Never provide the price to someone that doesn’t want what you have and can’t tell you why they want it. Not only is this very important, but it should also make closing so much easier on the rep. Reps get nervous when they get to price, but all those nerves can go away if you already know the person wants what you have. This is key. If you did a great discovery and got benefit check in throughout the presentation, you should have them primed and ready.
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 Kevin Dorsey, VP of Inside Sales at PatientPop and founder of www.livebettersellbettter.com
Kevin Dorsey, or KD as he’s known, believes in developing the PERSON in salesperson, and that is what leads to better sales.
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 got into sales as a choice in college. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my career, and thought that sales was the “safest” path. Not safe because there was no risk, but safe because there were ALWAYS sales jobs available. I knew that even if I wasn’t any good, I could probably always find a job, which was my main focus at the time.
I also love the idea that effort could be rewarded. Again, even if I wasn’t good, I believed I could out-work just about anyone. If that meant 12–14hrs a day, that was fine. As long as I could count on a paycheck, all of that was worth it to me. I didn’t have much growing up, and knew what it felt like to struggle. The fear of living like that or not having a job was always a strong driver. Sales felt “safe.”
I started selling knock-off Cutco knives door to door, which led to many run-ins with angry homeowners, police, and a few nasty dogs. I moved on to MLM, insurance, XM radios, you name it- I kept on learning how to sell.
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?
My most amusing story as a sales rep was getting escorted by the police off a school campus. I had been working on a massive contract with a school district to get healthy vending machines into all of their schools. I had met with and gotten the sign-off from all the principals needed but one. After weeks of calling and emailing, I decided “screw it, I’m just going to go to the school and wait.”
I wanted this contract so badly to finish out the campaign in that area, I had been working the area for my franchisee for almost a year, and it was one of the toughest campaigns I had ever worked.
So I packed up 3 bags full of healthy snacks, hopped in the car, and drove 1.5hrs at 6am to beat the traffic, and get to the school. Summer break had begun, so there was no office manager to transfer the calls, or let me in. but I KNEW the principal was there, they were parked in the principal’s parking spot. So I checked all the doors, tried to see if a janitor would come out so I could follow them back in, ANYTHING. With no luck, I could not get into this school.
I went back to the car to make a few more calls, and as I was dialing, I heard the “whoop whoop” and “rap rap rap” on the window. I looked up, and sure enough, there was a policeman outside my window asking me to step out of the car. There had been reports of a suspicious male, with big bags, trying to gain access to the school, and he was there to escort me off of the school grounds.
I calmly tried to explain what I was doing there, which, looking back, probably sounded even more sketchy: “Hey! I’m just waiting for the principal to come out” probably wasn’t the best way to explain my business there..
They let me off with a warning, but did ask that I leave one of the bags of snacks for him and his partner to enjoy.
The lesson I learned from this was twofold:
1) You, the rep, have to want it as badly as the owner of the company wants it to truly succeed. I shouldn’t have been the one in that school parking lot, it should have been the owner of the franchise I was working for. I truly wanted it though, so I did what it took.
2) Go above and beyond. Did I get the contract signed? Yes, I did. How? I sent an email saying “I almost got arrested trying to make your students healthier, if I care this much, so should you.” — Contract signed, baby!
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
Yes, I am! Continuing education and growth as a leader have always been primary focuses, and I’ve always shared what I learn with my teams, and more recently, publicly on social media. Now, I am finally building a sales course as a way to share everything even more effectively. It’s not just another sales course that only talks about selling, but also how to care for and cultivate the person side of a salesperson. It’s called “LiveBetterSellBetter.”
It combines everything I have learned around the science of success from hundreds of books, seminars, and conferences, specifically applied to selling. PLUS, it dives into the science and art of sales that keeps the salesperson’s well being in mind as well. It examines mindfulness, habit building, goal setting, speed learning, stress reduction, and so much more.
It’s something I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and I finally am!
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?
Oh wow, I have several. Scott Leese, David Brock, Collin Coggins, just to name a few. But I’ll share the one that really changed my whole life.
David Varvaro — For being my first true mentor, and getting me into reading self-development and sales books. He asked me one day,
“Do you want to be a millionaire?”
“Of course,” I responded.
“So if I gave you a briefcase with a million dollars in it right now, but you couldn’t spend it, would you be happy?”
“Of course not,” I replied.
