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“How to stay in the game.” With Tyler Gallagher & Wanda Allen

So many people struggle in the area of sales. It affords a great life if done right, but unfortunately, it’s been my observation, that there are more struggling salespeople than successful ones. I think starting a sales university would be a great movement to encourage and teach people how to flourish in this great industry. […]

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So many people struggle in the area of sales. It affords a great life if done right, but unfortunately, it’s been my observation, that there are more struggling salespeople than successful ones. I think starting a sales university would be a great movement to encourage and teach people how to flourish in this great industry.


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 Wanda Allen. Wanda Allen is an International speaker, coach, corporate trainer and author of Follow Up Savvy and Follow Up Sales Strategies. She had a 25 year corporate career where she held the position of Senior Vice President for 15 years. She has a sales background and teaches entrepreneurs, business owners and sales professionals how to increase pipelines, improve sales performance and strengthen relationships by developing strong follow up skills.


Thank you for doing this with us Wanda! 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 a business banker for 25 years and spent the lion’s share of my career managing SBA Departments that did $100M+ in annual loan volume. It was through that experience that I developed a strong skill for creating systems. After managing SBA Departments for 15 years, I was asked if I would consider the position of branch manager. I was ready for a change and accepted the position which put me into sales. One of the first things I did was studied the sales process and realized how critical follow up is to each step in the process. I also realized there’s an extension of following up which is relationship management and the primary relationship management strategy is staying in touch.

I knew I wanted to be good at both following up and relationship management so I decided to take my strong skill of creating systems and developed systems for following up on the prospecting side and staying in touch once business had been closed. Within 9 months of having these systems in place, I brought in my first $1,000,000 account and have had many successes since then.

The bank I was working for was acquired and we weren’t the lead bank. The lead bank had someone in my position so I knew I’d be on the “chopping block”. I had time to think about what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to stay in banking because it was 2009 and we were in one of the worst economic times we had experienced and banking was in the middle of the firestorm. A friend of mine suggested that I speak to networking groups about follow up since I had become so good at it. I was quite skeptical but thought what do I have to lose? So I got booked to speak and learned very quickly that follow up is a challenging area for many people. That’s when I decided to leave banking and start my own business venture which is my company known as Follow Up Sales Strategies.

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?

When I first started my business I was so filled with fear. I decided to become a speaker and the #1 fear that played over and over in my head was what if nobody books me. Then I would get booked and the #2 fear that would show up is am I qualified to be speaking on this subject? I knew I had had success with the follow up mindsets, systems and processes that I developed, but I didn’t have the belief that I could be viewed as an expert. Then one day, everything changed.

When I was a banker, I used a greeting card program as one of my follow up and relationship management tools. When I left banking, I decided to become a rep for the card company while I was getting my follow up business going. The owner of the card company changed the pricing on the packages and gave us reps a challenge to roll out the new packages. The challenge was to get 5 new customers per week for 3 weeks and each week, 1 of the 5 had to be at the top package. So the overall challenge was 15 new customers in 3 weeks with 3 at the top package. I had my systems in place and took on the challenge. At the end of the 3 weeks, I got my 15 new clients including the 3 top packages. I found out afterwards that out of over 100,000 reps in US, Canada and Australia, only 15 reps completed the challenge. At the company conference that year, the 15 of us that met the challenge were recognized. I was on stage and looking at an audience of about 3,000 people and thought there should be 3,000 people on this stage because it wasn’t hard to do. It took a lot of work, but it wasn’t hard. You just had to have the right mindsets, systems and processes in place. In that moment, I realized I was an expert in this area and had something very important to share. I actually felt a responsibility come over me that day on stage and I’ve been moving full steam ahead with my Follow Up Sales Strategies business since.

The biggest lesson I learned is that staying committed and taking action in spite of your fears is breeding ground for success.

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

We’re in the midst of COVID-19 which has greatly impacted my speaking business or so I thought. When COVID first hit, I had a 1 month speaking tour scheduled in California with 11 booked speaking engagements. 10 of the engagements were canceled and 1 was going to be done virtually so, needless to say, my California trip was canceled. I felt like I got a one two punch from COVID. I was a deer in headlights for about a month. Then one day I woke up and said ok, figure out how you’re going to keep your business going. At this point, groups were starting to regularly have their meetings online and I thought this could actually be a great opportunity. I realized I could start marketing to areas that I hadn’t before because of group’s budget or travel constraints. With traveling and/or budget considerations taken out of the equation, I felt like the whole country could now be on my prospecting list. This is a very new and exciting way of doing business that I didn’t see coming. I’m grateful to have figured out a way to carry out my mission and continue to help those who struggle with their follow up and relationship management skills.

