Mike Samson: “Educating them on the process”

The best companies in my opinion offer sales training. When I was with Best Buy, by the time I left they had a pretty intensive training with top sales leaders and time to practice and receive feedback for every sales employee. I know it can be difficult when a company is pressed for time and […]

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The best companies in my opinion offer sales training. When I was with Best Buy, by the time I left they had a pretty intensive training with top sales leaders and time to practice and receive feedback for every sales employee. I know it can be difficult when a company is pressed for time and trying to replace a previous employee, but in the end taking the time to make sure your employees know how to sell effectively will benefit both them and the company in the long run.

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 Mike Samson.

Mike Samson is an experienced franchise brand developer and multi-unit sales leader. With years of sales and multi-unit leadership experience, Mike is not only an expert at sales himself, but has also led and trained multiple teams to become successful through sustainable, lifestyle-based selling techniques.

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 actually have an educational background in teaching. I never ended up going down the “traditional” teaching path, but I believe that education helped to shape the way that I sell. I spent the majority of my earlier career working for Best Buy, a major retailer for electronics and going into it I never actually knew much about electronics. When I was hired on, they put me into the computers department and I absorbed as much information as I could. From there, I learned really quickly that educating the customer was the way to close sales. I would start by digging in, really understanding what the customer wanted out of the product that they were looking for, then educating them on the solutions that we had available for them that would suit their needs. Because of this genuine approach, I became a top performer and quickly moved into various leadership roles throughout the company, helping to develop high performing teams.

After Best Buy, I found my way into the franchising world. My eyes were opened to the fulfillment in helping people achieve freedom and building wealth for their future. Working in my current role is incredibly rewarding in two ways– I get to help the franchisor, Legends Boxing to grow and scale into a nationally recognized brand, and I get to help franchisees achieve their dreams of becoming business owners using a business model that is proven to work.

I find that even though the industry itself is vastly different from consumer electronics, the same lifestyle and solution-focused sales techniques still apply. At the end of the day, you’re just trying to help people solve a problem that they are currently experiencing.

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?

One of the most amazing things that happened to me was that I was working with a group of buyers for a franchise deal. Unfortunately, some things came up for the buyers and the deal ended up falling through.

I kept trekking forward as always, working with other candidates and whatnot, when about 6–8 months after the fact I got a message. One of the buyers’ fiance ended up reaching out to me. I hadn’t worked with her at all in the original deal, in fact, she wasn’t really even involved at all at that point even on the backend. But once the deal fell through, she had taken in all of the information and possibility around the opportunity that we had to offer and decided to take it upon herself to pick up where they had left off and buy a franchise for herself.

I think the biggest takeaway is to just always provide value and speak to what the customer is looking for, and when things don’t work out as expected, don’t assume that it won’t work out at all. By being specific to what these buyers had wanted, it made a lasting impression on this woman who decided to pull the trigger over 6 months after the fact.

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

Recently, I helped in creating presentations for franchisee candidates. I helped to lead a project to produce supplementary videos that give franchisee candidates insight to other viewpoints and voices within the company. As a brand director, I can only offer so much. I have a major passion for franchising, and I truly believe that this industry offers life changing opportunities– but when you get to hear that same passion from others within a company, and the success stories from other franchisees who have been in your position, it just backs what the company is all about that much more.

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?

There are so many people I could list here, but one really stands out to me in helping me break into the industry.

That person is Trent Halvorson of FranChoice. Trent helped me get into the franchising industry, and was key to helping me to understand the connections between my experience from retail leadership and how it translates into the franchising industry. I don’t think I would’ve discovered how powerful the franchising industry really is, or how applicable my experience and skill set would be to my current role if it weren’t for him. I owe him so much for showing me all of the possibilities that this world has to offer, for both myself and the candidates that I now get to bring into the industry as well.

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

I have over 20 years of sales experience, and I’ve been a top performer in every position I’ve ever been in– this is primarily because I see sales as a tool to solve problems instead of trying to just max out how much money I can put into my pocket. In the end, you’ll close more sales by solving problems anyway.

I’ve also been able to replicate the success that I see from my selling strategies by training and developing others. I’ve turned around problematic stores and districts through my sales leadership.

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?

The most important thing you can do in my opinion is to always stay transparent and look at the facts. Take a look at what is happening, what is directly impacting you, and the options available to you and go from there.

Taking my previous company, Legends Boxing as an example, we were extremely transparent with our candidates about how we handled it when COVID first hit, the steps we took as it progressed and how we supported our members and franchisees, and how we planned to continue moving forward as the country is re-opening and managing this “new normal”.

It’s the same with your family. Understanding what happened when COVID hit, being honest about how the impacts are changing your day-to-day life, and how you plan to continue forward. Making a plan by using facts will help to keep you grounded.

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?

If I were to guess, it would probably have to be due to time. Both companies and the education system are so focused on using that time to teach systems, processes and knowledge that oftentimes sales and personality are overlooked.

The best companies in my opinion offer sales training. When I was with Best Buy, by the time I left they had a pretty intensive training with top sales leaders and time to practice and receive feedback for every sales employee. I know it can be difficult when a company is pressed for time and trying to replace a previous employee, but in the end taking the time to make sure your employees know how to sell effectively will benefit both them and the company in the long run.

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?