“But you’re a millionaire, that’s what you said you wanted. See, you don’t actually want to be a millionaire. You want what comes from being a millionaire. Whether that’s the cars, travel, home, whatever. To be a millionaire you have to act, think, and learn like a millionaire.”
He handed me a book called “Think and Grow Rich,” and it changed the rest of my life. It was the first time that I understood that I controlled my own destiny, and that the better I was, the better my life would be.
I haven’t stopped reading ever since. I can credit so much of my career to that very conversation.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
Because I’m not a “has been” I am an “is doing!” Haha, I’m still in the game, I’m still leading teams, I’m still testing and experimenting with new things. Scripting, emails, prospecting tactics, video, navigating sales, educating the prospect, still adapting and learning. I’m still measuring successes and failures every day.
I’ve won multiple awards that were all peer-based. I’ve never applied for any award. These have been so meaningful to me, because it shows that my reps, managers, and peers believe in what I teach. And that is what matters most.
I’ve been a guest on over 20 podcasts, have spoken at many of the top sales events- Saastr, Rainmaker, TOPO Summit, AAISP, to name a few, and am also a mentor for the 500 Startups program.
I’ve scaled teams from 0 reps to over 100. Drove revenues into the $100M range and am still going!
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?
There is a lot of fear out there right now, and rightfully so. We are experiencing hardships like many of us never have, and even worse, we have to do it “in isolation.” We can’t “be there for each other” the way we are used to.
There are a few things that I am doing, and encouraging my teams to do, as well.
Texting and video calling family on a daily basis- and talking about anything BUT work and the virus. Scheduling these as virtual happy hours makes it extra fun. There are a lot of really fun games out there right now that you can do over Zoom/video chat that get everyone on the call involved. We love the app Houseparty for these calls.
Writing notes — bringing it back old school. Taking time to write out a handwritten note on why you are grateful for someone, or what impact they have had on your life. By doing this, I actually now have bi-weekly calls with my grandfather set up, which has been amazing for both him and me.
Recording Video Messages — Same idea, instead of text or voicemail, record a quick video on your phone and share it with them. It means so much more.
Also, I bought both my parents one of those Wifi frames so we can upload new photos of our family/the kids directly to their picture frames whenever we want, so they don’t have to go to social media to see it.
I can’t wait until all of this is over and we can meet up IRL again. The connection will be so much stronger.
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 think there are a few reasons that sales is ignored at an ‘institutional education’ level.
- The stigma around salespeople is still so negative, that most people don’t WANT to go into sales. I think only roughly 30% of salespeople actually chose it as a career, and I think that figure is higher than it really is. So how do you create an educational system that most people don’t even know they want to do?
- Teachers don’t make enough money! Somewhat joking, but the best sales coaches and leaders out there aren’t going to go take a 200% pay cut to go teach sales at a school. They are too busy out in the real world making sales, and getting paid really well to do so.
- It takes too long. If it was really done right, it would be very similar to nursing school. You’re taught it for 2 years, but then you go out and PRACTICE it for another year. Most companies and people aren’t willing to dedicate that time to truly master this craft we call sales.
I wrote an article about this years ago: how it is crazy the sales industry is the only high paying industry that is responsible for “teaching their own” — I couldn’t go be a doctor or a lawyer tomorrow because I “want to.” And can you imagine if a doctor, lawyer, nurse, shoot- even a mechanic! got a two week “onboarding” as we do in sales, and then were told to go do their job? Chaos.
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?
Yes, I agree, because it’s how buyers view us, and that is the problem. It doesn’t matter what we as salespeople think, it’s how the buyers think. At the core of all of it is trust; when buyers say they “don’t like salespeople,” what they really are saying is they don’t trust us.
Rightfully so. There are tons of sleazy salespeople out there. Prospects know the salesperson is paid to close the deal, and oftentimes, the salesperson doesn’t even use the product he sells. That already sets off all the trust alarms.
If your best friend was pushing you to make a big decision, like to buy a new car, or ask out a girl/guy, you wouldn’t be mad about it. But a salesperson could literally have a product that solves all of your problems, but because the trust isn’t there, anything he does can come across as pushy or sleazy.
If you do sales the right way, not only can you “push,” but the prospect often will THANK YOU for making a decision so easy for them.
There is this phrase, “people love to buy, but hate to be sold,” which I disagree with. If you deal with a GREAT salesperson, how do you feel? You feel great! You feel confident in your purchase! You’re excited about it.