The biggest lesson I learned from this is when we’re faced with challenges, figure out ways to think outside the box and see how you can pivot to still make things work out for the benefit of those you work with and support.

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 excelled quickly as a banker. I started when I was 19 as a secretary (that’s what they were called back in the day…today they’re called administrative assistants) and worked my way up the corporate ladder and was promoted to Senior Vice President at the age of 30. I had several people that were instrumental in taking me under their wing and giving me exceptional training that allowed me to climb the ranks.

As a business owner, I’ve hired 3 coaches that have been instrumental in getting me to where I am today. I had been a banker for 25 years so I was most definitely a fish out of water and was in dire need of support as I entered an industry that I knew nothing about.

My first coach helped me understand the speaking industry and taught me some great sales skills

My second coach rebranded my company. I used to be Follow Up Savvy and she helped me understand that it was time to rebrand. This was about 5 years into my business. She upgraded my website and products which boosted my confidence in being a viable brand that clearly stated who I was and what I did.

My third coach changed my business model. I was doing really well with my 1:1 coaching program, but there’s only one of me and I found myself so busy that I was tied to my desk coaching. This wasn’t good because I was finding it difficult to integrate speaking engagements into my schedule. My coach taught me how to change my business model in a way that supported both the coaching and speaking sides of my business.

In no way would I be where I am today without the help of those who shared their knowledge and expertise with me.

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

I’ve been focused on the follow up side of sales and relationship management for 14 years. I’ve talked to thousands and thousands of people about their follow up challenges. It’s an area that, in general, people really struggle with. I know where the pain is and how to support them in getting out of the follow up chaos which results in increased sales. What enriches my expertise is that I practice everything I teach so it’s been tried, tested and proven.

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?

Believe that this will get better and you can survive the challenges that COVID-19 has brought.

Don’t be consumed by the news. It’s good to be informed but not inundated.

Take action wherever you can. Sitting idle isn’t good because the mind tends to focus on the negative. Action is a great block towards negativity and will create a new focus.

Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?

I think there’s a lack of understanding about how critical sales is to every business and is completely overlooked as an educational need. When someone is hired in a sales position, it’s assumed they know how to sell. Unfortunately, that may not be the case. Because it’s not taught in school, the only other place salespeople can be supported for training and education is through the company they’re working for. Owners/managers set the sales goal/quota and it’s a sink or swim situation for the salesperson. This can result in a lot of struggle and often times, salespeople are on their own to figure it out. If companies would realize the value and importance of their sales staff, I believe a stronger commitment would be made to set them up for success rather than failure. That is done with training. The most elite athletes in the world have trainers. Why? Because they want to see if they can be better. It doesn’t matter what rung of the sales ladder you’re on, everyone needs continuous training. Bottom line; it’s an investment in the team. It saddens me that so many other expenditures are put ahead of sales training. As a result, people leave the sales world because they didn’t have a good experience or meet their goals/quotas when really the problem is they didn’t get proper training.

Sales needs to be held in a much higher regard so it can get the proper attention it deserves. Companies don’t exist without sales so the need to make sure the sales team is properly educated and trained is critical to success. This is a mindset shift companies should make. Employee turnover is expensive. Take care of the team you have and invest well.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?

I believe that being salesy and pushy is not a good representation of a salesperson. Having said that, this assumption on the salesperson’s behalf is nothing more than a fear based thought. Most salespeople have a pushy salesperson in their mind that they don’t want to be and what so many do is go so far to the other end of the spectrum to make sure they’re not that pushy salesperson that they end up taking very little if any action at all. If your job is to bring in sales, you have to continuously follow up until you close the sale or the prospect tells you no. You have to have the right mindset to override this assumption/fear. The right mindset is to follow up professionally and respectfully. When you’re professional and respectful, in no way will you be pushy or salesy. They don’t fit together. Make professional and respectful your mantra.

The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?

I’m definitely the best at follow up. Research says that 80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact but only 10% of people make 3 or more. I believe these statistics to be true. Therefore, I know my job is to continue to follow up. If I quit after one or two follow ups, I’m leaving business on the table for someone else to get. It’s critical for the health and well-being of my business that I “stay in the game”.

For the last 5 years, I’ve spoken on average 60 times / year which is 5 times / mo. That’s a heavy speaking schedule and one that would be desired for most speakers. I’ve often been asked what my secret is and it’s not really a secret…I just follow up and stay in the game.

