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How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey, With Mitch Russo & Jason Patel

First, instead of posting your deeds on social media, pick up your phone and call or text your loved ones. If you haven’t checked in with particular family members and friends for a while, do it soon. You now have an excuse to call out of the blue. As a part of my series about […]

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First, instead of posting your deeds on social media, pick up your phone and call or text your loved ones. If you haven’t checked in with particular family members and friends for a while, do it soon. You now have an excuse to call out of the blue.


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 Jason Patel of Transizion.

Jason Patel is the founder of Transizion, a college and career prep company focused on closing the Opportunity Divide in America. He and his team have helped thousands of students, professionals, and organizations navigate the changing landscape of education and work. Jason is a Brazilian Jiujitsu purple belt and former national boxer, and he brings his competitive spirit everywhere he goes.


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?

When I was a working student at the George Washington University, I served at the GW Career Center, where I fell in love with helping others navigate their futures and illuminate the shrouded path ahead. The idea of mentorship was imbued in my heart and awakened within me the love for providing valuable guidance. It’s a special thing to be a small part of someone’s life, irrespective of whether they remember your contribution. Each of us lives for only a short period of time, so there’s something captivating about using our limited time to contribute to the success of others.

After graduating from GW, I volunteered to help students in Washington, DC with their college and job applications. I showed them how to evaluate colleges, properly write essays, fill out applications, and choose a college major. A few of my students had roaring success with my approach, and their mothers recommended that I start a business on college and career prep. And so, Transizion was born. Since then, we added dozens of team members to our company and guided students to thousands of college acceptances and millions of dollars in scholarship awards.

It’s been a wild ride. I love what I do and want to encourage more young people to pursue entrepreneurship. This is where one part of America’s spirit lives — in the hearts of young people who want to take on embedded industries and change their small part of the world.

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 is a broader story: When I first started the business, I spent a lot of time getting rejected, burning cash on frivolous marketing campaigns, hiring team members that didn’t work out, and failing to take market share. If the first year of business had a theme, it’d be “failure.” Generally, finding the company’s voice and traction were difficult endeavors. It took a toll on me emotionally and mentally, but I chose to stick to the vision and adjust the details in between. It came down to adapting to what worked and making painful decisions about discarding what didn’t show promise. Truly, I white-knuckled the company’s way out of oblivion.

It turns out that the painful beginning of the company has set us up for current and future success. We run a lean operation, know our balance sheets, are aware of our customer acquisition costs, and pay close attention to the experiments we conduct. All the failures and struggles I went through then have positioned us for an upswing in 2020, regardless of the troubles the market throws our way.

The lesson is that if you are sincere about your desire to succeed, pour every ounce of effort and energy that you have into your business, and willingly adapt while putting your ego aside, great things can happen in the spirit of innovation. No struggle or failure can or should go to waste. Every roadblock is an opportunity.

Obstacle is the way.

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

We working on growing our platform, which means onboarding more customers, recruiting more service providers, and building systems to serve more families. Overall, we have a platform that works for parents and students, so this scaling process will allow us to guide more families through the college and career process.

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?

Mom, dad, sister, girlfriend, and close friends are obvious choices. I’ll give you someone unexpected. In my local business scene, there’s a fellow named Terry, who runs a successful company, which does a huge volume of sales every year. His company is worth hundreds of millions of dollars, and the guy has every opportunity to be a big shot, give speeches at every major niche-related conference and event, and build his name and give interviews with major outlets.

Instead, he spends his free time — which is limited, considering Terry is raising a family and building a massive company — collaborating with young, new, and curious entrepreneurs and discussing the problems they encounter. He asks for nothing in return, and, in fact, will shut you down immediately if you even broach the concept of quid pro quo. Instead, he says to “pay it forward.” Amazing.

At first, I contacted Terry through a cold LinkedIn message. He responded minutes later and met me for lunch the next week. Since then, he and I have scheduled calls to discuss raising investment money, marketing, company positioning, and budgeting. The man is a fearless entrepreneur, good dude, and walking business encyclopedia. If everyone were like Terry, we’d have cured cancer, stopped wars, and given economic opportunity to every human being willing to work for prosperity. The guy is someone you want other entrepreneurs to emulate.

When I “make it” to Terry’s position, I’m going to help as many people as he’s helped. Paying it forward is in my business DNA now.

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

We have a robust sales operation that has been replicated by experienced and neophyte sales team members. I designed the process, and it has scaled just as our business has grown. My team and I talk to thousands of parents each year, discussing their pain points, categorizing promising leads, and closing the deal with involved parties.