When selling is done the right way, trust can be built, and when trust is built, it doesn’t feel like “pushing” anymore to the prospect, it feels like good advice.
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?
Oooh that’s a tough one. I LOVE presenting, it is probably my favorite part of the sale, because if done right, it covers objections, closing, and sets up the follow-up well. But since salespeople tend to struggle most with prospecting, I’ll cover that.
Something that has benefited me massively in my career is strategic and creative direct mail to help set up meetings. I create an entire direct mail campaign with calls, emails, and direct mail pieces designed to get a meeting.
One of my favorite campaigns was something I built along with Andy Mackenson at SnackNation called “Shock and Awe.”
It started with a box of snacks, with messaging around the snacks.
Then, we sent a giant tube that had a giant “While you were out” message inside. The tube came with a penny inside it too, so it made a ton of weird noise.
THEN, we’d send a mini trash can that already had our letter crumpled up inside of it, talking about “we already saved you the time of throwing this out, imagine what else we could save you time on.”
This would run across 4–6 weeks and it booked SO MANY MEETINGS. Getting creative, having fun, and being multi-touch was the key. It stands out, gets you noticed, and really warms up the calls and emails that you are going to make.
I also am a big fan of funny coffee mugs and posters, things that the prospect would think is funny.
Most people aren’t willing to put this sort of time/energy into prospecting the right way.
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?
First and foremost it’s talking to current customers, for several important reasons.
- Learn the way that they talk. You can build your entire scripts off asking these 6–7 really important questions. This will teach you SO much when it comes to prospecting.
- Why did you buy?
- What problem were you hoping to solve?
- Why did you almost not buy/What were you afraid of?
- Walk me through your buying process. Who got involved, when, and why?
- What’s your favorite part of the product?
- What has changed the most since you’ve purchased?
- What are the best ways to get in touch with people like yourself?
- Ask for referrals — If you don’t know where to start, again, ask your customers. Most customers are happy to refer, but so few salespeople actually ask. Start asking for referrals, and even better, introductions.
- Hang out where THEY hangout. What groups are they a part of, what forums do they go to, what conferences do they attend, who do they follow on LI? Go where they are, and start to observe, provide value (with no selling), and you’ll start to find leads coming out of the woodworks.
- Leverage tools like LinkedNav to really drill down on your ideal prospect.
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 is so hard for people generally because they are trying to “handle” them. AKA dealing with them once they come. If you truly take your career/role seriously, you know what 90% of the objections are going to be, so why are so many reps still too unprepared? They don’t do proper discovery or prospect research to truly understand what the objections COULD be.
The true key to handling objections is getting ahead of them before they even come up.
What I teach to my teams is called ‘8-Miling’ after the movie 8 Mile with Eminiem. For those who haven’t seen it, and don’t mind some swear words, go watch the last battle scene of that movie.
You’ll see the best example of objection handling ever.
In a nutshell Eminem says all the bad things about himself BEFORE the other person can, it takes away all the power and sting from the other person. It keeps him in control, which is the key, and allows him to spin it how he wants.
If you are consistently getting objections, get ahead of them. “I know there are cheaper options out there, but here’s why they can’t/won’t solve the problem as well…” things like that.
But again, if you know your product and prospect well, you should be able to get ahead of at least 80% of the objections they might have, focus more time on truly building value and painting a better future for them, and then you can handle the remaining 20% as they come.
‘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.
Problem Based Discovery
Most sales reps never truly uncover the problems that their prospects are facing. You should learn damn near everything you need to close in the first 10–15 minutes of the demo, so asking a good problem bucket question. When a rep of mine is struggling to close, I almost always start with their discovery, and most of the time, that is what’s lacking.
A lot of the PERSONAS I talk to are dealing with X, Y, or Z problems right now. Does that sound like your world at all? Very important. It’s not what they want to accomplish; it’s what problems they want to solve.
Benefit Check Ins and Looping.
Once you have done proper discovery, now it’s time to make sure you pull in the problems you discovered throughout the entire demo. And this is key: only cover the parts of your product that actually have something to do with the problem the prospect was looking to solve. How most salespeople check in is awful.
Does that make sense?
Yuck — These types of check in’s don’t do anything to help the conversation or to close!
- You need to ask questions that get the prospect to state the benefit.
- So what would happen if you implemented this?
