks quite different.
It looks like this: Prospecting, Build a Relationship, Qualify/Discovery, Pre-Close, Presentation, Close, Overcoming Objections, Crystallize, Get Referrals, Onboarding, Service, Retention.
The shape is an arc, much like a story arc, rather than a triangular funnel. There’s the introduction, setting the scene (pre-close), introducing the protagonist (developing a relationship), presenting a conflict or challenge (qualifying), going on a journey to overcome that challenge (presentation), the climax, (closing the sale), the denouement (crystallize), and applause or curtain call (referrals). Similarly, our clients go on a journey that we narrate through selling.
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 find too often that companies get stuck on one or two prospecting methods and forget that there are so many ways to find business. So in my program, I’ve put together 13 different Marketing strategies to overflow your pipeline with prospects.
I personally use funnels to warm-up prospects. I give a small resource for free (my popular ones have been a sales script and a sales playbook template) in exchange for their email address and permission to market to them. The funnel warms them up by giving them more valuable resources so they get accustomed to opening emails from me and get small wins. Then I invite them into various programs I’m running throughout the year which I usually present on a consult call they can sign up for at the end of a free training. I also use Facebook groups to create a community of like-minded people where I can participate and bring value. All of my advertising goes towards driving people to that funnel whether it be my weekly vlog, social media posts, networking events, speaking engagements, cold email campaigns, ads, PR, affiliates or referrals.
The counter-intuitive thing I’ve learned about marketing is that the shortest path to the sale is not the most effective path. Like dating, you have to take it slow at first even if you’re really interested because you need to build trust and rapport and not scare the person away. I get too many cold emails in my inbox asking me to buy something or book a call, just like random guys on Instagram asking me to marry them. When I explain it this way it makes sense to people.
When you think you should eliminate a step, add one step instead. It could be as simple as instead of having a form to fill out on your landing page, having a button to a pop-up form instead. The button converts higher even though it’s an extra click. Remember, sales is emotional; it’s not logical. Prospects need to be taken on an emotional journey. Often the logical solution is not the one that works.
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’?
Handling objections, in my opinion, is the main job of the salesperson. Anyone can present information and send emails, but overcoming objections in a way that influences the prospect to change their mind (when it’s in their best interest to do so) is a skill to be mastered.
There are two big mistakes when it comes to overcoming objections. First, avoiding the objection altogether. This usually comes down to the salesperson’s fear of confrontation. We’re taught at an early age to not create conflict and I believe this is more ingrained in young girls. So overcoming objections is unnatural and very uncomfortable at first. Of course, we tend to avoid pain, so we just agree with the customer and move on to the next thing.
I’ll offer this if you’re in that category: Objections are really opportunities. It’s an opportunity to help someone see something they didn’t see before. Instead of, “I really need it, but I can’t afford it.” We can ask them “Ok, so you really need it. Let’s talk about how you can afford it.” Instead of, “It’s not a good time.” Ask them, “Why is now the perfect time?”
My dad used to say, “A sale is always made. Either you sell the customer or they sell you on why they shouldn’t buy.” When you buy the customers objections, you have essentially given up on them. The problem you solve is suddenly no longer important, and they have sold you why it isn’t, instead of the other way around! Being able to handle objections in this way requires trust. That’s why building rapport is so important and why the salesperson with the best relationship wins.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have people that are extremely pushy and don’t let up. They make you feel guilty for not buying. Sometimes they make the sale just because the prospect wants them out of their office, only to cancel later. And they definitely don’t give referrals because they don’t want any of their contacts to have the same experience.
To be better at handling objections you need to do the following:
- Belief. Decide now how much you really believe in what you’re offering. If you find that your product is not a good fit, tell the customer first, even if they’re interested. You’ll lose the sale and gain referrals. I’ve made more money from the sales I didn’t make because of the referrals I received.
- Overcome objections before they happen. All salespeople get the same objections: Time (it’s not a good time), Money (we can’t afford it), Decision makers (they have to ask someone else), Competition (checking with competitors) and Need (it’s not what we need). Overcome these in your discovery process before you present anything. Make sure it’s the right time, they have the budget, the decision-makers are present, you know your competition and can speak for them, and you know you can help. This will only leave the objections at the end that are truly objections to the product or stalls to prolong making a decision.
- Pre-Close — Make sure your client understands the expectation to make a decision at the end of the meeting and what the next steps are whether it be a financial transaction, agreement, etc.