Most of all, I’m a sales autodidactic. My strategies initially came from my intuition, which I then blended with institutional knowledge in order to create our current process. This process of self-learning, and later, gleaning institutional knowledge, has enabled me to think independently through problems while adhering to strong fundamentals. I am not wedded to a process; instead, I am attached to the idea of creating strong processes, regardless of their origination or school of thought.

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?

First, instead of posting your deeds on social media, pick up your phone and call or text your loved ones. If you haven’t checked in with particular family members and friends for a while, do it soon. You now have an excuse to call out of the blue.

Second, lead by example in taking social distancing seriously. During a health crisis, it’s OK to overreact with strong measures. Science doesn’t care about our politics or attitudes. A virus will do its damage regardless of political affiliation, so if you’re taking social distancing seriously, you’ll inspire open-minded members of your tribe to do the same.

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?

It’s a great question. I think the answer is multi-faceted

One, there is absolutely a perception problem. Sales is a good thing, but many people are conditioned to think that sales is a slimy, never-to-be-discussed field of business. Education suffers from conceptual flexibility and innovation problems for a host of reasons I won’t go into, but, indeed, this means integrating sales education into our students’ curricula will force trailblazers to fight a battle that, well, even they don’t want to fight.

Two, sales is viewed as something tactile, not knowledge-based. This attitude implies that it can be taught to anyone at anytime and should only be done ad hoc. I think some view it as something more likely to be taught in college or trade school than in a school classroom. In other words, sales is a dispensable niche, one that can be embraced at convenience.

Three, sales is viewed as a specialty. For an educator to make the argument that a broad swath of students would find sales useful would be asking them to wrestle with a lion; it can be done, but the cost would be too high and the odds of success quite low. Adding sales curriculum to schools would likely mean sacrificing a current piece of curriculum; the conversations around removing curriculum in favor of something else is a tall order, one for which schools, governments, and parents don’t have the bandwidth,

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 label of “salesey” or “pushy” is a post-hoc, in that you’re deciding whether someone is salesey and pushy only after the situation as passed and the facts have been collected. We instead need to focus on acting persistent and professional in the moment and ensuring our processes are sound whenever they’re needed.

I would say that it’s important to read the room, notice customer signals, anticipate objections, and cultivate your funnel. In other words, a one-size-fits-all approach will doom you, while a live, adjustable approach will create success for your organization. You need to think holistically about your customer.

Put another way, it’s always good to push yourself to create a great funnel, contact more prospects, adjust your campaigns, admit what doesn’t work, and relentlessly iterate on successful campaigns. It’s not good to push a prospect who is a firm “no.” There is a stark difference between being persistent and pushy; the first means you’re reading signals and taking action based on what the prospect could be open to, while the second means you’re beating a dead horse and subsequently making people uncomfortable.

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 is my strength because I’m good at listening to customers and allowing them to speak without pause. The secret sauce here to never lead the witness.

Thus, ask the prospect a question, and let them speak their heart out. When listening to their needs, desires, pain points, and ideal future situation, record this as data in a customer relationship manager. You don’t need something expensive; Google Sheets or Trello works. Either write down their responses or use voice record. Then repeat this process several times. Then repeat a dozen times. Then repeat dozens of times.

Once you have data to draw upon, you need to create metadata. That is, what do your prospects generally talk about? What are their collective pain points? What do they want out of a product or service? How do they communicate with you? What are their demographics and backgrounds? How would you classify their needs for your products?

When you get this info and see who eventually buys, you can identify purchasing patterns. These patters should influence your marketing campaigns, operations, and, eventually, values.

It all starts with prospecting, which is about categorizing leads as much as it is about data collection. If you have the data and metadata to make informed decisions and risks, you increase your chances of wining the small battles that are so crucial to fledging operations.

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?

We listen to our customers, obtaining feedback during every step of the customer journey, from sales to offboarding. This enables those of us in the company to place ourselves in the customer shoes and tell the ideal story of our customers.

This ideal story helps us envision what our product should do now and in the future. It helps our iteration efforts and identifies key areas in which we need to pour resources.

This comes down to recording written customer responses, writing down their verbal requests and expressions, and identifying literally all pain points and objections. Do not take a broad approach here. Your job is to pay close-and-almost-painful attention to how, when, and why your customers contact you.

The more you know about your customers, the better you’ll be able to make educated guesses and take informed risks on prospecting and resource allocation.

All told, you need to begin a date-collection operation. The less fancy, the better. Just get started.

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’?

It’s human nature. Human beings, like all animals, like to be accepted. It’s coded in our pack-animal brains to enjoy the company of our tribe, to bask in the warmth of relationships without verbal or emotional friction.