Kind of– but if we are being honest, if someone feels listened to, heard and understood, they won’t feel that the salesperson is being “salesy”. It all comes down to your motive. If I’m trying to sell you something that I want to sell you because it has a higher profit margin, or I think it’s the best, or whatever, that’s salesy. That isn’t taking into account your needs. If I’m listening to you, asking you questions and trying to understand the reason you are looking to buy, then I can offer you the solution that is right for you, whether or not it would be what I would choose for myself. That is offering a solution instead of being pushy and salesy and in the end, that is going to be what closes the sale and leads the customer to leave happy with their purchase.

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?

Handling objections is probably my strong suit, but not for the most obvious reason.

Realistically, if I do my job at the front end of the sale, I’ll minimize the number of objections that I get because I’ll have already sought to understand their biggest needs and their biggest concerns and addressed them earlier in the sales process. Because of that, the solution will be a good match for what they are looking for.

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 really value the connections I’ve made within some of the best broker networks in the industry. That’s their job is to bring us the highest quality leads that will be the best fit for our offer. Networking with other professionals can be extremely beneficial in helping to bring in leads for business. But in order for them to do that, they need help.

My job is to educate brokers on the brand that I represent, what that brand does, and who we are the best fit for. I have to be extremely clear with this education otherwise we will receive leads who aren’t a good fit and it wastes everyone’s time.

At Legends, I also had a talented colleague on my team who I worked closely with, Kathy Derken who is exceptional at prospecting. She has the same passion for the business that we do and she goes out and finds leads organically for us. Part of what makes her excel at her job is that she truly listens and makes it her mission to understand our target demographic to the core so that she knows exactly where to find them.

Also, it’s worth adding that providing an exceptional experience to every customer also helps to bring in referral leads. Oftentimes, your existing customers have friends, family, colleagues, you name it with similar needs and aspirations. If they have an amazing experience with you, they are much more likely to share that experience with others who are seeking a similar solution.

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 difficult because it means you didn’t take enough time to completely understand the customer early on. You want to break down objections before they even become objections. Taking the time to understand the problem that the customer faces and the concerns or fears that they may have means that you can break down all potential objections as you present and educate around the solution.

To get better at this is simple– take the time to get to know the customer, then sell them what they actually need as opposed to what you want them to need or buy.

‘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.

  • Get to know the person you are working with on a personal level. Make a connection. Get them relaxed and comfortable with you. I actually watch for the customer to un-tense their shoulders. You know how when someone walks into a store, they just know that they are going to be approached? You want to make conversation and help them feel comfortable as opposed to pressured.
  • Get to know the problem they are trying to solve. Why do they want to buy what they want to buy, what is their story? Dig deep and figure out why they want to buy what they came in to buy. Oftentimes, they are seeking something a lot deeper than the product or offer itself. By seeking to understand, you can tailor the way you present the solution so that they can begin to envision how it may solve their problem or obstacle.
  • Educate. Tell the story in a way that is interesting. Not just specs and features, but context on how it will resolve their problem. When you provide context, the customer is able to actually imagine themselves with the solution in their lives and can decide for themselves if it’s the solution that they are in search of.
  • Take their temperature throughout the entire sales process. I take the time to make sure they are getting what they need. I ask them frequently if they feel like they have all of the information they need on a topic before moving on, if they have any concerns or questions so far, and what thoughts they have so far. Using this I can gauge the answers to: Can they see themselves as a Legends franchisee? Can they envision themselves in that role? That way you can course correct before you ask for the sale and make sure they are on the right track and have the info that they need.
  • Educating them on the process. Always show the entire process, every step that they will go through. They know up front the entire path that they will go through to get the information that they need and when they/we need to make a decision. Know each step and why and what comes next. That way there is no surprise and minimal pressure felt when it’s time to ask for the sale.

Most people leave out asking for the sale. It’s uncomfortable for most people. Using the strategy that I do, I have a relationship with the customer by that point and I understand their needs. When we get to the decision call I’m asking them “how many would you like to do?” instead of “would you like to move forward with this today?”. In the end, if you don’t ask for the sale, they won’t know that they’re supposed to give you a decision.

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?

Urgency. When the lead comes in, how quickly can we get them setup on their first call? That urgency is critical because when they initially reach out, you’re front of mind. By acting quickly, that’s exactly where you stay.

Second, your “do” has to exceed your say. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Follow through with your commitments, no matter how small. Be honest and always strive to over exceed on communication. Accommodate people’s pace and schedule even though they are on a strict process. It’s completely doable to stay on the right track within the process while working on the customer’s schedule– and because of that they will feel that you are working around them instead of the other way around.

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?

Honestly, I think they all have their place and it’s really critical to understand what your customer prefers. Personally, person to person Zoom calls are most effective for me because we get to look each other in the eye and understand each other’s personalities. I think using each method when it’s appropriate is key, but at the end of the day, Zoom calls as often as possible feel most personal to me.

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. 🙂

Teaching entrepreneurship and making it accessible to everyone. The more you learn about running a business, regardless of whether or not you want to actually run one, you better understand your role within a company and be better at what you do. In the end, it gives you more confidence to take what you learn to work for yourself if that’s your goal or to be the best you can be in your position within a company because you understand how your role fits the bigger picture.

How can our readers follow you online?

Find me on LinkedIn- Mike Samson.

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

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