- Neutralize the Negativity: Objections are different than questions because they are laced with negative emotion. You have to neutralize that so you’re aligned with the customer instead of in conflict with them. The way you do that is by empathizing with them first, “I can see where you’re coming from… “ before you attempt to overcome the objection.
- Clarify — Often salespeople don’t even let the person finish their objection before they start answering it. They cut off the client to give an answer, often not really understanding the objection at all. The first objection is often not the real objection, so you have to clarify what the real objection is before attempting to overcome it.
‘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.
Closing is the end result and byproduct of doing everything else right. You can learn 100 closing techniques (if you want to have fun, search closing techniques on Wikipedia to see them all), but there is really only one you need to know: The Assumed Sale.
When I first started selling, I had some beginner’s luck. I was quickly the top salesperson in the company. But then I got too good for my own self. Here’s why: About six weeks into my job I had 12 appointments set to meet prospects. 12! Wow! I was counting the commissions already. I had an 80% closing rate so that meant I was going to have my best week ever.
I had the usual number of cancellations and reschedules but then something strange happened. One-by-one, I lost each of those sales. Every. Single. One. So I came to the Monday Sales Meeting and had to put a big fat zero on the board in extra-squeaky dry erase marker. My boss said to me, “What happened?” I said, “I dunno.” He said, “Well, you better find out.” You mean, it was my fault? It couldn’t be my fault! I knew how to sell and they all had valid reasons for not buying. Certainly, it was the company’s reputation or our prices or the market or something else but not me!
But the numbers were difficult to ignore. So I went step-by-step through my sales process and figured out the one step I missed: Building a relationship. I was so focused on closing the sale and running from one appointment to the next, that I took no time to build a relationship. My customers were simply targets. And even though I did everything else the same, without a relationship built I had no authority or trust to advise them properly.
So the next week was going to be different. Instead of trying to get the sale, I was going to spend as long as I could developing a relationship. My first appointment that week was with an artist. I saw some paintings on her wall and started asking her questions. She showed me all her pieces and one conversation led to the next and before I knew it, it was 45 minutes into the appointment and we hadn’t started talking about the product (health insurance) yet. I told her we should start so I can help her. She said, “Well, I trust you, whatever you think is best.” So I showed her what I thought was best for her and in 5 minutes I had presented and closed the sale without any objections or fear on her part. Plus, she was happy to give me the five referrals I asked for. I never had a problem closing again. When I don’t make a sale, it’s always my fault, and it’s usually because I rushed through developing a relationship.
Here are 5 ways you can make sure the sale closes 80% of the time:
- Develop a strong relationship. If you don’t know at least one interesting thing about your client that is not work-related, you haven’t built rapport enough. It should take at least 10% of your conversation.
- Do a proper discovery call to make sure it’s the right time to present. People are emotional beings and they need an emotional response to make a decision. They’ll back up that emotional response with logic. The study of Emotional Intelligence has proven that. The time their emotions are highest is right after you present your solution. So you want to make sure they can say, “Yes,” at the time they’re most likely to say, “Yes,” by making sure you’ve properly qualified timing, budget, decisions makers, competition and need. The biggest mistake here is salespeople assuming they know the answers to these questions and not outright asking them. When you wait for the right time to present, you avoid the common objections most salespeople get after the close.
- Pre-close — Prior to presenting, make sure the client verbally agrees that they will make a decision either way at the end of the meeting. If you’ve qualified properly, there will be no reason not to. If you haven’t, you’ll find out now what you’ve missed.
- Story Presentations: I rarely hear that someone thinks they’re bad at presenting, but the presentation is where the transformation takes place and without it, a sale isn’t made. Presentations should be no longer than 10 minutes, with 5 of that showing the actual product or service. 5 Minutes is the average human attention span, so if you can’t explain it in 5, you’ve lost them. Instead of making statements, figure out how to turn them into questions so the customer is the one giving the presentation, not you. Include visual elements as information is absorbed 500x faster through visuals. Finally, include stories — take the buyer on a journey that incorporates the emotional and logical reasons they buy.
- Assume the sale: A huge mistake I see as well is not closing the sale at all! Can you imagine? The only customers that will buy will be low-hanging fruit that would’ve bought from anyone. The closing question of an assumed sale is something like, “Which option works best for you?”, and then, “Great! I’ll just need your EIN number for the contract…etc. “ Or, “Which credit card would you like to use?” Never ask a yes or no question like, “So would you like to move forward?” The customer is scared to take action so any opportunity to avoid change will be taken.
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?