Objection, at a very primal level, is a rejection. It’s not outright and complete rejection; it’s rejection on a small order, one that needles the part of our human spirit that enjoys the beauty of acceptance. When objection is made into something more complex — in this case, a sales objection — it can be drab to work on something that your animal brain isn’t coded to enjoy.

If you want to get good at handling objections, it’s important to reframe the issue from a primal one to a tactical one. In other words, think of an objection as stemming from not a rejection of you but instead a potential rejection of fit, use case, or marketing. In other words, you need your brain and heart to recognize that it isn’t personal; it’s just business, and like with all things business, it can be worked on and improved.

‘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.

First, be courteous if initially rejected. Humans are emotion-based creatures; if you can make the potential first rejection or objection more pleasant, you’re bound to get more people to like you. The more people like you, the more they’re willing to explore a relationship with your organization now or in the future.

Second, follow up at an appropriate cadence. Don’t follow up every other day if you were originally following up on a weekly basis.

Third, offer all the resources necessary to close as quickly as possible. Think about making the customer jump through the fewest number of hoops — signatures, clicks, payment processes — in order to close. Try to make the close quick, seamless, and simple.

Four, personalize your follow-ups. Make it look like you care.

Five, cultivate prospects over the long term. This means sending them useful links, checking in on them during turbulent times, and providing value on LinkedIn.

We had a customer in 2019 who initially didn’t like our pricing. At first look, we seemed expensive. She didn’t want to commit so early in the year. After a few conversations, I realized she wasn’t ready to buy, so we sent her newsletters, checked in on her every month, and, most of all, gave her the space and time to check out competitors. When she had the opportunity to explore what competitors were doing, charging, and requiring for payment, she contacted us four months later and initiated the close. We allowed our values and process to speak for themselves because we had done the customer and market research beforehand.

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?

Realize that not all, or even most, follow-ups will close. That’s OK. It’s the name of the game in sales to have a large top funnel but have the number of prospects winnow as you get lower in the funnel.

Once you understand that, you should have automated reminders that notify you to close deals with prospects or add them to your marketing channels, if, of course, the customers consented.

Ultimately, you need to keep a cadence of touchpoints with your customers. That means they should hear from you or your company regularly enough that they know you’re still a candidate to buy from.

Now, if you have a warm lead that’s close to buying, I would make it as easy as possible for them to read and analyze your objects and almost touch your product. Give them a taste of how their life will change. Bring them as close to onboarding as possible so that they are incentivized to pay. Our company is able to give customers a taste of the service they’ll get; they end up enjoying the process so much that we have a high close rate for warm leads who convert to buying.

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?

Don’t call too often. It’s annoying, especially for busy people. That said, if the prospect called you or gave you their phone number, then feel free to call at an appropriate cadence, so wait at least several days before calling again.

Text is great, but the sales-through-text channel is still in its infancy, and there is a lot of automation to be done with it. If you have a personalized way to text your prospects, then do so if they’re OK with it.

Emails are the best. They’re simple, direct, and, if the prospect is serious, they will respond sooner or later. Calls and texts take time, but emails can be done in batches to better conserve your valuable bandwidth.

All told, there are no objectively good or bad channels. The only good channels are the ones that your customers are on and want to be contacted through. Again, not to be repetitive, but you’ll know this if you perform customer research and feedback sessions. The only bad channels are the ones your customers hate and don’t enjoy being contacted through.

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 would start a movement to close the Opportunity Divide in America.

I believe the United States is, ultimately, a force for good. Our country and the principles it is founded on are a distillation of all the greatest aspects of the human spirit: acceptance, innovation, hard work, resilience, independence, and fearlessness.

But, I also believe our country is slowly losing its way. It’s harder than ever for the middle class and working poor to find opportunities. We disenfranchise small business owners, former prison inmates, inner-city and rural kids, and individuals who’ve made a mistake but want to fairly work their way up the ladder. In essence, we’re making it harder for everyone but those in the shareholder class to better their station in life.

The powers in our country are not incentivized to change anything. Corporate lobbying and rent-seeking crush small businesses. Petty politics tramples sound economic principles in the name of Twitter wars. War is a higher priority than education, innovation, and revitalizing the middle class.

If powerful agents in the corporate, shareholder, and media classes siphoned fewer resources and human capital from middle- and lower-income citizens, we would see a rebirth of innovation and the greater sharing of the American Dream. The American Dream is an apple pie that can be shared with anyone and everyone who wants to dream big, take risks, and work for it. It’s not for the powerful few. If we can unlock the potential of more Americans, our country will see a golden age of happiness, innovation, and economic might not seen in our nation’s history before.

How can our readers follow you online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/pateljason/

Instagram: jasonpatel13

Email: [email protected]

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

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