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 have 2 primary prospecting strategies:

  1. Cold Calling. I know a lot of people don’t like this strategy and it can be an inefficient way to try and get leads. However in the speaking industry, I find it works very well. I do my research for each group so I can make sure they appear to be a good fit. Once I’m able to talk to the organizer, I ask further questions to make sure they’re a qualified lead. Questions such as, the size of the group, speaking time, budget, dates, travel accommodations, etc.
  2. I ask for referrals. Going to people who have experienced my services is a great way to get qualified leads. I often hear people say they’re not comfortable asking for referrals. When I hear this, I know more than likely they’re not staying in touch and taking care of their relationships. Because I’m very good at relationship management and consistently stay in touch with the people that are important to me, I’m very comfortable asking for referrals. Relationship management is paramount. At the end of the day life and business is about people. When you’re in a time of need and your relationships are well taken care of, it’s an easy place to go. I want to remind your readers that they know people who will generate more business for them. They key is to stay in touch.

In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?

I think handling objections is hard when there’s a lack of confidence in being able to overcome the objection. People buy confidence. Even if you don’t have the answer in overcoming an objection, being able to confidently say, I don’t have the answer but I’ll get back to you on that this afternoon makes not knowing ok. The best way to boost confidence is to be prepared. Know your industry, company, products and services inside and out. Do research on the prospect and learn about their company and industry as much as possible so you can better understand their needs and how you can support them.

Another problem in overcoming objections is when the salesperson is more focused on the outcome and making the sale than overcoming the objections. Forget about the outcome and making the sale. Focus on meeting the prospect’s needs. When the outcome/sale is the focus it’s about the salesperson. When the focus is on overcoming objections, it’s about the prospect. Always have the mindset how can I best serve the prospect? This will put the focus where it should be.

‘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.

I believe the best way to close a sale is to always ask the right questions that will get you to the next step.

  1. Would it be ok if I followed up?
  2. When would be a good time?
  3. Are you ready to move forward?
  4. Is there anything that would prevent you from moving forward? (This will bring up their objections)
  5. What would you like the next step to be? (This is when you’re not clear or the prospect isn’t clear on where they stand in moving forward)

From the time I meet a prospect until the time I close the sale, one of these 5 questions is always in play. It keeps the ball rolling. These questions are how I’ve been able to consistently keep my speaking schedule full. You always want to be the initiator of the next step and please don’t rely on the prospect to get back to you. Because we know that 80% of sales are made between the 5th and 12th contact, you may have to ask any one or several of these questions numerous times until you close the sale. Asking the right questions will rid any salesy or pushy feelings because in essence, you’re getting the prospect’s permission to move to the next step.

Verbal communication is becoming a real problem today because so much communication is being done electronically. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. The above questions are direct, but professional and will leave a great impression.

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?

Being diligent with follow up is crucial to closing the sale. If leads seem not to close, it’s probably because the salesperson has stopped following up before a yes or no decision is made. Not getting a yes or no is nothing more than a loose end. You don’t want a bunch of loose ends filling up your pipeline. Asking the 5 questions mentioned previously will more than likely result in a conclusion. No may be the conclusion, but that’s ok. Being told no is part of the sales process. Not everyone you talk to is going to do business with you. When you follow up, you’re looking for a yes or a no. Of course you want the yes, but a no is closure and prevents a lead from being a loose end on your pipeline.

  • Be willing to have the right mindset towards your follow up work.
  • Use a CRM to manage the follow up process.
  • Make follow up a daily priority (working days only)

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?

In person is always best, but not always possible so I recommend using the phone first. It’s the most efficient tool we have and the one that’s used the least. You can have a 5 minute conversation with a prospect that provides great information, a next step and/or a yes or a no. That same information being communicated electronically could take 3 days and 4 email / texts. Prospects will also tell you things on the phone that they won’t in an email or text. Email and texts should be the secondary line of communication.

There’s a lot of fear around the phone which is a big reason why people don’t use it. They’d rather hide behind their email or text which is not a good habit to fall into. A comment I hear a lot is, nobody answers their phone. This is simply not true. This mindset that nobody answers their phone is fear based thinking. Often times you will get a voicemail, but I’m here to tell you that people do answer their phones. If you get the voicemail, leave a message. A lot of people tell me they don’t leave messages which makes no sense to me. When you leave a message, you’re humanizing your follow up action. They’re going to hear the sincerity and interest in your voice that they won’t get in an email or text.

I always use the phone first because I have experienced, too many times to count, what an efficient tool it is. I don’t ever follow up with email or text first unless it’s been specifically requested by the prospect. Electronic communication is always my secondary means of communication.

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. 🙂

So many people struggle in the area of sales. It affords a great life if done right, but unfortunately, it’s been my observation, that there are more struggling salespeople than successful ones. I think starting a sales university would be a great movement to encourage and teach people how to flourish in this great industry.

How can our readers follow you online?

www.followupsalesstrategies.com

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFVs9TcWddYHfxY7wuvP7sw

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FollowUpSalesStrategies

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

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/followupsalesstrategies/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/salesfollowup

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

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