There are two different kinds of follow-up. The first is after someone has expressed interest but before you make a presentation. According to Marketing Sherpa, it takes an average of 8–12 follow-ups to get an appointment, but the average person gives up at 2. What that tells you is that the prospects are used to ignoring people who might be wasting their time and spamming them. But if you follow-up with someone 8 times, in a highly personalized way, they know you’re serious. This kind of follow up should only be done after they’ve expressed interest, not before. If they expressed a need and requested information, it becomes our responsibility and obligation to fulfil it. When someone fills out a form they are very interested in getting help. But immediately thereafter, their emotion wanes and it’s not as important anymore. So we have to make sure to make it important again by reviving the initial emotion that caused them to take action.
The second time follow-up comes into play is after you’ve made a presentation and didn’t close the sale. If you’re not good at closing the sale, you will have a lot of prospects in the follow-up phase at the end of the sales process. This is dangerous. Because we didn’t capitalize on the optimal time to buy (right after the presentation), it gets more difficult afterwards. Often this phase is done by email or over the phone. You rarely get a chance to come back in a second time. So, though you can salvage sales here, it’s what I call, “The Fatal Follow Up Funnel,” because, in order to make the sale, you have to get the client back to that emotional state they were in before, which is transferred from you to them and is very difficult to do by email. That’s not to say that sales won’t come through with persistence, but it’s not the primary strategy on which you want to rely.
If someone is coming across as desperate, it’s probably because they are. The cure for that is to have an abundant pipeline of prospects so you never have to worry about where the next sale is coming from. Prospecting has to be your #1 priority every week otherwise you’ll be out of business in a few months.
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 have not yet seen an inside sales team that surpassed an outside sales team in closing rates. There is nothing that beats face-to-face in-person meetings. Show rates, closing rates and referrals are much higher. This is because 90% of communication is non-verbal. When you shake hands with someone, something powerful happens and they get an immediate sense of whether or not they can trust you. That becomes more difficult to communicate over the phone because you only have your words and your tone of voice. You completely lose the power of body language — both your own and being able to read the customers’. So phone sales are no doubt more difficult.
The trade-off is volume. You can talk to more people. Video calls are second to in-person meetings because you can leverage non-verbal communication. However, you’ll still get lower show rates than in person.
If you’re serious about making the sale, show up. If it’s local, always show up. If it’s not local and you really want the sale, show up. One team I’ve been working with tripled their closing rate by going from phone consults to video. This was because they could develop stronger relationships and share visual elements with their prospects. Imagine what they could do if they were able to sell in person!
Can you close a sale by email and text alone? Yes, but the rates are very low, retention is low and referrals are rare. I’ll use text messages only when I’ve had a relationship or an appointment set with a client, but not for mass marketing. I’m a millennial, so I don’t answer the phone and I hate playing phone tag so I only take calls with prospects that are pre-scheduled.
When I was 27, I was trying to close a deal that other senior people had tried to in the past but couldn’t. They agreed to a meeting by phone. I said, “I’ll come to your office.” I was in NYC. Their office was in California. My company wouldn’t pay for travel because they were convinced there was not an opportunity, so I paid my own way. We had the meeting and we had dinner and they showed me around Silicon Valley. Instead of a 30–60 minute call, we spent 5 hours together. I was invited back to do a sales training for their team. That deal ended up generating over $20M in sales. It could’ve amounted to nothing. You never know going into it, but you have to assume the sale and do whatever it takes to get it.
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. 🙂
This is what inspires me most in business — to help purpose-driven entrepreneurs learn to sell so they can get their ideas out into the world. I know from experience how icky selling can be. And I know from experience how one’s life can change when they master this skill of influence, both with financial freedom and making an impact. So I started The Selling Rebellion — It’s a band of purpose-driven B2B Entrepreneurs who are dedicated to scaling their companies without being icky, pushy or dripping with desperation. We’re finally saying “good-bye” to old-school sales tricks and techniques that make self-promotion terrifying, so we can earn income and ignite impact through our respective missions. I’ve seen too many brilliant ideas, well-meaning founders, and purpose-driven companies fail because they couldn’t get traction i.e., they couldn’t sell. I’m here to change that and it’s where I see myself making the biggest impact in the startup ecosystem.
How can our readers follow you online?
Come on over to https://www.jpmpartners.com where you can get my free sales script, “The 8 Step Code to Convert Leads to Sales,” join my inclusive group, The Selling Rebellion and catch up on what you’ve missed on my blog.
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!