- How does this compare to what you’re doing now?
- What would change if you did it this way vs the other way?
- You’re getting the prospect to help sell themselves, and it’s coming from them so they actually believe it.
Sold Before Pricing
This is a big one. Never provide the price to someone that doesn’t want what you have and can’t tell you why they want it. Not only is this very important, but it should also make closing so much easier on the rep. Reps get nervous when they get to price, but all those nerves can go away if you already know the person wants what you have. This is key. If you did a great discovery and got benefit check in throughout the presentation, you should have them primed and ready.
“So before we talk price, what do you think? Does the idea of our product sound good to you? Do you believe it will solve X, Y, Z problems for you? Because if not, price doesn’t even matter (which is 100% true by the way)”
Hard Yes — Great, why? What really stood out to you?
Soft Yes — Well, hold on, that didn’t sound confident. Where are we feeling nervous/unsure right now?
No — Oh no! I really must have messed this up, that is my fault. Where did we miss, where do you feel it won’t solve X, Y or Z?
Justify the Price
Most reps when they start going over price, stop selling. I don’t believe in ABC, always be closing, I believe in ABS, always be selling, yet most reps stop selling at price! When you are presenting the price you need to be able to justify it by the problems they said it would solve. Very important, list all the things they are getting for the price FIRST. Once you have said the price, they are now doing math in their head and stop listening.
So you’re going to get X, which solves Y. A which solves B. 5 versions of L that solves M, which should lead to you FUTURE STATE, FUTURE STATE, FUTURE STATE, no longer dealing with problem, problem, problem.
It’s going to be an investment of just X which seems like a no-brainer to solve BIG PROBLEM FROM DISCOVERY.
Ask for the Business
This is actually the easiest part, and so many reps don’t even do this. They hope that the buyer will say ‘ok I’ll buy’, which is putting way too much pressure on the buyer. Back to my earlier point about working with a great salesperson, they make it easy to buy, you feel good buying, don’t put the pressure of the decision on the prospect’s shoulders. Ask for the business the same way you’d as your friend to lunch.
So if all that sounds fair, can I get you set up? Can I get you started towards PROBLEM-SOLVING Today?
Note — Closing isn’t always about getting the deal, it can also be getting the next steps. So getting the next meeting or getting the DM on the phone, or getting the proposal signed. Asking for the business is also asking for the right next steps. Getting permission to follow up, etc.
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?
If you have done all the other parts above the right way, your follow up should 100% be focused on solving the problems you agreed they had in discovery (see how that keeps coming back up?). When the language is focused on helping the prospect, it doesn’t come across as pushy. It’s when it’s empty or only focused on the salesperson that it feels wrong. If someone agreed that you could follow up, you’re not being pushy. That’s why closing and asking for the next steps is so important. Being eager is OK! As long as it is clear you’re eager to help, not eager to close the deal. Eventually you may have to walk away from the deal, but again, make it about the problem.
“Hey Bob, it looks like solving X is no longer a priority, I think it should be based on X, Y, Z that you told me about, but I get it, things change. This will be my last attempt to help, should things change just give me a ring.”
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 don’t think any channel should be avoided, just bad messaging should be avoided. A bad text is just as bad as a bad face to face (actually probably not, you can always blame autocorrect for a bad text!) So messaging trumps the channel. Now, that being said, getting permission to follow up is key to not coming across pushy, because they told you that you could follow up.
One of my personal greatest follow up stories involved all channels and then some. I was trying to close an over 6 figure deal in Jacksonville Florida. I had flown out with no luck to meet the prospect, called, sent mail, emailed, you name it. You know what I did? I bought a prepaid cell phone, sent it in the mail, and told him I would call that phone each day at 2pm to bring it home for him and his employees. Day 3, he answered, said he respected the hustle and signed the contract. Now again, the only reason I felt it was okay to do this was because of 1) I knew I was solving a problem. 2) My internal champions told me to keep going. 3) It was going to make a huge impact on his business. It all paid off in the end.
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. 🙂
Live Better. Sell Better. It’s one my leadership mantras, and actually a course I am rolling out this year. I wish there was more focus on training and development of the PERSON in salesperson. Sales can take its toll mentally, yet no focus is really given to the mental health and wellbeing of the salesperson in sales training and onboarding. If we could teach people how to live better, how to be better versions of themselves, I believe the sales will follow.
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!